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Title: The Curious Case of Lady Purbeck - A Scandal of the XVIIth Century
Author: Longueville, Thomas
Language: English
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THE

CURIOUS CASE

OF

LADY PURBECK

A SCANDAL OF THE XVIITH CENTURY

BY THE AUTHOR OF

"THE LIFE OF SIR KENELM DIGBY," "THE ADVENTURES
OF KING JAMES II.," "MARSHAL TURENNE"
"THE LIFE OF A PRIG," ETC.

LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO.
39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON
NEW YORK, BOMBAY, AND CALCUTTA

1909



PREFACE


The curious case of Lady Purbeck is here presented without
embellishment, much as it has been found in old books and old
manuscripts, chiefly at the Record Office and at the British Museum.
Readers must not expect to find any "well-drawn characters," "fine
descriptions," "local colour," or "dramatic talent," in these pages,
on each of which Mr. Dry-as-dust will be encountered. Possibly some
writer of fiction, endowed with able hands directed by an imaginative
mind, may some day produce a readable romance from the rough-hewn
matter which they contain: but, as their author's object has been to
tell the story simply, as it has come down to us, and, as much as was
possible, to let the contemporaries of the heroine tell it in their
own words, he has endeavoured to suppress his own imagination, his own
emotions, and his own opinions, in writing it. He has the pleasure of
acknowledging much useful assistance and kind encouragement in this
little work from Mr. Walter Herries Pollock.



  CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I.
                                                                   PAGE

  Sir Edward Coke--Lady Elizabeth Hatton--Bacon--Marriage of Coke
    and Lady Elizabeth--Birth of the Heroine                          1

  CHAPTER II.

  Rivalry of Coke and Bacon--Quarrelling between Coke and Lady
    Elizabeth--Coke offends the King and loses his offices--Letter of
    Bacon to Coke                                                    10

  CHAPTER III.

  Coke tries to regain the favour of Buckingham and the King by offering
    his daughter to Sir John Villiers--Anger of Lady Elizabeth--Lady
    Elizabeth steals away with her daughter                          21

  CHAPTER IV.

  Coke besieges his wife and carries off his daughter--Coke and Winwood
    _v_. Lady Elizabeth and Bacon--Charges and counter-charges       30

  CHAPTER V.

  Lady Elizabeth tries to recover her daughter--Her scheme for a match
    between Frances Coke and the Earl of Oxford--Bacon, finding that
    he has offended both Buckingham and the King, turns round and
    favours the match with Villiers--Trial of Lady Exeter--Imprisonment
    of Lady Elizabeth at an Alderman's house                         39

  CHAPTER VI.

  Frances is tortured into consent--The marriage--Lady Elizabeth comes
    into royal favour and Coke falls out of it--Lady Elizabeth's
    dinner-party to the King--Carleton and his wife quarrel about
    her                                                              52

  CHAPTER VII.

  Buckingham ennobles his own family--Villiers becomes Lord
    Purbeck--Purbeck and the Countess of Buckingham become
    Catholics--Rumours that Purbeck is insane                        64

  CHAPTER VIII.

  The insanity question--Quite sane--Thought insane again--Letter
    from Lady Purbeck to Buckingham--Birth of Robert Wright--Sir
    Robert Howard                                                    74

  CHAPTER IX.

  Proceedings instituted against Sir Robert Howard and Lady
    Purbeck--Buckingham's correspondence about them with his
    lawyers--Lanier, the King's musician--Buckingham accuses Lady
    Purbeck of witchcraft--Dr. Lambe--Laud and witchcraft            83

  CHAPTER X.

  Trial of Lady Purbeck before the High Commission--The
    sentence--Archbishop Laud--The Ambassador of
    Savoy--Escape--Clun--Some of our other characters--Lady Purbeck
    goes to Stoke Pogis to take care of her father--Death of Coke   102

  CHAPTER XI.

  Lady Purbeck goes to London--Laud--Arrest of Lady Purbeck and Sir
    Robert Howard--Question of her virtue at that time--Lord
    Danby--Guernsey--Paris--Sir Robert Howard turns the tables on
    Laud--Changes of religion                                       114

  CHAPTER XII.

  Lady Purbeck in Paris--The English Ambassador--Serving a writ--Lady
    Purbeck at a convent--Sir Kenelm Digby--His letter about
    Lady Purbeck--Lady Purbeck returns to England                   125

  CHAPTER XIII.

  Lord Purbeck takes Lady Purbeck back again as his wife--He
    acknowledges Robert Wright as his own son--Death of Lady
    Purbeck--Retrospect of her life and character--Her
    descendants--Claims to the title of Viscount Purbeck            137



CHAPTER I.

                        "After this alliance,
  Let tigers match with hinds, and wolves with sheep,
  And every creature couple with its foe."
                                              DRYDEN.


The political air of England was highly charged with electricity.
Queen Elizabeth, after quarrelling with her lover, the Earl of Essex,
had boxed his ears severely and told him to "go to the devil;"
whereupon he had left the room in a rage, loudly exclaiming that he
would not have brooked such an insult from her father, and that much
less would he tolerate it from a king in petticoats.

This well-known incident is only mentioned to give an idea of the
period of English history at which the following story makes its
start. It is not, however, with public, but with private life that we
are to be here concerned; nor is it in the Court of the Queen, but in
the humbler home of her Attorney-General, that we must begin. In a
humbler, it is true, yet not in a very humble home; for Mr. Attorney
Coke had inherited a good estate from his father, had married an
heiress, in Bridget Paston, who brought him the house and estate of
Huntingfield Hall, in Suffolk, together with a large fortune in hard
cash; and he had a practice at the Bar which had never previously been
equalled. Coke was in great sorrow, for his wife had died on the 27th
of June, 1598, and such was the pomp with which he determined to bury
her, that her funeral did not take place until the 24th of July. In
his memorandum-book he wrote on the day of her death: "Most beloved
and most excellent wife, she well and happily lived, and, as a true
handmaid of the Lord, fell asleep in the Lord and now reigns in
Heaven." Bridget had made good use of her time, for, although she died
at the age of thirty-three, she had, according to Burke, seven
children; but, according to Lord Campbell, ten.

As Bridget was reigning in Heaven, Coke immediately began to look
about for a substitute to fill the throne which she had left vacant
upon earth. Youth, great personal beauty and considerable wealth,
thought this broken-hearted widower at the age of forty-six, would be
good enough for him, and the weeks since the true handmaid of the Lord
had left him desolate were only just beginning to blend into months,
when he fixed his mind upon a girl likely to fulfil his very moderate
requirements. He, a widower, naturally sought a widow, and, happily,
he found a newly made one. Youth she had, for she was only twenty;
beauty she must have had in a remarkable degree, for she was
afterwards one of the lovely girls selected to act with the Queen of
James I. in Ben Jonson's _Masque of Beauty_; and wealth she had in the
shape of immense estates.

Elizabeth, grand-daughter of the great Lord Burghley, and daughter of
Burghley's eldest son Thomas Cecil, some years later Earl of Exeter,
had been married to the nephew and heir of Lord Chancellor Hatton. Not
very long after her marriage her husband had died, leaving her
childless and possessed of the large property which he had inherited
from his uncle. This young widow was a woman not only of high birth,
great riches, and exceptional beauty, but also of remarkable wit, and,
as if all this were not enough, she had, in addition, a violent temper
and an obstinate will. This Coke found out in her conduct respecting a
daughter who eventually became Lady Purbeck, the heroine of our little
story.

Romance was not wanting in the Attorney-General's second wooing; for
he had a rival, whom Lord Campbell in his _Lives of the Chief
Justices_, describes as "then a briefless barrister, but with
brilliant prospects," a man of thirty-five, who happened to be Lady
Elizabeth's cousin. His name was Francis Bacon, afterwards Lord
Chancellor, Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Albans, and the author of the
_Novum Organum_ as well of a host of other works, including essays on
almost every conceivable subject. In the opinion of certain people, he
was also the author of the plays commonly attributed to one William
Shakespeare. This rival was good-looking, had a charming manner, and
was brilliant in conversation, while his range of subjects was almost
unlimited, whereas, the wooer in whom we take such an affectionate
interest, was wrinkled, dull, narrow-minded, unimaginative, selfish,
over-bearing, arrogant, illiterate, ignorant in almost everything
except jurisprudence, of which he was the greatest oracle then living,
and uninterested in everything except law, his own personal ambition,
and money-making.

Shortly before Coke had marked the young and lovely Lady Elizabeth
Hatton for his own, Bacon had not only paid his court to her in
person, but had also persuaded his great friend and patron, Lord
Essex, to use his influence in inducing her to marry him. Essex did so
to the very best of his ability, a kind service for which Bacon
afterwards repaid him after he had fallen--we have seen that his star
was already in its decadence--by making every effort, and successful
effort, to get him convicted of treason, sentenced to death, and
executed.

Which of these limbs of the law was the beautiful heiress to select?
She showed no inclination to marry Francis Bacon, and she was backed
up in this disinclination by her relatives, the Cecils. The head of
that family, Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's Lord High Treasurer, was
particularly proud of his second son, Robert, whom he had succeeded in
advancing by leaps and bounds until he had become Secretary of State;
and Burghley and the rest of his family feared a dangerous rival to
Robert in the brilliant Bacon, who had already attracted the notice,
and was apparently about to receive the patronage, of the Court. If
Bacon should marry the famous beauty and become possessed of her large
fortune, there was no saying, thought the Cecils, but that he might
attain to such an exalted position as to put their own precocious
Robert in the shade.

Bridget had not been in her grave four months when the great Lord
Burghley died. Coke attended his funeral, and a funeral being
obviously a fitting occasion on which to talk about that still more
dreary ceremony, a wedding, Coke took advantage of it to broach the
question of a marriage between himself and Lady Elizabeth Hatton. He
broached it both to her father, the new Lord Burghley, and to her
uncle, the much more talented Robert. Whatever their astonishment may
have been, each of these Cecils promised to offer no opposition to the
match. They probably reflected that the Attorney-General was a man in
a powerful position, and that, with his own great wealth combined with
that of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, he might possibly prove of service to
the Cecil family in the future.

How the match, proposed under such conditions, came about, history
does not inform us, but, within six months of Bridget's funeral, her
widower embalmed her memory by marrying Elizabeth Hatton, a girl
fifteen years her junior.

If any writer possessed of imagination should choose to make a novel
on the foundation of this simple story, he may describe to his readers
how the cross-grained and unattractive Coke contrived to induce the
fair Lady Elizabeth Hatton to accept him for a husband. The present
writer cannot say how this miracle was worked, for the simple reason
that he does not know. One incident in connection with the marriage,
however, is a matter of history. Elizabeth was not sufficiently proud
of her prospective bride-groom to desire to stand beside him at a
wedding before a large, fashionable, and critical assemblage in a
London church. If he would have her at all, she insisted that he must
take her in the only way in which he could get her, namely, by a
clandestine marriage, in a private house, with only two or three
witnesses.

Now, if there was one thing more than another in which Mr. Attorney
Coke lived and moved and had his being, it was the law, to all
offenders against which he was an object of terror; and such a great
lawyer must have been fully aware that, by making a clandestine
marriage in a private house, he would render himself liable to the
greater excommunication, whereby, in addition to the minor annoyance
of being debarred from the sacraments, he might forfeit the whole of
his property and be subjected to perpetual imprisonment. To make
matters worse, Archbishop Whitgift had just issued a pastoral letter
to all the bishops in the province of Canterbury, condemning marriages
in private houses at unseasonable hours, and forbidding under the
severest penalties any marriage, except in a cathedral or in a parish
church, during the canonical hours, and after proclamation of banns
on three Sundays or holidays, or else with the license of the
ordinary.

Rather than lose his prize, Coke, the great lawyer, determined to defy
the law, and to run all risks, risks which the bride seemed anxious to
make as great as possible; for, at her earnest request, or rather
dictation, the pair were married in a private house, without license
or banns, and in the evening, less than five months after Coke had
made the entry in his diary canonising Bridget. As the Archbishop had
been his tutor, Coke may have expected him to overlook this little
transgression. Instead of this, the pious Primate at once ordered a
suit to be instituted in his Court against the bridegroom, the bride,
the parson who had married them, and the bride's father, Lord
Burghley, who had given her away. Lord Campbell says that "a libel was
exhibited against them, concluding for the 'greater excommunication'
as the appropriate punishment."

Mr. Attorney now saw that there was nothing to be done but to kiss the
rod. Accordingly, he made a humble and a grovelling submission, on
which the Archbishop gave a dispensation under his great seal, a
dispensation which is registered in the archives of Lambeth Palace,
absolving all concerned from the penalties they had incurred, and, as
if to complete the joke, alleging, as an excuse, ignorance of the law
on the part of the most learned lawyer in the kingdom.

The newly married pair had not a single taste in common. The wife
loved balls, masques, hawking, and all sorts of gaiety; she delighted
in admiration and loved to be surrounded by young gallants who had
served in the wars under Sydney and Essex, and who could flatter her
with apt quotations from the verses of Spenser and Surrey. The
husband, on the contrary, detested everything in the form of fun and
frolic, loved nothing but law and money, loathed extravagance and
cared for no society, except that of middle-aged barristers and old
judges. As might be expected, the union of this singularly
ill-assorted couple was a most unhappy one. Indeed it was a case of--

            "at home 'tis steadfast hate,
  And one eternal tempest of debate."[1]

Within a year of their marriage, that is to say in 1599, Lady
Elizabeth Hatton, as she still called herself, had a daughter. Here
again Burke and Lord Campbell are at variance. Burke says that by this
marriage Coke had two daughters, Elizabeth, who died unmarried, and
Frances, our heroine; whereas Lord Campbell says that Frances was born
within a year of their marriage and makes no mention of any Elizabeth.
It is pretty clear, from subsequent events, that, if there was an
Elizabeth, she must have died very young, and that Frances must have
been born almost as soon as was possible after the birth of her elder
sister.[2]

The beginning of our heroine may make the end of our chapter. In the
next she will not be seen at all; but, as will duly appear, the events
therein recorded had a great--it might almost be said a
supreme--influence on her fortunes.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Young's _Love of Fame_.

[2] Most of the matter in this chapter has been taken from _The Lives
of the Chief Justices of England_, by John, Lord Campbell. In two
volumes. London: John Murray, 1849, Vol. I., p. 239 _seq._, Chap.
VII.



CHAPTER II.

        "Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure,
        Men love in haste, but they detest at leisure."
                                        _Don Juan_, xiii., 16.


Rivals in love, rivals in law, rivals for place, Coke and Bacon, while
nominally friends, were implacable enemies, but they sought their ends
by different methods. When James I. had ascended the throne, Bacon
began at once to seek his favour; but Coke took no trouble whatever
for that purpose, and he was not even introduced to the royal presence
until several weeks after the accession. Bacon, then a K.C., held no
office during the first four years of the new reign; but his literary
fame and his skilful advocacy at the Bar excited the jealousy of Coke.
On one occasion, Coke grossly insulted him in the Court of Exchequer,
whereupon Bacon said: "Mr. Attorney, I respect you but I fear you not;
and the less you speak of your own greatness, the more I will think of
it." Coke angrily replied: "I think scorn to stand upon terms of
greatness towards you, who are less than little--less than the least."

Lord Campbell says that Sir Edward Coke's arrogance to the whole Bar,
and to all who approached him, now became almost insufferable, and
that "his demeanour was particularly offensive to his rival"--Bacon.
As to prisoners, "his brutal conduct ... brought permanent disgrace
upon himself and upon the English Bar." When Sir Walter Raleigh was
being tried for his life, but had not yet been found guilty, Coke said
to him: "Thou art the most vile and execrable traitor that ever lived.
I want words sufficient to express thy viprous treasons." When Sir
Everard Digby confessed that he deserved the vilest death, but humbly
begged for mercy and some moderation of justice, Coke told him that he
ought "rather to admire the great moderation and mercy of the King, in
that, for so exorbitant a crime, no new torture answerable thereto was
devised to be inflicted upon him," and that, as to his wife and
children, he ought to desire the fulfilment of the words of the Psalm:
"Let his wife be a widow and his children vagabonds: let his posterity
be destroyed, and in the next generation let his name be quite put
out." According to Lord Campbell, Coke's "arrogance of demeanour to
all mankind is unparalleled."

Towards the end of the reign of Elizabeth, Coke, as Attorney-General,
had had another task well suited to his taste, that of examining the
prisoners stretched on the rack, at the Tower. Volumes of examinations
of prisoners under torture, in Coke's own handwriting, are still
preserved at the State Paper Office, which, says Campbell,
"sufficiently attest his zeal, assiduity and hard-heartedness in the
service.... He scrupulously attended to see the proper degree of pain
inflicted." Yet this severe prosecutor, bitter advocate and cruel
examiner, became a Chief Justice of tolerable courtesy, moderate
severity, and unimpeachable integrity.

If he had everything his own way in the criminal court and the torture
chamber, Coke did not find his wishes altogether unopposed in his
family. To begin with, he suffered the perpetual insult of the refusal
on the part of his wife to be called by his name. If her first husband
had been of higher rank, it might have been another matter: but both
were only knights, and it was a parallel case to the widow Jones,
after she had married Smith, insisting upon still calling herself Mrs.
Jones. Lady Elizabeth defended her conduct on this point as
follows:[3] "I returned this answer: that if Sir Edward Cooke would
bury my first husband accordinge to his own directions, and also paie
such small legacys as he gave to divers of his friends, in all cominge
not to above £700 or £900, at the most that was left unperformed, he
having all Sir William Hatton's goods & lands to a large proportion,
then would I willingly stile myself by his name. But he never yielded,
so I consented not to the other." Whether Hatton or Coke, as an Earl's
daughter she was Lady Elizabeth, by which name alone let us know her.

Campbell states that, after the birth of Frances, Sir Edward and Lady
Elizabeth "lived little together, although they had the prudence to
appear to the world to be on decent terms till the heiress was
marriageable." Coke had been astute enough to secure a comfortable
country-house, at a very convenient distance from London, through Lady
Elizabeth. Her ladyship had held a mortgage upon Stoke Pogis, a place
that belonged formerly to the Earls of Huntingdon,[4] and Coke, either
by foreclosing or by selling, obtained possession of the property. As
it stood but three or four miles to the north of Windsor, the
situation was excellent.[5] Sir Edward's London house was in the then
fashionable quarter of Holborn, a place to which dwellers in the city
used to go for change of air.[6] As Coke and his wife generally
quarrelled when together, the husband was usually at Holborn[7] when
the wife was at Stoke, and _vice-versâ_. It was almost impossible that
Miss Frances should not notice the strained relations between her
parents. Nothing could have been much worse for the education of their
daughter than their constant squabblings; and, unless she differed
greatly from most other daughters, she would take advantage of their
mutual antipathies to play one against the other, a pleasing pastime,
by means of which young ladies, blessed with quarrelsome parents,
often obtain permissions and other good things of this world, which
otherwise they would have to do without.

Lady Elizabeth found a friend and a sympathiser in her domestic
worries. Francis Bacon, the former lover of her fortune, if not of her
person, became her consoler and her counsellor. Let not the reader
suppose that these pages are so early to be sullied by a scandal.
Nothing could have been farther from reproach than the marital
fidelity of Lady Elizabeth, but it must have gratified Bacon to annoy
the man who had crossed and conquered him in love, or in what
masqueraded under that name, by fanning the flames of Lady Elizabeth's
fiery hatred against her husband. Hitherto, Coke had had it all his
own way. He had snubbed and insulted Bacon in the law courts, and he
had snatched a wealthy and beautiful heiress from his grasp. The wheel
of fortune was now about to take a turn in the opposite direction.

About the year 1611, King James entertained the idea of reigning as an
absolute sovereign. Archbishop Bancroft flattered him in this notion,
and suggested that the King ought to have the privilege of "judging
whatever cause he pleased in his own person, free from all risk of
prohibition or appeal." James summoned the judges to his Council and
asked whether they consented to this proposal. Coke replied:--

"God has endowed your Majesty with excellent science as well as great
gifts of nature; but your Majesty will allow me to say, with all
reverence, that you are not learned in the laws of this your realm of
England, and I crave leave to remind your Majesty that causes which
concern the life or inheritance, or goods or fortunes of your subjects
are not to be decided by natural reason, but by the artificial reason
and judgment of law, which law is an art which requires long study and
experience before that a man can attain to the cognizance of it."

On hearing this, James flew into a rage and said: "Then am I to be
_under_ the law--which it is treason to affirm?"

To which Coke replied: "Thus wrote Braxton: 'Rex non debet esse sub
homine, sed sub _Deo et Lege_.'"[8]

Coke had the misfortune to offend the King in another matter. James
issued proclamations whenever he thought that the existing law
required amendment. A reply was drawn up by Coke, in which he said:
"The King, by his proclamation or otherwise, cannot change any part
of the common law, or statute law, or the customs of the realm." This
still further aggravated James.

Meanwhile Bacon, now Attorney-General, was high in the King's favour,
and he was constantly manoeuvring in order to bring about the downfall
of his rival. He persuaded James to remove Coke from the Common Pleas
to the King's Bench--a promotion, it is true, but to a far less
lucrative post. This greatly annoyed Coke, who, on meeting Bacon,
said: "Mr. Attorney, this is all your doing." For a time Coke
counteracted his fall in James's favour by giving £2,000 to a
"Benevolence," which the King had asked for the pressing necessities
of the Crown, a benevolence to which the other judges contributed only
very small sums. This fair weather, however, was not to be of long
duration.

