five miles off. Here he carried on a private epistolary correspondence with Elizabeth, and it is curious to observe that on such a solemn occasion he still addressed her as a lover

I suspect that when the Court rose on the morning of the 12th of October, he had sent off an express to inform Elizabeth that Mary had hitherto resolutely refused to recognise the authority of the tribunal, and that Elizabeth had returned an answer which had reached him early next morning, reproaching him and the other Judges with their ill success. In the State Paper Office, at Westminster, there is extant the following reply in the handwriting of Sir Christopher Hatton :



[ocr errors]

"MAY IT PLEASE YOUR SACRED MAJESTY, Your princely goodness towards me is so infinite, as in my poor wit I am not able to comprehend the least part thereof. I must therefore fail in duty of thankfulness as your Mutton, and lay all upon God, with my humble prayers to requite you in Heaven and Earth in the most sincere and devout manner, that, through God's grace, I may possibly devise. Your Majesty's good servant, Mr. Conway, hath taken a wonderful sore journey. He hath from your Majesty a little daunted me. I most humbly crave your Majesty's pardon. God and your Majesty be praised I have recovered my perfect health; and if now for my ease or pleasure I should be found negligent in your service, I were much unworthy of that life which many a time your Royal Majesty hath given me. I might likewise sustain some obloquy, whereof I have heard somewhat; but my will and wit, and whatever is in me, shall be found assuredly yours, whether I be sick or whole, or what EveR become of me deem they what pleaseth them. God in Heaven bless your Majesty, and grant me no longer life than that my faith and love may EveR be found inviolable and spotless to so royal and peerless a Princess. At Apthorpe, this 13th of October 1586. Your Royal Majesty's most bounden poor slave,-CUR. HATTON.”


Conway, charged with this missive, having started on "a won-derful sore journey" back again to Westminster, Hatton had has-tened to Fotheringay, resolved to show that his will and his wit were wholly devoted to his mistress, let others deem of him what they pleased. And now he did good service, for it was entirely by his artful persuasion that Mary was this day induced "to lay aside the bootless privilege of royal dignity, to [OCT. 13.] appear in judgment, and to show her innocency, lest, by avoiding trial she might draw upon herself suspicion, and lay upon her reputation an eternal blot and aspersion."*

* 1 St. Tr. 1171. Camden, b. iii. p. 37. Ante, p. 120.

[ocr errors]

The trial now proceeding, he left the conduct of it to Burghley and the other counsel for the Crown, silently enjoying the effect of the confessions and examinations which he had so dexterously prepared.

But when judgment had been given he delivered a violent speech in the House of Commons, urging the House [Nov. 1586.] to petition that it might immediately be carried into execution. "He explained, at great length, the practices and attempts caused and procured by the Queen of Scots, tending to the overthrow of the true and sincere religion established in this realm; yea, and withal (which his heart quaked and trembled to utter and think on), the death and destruction of the Queen's most sacred person, to the utter desolation of this most noble realm of England. He therefore thought it good for his part, that speedy consultation be had by this House for the cutting off this great delinquent by due course of justice; concluding with these words of Scripture-Ne pereat Israel, pereat Absolon."

Hatton afterwards brought down a message, "that her Highness, moved by some commiseration for the Scottish [Nov. 14, 1586.] Queen in respect of her former dignity and great fortunes in her younger years, her nearness of kindred to her Majesty, and also of her sex, could be well pleased to forbear taking of her blood, if by any other means, to be devised by the great Council of the realm, the safety of her Majesty's person and government might otherwise be preserved. But herein she left them, nevertheless, to their own free liberty and disposition." He concluded his speech by moving a resolution, which was carried unanimously, That no other way, device, or means whatsoever could or can possibly be found or imagined, that such safety can in anywise be had, so long as the said Queen of Scots doth or shall live."*

[ocr errors]

The zealous Vice-chamberlain was subsequently instrumental in causing the death-warrant to be sent off to be executed. Being [FEB. 2, 1587.] informed by Secretary Davison that the Great Seal was appended to it, and that the Queen had pretended to chide him for his precipitancy, he immediately went to Burghley, and they called the meeting of the Council, at which it was resolved that, the forms of law having been all duly observed, it was their duty, without giving further needless trouble to her Majesty, to take all the remaining responsibility on them


When the news arrived of the close of Mary's sufferings at [FEB. 7.] Elizabeth's assumed indignation, and he was ordered, Fotheringay, Hatton was of course a marked object of with the other Councillors who had concurred with him, to answer for their misconduct in the Star Chamber; but Secretary Division, according to the preconcerted plan, being made the only victim, all

* 1 Parl. Hist. 884.

the others were speedily pardoned, and the Vice-chamberlain, for his recent services, was in higher favour than ever. Balls and masques were resumed, and still the handsomest man, and the best drest, and the most gallant, and the most graceful dancer at Court, --he gained new consequence, being hailed as a successful orator

and statesman.


