Edward Barrington De Fonblanque.

Annals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) online

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, 2 Sir E. Stafford to Secretary Walsingham, 27th December, 15 "J
Ibid. p. 133.




.. v; ))>cquently retracted) evidence of one witness, under
torture. His love of intrigue may have induced him to 5 — 5
lend a willing ear to secret schemes and negotiations, but
he must, in common justice, be acquitted of any share in
the project of foreign invasion, 1 or in any of the supposed
plots against the life of Elizabeth. However strong his
sympathy with the cause of Mary Stuart may have been,
it would appear, at this time, to have expressed itself in
vaunting and incautious words, rather than acts indica-
tive of a disposition to make practical sacrifices on her
l.-half. Of this there is strong evidence under her
own hand in an intercepted letter, in which, after men-
tioning Throckmorton, Howard and Northumberland,
she says :

" If you can come, directly or indirectly, at Throck-
morton or Howard, for with the third I have no connec-
tion, assure them in my name that their affection and the
great suffering they endure on my account shall never be
effaced from my heart." 2

The one inculpatory witness referred to was William
Shelley who, when on the rack, stated that after the
meeting between Lord Paget and his brother Charles at
I'etworth, on pretence of making a settlement of the
family estates, Charles Paget had informed him that the
Earl had consented to join them in bringing about an

1 The criminality of instigating a foreign invasion, of which Throck-
morton and others would undoubtedly appear to have been guilty, is
*m»ewhat mitigated by the terms of the treaty, under which the Due de
' ' i»se solemnly bound himself, to remove every French soldier from
' nglish soil the day after the liberation of the Queen of Scotland.

'Queen Mary of Scotland to M. de Maurissiere, 24th February,
•584. Harleian MSS., No. 1582.

1 he only mention of Northumberland in the numerous letters of
'• -rv's foreign agents occurs in a communication from Morgan, some

:- her "secretary, who, .writing from Paris in April 1585, names the
•" ; 1 as one of her well-wishers, and expresses the hope that she will

>w him some token of her liberality. Murdin, p. 446.



a.d. invasion for Mary's liberation and to compel Elizabeth to
1532-15 5 concec l e toleration to the Catholic religion. 1 This state-
ment was, after Northumberland's death, and when
therefore the exculpation could be of no possible benefit
to him, solemnly denied by Charles Paget, then himself
a free agent in France, who wrote :

" For that William Shelley, as they say, shold confesse
that I had revealed to him I had dealt with the Earl
herein, as I shall answer to the day of judgment, they
say most untruly ; for I never talked with the said Shelley
in all my life, but such ordinary talk as the Council
might have heard, being indifferent. 2

The circumstance most strongly in favour of Northum-
berland's innocence of the more grave charges brought
against him, is that he courted public inquiry, and per-
sistently refused the offers of the royal grace which
were made conditional only upon his confessions of com-
plicity in treasonable acts.

Sir Christopher Hatton's declaration on this point is
important. The Vice Chamberlain declared before the
Star Chamber, that having been sent to the Earl to remind
him of the Queen's past goodness towards him, and to
" advise him to deliver the truth of the matters so cleerely
appearing against him either by his letters privately to
Her Maiestie, or by speech. ..." in which case " he
shoulde not onely not be comvtted to the Towre but

1 While they were both in the Tower the Earl had found means 0!
communicating with Shelley, whom he exhorted to show firmness and
fortitude when under examination ; to which Shelley replied that he
could not answer for himself, since, not being of the same rank as the
Earl, he was subject to be put to torture. He was probably of the
opinion of the poor prisoner at Rouen, who, about the same, time wrote lo
Dr. Allen : " It is not, I assure you, a pleasant thing to be stretched on
the rack till the body becomes almost two feet longer than nature made
it." — See Ltngard's History of England.

2 Charles Paget to Mary Queen of Scots, Paris, 15th February,
1586. State Papers.



should finde grace and favour at Her Maiesties hands, in a.d. 15S5
the mitigation of such punishment as the lawe might
Uye upon him . . . . " yet that " neither the hope given
unto him of Hir Maiestie's disposition of mercy, nor
the consideracion of the depthe and waight of his
treasons .... with the danger thereby like to fall upon
him, could once move his heart to the natural and dutiful
care of hir Maiestie ... or to any remorse or compas-
sion of himselfe and his posteritie ; but that resting
upon the terms of his innocencie, having, as you maie
perceive, conueid awaie all those that he thought could or
would any waie accuse him, he made choice rather to go
to the Towre and abide the hazard of hir maiesties high in-
dignation, and the extremite of the law for his offences." !