In 1616 Coke again offended the King. Bacon had declared his opinion
that the King could prohibit the hearing of any case in which his
prerogative was concerned. In the course of a trial which shortly
afterwards took place, Bacon wrote to the judges that it was "his
Majesty's express pleasure that the farther argument of the said cause
be put off till his Majesty's farther pleasure be known upon
consulting him." In a reply, drawn up by Coke and signed by the other
judges, the King was told that "we have advisedly considered of the
said letter of Mr. Attorney, and with one consent do hold the same to
be contrary to law, and such as we could not yield to by our oaths."

James was furious. He summoned the judges to Whitehall and gave them a
tremendous scolding. They fell on their knees and all were submissive
except Coke, who boldly said that "obedience to his Majesty's command
... would have been a delay of justice, contrary to law, and contrary
to the oaths of the judges."

Although Coke was now in terrible disgrace at Court, he might have
retained his office of Chief Justice, if he would have sanctioned a
job for Villiers, the new royal favourite. George Villiers, a young
man of twenty-four, since the fall of the Earl of Somerset had
centralised all power and patronage in his own hands. The chief
clerkship in the Court of King's Bench, a sinecure worth £4,000 a
year, was falling vacant, and Villiers wished to have the disposal of
it. The office was in the gift of Coke, and, when Bacon asked that its
gift should be placed in the hands of Villiers, Coke flatly refused
and thus offended the most powerful man in England. Nothing then
became bad enough for Coke and nothing in Coke could be good. His
reports of cases were carefully examined by Bacon, who pointed out to
the King many "novelties, errors, and offensive conceits" in them. The
upshot of the whole matter was that Coke was deprived of office. When
the news was communicated to him, says a contemporary letter, "he
received it with dejection and tears."[9]

It would be natural to suppose that by this time Bacon had done enough
to satisfy his vengeance upon Coke. But no! He must needs worry him
yet further by an exasperating letter, from which some extracts shall
be given. It opens with a good deal of scriptural quotation as to the
wholesomeness of affliction. Then Bacon proceeds to say:[10]
"Afflictions level the mole-hills of pride, plough the heart and make
it fit for Wisdom to sow her seed, and for grace to bring forth her
increase. Happy is that man, therefore, both in regard of Heavenly and
earthly wisdom, that is thus wounded to be cured, thus broken to be
made straight, thus made acquainted with his own imperfections that he
may be perfect. Supposing this to be the time of your affliction, that
which I have propounded to myself is, by taking the seasonable
advantage, like a true friend (though far unworthy to be counted so)
to show your shape in a glass.... Yet of this resolve yourself, it
proceedeth from love and a true desire to do you good, that you,
knowing what the general opinion is may not altogether neglect or
contemn it, but mend what you may find amiss in yourself.... First,
therefore, behold your Errors: In discourse you delight to speak too
much.... Your affections are entangled with a love of your own
arguments, though they be the weaker.... Secondly, you cloy your
auditory: when you would be observed, speech must either be sweet, or
short. Thirdly, you converse with Books, not Men ... who are the best
Books. For a man of action & employment you seldom converse, & then
but with underlings; not freely but as a schoolmaster with his
scholars, ever to teach, never to learn.... You should know many of
these tales you tell to be but ordinary, & many other things, which
you repeat, & serve in for novelties to be but stale.... Your too much
love of the world is too much seen, when having the living" [income]
"of £10,000, you relieve few or none: the hand that hath taken so
much, can it give so little? Herein you show no bowels of
compassion.... We desire you to amend this & let your poor Tenants in
Norfolk find some comfort, where nothing of your Estate is spent
towards their relief, but all brought up hither, to the impoverishing
of your country.... When we will not mind ourselves, God (if we belong
to him) takes us in hand, & because he seeth that we have unbridled
stomachs, therefore he sends outward crosses." And Bacon ends by
commending poor Coke "to God's Holy Spirit ... beseeching Him to send
you a good issue out of all these troubles, & from henceforth to work
a reformation in all that is amiss, & a resolute perseverance,
proceeding, & growth, in all that is good, & that for His glory, the
bettering of yourself, this Church & Commonwealth; whose faithful
servant whilest you remain, I am a faithful servant unto you."

If ever there was a case of adding insult to injury, surely this piece
of canting impertinence was one of the most outrageous.

FOOTNOTES:

[3] _Life of Sir Edward Coke._ By H.W. Woolrych. London: J. & W.T.
Clarke, 1826, pp. 145-48.

[4] Lipscomb's _History and Antiquities of the Co. of Bucks_, 1847,
Vol. IV., p. 548.

[5] Gray made the churchyard of Stoke Pogis the scene of his famous
Elegy, and he was buried there in 1771.

[6] _Ency. Brit._, Vol. XIV. Article on London.

[7] Lady Elizabeth's house in Holborn was called Hatton House. A
letter (_S.P. Dom._, James I., 13th July, 1622) says: "Lady Hatton
sells her house in Holborn to the Duke of Lennox, for £12,000."
Another letter (ib. 26th February, 1628) says that "Lady Hatton
complained so much of her bargain with the Duchess of Richmond for
Hatton House, that the Duchess has taken her at her word and left it
on her hands, whereby she loses £1,500 a year, and £6,000 fine."

[8] "Under no man's judgment should the King lie; but under God and
the law only."

[9] Letter from John Castle. See D'Israeli's _Character of James I._,
p. 125.

[10] _Cabala Sive Scrina Sacra_: Mysteries of State and Government. In
_Letters of Illustrious Persons, etc_. London: Thomas Sawbridge and
others, 1791, p. 86.



CHAPTER III.

          "Marriage is a matter of more worth
          Than to be dealt in by attorneyship."
                              _Henry VI._, I., v., 5.


If Bacon flattered himself that he had extinguished Coke for good and
all, he was much mistaken. It must have alarmed him to find that Lady
Elizabeth, after constant quarrels with her husband and ceasing to
live with him, had taken his part, now that he had been dismissed from
office, that she had solicited his cause at the very Council
table,[11] and that she had quarrelled with both the King and the
Queen about the treatment of her husband, with the result that she had
been forbidden to go to Court, and had begun to live again with Coke,
taking with her her daughter, now well on in her 'teens.

There was a period of hostilities, however, early in the year 1617.
Sir Edward and Lady Elizabeth went to law about her jointure. In May
Chamberlain wrote to Carleton:--

"The Lord Coke & his lady hath great wars at the council table. I was
there on Wednesday, but by reason of the Lord Keeper's absence, there
was nothing done. What passed yesterday I know not yet: but the first
time she came accompanied with the Lord Burghley" (her eldest
brother), "& his lady, the Lord Danvers" (her maternal grandfather),
"the Lord Denny" (her brother-in-law), "Sir Thomas Howard" (her
nephew, afterwards first Earl of Berkshire) "& his lady, with I know
not how many more, & declaimed bitterly against him, and so carried
herself that divers said Burbage" [the celebrated actor of that time]
"could not have acted better. Indeed, it seems he [Sir Edward Coke]
hath carried himself very simply, to say no more, in divers matters:
and no doubt he shall be sifted thoroughly, for the King is much
incensed against him, & by his own weakness he hath lost those few
friends he had."

It is clear from this letter that, although her husband was one of the
greatest lawyers of the day, Lady Elizabeth was not at all afraid of
pitting herself against him in Court, where indeed she seems to have
proved the better pleader of the pair.

This dispute was patched up. On 4th June Chamberlain wrote: "Sir
Edward Coke & his Lady, after so much animosity and wrangling, are
lately made friends; & his curst heart hath been forced to yield more
than ever he meant; but upon this agreement he flatters himself that
she will prove a very good wife." So Coke and his "very good wife"
settled down together again. We shall see presently whether there was
to be a perpetual peace between them.

While Bacon was meditating an information against Sir Edward Coke in
the Star Chamber for malversation of office, in the hope that a heavy
fine might be imposed upon him, Coke also was plotting. He discovered
that Bacon, who had been made Lord Keeper early in the year 1617, had
had his head turned by his promotion and had become giddy on his
pinnacle of greatness; or, to use Bacon's own words, that he was
suffering acutely from an "unbridled stomach." Of this Coke determined
to take advantage.

Looking back upon his own fall, Coke considered that the final crash
had been brought about not, as Bacon had insinuated in his letter, by
offending the Almighty, but by offending Villiers, now Earl of
Buckingham, and he came to the conclusion that his best hope of
recovering his position would be to find some method of doing that
Earl a service. Now, Buckingham had an elder brother, Sir John
Villiers, who was very poor, and for whom he was anxious to pick up an
heiress. The happy thought struck Coke that, as all his wife's
property was entailed on her daughter, Frances, he might secure
Buckingham's support by selling the girl to Buckingham's brother, for
the price of Buckingham's favour and assistance. It was most fortunate
that Frances was exceedingly beautiful, and that Sir John Villiers was
unattractive and much older than she was; because this would render
the amount of patronage, due in payment by Buckingham to Coke, so much
the greater.

James I. and Buckingham had gone to Scotland. In the absence of the
King and the Court, Bacon, as Lord Keeper, was one of the greatest men
left in London, and quite the greatest in his own estimation. Misled
by this idea of his own importance, he was imprudent enough to treat
his colleague, Winwood, the Secretary of State, with as little
ceremony as if he had been a junior clerk, thereby incurring the
resentment of that very high official. Common hatred of Bacon made a
strong bond of union between Coke and Winwood, and Winwood joined
readily in the plot newly laid by Coke.

Sir John Villiers was already acquainted with Coke's pretty daughter;
and, when Coke went to him, suggested a match, and enlarged upon the
fortune to which she was sole heiress, Sir John professed to be over
head and ears in love with her, and observed that "although he would
have been well pleased to have taken her in her smoke [smock], he
should be glad, by way of curiosity, to know how much could be assured
by marriage settlement upon her and her issue."[12] With some
reluctance Sir Edward Coke then entered into particulars, and the
match was regarded as settled by both sides.

Everything having been now satisfactorily arranged, it occurred to
Coke that possibly the time had arrived for informing, first his wife,
and afterwards his daughter, of the marriage to which he had agreed.

Sir Edward had often seen his wife in a passion, and he had frequently
been a listener to torrents of abuse from her pretty lips and caustic
tongue. Although he had been notorious as the rudest member of the
Bar, he had generally come off second best in his frequent battles of
words with his beautiful helpmate. Stolid and unimpressible as he was,
he can hardly have been impervious to the effects of the verbal venom
with which she had constantly stung him. But all this had been mere
child's play in comparison with her fury on being informed that,
without so much as consulting her, her husband had definitely settled
a match for her only child with a portionless knight. A new weapon was
lying ready to her hand, and she made every possible use of it. It
consisted in the fact that, much as she and her husband had quarrelled
and lived apart, she had returned to him in the hour of his
tribulation, had fought his battles before the King and the Council,
and had even braved the royal displeasure and endured exile from the
Court, rather than desert him in his need. She bitterly reproached him
for repaying her constancy and sacrifices on his behalf by selling her
daughter without either inquiring as to the mother's wishes, or even
informing that mother of his intention.

If Lady Elizabeth was infuriated at the news of the match, her
daughter was frenzied. She detested Sir John Villiers, and she
implored her parents never again to mention the question of her
marrying him. The mother and daughter were on one side and the father
on the other; neither would yield an inch, and Hatton House, Holborn,
became the scene of violent invective and bitter weeping.

Buckingham is said to have promised Coke that, if he would bring about
the proposed marriage, he should have his offices restored to him.
Buckingham's mother, Lady Compton, also warmly supported the project.
She was what would now be called "a very managing woman." Since the
death of Buckingham's father, she had had two husbands, Sir William
Rayner and Sir Thomas Compton,[13] brother to the Earl of Northampton.
She was in high favour at Court, and she was created Countess of
Buckingham just a year later than the time with which we are now
dealing. As Buckingham favoured the match, of course the King favoured
it also; and, as has been seen, Winwood, the Secretary of State,
favoured it, simply because Bacon did not.

On the other side, among the active opponents of the match, were Bacon
the Lord Keeper, Lord and Lady Burghley, Lord Danvers, Lord Denny, Sir
Thomas and Lady Howard, and Sir Edmund and Lady Withipole.

Suddenly, to Coke's great satisfaction, Lady Elizabeth became, as he
supposed, calm and quiet. It was his habit to go to bed at nine
o'clock, and to get up very early. One night he went to bed at his
usual hour, under the impression that his wife was settling down
nicely and resigning herself to the inevitable. While he was in his
beauty-sleep, soon after ten, that excellent lady quietly left the
house with her daughter, and walked some little distance to a coach,
which she had engaged to be in waiting for them at an appointed place.
In this coach they travelled by unfrequented and circuitous roads,
until they arrived at a house near Oatlands, a place belonging to the
Earl of Argyll, but rented at that time by Lady Elizabeth's cousin,
Sir Edmund Withipole. The distance from Holborn to Oatlands, as the
crow flies, is about twenty miles; but, by the roundabout roads which
the fugitives took in order to prevent attempts to trace them, the
distance must have been considerable, and the journey, in the clumsy
coach of the period, over the rutted highways and the still worse
by-roads of those times, must have been long and wearisome. Oatlands
is close to Weybridge, to the south-west of London, in Surrey, just
over the boundary of Middlesex and about a mile to the south of the
river Thames.

In Sir Edmund Withipole's house Lady Elizabeth and her daughter lived
in the strictest seclusion, and all precautions were taken to prevent
the place of their retreat from becoming known. And great caution was
necessary, for Lady Elizabeth and Frances were almost within a dozen
miles of Stoke Pogis, their country home; so that they would have been
in danger of being recognised, if they had appeared outside the house.

But Lady Elizabeth was not idle in her voluntary imprisonment. She
conceived the idea that the best method of preventing a match which
she disliked for her daughter would be to make one of which she could
approve. Accordingly she offered Frances to young Henry de Vere,
eighteenth Earl of Oxford. Although to a lesser extent, like Sir John
Villiers, he was impecunious and on the look out for an heiress, his
father--who was distinguished for having been one of the peers
appointed to sit in judgment on Mary, Queen of Scots, for having had
command of a fleet to oppose the Armada, for his success in
tournaments, for his comedies, for his wit, and for introducing the
use of scents into England--having dissipated the large inheritance of
his family.

Undoubtedly, Lady Elizabeth was a woman of considerable resource; but,
with all her virtues, she was not over-scrupulous; for, as Lord
Campbell says,[14] to induce her daughter to believe that Oxford was
in love with her, she "showed her a forged letter, purporting to come
from that nobleman, which asseverated that he was deeply attached to
her, and that he aspired to her hand." Lady Elizabeth was apparently
of opinion that everything--and everything includes lying and
forgery--is fair in love and war.

FOOTNOTES:

[11] Chamberlain, in a letter dated 22nd June, 1616.

[12] A quotation given by Lord Campbell (Vol. I., p. 297); but he does
not state his authority.

[13] Arthur Wilson, in his life of James I. (_Camden, History of
England_, Vol. II., p. 727), tells the following story about Sir T.
Compton whom he calls "a low spirited man." "One Bird, a roaring
Captain, was the more insolent against him because he found him slow &
backward." After many provocations, Bird "wrought so upon his cold
temper, that Compton sent him a challenge." On receiving it, Bird told
Compton's second that he would only accept the challenge on condition
that the duel should take place in a saw-pit, "Where he might be sure
Compton could not run away from him." When both combatants were in the
saw-pit, Bird said: "Now, Compton, thou shalt not escape me," and
brandished his sword above his head. While he was doing this, Compton
"in a moment run him through the Body; so that his Pride fell to the
ground, and there did sprawl out its last vanity."



CHAPTER IV.

          "There is no such thing as perfect secrecy."
                              --_South's Sermons._


As might be expected, the whereabouts of the place for concealment of
Lady Elizabeth and her daughter leaked out and reached the ears of Sir
Edward Coke, who immediately applied to the Privy Council for a
warrant to search for his daughter. Bacon opposed it. Indeed, it is
said that Bacon had not only been all the time aware of the place of
the girl's retreat, but had also joined actively in the plot to convey
her to it. Because it was difficult to obtain a search-warrant from
the Privy Council, Coke got an order to the same effect from Winwood,
the Secretary of State;[15] and, although this order was of doubtful
regularity, Coke determined to act upon it.

In July, 1617, Coke mustered a band of armed men, made up of his sons
(Bridget's sons), his servants and his dependents. He put on a
breastplate, and, with a sword at his side and pistols in the holsters
of his saddle, he placed himself at the head of his little army, and
gallantly led it to Oatlands to wage war upon his wife.

On arriving at the house which he went to besiege, he found no
symptoms of any garrison for its defence. All was quiet, as if the
place were uninhabited, the only sign that an attack was expected
being that the gate leading to the house was strongly bolted and
barred. To force the gate open, if a work requiring hard labour, was
one of time, rather than of difficulty: and, when it had been
accomplished, the general courageously led his troops from the outer
defences to the very walls of the enemy's--that is to say of his
wife's--castle.

The door of the house was found to be a very different thing from the
gate. The besiegers knocked, and pounded, and thumped, and pushed, and
battered: but that door withstood all their efforts. Again and again
Coke, with a loud voice, demanded his child, in the King's name.
"Remember," roared he to those within, "if we should kill any of your
people, it would be justifiable homicide; but, if any of you should
kill one of us, it would be MURDER!"[16]

To this opinion of the highest legal authority, given gratis, silence
gave consent; for no reply was returned from the fortress, in which
the stillness must have made the attackers afraid that the foes had
fled. And then the bang, bang, banging on the door began afresh.

One of Coke's lieutenants suddenly bethought him of a flank attack,
and, after sneaking round the house, this warrior adopted the
burglar's manoeuvre of forcing open a window, on the ground floor. One
by one the valiant members of Coke's little army climbed into the
house by this means, and the august person of the ex-Lord Chief
Justice himself was squeezed through the aperture. Nobody appeared to
oppose their search; but preparations to prevent it had evidently been
made with great care; for Chamberlain wrote that they had to "brake
open divers doors."

Room after room was searched in vain; but, at last, Lady Elizabeth and
Frances were discovered hidden in a small closet. Both the father and
the mother clasped their daughter in their arms almost at the same
moment. The daughter clung to the mother; the father clung to the
daughter. Sir Edward pulled; Lady Elizabeth pulled; and, after a
violent struggle between the husband and the wife, Coke succeeded in
wrenching the weeping girl from her mother's arms.[17] Without a
moment's parley with his defeated antagonist, he dragged away his
prey, took her out of the house, placed her on horseback behind one of
her half-brothers, and started off with his whole cavalcade for his
house at Stoke Pogis.

The writer is old enough to have seen farmers' wives riding behind
their husbands, on pillions. Most uncomfortable sitting those pillions
appeared to afford, and he distinctly remembers the rolling movements
to which the sitters seemed to be subjected. This was when the pace
was at a walk or a slow jog. But the unfortunate Frances must have
been rolled and bumped at speed; for there was a pursuit. In his
already quoted letter to Carleton, Chamberlain says that Sir Edward
Coke's "lady was at his heels, and, if her coach had not held"--_i.e._,
stuck in the mud of the appalling roads of the period--"in the
pursuit after him, there was like to be strange tragedies." Miss
Coke must have been long in forgetting that enforced ride of at least
a dozen long miles, on a pillion behind a brother, and as a prisoner
surrounded by an armed force.

Campbell states that, on reaching Stoke Pogis, Coke locked his
daughter "in an upper chamber, of which he himself kept the key."
Possibly, Sir John Villiers' mother, Lady Compton, may have been
there, in readiness to receive her; for Chamberlain says that Coke
"delivered his daughter to the Lady Compton, Sir John's mother; but,
the next day, Edmondes, Clerk of the Council, was sent with a warrant
to have the custody of the lady at his own house." This was probably
Bacon's doing.

Among the manuscripts at Trinity College, Cambridge, is a letter[18]
written from the Inner Temple to Mrs. Ann Sadler, a daughter of Sir
Edward Coke by his first wife. From this we learn that, on finding
herself robbed of her daughter, Lady Elizabeth hastened to London to
seek the assistance of her friend Bacon. In driving thither her coach
was "overturned." We saw that it had "held" in the heavy roads when
she was chasing her husband in it, and very likely its wheels may have
become loosened in some ruts on that occasion. An upset in a carriage,
however, was a common occurrence in those days, and, nothing daunted,
Lady Elizabeth managed to complete her journey to the house of Bacon
in London.

When she reached it, she was told that the Lord Keeper was unwell and
in his room, asleep. She persuaded "the door-keeper" to take her to
the sitting-room next to his bedroom, in order that she might be "the
first to speak with him after he was stirring." The "door-keeper
fulfilled her desire and in the meantime gave her a chair to rest
herself in." Then he most imprudently left her, and she had not been
alone long when "she rose up and bounced against my Lord Keeper's
door." The noise not only woke up the sleeping Bacon, but "affrighted
him" to such an extent that he called for help at the top of his
voice. His servants immediately came rushing to his room. Doubtless he
was relieved at seeing them; but his feelings may have been somewhat
mixed when Lady Elizabeth "thrust in with them." He was on very
friendly terms with her; but it was disconcerting to receive a lady
from his bed when he was half awake and wholly frightened, especially
when, as the correspondent describes it, the condition of that lady
was like that of "a cow that had lost her calf."

The upshot of this rather unusual visit was that Lady Elizabeth got
Bacon's warrant, as Lord Keeper, and also that of the Lord Treasurer
"and others of the Council, to fetch her daughter from the father and
bring them both to the Council."

At that particular time Bacon had just made a blunder. He was well
aware of Buckingham's high favour with the King; but he scarcely
realised its measure. Indeed, since he had seen him last, and during
the time that the King had been in Scotland, Buckingham's influence
over James had increased enormously. It is true that Bacon had
enlisted the services of Buckingham to defeat Coke, and that he had
used him as a tool to secure the office of Lord Keeper: but, as the
occupier of that exalted position, he considered himself secure enough
to take his own line, and even to offer Buckingham some fatherly
advice, as will presently appear.

