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Williams was buried in a little Welsh church near Pen

rhyn, where a monument was some years after erected to his Williams's memory, for which an epitaph was written by the faithful Hacket, ― recording at great length his origin, his accomplishments*, and his services, — and thus concluding:—


His epitaph.

"Postquam inter tempora luctuosissima
Satur esset omnium quæ videret et auderit,

Nec Regi aut Patriæ per rabiem perduellium amplius servire potuit.
Anno Aetatis 68° expleto Martis 25° qui fuit ei natalis
Summa fide in Christum, inconcussâ erga Regem fidelitate
Animam angina extinctus piissime Deo reddidit.

Nec refert quod tantillum monumentum in occulto angulo positum
Tanti viri memoriam servat,

Cujus virtutes omnium ætatum tempora celebrabunt.”

if not with his hero. Philips's "Life of Williams," written in the beginning of the last century, contains little additional information, and is a work of very inferior merit.

(Inter alia) " Novem Linguarum Thesaurus." He was not like the polyglot Sir William Jones, ignorant of his own tongue.



We now come to the life of a steady lawyer,- regularly bred to the bar,- by "a mixture of good and evil arts" advancing to the highest honours of his profession,-of powerful though not brilliant parts, of great skill in his own science, but without any ornamental accomplishments, unscrupulous where any great object was to be gained, yet with tact to stop without too much shocking public opinion, — though unaided by principle, knowing how to preserve a certain reputation for honesty-uniformly prosperous while living -and fortunate in his death.





The Great Seal having been surrendered up by Lord Oct. 25. Keeper Williams, at Foxley, in Wiltshire, remained with the King for a few days till he returned to Whitehall, and on the 1st of November, 1625, was delivered to Sir THOMAS COVENTRY.*




His family is traced to an inhabitant of the city of Co- His family. ventry, who, coming to push his fortune in London in the reign of Henry IV., took the name of his native place. He left a son, John, who being an eminent mercer rose to be Sheriff in 1416, and Lord Mayor of London in 1425. He is much celebrated in the Chronicles for his discreet carriage in the struggle which took place during his Mayoralty between Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, and Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester†, and for having been appointed one of the executors of the famous Richard Whittington, who had risen to be thrice Lord Mayor from having had no property in the world but his cat. He bought an estate at Cussington, in Oxfordshire, long possessed by his posterity. From him was descended Sir Thomas Coventry, a very learned Judge of the † Ante, Vol. I. p. 334.

Rot. Pat. 1 Car. 1. p. 24. n. 7.


His birth

and educa


Called to the bar.

Nov. 1616.

Proposed office

Court of Common Pleas in the reign of James I. *, who married the heiress of a family of the name of Jeffreys, settled at Croome, in Worcestershire.

Thomas, the Lord Keeper, was their eldest son, and was born there in the year 1578. He was an instance, not so rare in former as in more recent times, of the son of a great lawyer proving a greater lawyer, although he laboured under the disadvantage of being heir to considerable wealth, both by his father's and mother's side. But he showed from infancy uncommon quickness and vigour of application. He remained under the paternal roof with a private tutor till he was fourteen, when he was entered a gentleman commoner at Baliol College, Oxford. He resided there three years, till he took his Bachelor's degree. He was then removed to the Inner Temple, of which his father was a bencher, and he now diligently devoted himself to the study of the law. Instead of making acquaintance with William Shakspeare, or any of Burbage's company of players, he attached himself to Sir Edward Coke, then Attorney General. To law students and worshippers of his greatness this tyrant of the bar was condescending and kind, carrying them with him to public disputations, directing their private reading, and warning them against prepropera praxis as well as prepostera lectio.

When called to the bar, young Coventry's progress was slow but sure. In 1606 his father died, and it was expected that he would have retired to the family estates; but he was ambitious, and he continued assiduously to follow his profession in the hope of political advancement.