It was at this conjuncture that Lord Chancellor Bromley died, and the Great Seal was to be disposed of. Love and gratitude filled the mind of Elizabeth, and after [APRIL 29.] some misgivings,-whether he who would have made a most excellent Lord Chamberlain was exactly fitted for the duties of Lord Chancellor, she resolved at all hazards to appoint him. The intention however, was kept a profound secret from all except Burghley, till the time when the deed was done. The Court then lay at the Archbishop of Canterbury's Palace, at Croydon, and there, in a walk near her private chamber, the Queen, in the midst of a numerous circle of nobles and courtiers, 'taking the Seal in its velvet bag, delivered it to her Vice-chamberlain, ordered him before the assembled company to seal a writ of subpoena with it, and then declared that he was to hold it as Lord Chancellor of England.*

Some of the courtiers at first thought that this ceremony was a piece of wicked pleasantry on the part of the Queen; but when it was seen that she was serious, all joined in congratulating the new Lord Chancellor, and expressing satisfaction that her Majesty had been emancipated from the prejudice that a musty old lawyer only was fit to preside in the Chancery, whereas that Court being governed not by the strict rules of law, but by natural equity, justice would be much better administered there by a gentleman of plain good sense and knowledge of the world.

[ocr errors]

Very different were the reasonings in Westminster Hall and the Inns of Court when the news of Hatton's appointment arrived from Croydon. "The gownsmen grudging hereat, conceived his advancement their injury, that one not thoroughly bred to the laws should be preferred to the place. They said, how could he cure diseases unacquainted with their causes, who might easily

* "Memdum qd die Sabbati, &c. (April 29, 29 Eliz ) Mag. Sigill. in custodia Dne Regine existens apud Croydon in Com. Sarr. sua serenissima Majestas ibidem residens ad benepltum suum in Palacio Reverendissimi in Xto Patris Johannes Cantuar, &c. ac ibidem similiter in privato ambulatorio juxta privatum cameram sue Majestatis sua serenissima Majestas essend. presens circa ho am quartam post merediem ejusdem disi ac in presencia dicti reverendissimi Patris, &c. &c. Sigill. Mag. prdm jacens in fenestra in fine dicti ambulatorii in baga de valueto rubeo incluso sua serenissima Majestas accepit in manibus suis et tulebat secum ad medium ejusdem ambulatorii ac ibidem in presencia prda dicto Egregio Viro Xtofero Hatton militi tradidit et iterum immediate e manibus dicti egregii viri recipiebat et extrahi jubebat et nudari." Then comes the sealing of the subpoena, with the restoration of the seal to the bag. "Et sigill. prdm in bagam predictam de velucto rubeo impositum dicta sacra Majestas regia dicto nobili viro Xtofero Hatton militi in presencia prda redeliberabat Ipsaque Xtoferum Hatton militem Dnm Cancellarium Anglic adtunc et ibidem fecit ordinavit et constituit Habendam," &c. &c.- Rot. Cl. 29 Eli#. p. 24.

[ocr errors]

mistake the justice of the common law for rigour-not knowing the true reason thereof."*

Considering that the Great Seal had now been held for thirty years successively by eminent lawers who had established a procedure, and laid down rules which were well understood, and had been steadily adhered to, the prospect must have been very alarming of practising before a Chancellor who, when he was appointed, could hardly know the distinction between a subpœna and a latitat: for surely no greater misfortune can befall an advocate than to lose a consummate Judge whose dicisions might be confidently anticipated by the initiated and to be obliged to practise under an incompetent successor, before whom no case is safe and no case is desperate.

Meetings of the bar were held, and it was resolved by many Serjeants and Apprentices that they would not plead before the new Chancellor; but a few who looked eagerly for advancement dissented. The Chancellor himself was determined to brave the storm, and Elizabeth and all her ministers expressed a determination to stand by him.

