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reconciliation with Rome, but he would himself have resumed the custody of the Great Seal. He therefore heartily concurred with Warwick in those proceedings after the fall of Somerset which were meant to mortify Wriothesley, and which deeply wounded his spirit, and brought him to the grave.
Rich ere long gained a complete insight into the character of Warwick, and felt himself very uncomfortable and insecure under his new master;-perceiving that, with an open and captivating manner, he was dark, designing, immoderately ambitious, and wholly unscrupulous and remorseless. He could not tell how soon his own turn might come to be transferred to the Tower; and he knew well that, notwithstanding all his services in the late crisis, if it should at any time suit the convenience of the new ruler to have a vacancy in the office of Chancellor, there would be no hesitation in creating it by cutting off the head of the Chancellor. In the mean time, he felt that his only chance of safety was passive obedience, while he secretly hoped that there would be another revolution in the political wheel, and that Warwick might be precipitated from his present height of power. He accordingly took an active part in those proceedings against Somerset, which terminated in his being dismissed from the Protectorship. He presided at the examinations of his former patron before the Council, drew up the articles against him, - obtained his confession, and brought in the bill of pains and penalties, by which he was deprived of all his offices, and sentenced to forfeit land to the value of 2000l. a year.
We cannot but admire, though puzzled to explain, the mildness of this proceeding. According to all precedent, Somerset ought now to have been attainted of high treason, and could not hope to leave his cell in the Tower till he was led out to execution. Let us charitably suppose that Rich, finding he could do so without endangering himself, put in a good word for the life of the man who had made him Lord Chancellor, urging upon Warwick that Somerset, if pardoned, would thenceforth be powerless, and that the present chief of the state might add to his own influence, both with the young King and with the nation, by an act of clemency rather than of vengeance. When Somerset was afterwards pardoned, and restored to the Privy Council, Rich must, from selfish motives at any rate, have been pleased with the prospect of some check hereafter arising to the unbounded sway which Warwick seemed otherwise destined permanently to enjoy.
When fresh political feuds were engendered, the Chancellor was for some time engaged in enforcing the new regulations respecting religious belief and religious worship. The Council, under his presidency, took cognisance as well of those who departed too far from the ancient standard of orthodoxy, as of those who adhered to it too rigidly; and a few Anabaptists and Arians were burnt, to show that the Reformers had a just abhorrence of heresy. But the principal difficulty was to deal with the numer
ous class of Roman Catholics, who had the Lady Mary, the heiress presumptive to the throne, at the head. A positive order was issued that the mass should not be celebrated; and Dr. Mulet, her chaplain, was committed to close custody in the Tower because, under her sanction, he disobeyed this order. Mary demanded the enlargement of her chaplain; the Chancellor wrote to her in the name of the Council, requiring her to obey the law. As she still remained intractable, the Chancellor, by order of the
Council, paid her a visit at Copped Hall, in Essex, [A. D. 1549.]
where she then resided, and delivered into her hand a letter from the King, peremptorily requiring her "to take a more earnest regard to the reformation of her family."* She received the King's letter on her knees as Rich delivered it-explaining, that the respect was paid to the writer, and not to its contents.
Rich declared the determination of the cabinet, that "she should no more use the private mass, nor do any other divine service than the law prescribed." She told him, "she would obey the King in any thing that her conscience permitted, and would gladly suffer death to do him good, but preferred to lay her head on a block rather than use any service different from that established at her father's death." She added, "I am sickly: I would not willingly die, but will do the best I can to preserve my life; but if I shall chance to die, you of the Council will be the cause of my death."
