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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not positive proof, yet very strong suspicion of complicity
in the plot, and certainly full evidence of their having been
warned of the contemplated crime ; of their having sup-
pressed this knowledge ; and finally of their having actually
absented themselves from London on the appointed day,
and engaged relays of horses against any emergency.

Yet while Northumberland remained in durance, they
were only charged with the offence of having disregarded
the King's summons to Parliament, and were, shortly
after, liberated on payment of a fine.

No time was lost in seeking for such evidence as
might afford the groundwork of formal charges of
complicity against the Earl. His castles in the North
were seized and searched under a royal warrant, 3 and

1 Earl of Salisbury to Sir Thomas Edmonds (Minister Resident at
Madrid) 2nd December, 1605.— .Birch's Historical View, p. 244.

3 Sir Henry Witherington was ordered to take possession of Alnwick,
Tynemoutb, Prudhoe. and Cockermouth Castles, upon hearing of which'
the Earl wrote to Salisbury praying that "'Percy's closet door at Alnwick
might be sealed up, as it contained, among other papers, bonds of
Wuherington's to the value of a thousand marks which he might be
tempted to dispose of to his own advantage. I have lost enough
already and loath to lose more." — Alnwick MSS., vol. viii. The losses
referred to were defalcations on the part of Thomas Percy who, writes
Wickliffe, the Earl's A.uditor, "appears to have robbed your Lordship
in toto of ,£1,920, and I dare engage my credit when the bonds and
bills left in his custody come to be examined you will be found to be
deceived of no small sums of money besides this now appearing."
Fotherley, another agent, subsequently puts the sums misappropriated by
Percy at ^3,000. — Ibid.

VOL. II. 273 T


a.d. Salisbury took pains to intimate that, although there were
1564-1632 strong grounds for suspicion against him, " considerin ■
the 0-reatness of his house, and the improbability that
he should be acquainted with such a barbarous plot,
being a man of honour and valour, His Majesty is rather
induced to believe that whatsoever anie of the traitor^
have spoken of him hath been rather their vaunts than
upon any other good ground ; so that I think his Lordship
will the next term be granted his libertie upon honorable
and gracious terms, which, for myne own part, though
there hath never been any extraordinarie clearness between
7is, I write because this state is very barren of men o!
great blood and real sufficiencie together." J

More than six months elapsed before an indictment
could be framed, calculated to bring the Earl within the
power of the law. The zealous Attorney- General was
obliged to admit his inability to implicate him formally in
the " two horrible and unnatural treasons," laid to the
charge of the notorious conspirators, namely : the or-
ganisation of a foreign invasion of the Kingdom, and the
attempted explosion of the House of Parliament. He
was, however, enabled to frame a series of charges, which
though falling short of High Treason could by legal inge-
nuity be distorted into "divers crimes very great, and high
contempts, misprisions and offences against His Majesty.

1 Earl of Salisbury to E. Brouncker. — State Papers, Ireland.

" But either Lord Salisbury was insincere in these assurances of an
intention to release Northumberland, if nothing further appeared against
him, or evidence must have been laid before the Council which was
concealed from the public eye at the time, and which does not exist at
the present day. Among the State Papers there is nothing which teruis
to show that he had any previous knowledge of the Plot, inOcca a
criminal implication in the designs cf the conspirators 7cas ncoer fornui lly
imputed to him? — Jardine's Gunpowder Plot, p. 161.

Salisbury did not pretend to have any grounds for his suspicion that
the Earl had received a warning from Percy of the projected outrage,
for in a letter to lord Dunfermline of 1st December, sa\-.
11 Northumberland was supposed to have received a general warning j* ■"
Percy, but not of any reasonable knowledge cf the real Plot." — State Papers*



By this means each separate charge was based upon a.p. 1606
such a modicum of fact as made it extremely difficult
for the accused to admit or deny the truth of any one
article in the indictment, without involving himself
in the meshes of false inference and unfair conclu-
sions ; or of incurring the suspicion of untruthfulness or
wilful concealment of facts. To prejudice the Prisoner
in the mind of his judges, Sir Edward Coke further
laid it down, that although the indictment comprised
only the minor charges of contempts and misdemeanors,
" other matters of higher nature " were reserved for
consideration at " some other tyme and place at His
Majesty's pleasure." f

The accusations upon which the Earl was now brought
to trial were as follows : —

i. Having, during the life of the late Queen, employed
Thomas Percy to procure from King James favour on
behalf of English Catholics " thus derogating from the
King's authority by stealing away the hearts of his
subjects, and making himself head of the most factious
and trayterous faction in the Kingdome."