The allegation that he trusted to escape conviction
in consequence of having succeeded in effecting the es-
cape across the seas of his principal accomplices, is not
founded on fact. Of those whose testimony might have
been supposed to condemn him, only two, Lord Paget
and his brother Charles, had so escaped, while many
remained whose evidence, had he been guilty, could
hardly have failed to turn the scale against him. Yet
from first to last he refused all offers of compromise, and
from the time of his final committal to the Tower, his
attitude was that of a man who, conscious of having
offended, yet knew himself to be innocent of the graver
crimes laid to his charge. He had, as he admitted,
plotted and worked for the liberation of the Scottish
Queen and the toleration of the Catholic faith ; but he
had not conspired against the Crown, far less against the
life of his sovereign. Upon that issue he was willing
<ind anxious to meet his accusers in open court.

He was accordingly once more committed to the Tower,

1 A True and Summarie Reporte, see ante, Note, 3, p. 154. This
pamphlet is reprinted in Lord Somers's Tracts, vol. i. 2nd edition.



a.d. where he lay for six months without any steps being taken
I 53^[ 5 S 5 t brino 1 him to trial. His supposed accomplices were
in the clutches of the law, but neither threats nor per-
suasion, neither torture nor bribery, could extort from
them the evidence of Northumberland's guilt, and it
seemed as though he was not unlikely to share the
fate of his kinsman, Arundel, 1 and to linger out a
lon^ and weary life within his prison walls. But the
liberator was near at hand. On the 20th June, the
lieutenant of the Tower received an order from the
Vice Chamberlain to remove from the Earl's presence the
warder who had hitherto attended him, and to substitute-
one Bailiffe, a servant of his (Hatton's) own. That night
the prisoner was found dead in his bed — shot through
the heart.

The jury empanelled by the Lieutenant of the Tower
to hold an inquest upon the body, arrived at the con-
clusion that the Earl had died by his own hand ; 2 and, in
the ungentle words of a contemporary historian, " it only
remained to provide for the bestowing of his wretched
carcase, which on the 23rd daie of June was buried in

1 Arbitrary as were the proceedings in the Star Chamber, there was
some pretence of maintaining the forms of law and evidence. Philip
Howard, Earl of Arundel, who had certainly been more deeply impli-
cated in these plots than Northumberland, was brought to trial, but
acquitted of treason and convicted only of having left the kingdom
without licence ; for which offence he was fined /io,oco, and imprisoned
in the Tower for life under exceptionally rigorous conditions. '1 he
severity of tins punishment was doubtless due to the bold nature of his
defence ; for he admitted that he had gone abroad in order that he
might " live in liberty of conscience, which he valued more than a
rental of forty thousand a year, fine mansions, or the rank and authority
of one of the first peers of the realm."

2 The jury found that having by surreptitious means obtained posses-
sion of a dag (pistol) the Earl had "bolted his door on the inner side,
lest any man should foresee or withstande his devilish intent and
purpose ; and not having the Almightie God or his feare before his eies,
but being rnotied and seduced by the instigation of the devil, <!»•
discharge the said d.ig into his bodie and hearte . . . . ot which he
instantlie died."'



Si. Peter's Church within the said Tower of London. a.d. 1585
'I his was the end of that graceless Earl." '

No, not quite the end. Many a prisoner had met with
a sudden and mysterious death in the Tower, and the
public had not dared to ask, perhaps few had cared to
know, by what means they had died. The Earl of North-
umberland, however, was too conspicuous an individual
to be put out of sight without a question, and it is re-
markable how universally the suspicion prevailed among
all classes that he had come to his end by foul means.

Among the Catholics at home and abroad, as might
have been expected, the judgment was unanimous ;
Elizabeth was openly accused of having instigated the
murder of her prisoner (when she found that she could
not rid herself of him by sentence of law), in order to
intimidate those who supported the cause of a hated
rival, and who showed themselves faithful to the religion
of their ancestors. 2 But many Protestants shared in the
suspicion, and threw out significant hints, or, when the
matter was discussed, maintained an equally significant

Even some of the immediate adherents of Govern-
ment found it difficult to accept the theory of the Earl's
suicide, though willing to persuade others of it. One of
these writes : —

T Holinshead. A later historian states that the Earl had shot himself
in the heart "after an unsuccessful attempt to escape by corrupting
!'is keepers ; for his crime upon conviction would have left no room for
ftfrcy, he being accused of a conspiracy to support an invasion of this
kingdom, by that bloody massacrer, the Duke of Guise, for the deliver-
ance of the Scotts Queen." — Oldmixon, p. 523. It is not explained why,
under these circumstances, the Government persistently declined to
bring him to trial. Of the attempt to escape from the Tower no
mention is made by contemporary writers.

