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being the chief part of his moveable value: and this, I think, is done with his majesty's privity. But my lord Coke is a good man to answer for it. God ever preserve and prosper you. I rest
Your true and devoted servant,
May 10, Friday at 7 of the clock in the morning [1616.]
The charge of the Attorney-General, Sir FRA NCIS BACON, against FRANCES, Countess of SOMERSET, intended to have been spoken by him at her arraignment, on Friday, May 24, 1616, in case she had pleaded not guilty. (a)
Ir may please your grace, my lord high steward of England (b) and you my lords the peers.
You have heard the indictment against this lady well opened; and likewise the point in law, that might make some doubt, declared and solved; wherein certainly the policy of the law of England is much to be esteemed, which requireth and respecteth form in the indictment, and substance in the proof.
This scruple it may be hath moved this lady to plead not guilty, though for the proof I shall not need much more that her own confession, which she hath formerly made, free and voluntary, and therein given glory to God and justice. And certainly confession, as it is the strongest foundation of justice, so it is a kind of corner-stone, whereupon justice and mercy may meet.
The proofs, which I shall read in the end for the ground of your verdict and sentence, will be very short; and, as much as may serve to satisfy your honours and consciences for the conviction of this lady,
(a) She pleaded guilty, on which occasion the attorney-general spoke a charge somewhat different from this, printed in his works. (b) Thomas Egerton, viscount Ellesmere, lord high chancellor.
without wasting of time in a case clear and confessed; or ripping up guiltiness against one, that hath prostrated herself by confession; or preventing or deflowering too much of the evidence. And therefore the occasion itself doth admonish me to spend this day rather in declaration, than in evidence, giving God and the king the honour, and your lordships and the hearers the contentment, to set before you the proceeding of this excellent work of the king's justice, from the beginning to the end; and so to conclude with the reading the confessions and proofs.
My lords, this is now the second time (c) within the space of thirteen years reign of our happy sovereign, that this high tribunal-seat of justice, ordained for the trial by peers, hath been opened and erected; and that, with a rare event, supplied and exercised by one and the same person; which is a great honour to you, my lord Steward.
In all this mean time, the king hath reigned in his white robe, not sprinkled with any drop of blood of any of his nobles of this kingdom. Nay, such hath been the depths of his mercy, as even those noblemen's bloods (against whom the proceeding was at Winchester), Cobham and Grey, were attainted and corrupted, but not spilt or taken away; but that they remained rather spectacles of justice in their continual imprisonment, than monuments of justice in the memory of their suffering.
It is true, that the objects of his justice then and now were very differing. For then it was the revenge of an offence against his own person and crown, and upon persons, that were malcontents, and contraries to the state and government. But now, it is the revenge of the blood and death of a particular subject, and the cry of a prisoner. It is upon persons, that were highly in his favour; whereby his majesty, to his great honour, hath shewed to the world, as if it were written in a sunbeam, that he is truly the lieu
(c) The first time was on the trials of the lords Cobham and Grey, in November, 1603.
tenant of Him, with whom there is no respect of persons; that his affections royal are above his affections private that his favours and nearness about him are not like popish sanctuaries to privilege malefactors: and that his being the best master of the world doth not let him from being the best king of the world. His people, on the other side, may say to themselves, I will lie down in peace; for God and the king and the law protect me against great and small. It may be a discipline also to great men, especially such as are swoln in fortunes from small beginnings, that the king is as well able to level mountains, as to fill vallies, if such be their desert.
But to come to the present case; the great frame of justice, my lords, in this present action, hath a vault, and it hath a stage: a vault, wherein these works of darkness were contrived; and a stage with steps by which they were brought to light. And therefore I will bring this work of justice to the period of this day; and then go on with this day's work.
Sir Thomas Overbury was murdered by poison in the 15th of September, 1613, 11 Reg. This foul and cruel murder did, for a time, cry secretly in the ears of God; but God gave no answer to it, otherwise than by that voice, which sometimes he useth, which is vor populi, the speech of the people. For there went then a murmur that Overbury was poisoned: and yet this same submiss and soft voice of God, the speech of the vulgar people, was not without a counter-tenor, or counter-blast of the devil, who is the common author both of murder and slander; for it was given out, that Overbury was dead of a foul disease, and his body, which they had made a corpus Judaicum with their poisons, so as it had no whole part, must be said to be leprosed with vice, and so his name poisoned as well as his body. For as to dissoluteness, I never heard the gentleman noted with it his faults were insolency, and turbulency, and the like of that kind: the other part of the soul not the voluptuous.
