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There being now an outcry that no injunctions could be obtained, and that the hearing of causes was suspended, [APRIL, 1579.] the Queen, who personally made all such apppointments, and sometimes vacillated much about them, was informed that Westminster Hall could go on no longer without a Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper. She was determined that the clergy should be kept to their spiritual affairs: a mere politician could not be fixed upon without great scandal, and there was no lawyer whom she considered eligible. Sir Gilbert Gerrard had been Attorney General ever since her accession to the Crown; but although he was well learned in his profession and very industrious, he was awkward and ungainly in his speech and manner, and not considered fit for such a place of representation and dignity. Yet there was a reluctance to pass over a man of approved service. Sir Thomas Bromley, the Solicitor General, was inferior to him in legal acquirements, but was much more a man of the world, and had shown himself a most zealous partisan, and ready, without scruple, to perform any task that might be assigned to him. After much intriguing, the friends of Mr. Solicitor prevailed with the Queen; and on a suggestion that, on account of his inferior rank, there might be a disposition not to treat him with proper respect, she added to their triumph by delivering the Great Seal to him, with the title and rank of "Chancellor."*
Sir Gilbert Gerrard, the Attorney General, was consoled with a promise of the office of Master of the Rolls, which was actually given to him on the 30th of May, 1581.
Although Sir THOMAS BROMLEY held the Great Seal during eight years, he would hardly have been known to history, had it not been for the part he acted in the proceedings against the unfortunate Mary Stuart; but he will be remembered to the latest times as the person who framed the measures intended to bring her to the scaffold, and who actually presided at her mock trial in the hall of Fotheringay Castle.
He was the son of George Bromley and Jane, daughter of Sir Thomas Lacon of Whitley, and was born in the year 1530 at Bromley, in the county of Salop, where the family had been seated many ages, their name being territorial. I do not find any information respecting his school or academical education. bred to the law in the Inner Temple, and was there remarkable for his proficiency and the regularity of his conduct. Rapidly rising in eminence at the bar, he was, in 1566, elected Recorder of London, and having secured the good opinion and patronage of Lord Keeper Bacon, in 1570 he was made Solicitor General.‡
*Rot. Cl. 21 Eliz. p. 201.
† As we say in Scotland, "Bromley of that ilk." This family produced several other distinguished lawyers; among these were Sir Thomas Bromley, made a Judge of the King's Bench, 36 H. 8.-and Sir George Bromley, a brother of the Chancellor, a Justice of North Wales. Dugl. Or. Jur.
Pat. 11 Eliz. Or. Jur. s. 3.
His first great public appearance in his official character was on the trial of the Duke of Norfolk for high treason, before the Court of the Lord High Steward. The [JAN. 1572.] counsel for the Crown were Barham the Queen's Serjeant, Gerrard the Attorney General, Bromley the Solicitor General, and Wilbraham, the Queen's Attorney of the Court of Wards. We have a shorthand writer's report of the trial, which is extremely curious, and shows that Bromley was exceedingly zealous in bringing about the conviction.* The Court consisted of the Earl of Shrewsbury, appointed Lord High Steward, the Great Seal being in the keeping of a Commoner, and twenty-six Peers triers, attended by all the common-law Judges as assessors. The indictment had been settled at a conference of all the Judges before it was preferred to the grand jury. No regularity was observed, much of the time being occupied with dialogues between the prisoner and the Judges, and interlocutory speeches by the Lord High_Steward, the Lords Triers, the Judges, and the counsel. The French fashion of interrogating the prisoner then prevailed in England, and the Duke was frequently asked to admit or to deny certain facts,-to explain his conduct on particular occasions,and to reconcile the evidence adduced against him with his alleged innocence.t
Braham, the Queen's Serjeant, holding an office which had precedence of that of the Attorney General till the regency of George IV., began, and gave in evidence copies of letters, examinations, and confessions, mixing them up with speeches from himself and questions addressed to the prisoner, to show that the Duke persisted in his design to marry the Queen of Scots after his promise not to do so, and that he was engaged in a plot to further her escape. Mr. Attorney having followed in the same strain, Bromley, Solicitor General, thus began :-" For that the time is spent, and your Lordships I think are weary, I will not now make any collection what hath been gathered of the attempt of marriage with the Scottish Queen; only I will deal with the matter of Rodolph's message, and the effect thereof; and the Duke's adhering to the Queen's enemies and rebels, shall be another part." He then proceeded, at considerable length, to detail the supposed plan of invading the kingdom by the intrigues of Rudolfi, an Italian banker, with the Duke of Alva, and gave in evidence a decyphered copy of a letter from Rudolfi to the Duke, alleged to have been delivered to him by one Barker, who was supposed to have taken the copy.--Duke. "It may be Barker received this letter as you spake of, and that it was decyphered, and that it contained the matters
