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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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 26 of 31)
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take away from the said Earl.''



was under heavy liabilities for improvements undertaken a.d. 1608
at Syon ; and numerous creditors, who had been patient
in the days of his prosperity, were now clamorous in
urging their demands. He had hitherto believed that the
fine imposed upon him would in due time be remitted,
or, in accordance with established practice, so far reduced

!in amount and made payable by instalments extending
over a lengthened period, as to be brought within the
possibility of his means ; J but he now began to apprehend
that it would be exacted to the uttermost farthing, and
that his liberation would not be as much as considered
until the claim should have been satisfied. He accord-
ingly cast about for the means of meeting the extortionate
demand. His attempts to raise funds were, however,
impeded by certain financial negotiations set on foot at
this time by Lord Knollys, 2 his wife's uncle, to whom
he now writes : —

" My Lord,

11 I am sorry that your Lo : and I should meete in

I a Bargaine to marre one anothers Marckett to make it for

Strangers. I will not beleeve but that their lieth under
this Proceeding some unnaturall Secrett, which yett
appeares not, either to your Lo : or to myself ; consider-
ing- that the Thinge must be much better to me, than
it can be to you, and so by consequent, I may better give
more for it than you can. The Difference in the Purchase
to you and myself are theis : you are farre from it, I have

1 Under Henry VIII. and Elizabeth the fines imposed by the Star
Chamber, were not unfrequently altogether remitted, and even the
cupidity of Henry VII. was as a rule satisfied by a reasonable composition.

2 The eldest surviving son of the gallant Sir Francis Knollys,
K.G. (at one time the Custodian of Queen Mary of Scotland),
whose daughter, Lettice, had married Walter Devereux, first Earl of
Essex. William Knollys was raised to the peerage as a Baron on the
occasion of James's coronation ; was made Viscount Wallingford in
1616, and advanced to the Earldom of Banbury in 1626. He died in 1632.



a.d. it in Possession and a longe Terme in it ; you shall defeatc
— your Nephewe of it, I seeke to establishe him in it ; you
are a Counsellor and at Liberty, I have beene one, and
nowe under Restraint, uppon whome to adde Crosses wilbe
no Honor. Their is others of my noble Friendes, to whome
this hath beene offered, and for whome it doth lie much
more convenientlie then it doth for you, who out of Honor
would not deale in it. What the opinion of the world
wilbe in this case, your Lo : I knowe out of Judgment can
see, and that you will, from being reputed my mildest
-Censurer, be conceaved the heaviest Actor. But, as I
said before, so I say still, I will not beleeve but that their
are some unseemely Affections sterringe, that yett your
Lo : discovers not, which when you doe, I knowe you will
not be Pertaker of, and so with my best Wishes I rest
" You Lo : Nephewe to dispose of,

" Northumberland." 1
" This 3 : February, 1608."

At the end of two years the prisoner in the Tower
was still unable to raise the sum, the payment of which
into the royal coffers would alone justify his hopes of
release, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was
now required to apply the screw. He accordingly
addressed a peremptory demand to the Earl, for the
immediate payment of a portion of the fine and security
for the balance, to which he replies : —

" My Servant told me when he came from you that
you tooke it unkindly, and that I had not delt well with
you ; in not paying in that Money according to Promise ;
but when you shall understande the Reasons I know
you will be altered in your Opinion. Thus much out of
Charite I may expect from a Chrystian : that it is

1 Alnwick MSS., vol. ix. For the Earl's second and very character-
istic letter to Lord Knollys see Appendix XV.



very reasonable if the King's Maj y . will needes have a.d.

this greate Somme, yett that I may pay it soe as may T ° ~ l6ri

he best for the Ease of me and a poor Company of

Creatures whose Fortunes depend upon it, the King

being satisfyed. . . . Besides, you would have me to put

in Suretyes, which I have been labouring for, yet cannot

procure them. Those Things, and some other urgent

Occasions, for the present forced me to seeme to breake

with you, which in this Construction cannot be so taken

in deede. And verlie, Mr. Chauncellor, Money is not soe

easilie got by me at all Tymes, as perhaps you conceave ;

for the State wherein I live maketh Men jealouse to trust

me ; and I find others as nice to ingage themselfs, how

neer soever they be to me, or how mutch Dutie soever

they professe, when it cometh to take up Money upon

Credit. Therefore, I doubt not but you in your judgment

will excuse me, and take Thinges as they are trulie." '

