to time for the execution of his office. The knowledge I had of this consultation, and the fear I had of the execution of it, has been the reason why, in the debate on the militia, I gave my vote in such a manner as must make a very ill impression with the King and many others who do not inwardly know me. If I had not now submitted to those I mislike, this very night the Seal had been taken from me. But my compliance will only prejudice myself, not the King. I have now got so fast into their confidence, that I shall be able to preserve the Seal in my own hands till the King require it of me, and then I shall be ready to attend his Majesty with it, wherever he may be, or whatsoever fortune may betide him."

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Hyde convinced of his present sincerity, although not altogether satisfied with the explanation of his past wavering, asked him "whether he would give him leave, when there should be a fit occasion, to assure the King that he would perform this service when required of him?" Littleton solemnly passed his word for the performance of it as soon as his Majesty pleased; and so they parted.

When the news of the Lord Keeper's vote on the Militia bill reached York, the whole Court was thrown into amazement and dismay. The King, exceedingly displeased and provoked, sent a peremptory order to Lord Falkland instantly to demand the Great Seal from the traitor, and desired him to consult with Hyde as to who would be the fittest person to be appointed to succeed, suggesting the name of Banks, now Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Selden, the celebrated antiquary. The positive order to require the Seal from the present Lord Keeper would have been obeyed, had not Falkland and Hyde been so much puzzled about the recommending a successor; but they thought the Lord Chief Justice Banks might be as timorous as the other in a time of so much disorder, although he had been bold enough in the absence of danger, and they concluded that he was not equal to the charge.


They did not doubt Mr. Selden's affection to the King any more than his learning and capacity, but they were convinced that he would absolutely refuse the place if it were offered to him, as he was in years and of a weak constitution, and long enjoyed his ease, which he loved, and was rich, and would not have made a journey to York, or lain out of his own bed, for any preferment."* Neither Herbert nor St. John, the Attorney and Solicitor General, of extreme opinions on opposite sides, could be thought of for a moment. Hyde then disclosed to Falkland the conference he had had with Littleton, the Lord Keeper's loyal professions, and the solemn pledge he had given; and proposed that they should, along with their opinions of the other persons, submit advice to his Majesty to suspend his resolution concerning the Lord Keeper, and rather, to write kindly to him to bring the Seal to York, instead of

* Clarendon.

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sternly sending for it and casting him off. Hyde finished by offering to stake his own credit with the King that Littleton would be


Lord Falkland had no esteem of the Keeper, nor believed that he would go to the King if he were sent for, but would find some trick to excuse himself, and was for immediately getting the Great Seal out of his hands. Hyde, as a professional lawyer, pointed out how absolutely necessary it was, at such a juncture, that the King should first resolve into what hands to put the Seal before he reclaimed it, for that it could not be put out of action for one hour, but that the whole justice of the kingdom would be disordered, which would raise a greater and juster clamour than there had yet been; and again urged that care should be taken that no man should be able to say he had refused the office, an occurrence which would be most prejudical to the royal cause. He observed, “that the great object was to have the Seal where the King himself resolved to be, and that if the Lord Littleton would perform his promise, it were desirable that he and the Seal were both there; if on the contrary, he were not an honest man, and cared not for offending the King, he would refuse to deliver it up, and inform the disaffected Lords of his refusal, who would justify him for his disobedience, and they rewarding and cherishing him, he must ever after serve their turn, and thus his Majesty's own Great Seal should be every day used against him, the mischief whereof would be greater than could well be imagined."*

Falkland yielded, and they resolved to give an account of the whole to the King and expect his order. Charles naturally had great misgivings of the fidelity and firmness of Littleton, notwithstanding Hyde's confidence, but approved of the course recommended, and wrote back that on Saturday in the following week, as soon as the House of Lords had adjourned, a messenger from him should arrive at Exeter House and order the Keeper with the Seal to repair to him forthwith at York. This resolution was communicated by Hyde and Falkland to Littleton, who expressed much joy at it, and promised that all should be arranged to the King's contentment.