1 St. Tr. 957.
He was first very artfully asked "whether he knew that the Scottish Queen pretended title to the present possession of the crown of England," and wishing to evade the question, he is pressed, "Did you know that she claimed the present possession of the Crown ?-that she usurped the arms and royal style of this realmand that she made no renunciation of that usurped pretence ?"
that you allege, but it may be that they kept that letter to themselves, and might bring me another letter containing only such matter as I was contented with." Solic. "An unlikely matter! But thus you see the Duke confesseth the receipt of the letter; he only denieth it was to this effect."-Duke. I know not. Barker presented me the letter out of cypher, and I had not the cypher, nor any such letter as you allege."-Solic. "The Pope sent letters to the Duke and the Scottish Queen, that he liked well of their enterprise. Would Rodolph have gone to the Pope and procured letters if he had not had instructions accordingly? The Duke himself hath confessed such a letter."-Duke. "Barker indeed brought me about six or seven lines written in a Roman hand in Latin, beginning thus, Dilecte fili, salutem. I asked what it was? Barker told me it was a letter from the Pope to me, wherewith I was offended, and said, "A letter to me from the Pope! How cometh this to pass? Barker excused it, and said that Rodolph had procured it for his own credit."-Solic. "The Duke received it and read it, and said, Rodolph hath been at Rome: I perceive there is nothing to be done this year. By this it appeareth that he reproved not Barker for bringing it unto him." Mr. Solicitor having proved his position according to the law and logic then prevailing, thus concluded: "I have also, my Lords, one thing more to say to you from the Queen's Majesty's own mouth. The Lords that be here of the Privy Council do not know it very well,-not meet here in open presence to be uttered, because it toucheth others that are not here now to be named but by her Highness's order. We pray that their Lordships will impart it unto you more particularly. In Flanders, by the ambassador of a foreign prince there, the whole plot of this treason was discovered, and by a servant of his brought to her Majesty's intelligence; the minister not meaning to conceal so foul and dishonourable a practice, gave intelligence hither by letters, and hath therein disclosed the whole treason in such form as hath been proved unto you whereupon I refer the more particular declaration thereof to the Peers of the Privy Council."
So a capital charge was to be made out by the parol statement, in the absence of the accused, of the Queen's ministers (who had advised the prosecution) of the contents of a despatch from a foreign minister, giving an account of something he had heard from others abroad respecting a plot to be carried into effect in England;—but no doubt could be entertained as to the admissibility or conclusiveness of this evidence, for it was produced by an express order from the Queen's Majesty's own mouth.
After a speech from Wilbraham, the Attorney of the Court of Wards, said to have been the most eloquent that had then ever been heard at the English bar, and some more copies of letters, confessions, and examinations,—without any witness being called, the case for the Crown was closed. The prisoner had asked for the assistance of council; but the Chief Justice declared the
unanimous opinion of the Judges, that to allow counsel against the Queen was contrary to all precedent and all reason. *He was asked whether he had aught else to say? He answered, "he trusted to God and truth.' He was then removed, and the Lord High Steward summed up the case to the Lords Triers, and willed them to go together. they withdrew from Westminster Hall into the Court of Chancery, and after a consultation of an honr and a quarter returned with an unanimous verdict of Guilty. On the prayer of the Queen's Serjeant, the frightful sentence in cases of high treason was pronounced on the undaunted Norfolk. But this conviction, even in that age, caused such dissatisfaction, that the government did not venture to [APRIL, 30.] carry it into execution for several months; nor until the public mind had been alarmed by reports of an insurrection to rescue him from the Tower, and to dethrone the Queen. ‡
Mary was thrown into the deepest grief by the fate of Norfolk. If his manly beauty and elegant accomplishments had not made an impression upon her heart, at any rate she was touched by his devoted services and she considered him a martyr in [JUNE, 1572.] her cause. It was hoped that while she was in this state of mind she might be induced to make concessions which she had hitherto haughtily refused. Accordingly, Bromley, the Solicitor General, attended by several others, was sent to negoti ate with her.