2. Having admitted Thomas Percy into the band of
Gentlemen Pensioners "knowing him to be a Jesuit
Recusant and Papist," without having imposed upon
him the Oath of Supremacy.

3. Having while under restraint upon suspicion of
complicity in the Gunpowder Plot, written letters to
his officers in the North, desiring them to have a care
of his moneys and revenues, and to preserve these from
the hands of Thomas Percy, whom he knew to have
fled into those parts, " giving him thereby a note and

watchword to escape."


1 Star Chamber Proceedings against the ninth Ear/ of Northumberland,
23rd June, 1606.— Cotton JfSS., Vesp. E. xiv. 451.

275 T -


a.d. 4. Having presumed to write such letters while under

15 ll? 32 restraint without leave from his Majesty.

5. Having, he being as a Privy Counsellor sworn
to preserve the King's Majesty and the State, failed
to instruct his officers in the North to apprehend the
said Percy, " so preferring the safety of a little money,
before the taking of a capital traytor, and conse-
quently before the safety of the King and the whole
Kingdome." '

As regards the first charge, a reference to the Earl's
correspondence with James of Scotland will show how
grossly his suggestion for some toleration to the
Catholics was here misrepresented ; and even that
King must have felt a pang of shame at thus, after
the lapse of five years, charging as a crime against his
former friend and adherent, a proposition made entirely
in his interests, which he had thankfully received, and
in the justice and expediency of which he had concurred.

The failure on the part of the Earl, as Captain of the
Gentlemen Pensioners, to exact from his kinsman the
oath which the conditions of the service and the King-'s


special instructions 2 demanded, was undoubtedly a grave
dereliction of duty ; but there is not the slightest ground
for ascribing the omission, if it were wilful, which is open
to doubt, 3 to any motive more serious then an ill-judged

1 See Appendix XIII.

2 In a private letter written by the King very shortly after his acces-
sion, relating to the discipline of the Gentlemen Pensioners, he states:
" First, and especially, I hold it fit to have the oath of supremacy taken
by every one of them." — King James to Earl of Northumberland,
May, 1603. Slate Papers.

3 The EarFs explanation was to the effect that his Lieutenant (his
brother Alan) was the person immediately charged with the duty oi
administering the oath, and that he was under the impression that
Thomas Percy had duly complied with this formality (see answer to

• interrogatories, Appendix XIV.). It proved, however, that he had not
been sworn. The Attorney-General now attempted to establish thai
the omission had been a wilful one on the part of the Earl, in order



regard for Thomas Percy's religious scruples. It is a.d.^i6o6
certain that the imposition of the oath would not have
had the effect of thwarting any treasonable design, had
he then entertained such, on the part of Percy ; since he
would, as a matter of course, have obtained dispensation
or absolution for an act of perjury committed in the
interests of the Catholic Church.

The remaining charges are of the most paltry character.
No event could have been more grateful to the Earl than
the apprehension of the fugitive conspirator; and the
argument that his warning to his agents not to allow any
of his moneys to fall into Thomas Percy's hands was in-
tended for " a watchword and intelligence for his further
flight " ' is unworthy of the astute, if unscrupulous, lawyer.

In requiring his agents in the North to intercept any
of his moneys that might be on their way to his receiver,
Thomas Percy, the Earl simply took an obvious pre-
caution for protecting his property ; and as he did not
believe the conspirator to be himself in the North, it would
not occur to him to order his apprehension. The fact of
one of his servants having seized Thomas Percy's spare
horse " for the King," proves that there was no intention
of facilitating the traitor's escape.

The following letter from the Earl's Auditor is indeed

a conclusive answer to the preposterous charge : —


"May it please your Lordship,

" I mett with your Lordship's Horse and Mony

at Doncaster. The Chardge of bringinge it thither

from Yorke, was committed to Lawson, by Mr.

that Percy might be " the more at liberty to execute any intended
villainies" {Decree in the Star Chamber). The treasonable designs,
which culminated in the Powder Plot in 1605, must, according to this
theory, have been contemplated by the Earl and his kinsmen im-
mediately after the accession of James, when Thomas Percy was first
admitted into the band of Gentlemen Pensioners.
1 Decree in the Star Chamber.