She then took her ring from her finger, and, on her knees, gave it to the Chancellor to present to the King as a token of her regard and duty. As the Chancellor was waiting in the court-yard to depart, she accosted him from the window in a style not quite so dignified, but which gives us a favourable opinion of her frankness and good humour. "Send me back my comptroller," said she," whom you have taken from me because he obeyed my commands; for since his departing I take the accounts myself of my own expences, and have learned how many loaves be made of a bushel of wheat. But my father and mother never brought me up to baking and brewing; and, to be plain with you, I am weary of mine office, and therefore, if my Lords will send mine officer home they shall do me pleasure; otherwise, if they will send him to prison, I beshrew him if he go not to it merrily." In spite of these remonstrances Rich did nothing to gratify her; the comptroller and others of her servants were committed to the Tower,
* See the letter at full length, 1 St. Tr. 549., with the King's instructions to the Lord Chancellor and those who were to accompany him on this occasion. They were “to persuade her Grace that this proceeding cometh only of the conscience the King hath to avoid the offence of God, and of necessary counsel and wisdom to see his laws in so weighty causes executed." But they were "in the King's Majesty's name most strictly to forbid the chaplains either to say or use any mass or kind of service other than by the law is authorised." "Item, if ye shall find either any of the priests or any other person disobedient to this order, ye shall commis them forthwith to prison as ye shall think convenient." Surely it is rather unreasonable to expect that Mary should afterwards herself act on the principles of toleration,
and continued in close confinement till a new Chancellor had been appointed,-when her solicitations, aided by the interference of the Emperor, procured their discharge, with the relaxation in her favour of being permitted to worship God according to her conscience, which, when upon the throne, she was too little inclined to grant to others.*
Nearly a year of tranquillity was now enjoyed by Lord Rich, during which there was seeming harmony between [ A. D. 1550. ] Somerset and Warwick,-and even matrimonial alliances were contracted between their families;-but a terrible crisis was at hand, which so much shook the nerves of the Chancellor that he renounced his office, and voluntarily fled into obscurity. Somerset had always been rega:ded with favour by the common people, whose part he took against the landed aristocracy in the disputes about inclosures and the clearing of estates; his haughty carriage to the nobles was forgotten in the superior insolence of Warwick, who being merely the son of an Attorney General, hanged for extortion, was regarded as an upstart, and the young King had recently shown some distrust of his present minister, and a returning regard for his uncle.
Somerset resolved to avail himself of this favourable juncture to recover his office of Protector without being guilty of any disloyalty to his nephew, who he doubted not, would sanction all that he projected when it was accomplished. He was urged on by his rival procuring himself to be created Duke of Northumberland, and manifesting a determination to tolerate no one at Court who even by a look, expressed any dissatisfaction with his autocracy. Somerset, therefore, as a measure of self-preservation, engaged in a plot with a few associates to get possession of the person of the new Duke, to seize the Great Seal, to induce the King to throw himself into the arms of the uncle to whom he had been so much attached, and to issue a proclamation calling on all his faithful subjects to rally round him, and to take arms in his defence.
This scheme might very possibly have succeeded if it had been kept secret till the day when it was to be carried into execution, and Northumberland might have finished his career by the sentence of the law in the reign of Edward, instead of Mary; but Sir Thomas Palmer, one of the confederates, revealed it to him, and Somerset was soon a close prisoner in the Tower, his execution being delayed only till the ceremony should have been gone through of a mock trial. There is a curious contrast between the history of France and of England, that assassination, so common in the one country, was hardly ever practised in the other; but I know not whether our national character is much exalted by adherence to the system of perpetrating murder under the forms of law.
For some reason, not explained to us, it was thought more con
Strype, 457, 458. Ellis's Letters, vol. ii, p. 179-182.
venient to bring Somerset to trial before his Peers and a Lord High Steward-rather than [OCT. 18, 1551.] (according to the practice introduced by Lord Cromwell, and followed against himself)-to call a parliament and proceed by bill of attainder, without hearing the accused in his defence. haps alarm was taken at the sentiments of humanity and justice expressed by a very small minority of the Commons in the case of Lord Seymour.