Being admitted by her to an audience, he enumerated the injuries of which the English government complained, her assuming the arms of England,-her refusing to ratify the treaty of peace between England and Scotland, -her plan of marrying without the Queen's consent, - her stirring up sedition at home, — her attempt to engage the King of Spain in an invasion of England, and her procuring the Pope's bull for the excommunication of Elizabeth. The object was, that she should formally resign the crown of Scotland, and transfer to her son all her rights both in Scotland and in England; after which she could no longer have been considered a rival, and the hopes of the Catholics, from having the presumptive heir to the crown of their religion, would have been extinguished.
* Before they are heartily censured for the horror with which they viewed such a proposal, let it be remembered that the bill to allow prisoners the assistance of counsel in cases of felony was strongly condemned by all the Judges of England, except one, in the reign of King William IV.
I St. Tr. 978.
1 1 St. Tr. 978.
‡ 1 ought not to have any bias in favour of the Duke of Norfolk, for he seems to have thought that all my countrymen were without honour or veracity, and he was ready, in a very peremptory manner, to avow this sentiment. The written examination of Leslie, Bishop of Ross, being given in evidence against him, he considered that it required no other answer than this:-Duke. "He is a Scot." The reply was, "A Scot is a Christian ;" but this did not at all satisfy the Duke.
But all Bromley's eloquence and ingenuity were wasted upon her. She either denied the grievances of which the English Queen complained, or threw the blame of them upon others: she said she never would do any thing to hazard the independence of Scotland, or bring dishonour on her race, or compromise the interests of her religion; and she expressed a fixed purpose,-sacrificing none of her rights, - to live and to die a Queen. She again earnestly renewed her supplication that she might be admitted to the presence of Elizabeth, so that all doubts might be cleared up, and lasting harmony might be established between them.*
When Bromley reported this answer, instead of the proposed meeting being granted, her existence was considered inconsistent with the public safety, and a determination was formed to bring her to the scaffold. But this could only be carried into effect by great caution, and by waiting for, or contriving, or hastening events, which should soften the atrocity of such an outrage in the eyes of mankind.
In the meanwhile Bromley performed the routine duties of his office of Solicitor General in a very satisfactory manner, and he was consulted by the Council in matters of a political nature, rather than Sir Gilbert Gerrard, the Attorney General. Of him they were heartily tired, but they did not know how to dispose of him, for he would not give up his lucrative place to be made a puisne Judge, and his long services and respectable character forbade his unceremonious dismissal.
Things proceeded on this footing till the death of Lord Keeper Bacon, when, after the hesitation and struggle I [APRIL. 26, 1579.] have described, Bromley was put over the head
for Gerrrard and made Lord Chancellor.
Queen Elizabeth, when she delivered the Great Seal to him, addressed him in a set speech complimenting him on his good qualities, and giving him much wholesome advice as to the manner in which he ought to perform the duties of his new office. thus replied:
"I do most humbly thanke your Maie for this so greate and singuler good opynion which your Highness hath conceived of me as to thinke me fyt for this great service and credit under your Maie, and I am very sory there is not in me such sufficiency as might satisfie and answere this your Maies good opynion. If I had all the wisdome, and all the learninge, and all other good qualities and virtues that God hath given to all men livinge, I should thinke them to fewe and to small to be imploied in your Highnes' service. But when I consider my selfe and fynde my greate wantes and lackes to do your Maie such service as appertayneth, I am driven most humbly to beseech your Maie to tollerate with me my many and sondry defects and ymperfections. To this humble petition I am the more forced for two other causes: the
* Camden, p. 440. Strype, vol. ii. 40. 51.