Bacon now made another attack upon his enemy by summoning Coke before
the Star Chamber on a charge of breaking into a private house with
violence. On receiving this summons, Coke wrote to Buckingham, who was
with the King in the North, complaining that his wife, the Withipoles,
and their confederates, had conveyed his "dearest daughter" from his
house, "in most secret manner, to a house near Oatland, which Sir
Edmund Withipole had taken for the summer of my Lord Argyle." Then he
said: "I, by God's wonderful providence finding where she was,
together with my sons and ordinary attendants did break open two
doors, & recovered my daughter." His object, he said was, "First &
principally, lest his Majesty should think I was of confederacy with
my wife in conveying her away, or charge me with want of government in
my household in suffering her to be carried away, after I had engaged
myself to his Majesty for the furtherance of this match."

Buckingham, at about the same time that he received Coke's letter,
received one in a very different tone from Bacon, in which he
said:[19] "Secretary Winwood has busied himself with a match between
Sir John Villiers & Sir Edward Coke's daughter, rather to make a
faction than out of any good affection to your lordship. The lady's
consent is not gained, _nor her mother's, from whom she expecteth a
great fortune_. This match, out of my faith & freedom to your
lordship, I hold very inconvenient, both for your mother, brother, &
yourself."

"First. He shall marry into a disgraced house, which in reason of
state, is never held good."

"Next. He shall marry into a troubled house of man & wife, which in
religion and Christian discretion is not liked."

"Thirdly. Your lordship will go near to lose all such of your friends
as are adverse to Sir Edward Coke (myself only except, who, out of a
pure love & thankfulness, shall ever be firm to you).... Therefore, my
advice is, & your lordship shall do yourself a great honour, if,
according to religion & the law of God, your lordship will signify
unto my lady, your mother, that your desire is that the marriage be
not pressed or proceeded in without the consent of both parents, & so
either break it altogether, or defer any further delay in it (sic)
till your lordship's return."

A few days later, on the 25th of July, Bacon wrote to an even greater
man than Buckingham, namely, to the King himself. "If," said he,
"there be any merit in drawing on this match, your Majesty should
bestow thanks, not upon the zeal of Sir Edward Coke to your Majesty,
nor upon the eloquent persuasions or pragmaticals of Mr. Secretary
Winwood; but upon them"--meaning himself--who "have so humbled Sir
Edward Coke, as he seeketh now that with submission which (as your
Majesty knoweth) before he rejected with scorn." And then he says that
if the King really wishes for the match, concerning which he should
like more definite orders, he will further it; for, says he, "though I
will not wager on women's minds, I can prevail more with the mother
than any other man."

King James's reply is not in existence, and it is unknown; but,
judging from a further letter of Bacon's, it must have been rather
cold and unfavourable; and, in Bacon's second letter to the King, he
was foolish enough to express a fear lest Buckingham's "height of
fortune might make him too secure." In his answer to this second
letter of Bacon, James reproves him for plotting with his adversary's
wife to overthrow him, saying "this is to be in league with Delilah."
He also scolds Bacon for being afraid that Buckingham's height of
fortune might make him "misknow himself." The King protests that
Buckingham is farther removed from such a vice than any of his other
courtiers. Bacon, he says, ought to have written to the King instead
of to Buckingham about "the inconvenience of the match:" "that would
have been the part of a true servant to us, and of a true friend to
him [Buckingham]. But first to make an opposition, then to give
advice, by way of friendship, is to make the plough go before the
horse."

By the time these letters had been carried backwards and forwards, to
and from Scotland and the North of England, a later date had been
reached than we have legitimately arrived at in our story, and we must
now go back to within a few days of Sir Edward Coke's famous raid at
Oatlands.

FOOTNOTES:

[14] _Chief Justices_, Vol. I., pp. 297-298

[15] _S.P. Dom._, James I., July, 1617. Chamberlain to Sir Dudley
Carleton.

[16] Campbell, p. 298.

[17] Lord Campbell's account.

[18] Quoted by Spedding in his _Life of Bacon_.

[19] Foard's _Life and Correspondence of Bacon_, p. 421.



CHAPTER V.

          "They've always been at daggers drawing,
          And one another clapper-clawing."
                            Butler's _Hudibras, Hud._, II, 2.


Bacon had scarcely written his first letters to Buckingham and the
King, before he had instructed Yelverton, the Attorney-General, to
institute a prosecution against Sir Edward Coke, in the Star Chamber,
for the riot at Oatlands, which he made out to have been almost an act
of war against the King, in his realm.

Her husband having carried away Frances by force, Lady Elizabeth made
an effort to recover her by a similar method. Gerrard wrote to
Carleton[20] that Lady Elizabeth, having heard that Frances was to be
taken to London, determined to meet her with an armed band and to
wrest her from Coke's power.

"The Mother she procureth a Warrant from the Counsell Table whereto
were many of the Counsellors to take her agayne from him: goes to
meete her as she shold come up. In the coach with her the Lord
Haughton, Sir E. Lechbill, Sir Rob. Rich, and others, with 3 score men
and Pistolls; they mett her not, yf they had there had bin a notable
skirmish, for the Lady Compton was with Mrs. French in the Coach, and
there was Clem Coke, my Lord's fighting sonne; and they all swore they
would dye in the Place, before they would part with her."

Without doubt, it was fortunate for both parties that they did not
meet each other. The attempt was a misfortune, as well as a defeat for
Lady Elizabeth; for while she failed to rescue her daughter, she also
gave her husband a fresh count to bring against her in the legal
proceedings which he forthwith instituted:--[21]

"1. For conveying away her daughter clam et secreté. 2. For
endeavouring to bind her to my Lord Oxford without her father's
consent. 3. For counterfeiting a letter of my Lord Oxford offering her
marriage. 4. For plotting to surprise her daughter and take her away
by force, to the breach of the King's peace, and for that purpose
assembling a body of desperate fellows, whereof the consequences might
have been dangerous."

To these terrible accusations Lady Elizabeth unblushingly replied: "1.
I had cause to provide for her quiet, Secretary Winwood threatening
she should be married from me in spite of my teeth, and Sir Edward
Coke intending to bestow her against her liking: whereupon she asked
me for help, I placed her at my cousin-german's house a few days for
her health and quiet. 2. My daughter tempted by her father's threats
and ill usuage, and pressing me to find a remedy, I did compassionate
her condition, and bethought myself of this contract with my Lord of
Oxford, if so she liked, and therefore I gave it to her to peruse and
consider by herself: she liked it, cheerfully writ it out with her own
hand, subscribed it, and returned it to me. 3. The end justifies--at
least excuses--the fact: for it was only to hold up my daughter's mind
to her own choice that she might with the more constancy endure her
imprisonment--having this only antidote to resist the poison--no
person or speech being admitted to her but such as spoke Sir John
Villiers' language. 4. Be it that I had some tall fellows assembled to
such an end, and that something was intended, who intended this?--the
mother! And wherefore? Because she was unnaturally and barbarously
secluded from her daughter, and her daughter forced against her will,
contrary to her vows and liking, to the will of him she disliked."

She then goes on to describe, by way of recrimination, Sir Edward
Coke's "most notorious riot, committed at my Lord of Argyle's house,
where, without constable or warrant, well weaponed, he took down the
doors of the gatehouse and of the house itself, and tore the daughter
in that barbarous manner from her mother--justifying it for good law:
a word for the encouragement of all notorious and rebellious
malefactors from him who had been a Chief Justice, and reputed the
oracle of the law."

A _State Paper_ (_Dom._, James I., 19th July, 1617, John Chamberlain
to Sir Dudley Carleton) tells us what followed. As correspondence with
Sir Dudley Carleton will be largely quoted in these pages, this
opportunity may be taken of observing that he was Ambassador, at
various times, in Savoy, in the Low Countries, and in Venice, that he
became one of Charles the First's principal Ministers of State, and
that he was eventually created Viscount Dorchester.

"The next day being all convened before the Council, she" [Frances the
daughter] "was sequestered to Mr. Attorney, & yesterday, upon a
palliated agreement twixt Sir Edward Coke & his lady, she was sent to
Hatton House, with order that the Lady Compton should have access to
win her & wear her." One wonders whether the last "&" was accidentally
substituted for the word "or," by a slip of the pen. In any case to
"wear her" is highly significant!

"It were a long story to tell all the passages of this business, which
hath furnished Paul's, & this town very plentifully the whole week."
[One of the ecclesiastical scandals of that period was that the nave
of St. Paul's Cathedral was a favourite lounge, and a regular exchange
for gossip.] "The Lord Coke was in great danger to be committed for
disobeying the Council's order, for abusing his warrant, & for the
violence used in breaking open the doors; to all of which he gave
reasonable answers, &, for the violence, will justify it by law,
though orders be given to prefer a bill against him in the Star
Chamber. He and his friends complain of hard measure from some of the
greatest at that Board, & that he was too much trampled upon with ill
language. And our friend" [Winwood] "passed not scot free from the
warrant, which the greatest there" [Bacon] "said was subject to a
_praemunire_, & withal, told the Lady Compton that they wished well to
her and her sons, & would be ready to serve the Earl of Buckingham
with all true affection, whereas others did it out of faction &
ambition."

Bacon might swagger at the Council Board; but in his heart he was
becoming exceedingly uneasy. We saw, at the end of the last chapter,
that he had received a very sharp letter from the King; and now the
royal favourite himself also wrote in terms which showed,
unmistakably, how much Bacon had offended him.[22]

"In this business of my brother's that you over-trouble yourself with,
I understand from London, by some of my friends, that you have carried
yourself with much scorn and neglect both towards myself and my
friends, which, if it prove true, I blame not you but myself."

This was sufficiently alarming, and at least as much so was a letter
which came from the King himself in which was written:--[23]

"Whereas you talk of the riot and violence committed by Sir Edward
Coke, we wonder you make no mention of the riot and violence of them
that stole away his daughter, which was the first ground of all that
noise."

It is clear, therefore, that if things were going badly for Coke, they
were going almost worse for Bacon, who now found himself in a very
awkward position both with the King and with Buckingham. Nor was he
succeeding as well as he could have wished in his attacks upon Coke.
He had made an attack by proceeding against him for a certain action,
when a judge; but Coke had parried this thrust by paying what was then
a very large sum to settle the affair.

In a letter to Carleton[24] Gerrard says:--

"The Lord Chiefe Justice Sir Ed. Coke hath payd 3500£ for composition
for taking common Bayle for some accused of Pyracye, which hath been
urged agaynst him since hys fall. And perhaps fearing more such claps;
intending to stand out the storme no longer, privately hath agreed on
a match with Sir John Villiers for hys youngest daughter Franche, the
mother's Darling, with which the King was acquainted withall and writt
to have it done before hys coming backe."

And presently he says:--

"The caryadge of the business hath made such a ster in the Towne as
never was: Nothing can fully represent it but a Commedye."

A letter written on the same day by Sir John Finet mentions the
projected marriage of Sir Edward Coke's daughter with Sir John
Villiers, who would have £2,000 a year from Buckingham, and be left
heir of his lands, as he was already of his Earldom, failing the
Earl's male issue. He adds that Sir Edward Coke went cheerily to visit
the Queen, and that the common people said he would die Lord
Treasurer. Such gossip as that must have been anything but amusing to
Bacon.

The Coke-Villiers engagement had now become almost, if not quite, a
State affair. Nearly three weeks later Sir Horace Vere wrote to
Carleton:--[25]

"I hear nothing so much spoken of here as that of Sir John Villiers
and Sir Ed. Coke's daughter. My Lady Hatton doth continue stiff
against yt, and yesterday I wayted upon my wife to my Lady of
Northumberland's. She tould my wife that she gives yt out that her
daughter is formmerlie contracted to an other and to such a one that
will not be afeard to plead his interest if he be put to yt."

Six days afterwards a third candidate for Frances Coke was talked
about. George Gerrard wrote to the same correspondent:--[26]

"The Lady Hatton's daughter to be maryed to one Cholmely a Baronet. Of
late here is by all the frendes of my Lady Hatton a Contract published
of Her Daughter Frances to the Erle of Oxford which was sent him to
Venice: to which he hath returned and answer that he will come
presently over, and see her fayre eyes and conclude the what he shall
thinke fit for him to doe: I have sent your Lordship Mis Frances
Coke's Love Letter to my Lord of Oxford herein concluded: I believe
you never read the like: Thys is like to become a grate business: for
the King hath shewed himselfe much in advancing thys matter for Sir
John Villiers."

He says that Lady Elizabeth offers to give Lord Oxford "besydes her
daughter ... ten and thirty hundred pound a year, which will before
twenty years passe bee nigh 6000£ a yeare besydes two houses well
furnisht. A Greate fortune for my Ld. yett it is doubted wheather hee
will endanger the losse of the King's favor for so fayre a woman and
so fayre a fortune."

The following is Frances Coke's enclosed "love letter" of which
Gerrard believed, as well he might, that Carleton "never read the
like." It is evidently the work of Lady Elizabeth:--

"I vow before God and take the Almighty to witness That I Frances Coke
Yonger daughter to Sir Ed. Coke late Lord Chiefe Justice of England,
doe give myselfe absolutely to Wife to Henry Ven. Viscount Balboke,
Erle of Oxenford, to whom I plight my fayth and inviolate vows, to
keepe myselfe till Death us do part: And if even I breake the least of
these I pray God Damne mee body and soule in Hell fyre in the world to
come: And in thys world I humbly Beseech God the Earth may open and
Swallowe mee up quicke to the Terror of all fayth breakers that
remayne alive. In witness whereof I have written all thys with my
owne hand and seald it with my owne seale (a hart crowned) which I
will weare till your retourne to make thys Good that I have sent you.
And for further witness I here underneath sett to my Name.

        "(Signed) FRANCES COKE in the Presence
                  "of my deare Mother
                      "ELIZA HATTON.

["_July 10, 1617._"]

Lady Elizabeth, however, failed to effect the match. Possibly the
letter just quoted may have been too strong meat for Oxford. Even her
skill in the gentle art of forgery proved unavailing. Whether Oxford
had no fancy for the girl, or the girl had no fancy for Oxford, does
not appear, and perhaps other causes may have prevented the marriage;
but, although he did not marry Frances, he married her first cousin,
Lady Diana, daughter of the second Earl of Exeter, a niece of Lady
Elizabeth, and, like Frances, both a great heiress and a beautiful
woman. Lord Oxford was killed, a few years afterwards, at the siege of
Breda in the Netherlands.

Bacon, now thoroughly frightened, both by the King and by Buckingham,
began to trim, and before long he turned completely round and used his
influence with Lady Elizabeth to induce her to agree to the Sir John
Villiers-match. He wrote a letter on the 21st of August to Buckingham,
saying that he was doing all he could to further the marriage of Sir
John Villiers with Frances Coke. Among other things he said:--

"I did also send to my Lady Hatton, Coke's wife and some other special
friends to acquaint them that I would declare, if anything, for the
match so that they may no longer account on [my] assistance. I sent
also to Sir John Butler, and after by letter to my Lady [Compton] your
mother, to tender my performance of any good office toward the match."

To this letter Buckingham sent a very chilling reply, whereupon Bacon,
in his anxiety, sent Yelverton in person to try to conciliate
Buckingham and the King, enjoining him to lie so hard and so
unblushingly as to declare that Bacon had never hindered, but had in
"many ways furthered the marriage;" that all he had done had been to
check Coke's "impertinent carriage" in the matter, which he wished had
"more nearly resembled the Earl of Buckingham's sweet disposition."

Yet after faithfully fulfilling this nefarious errand, Yelverton
failed to conciliate Buckingham, for he wrote the following very
unsatisfactory report to Bacon:--

"The Earl [of Buckingham] professeth openly against you;" whereas,
"Sir Edward Coke, as if he were already on his wings, triumphs
exceedingly; hath much private conference with his Majesty, and in
public doth offer himself, and thrust upon the King with as great
boldness of speech as heretofore."

Things were beginning to look desperate for Bacon! Indeed it seemed
as if affliction were about to "level the mole-hills," not now of
Coke's, but of Bacon's pride; "to plough" Bacon's heart and "make it
fit for Wisdom to sow her seed, and for Grace to bring forth her
increase," blessings which Bacon had so kindly & so liberally promised
to Coke in a letter already quoted.

About the middle of August, Chamberlain wrote that Frances Coke was
staying with Sir Robert Coke, Sir Edward's son by his first wife, and
that Lady Elizabeth was with her all day, to prevent the access of
others; but that, finding her friends were deserting her, and that
"she struggles in vain" against the King's will, "she begins to come
about," and "upon some conditions will double her husband's portion
and make up the match and give it her blessing." Presently he says:
"But it seems the Lady Hatton would have all the honour and thanks,
and so defeat her husband's purpose, towards whom, of late, she has
carried herself very strangely, and, indeed, neither like a wife, nor
a wise woman."

As Chamberlain says, Lady Elizabeth was determined that, if she had to
yield, she would be paid for doing so, and that her husband should
obtain none of the profits of the transaction. It was unfortunate that
that transaction should be the means of injuring her daughter whom she
loved; but it was very fortunate that it might be the means of
injuring her husband whom she hated. Her own account of her final
agreement to the marriage may be seen in a letter which she wrote to
the King in the following year:--[27]

"I call to witness my Lord Haughton, whom I sent twyce to moove the
matter to my Lady Compton, so as by me she would take it. This was
after he had so fondly broke off with my Lorde of Bukingham, when he
ruled your Majestie's favour scarse at the salerie of a 1,000£. After
that my brother and sister of Burghly offered, in the Galerie Chamber
at Whitehall, theire service unto my Ladie Compton to further this
marriage, so as from me she would take it. Thirdly, myselfe cominge
from Kingstone in a coach with my Ladie Compton, I then offered her
that if shee would leave Sir Edward Cooke I would proceed with her in
this marriage."

Although, as Chamberlain had written, Lady Elizabeth was now beginning
"to come about," in fact had come about, her faithful friend, Bacon,
in his frantic anxiety to regain the favour of Buckingham and the
King, ordered her to be arrested and kept in strict though honourable
confinement. In fact, to use a modern term, all the actors in this
little drama, possibly with the exception of Frances Coke and Sir John
Villiers, were prepared, at any moment, "to give each other away."
According to Foard,[28] Bacon was, at this time, busily engaged in
preparing for the trial of another member of Lady Elizabeth's family,
namely her stepmother, Lady Exeter.[29]

By the irony of fate, it happened that the two mortal enemies, Coke
and Bacon, acted together in the matter of the incarceration of Lady
Elizabeth; for, while the former pleaded for it, the latter ordered
it. It was spent partly at the house of Alderman Bennet,[30] and
partly at that of Sir William Craven,[31] Lord Mayor of London in the
years 1610 and 1618, and father of the first Earl of Craven. In both
houses she was doubtless treated with all respect, and she must have
occupied a position in them something between that of a paying-guest
and a lunatic living in the private house of a doctor--not that there
was any lunacy in the mind of Lady Elizabeth. Quite the contrary!

FOOTNOTES:

[20] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCII, No. 101, 23rd July, 1617.

[21] Campbell, Vol. I., p. 300.

[22] Campbell, Vol. I., p. 301.

[23] _Ibid._, p. 302.

[24] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCII, No. 101, 22nd July, 1617.

[25] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIII., No. 18, 12th August, 1617.

[26] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIII., No. 28, 18th August, 1617.

[27] _Life of Sir Edward Coke_. By Humphrey Woolrych. London: J. &
W.T. Clarke, 1826, pp. 146-48.

[28] _Life and Correspondence of Francis Bacon_. London: Saunders,
Otley & Co., 1861, p. 459.

[29] She was found innocent, and her accusers, Sir Thomas and Lady
Lake, were imprisoned and fined. £10,000 to the King, and £5,000 to
Lady Exeter as damages for the libel. A chambermaid who was one of the
witnesses, was whipped at the cart's tail for her perjury. Lady Roos,
the wife of Lady Exeter's step-grandson, and a daughter of the Lakes,
made a full confession that she had participated in spreading the
scandal. She was sentenced to be imprisoned during the King's
pleasure.

[30] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIII., 6th October, 1617. Letter
from Sir Gerald Herbert.

[31] Campbell, Vol. I., p. 303. fn. The imprisonment of what were
called "people of quality" usually took place either in the Tower or
in the private houses of Aldermen, in those times, although they were
sometimes imprisoned in the Fleet.



CHAPTER VI.

     "Of all the actions of a man's life his marriage doth least
     concern other people; yet of all actions of our life it is
     most meddled with by other people."
                                                  SELDEN.


In all these negotiations, and caballings, and intriguings, the person
most concerned, Frances Coke, the beauty and the heiress, was only the
ball in the game. Neither her father nor her mother nor anybody else
either considered her feelings or consulted her wishes about the
proposed marriage, except so far as it was to their own personal
interest to do so.

At last the poor girl yielded, or pretended to yield. Lord Campbell
says, as well he may, "and without doubt, just as Frances had before
copied and signed the contract with Lord Oxford, at the command of her
mother, she now copied and signed the following letter[32] to her
mother at the command of her father."