t /


a.d. Percy, who promised to meete them at Doncaster on
1564-1632 Wednesday Night. Ther cometh up five Horse Loader
of Money, the Value thereof, as wee imagine, amounteth
to the Summe of 3000 and odde Hundred Pounds. The
rest of the Money, Mr. Percy told Lawsonne, should be
receaved at London. Mr. Wickcliffe is at his own
House, unto whome Lawsonne is rode Poste with your
Lordship's Letters, that he may come and take Chardge
of the Money to London, accordinge as your Lordship's
Pleasure is he should. Untill hee come to us to Don-
caster, I will take Care of it. Mr. Percy lefte a Horse
at Doncaster, at his Cominge to London, to be keapt in
Diet untill his cominge backe. Mr. Lepton, who rode
Post before me, hath seized upon him for the Kinge.
We determine to sett forwarde to London, on Saterday
Morninge. Thus in Hast I humbly rest

" Your Lordship's most bownden Servant,

" Thomas Fotherlev.
" Doncaster; the 8th
of November, 1605."

The result of the trial in the Star Chamber was, as
usual, a foregone conclusion ; but the Attorney-General's
insinuation, for it does not amount to an assertion, that
the Earl had pleaded guilty, is not justified by facts.

" The said Earl being present at the bar as aforesaid.
was demanded particularly what answer he could make
to the said offences so informed against him ; whereupon
the said Earl, labouring at the first to excuse or extenuate
his said offences, with accusing the said Thomas Percy,
.... pretending also his innocericy in all proceedings as
touching any offence intended to his JMajestie or the
Realm ; yet in the end, being made to understand by the
Court that those his allegations and protestations extended
rather to his further accusations than excuse, the said



Earl, at the end, after full proof made of the several a.d. 1606
contempts and offences aforesaid, confessing his errors in
the same, submitted himself to the censure and judgment
of this most honourable Court."

Notwithstanding the gloss thus attempted to be put
upon the Earl's explanations, it is evident that he
resolutely denied the guilt imputed to him, while admit-
ting the truth of certain facts upon which the charges
were made to rest. He did not deny having advised
the Kino- to make some concession to his future Catholic
subjects ; nor of having shown neglect in the matter of
Thomas Percy's admission to the Band of Pensioners,
nor of having written to his agents in the North to warn
them to be careful not to allow any of his moneys to fall
into the hands of Thomas Percy ; but he utterly and
entirely repudiated the inferences which his accusers
attempted to draw from these acts.

What chance however is there for a prisoner who is told
by his judges that any attempt to deny or extenuate the
crimes imputed to him will only serve to increase his
culpability in their eyes ?

Being found guilty upon all the charges, the Court
"Adjudged and ordered that the said Earl shall, for the
said Offences, pay for a Fine, to the use of His Majesty,
the sum of ,£30,000, and shall be displaced and removed
from the place of a Privy Counsellor, and from being
Captain of His Majesty's Pensioners, and from being
Lieutenant of His Majesty's Counties, and from all and
every other Office, Honour or Place, which he holdeth by
His Majesty's Grace and Favour, and hereafter be dis-
abled to take upon him, or exercise, any of the said Offices
or Places, and that he shall be returned Prisoner to the
said Tower of London, from whence he came, there to re-
main Prisoner as before, during I lis Majesty's Pleasure." ■

1 Decree in the Star Chamber.


a.d. A sentence more monstrously disproportionate to the

J 5 4-i 3 2 offence imputed, * was never recorded even in the;
disgraceful rolls of " that den of arbitrary justice, the
Star Chamber," * and elastic as were the rules of proce-
dure in that tribunal, they had been overstrained in
order to procure a conviction.

Proceedings ore tenus were not admissible without a
plea of guilty, of which there is no record in this case ;
or, if the accused did admit the specific charges, then
the trial, " while regular in point of form, was most
irregular and unjust in effect, inasmuch as the Earl
would have been charged with one offence, which he had
confessed, and sentenced for another, which he denied,
and of which no proof was given." 3

It was not until after his conviction, that North-
umberland, for the first time, appealed for justice directly
to the King :

" Most gratious Sovereigne, —

Maye it please Your Ma tie to cast your Eies uppon
theis few Lynes of your most humble Subject and Seruant.

1 "Every one must agree that the fine imposed upon this nobleman
was preposterous. Were we even to admit that suspicion might justify
his long imprisonment, a participation in one of the most atrocious
conspiracies recorded in history was, if proved, to be more severely-
punished; if not proved, not at all."— Hallam's Const. History,
vol. ii. p. 47.