Meantime, there was some industry used, of which I will not now speak, to lull asleep those that were the revengers of blood; the father and the brother of the murdered. And in these terms things stood by the space almost of two years; during which time, God so blinded the two great procurers, and dazzled them with their own greatness, and bind and nail fast the actors and instruments, with security upon their protection, as neither the one looked about them, nor the other stirred or fled, nor were conveyed away; but remained here still, as under a privy arrest of God's judgments; insomuch as Franklin, that should have been sent over to the Palsgrave with good store of money, was, by God's providence, and the accident of a marriage of his, diverted and stayed.
But about the beginning of the progress last summer, God's judgments began to come out of their depths: and as the revealing of murders is commonly such, as a man may say, a Domino hoc factum est; it is God's work, and it is marvellous in our eyes; so in this particular it was most admirable; for it came forth by a compliment and matter of courtesy.
My lord of Shrewsbury, (d) that is now with God, recommended to a counsellor of state, of especial trust by his place, the late lieutenant Helwisse, (e) only for acquaintance as an honest worthy gentleman; and desired him to know him, and to be ac
(d) Gilbert, earl of Shrewsbury, knight of the garter, who died May 8, 1616.
(e) Sir Gervase Helwisse, appointed lieutenant of the Tower, upon the removal of Sir William Waad, on the 6th of May, 1613. [Reliquia Wottoniana, p. 412, 3d edit. 1672.] Mr. Chamberlain, in a MS. letter to Sir Dudley Carleton, dated at London, May 13, 1613, speaks of Sir Gervase's promotion in these terms. "One Sir Ger
vase Helwisse of Lincolnshire, somewhat an unknown man, is put into the place [of Sir W. Waad's] by the favour of the lord "Chamberlain [earl of Somerset] and his lady. The gentleman "is of too mild and gentle a disposition for such an office. He is "my old friend and acquaintance in France, and lately renewed in "town, where he hath lived past a year, nor followed the court many a day." Sir Henry Wotton, in a letter of the fourteenth of May 1613, [ubi supra, p. 13.] says, that Sir Gervase had been before one of the pensioners.
quainted with him. That counsellor answered him civilly, that my lord did him a favour; and that he should embrace it willingly; but he must let his lordship know, that there did lie a heavy imputation upon that gentleman, Helwisse; for that Sir Thomas Overbury, his prisoner, was thought to have come to a violent and untimely death. When this speech was reported back by my lord of Shrewsbury to Helwisse, perculit illico animum, he was stricken with it; and being a politic man, and of likelihood doubting, that the matter would break forth at one time or other, and that others might have the start of him, and thinking to make his own case by his own tale, resolved with himself, upon this occasion, to discover to my lord of Shrewsbury and that counsellor, that there was an attempt, whereto he was privy, to have poisoned Overbury by the hands of his under-keeper, Weston; but that he checked it, and put it by, and dissuaded it, and related so much to him indeed; but then he left it thus, that was but an attempt, or untimely birth, never executed; and, as if his own fault had been no more, but that he was honest in forbidding, but fearful of revealing and impeaching or accusing great persons: and so with this fine point thought to save himself.
But that great counsellor of state wisely considering, that by the lieutenant's own tale it could not be simply a permission or weakness; for that Weston was never displaced by the lieutenant, notwithstanding that attempt: and coupling the sequel by the beginning, thought it matter fit to be brought before his majesty, by whose appointment Helwisse set down the like declaration in writing.
Upon this ground, the king playeth Solomon's part, Gloria Dei celare rem; et Gloria Regis investigare rem; and sets down certain papers of his own hand, which I might term to be claves justitiæ, keys of justice; and may serve for a precedent both for princes to imitate, and for a direction for judges to follow : and his majesty carried the balance with a constant and steady hand, evenly and without preju