"'MADAM,

"'I must now humbly desire your patience in giving me leave to declare
myself to you, which is, that without your allowance and liking, all
the world shall never make me entangle or tie myself. But now, by my
father's especial commandment, I obey him in presenting to you my
humble duty in a tedious letter, which is to know your Ladyship's
pleasure, not as a thing I desire: but I resolve to be wholly ruled by
my father and yourself, knowing your judgments to be such that I may
well rely upon, and hoping that conscience and the natural affection
parents bear to children will let you do nothing but for my good, and
that you may receive comfort, I being a mere child and not
understanding the world nor what is good for myself. That which makes
me a little give way to it is, that I hope it will be a means to
procure a reconciliation between my father and your Ladyship. Also I
think it will be a means of the King's favour to my father. Himself
[Sir John Villiers] is not to be misliked: his fortune is very good, a
gentleman well born.... So I humbly take my leave, praying that all
things may be to every one's contentment.

          "'Your Ladyship's most obedient
                "'and humble daughter for ever,
                "'FRANCES COKE.

"'Dear Mother believe there has no violent means been used to me by
words or deeds.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

This, as Campbell says, has every appearance of being a letter copied
from one written by her father. There is also reason for believing
that Coke added the postscript for a very special purpose; for the
question arises how Frances, who is admitted on all sides to have
hated Sir John Villiers, could have been induced to copy and to sign
this letter. Was she literally forced to do so? There happens to be an
answer to that question.

          "_Notes of the Villiers Family._[33]

"_N.B. I.B.N._ have heard it from a noble Peer, a near relation of the
Danvers family, and Mr. Villiers, Brother to the person who now claims
the Earldom of Buckingham, as his Brother assumed the Title, that the
Lady Frances Viscountess Purbeck was tyed to the Bed-Poste and
severely whipped into consent to marry with the Duke of Buckingham's
Brother, Sir John Villiers, A° 1617, who was 2 years after created
Viscount Purbeck."

This was written after the death of Frances, but it has been accepted
as true, and that may well be. It is difficult in our days to believe
that a young lady could be put to physical torture by her father,
until she consented to marry a man whom she loathed; but the parental
ethics of those times were very different from those of our own. A man
like Coke would have no difficulty in persuading himself that a
marriage with Sir John Villiers would be for his daughter's welfare,
and, consequently, that a whipping to bring that marriage about would
also be for her welfare.

Coke had often waited for the confessions of men who were in
frightful agony on the rack, in the dungeons of the Tower; so it must
have been a mere trifle to him to await his daughter's consent to a
marriage which she detested, while he whipped her, or watched her
being whipped, reflecting upon the luxury of the bed-post in
comparison with the agony of the rack, flattering himself that he was
acting in obedience to Holy Scripture, and piously meditating upon the
gratification he must be giving to the soul of Solomon by this
exercise of domestic discipline. But a reader may well wonder whether
the old brute considered for a moment the worthlessness of a form of
marriage obtained by torture, or the fact that such a so-called
marriage could be annulled without difficulty.

Lady Elizabeth, perceiving that her only chance left of winning the
game was to over-trump her husband, and recognising that her only hope
of freedom and prosperity was by consenting to the wishes of
Buckingham and James, wrote to the King himself, to say that she would
agree to the marriage and would settle her property on her daughter
and Sir John Villiers.

Eventually, "The marriage settlement," says Campbell, "was drawn under
the King's own superintendence, that both father and mother might be
compelled to do justice to Sir John Villiers and his bride; and on
Michaelmas Day the marriage was actually celebrated at Hampton Court
Palace, in the presence of the King and Queen and all the chief
nobility of England. Strange to say, Lady Hatton still remained in
confinement, while Sir Edward Coke, in nine coaches,"--one man in nine
coaches!--"brought his daughter and his friends to the palace, from his
son's at Kingston-Townsend. The banquet was most splendid: a masque was
performed in the evening; the stocking was thrown with all due spirit:
and the bride and bride-groom, according to long established fashion,
received the company at their couchée."

In a footnote to _The Secret History of James I._, Vol. I., p.
444,[34] we read:

"The Scottish historian, Johnstone, says that Purbeck's marriage was
celebrated amid the gratulation of the fawning courtiers, but stained
by the tears of the reluctant bride, who was a sacrifice to her
father's ambition of the alliance with Buckingham's family."

Here is another account of the wedding, in a letter[35] from Sir
Gerard Herbert to Carleton:--

"Maie it please yor. Lordshippe.

" ... I know not any news to write yor. Lo: other than the marriadge
of Sir John Villiers with my Lord Coke's youngest daughter, on Monday
last, beynge Michailmas day at Hampton Courte when King Queen and
prince were present in the chappell to see them married. My Lord Coke
gave his daughter to the Kinge (with some words of complement at the
givinge). The King gave her Sir John Villiers. The prince sate with
her to grand dynner and supper so to many Lordes and Ladies, my Lord
Canterbury, my Lord Treasurer, my Lord Chamberlayne, etc. The King
dynner and supper droncke healthe to the bride, the bridgegroome stood
behinde the bride; the dynner and supper. The Bride and Bridegroome
lay next day a bedd till past 12 a clocke, for the Kinge sent worde he
wold come to see them, therefore wold they not rise. My Lord Coke
looked with a merrie Countenance and sate at the dynner and supper,
but my Lady Hatton was not at the weddinge, but is still at Alderman
Bennettes prisonere. The King sent for her to the weddinge, but (she)
desired to be excused, sayinge she was sicke. My Lord of Buckingham,
mother, brethren, there soynes, and his sisters weare throughout day
at Court, my Lord Cooke's sonnes and there soynes, but I saw never a
Cecill. The Sonday my Lord Coke was restored to his place of
counsellor as before....

        "Yo: Lo: in all service to commande
          "(Signed) GERRARD HERBERT.

"LONDON, this
    "_6 Oct._"

Lady Elizabeth would not submit to being let out of prison, just for
the day, in order to witness the wedding, which was to a large extent
a triumph for her husband. She meant, on the contrary, to have a
triumph on her own account. Her intention was that one of those who
had had a hand in putting her into prison--a prison which in fact was
a comfortable house--should come to take her out of it; and she was
determined to be escorted from her place of punishment, not as a
repentant criminal, but as a conquering heroine.

In a letter to Carleton[36] Chamberlain says:--

"The King coming to towne yesterday it was told me that the Earle of
Buck, meant to go himself and fetch 'Lady Elizabeth' as yt were in
pomp Fr. William corner (where she hath ben so long committed), and
bring her to the King, who upon a letter of her submission is
graciously affected towards her. ... Seeing her yielding and as it
were won to geve her allowance to the late marriage," the King will
"give her all the contentment and countenance he can in hope of the
great portion she may bestow upon" Buckingham's brother, Sir John
Villiers; "for there is little or nothing more to be looked for from
Sr. Ed. Cooke, who hath redemed the land he had allotted his daughter
for 20,000£ so that they have already had 30,000£ of him paide
down.... She layes all the fault of her late troubles upon the
deceased secretarie," Winwood, "who not long since telling her brother
that for all her bitter speeches they two [Lady Elizabeth and her
husband] shold become goode frends again. She protested she wold
sooner be frends with the Devill."

Lady Elizabeth was so much in the King's good graces that aspirants
for office tried to win her influence with James and Buckingham in
their favour. Chamberlain, in the letter quoted above, expresses the
wish that she might endeavour to obtain for Carleton the post of
Secretary of State, which had just then fallen vacant through the
death of Winwood. In a letter[37] written a fortnight later, however,
Chamberlain says:--

"Your father Savile is gon into Kent to his daughter Salley, the day
before his goings I met him and wisht him to applie the Lady Hatton,
whom he had alredy visited but moved her in nothing because the time
was not fit but she meant to do yt before he went. Some whisper that
she is alredy ingaged and meanes to employ her full force strength and
vertue for the L. Hawton or Hollis, who is become her prime privie
Counsailor and doth by all meanes interest and combine her with the
Lady of Suffolke and that house. A man whom Sir Edward Cooke can no
wayes indure, and from whose company he wold faine but cannot debarre
her." Obviously a very sufficient reason for liking him and espousing his
cause.

Lady Elizabeth had fairly outwitted her husband; but, as will
presently be seen, she had not yet quite done with him. Another
account of her liberation is to be found in _Strafford's Letters and
Despatches_:--[38]

"The expectancy of Sir Edward's rising is much abated by reason of his
lady's liberty, who was brought in great honour to Exeter House by my
Lord of Buckingham, from Sir William Craven's, whither she had been
remanded, presented by his Lordship to the King, received gracious
usage, reconciled to her daughter by his Majesty, and her house in
Holborn enlightened by his presence at dinner, where there was a royal
feast: and to make it more absolutely her own, express commandment
given by her Ladyship that neither Sir Edward Coke nor any of his
servants should be admitted."

Here is another account[39] of the same banquet, as well as of one
given in return by Buckingham's mother, who was still hoping that Lady
Elizabeth would increase Sir John Villiers' allowance:--

"The Lady Hatton's feast was very magnificall and the King graced her
every way, and made foure of her creatures knights.... This weeke on
wensday [Lady Compton] made a great feast to the Lady Hatton, and much
court there is between them, but for ought I can heare the Lady Hatton
holdes her handes and gives not" (The original is much torn and
damaged here) "out of her milke so fouly [fully] as was expected which
in due time may turn the matter about againe.... There were some
errors at the Lady Hatton's feast (yf it were not of purpose) that the
L. Chamberlain and the L. of Arundell were not invited but went away
to theyre owne dinner and came backe to wait on the King and Prince:
but the greatest error was that the goodman of the house was neither
invited nor spoken of but dined that day at the Temple." Camden's
account of this dinner (Ed. 1719, Vol. II., p. 648), although very
abrupt, is to the point: "The wife of Sir Ed. Coke _quondam_ Lord
Chief Justice, entertained the King, Buckingham, and the rest of the
Peers, at a splendid dinner, and not inviting her husband."

In a letter to Carlton[40] John Pory said of this dinner: "My Lo. Coke
only was absent, who in all vulgar opinions was there expected. His
Majesty was never merrier nor more satisfied, who had not patience to
sit a quarter of an hour without drinking the health of my Lady
Elizabeth Hatton, which was pledged first by my Lord Keeper [Bacon]
and my Lord Marquis Hamilton, and then by all the gallants in the next
room."

This exclusion from her party was a direct and a very public insult to
Coke on the part of his wife, and, through consent, on that of the
King also. All Coke had gained by his daughter's marriage with Sir
John Villiers was restoration to the Privy Council. As he had made up
his mind to take his daughter to market, he should have made certain
of his bargain. This he failed to do. As has been shown, he promised
£10,000 down with her and £1,000 a year. This Buckingham did not
consider enough; but Coke refused to promise more, declaring that he
would not buy the King's favour too dear. In a letter to Carleton,
Chamberlain says that, if he had not "stuck" at this, Coke might have
been Lord Chancellor. As it was, he incurred the whole odium of having
sold his daughter, while his wife, who had gained the credit of
protesting against that atrocious bargain, quietly pocketed its price
in the coin of royal favour. Lady Elizabeth not only embroiled her own
family, but also brought discord about her affairs into the family of
another, as may be inferred from the following letter:--[41]

    "Elizabeth, Lady Hatton, to Carleton.
"MY LORDE,

"I understande by your letter the quarrell of unkindness betweene
yourself and your wife, but having considered the cause of the
difference to proceed only from your loving respect shewne towards me,
I hope that my thankfulle acknowledgements will be sufficient
reconcilement to give you both proceedings for the continuance of your
wonted goode wille and affectione ... even though I understande by
your letter you thinke women to be capable of little else but
compliments. Wherefore to express a gracious courtesie for your
kindness as in the few wordes I am willing to utter you may assure
yourselfe yt my desire is to remayne

                            "Your assured loving Frend
                               "(Signed) ELIZA HATTON.

"HATTON HOUSE
"_20th March 1618._"

One naturally wonders whether, if Carleton showed this letter to his
wife, it would tend to heal "the quarrell of unkindness" between them,
or to make it worse. Which effect was intended by the writer of the
letter is pretty evident. This little epistle might have been written
by Becky Sharpe.

FOOTNOTES:

[32] _Coles' MSS._, Vol. XXXIII. p. 17.

[33] _Coles' MSS._, Vol. XXXIII., p. 17. (Brit. Museum MSS. No. 5834.)

[34] Longmans & Co., 1811.

[35] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIII., No. 114, 6th October, 1617.

[36] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIII., No. 158, 31st Oct., 1617.

[37] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIV., 15th November, 1617.

[38] Vol. I., p. 5.

[39] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCIV., No. 30, 15th November, 1617.
Chamberlain to Carleton.

[40] _S.P._, XCIV., No. 15.

[41] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. XCVI., No. 69.



CHAPTER VII.

  "What is wedlock forced, but a hell? "--_Henry VI._, I., v., 5.


Little is recorded of the early married life of Sir John and Lady
Villiers. Before it began they had both been mere pawns in the game,
and pawns they remained for a good many years afterwards. If before
her marriage the career of Lady Villiers had lain in the hands of her
father and her mother; after her marriage it was, for a time, in the
hands of her brother-in-law, Buckingham, as the career of Sir John
always had been and continued to be during the life of Buckingham.

In the _Secret History of James I_.[42] we read concerning Buckingham:
"But I must tell you what got him most hatred, to raise brothers and
brothers-in-law to the highest ranks of nobility, which were not
capable of the place of scarce a justice of the peace; only his
brother, Purbeck, had more wit and honesty than all the kindred beside
and did keep him in some bounds of honesty and modesty, whilst he
lived about him, & would speake plaine English to him." If this be
true, there must have been some good in Sir John; but Buckingham was
impervious to his advice and treated him just as he pleased. It is
possible, again, that Lady Villiers, without having any of the
affection which a wife ought to have for a husband, may have had a
sort of respect for him as a man of probity, much older than herself,
who treated her well and even kindly.

George Villiers, a mushroom-grown Duke himself, having made the King
create his mother Countess of Buckingham, bethought him of his eldest
brother and determined to make him a peer. And not only that. He also
conceived the idea of squeezing some more money out of his brother's
mother-in-law for him, by offering her a peerage, for the cash thus
obtained. It was suggested to her that she might be made Countess of
Westmorland; but "she refused to buy the title at the price
demanded."[43] Indeed, Lady Elizabeth was ready to fight anybody and
everybody. On the one hand, she resisted the attempts of the almighty
Buckingham to bleed her still further for Sir John Villiers, and, on
the other, she wrote to the King concerning her husband: "I find how
desirous he is to rubb up anie thing to make ill bloode betwixt my
sonne Villiers & myselfe."[44] Meanwhile she prosecuted her husband in
the Star Chamber. Mr. Brant wrote to Carleton: "... The Ladie Hatton
prevayleth exceedingly against her husband and hath driven him into a
numnesse of on side, which is a forerunner of ye dead palsie, though
now he be somewhat recovured."

In May, 1619, Lady Elizabeth was informed that, if she would give that
isle, no longer an island, the Isle of Purbeck, which was her
property, to her son-in-law, she should be made Countess of Purbeck
and he Viscount Purbeck; but she refused to exchange good land for an
empty name. However, in July, Sir John Villiers was created Baron
Villiers of Stoke (Stoke Pogis) and Viscount Purbeck. This heaping up
of peerages in the Villiers family, in addition to the number of
valuable posts, and especially high ecclesiastical posts, obtained by
Buckingham for his friends, or for anybody who would bribe him heavily
enough to obtain them, led to much murmuring and ill-feeling among
those whom he did not thus favour, and greatly irritated the populace.
There was no apparent reason why Sir John Villiers should be ennobled,
and his peerages were looked upon as a glaring piece of jobbery.

The Court also, at this time, was becoming unpopular. Buckingham was
filling it with licentious gallants and with ladies of a type to match
them. At Whitehall, there was a constant round of dissipation and
libertinism. Besides the very free and easy balls, masques and
banquets, there were what were called "quaint conceits" of more than
doubtful decency, and there was much buffoonery of a very low type. In
the _Secret History of the Court of James I._ it is recorded that, at
this time, namely, about 1618 or 1619, there were "none great with
Buckingham but bawds and parasites, and such as humoured him in his
unchaste pleasures; so that since his first being a pretty, harmless,
affable gentleman, he grew insolent, cruel, and a monster not to be
endured."

Lord Purbeck held the appointment of Master of the Robes to Prince
Charles, and he seems to have lived in the palace of the Prince; for,
even as late as 1625, we read of Lady Purbeck remaining in "the
Prinses house."[45] In 1620 Chamberlain wrote to Carleton[46] that
when Buckingham was overpressed by business, he handed over suitors to
his brother Purbeck. On the 18th of January, 1620, a letter[47] of
Nethersole's states that Purbeck had resigned his post of Master of
the Robes, in order to become Master of the Horse to the Prince.

At some date between that of his marriage in the year 1617 and 1622,
Purbeck was received into the Catholic Church, by Father Percy, alias
Fisher, a Jesuit. This step does not appear in any way to have
affected his position at Court. In a manuscript in the library of the
large Jesuit College of Stonyhurst,[48] in Lancashire, it is stated
that "the Viscount de Purbeck (sic) brother of the Marquis of
Buckingham, having been converted to the Catholic faith and
reconciled to the Holy Church, by Father John Persens, S.J., betook
himself to the Countess, his mother, and gave her so good an account
of the said Father, and of the consolation he had received of him,
that she greatly desired to speak to him, and sending him to call the
Father, she heard him discourse fully of the Catholic faith, &c."

In _Laud's Diary_ there is an entry: "1622, April 23. Being the
Tuesday in Easter week, the King sent for me & set me into a course
about the countess of Buckingham, who about that time was wavering in
point of religion." And again: "May 24. The conference[49] between Mr.
Fisher [Percy] a Jesuit, & myself, before the lord Marquis of
Buckingham, & the countess, his mother."

There are people who are of opinion that for a Protestant to become a
Catholic is an almost certain proof of madness; and such will rejoice
to hear that, some time after Lord Purbeck had been received into the
Catholic Church, he either showed, or is reputed to have shown, signs
of lunacy.

Some authorities doubt whether Purbeck was ever out of his mind; but
on the whole the weight of evidence is against them. Yet there are
some rather unaccountable incidents in their favour. Again, when
anybody is reputed to be mad, exaggerated stories of his doings are
very likely to be spread about. Even in these days of advanced medical
science, it is sometimes difficult to decide whether a patient is
insane or not, and it is quite possible to suffer from very severe
fits of depression without being the subject of maniacal melancholia,
or from very violent fits of passion without being a madman.

There is just a possibility, too, that Buckingham may have wished to
keep his brother quiet, or to get him out of the way, because that
brother "would speake plaine English to him" about his licentious
conduct and other matters, as we have already read. When a friend or a
relative tells a man that he is behaving scandalously, the recipient
of the information is apt to say that his informer is "cracked."

The earliest hint of Lord Purbeck's insanity was given in 1620. "The
Lord Viscount Purbeck went abroad in the latter end of May 1620, under
colour of drinking the waters of Spaw, but in fact, as Camden tells
us, to hide his being run mad with pride."[50] The strongest evidence
of anything like actual madness is in a letter[51] from Chamberlain to
Carleton, written on 8th June, 1622. It may, however, be mere gossip.
"The Lord of Purbecke is out of order likewise, for this day
feurtnight getting into a roome next the street in Wallingford house,
he beat down the glasse windowes with his bare fists and all bloudied
&c." If this be true, may it not be possible that he was trying to
break his way out of a room in which Buckingham had locked him up on
the pretence that he was insane? Of Wallingford House the same
correspondent says in another letter: "Buckingham has bought Lord
Wallingford's house at Whitehall, by paying some money[52] making Sir
Thomas Howard, Visct. Andover, and some say, releasing the Earl and
Countess of Somerset."

In August, 1623, the Duchess of Buckingham--this would be Buckingham's
wife and not his mother, the Countess of Buckingham--wrote to
Conway:--

"SIR,[53]

"My sister and myselfe have seene a letter writt from you to Sir John
Keyesley concerning my Brother Purbeck, by his ma^ties command and
doubt not but his ma^tie hath bin informed with the most of his
distemper. Wee have bin with him the moste parte of this weeke at
London, and have found him very temperate by which wee thinke hee is
inclining towards his melancholye fitt, which if hee were in, then hee
might be perswaded any wayes, which at this instant hee will not, he
standeth so affected to the cittee and if there should be any violent
course taken with him, wee thinke he would be much the worse, for it,
and drive him quite besides himselfe. Therefore wee hould it best to
intreat Sir John Keysley and som other of his friends to beare him
companie in London and kepe him as private as they can for three or
four dayes till his dull fitt be upon him, and then hee may bee had
any whither. This in our judgment is the fittest course at this
present to be taken with him which we desire you will be pleased to
let his Ma^ty. knowe and I shall rest.

          "Your assured loving friend,
                   "(Signed) K. BUCKINGHAM."

From this it would appear either that when Purbeck was in one of his
"melancholye fitts," he was quite tractable, but, at other times, he
was rather unmanageable; or that, when well, he refused to be ordered
about, but when ill, was too poorly to make any resistance. Conway[54]
replied as follows:--

"MOST GRATIOUS,

"I have represented to his Ma^tie. your Letter, and he doth gratiously
observe those sweete and tender motions which rise in your minde,
suitable with your noble, gentle and milde disposition, in which you
excell your sex: especially where force or restraint should be done to
the brother of youre deare Lorde.