Although his letters are now couched in more formal
terms, the Earl continued to make Salisbury the channel
of his appeals to the King : —

" Your entertaining Busines theis Daies paste hath
been so many that I wold not troble you ; nowe they are
ended, I will thanke you for the Favour you did me in
delivering my Letter, being so farre from suspecting that
you would not doe it sincerely, as I protest I believe you
would doo me any good Work in your Power. If I be
deceaved the Faulte is not mine ; for there be many
Reasons to persuade me to it ; as well Reasons to thrust
me from it, whether I shall trouble your Lo. with this
againe or no. I knowe not your Will, neither would I
desier anything from yow in this Case against your
Minde, but I must write often and use my best Endea-
vours for His Ma ties Favour. If they shall not be dis-

1 Earl of Northumberland to Sir Julius Caesar, July, 1611. — Alnwick
MSS.y vol. viii.



{$64-1632 pleasin 2 to y° u t0 P asse b Y your Handes I shall acknow-
— * ledge the Favour very well ; understanding that all
remaines in His Ma ties Will, which will, I pray your Lo.,
by your good Offices and Care, seeke to drawe on, and I
will thanke you in my Harte even when I can doe you no
other Service. At this Tyme I will sai no more butt.
looke upon my State ; It will move yow, knowing that
yow doe ! and so I rest your Lo. unfortunate Friend to
doo you Service.

" From the Tower, this 30th July."

"Knowing what you do!" knowing as none except
the King himself knew better than Lord Salisbury, that
the Earl's loyalty was as true as his own. James, indeed,
appears from time to time to have had some compunc-
tions, for both the Queen and Lady Northumberland now
spoke hopefully of the Earl's approaching liberation ;
but each symptom of relenting on the part of the Kin-
was met by the renewed machinations of enemies to
foment resentment against the prisoner.
^ To revive the old suspicions a pamphlet was now
circulated, in which the original evidence of complicity
in the Gunpowder Plot was reproduced with damaging
comments, and dark hints of certain revelations which
an important witness was prepared to make.

On learning that the attention of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, who had always shewn himself friendly to him.
had been called to this production, the Earl writes :—

" I understand by Mr. Lieutenant, that Your Grace
hath taken notice of a Pampflet wherein the autor hath
remembered me with a little Splene, and though he hath
said something like that that Mr. Atturney did speake,
(and Your Grace knoweth the Licence of Atturnies in




cases of Accusations in Courts) ; yett the Party might have a.d. i6h

had soe much Charitie as to have knowne that Atturnies

useth for Form's sake to agrivate, and that all is not

Gospell that is spoken in those Kindes and at such Tymes.

Hee wrongeth me further in very dishonorable Terms

and false Coniectures ; God forgive him, I doe. Neither

will I dispute the Matter with him, but leave it to Your

Grace's Wisdome how farre to correct, how farre to use

Connivancie in a case of this Nature, hee being soe poore

a Createur as a Book-Binder in Paul's Church Yarde,

cauled Francis Barton, one who hath byne alreadie under

your Lords 1 " Fingers for writing, as I understande. I

will, therefore, without further Trouble of Spiritt — (for

use hath made me strong against euill Myndes) with my

ibest Wishes rest Your Grace's to be commanded." x
A discharged confidential servant, now appears upon
the scene, prepared to reveal a secret of so grave a
nature that its possession, as he alleged, made him go in
fear of his life at the hands of his late master, the
Earl of Northumberland.

The indictment was a formidable one, comprising
several charges of direct complicity in the Gunpowder
Plot; but after an exhaustive inquiry, by judges the
reverse of partial to the accused, not one of them could
be established, and the Attorney-General informs Lord
Salisbury that " the least men acquit Northumberland
of all blame." 2

1 Earl of Northumberland to Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, 19th
February, 16 ri.

3 Sir Thomas Coke to the Lord Treasurer, 12th May, 161 r. State
Papers. Even Lord Northampton, writes to the same effect. He had
acted as one of the Judges, and describes the prisoner as " much changed,
reserved, cautious and timid in his answers ; " says that he called Elkes
'' a discontented rogue," and that he denied all the accusations except
having written to his brother ufter his committal to the Tower to ask
him to assume the responsibility for the oath not having been adminis-
tered to Thomas Percy. This admission was, as will be seen, a qualified



a.d. As the effect of this investigation had been to remove

i5 6 4^ 6 3 2 instead of to strengthen the original suspicions, the Lor |

Treasurer once more thought it necessary to justify the

Earl's prolonged imprisonment, and accordingly writ< >

to the English Ambassador at Madrid :