2 " Where the Keeper, for the time being, two Bishops, two Judges.
and as many wise Lords and great Officers, sate as were pleased to
come; the most of whom, though unable to render a reason for their
sentence, did, every Wednesday and Friday in term time, concur to tear
such as refused to worship the minion, or to yield to the pretended royal
prerogative .... but the main employment of the Court was, like
schoolboys, to hold up one the other while their masters whipt them.
Osborne's Traditional Memoirs.

3 Jardine's Gunpotoder Plot, p. 245. The illegality of the proceed-
ings in this case is conclusively established on technical grounds in this
interesting volume. For the interrogatories to which the Earl u^ 1 -
required to answer and his replies, see Appendix XIV.



and to behold the Unfortunateness of him, that never a.d._i_6o6
fostered in his Bosome one disloyall or undutifull Thought;
although pointed at in theis by the devilish Attemptes
and ouglie Actes of a wicked Fellow. I cannot deny but
how, as Matters of his Proceedings are laid open (which
to me, till now, was altogether unknowne), that Your
Ma tie and the State had cause to be iealouse, the very
Ground being this, that he took Advantage to serve his
Purpose, and theirs that sett him forwards, uppon my
Trust committed to him to make knowne my dutiful
Affections to Your Ma tle ; and as I referred somewhat to
his Reportes, having no more space to write uppon, which
was but to show Your Ma tie who, in myne Opinion, I con-
iectured to be yours ; who I might be iealouse of, and
sutch by-Trifles ; he made use of that Trust, to deliver for
others, that they secretly employed him in without my

I thought I had chosen an honest Instrument and fitt
because of the place he lay in, to be the Carrier of my
Letters ; but I find to my Sorrowe hee had Craft and
Poison laid up in his Brest against Your Ma tie , and the
State, and Unfaithfullnesse to me. And it is most true
he ever seemed to me to bee so much affected with Dutie
to Your Ma tie , as I protest I loved him the better for it,
and trusted him the more. But I finde hee hath both
abused Your Ma tie and me. Your Ma ,ie , in using my
Name to you in Things he had no Commission for; me,
in using my Name amongst those of his Faction, where
not soe much as anie one Man was ever knowne to me,

or negociated withal by anie Man living, from me

"Therefore I, most humblie from the Bottom of my
Soule, desire Your Ma de , that in this case of my Loyaltie
towards you, you will be pleased to free me in your
Thoughts and to judge of it as it is. That is : I protest
myselfe before the living God, true, faithfull, without



a.d. Spotte or Blemish in the least inwarde of my Harte ; and
1564-^632 w j t h out w hich Enterpretacon I desire not to live. And
withal that, out of the Justice of Your Ma ties Nature,
you will not conceave this long Silence of myne hitherto,
to proceade from anie other Reason or Humor than that
the Thing- I was suspected of, and chardged withal, was
to have had some kinde of Notice of this horrible and in-
humane Fact ; to which all this time I could plead but
Innocencie, thinking that Tyme and ExaminacOns was
the clearest Way to cleare me from that Imputacon and
to satisfie Your Ma" e .

" For thease other Accidents which hath concurred
to the aeeravatine of the former Iealosies, and now
showed, for which I have received a Censure, I most
humblie crave Your Ma tIes Pardon ; and give me leave to
aske for Mercy from you, from whom ever Mercy hath
byne seen to flowe. And I beseech Your Ma" lett not the
Weaknesse of Advise, though not wholsome, nor the
Neglect of some Duties or Indiscretions, and Oversights,
overbalance the Attribute you have gained in being for-
givefull. In thease Points I can say nothing; but lay
myselfe at Your Ma ties Feet. I can thinke nothing, but
attende your Pleasure ; and I can pray for nothing but
that I have asked before ; not doubting but that it
shall please you to look uppon me with Eies of Mercy :
and you shall raise a faithful Subject, that willinglie will
be readie to Sacrifice his Life in Your Service. And soe,
most humblie kissing your Hand, I must remain ever
and ever

"Your Ma tIes faithful Subject and Servant

" H. Northumberland." '