"And I cannot expresse soe finely as his Ma^tie. did, how much he
priseth and loveth that blessed sweetness in you, and you in it. But I
must tell your Grace his Ma^tie. prays you, not to thinke it a little
distemper which carryed him to those publique actes, and publique
places, and to consider how irremediable it is, when his intemperance
hath carryed him to do some act of dishonour to himselfe, which may,
and must, reflect upon his most noble Brother, beyond the follies and
disprofits which he dayly practiseth. And that your Grace will not
only bee to suffer some sure course to bee taken for the conveying of
him into the country, but that you will advise it and assist it with
the most gentle (yet sure) wayes possible. That he may be restrayned
from the power and possibility of doing such acts as may scorne him,
or be dangerous to him: which these wayes of acting can never provide
for. For his Ma^tie. sayeth there cannot bee soe much as 'whoe would
have thought it,' which is the fooles answere, left for an error in
this: for whoe would not thinke that a distempered minde may doe the
worst to be done. His Ma^tie. therefore once more prayes you that his
former directions to Sir John Ersley may bee put in execution and the
safest and surest for the goode of the unfortunate noble person, and
honor of youre deare Lorde, his Ma^ties. dearest servant.

"This is that I have in charge. My faith and duty calls for this
profession that noe man is more bound to study and endeavour the
preservation of the honor and good of those that have interest in my
noble patron than myselfe: nor noe man more bound and more ready to
obey your commandments than

          "Your Grace's most humble servant.

"ALDERSHOT. 30 August 1623."

The chief object aimed at by Conway and, as will be seen presently, by
the King, was to prevent any scandal or gossip about Purbeck's
behaviour injuring "his Ma^ties. dearest servant," Buckingham.
Purbeck's personal interests evidently counted for very little, if for
anything.

FOOTNOTES:

[42] P. 444

[43] Woolrych's _Life of Sir Ed. Coke_, p. 150. His authority for this
statement is Camden, Ann. Jac., p. 45.

[44] Letter quoted by Woolrych.

[45] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIII., No. 52.

[46] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CXII., No. 1.

[47] _S.P. Dom._, James I., No. 18.

[48] Stonyhurst MSS., _Angliæ_, Vol. VII. And _Records of the English
Province of the Society of Jesus_, Series I., p. 532.

[49] At a subsequent conference King James was present (_Diary of the
English College at Rome. The names of the Alumni,_ No. 181). Also
_Records of the English Province of the S.J.,_ Series I., p. 533. The
Countess of Buckingham subsequently became a Catholic, and her son,
the Duke, obtained leave from the King for Father Percy to "live on
parole in her house," which became his home in London for ten years
(_Ibid._, p. 531).

[50] _Biog. Brit_., notice of Sir E. Coke. Footnote.

[51] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CXXXI, No. 24.

[52] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CXXVII., No. 35. Chamberlain to
Carleton, 19th January, 1622. James I., 1619-23, p. 337. The price
paid is said to have been £3,000. See Gardiner, Vol. IV., Chap. XL.,
p. 279. Lord Wallingford was made Earl of Banbury, and the subsequent
claim to this title became as curious as that to the title of Purbeck,
which will be shown later.

[53] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLI., No. 86.

[54] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLI., No. 87, 30th August, 1623.



CHAPTER VIII.

          " ... wed to one half lunatic."
                     _Taming of the Shrew_, II., I.


Poor Purbeck seems to have had many amateur keepers. The King gave
orders to a Sir John Hippisley to remove him from the Court, in
September, 1623; and on the and Sir John wrote to Conway:--[55]

"NOBLE SIR,

"I have received the King's command and your directions in your
letters to bring my Lord of Purbecke out of London which I have done
and have made no noise of it and have done all I could to give no
scandal to the Duke or Viscount: He is now at Hampton Court, but is
not willing to go any further till the king send express commande that
he shall not staye here.

"Sir I have obeyed all the King's commandes and that without any
scandal to the Duke,"--always the point of main importance--"now my
humble request to you is that I may be free from entering any farther
in this business and that I may come and kiss his Maj^tes hand for now
I am fit.... There is one Mr. Aimes that knoweth my Lord of Purbecke
and fitte to be employed by rate he hath power to persuade him. I
beseech you grant me fair of this and you shall have it me

"To be your faithfull servant ever to be commanded

                            "(Signed) JO: HIPPISLEY.

"HAMPTON COURT
  "this 2 of _September_."

From this it is very clear that Hippisley did not want to have
anything more to do with a disagreeable business; and the question
presents itself whether it was because he disliked acting as keeper to
a lunatic, or because he did not think Purbeck so mad as was
pretended, if mad at all, and objected to having a hand in a shady
transaction.

In the same month, the King wrote himself to Purbeck.[56] The letter
is almost illegible; but its purport appears to be to urge Lord
Purbeck, out of consideration for Buckingham, as well as for his own
good, to go to, and to stay at, whatever place might be appointed for
him by the Earl of Middlesex.

During the summer of the following year (1624), Purbeck seems to have
recovered his sanity; but only for a time, although a considerable
time. Chamberlain wrote[57] to Carleton:--

"MY VERY SWEETE LORD:

" ... The Viscount Purbecke followed the court a good while in very
goode temper, and there was speech of making him a marquis that he
might go before his younger brother but I heare of late he is fallen
backe to his old craise and worse....

          "Yo^r Lo^ps most assuredly
                      "at command,

               "(Signed) JOHN CHAMBERLAIN."

This shows that, if Purbeck was insane, his insanity was intermittent;
and it could not have been chronic; for in later years we read that he
was managing his own affairs and that he married again, some time
after the death of Frances.

From the following letter, written by Lady Purbeck to Buckingham, and
unfortunately undated, it would seem that Buckingham had driven her
from her home, when she had become the subject of a certain amount of
vague scandal, but, so far as was then known, or at least proved, of
nothing more; and that he had contrived that she should have none of
the wealth which she had brought to her husband. As will be seen, she
was apparently penniless, except for what she received from her mother
or her friends.

"My Lord[58]:--Though you may judge what pleasure there is in the
conversation of a man in the distemper you see your brother in; yet,
the duty I owe to a Husband, and the affection I bear him (which
sickness shall not diminish) makes me much desire to be with him, to
add what comfort I can to his afflicted mind, since his only desire is
my company; which, if it please you to satisfy him in, I shall with a
very good will suffer with him, and think all but my duty, though I
think every wife would not do so. But if you can so far dispense with
the laws of God as to keep me from my Husband, yet aggravate it not by
restraining me from his means, and all other contentments; but, which
I think is rather the part of a Christian, you especially ought much
rather to study comforts for me, than to add ills to ills, since it is
the marriage of your brother makes me thus miserable. For if you
please but to consider, not only the lamentable estate I am in,
deprived of all comforts of a Husband, and having no means to live of;
besides falling from the hopes my fortune then did promise me; for you
know very well, I came no beggar to you, though I am like so to be
turn'd off.

"For your own honour and conscience sake, take some course to give me
satisfaction, to tye my tongue from crying to God and the world for
vengeance, for the unwilling dealing I have received, and think not to
send me again to my Mother's, where I have stayed this quarter of a
year, hoping (for that Mother said you promised) order should be taken
for me; but I never received a penny from you. Her confidence in your
nobleness made me so long silent; but now, believe me, I will sooner
beg my bread in the streets, to all your dishonours, than any more
trouble my friends, and especially my Mother, who was not only content
to afford us part of the little means she hath left her, but whilst I
was with her, was continually distempered with devised Tales which
came from your Family,"--this refers to certain scandalous stories
about her own conduct--and withal lost your good opinion, which before
she either had, or you made shew of it; but had it been real, I can
not think her words would have been so translated, nor in the power of
discontented servants' tales to have ended it.

"My Lord, if the great Honour you are in can suffer you to have so
mean a thought as of so miserable a creature as I am so made by too
much credulity of your fair promises, which I have waited for
performance of almost these five years: and now it were time to
despair, but that I hope you will one day be yourself, and be governed
by your own noble thoughts, and then I am assured to obtain what I
desire, since my desires be so reasonable, and but for mine own, which
whether you grant or not, the affliction my poor husband is in (if it
continue) will keep my mind in a continual purgatory for him, and will
suffer me to sign myself no other but your unfortunate sister

                                        "F. PURBECK."

This letter may be taken as evidence of Purbeck's lunacy. On the other
hand it might possibly, if not plausibly, be argued that it may only
mean that he was in a very bad state of bodily health accompanied by
great mental depression. Some readers of these pages may have
experienced the capabilities of a liver in lowering the spirits.

As Lady Purbeck says, her mother had now "lost the good opinion" of
Buckingham, and undoubtedly this was because she had refused to
increase his brother's allowance. So early as 28th November, 1618,
John Pary wrote to Carleton,[59] regretting that he had not applied to
Lady Bedford to use her influence in order to obtain a certain
appointment, instead of applying to Lady Elizabeth, who had fallen out
with Buckingham, and now had no influence whatever with him.

Lady Elizabeth, therefore, after having risen by her own skill to be
one of the most influential women in England--perhaps the most
influential--and that in the face of enormous difficulties, was
beginning to fall from her high estate. And besides the bitter
disappointment of the loss of influence and of royal smiles, a
grievous and humiliating family sorrow was in store for her.

These pages do not constitute a brief on behalf of Lady Purbeck. It is
desired that they should do her justice--full justice; but too little
is recorded of her personal character to permit any attempt to portray
it in detail, or even to make a bold sketch of its principal features.
Of her circumstances it is much easier to write with confidence. We
have already learned much about them. We have seen that she was
brought up in an atmosphere of perpetual domestic discord, ending in a
physical struggle between her father and her mother for the possession
of her person: that she was afterwards flogged until she consented to
make a marriage contract with a man much older than herself, whom she
disliked intensely--a form of marriage which was no marriage, as her
will for it was wanting and she was literally forced into it, if any
girl was ever forced into a marriage.

An old husband hateful to a young wife would become yet more
unattractive if he became insane, or eccentric, or even an irritable
invalid. Then his change of religion would most likely annoy her
extremely. Whether a husband leaves his wife's religion for a better
or a worse religion, it is equally distasteful to her.

Her condition would be made still further miserable when she was
turned out of her own home, and practically robbed of her own
possessions, luxuries and comforts. From what we have seen of her
mother, it is difficult to believe that she was a tenderhearted woman,
to whom a daughter would go for consolation in her affliction: nor
could that daughter place much confidence in a mother who had once
deceived her with a forged letter. To her father, who had treated her
with great brutality and had sold her just as he might have sold a
beast among his farm stock, she would be still less likely to turn for
comfort or for counsel. Add to all this that, as the wife of an
official in Prince Charles's household, and as the sister-in-law of
the reigning favourite, she was a good deal at the Court of James I.
at a time when it was one of the most dissolute in Europe; and it
will be easy to recognise that her whole life had been spent in
unwholesome atmospheres.

When we consider the position of a very beautiful girl of between
twenty-one and twenty-four, who had had such an education, had endured
such villainous treatment, and was now placed under such trying
conditions, we can but feel prepared to hear that some or other of the
usual results of bad education, bad treatment, and bad surroundings
exhibited themselves, and surely if trouble, and worse than trouble,
was ever likely to come of a marriage that had been an empty form,
Lady Purbeck's was one after which it might be expected.

And it came! Near Cripple Gate, at the North Wall of London, in
October, 1624, was born a boy named Robert Wright. More than a century
later the Vicar of the Parish was asked to refer to his registers
about this event, and he sent the following reply:--[60]

                              "London, _April 10 1740._

SIR,

"I have searched my Parish Register according to your directions and
have found the following Entry concerning Robert Wright.


          "Christening in October 1624.

"Robert, Son of John Wright, Gentleman, of Bishopthorpe in Yorkshire,
baptised in the Garden House of Mr. Manninge at the upper end of
White Cross Street ... 20th.

      "I am, Sir,
          "Your very humble servant,
                    "WILL NICHOLLS,
          "Vicar of St. Giles's Cripplegate."

The father of this boy was, in reality, Sir Robert Howard, the fifth
son of the Earl of Suffolk, the Earl to whose vigilance the discovery
of the Gunpowder Plot is attributed by some authorities. But Suffolk
had incurred the enmity of Buckingham, had been deprived of the office
of Lord Treasurer, had been tried for peculation in the discharge of
it, and then condemned in the Star Chamber to imprisonment in the
Tower and a fine of £30,000. When he was liberated, he was told that
two of his sons, who held places in the King's household, were
expected to resign them; but Suffolk, in very spirited letters to the
King and to Buckingham (_Cabala_, pp. 333, 334), protested against
this. The whole family, therefore, was in bad odour at Court and with
Buckingham at this time.

Sir Robert Howard was a brother of the first Earl of Berkshire, who
married a niece of Lady Elizabeth Hatton. It may possibly have been
through this connection by marriage that Sir Robert Howard became
acquainted and intimate with Lady Purbeck; and, to make a long story
short, let it be observed here that, in relation to the boy who was
christened Robert Wright, Lady Purbeck had had what, among the lower
classes, is euphemistically termed "a misfortune."

FOOTNOTES:

[55] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLIII., No. 6.

[56] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLII, No. 13.

[57] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXX., No. 54, 24th July, 1624.

[58] _Cabala, Sive Scrinia Sacra_, etc., p. 318.

[59] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CIII., No. 111.

[60] _Coles' MSS._, Vol. XXXIII., pp. 17, 18.



CHAPTER IX.

      "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."
                                   _Henry VI._, 2, IV., 2.


Although Robert Wright was baptised in October, 1624, the date of his
birth is uncertain. He may have been born many months before his
baptism; but his being christened at a private house rather points the
other way. Anyhow, proceedings were instituted against Sir Robert
Howard and Lady Purbeck, long before the child was christened. In _The
Diary of Archbishop Laud_ occurs the following entry for the year
1624:--

"_Januar. 21. Friday._ The business of my _Lord Purbeck_, made known
unto me by my Lord Duke." This business of my Lord Purbeck may refer
exclusively to his insanity, or reputed insanity; but it seems more
probable that it has reference to the Howard-Purbeck scandal.

A letter[61] from the Lord Keeper, Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, to
Buckingham, and written on 11th March, 1624, shows that the
proceedings against Sir Robert Howard and Lady Purbeck were in full
swing at that date.

"May it please your Grace,

"Sir Robert Howard appeared yesterday, and continues obstinate in his
refusal to swear. When we came to examine the Commission for our Power
to fine him for his Obstinacy, we found, that Sir Edward Coke
(foreseeing, out of a prophetical Spirit, how near it might concern a
Grand-Child of his own), hath expunged this Clause (by the Help of the
Earl of Salisbury) out of the Commission, and left us nothing but the
rusty Sword of the Church, Excommunication, to vindicate the Authority
of this Court. We have given him day until Saturday next, either to
conform, or to be excommunicated. She hath answered wittily, and
cunningly, but yet sufficient for the Cognisance of the Court:
Confesseth a Fame of Incontinence against her and Howard; but saith,
it was raised by her Husband's Kindred. I do not doubt, but the
Business will go on well; but (peradventure) more slowly, if Howard
continue refractory, for want of this power to fine and amerce him."

That Lady Purbeck "answered wittily," or, as would now be said,
"cleverly" in court, is not to be wondered at; for was she not the
daughter of a father who had been the cleverest barrister of his day,
and of a mother who was more than a match for that cleverest of
barristers?

A couple of days later the same correspondent wrote[62] to the Duke:
"For your Brother's Business, this is all I have to acquaint your
Grace with: Sir Robert Howard appeared, yesterday, at Lambeth,
pretended want of Council (the Doctors being out of Town) desired
respite until to-morrow, and had it granted by my Lord's Grace. Most
men think he will not take his Oath at all; I do incline to the
contrary Opinion, because, to my knowledge, he hath sent far and near,
for the most able Doctors in the Kingdom, to be feed for him, which
were great folly, if he intended not to answer. He is extreamly
commended for his closeness and secrecy by the major part of our
Auditors (the He and She Good-fellows of the Town,) and though he
refuseth to be a Confessor, yet he is sure to dye a Martyr, and most
of the Ladies in Town will worship at his Shrine. The Lady Hatton,
some nine days since was at Stoke, with the good Knight her Husband,
for some counsel in this particular; but he refused to meddle
therewithal, and dismist her Ladiship, when she had stayed with him
very lovingly half a quarter of an hour."

There had been some sort of reconciliation between Coke and Lady
Elizabeth in July, 1621, says Woolrych in his life of Coke, "a
reconciliation effected through the mediation of the King." It was
not, however, cordial; for "we have good reason to suppose that they
lived apart to the day of Coke's death," says Campbell. At any rate
they were now on speaking terms, though that was about all; for, as we
have just seen, Coke refused to meddle in a matter upon which he was
eminently qualified to give an opinion, and he got rid of his wife
after an interview of seven minutes and a half, instead of giving her
the leisurely and lengthy advice and instructions which were the least
that she might have expected from him. Sympathy, of course, she could
not have hoped for.

The proceedings against the two delinquents would appear to have been
in abeyance during the rest of the year; but in January, 1625, Sir
John Coke--the Secretary of State, not one of the Cokes of Sir
Edward's family--wrote[63] to Buckingham, saying that the King,
although so ill as scarcely to be able to sign his name, had put it to
the warrant sent by the Lord Chief Justice for authority to examine
into Lady Purbeck's business. This warrant, however, James either
issued with certain qualifications, or else privately advised
Buckingham only to act upon with prudence, as may be inferred from the
following letter,[64] written on February the 11th, by Buckingham to
the Lord Chief Justice:--

"I have moved the P. for a warrant from his ma^tie for the commitment
of Sir Ro. Howard and my sister Purbeck, but his ma^tie hath out of
his gracious and provident care of me dissuaded me in this lest upon
it coming to a publique hearing it might be thought that I had gained
power more by the way of favour than by the wayes of justice.... I
desire you to acquaint this bearer Mr. Innocent Lanier all the
particulars of this matter for I know him to be very honest, and
discreete and secret." The part of the letter immediately following is
illegible, but presently it goes on to say that Lanier[65] is much
trusted by his brother Purbeck; that Lanier will not otherwise be able
to keep his brother with him; and that, if he leaves, Sir Robert and
Lady Purbeck "by their crafty insinuations will draw from him speeches
to their advantage."

Now, if Purbeck were still insane, or anything near it, no "speeches
drawn from him" could have had any effect for the advantage of Lady
Purbeck and Sir Robert. And it is clear from this letter that Lady
Purbeck was even at that time on good terms with her husband and able
to influence him. A reader might have been tempted to imagine that
Purbeck's "melancholy fitts" of insanity were the result of misery
about his wife's infidelity; but, if she could still "draw from him
speeches to her advantage," this cannot have been the case. The
prosecution of Lady Purbeck was pretty clearly at the instigation of
Buckingham and not of Purbeck. There is just a possibility that
Purbeck had refused to proceed against her, and that Buckingham
represented him as mad in order to act in his place, as his brother,
and divorce Lady Purbeck; although such a theory is not supported by
strong evidence. There is, however, this evidence in its support, that
Purbeck acknowledged the boy christened Robert Wright as his own son
some years later.

It is true that, fifty years afterwards, in a petition to the House of
Lords[66] by Lord Denbigh against a claim made by a son of Robert
Wright, it is stated that Lord and Lady Purbeck had not lived together
as man and wife for two years before the birth of Robert Wright; and
that Lord Purbeck "was entrusted in the hands of physicians for the
cure of a melancholy distemper, occasioned by the cruelty and
disorders of his wife." But this claimed absence of two years, or
anything approaching two years, is very questionable, if not very
improbable; and although there is not much doubt as to the real
parentage of Robert Wright, Purbeck may have lived with his wife
sufficiently near the birth of the boy to imagine himself his father.
Indeed, as the following letter will show, she was so far at Court, as
to be living in Prince Charles's house so late as February, 1625, a
year after the birth of the boy. Moreover, as we have seen, Lord
Purbeck held office in Prince Charles's household, and from this it
might be inferred that Purbeck and Lady Purbeck were then together.
This is the more likely because in the following letter Buckingham
expresses a fear that his "brother will be also every day running to
her and give her occasion to worke on him by the subtlty of her
discourse." And if the husband and wife had access to each other when
the proceedings against the latter had gone so far, they are much more
likely to have been together during the year preceding the birth of
the boy.

All this only affects the question whether Purbeck discredited his
wife's fidelity. Nothing has been said above in favour of the theory
that she was faithful.

Buckingham experienced considerable difficulties in the prosecution of
Lady Purbeck. On 15th February, 1625, he wrote[67] from Newmarket to
the Lord Chief Justice:--

"MY LORD,

"I understande you are not yet resolved to committ my sister Purbeck
who (if she be at Libbertie) will be still plotting and devising with
her ill counsellors to cover and conceal the truth and fowlness of her
crime and my brother will be also every day running to her and give
her occasion to worke on him by the subtlty of her discourse. It is
known that His Ma^tie was tender (at the first mention of this
business) of the hande of a Lady of her quallity but sure [if] he hath
fully understood the proofs and truth of her fault and how
dishonorably she hath carryed herself he would have no more support
showen to her than to an ordinary Lady in the like case for that she
hath by her ill carriage forfyted that hande."

Things were not going so well now as they had been with Buckingham.
Within twelve months he was to be impeached in the House of Commons;
and, although still high in the royal favour, his King may not have
been so completely his servant at this time as he had been formerly.
Buckingham continues:--

"It is likewise very unfit she should remayne in the Prinses house for
defying which I thinke much aggravates her crimes and his highness
often speaks in distast of her continuance there. You are well
acquainted with the proof which is against her, so as I shall not nede
to tell you how much it reminds me to be carefull in the prosecution
of her faulte but I assure you there is nothing that more sollisits my
minde. I ... thanke you for the paynes you have always taken in this
business, which my earnest desire is to have to be fully discovered
and that you will for much oblige me by the continuance of the care
and diligence therein as that she may be tymely prevented in her
cunning endeavours to hinder the discovery of the truth of the facts
whereof she stands justly accused which (in my opinion) cannot be done
but by her present commitment.

      "And Sir, I rest,
      "Your very loving friend.