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On the Saturday he privately intimated that he was going to his villa at Cranford for his health, and induced the Lords to adjourn the House to as late an hour as ten o'clock on the Monday morning, that he might sleep two nights in the country. He had not long got back to his house in the Strand, when about two o'clock in the afternoon Mr. Elliot, a groom of the bed-chamber to the Prince, entered his study, where in breathless expectation he was waiting the royal messenger, and delivered to him an autograph letter from the King, requiring him, with many expressions of kindness and esteem, to make haste to him and if his indisposition, for he was often troubled with gravel, would not suffer

* Clarendon.

him to use such speed upon the journey as the occasion required, that he should deliver the Seal to the person who gave him the letter, who being a strong young man, would make such haste as was necessary, and that he might himself perform his journey by degrees suitable to his infirmities.

Littleton was surprised and mortified to find that the purpose of his journey had been communicated to the messenger, who bluntly demanded the Seal from him, and he at first declared that he would not deliver it into any hands but the King's; but he considered that it would be hazardous to carry the Seal himself in such a journey, that if, by pursuit of him, which he could not but suspect, he should be seized upon, the King would be very unhappily disappointed of the Seal, and that this misfortune would be imputed to imprudence in him, perhaps to unfaithfulness. So he delivered the Seal to the person trusted by the King to receive it, without telling him anything of his own purpose. Elliot was instantly mounted, and having provided a relay of horses, with wonderful expedition presented it to the delighted King at York, who, for a moment, supposed he had recovered all his authority; and, to enhance his merit, he told a vapouring story which he had invented, "how the Lord Keeper had refused to deliver the Seal, and how he got it by force by having locked the door upon him, and threatened to kill him if he would not give it to him, which, upon such his manhood, he did for pure fear consent unto."*

As soon as the messenger was gone, Littleton pretended to be much indisposed, and gave orders that no one should be admitted to speak with him. He then called in Lee, his purse-bearer, on whose fidelity he could entirely rely, and putting his life in the power of this dependent, told him he was resolved to go next morning to the King, who had sent for him; that he knew the malice of the parliament would use all means to apprehend him ; that he knew not how he should be able to bear the fatigue of the journey; that his horses should be ordered to be ready against the next morning; that his own groom only should attend him, and that his purpose should be imparted to no one else living. The faithful purse-bearer, who was a keen royalist, was greatly delighted with his confidence, and insisted on being of the party.

At day-break next morning, the Lord Keeper and his pursebearer stepped into his carriage, as if they had been going to Cranford; but when they had got into that part of the country where Piccadilly now stands, they discovered by the side of a

*Life of Clarendon, i. 120. I am informed by Lord Hatherton that "there is a tradition in the family that Elliot forced it from him with a pistol, and that the Lord Keeper, foreseeing the bad consequences such an outrage might produce to the credit of the King and Elliot, prudently followed Elliot to York, in order to prevent it, by giving it the appearance of being his own voluntary act." But the account of the transaction which I have adopted, not only stands on positive testimony, but is supported by probability. If Littleton had broken his promise, and tried to retain the seal against the King's mandate, he would have proceeded to York-only to be hanged in the Castle Yard.

hedge the groom and two led horses. They immediately mounted, and taking by-paths till they were at a considerable distance from the metropolis, at noon felt themselves tolerably secure. The Lord Keeper's health stood the severe exercise beyond his expectation, and before the end of the third day he kissed the King's hand at York.*

Sunday passed over in London without any alarm, those who inquired about the Lord Keeper believing, as they were told, that he was at his country house at Cranford; but when he did not appear at the hour to which the Lords had adjourned on the Monday, the truth of his flight was discovered and the confusion in both Houses was very great. The few friends of the King rejoiced; but the popular leaders who imagined that they knew all Littleton's thoughts, and had secured him to their interests, hung down their heads, and were distracted with shame. When they had a little recovered their spirits, although they concluded he was out of their reach, yet, to show their indignation, and perhaps in the hope that his infirmities might detain him on the journey, they issued a warrant for apprehending him, and bringing him and the Great Seal back to Westminster, as if they had been making hue and cry after a felon with stolen goods.† The two Houses made a farther decree, that if he did not return in fourteen days he should lose his office, and that all patents afterwards sealed with the Great Seal which he had carried off should be void. We shall see in the sequel, however, that they repaired the loss by manufacturing a Great Seal of their own, under which they issued edicts in the King's name in defiance of his authority.‡