2 Queen Mary's secretary, Thomas Morgan, warns her attendants
"to looke well to the person of xler Majesty," since " the taking away
ol tile Erie of Northumberland is an argument that they (Elizabeth and
p -r ministers) have further mischefe in liande."— Murdin, p. 452.



a.d. "I receivit your letter of the 21st of this instant, for

i53^5 8 5 w hich I humblie thanke you. The manner of Lord
Northumberland's death will hardlie be believed in this
countrie to be as you have written ; yet I am fully per-
suaded, and have persuaded others, was not otherwise." '

So general indeed did these suspicions become, that
the Government thought it necessary to offer a public
justification ; and to this end a council of ministers and
high officers of State, attended by the judges and law-
officers, was held in the Star Chamber on 23rd June,
whose proceedings were published by authority and
largely circulated throughout the country.

" Malice," so runs the introductory passages, " among
other essentiall properties perteining toherouglie nature,
hath this one not inferiour to the rest and the worst,
Incredulitie, wherewith shee commonly possesseth the
mindes and affections of all those that are infected with
her ; so blinding the eyes and iudgement of the best and
clearest sighted, that they cannot see or perceiue the
bright beams of the truth, although the same be de-
liuered with neuer so great puritie, proofe, circumstance
and probabilitie." 2

The document proceeds to represent that notwith-
standing the high character of the Jury of Inquisition.
" many men reporte varieblie and corruptlie of the
maner and matter of this publicke declaration, possessing
the minds and opinions of the people with manifest
untruthes ; as that the Earle had been zuijustlie detainca
in prison, without proofe or iust cause of suspitwn of
treason, and that he had bene murdered bv deuise and

1 Sir Francis Russell to Walsingham, Tynemouth, 26th June, 15 S5.
State Papers. The English ambassador in Paris writes much in the
same strain, while the French and Spanish representatives at the English
Court report the Earl's death as due to Elizabeth's agency.

3 A True and Sujnmarie Reporte.



practice of some greate enimies, and not destroied by a.d. 1585

The Lord Chancellor in his opening statement is re-
ported to have said that " The late Earle of North-
uinberlande for diuers notable treasons and practices by
him taken in hande, to the danger not onelie of Her
Maiestie's Roiall person, but to the perill of the whole
realme, had been long detained in prison ; and looking
into the guilt of his own conscience, and perceaving by
such meanes of intelligence as he, by corrupting of his
keepers, and other like deuices, had obtained, that his
treasons were by sundrie examinations and confessions
discovered, 1 grewe thereby into such a desperate estate,
as that thereupon he had most wickedlie destroied and
murdered himselfe . . . ."and that as " evil and slanderous
reportes " had got abroad on the subject the Queen had
required " to have the trueth thereof made knowen " by
her Council.

The Lord Chancellor was followed by the Attorney-
General, " Maister Attorney Popham," who laid it down
that the Earl had had his hand in the rebellion of 1569,
and was " as farre plunged into the same as the late
Larl his brother, howsoever he wound himselfe out of
the danger at that time ; " that it had been his object
to place Mary on the English throne, that he had
been instrumental in the escape of Lord Paget and his
brother, and that he was deeply implicated in the
plots of these men and their foreign accomplices.
Coming to the Earl's death, Sir Roger Manwood,
Lord Chief Baron, stated that the usual attendants not
being considered trustworthy had been removed, and

1 This statement is directly at variance with that of Sir Christopher
H.itton (see ante, p. 167), who attributes the Earl's determination to
stand his trial to his belief that there was no evidence forthcoming to
convict him.