Rich was now in a state of great consternation. Regularly, being Lord Chancellor, he ought to have been created Lord High Steward to preside at the trial; but he was not free from suspicion of being himself implicated in the conspiracy, and there was no saying what disclosures might take place. He therefore feigned sickness to give greater colour to the pretence, he issued a commission authorising the Master of the Rolls, and others, to hear causes for him in Chancery; he obtained Northumberland's consent that another Lord High Steward should be appointed; and he caused it to be privately intimated to Somerset that he absented himself from the trial out of tenderness to his ancient friend. The Ex-chancellor Paulet, now created Marquess of Winchester, was fixed upon as Lord High Steward, and the
trial took place before him as I have related in his [A. D. 1551.] life.*
To Rich's great relief a conviction took place without his name being mentioned in the course of the proceedings, but a very difficult and delicate question arose as to the execution of the sentence. Being acquitted of high treason, though convicted of felony,-on leaving Westminster Hall the populace who were assembled in Palace Yard observed that the edge of the axe was not turned towards the prisoner, and concluded that there had been a general verdict of not guilty in his favour. They immediately raised a shout of exultation which was heard beyond the village of Charing, and risings were apprehended both in the city of London and in the provinces, if the idol of the people should be destroyed. It was likewise said that the King, notwithstanding his youth, now took a lively interest in the affairs of state, wavered, and not only would not consent to sign the deathwarrant of his uncle, but was disposed to take him again into favour.
Rich saw that whichever side prevailed, he himself, if he remained in office, must be exposed to the greatest peril, for, by his trimming policy, he had made himself odious to both: "Having accumulated to himself a very fair fortune (like a discreet pilot, who, seeing a storm at hand, gets his ship into harbour), he made sute to the King, by reason of some bodily infirmities, that he might be discharged of his office."t
He shut himself up in his town mansion, in Great St. Bartholo
* Antc, p. 28.
† Dugdale's Baronage.
mew's, and wrote to Northumberland that he was struck with a mortal disorder; that he was unable even to stir abroad as far as Whitehall or St. James's to deliver up the Great Seal in person to the King; and praying that messengers might be sent to him to receive it, so that he might now devote all his thoughts to preparations for a better world. Accordingly, on the 21st of December, 1551, the Duke of Northumberland himself, the Marquess of Winchester and others, authorised by letters of Privy Seal signed by the King, came to Lord Rich's house between eight and nine in the morning, and received from him the surrender of the Great Seal, which they forthwith carried and delivered to the King at Westminster.* We have no particulars of this interview, but we may fairly conjecture that the Chancellor appeared to be in a dying condition, and that, after well-acted regrets on both sides, it was speedily brought to a conclusion.
However this may be, we know that Rich, lightened from the anxieties of office, had a wonderful recovery, and lived sixteen years after his resignation. But so frightened was he by the perils he had gone through, that he never again would engage in public business. He spent the rest of his days in the country, in the management of his great estates and the accumulation of wealth, preferring the pleasures of avarice to those of ambition. Instead of ending his career, as was once so probable, amidst countless thousands on Tower Hill, - after he had long sunk from public notice, he expired at a small country-house in Essexthe event, when known in London, hardly causing the slightest public sensation.
His two sons, both amply provided for, were created Earls of Warwick and of Holland,—but his descendants after making a distinguished figure for some generations are now extinct. They could not have looked with much pride on the character of the founder of their family, who, though he had pleasant manners, and was free from cant and hypocrisy, was, in reality, one of the most sordid, as well as most unprincipled, men who have ever held the office of Lord Chancellor in England.
*The Close Roll, after reciting the authority to Northumberland, &c. "Magnum Sigillum Dni Regis apud Hospicium ejusdem Dni Riche in Greate Saynte Bartilemewes in quadam interiori camera ibm intr, horas octavum et nonam ante meridiem ejusdem ejusdem diei in quadam baga de corio inclusum et coopt. alia baga de velueto rubeo insigniis Regiis ornat. per dcum Dam Riche deis nobilibus viris liberat. fuit."
† By one of them was erected Holland House, so famed as the residence of Addison when married to the dowager Countess of Warwick, and as the centre of intellectual and refined society under the family of Fox, who succeeded to it.