"Upon syght of the pregnancy of the proofes and the guiltiness of Sir
Rob. Howard and my sister, I desire that you will committ them to
prison with little respect, from where I heare Sir Rob. Howard is, for
an Alderman's House is rather an honour than disparagement to him and
rather a place of entertainment to him than a prison." It will be
observed that, although the accused persons had not yet been tried,
Buckingham wished them to be put into a place of punishment; a place
of mere detention would not satisfy him.

Lanier, who, as Buckingham said in a letter quoted above, was much
trusted by his brother, seems to have been trusted by Purbeck without
reason, as he was evidently in the employment of Buckingham.

A letter[68] written by Buckingham to Coventry, the Attorney-General,
and to Heath, the Solicitor-General, contains the following:--

"I perceive by your paper I have read how much I am beholding, and do
also understand by Innocent Larnier and others of the persons
themselves and my Lo: Chiefe justice have taken in the business
concerning the Lady Purbeck for which I thanke you:... but I did hope
you would have more discovered before this.... I desire you to say
what you think fitt to be done in the matter of the divorce of my
brother and to notify me your opinion thereupon and (if you thinke it
fitt to be proceeded in that) what is the speedyest worke that may be
taken therein."

It was probably of this letter that Buckingham wrote[69] to Heath, the
Solicitor-General, on 16th February, 1625, from Newmarket:--

"I have written a letter to yourself and to Mr. Attorney regarding
the business of the Lady Purbeck showing that I desire you principally
only to aggravate her crimes that the Lady by my humble and your like
kind favour may yet be kept in prison, before the returne to towne,
for other my brother who hopes to be going soune will not be kept from
her and she will (if he should meet with her) so worke on him by her
subtilty and that shee will draw from him something to the advantage
of her dishonourable cause and to her end." Here again is evidence
that Purbeck "will not be kept from" his wife; and that, if they meet
"shee will draw something to the advantage of her" case in the divorce
suit. In what form could this something come? Is it possible that
Buckingham may have thought that she might induce Purbeck to appear as
a witness in her favour? Or that she might persuade him to stop the
suit if he should happen to be sane enough to do so when it came on?

The next letter has an interest, first, because it shows that Lady
Purbeck's child was really in the custody of Buckingham. Nominally it
was probably in that of Purbeck; but, if Purbeck as a lunatic was in
the custody of Buckingham, what was in Purbeck's custody would be in
Buckingham's custody. Presently, however, we shall hear of the child
being with its mother in her imprisonment at the house of an
Alderman.

_Innocent Lanier to Buckingham_.[70]
"May it please your grace,

"Appon my returne to London, I presently repayred to my Lo: Chiefe
Justice, where I found Mr. Attorney and Mr. Solicitor.... I have heer
inclosed fore your Grace ther letter which before it was sealed they
showed mee, being something contrary to their resolution last nyghte,
w^ch was, to have sent for Sr. Ro: Howard this morning, and so to
comitt him closs in the Fleett, but of this I presume ther letter will
give yor. Grace such satisfaction that I shall need neither to write
more of it, nor of what is yett past. They much desier yor. Grace's
coming to towne wch. I hope wilbe speedy as it wilbe materiall. I
finde them resolved to deale roundly in this Busnes as yor. Grace
desiers and are this morning in the examination of divers witness the
better to Inform themselves agaynst my Ladies coming this afternoone.
The next Day, they Intend to fall uppon Lambe and Frodsham. My Lady
uppon the receipt of my lo: Chiefe Justice letter is something
dismayed but resolved to prove a new lodging, and new keepers. The
Childe, and Nurse, must remayne with us till farther directions,
having nothing more at this present to aquaynt yor. Grace of, wth. my
humblest duty I take leave.

          "Yor. Grace's most humble and
                 "obedient Servant,
                     "(Signed) I. LANIER.

"DENMARK HOUSE.
    "_Feb. 19, 1625._"

"_Enclosed_. Att. Gen. Coventry and Sol. Gen. Heath to Buckingham.

"Have consulted with Sir Henry Martin on Lady Purbeck's business, and
think the best plan would be to have the case brought before the High
Commission Court, which can sit without delay, in the vacation, and
when the crime is proved there, the divorce can be obtained by
ordinary law. Think it unadvisable to send the culprits to prison, as
it is unusual for persons of their rank but advise that they may be
confined in the houses of Aldermen, where in fact they would probably
be more closely restrained than in prison."

The last statement sounds curious; especially as we saw, a few pages
ago, that Buckingham wrote: "an Alderman's house is rather an honour
than disparagement," and "rather a place of entertainment than a
prison."

Buckingham now sought a fresh weapon against his sister-in-law. A
couple of scoundrels, mentioned in Lanier's letter, and named Frodsham
and Lambe, men suspected of sorcery, offered to give evidence to the
effect that Lady Purbeck had paid them to help her to bewitch both
Purbeck and Buckingham. On the 16th of February, 1625, Buckingham
wrote[71] to Coventry, the Attorney-General:--

"I perceive by the paper I have received how much I am beholding to
you and do also understand by Innocent Lanier and others of the paynes
[you] and my lo. Chief Justice, have taken in the business concerning
the Lady Purbeck for which I thanke you ... but I did hope that you
would have some more discovered before this tyme. If Lambe and
ffrodsham may escape the one by saying what he did was but jugglinge
and the other by seeming to affect to be thought a juggler I believe
all that hath been already discovered of the truth of this business
will be deluded. I do therefore desire that you will take some sound
course with them to make them speake more directly and truly to the
point and to bout (?) them from their shifts, for Lambe hath hitherto
by such means played mock with the world to preserve himself. I desire
you to acquaint Innocent Lanier (who is appointed by my brother to
sollicit this business) with all the particulars and publique speeche
that he may the better know how to imploy this paynes for the
discovering of the knot of this villany. I desire you to say well what
is fitt to be done in the divorce of my brother and to notify me your
opinions thereon and (if you thinke it fitt to be pursued in this)
what is the speediest work that may be taken therein. And you discover
the best serving friend.

                                        "I rest, &c.

"NEWMARKET."

If this was true it would seem that Purbeck himself suspected that he
had been bewitched.

Yet on that very same day Buckingham wrote to Heath, the
Solicitor-General, expressing his opinion that, unless Lady Purbeck
were put in prison, Lord Purbeck would not "be kept from her," which
does not look as if he can have been afraid lest she should bewitch
him. The letter runs:--

"I have written a letter to yourself and Mr. Attorney concerning the
business of the Lady Purbeck which I desire you on whose love to me I
principally rely to aggravate and ayre the crimes of that Lady and her
dealings with Lambe and the like, so soon as yet she may be before my
coming to London committed to some prison for otherwise my brother who
hopes to be going hence, will not be kept from her and she will (if he
should come to her) so worke on him by her subtilty as that she will
draw from him something to the advantage of her dishonourable ends and
to his prejudice. Iff ffrodsham and Lambe once feele or be brought to
feare their punishment I believe they will unfold much more than they
yet have, for it seems they have but boath sported in their
examinations, &c."

This letter, again, proves that Lord Purbeck was on good terms with
Lady Purbeck, and that Buckingham was striving to keep them apart; and
it adds still further support to the theory that it was not Lord
Purbeck but Buckingham who was trying to divorce Lady Purbeck, by
"aggravating and airing her crimes."

Buckingham himself was suspected of having dealings with Lambe on his
own account; for Arthur Wilson says, in his _Life of James I._:[72]
"Dr. Lamb, a man of an infamous Conversation, (having been arraigned
for a Witch, and found guilty of it at Worcester; and arraigned for a
Rape, and found guilty of it at the King's Bench-Bar at Westminster;
yet escaped the Stroke of Justice for both, by his Favour in Court)
was much employed by the Mother and the Son," _i.e._, by the Duke of
Buckingham and his mother. If this be true, Buckingham's conduct
towards Lady Purbeck, in connection with Lambe, does not seem to have
been very straightforward.

Lambe's "favour in Court," however, proved no protection to him in the
streets. Whitelock writes[73] in 1632: "This Term the business of the
Death of Doctor Lamb was in the King's Bench, wherein it appeared that
he was neither Dr. nor any way Lettered, but a man odious to the
Vulgar, for some Rumors that went of him, that he was a Conjurer or
Sorcerer, and he was quarrelled with in the Streets in London, and as
the people more and more gathered about him, so they pelted him with
rotten Eggs, Stones, and other riff raff, justled him, beat him,
bruised him, and so continued pursuing him from Street to Street, till
they were five hundred people together following him. This continued
three hours together until Night, and no Magistrate or Officer of the
Peace once showed himself to stop this Tumult: so the poor man being
above eighty years of age, died of this violence, and no Inquisition
was taken of it, nor any of the Malefactors discovered in the City."

On the 26th of February Chamberlain wrote[74] to Carleton:--

"The Lady Purbecke w^th her young sonne, and Sr. Robert Howard are
committed to the custodie of Generall Aldermen Barkham and Freeman to
be close kept. When she was carried to Sergeants ynne to be examined
by the new L. Chiefe Justice and others she saide she marvailled what
those poore old cuckolds had to say to her. There is an imputation
laide on her that with powders and potions she did intoxicate her
husbands braines, and practised somewhat in that kinde upon the D. of
Buckingham. This (they say) is confest by one Lambe a notorious old
rascall that was condemned the last sommer at the Ks. bench for a rape
and arraigned some yeare or two before at Worcester for bewitching my
L. Windsor ... I see not what the fellow can gaine by this confession
but to be hangd the sooner. Would you thinke the Lady Hattens stomacke
could stoupe to go seeke her L. Cooke at Stoke for his counsaile and
assistance in this business?"

It would appear that Buckingham really believed Lady Purbeck to have
possessed herself of some powers of witchcraft and that he felt
considerable uneasiness on his own account, as well as on his
brother's, in connection with it; for he seems to have consulted some
other sorcerer, with the object of out-witching the witchery of Lady
Purbeck. In some notes[75] by Archbishop Laud for a letter to
Buckingham, the following cautious remarks are to be found:--

"I remember your Grace when I came to you on other busyness told me
you were gladd I was come, for you were about to send for me, that you
calld me asyde into the gallerye behind yo^r lodgings bye the back
stayres. There you told me of one that had made a great offer of an
easy and safe cure of your G. brother the Ld. Purbecke.

"That it much trobbled you when he did but beginne to express himselfe
because he sayde he would doe it bye onlye touchinge his head with his
hands[76] w^ch made yo^r Grace jealous in as much as he mentioned noe
Naturall Medicine.

"Upon this yo^r Gr. was pleased to aske what I thought of it. I
answered these were busynesses which I had little looked into. But I
did not believe the touch of his hand, or any mans els could produce
such effects.

"Your G. asked farther if I remembered whether you might not
entertayne him farther in discourse to see whether he would open or
express any unlawfull practises; w^ch I thought you might for it went
no farther than discourse.

"And to mye remembrance your Grace sayde that he offered to laye his
hand on your head sayinge, I would doe noe more than thiss; And that
thereupon you started backe, fearinge some sorcerye or ye like, and
that you were not quiett till you had spoken with me about it. This,
or much to this effect is the uttermost I can remember that passed at
ye time."

Buckingham had evidently felt some scruples about meddling with the
Black Art, and had consulted Laud on the question. It is also pretty
plain that Laud was anxious not to offend Buckingham, yet, at the same
time, wished to guard against any possibility of being accused of
approving, or even of conniving at, witchcraft. These notes occur in a
"draft of a speech, in the handwriting of Bishop Laud, and apparently
intended to be addressed to the House of Commons, by the Duke of
Buckingham. It has not been found that this latter speech was ever
actually spoken."

So far as accusations against Lady Purbeck of witchcraft were
concerned, Buckingham must have found that he had no case; for, in a
letter[77] to Carleton, written on 12th March, 1625, Chamberlain says
that the charge of sorcery had been dropped; but that Lady Purbeck was
to be prosecuted for incontinency. He adds that Sir Robert Howard was
a close prisoner in the Fleet in spite of the advice given by the
Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General three weeks earlier--and
that Lady Purbeck was a prisoner at Alderman Barkham's, had no
friends who would stand bail for her, and was asking Buckingham to
let her have a little money with which to pay her counsel's fees.
Eleven days later Chamberlain again wrote[78] to Carleton, saying that
Lady Purbeck was acquitting herself well in the Court of High
Commission; that a servant of the Archbishop's had been committed for
saying that she had been hardly used, and that she called this man one
of her martyrs. He also states that Sir Robert Howard had been
publicly excommunicated at St. Paul's Cross, for refusing to answer.

How long the delinquents were kept in captivity is very doubtful.
Little else is recorded of either of them during the next two years;
but, at the time of their trial in 1627, they would seem to have been
at liberty. The reason of this long interval between the trial in the
Court of High Commission in 1625 and that before the same Court in
1627 seems inexplicable.

FOOTNOTES:

[61] _Cabala_, p. 281.

[62] _Cabala_, p. 282.

[63] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXII, No. 79.

[64] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIII, No. 41

[65] Innocent Lanier was one of the King's musicians.

[66] _MSS. of the House of Lords_, 228, 30th April, 1675. _Hist. Com.
MSS._, Ninth Report, Part II., p. 50.

[67] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIII, No. 52.

[68] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIII, No. 65, 16th February,
1625.

[69] _Ibid._, No. 66.

[70] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIV., Nos. 7 and 7.1.

[71] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIII, No. 65.

[72] _Camden, Complete History of England_, Vol. II., p. 791 (ed.
1719).

[73] _Memorials of the English Affairs_, etc., p. 17.

[74] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXIV., No. 47.

[75] _S.P. Dom._, Charles I., Vol. XXVI., No. 30.

[76] This looks like an anticipation of Mesmer.

[77] _S.P. Dom._, James I., Vol. CLXXXV., No. 48.

[78] _S.P. Dom._, James I., No. 99.



CHAPTER X.

   "Let us give great Praise to God, and little Laud to the Devil."

     (Grace said by the Court Jester, Archie Armstrong, when he
     had begged to act as chaplain, in the absence of that
     official, at the dinner-table of Charles I. Archbishop Laud
     was little in stature.)


The following account of the trial of Lady Purbeck in 1627 is given by
Archbishop Laud:--[79]

"Now the Cause of _Sir Robert Howard_ was this: He fell in _League_
with the _Lady Viscountess Purbeck_. The _Lord Viscount Purbeck_
being in some weakness and distemper, the Lady used him at her
pleasure, and betook her self in a manner, wholly to Sir Robert
Howard, and had a Son by him. She was delivered of this Child in a
Clandestine way, under the Name of _Mistress Wright_. These things
came to be known, and she was brought into the _High-Commission_, and
there, after a Legal Proceeding, was found guilty of _Adultery_, and
sentenced to do _Pennance_: Many of the great Lords of the Kingdom
being present in Court, and agreeing to the Sentence."

A marginal note states that there were present Sir Thomas Coventry,
the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, the Earls of Manchester, Pembroke,
Montgomery and Dorset, Viscount Grandison, five Bishops, two Deans and
several other dignitaries, clerical and legal.

Laud continues: "Upon this Sentence she withdrew her-self, to avoid
the Penance. This Sentence passed at _London-House,_ in Bishop
_Mountains_ time, _Novemb. 19. An. Dom. 1627_. I was then present, as
Bishop of _Bath_ and _Wells_."

The sentence in question was that Lady Purbeck was to be separated
from her husband, and that she should do penance, bare-footed, and
clad in a white sheet, in the chapel of the Savoy; but a decree of
divorce was not given.

No attempt shall be made here to excuse or palliate the sins of Lady
Purbeck; but it may be observed in relation to Laud's mention of her
having been found guilty of adultery by the Court, that, although she
might be guilty of that offence according to the civil law, she was
not guilty of it morally; because her so-called marriage was no
marriage at all, since she was forced into it against her will.

It cannot be a matter for surprise that Lady Purbeck "withdrew
herself" rather than do penance, barefooted, in a white sheet in a
fashionable church, and before a crowded congregation, for a crowd
there would certainly have been to enjoy the spectacle of the public
penance of a Viscountess. For some time her place of withdrawal or,
to speak plainly, her place of hiding, was undiscovered. As we have
seen, she was sentenced on the 19th of November. She was not arrested;
but she was commanded to "present herself" on a certain Sunday at the
Savoy chapel, to perform her public penance. As might have been
expected, she did not present herself, to the great disappointment of
a large congregation, and she thereby exposed herself to arrest. The
officials did not discover her place of retreat until about Christmas.
The following story of an incident that then happened in connection
with this matter is told by Sir John Finett.[80]

A serjeant-at-arms, accompanied by other officers of justice and their
men, proceeded to the house in which Lady Purbeck was concealed, and
at once guarded every door into the street; but admittance was
refused, and the Countess of Buckingham sent "a gentleman" to the
"Ambassador of Savoy," whose garden adjoined that of the house in
which Lady Purbeck was staying, to beg the Ambassador that he would
allow the officers to pass through his house and garden into the
garden of Lady Purbeck's house of refuge "for her more easy
apprehension and arrest that way."

The Ambassador refused, considering it an indignity to be asked to
allow men of such a type a free passage through his house, and feeling
horrified at the idea of lending assistance to "the surprise and
arrest of a fair lady, his neighbour." After many protests, however,
he consented to the entrance of one constable into his garden, and the
man was to avail himself of an opportunity which, said the Ambassador,
would occur at dinner-time, of passing into the garden of the next
house and arresting Lady Purbeck.

In the meantime the Ambassador called his page, "a handsome fair boy,"
and, with the help of his attendants, dressed him in women's clothes.
He then ordered his coach to be brought round, and when it came, his
attendants, ostentatiously, but with a show of great hurry and fear of
discovery, ran out of the house with the sham-lady and "thrust her
suddenly into" the carriage, which immediately drove off.

The constable, congratulating himself upon his sharpness in
discovering, as he thought, the escape of Lady Purbeck, at once gave
the alarm to his followers outside. The coach "drove fast down the
Strand, followed by a multitude of people, and those officers, not
without danger to the coachman, from their violence, but with ease to
the Ambassador, that had his house by this device cleaned of the
constable."

While all this turmoil was going on in the Strand, Lady Purbeck went
quietly away to another place of hiding; but her escape got the
gallant and kind-hearted Ambassador into great trouble. Buckingham was
enraged when he heard of the trick. Sir John Finett shall himself tell
us what followed. Buckingham, he says, declared that "all this was
done of designe for the ladies escape, (which in that hubbub she
made), to his no small prejudice and scorn, in a business that so
nearly he said concerned him, (she being wife to his brother), and
bringing him children of anothers begetting; yet such as by the law
(because begotten and born while her husband was in the land) must be
of his fathering.

"The ambassador for his purgation from this charge, went immediately
to the Duke at Whitehall, but was denied accesse: Whereupon repairing
to my Lord Chamberlain for his mediation, I was sent to him by his
lordship, to let him know more particularly the Duke's displeasure,
and back by the ambassador to the Duke with his humble request but of
one quarter of an hours audience for his disblaming. But the duke
returning answer, that having always held him so much his friend and
given him so many fair proofs of his respects, he took his proceeding
so unkindly, as he was resolved not to speak with him. I reported this
to the ambassador, and had for his only answer, what reason cannot do,
time will. Yet, after this the Earls of Carliel and Holland
interposing; the ambassador, (hungry after his peace from a person of
such power, and regarding his masters service and the public affairs),
he a seven night after obtained of the duke an interview in Whitehall
garden, and after an hours parley, a reconciliation."

As has just been seen, the officers of the law lost sight of Lady
Purbeck. So also, for the present do we; but we know what became of
her; for she was taken by Sir Robert Howard to his house at Clun, in
the extreme south-west of Shropshire, where a small promontory of that
county is bordered by Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Herefordshire.
It is probable that, so long as she was far away from the Court and
from London, Buckingham and the authorities took no trouble to find
her or her paramour, and almost connived at their escape.

During their absence from our view, it may add to the interest of our
story to observe the conditions at that time of some of the other
characters who have figured in it, and to consider certain
circumstances of the period at which we are halting. Looking back a
little way, we shall find that King James, who we noticed was so ill
as to be only just able to sign an order connected with the
proceedings against Lady Purbeck, died in March, 1625, and that the
very correct Charles I. was King during the subsequent proceedings.

Going further back still, we find that Bacon, who had succeeded in
overthrowing Coke, was himself overthrown in 1621, three years after
the marriage of Coke's daughter to Sir John Villiers, and shortly
after Bacon himself had been created Viscount St. Albans. Bacon was
impeached on charges of official corruption, and his old enemy, Sir
Edward Coke, who was then a member of Parliament, was to have had the
pleasure of conducting the impeachment. Coke, however, was deprived of
that gratification by Bacon's plea of Guilty, and was obliged to
content himself with attending the Speaker to the bar of the House of
Lords when judgment was to be prayed, and with hearing the Chief
Justice, by order of the Lords, condemn Bacon to a fine of £40,000,
incapacity ever to hold any office again, exile from Court, and
imprisonment in the Tower during the King's pleasure.

It was generally supposed that the exultant Coke would now be offered
the Great Seal; but, to the astonishment of the world and to Coke's
unqualified chagrin, the King proclaimed Williams, "a shrewd Welsh
parson," as Lord Campbell calls him, Lord Keeper in the place of
Bacon. After this disappointment, Coke became even fiercer against the
Court than he had been before Bacon's disgrace. Bacon's fine was
remitted, "the King's pleasure" as to the length of his imprisonment
was only four days, he was allowed to return to Court, and he was
enabled to interest himself with the literary pursuits which he loved
better than law and almost as much as power; but he was harassed by
want of what, perhaps, he may have loved most of all, namely money,
and he died in 1626, five years after his fall and condemnation.