Littleton's conduct at York was extremely mysterious, aud seems to show that he is liable to the charge of duplicity as well as timidity. He was again declared Lord Keeper, though for some time the King would not trust the Seal out of his own presence, and when it was to be used, produced it to Littleton,

* This was considered an extraordinary journey, being performed I presume on the same horses; but by relays of horses there was sometimes in those days a dispatch which, till railways came up, must have seemed marvellous. Between Charles at York and Hyde in London, papers were transmitted by royalist gentlemen, who voluntarily offered their services, and who sometimes performed the journey and brought back the answer in the short space of thirty-four hours. See the account of the transmission of the news of Elizabeth's death to James, ante, p. 203,

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† 2 Park Hist. 1270. The warrant was addressed "To the gentleman usher or his deputy; and all sheriffs, mayors, and other his Majesty's officers, shall be aiding and assisting to the gentlemen usher or his deputies.



In this narration of Littleton's flight to York, I have closely followed the authority of Clarendon, who ought to be accurate, as he was personally privy to the whole transaction; but according to the Journals of the Lords, on the 20th of May, "the Lord Keeper not being well, and so unable to sit as Speaker, the House gave him leave to be absent, and appointed the Lord Privy Seal to sit as Speaker;" and on Saturday the 21st, the House "ordered that the Lord Keeper have leave to be absent two or three days for his health."-Lords' Journals, v. 76, 77. It is possible that he may have attended and made his excuse, and obtained leave of absence in person.

and received it back from him as soon as the sealing was over. Credit was given by many about the Court to Elliot's story, till Hyde arrived at York, and stood up for the Lord Keeper's fidelity. The King then expressed a wish to take the Great Seal from him; but Hyde told him "that he would discourage many good men who desired to serve him very faithfully if he were too severe for such faults as the infirmities of their nature and defects in their education exposed them to, and that if the Keeper, from those impressions, had committed some faults which might provoke his Majesty's displeasure, he had redeemed those errors by a signal service, which might well wipe out the memory of the other.' The King allowed that he had made expiation, but complained of his present conduct, and that he still raised difficulties about putting the Great Seal to proclamations against the parliament. Hyde replied, that "the poor gentleman could not but think himself disobliged to the highest extremity in the presumption of Mr. Elliot, and that his extravagant and insolent discourses should find credit without his Majesty's reprehension and vindication, who knew the falsehood of them; that his Majesty should remember he had newly escaped out of that region where the thunder and lightning is made, and that he could hardly yet recover the fright he had been often in, and seen so many others in; and that his majesty need not distrust him,-he had passed the Rubicon, and had no hope but in his Majesty." Charles promised to show him countenance and protection in future.

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The exclusive custody of the Great Seal was then offered to him, but he, expressing great joy at this mark of confidence, begged that it might remain with his Majesty, to be given to him when necessary, lest, by any violence or stratagem, it might be taken from him, and carried back to the parliament.*

One would have thought that he would now have been disposed to set the parliament at defiance; but as soon as he heard of the steps taken against him at Westminster, he sent to the House of Lords "the humble petition of Edward Littleton Lord Keeper of the Great Seal," showing that he was very willing to submit to their Lordship's order, but that this was impossible, (as appeared by the annexed affidavit,) without danger of his life; and that having been ordered by the King to come to York, he was further ordered, on his allegiance, to remain there. The affidavit purported to be sworn by his servant, who accompanyed him in his journey, and stated what was palpably false, that he was so ill on Monday, the 23d of May (when he was proceeding so swiftly to the north), that it was conceived he would then have died; and that he had since been disabled from travelling by his diseases and infirmities.†

† 2 Parl. Hist. 1319.

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Nay, farther, when he got among the cavaliers, there being no "Times," "Morning Chronicle," or " Hansard" to refer to, he pre

* Life of Clarendon, i. 125.

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