1 Northumberland to the King, 2nd July, 1606. — Original Stat*



Six weeks later he writes again praying the King : " to a.d. 1606
have your Consideracon, and to extende your Favour in
the Fine imposed uppon me by the Lords, for which all
This Time Extents are gone out. It is the greatest Fine
that ever was gott upon any Subject in this Realme. My
Estate is not such as perhapps the World takes it for ;
my Debts are greater than is beleeved, and there is a Com-
panie of little ones to provide for, which lies uppon my
Handes. I knowe Your Ma tie to be soe gratious that you
desire not to punish others for my Falte ; this is a Burden
will light as well uppon theire Fortunes as uppon myne.
Besides, I knowe it is not a little Money will doe Your
Ma tie Good, and it is a little that would doe us a greate
deal of Harme ; and howsoever it hath pleased the Lords
to censure me, I doe appeale to Your Ma tie , a higher
Judo-e, for Favour, who knowes more than them in this
Case. Therefore I most humblie desire Your Ma tie for
Mittigacon. What it shall please you that I shall
undergoe I will, as I am able, endeavour to satissfie." r

And once more he reminds the King of his past
services, complaining with some bitterness that he should
be doomed to disgrace and captivity, " in his days, under
whom I have more Reason to look for Comfort, than in
hers who was your Predecessor ; since my Harte can be a
true Testimony to itselfe that I did never, in Thought or
Dede, willinglie consent to anie Thing that I conceaved
might be prejudicial to Your Ma tie , or Yours. And as I
speake truelie or falselie, soe I praye to God to deale
with me in the last Days of Judgement."

Lord Northumberland had ever been a favourite with
the kind-hearted Queen. She had from the first braved
the King's displeasure by openly avowing her disbelief

1 Northumberland to the King, 13th September, 1606.— Original

State Papers.

3 Same to same, 24th November, i6c6.— Ibid.

2 S 3


a.d. in his guilt ; and after his committal she had more than
1564-1632 once causec j n j m to b e asS Q re d Q f her sympathy and

good wishes, and her continued efforts on his behalf. Shu
appears, however, to have miscalculated her influence
over James, or to have failed to reckon with the powerful
counter-influences arrayed against the accused. What
avail were the prayers of a woman, even though sup-
ported by the pleadings of justice and humanity, in
opposition to "reasons of State," as presented to the
prejudiced King by designing ministers and jealous
courtiers ?

It was not until after his trial that the Earl acknow-
ledged the Queen's efforts on his behalf in the two
following letters : — '

" I humblie beseech Your Ma tie , pardon my Silence
hitherto that I have not acknowledged your Favours,
which at my first Committment it pleased you to shew
me. The Case was such then as I thought it fitt to leave
that Dutie undone, and to lay it aside for a Tyme ; expect-
ing euerie Day an ende and Clearing of that which my
Soule could never accuse itselfe of in the least Degree ot
the World : I mean my Loyaltie and Faith to the King,
Your Ma ties selfe, and to Yours. As I did rather choose to
make good by Tryall that which at my firsts Troubles
I protested to Your Ma tie you should finde, than by
Glosses and Helpes to putt from me that Imputacon which
I hope Your Ma tle rests verie well satissfied in now.

" Therefore I most humblie desire Your Ma ties good
Oppinion and Conceipt, which in these Applications will be
comfortable to me, and without which my Life would be
extreamely grievous ; for I protest I ever honored you
and Yours with a sincere, true, and faithfull Harte. V our
Ma tIes now helping Hand give me leave to desire towards

Original Stale Papers.


the Lessening of the King's Displeasure, as Occasions a.d. 1636
shall serve ; and let this Suite, I humblie beseeche Your
Ma t!e , enter your Harte.

" In this Place I can do you no Service but with my
Prayers ; if a free Man (and so please the King) both
Service and Life I would presente at your Feete. What I
am is, Your Ma" e , in all Dutie to honor you with as great
Faithfullnes as ever was to Queen ; and therefore as the
greatest Present as a poore Prisoner can present you
withall, I lay this at Your Ma ties Feet. And soe most
humblie kissing your Handes, I am and ever willbe

" Your Ma tles faithfull Vassall and Servant,

" H. Northumberland.
"Tower, 22 July, 1606."

" Most gratious Soueraigne : — I am soe much bounden
to Your Ma tie for your Favours, and especiallie for this
last Desire you had of releasing me of any Misfortunes
by the Motion you last made, as I can saie no more
I towards the Expressing of my inwarde Thoughts, but that

I am the same to Your Ma" e that ever I was, since the
first Day I saw you ; that is Your Ma ties faithfull Seruant,

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 24 of 31)