Although Buckingham was at the summit of his glory, everything did not
go well with him during the period at which he was scheming to rid his
brother of Lady Purbeck. In 1623 he went to Spain with Prince Charles
to arrange a marriage with the Infanta, a match which he failed to
bring about. In 1626 he was impeached, though unsuccessfully, by the
House of Commons. In 1627 he commanded an expedition to the Isle of
Rhé against the French, on behalf of the Huguenots, and completely
failed in the attempt. In 1628 a new Parliament threw the blame upon
him of all the troubles and drawbacks from which the country was then
suffering; and, in August, the same year, he was murdered by an
assassin less than twelve months after he had succeeded in his
proceedings against Lady Purbeck.

It was not until shortly after the death of Bacon that his rival, Sir
Edward Coke, reached the zenith of his fame as a politician. Only a
few months before the death of Buckingham, Coke framed the celebrated
Petition of Rights, a document which has often been spoken of as the
second _Magna Charta_. He had gained little through his attempt to
bribe Buckingham by giving his daughter and her wealth to Buckingham's
brother, and he was now exasperated against the royal favourite and
that favourite's royal master. "In the House of Commons, Sir Ed.
Coke," says Whitelock in his _Memorials_[81] "named the Duke to be the
cause of all their miseries, and moves to goe to the King, and by word
to acquaint him." Rushworth writes[82] more fully of this speech of
Coke's. "Sir Edward Cook spake freely.... Let us palliate no longer;
if we do, God will not prosper us. I think the Duke of Buckingham is
the cause of all our miseries; and till the King be informed thereof,
we shall never go out with honour, or sit with honour here; that man
is the Grievance of Grievances: let us set down the causes of all our
disasters, and all will reflect upon him." And Coke was as bitter
against the King. A little later Charles I. had issued a warrant for a
certain commission, when, in a conference with the Lords, Coke
moved[83] "That the Warrant may be damned and destroyed."

After the prorogation of Parliament which soon followed, Coke retired
into private life and lived at Stoke Pogis, where he is supposed to
have encouraged his neighbour, Hampden, in his plots against the
Court.

In the year 1632 Lady Purbeck left Sir Robert Howard to live with and
take care of her father. She probably went to him on hearing that he
had been seriously hurt by a fall from his horse. In his diary[84]
Coke thus describes this accident: "The 3rd of May, 1632, riding in
the morning in Stoke, between eight and nine o'clock to take the air,
my horse under me had a strange stumble backwards and fell upon me
(being above eighty years old) where my head lighted near to sharp
stubbles, and the heavy horse upon me." He declares that he suffered
"no hurt at all;" but, as a matter of fact, he received an internal
injury.

Lord Campbell says that, from this time "his only domestic solace
was the company of his daughter, Lady Purbeck, whom he had
forgiven,--probably from a consciousness that her errors might be
ascribed to his utter disregard of her inclinations when he concerted
her marriage. She continued piously to watch over him till his death."

Lady Elizabeth was never reconciled to her husband. On the contrary,
she seems to have been very anxiously awaiting his death in order to
take possession of Stoke Pogis. Garrard, in a letter[85] to Lord
Deputy Strafford written in 1633, says: "Sir Edward Coke was said to
be dead, all one morning in Westminster Hall, this term, insomuch that
his wife got her brother, Lord Wimbledon, to post with her to Stoke,
to get possession of that place; but beyond Colebrook they met with
one of his physicians coming from him, who told her of his much
amendment, which made them also return to London; some distemper he
had fallen into for want of sleep, but is now well again." Lady
Elizabeth's keen disappointment may be readily imagined.

It is not likely that the couple of years spent by Lady Purbeck with
her father can have been very pleasant ones. He was bad-tempered,
ill-mannered, cantankerous and narrow-minded, and he must also have
been a dull companion; for beyond legal literature he had read but
little. Lord Campbell says: "He shunned the society of" his
contemporaries, "Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, as of _vagrants_ who
ought to be set in the stocks, or whipped from tithing to tithing."

Nor can Lady Purbeck have found him a very tractable patient. He had
no faith in either physicians or physic. Mead wrote[86]to Sir Martin
Stuteville: "Sir Edward Coke being now very infirm in body, a friend
of his sent him two or three doctors to regulate his health, whom he
told that he had never taken physic since he was born, and would not
now begin; and that he had now upon him a disease which all the drugs
of Asia, the gold of Africa, nor all the doctors of Europe could
cure--old age. He therefore both thanked them and his friend that sent
them, and dismissed them nobly with a reward of twenty pieces to each
man." Doubtless a troublesome invalid for a daughter to manage.

At last it became apparent that the end was rapidly approaching, and
then Lady Purbeck was subjected to a most embarrassing annoyance. Two
days before her father's death she was summoned from his bedside to
receive Sir Francis Windebank, the Secretary of State, who had arrived
at the house, accompanied by several attendants, bringing in his hand
an order from the King and Council to search Sir Edward Coke's mansion
for seditious papers and, if any were found, to arrest him.

Sir Francis, on hearing the critical condition of Sir Edward, assured
Lady Purbeck that he would give her father no personal annoyance; but
he insisted on searching all the rooms in the house except that in
which Coke was lying; and he carried away every manuscript that he
could find, including even Sir Edward's will--a depredation which
subsequently caused his family great inconvenience. It is believed
that Coke was kept in ignorance of this raid upon his house, probably
by the care and vigilance of Lady Purbeck. Thus his last hours were
undisturbed, and on the 3rd of September, 1634, in the 83rd year of
his age, died one of the most disagreeable men of his times, but the
most incorruptible judge in a period of exceptional judicial
corruption.

FOOTNOTES:

[79] _The History of the Troubles and Tryal of the most Reverend
Father in God, and Blessed Martyr, William Laud, Archbishop of
Canterbury_. Wrote by Himself, during his Imprisonment in the Tower:
London, R. Chiswell, 1695, p. 146.

[80] _Finetti Philoxenis_, London, 1636, p. 239.

[81] P. 10.

[82]_Historical Collections_, p. 607 (ed. 1659).

[83] Rushworth's _Collections_, p. 616.

[84] Campbell, Vol. I., p. 334.

[85] _Strafford Letters_, I., p. 265.

[86] Harleian MS. 390, fol. 534.



CHAPTER XI.

    "The circle smil'd, then whisper'd, and then sneer'd,
    The misses bridled, and the matrons frown'd;
    Some hoped things might not turn out as they fear'd:
    Some would not deem such women could be found,
    Some ne'er believed one half of what they heard:
    Some look'd perplex'd, and others look'd profound."
                                   _Don Juan_, ix., 78.


Soon after the death of Sir Edward Coke, up to the date of which event
his daughter had apparently been taking care of him with great filial
piety for two years and living a virtuous life, she came to London.
About this coming to London Archbishop Laud must be allowed to have
his say,[87] albeit not altogether a pleasant say:--

"They," _i.e._, Sir Robert Howard and Lady Purbeck, "grew to such
boldness, that he brought her up to London and lodged her in
Westminster. This was so near the Court and in so open view, that the
King and the Lords took notice of it, as a thing full of Impudence,
that they should so publickly adventure to outface the Justice of the
Realm, in so fowl a business. And one day, as I came of course to wait
on his Majesty, he took me aside, and told me of it, being then
Archbishop of Canterbury; and added, that it was a great reproach to
the Church and Nation; and that I neglected my Duty, in case I did not
take order for it. I made answer, she was a Wife of a Peer of the
Realm; and that without his leave I could not attach her; but that now
I knew his Majesty's pleasure, I would do my best to have her taken,
and brought to Penance, according to the sentence against her. The
next day I had the good hap to apprehend both her and Sir Robert; and
by order of the High-Commission-Court, Imprisoned her in the
Gate-House and him in the Fleet. This was (as far as I remember) upon
a Wednesday; and the Sunday sevennight after, was thought upon to
bring her to Penance. She was much troubled at it, and so was he."

In the _Strafford Papers_[88] there is a letter to the Lord Deputy
from Garrard, in which he says that, after Lady Purbeck's sentence
some years earlier, she had evaded it by flight and had "not been much
looked after since;" but that "this winter she lodged herself on the
Water side over against Lambeth, I fear too near the road of the
Archbishop's barge; whereof some complaint being made, she had the
Sergeant at Arms sent with the warrant of the Lords and the Council to
carry her to the Gate-House, whence she will hardly get out until she
hath done her penance. The same night was a warrant sent signed by the
Lords, to the Warden of the Fleet, to take Sir Robert Howard at
Suffolk House, and to carry him to the Fleet; but there was never any
proceeding against him, for he refused to take the oath _ex-officio_,
and had the Parliament to back him out, but I fear he will not escape
so now."

It is open to those who may like to do so to take Laud's words as
meaning that Lady Purbeck and Sir Robert Howard were again living
together in immorality. Possibly that may have been Laud's meaning. If
it was, he may have been mistaken. The world is seldom very charitable
and, when Sir Robert and Lady Purbeck were both in London--which was
comparatively a small place in those days--the gossips would naturally
put the worst construction on the matter. If the very proper Charles
I. heard such rumours, he would most likely believe them; so also
would Laud.

From the meagre evidence existing on the question, there is much--the
present writer thinks most--to be said in favour of the theory that
the relations of Lady Purbeck to Sir Robert Howard were, at this time,
perfectly innocent, and that they had been so ever since she had left
him to live with her father, two years earlier. To begin with, is it
likely that if, after so long a separation, the pair had wished to
resume their illicit intercourse, they would have chosen London as the
place in which to do so? Sir Robert may, or may not, have obtained for
Lady Purbeck her lodging. If he did, there was not necessarily any
harm in that.

Then the fact of Lady Purbeck's returning openly to London looks as if
she was conscious of innocence since she had left Sir Robert a couple
of years earlier, and as if she believed that the innocence of her
recent life was generally known. And, indeed, she might naturally
suppose that because, as Garrard wrote, she "had not been much looked
after" by the authorities, when she had gone into the country to
continue her offence many years earlier, she was perfectly safe in
returning to London now that she was living a life of virtue.

Sir Robert Howard, says Garrard's letter, was sought for and taken at
Suffolk House, the London home of his brother, whereas Lady Purbeck
was taken at, and living at, a house "on the Water side, over against
Lambeth." This does not absolutely prove that they were not living
together; but it is certainly evidence in that direction.

Again, although it is possible that the King and Laud may have
believed in the revival of the criminal intercourse between Lady
Purbeck and Sir Robert, it is equally possible that they did not, and
that they merely considered it "boldness" and a "thing full of
Impudence" to "publickly adventure to outface the Justice of the
Realm," when a woman under sentence to do public penance for grave
immorality--a woman who had fled to a remote part of the country to
escape from that penance--came back to London and took up her quarters
"so near the Court, and in so open view," as if nothing had happened;
and that, as the sentence had never been repealed, they thought it
ought to be executed.

It might even be contended that the conduct of the King and Laud looks
in favour of the innocence of Lady Purbeck, at that time; for, if they
had had any evidence of a fresh offence, far from being content with
executing the sentence for the old transgression, they would probably,
if not certainly, have prosecuted her again for the new one, and have
either added to the severity of the first sentence, or passed a second
to follow it, as a punishment for the second crime.

Be all this as it may, one thing is certain, namely, that the King and
Laud were determined to carry out the sentence which had been passed
some seven or eight years earlier, now that the escaped convict had
had what Laud calls the "Impudence" to come to the capital; and it
appears that Sir Robert was to be proceeded against in the Star
Chamber upon the old charge.

Apart from any concern on his own account, Sir Robert was greatly
distressed that Lady Purbeck should be exposed to public punishment
for an offence of the past, of which he himself was at least equally
guilty. In the hope of saving her from it, he took into his counsel
"Sir ... of Hampshire," some friend whose name is illegible in Laud's
MS.

We must now turn attention, for a little time, elsewhere. The first
Earl of Danby was a man of great respectability, and he had
distinguished himself in arms, both on sea and on land. He was a
Knight of the Garter and the Governor of Guernsey, and he had been
Lord President of Munster. He had always done those things that he
ought to have done, with as great a regularity as his attainted elder
brother, Sir Charles Danvers, had done those things that he ought not
to have done.

This paragon of a bachelor, at the age of sixty-two, received a visit
at his Government House in Guernsey from a youth who requested a
private interview. This having been granted, the boy, to the
astonishment of Lord Danby, proclaimed himself to be his Lordship's
cousin, Frances, Lady Purbeck.[89]

In a former chapter we saw that Lady Purbeck had escaped from
punishment through the medium of a boy dressed up like a woman. The
process had now been reversed: for she had escaped from the
Gate-House--a woman dressed up like a boy. The Sir Somebody Something
of Hampshire, says Laud, "with Money, corrupted the Turn-Key of the
Prison (so they call him) and conveyed the Lady Forth, and after that
into France in Man's Apparel (as that Knight himself hath since made
his boast). This was told me the Morning after the escape: And you
must think, the good Fellowship of the Town was glad of it." Lady
Purbeck, however, did not go first into France. As we have seen, she
went to Guernsey and placed herself under the protection of her old
cousin, Lord Danby.

That old cousin must have wished devoutly that she had placed herself
anywhere else. For the Governor of one of the King's islands to
receive and to shelter a criminal flying from justice was a very
embarrassing position. On the other hand, to refuse protection to a
helpless lady, and that lady a kinswoman, much more to betray her into
the hands of her enemies, would have been an act from which any
honourable man might well shrink. The possibility that it might be
discovered in the island that he was entertaining a woman in male
attire must also have been an annoying uncertainty to the immaculate
Governor of Guernsey. Over the details of this perplexing situation
history has kindly thrown a veil; indeed, we learn nothing further
about Lady Purbeck's proceedings until we read, in the already noticed
letter of Garrard's, that she landed at St. Malo, whence she
eventually went to Paris.

It seems safe to infer that whatever protection and hospitality her
relative, Lord Danby, may have afforded to Lady Purbeck, he was
heartily glad to get rid of her. If she had originally intended to go
to Paris, she would scarcely have made the long voyage of nearly two
hundred miles out of her way to Guernsey, and the most natural
explanation of that voyage is that she had hoped and expected to
obtain concealment, hospitality, and a refuge in the house of her
relative. Instead of conceding her these privileges for any length of
time, Lord Danby evidently speeded the parting guest with great
celerity.

While all this was going on, Sir Robert Howard remained under arrest
in London. Laud, writing of Lady Purbeck's escape, says: "In the mean
time, I could not but know, though not perhaps prove as then, that Sir
Robert Howard laboured and contrived this conveyance. And thereupon in
the next sitting of the High-Commission, Ordered him to be close
Prisoner, till he brought the Lady forth. So he continued Prisoner
about some two or three months."

It may be observed here that some years later, in fact in the year
1640, Sir Robert Howard turned the tables upon Laud for this
transaction. "On Munday, December 21," wrote Laud in 1640, "upon a
Petition of Sir Robert Howard, I was condemned to pay Five Hundred
Pounds unto him for false Imprisonment. And the Lords Order was so
strict, that I was commanded to pay him the Money presently, or give
Security to pay it in a very short time. I payed it, to satisfie the
Command of the House: but was not therein so well advised as I might
have been, being Committed for Treason." Laud was at that time a
prisoner in the Tower, only to leave it for execution. In addition to
this £500, Sir Robert was ordered to have a fine of £250 paid to him
by the sorcerer, Lambe, and another fine of £500 by a man named
Martin;[90] so altogether, the Long Parliament assigned him,£1,250
damages.

In a letter to the Lord Deputy, dated 24th June, 1635,[91] Garrard
says: "Sir Robert Howard, after one month's close imprisonment in the
Fleet, obtained his liberty, giving £2,000 bond never more to come at
Lady Purbeck, wherein he stands bound alone; but for his appearance
within 30 days, if he be called, two of his brothers stand bound for
him in £1,500, so I hope there is an end of the business."

On the 30th of July, 1635, the same correspondent wrote of Lady
Purbeck's being "in some part of France, where I wish she may stay,
but it seems not good so to the higher powers: for there is of late an
express messenger sent to seek her with the Privy Seal of his Majesty
to summon her into England, within six weeks after the receipt
thereof, which if she do not obey, she is to be proceeded against
according to the laws of this Kingdom."

In a letter[92] from the "Rev. Mr. Thomas Garrard to the Lord Deputy,"
dated 27th April, 1637, there is an announcement which may surprise
some readers:--

"Another of my familiar acquaintance has gone over to that Popish
religion, Sir Robert Howard, which I am very sorry for. My Lady
Purbeck left her country and religion both together, and since he will
not leave thinking of her, but live in that detestable sin, let him go
to that Church for absolution, for comfort he can find none in ours."

Now, "the Reverend Mr. Garrard" can scarcely have known what Sir
Robert would, or would not, "leave thinking of," and, as to his living
"in that detestable sin," he and his fellow-sinner had not been even
in the same country for nearly two years at the time when Garrard was
writing; and, as we have already shown, the unlikelihood of their
having committed the sin in question for another couple of years
before that may be more than plausibly argued. And it should be
remembered that these two people could have no object in becoming
Catholics, unless they received the benefits of the Sacraments of the
Catholic Church; and as Catholics, they would believe that their
confessions would be sacrileges, their absolutions invalid, and their
communions the "eating and drinking their own damnation," unless they
confessed their immoralities among their other sins, with a firm
purpose never to commit them again.

It is clear, therefore, that when they became Catholics Sir Robert
Howard and Lady Purbeck must have determined never to resume their
illicit intercourse; and, so far as is known, they never did so. In a
letter to Secretary Windebanke written from Paris, in July, 1636, Lord
Scudamore, after saying something about Lady Purbeck, adds: "She
expects every day Sir Robert Howard here:" but this must have been
mere gossip, for Scudamore cannot have been in the confidence of that
fugitive from England, Lady Purbeck, as he was English Ambassador at
Paris; moreover, he was a particular ally of Archbishop Laud,[93]
therefore, not likely to have relations with an escaped prisoner of
Laud's; although, as we shall presently find, another, although very
different, friend of Laud took her part. Nor is there anything to show
that Sir Robert Howard went to Paris.

Respecting the matter of Sir Robert's submission to the Catholic
Church, the Reverend Mr. Garrard was perfectly right in saying: "Let
him go to that Church for absolution, for comfort he can find none in
ours." Whether the Catholic religion is the worst of religions or the
best of religions, it is the religion to which those in grievous
trouble, whether through misfortune or their own fault, most
frequently have recourse; a religion which offers salvation and solace
even to the adulterer, the thief, the murderer, or the perpetrator of
any other crimes, on condition of contrition and firm purpose of
amendment.[94]

FOOTNOTES:

[87] _History of the Troubles and Tryal of Archbishop Laud_ (ed.
1695), p. 146.

[88] Vol. I., p. 390, 17th March, 1635.

[89] _Strafford Papers_, Vol. I., p. 447. Letter from Garrard to the
Lord Deputy, dated 30th July, 1635.

[90] Lingard, Vol. VII., Chap. V.

[91] _Strafford Letters_, Vol. I., p. 434.

[92] _Ibid._, Vol. II., p. 72.

[93] "The remarkably studious, pious, and hospitable life he led, made
him respected & esteemed by all good men, especially by Laud, who
generally visited him in going to & from his Diocese of St. David's &
found his entertainment as kind and full of respect as ever he did
from any friend" (Burke's _Dormant and Extinct Peerages_, p. 483).

[94] In _Coles' MSS._, Vol. XXXIII., p. 17, may be found the following
note, after a mention of Lady Purbeck: "Sir Robert Howard died April
22, 1653, and was buried at Clunn in Shropshire, leaving issue by
Catherine Nevill, his Wife, 3 sons, who, I presume, he married after
the Lady Purbeck's death which happened 8 years before his own. The
Epitaph in my Book in Folio of Lichfield, lent me by Mr. Mitton. Sir
Robert was 5th Son to Thomas, Earl of Suffolk, Lord Treasurer of
England."



CHAPTER XII.

          "O must the wretched exile ever mourn,
          Nor after length of rolling years return?"
                                                DRYDEN.


Lady Purbeck was not to be left in peace in Paris. As Garrard had
said, a writ was issued commanding her to return to England upon her
allegiance, and it was sent to Paris by a special messenger who was
ordered to serve it upon her, if he could find her. The matter was
placed in the hands of the English Ambassador, and he describes what
followed in a letter[95] from Paris to the Secretary of State in
England:--

"Rt. Honble.

"Your honours letters dated the 7th March--I received the 21 the same
style by the Courrier sent to serve his Majesties writt upon the Lady
Viscountesse Purbecke. They came to me about 11 of the clock in the
Morning. Upon the instant of his coming to me I sent a servant of myne
own to show him the house, where the Lady lived publiquely, and in my
neighbourhood."

The business in hand, it will be observed, was not to arrest Lady
Purbeck, but simply to serve the writ upon her: a duty which proved
not quite so simple as might be supposed. On arriving at the house in
which Lady Purbeck was living, "the Courrier taking off his Messengers
Badge knocked at the doore to gett in. There came a Mayd to the doore
that would not open it, but peeped through a grating and asked his
businesse. He sayd, he was not in such hast but he could come againe
to-morrow. But the Mayd and the rest of the household having charge
not to open the doore, but to suche as were well knowne, the Messenger
could not gett in."

This first failure would not in itself have much alarmed the
Ambassador; but he says: "In the afternoone, I understood that the
Lady had received notice 15 days before, that a privy seale was to
come for her, which had caused her ever since to keep her house
close."

This made him nervous, and he tried to push the matter with greater
speed.