" Because you may have heard some Bruite touching
the Earl of Northumberland's late Examination ; ana
knowing how various a Discourse a Subject of this Nature
doth begett, I have thought good (though there be no other
matter for the present to make this the occasion of a
Dispatch) as well to acquaint you with our Home Occur-
rencies in the exchange of yours from abroad, as to prevent
any erroneous Impression, by this breife narrative of the
true Motive and Progress of this Busyness. There is one
Elkes, a Servant to the Earle, and one who it seems was
no Stranger to his Secrets, who hath of late complained
to a private Friend, (that yet hath kept the same with no
great Privacy), that he stood in some Danger of his Life
seeing that he observed his Lord's Affection to be
grown cold towards him ; which he conceived could pro-
ceed from no other Cause but Jealousy, least he shouKl
reveal some Secrets which he had revealed unto him
concerning the Powder Treason. Thus much being
discovered, it could not be avoided to draw the same into
some further Question ; yet with such Caution as was
requisite when the Accusation is but single, and the
Accuser Servant to the Person accused. The Issue hath
been that the Earl hath confessed two things in Sub-
stance : one, that after he was committed to the Tower,
and before he came to the Star Chamber, he writt to his
Brother, Sir Allan Percie, to take it upon him, that by his
Means, Percie was admitted a Pensioner and suffered to
escape the Oath. The other, that he was acquainted

one, and proved to have been made under a misapprehension of t» e



with the Hireing of that House from whence the Mine a.d. i6h
was made. Both these, you may remember, were by him
very stiffly denied heretofore ; and though they be not of
such nature, in regard they do not necessarilie inforce the
Knowledge of the Fact, as to call him to a further Tryall
for Life or Landes, yet they serve to justify the former
Proceedings, those Points being now cleared, which at thai
Time were but presumed"*

A more disingenuous or misleading- statement was never
put forward even by Salisbury, who quotes Northumber-
land's admission that he knew of Percy having hired the
building adjoining the Houses of Parliament, in order
to convey the entirely false impression that he was aware
of the object for which the conspirator had secured those
premises. The alleged correspondence with Sir Allan
Percy has no bearing whatever upon the Earl's supposed
complicity in the Plot ; but even in the guarded admission
that he might have authorised his secretary to ask his
brother to assume the blame for the omission to ad-
minister the oath, although he had no recollection of
having done so, he inadvertently wronged himself, as
John Chamberlain informs Carleton :

"Three or four days since, finding Mr. Harriot at
great leisure in Paul's, 3 I accosted him, to see what
I could learn of his great Lord. He told me that he
had some enlargement, and that any of his servants or

1 Earl of Salisbury to Sir R. Winwood, 25th July, 16 n. — Winwood's
Memorials, vol. iii. p. 2S7. It will be noticed that the writer here
admits that the offences for which Northumberland had already suffered
six years of imprisonment, had only been "presumed."

8 The aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral was at that time a popular lounge

!and meeting-place for gossips and newsmongers. Francis Osborne says :
"It was the fashion for the principal gentry, lords, courtiers, and men
of all professions, not merely mechanick, to meet in Paul's Church by
eleven o'clock and walk in the aisle till twelve o'clock, and after dinner
from three till six, during which time some discoursed of business, and
others of newes." — Traditional Memoirs of James J.

VOL. II. 305 X


is6 A -°i6 -> friends mI S ht have access t0 hIm - That this las t tempest
x 5 4J 32 was already blowne over ; that Elkes and his accusations
began to vanish, only there was some doubt that his fine
of 30,000/. would be called upon.