a.d. that " Thomas Bailiffe, gentleman," had been employed
i532-i5 8 5 j n t ] ie j r pl ace ; that on retiring to rest the Earl had
bolted his door on the inside, informing his keeper that
he could not sleep otherwise ; and that at midnight he
(Bailiffe) had been aroused from his sleep in the ad-
joining chamber " by a noise so sudden and so greate,
like a falling of some dore, or rather a piece of the
house .... that he started out of his bed, and crying
unto the Earle, with a loude voice said, ' My Lord, knowe
you what this is ? ' but receiving no answer he continued
his crying and calling until an olde man that lay without
spake unto him saying : ' Gentleman, shall I call the
watch, seeing he will not speake ? ' ' Yea,' quoth Bailiffe,
' for God's sake ! ' Then did the old man rise and called
one of the watch, whom Bailiffe intreated with all pos-
sible speede to call Master Lieutenant unto him. In
the meane time Bailiffe heard (lie Earle give a long and
most grievous grone, and after that gave a second grone ;
and then the Lieutenant (being come) called to the
Earle, who not answering, Bailiffe cried to the Lieu-
tenant to breake open the Earle's chamber dore, bolted
unto him on the inner side, which was done, and then
they found the Erie dead in his bed, and by his bedside
a dagge, wherewith he had killed himselfe."

Lord Hunsdon deposed that he had accompanied a
sureeon on the morning after the death to see the Earl s
body, and that it was found that " his heart was pearceu
and torn in diuerse lobes and pieces, three of his ribbes
broken, and the spinebone of his back cut almost in
sunder." The three bullets with which the pistol had
been charged were in his presence cut out of the body,
and the surgeon had declared that from the nature ot
the wounds death must have been instantaneous.

Bailiffe's statement that he had heard the Earl utter
two groans while the watch was being called (which



CQuId not have been less than several minutes after the a.t>._*&$
discharge of the pistol ') must therefore be untrue.

It appeared in the Report of the Inquest that an
attendant of the Earl, James Pryce, yeoman, had on the
1 6th June preceding the death secretly brought his Lord
a pistol with powder and bullets, which had been con-
cealed in the mattress of his bed ; but, although this man
was then detained a prisoner in the Tower, he was not
called before the council to give evidence as to this
important fact. 2

The argument upon which the Government attempted
to rest the theory of suicide is comprised in this sentence
of the Report :

"Who can in reason coniecture the Earle to haue
bene murdered of pollicie or set purpose, as the euill
affected seeme to conceaive ? If the Earle had lived to
haue receiued the censure of the lawe for his offences,
all lewde and frivalous obiections had then bene answered,
and all his goodes, chattels, and lands, by his attaindare, 3
had come unto Her Maiestie, and the honour and state of
his house and posteritie utterly overthrowen."

In short, the contention was that the Earl, convinced
that he would be convicted of treason, had taken his life
to insure the succession to his son, and to deprive the
Crown of the benefits of the forfeiture.

Certain utterances to this effect, in the course of which
he is made to refer to Elizabeth in very coarse terms, 4

1 According to Bailiffe it was "a little after midnight" when he heard
the shot fired, and Sir Owen Hopton, the Lieutenant of the Tower,
states that he was called " lesse than a quarter of an hour before one of
the clocke."

' See Howell's State Trials, vol. i. 1124.

3 Under an Act of Parliament, 34 Ldward III., it was provided that
no forfeiture of lands could be made by the Crown or Parliament for
treason against dead men, unless they had been attainted during their


4 See Miss Strickland's lives of the Quean of England— l: Elizabeth."



a.d. are attributed to him ; but these rest on no better
1 532-i5 5 evidence than contemporary gossip ; while the fact
remains undisputed that the Government could not be
induced to bring to trial a prisoner under suspicion, who
claimed public inquiry into his conduct as an act of
justice, and whose conviction and attainder would have
been a triumphant justification of their policy and a
severe blow to their enemies.

The proceedings of the council did not satisfy the
doubts prevalent in the public mind, even in England,
as to the nature of Northumberland's death; 1 far less
did they remove the suspicions, or silence the outcry, of
those attached to the memory of the Earl by bonds of
kinsmanship or policy, and who being beyond English
jurisdiction could give free vent to their indignation at
what they openly stigmatised as a foul murder. The
weak points in the statement put forth by the Government
were eagerly seized upon and ingeniously turned against
the authors ; and throughout Catholic Europe Elizabeth
was denounced by name as the instigator of the crime.
The most telling of the numerous pamphlets which
appeared on the subject was one published at Cologne
towards the end of 15S5, entitled " CrudelUalis Cal-
viniance, Exempla duo recentissima ex Anglia" in which
the Earl's murder is openly ascribed to Elizabeth and
Leicester, who are charged with having employed an
assassin, after being foiled by the vigilance of a Catholic
surgeon in an attempt to poison their prisoner, and ol