The 3d of May was the first day of Trinity term, and the great officers of state, and the heads of the law, were entertained at breakfast at the Chancellor's mansion in Ely Place, Holborn. From thence there was a procession to Westminster Hall, exceeding in magnificence any thing seen on a similar occasion since the time of Cardinal Wolsey, whose crosses, pillars, and pole-axes some old men could still remember. First went forty gentlemen of the Chancellor's household all in the same livery, with chains of gold about their necks. They were followed by divers pensioners and gentlemen of the Queen's Court upon splendid foote clothes; then came the Masters in Chancery and the officers of the Court; next rode the Lord Chancellor on a palfrey richly caparisoned, having on his right hand Burghley, the Lord Treasurer, and on his left the Earl of Leicester; after whom came many of the nobility, riding two and two; then all the Judges in their robes and coils, with Searjeants and Apprentices; and last of all many Knights and a great troop of their retinue.†

This was a much more gallant show than the line of close carriages now to be seen moving from the Chancellor's levee on the first day of term; though our predecessors must have been in an uncomfortable plight when it rained during their march along the Strand to Charing, and from thence to Westminster; and though there were many traditionary stories of the misfortunes which had


* Naunton. Camden's account of the grumbling of the leaders of the bar is likewise very striking. Christopherus vero Hattonus, florentissima apud Principem gratia, suffectus erat ex aula Cancellarius, quod juris Anglici consultissimi permolestà tulerunt. Illi enim ex quo Ecclesiastici de gradu dejecti, hunc magistratum, summum togatæ dignitatis culmen, viris ecclesiasticis et nobilibus plerunque olim delatum, magna cum æquitatis et prudentiæ laude gesserant.”—Camd. Eliz. vol. i. 475

Stowe, Eliz. 741.

befallen the Judges on their march, notwithstanding the skill in horsemanship which they had acquired from riding their circuits.*

It is said that Hatton was received in the Court of Chancery with cold and silent disdain. Nevertheless there was, from the first, some little business brought on before him. The Attorney and Solicitor General, lest they should themselves be dismissed, were obliged, however discontented they might be, to appear to countenance him. He made no public complaint of his reception, and gradually gained ground by his great courtesy and sweetness, to say nothing of the good dinners and excellent sack for which he was soon famous.

It would appear that there was much public curiosity to see "the dancing Chancellor" seated upon his tribunal, and the crowds of strangers in the Court of Chancery were so great that there came out an order "by the Right Honourable Sir Christopher Hatton, Knight of the most noble Order of the Garter, and Lord Chancellor of England," in these words :-"For the avoydinge of suche great numbers of suitors and others as doe daylye pester the Courte in the tyme of sittinge, by reason whereof heretofore yt hath manye tymes happened that the due reverence and sylence which ought to be kepte and observed in that honourable courte hathe bene undeutifully neglected, and contrayewise muche unmannerlye and unseemlye behavyour and noise hath bene there used to the hinderaunce of the due hearinge of such matters and causes as were there to be handled, and to the great derogacion of the honour of this courte and due reverence belonging to the same - " Then follow regulations, by which none were to come into court but counsel, attorneys, officers and their clerks, and parties — who were "to continue soe longe as the cause shal be in hearinge and no longer, and all other suytors whatsoever (excepte noblemen and suche as be of her Majesties Privy Counsell) were to stand without the courte, and not suffered to come in without special licens.” †

He was quite at home when presiding in the Star Chamber, where he had before been accustomed to sit as a Privy Councillor, and he had the Chiefs of the common law to assist him. To this Court, according to usage, he dedicated Wednesdays and Fridays. On other days he sat for equity business in the Court of Chancery, -in Westminster Hall in the mornings, and in his own house in the afternoons. He made an order that four Masters in

[ocr errors]

*The last which has reached us is that of Mr. Justice Twisden, who was thrown from his horse near Charing Cross, while attending Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury.

Reg. Lib. B. 31 & 32 (Eliz. 1589, p. 498.) I once saw the Court of Chancery crowded and overflowing, like Drury Lane when Mrs. Siddons appeared as Lady Macbeth; but it was to hear Sheridan address Lord Eldon. This was shortly before the death of Thurlow; he said, "I am told that Scott has been acting plays in Lincoln's-Inn-Hall."


Morning seems to have been from eight to eleven, and afternoon from two to five; the intermediate space being allowed for dinner and recreation.

« VorigeDoorgaan »