" And far the matter whereon yozt were mentioned it fell
out thus : that the Lord being urged about a letter that
should be (i.e. was alleged to have been) written for
Percy's lodging, firmly denied it ; but his man Radcliffe,
debating the matter with him, wished him not to stand too
stiffly upon it, because he remembered that Percy went up
and down the House inquiring after you, and told him it
was for such a purpose ; whereupon the Lord at his next
examination {though this point was no more in question)
of his own motion told them that lie could not call to
mind any such letter, but if there were, it was without
any ill intent, and it was likely you had written it. This
was taken hold of, and pro concesso ; whereas he spoke
it doubtfully, and by way of caution. But Epsley utterly
denied all this, and said his Lord had forgotten and
wronged himself for there was no letter written, but
himself was employed by Percy to whineard in his Lord's
name by word of mouth." 1

The alleged "confessions" thus amounted to abso-
lutely nothing, and Salisbury's statement that they
had served to confirm the original suspicions against
the accused, and to justify the treatment to which he
had been subjected, is in direct contradiction to the facts
as set forth in the official Reports. The hopeful and
confident tone in which the Earl now addresses the
King, shows that he himself believed that the inquiry
had only tended to establish his innocence :

" May it please your 3VIa tJe to give me Leave, in ail
Humilitie to presente in these Lynes the Sorrowes of my

/Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, 27th November, i6i7^-
tfirch i Janes the First, vol. i. p. 149.



Minde, that that Viper, my Seruante, whose Mallice is a.d. i6n
soe apparent, hath, by his Accusations laid uppon me, per-
verting and falsifying- what he could ; whereby he might
sturr upp Your Ma tie3 further Displeasures against me, a
Thing that I was ever in Hope, with Tyme, Patience and
a loyal Harte, to redeeme, and by the Helpe of Your
Ma ties Wisdome to shake off this Worme, without anie
Harme, from my Hand. Withall in most humble Manier
to crave that his Intentes may not take Hold in anie Sorte
of your princelie Thoughts, to make the more iealous of

!my Faith, for I protest (and further than Protestacon I
dare not lengthen this Letter to Your Ma ues Trouble), and
that is : as I shall be saued, or as I hope to have anie
Good in this, or the World to come, that I am as innocent
of meaning Harme, or having knowne anie Harme meant,
to Your Ma tia , as anie Man living. One Thing more : I
humblie beseeche Your Ma tie to give me Credit in what
wonderfullie greeves me, and that is, that I am not such
a Traytcr to God as this Wrech, by his Approbations,
would make me ; w r hich whensoever it shall please you
to be better satisfied in, I doubt not but, as an unskilfull
Deuine, to make an honest Accounte of my Beleefe."

Whatever the King's disposition may have been at
this time (his having caused Elkes to be warned to speak
no more than the truth in his accusations against his
Master indicates an improved sense of justice), influences
more powerful than either justice or mercy were at work
against the prisoner.

The complex and antagonistic elements of which
human character is composed were strongly represented
in the ninth Earl of Northumberland. Time and experi-
ence had not softened the constitutional violence of his
arbitrary temper ; nor on the other hand had adversity
chilled the generous impulses of a naturally kindly na-
ture. He was an affectionate father, and an indifferent

307 x 2


a.d. husband ; warm and trustful in his friendships ; violent,
15 til 32 but not implacable, in his resentments. His pride was
inordinate, and his charity unbounded. To all depen-
dent upon him, to his kinsmen and officers, his servants,
tenants and vassals, he was ever a just and lovino-
Lord ; to men of learning and science ever a gentle,
munificent and appreciative patron ; to his equals — and
he acknowledged but few as such below the throne —
he showed himself reserved and haughty, and if thwarted,
arrogant and aggressive. His aristocratic instincts
prompted him to the observance of that punctilious
outward respect to the King which he himself exacted
from others ; but the great English Earl could never
bring himself to yield that subservience, or to permit
those familiarities, which James demanded from his
ministers and indulged in towards his favourites. No
man had done better service to the King of Scotland
while his accession to the English throne was yet in
doubt ; but no sooner had he been firmly seated and
shown the bent of his policy than Northumberland's
zeal in his service slackened, and he assumed towards
those who enjoyed the royal favour, a disdainful and
contemptuous attitude which could not fail to make
him many enemies at Court, and to offend the jealous