1 Camden, whose leanings were never to the side of Elizabeth -
enemies, thus refers to the suspicious circumstances attaching to the
employment of one of Hatton's servants as the Earl's custodian :
"Certe boni quamplurimi, turn quod natura nobilitati faveant, turn quou
prceclaram fortitudinis laudem retulisset, tantum virum tarn misera <.'.
miseranda morte periisse indoluerunt. Quse suspicaces protugi »
Ballivo, quodam ex Hattoni famulis, qui paullo ante Comiti custi >
adhibitus, mussitarunt ut parum compertum oraitto, nee ex win -•
auditionibus aliquid intexere visum est." — Annates.



- eking to cover their foul deed by trumping up a charge a.d. 1585
of suicide. 1

It is not to be denied that the death of the eighth
Earl of Northumberland was attended with suspicious
circumstances, some of which the means adopted by the
Government for their own vindication served rather to
strengthen than to remove. Shocking as the alleged crime
appears to us, it must be borne in mind that in that age
the life of an individual weighed little in the scale against
State policy; and that that " daintiness of conscience "
with which Elizabeth reproached Sir Amyas Paulet
(while he held the custody of a more illustrious prisoner,
whose continued existence was thought incompatible
with the public welfare), was not shared by all her
ministers or agents.

On the other hand, however, it is difficult to discover
any political motive sufficiently powerful to account for
the resort to such a crime ; and the theory of the Earl
having died by his own hand, though in some points
difficult to reconcile with the facts as they are stated, is
quite within the bounds of possibility.

It is not likely that the mystery will ever be solved ;
but so deep-rooted was the prevalent suspicion, that when,
many years later, a once favoured courtier of Elizabeth's

exhorted a risine statesman not to be deterred from his
- Z

1 " Itaque primum Northurnbrii vita veneno petita Catholici cujusdam
naedici opera, liberata fuisse dicitur. Deinde vero post paucos dies cum
nulla segritudine teneretur, nee ulla animi inordinata affectione laboraret,
inventus est quadam nocte, in lecto suo occisus, sclopetto per renes et
inguinem exonerate ; statimque rumor ingens sparsus, et magnis clamori-
uus per universam Angliam disseminatus fuit, hunc principe, eo quod
Catholicus esset (quorum fidem heretici propterea quod de prredestina-
tione non presumit, desperationem docere asserunt) et quia multarum
proditionum conscius sibi fuerat, sibimetipsi manu propria mortem con-
scivisse." The pamphlet, a copy of which is in the British Museum,
was translated into French, German, English, Italian, and Spanish, and
distributed broad-cast over the continent ; it has the fault, so commonly
found in party publication?, of proving too much.



a.d. policy by the fear of " after-revenges " upon his children

T 532-i5 5 s i nce sucn resentments were not hereditary, he illustrated

his argument by the fact that the then living Earl ol

Northumberland bore no malice to the descendants ol

his father's murderer.'

Of the extensive possessions in twelve counties ' of
which the eighth Earl of Northumberland died seised a
considerable portion had come to him by his marriage
with Catherine Neville, who survived him, and by whom
he left eight sons, whose careers will be referred to in the
course of the succeeding chapter, and two daughters, 3 all
of whom were specially provided for in his will. 4

1 " For after-revenges, fear them not. .... Humors of men succeni
(descend) not, but grow by occasions, and accidents of time and po\\\r.
For your own father, that was esteemed to be the contriver of Norfolk'-
ruin, yet his son fofloweth your father's son and loveth him, (this reicr-
to Thomas Howard, who was restored in blood, and in 1597 summons 1
to parliament as Lord Howard de Walden). . . . Somerset made rw
revenge on the Duke of Northumberland's (John Dudley's) heirs," and
"Northumberland that now is thinks not of Hat tori's issue." — Sir Walter
Raleigh to Sir Robert Cecil, 1601, Murdin, p. Sn.

2 See Appendix VIII.

3 Lucy, married first to Sir John Wotton, and secondly to Sir Hugh

Online LibraryEdward Barrington De FonblanqueAnnals of the house of Percy, from the conquest to the opening of the nineteenth century (Volume v.2 pt.1) → online text (page 15 of 31)