So great did his reputation become in the course of a few for one of years, without the prestige of office, that when Sir Edward Chief Coke was to be dismissed from the Chief Justiceship of the Justice of King's Bench, Coventry, only thirty-seven years old, was designated by the public voice as his successor. Bacon, however, who had then a great ascendency, disliked him for having been protected by Coke, and thus wrote to James:


* Appointed Jan. 25. 1606. See in Dugd. Or. Jur. p. 97. a curious account of the procession on this occasion from Serjeant's Inn to Westminster, when the frightful mistake was committed of making those of highest dignity march first, so that the students of the inns of Chancery came last.


"I send a warrant to the Lord Chancellor for making CHAP. forth a writ for a new Chief Justice, leaving a blank for the name, to be supplied by your Majesty's presence; for I never received your Majesty's express pleasure in it. If your Majesty resolve of Montagu, as I conceive and wish, it is very material, as these times are, that your Majesty have some care that the Recorder succeeding be a temperate and discreet man, and assured to your Majesty's service. If your Majesty, without too much harshness, can continue the place within your own servants, it is best. If not, the man upon whom the choice is likely to fall (which is Coventry) I hold doubtful for your service; not but that he is a well learned and an honest man; but he hath been, as it were, bred by Lord Coke, and seasoned in his ways.'

Montagu was appointed Chief Justice; and Coventry, contriving to make it understood that, however much he respected the learning of his old master, he could not but lament his recent popular courses, was permitted to succeed as Recorder of London. An adhesion to ancient friendships, and a recollection of benefits received, do not seem in those days to have stood much in the way of promotion.

mestic habits.

Having lost his first wife, who was of an ancient Wor- His docestershire family, he now married "the widow of a citizen,— lovely, young, rich, and of good fame.” "We may represent his happiness," says his biographer, "in nothing more than in this, — that London had first given him the handsel of a place both honourable and gainful, together with a wife as loving as himself was uxorious, and of that sort which are not unaptly styled housewives; so that these two drew diversely, but in one way, and to one and the self-same end, -he in the exercise of his profession - she in the exercise of her domestic; for they that knew the discipline of their house aver, that he waved that care as a contiguous distraction to his vocation, and left her only as a helper to manage that charge which best suited to her conversation." †

Bac. Works, vi. 131.

† MS. Life of Lord Coventrie in the British Museum.


Coventry made So

licitor General, and knighted.

He is made

A. D. 1621.

His beha

viour to


A. D. 1621.

case ex


Coventry so rapidly got rid of all suspicion of favouring Sir E. Coke, that on the 14th of March in the following year he was made Solicitor General; and two days after, going down to Theobald's to be presented to the King, he received the honour of knighthood.

He was counsel for the Crown on the trial of the Somersets for the murder of Sir Thomas Overbury, and in all the state prosecutions which followed for some years; but, either from his own inclination, or the jealousy of the King's Serjeant and the Attorney General, he did not act a conspicuous part in any of them. Nevertheless he managed not only to enjoy favour while Lord Bacon was Chancellor, but, on the disgrace of that great statesman, in which Yelverton the Attorney General shared, to intrigue himself into the office of Attorney General.

His great object was quietly to nurse his fortune. He devoted himself to the discharge of his professional duties, and to gaining the good graces of all those who might serve him. He not only cultivated Buckingham assiduously, but supported the new Lord Keeper Williams in the Court of Chancery, and tried to veil his deficiencies in legal acquirements, till it was evident that the Bishop's official career was drawing to a close. The Great Seal being then within his own grasp, it would perhaps have been too much to have expected that he should not, by a few winks, and shrugs, and stories of the Welshman's towering passions and ludicrous blunders, seek to precipitate his fall.

The only public prosecution I find him conducting while Attorney General, was that against Edward Floyde, for slandering the King and Queen of Bohemia. This case has been grossly misrepresented or misunderstood, and I am glad of an opportunity to explain it. It has been often cited as an instance of the abusive exercise of parliamentary privilege; whereas, it was an instance of parliamentary impeachment. Floyde, a Catholic barrister, having said, "I have heard that Prague is taken; and Goodman Palsgrave, and Goodwife Palsgrave, have taken to their heels and run away, and, as I have heard, Goodwife Palsgrave is taken prisoner,”—the Protestant zeal of the country was very much excited, and the

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