It had been his hope, under the new dynasty, not only
himself to hold a high place in the Royal Councils but
to restore the great Peers of England to their ancient posi-
tion as the legitimate advisers of the Sovereign ; occupying
an almost impregnable position between the Throne and
the people. James, however, as arbitrary as the most
despotic of the Tudors, was little disposed to depart from
the policy which his predecessors on the English throne
had persistently and successfully pursued for the past
century. Following their example, he was determined to



rule as well as to reign; to repudiate the claim of the a.d. i6ii
nobles to a share in the Government, and to employ
only such instruments as he himself might create or
destroy. In Cecil he found a sagacious and prudent
counsellor ; a minister of wide experience in affairs of
state, and a secretary of untiring application and in-
domitable energy. Yet in common with such mere
courtiers as Somerset and Carlisle, the Lord Treasurer
existed only by the favour of the King. He knew that
the breath that had made, might unmake him in a
moment ; and he accordingly remained through life the
unflinching champion of the Royal Prerogative. Under
existing conditions the pretensions of the great nobles to
control the kingly power appeared to him inadmissible
and dangerous ; and to weaken the influence of this privi-
leged and ambitious order appeared the indispensable
duty of a faithful and patriotic public servant.

In the sunshine of his prosperity and power the Earl
of Northumberland might despise and defy the intrigues
of Statesmen, and the resentment of jealous favourites ;
but when the storm-clouds gathered over his House, and
he found himself a Prisoner in the Tower under a foul
suspicion, he paid the penalty of his arrogance. The
six years which had gone by since sentence had been
passed upon him in the Star Chamber, had only served
to strengthen the phalanx of hostile influences which now
formed a living barrier between him and the King's grace.

Here were the men who had inspired the pamphleteer
and suborned the servant ; and who, now that their
last design had failed of effect, represented to the
King that the delay in the payment of the fine was due,
not as alleged to the want of means, but to the determin-
ation of the haughty peer to defy the authority of the law,
and to evade the just penalty of his offences against His



a.d. It was doubtless the expectation that the royal clem-

15 ll! 32 ency would be exercised in his case, and that the fine
would, in accordance with established custom, be remitted
or very considerably reduced, that caused the prisoner so
pertinaciously to resist the payment ; for although thirty
thousand pounds in hard money was in those times an
enormous sum for any subject to command, the Earl of
Northumberland might have raised even this amount had
he chosen to submit to a great personal sacrifice. He
preferred to temporise, and to meet the demands of the
Exchequer by representations of the difficulties of his
position, as in these letters to the Council :

" My verie good Lords, the Lieutenant delivered me
from Your Lordships that it was His Ma tles absolute Re-
solution that I should pay my Fine, and that my Landes
having extended to 1800/. yearlie, and knowing Favours
ordinarily be done by Juries in that Nature, would have
me offer what ComposicOn I would give yearlie. I must
confesse the Proposition was unlooked for, soe as I hope
if I answere not soe soundlie as I should, Your Lord-
ships will pardon me and helpe it in the Interpretation.
I must write to Your Lordships much in that Kinde that I
once writte to the King and that was, that His Ma* had
been a King for manie Yeares and had had long ex-
perience of Faultes and Offences and the Differences of
them. Soe must I sale to Your Lordships : You have
byne ancient and graue Counsellors ; You have had
Offences of all kindes before You, You can iudge of them.
In the Inwarde of my Soule (excuse me, my Lords, I pray
You, if I seeme partiall in myne owne Cause) I must
trulie saie my Conscience cannot make me beleeve that
my Faultes are so haynous to deserve Punishment to the
thirde or fourth Generation, for soe must it be if this Fyne
light uppon me and myne ; for pocre Babes and theire
Babes must answer for it. Nevertheless, to obay Your



Lordships, my Officers which are now absente, after one a.d. i6h

Week shall attencle to knowe Your Lordships Pleasure ;

they shall lay open my Estate, how it standes euerie Way.

If His Ma tie then will take it I must undergoe it with all

Humilitie and Dutie, although unwiilincrlie I must con-

fesse. But I hope of His Ma tlc more gratious Favour

since others have tasted of it, and I doubt not but I shall.

For a little of my Money will doe His Ma de and his but

little Good, and me and myne a greate deale of Harme.

" 19th Augt. 161 1."

And again :

" To obay Your Lordships Comandments I have sent
my Officers to attende You. They shall deliver unto
Your Lordships the true Estate of my Meanes to live
uppon, orverie nigh it ; a Thing I had rather should have
byne concealed, because to appeare a beggar shines not
like a Jewell euerie way it is turned ; which mistaking, I
thinke, hath byne the Cause of the Pressure of the Fyne

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 26 of 31)