"We endeavoured by severall ways," he wrote, "to have gotten the
Messenger into the house. But having considered and tryed till the
next day in the afternoone, we grew very doubtfull that the Messenger
might be suspected and that the Lady might slip away from that place
of her residence that night."

Unless the writ could be properly served upon her, proceedings against
her could not be carried out in England, and, once out of the house in
which she now was known, or at least believed, to be, so slippery a
lady, as she had already proved herself, would be very difficult to
find. To effect an entrance into the house and to serve the writ upon
her personally was evidently impossible, and the only alternative was
to make sure that she was in the house and then to put the writ into
it in such a way that she could not avoid learning of its presence.
Therefore, says the Ambassador, "I directed this Bearer to put the Box
with the Privy Seale in it through some pane of a lower window into
the house and leaving it there to putt on his Badge, and knocking at
the doore of the house, if they would not suffer him to enter, then to
tell that party, whoe should speak to him at the dore, that he was
sent from the K. of Grate Britaine to serve his Majesties Privy Seale
upon the Lady Viscountess Purbeck, and that in regard he could not be
admitted in, he had left the Privy seale in a Box in such a place of
the house, and that in his Majesties name he required the Lady Purbeck
to take notice thereof at her perill." So far as getting the Privy
Seal inside the house was concerned, all went well. "The Messenger
being there, found an upper windowe neath the casements open, and
threw up the Box with the Privy seale in it through that windowe into
a Chamber, which some say is the Ladies Dining Roome, others, that it
is a Chamber of a Man servant waiting upon her."

The writ was now safely lodged in the house; but the Ambassador had
ordered the messenger to take care to call the attention of some one
in it to the fact that the writ was there. Unfortunately, says the
Ambassador, this part of his instructions had been neglected. "The
Courrier returnes to me. And finding that he had forgotten to speake
at the dore as I had directed him, I caused him presently to returne
and to discharge himself in such sort as is above mentioned, which he
will depose he did."

This was done, but even then something was still left undone; for it
yet remained to be proved that Lady Purbeck was actually in the house
at the time when the writ was thrown into it. The Ambassador conceived
the idea of obtaining such proof by means of a female witness. For
this purpose, he very ingeniously contrived to find a sister of one of
Lady Purbeck's servants, and, no doubt by the promise of a heavy
bribe, he persuaded her to go to the house, to ask to be admitted in
order to speak with her sister, to find out, when there, if Lady
Purbeck was in the house, and, if possible, to see her. This ruse was
singularly successful, for, as will be seen, the first person whom the
girl saw was Lady Purbeck herself.

"A woman being sent to the house under Colour of speaking with a
sister of hers the Ladies servant, the Ladye herselfe came downe to
the dore, and opening it a little, soe that the woman saw her, she
sayd her sister should have leave to go home to her that night. And
therefore the Lady was in the house at the same time that the place of
her residence was served. She hath lived in that house about a month,
and there are (as I am informed) no other dwellers in it but herself."

The writ had now been served, although not into the very hands of Lady
Purbeck yet it was hoped sufficiently in order to satisfy the law. But
all was not yet smooth. The Ambassador wrote:--

"The morrow after this was done, about midnight, there came some
officers with two coaches and 50 archers to divers houses to search
for the Lady being directed and instructed by a warrant from the
Cardinal that whereas there was a Messenger sent from England to offer
some affront to your Lady Purbeck in diminution of this Kings
jurisdiction, that therefore they should find out the sayd Lady and
protect her."

This intervention on the part of the French Government made Lord
Scudamore fear lest _l'affaire Purbeck_ might lead to international
complications, and he presently adds: "Coming to the knowledge of this
particular this Morning I thought good to hasten the Messenger out of
the way."

Fortunately for Lady Purbeck, she was not without a friend in Paris.
About a year before she went there, a curious character had arrived in
the person of Sir Kenelm Digby, a son of the Sir Everard Digby who had
been executed for having been concerned in the Gunpowder Plot. Sir
Kenelm was well known, both at home and abroad. He had stayed at
Madrid with his relative, the Earl of Bristol, at the time when
Prince Charles had gone to Spain to woo the Infanta. He had been a
brilliant ornament at the Court of Charles I.; but, like all the
relations of Bristol, he had been hated by Buckingham. Armed with
letters of marque, he had raised a fleet and ravaged the Mediterranean
in the character of a privateer. He was literary, philosophical,
metaphysical and scientific. When he came to Paris his beautiful wife
had been dead a couple of years, and the smart courtier had thrown off
his hitherto splendid attire, had clothed himself in black of the very
plainest, and had allowed his hair and beard to grow as they would,
ragged and untrimmed. Shortly before the arrival of Lady Purbeck in
Paris, Sir Kenelm had declared himself a Catholic; and the fact that
both he and Lady Purbeck had submitted themselves to the Catholic
Church may have formed a bond of union between them. Sir Kenelm soon
contrived to interest Cardinal Richelieu in Lady Purbeck's case, and
not only Richelieu but also the King and the Queen of France.

A certain "E.R." wrote[96] to Sir R. Puckering: "The last week we had
certain news that the Lady Purbeck was declared a papist." And then he
went on to say that Louis XIIIth and the Queen of France, as well as
Cardinal Richelieu, had sent messages or letters to Charles I.,
begging him to pardon Lady Purbeck and to allow her to return to
England. He also said that the French Ambassador at St. James's was
"very zealous in the business." Shortly afterwards he added: "It is
said she is altogether advised by Sir Kenelm Digby, who indeed hath
written over letters to some of his noble friends of the privy
council, wherein he hath set down what a convert this lady is become,
so superlatively virtuous and sanctimonious, as the like hath never
been seen in men or women; and therefore he does most humbly desire
their lordships to farther this lady's peace, and that she may return
into England, for otherwise she does resolve to put herself into some
monastery. I hear his Majesty does utterly dislike that the lady is so
directed by Sir Kenelm Digby, and that she fares nothing better for
it."

Of course anybody would naturally sneer at the suggestion that the
convert to a religion other than his own could possibly be remarkable
for either virtue or sanctity: but there is no visible reason for
sympathising with the sneers of (E.R.), or for doubting Sir Kenelm
Digby's evidence respecting Lady Purbeck.

It may be a question whether Lady Purbeck ever intended "to put
herself into some monastery," in the sense of becoming a nun. She did,
however, put herself into a monastery in a very different way. It was,
and still is, the custom in some convents to take in lodgers or
boarders, either for a short time, for a long time, or even for life.
The peace, the quiet, the regularity, and the religious services and
observances at such establishments are attractive to some people,
especially to those who are in trouble or difficulty. The
disadvantages are that, although the lodgers are perfectly free to go
where they please and to do what they please, they can generally only
get their meals at rigidly appointed hours, that the convent doors are
finally closed at a fixed time, usually a very early one; and that
after that closing time there is no admittance. Practically the latter
arrangement precludes all possibility of society in an evening, and
the present writer knows several Catholics of the most unimpeachable
orthodoxy, zeal, piety and virtue, who have tried living in convents
and monasteries, as boarders, both in Rome and in London, and have
given it up simply on account of those inconveniences. It was,
therefore, very unjust to speak ill of Lady Purbeck for not having
lived in a convent "according to that strictness as was expected,"
because she left it. But this was done in the following letter:[97]
"The Lady Purbeck is come forth of the English Nunnerie. For, the Lady
Abbess being from home, somebody forgott to provide the Lady Purbeck
her dinner, and to leave the roome open where she used to dine at
night, expostulating with the Abbess, they agreed to part fairely,
which the Abbess was the more willing unto in regard the Lady Purbeck
did not live according to that strictness as was expected. Car.
Richelieu helped her into the Nunnerie."

It may be inferred from this letter that Lady Purbeck left the convent
for the simple reason that she was not comfortable in it--even the
"superlatively virtuous" do not like to be dinnerless--and that,
either because she was unpunctual, or because she was inclined to make
complaints, the Abbess was relieved when she took her departure. But
by Scudamore's own showing they parted "fairely;" or, as we should now
say, good friends.

Among Sir Kenelm Digby's English correspondents, while he was in
Paris, was Lord Conway, a soldier as devoted to literature as to arms,
and a general who always seemed fated to fight under disadvantages.
Shortly after the time with which we are at present dealing, he was
defeated when in command of the King's troops at Newcastle. Meanwhile,
Sir Kenelm was endeavouring to "fit him withal," in the matter of
"curious books," from Paris. As the letter[98] from Sir Kenelm to Lord
Conway, about to be quoted, has something in it about Lord Wimbledon,
it may be well to note that he was a brother of Lady Elizabeth Hatton
and therefore an uncle of Lady Purbeck.

After observing that England has been singularly happy in producing
men like King Arthur and others who performed actions of only moderate
valour or interest, which subsequent ages mistook for great
achievements, he says:--

"But none will be more famous and admirable to our Nevewes(?) than the
noble valiant and ingenious Peer, the Lord Wimbledone, whose
epistle[99] exceedeth all that was ever done before by any so
victorious a generall of armies or so provident a governor of townes,
I only lament for it that it was not hatched in a season when it might
have done the honor to Baronius,[100] his collections, to have bin
inserted among them.

"Here is a Lady that he hath reason to detest above all persons in the
worlde, if robbing a man of all the portion of witt, courage,
generousnesse, and other heroicall partes due to him, do meritt such
an inclination of the minde towardes them that have thus bereaved
them: for surely the Genius that governeth that family and that
distributeth to each of them their shares of natures guiftes was
either asleepe, or mistooke (or somewhat else was the cause) when he
gave my Lady of Purbecke a dubble proportion of these and all other
noble endowments, and left her poore Uncle, so naked and unfurnished:
Truly my lord to speake seriously I have not seen more prudence,
sweetinesse, goodnesse, honor and bravery shewed by any woman that I
know, than this unfortunate lady sheweth she hath a rich stock of.
Besides her naturall endowments, doubtlessly her afflictions adde
much: or rather have polished, refined and heightened what nature gave
her: and you know vexatio dat intellectum. Is it not a shame for you
Peeres (and neare about the king) that you will let so brave a lady
live as she doth in distress and banishment: when her exile serveth
stronger but to conceive scandalously of our nation, that we will not
permit those to live among us who have so much worth and goodnesse as
this lady giveth show off....

    "Yo. Lo: most humble and affectionate
                "servant,
                    "KENELM DIGBY."

Sir Kenelm, like Scudamore, was on a friendly footing with Lady
Purbeck's chief enemy, Archbishop Laud, but in a very different sense.
When Sir Kenelm was a boy Laud had been his tutor, and a friendship
had sprung up between the master and the pupil which was not broken by
the conversion of the pupil to a religion greatly disliked by the
master. Subsequently, Sir Kenelm gave evidence in favour of his old
tutor, before the Committee appointed to prepare the prosecution of
Laud at his trial, and he sent kind messages to Laud in the Tower.
Unlike Scudamore, however, he was no admirer of Laud's religion or of
his ecclesiastical policy, if indeed of any of his policy.

Although Sir Kenelm Digby, the King and the Queen of France, Cardinal
Richelieu, and the French Ambassador at the Court of St. James's did
their best to obtain forgiveness for Lady Purbeck, Charles I. was long
obdurate. At first, as we have seen, he had sent a writ commanding her
to return at once to her native country for punishment. When he had
withdrawn that writ, he for some time refused to allow her to return
at all, for any purpose. But troubles were brewing for Charles
himself, and, after Lady Purbeck had spent an exile of some length in
Paris, she was permitted to come to England, without any liability to
stand barefoot in a white sheet for the amusement of the congregation
in a fashionable London church on a Sunday morning.

FOOTNOTES:

[95] _S.P. For._, Charles I., France. Scudamore to Coke, 25th
March--4th April, 1636. This letter was addressed to Sir John Coke,
the Secretary of State.

[96] _Court and Times of Charles I_. By D'Israeli, Vol. II., p. 242.

[97] _S.P._, Charles I., France. Scudamore to Windebank, I/121 July,
1636.

[98] _S.P. Dom._, Charles I., Vol. CCCXLIV., No. 58. Sir Kenelm Digby
to Edward Lord Conway and Kilultagh, 21/31 January, 1637.

[99] Wimbledon was Governor of Portsmouth and the letter in question
was probably one mentioned by Walpole in his _Royal and Noble
Authors_, to the Mayor of Portsmouth "reprehending him for the
Townsmen not pulling off their hats to a Statue of the King Charles,
which his Lordship had erected there." Such an "epistle" might well
excite the derision and contempt of Sir Kenelm.

[100] The author of _Annales Ecclesiastici_.



CHAPTER XIII.

          "To err is human, to forgive divine."
                                            POPE.


Concerning Lady Purbeck's life, after her return to England, we have
the following evidence from _Coles' Manuscripts_. Let us observe,
first, that in the extract there is a mistake. It was not Lady
Purbeck, but the wife of her son, whose maiden name was Danvers.
Anybody who may choose to discredit the whole, on account of this
error, can do so if he pleases; but it is certain that Lord Purbeck
"owned the son" and that the son's grandson, "the Rev. Mr. Villiers,"
claimed "the Title of Earl of Bucks." Therefore we see no reason for
doubting the statement that Lord Purbeck "took his Wife again." The
"after 16 years" would seem to tally with the undoubted facts.

"[101]Lady Purbeck's name Danvers; absent from Husband 16 years: had
by Sir Robert Howard one son who married a Bertie, and took the Title
of Lord Purbeck, which Lady Purbeck's will I have. Lord Purbeck after
16 years took his wife again, and owned the Son, which 2nd Lord
Purbeck had one Son, Father of the Rev. Mr. Villiers, who now claims
the Title of Earl of Bucks. &c."

It will be remembered that even when Lady Purbeck was being proceeded
against for unfaithfulness to her husband, at the instigation of
Buckingham, she was on friendly terms with Lord Purbeck, and that
Buckingham had considerable difficulty in keeping them apart:
consequently it is the less to be wondered at that Lord Purbeck "took
his wife again," after her return from exile. Not only was Lady
Purbeck now a reformed character, but, like Lord Purbeck, she was a
convert to the Catholic Church; and this would probably make him the
more inclined to receive her again as his wife and to trust her for
the future. At the time of their reunion Lady Purbeck must have been
about forty, and he must have been an oldish man; although not too old
to be a bridegroom, and no longer under suspicion of insanity; for, in
addition to starting a second time as husband to Frances, Lady
Purbeck, it is recorded that after her death, which occurred in five
or six years, he married again,[102] and survived his first wife by
twelve years.

If the beginning of married life a second time, after an interval of
sixteen years--to say nothing of certain awkward incidents which had
transpired in the meantime--may have been a little out of the common,
it is more remarkable still that Lord Purbeck should have
acknowledged the boy, Robert Wright, as his son. As was shown in an
earlier chapter, it is just possible that he may have been ignorant of
the fact that the lad was not his own child, or rather, perhaps, that
he refused to believe in that fact. On the other hand, as the boy was
born in wedlock, he had in any case the right to acknowledge him as
such, if he so pleased. That was his concern, not ours, so we need not
cavil at it.

His doing so may be accounted for by either of the two following
suppositions: namely, that he acknowledged the boy out of affection
for, and to please, his wife--possibly it may have been one of the
inducements held out to persuade her to return to him--or that he
gradually took a fancy to the lad and chose this method of adopting
him. Whatever the cause of his acknowledging the boy may have been,
that acknowledgment encourages the idea that good relations existed
between Lord and Lady Purbeck after what may almost be called their
second marriage, or, perhaps still better called, their first real
marriage with consent on both sides.

Purbeck called the boy Robert Villiers, and would not allow him to be
spoken of as Robert Wright. When the lad came of age, Lord Purbeck
made him join with himself, as his son and heir, in the conveyance of
some lands, under the name of Robert Villiers,[103] the most formal of
legal recognitions.

It is likely that her life soon became that of an invalid, for she
died in the year 1645, when staying with her mother at Oxford. In that
year the Court of Charles I. was at this town, which may account for
her own and her mother's presence there. As we saw, in the first
chapter, there is some question as to whether Lady Purbeck was born in
the year 1599 or in 1600, so she may have been either forty-five or
forty-six at the time of her death. Her life, although of very
moderate length, had been one of considerable adventure, which may
have told heavily upon her constitution; if her personal concerns were
peaceful at the time of her death, we know that the conditions of the
King and of the Court, together with the prospects of all of high rank
who were loyal to the Crown, were then causing great anxiety and
excitement at Oxford: and this may well have had a bad effect upon the
health of an invalid.

Of Lady Purbeck's character much less is recorded than of the
characters of several other leading figures in this story--her father,
her mother, Bacon, Buckingham. We know, however, that she faithfully
nursed during his last two years her surly old father, who had treated
her abominably and spoiled her life; that she never lost the
friendship of Lord Purbeck; that, in her trouble she sought the
consolations of religion in a Church which would require a full
confession of her sins, accompanied by sincere repentance and virtuous
resolutions; that she bore an excellent character in Paris; and that
she spent her last years with her husband or her mother. It is true
that she had sinned, that she had sinned grievously; but, when we
consider her education under parents who were fighting like cat and
dog, the marriage which was forced upon her, and the dissolute Court
in which she, a singularly beautiful woman, spent the early years of
her married life, we may well hesitate before we look for stones to
cast at her memory.

And, after all, the only description of her character, of any length,
which we have been able to find, namely, that given by Sir Kenelm
Digby, is highly favourable. If an apology be required for repeating
it, that apology is humbly given.

After declaring that of "wit, courage, generosity, and other heroic
parts," nature had given Lady Purbeck "a double share," together with
"all other noble endowments," Sir Kenelm says: "I have not seen more
prudence, sweetness, honour and bravery shown by any woman that I
know, than this unfortunate lady showeth she hath such a rich stock
of. Besides her natural endowments, doubtless her afflictions add
much; or rather have polished, refined and heightened, what nature
gave her."

Even when we have made due allowance for the fact that the pen of Sir
Kenelm Digby was inclined to be a little flowery, sufficient is left
in this description of Lady Purbeck to make her character attractive,
and we know that nature had added to her charms by endowing her with
exceptional beauty. No attempt shall be made here to exaggerate
either her attractions or her virtues, much less to extenuate or
minimise her faults; but let us at least forgive the latter.

There are ladies who call the story of Mary Magdalen "beautiful," yet
would on no consideration tolerate a repetition of even its most
beautiful incidents, in real life. If she now existed, the greatest
concession they would make would be to subscribe towards sending her
to a Home for Fallen Women; or, which is more likely, they would ask
for an order of admission for her from someone else who subscribed to
such an institution. From such we cannot expect a charitable view of
_The Curious Case of Lady Purbeck_.

It would be out of place to enter into petty theological questions in
a comparatively trivial work such as this--to inquire, for instance,
into the question whether it may not be as possible to be damned for
detraction as to be damned for adultery; but we may at least believe
that Lady Purbeck spent her later years in contrition for the past and
virtue in the present.

We have now done with the curious case of Lady Purbeck, and it only
remains to say something about the less curious cases of some of her
descendants.

It might be supposed that "Robert Wright," who was just of age at the
time of his mother's death, would be proud to bear the name of
Villiers and to be acknowledged as the rightful heir to the estates
and title of Viscount Purbeck. As time went on, however, he became
ashamed of those privileges.[104] The son of a Cavalier, he became a
Roundhead, and three years after the death of his mother he married
one of the daughters and co-heiresses of his relative, Sir John
Danvers, subsequently one of the judges who condemned King Charles I.
to death.

He eventually obtained a patent from Oliver Cromwell to change his
name for that of his wife, declaring that he hated the name of
Villiers on account of the mischief which several of those who bore it
had done to the Commonwealth; and as to the title of Viscount Purbeck,
he disclaimed it with contempt.

But before the Commonwealth Robert Danvers, as he even then called
himself, sat in the House of Commons as member for Westbury. When
people want titles, they do not always find it easy to obtain them;
but, when they do not want them, they cannot always get rid of them.
Robert was summoned to the House of Lords, as a peer, to answer the
very serious charge of having said that "he hated the Stuarts and that
if no person could be found to cut off the King's head, he would do it
himself." He refused to attend, on the ground that he was not a
member of the House of Lords but of the House of Commons. This plea
was not allowed, and he was actually compelled to kneel at the bar of
the House of Lords and to beg pardon for his criminal words.

At the Restoration he remained an obstinate Roundhead, and, instead of
showing any desire to claim the title of Viscount Purbeck, he obtained
permission from Charles II. to levy a fine of his titles in possession
and in remainder. Then he retired to an estate which he owned in the
parish of Houghton in Radnorshire, bearing the curious name of
Siluria. He died in the year 1676, at Calais, and in his will he is
described as "Robert Danvers, alias Villiers, Esq."

Robert's wife survived him, and, now that he and his idiosyncrasies
were safely out of the way, it occurred to this daughter of a regicide
that "the Right Honourable the Dowager Viscountess Purbeck"
would sound much more euphonious than "the widow Danvers;"
accordingly--solely for the sake of others--she adopted that title. At
the same time, her two sons, Robert and Edward, resumed the name of
Villiers.

Immediately after the death of his father, Robert, the elder of the
two sons, took as much trouble to get summoned to the House of Lords
as his father had taken to escape from it. He sent a petition on the
subject to Charles II., who referred him to the House of Lords. His
claim was opposed. First, on the ground that his father had barred
his right to honours by the fine which he had levied, _i.e._, by
renouncing those honours, and, secondly, on the ground that his father
had not been a son of John Villiers, First Viscount Purbeck, but a son
of Sir Robert Howard. A petition[105] against the claim was presented
by the Earl of Denbigh, who professed himself "highly concerned in the
honour of the Duke of Buckingham and his sister, the Duchess of
Richmond & Lennox; Petitioner's mother, Susanna, having been the only
sister of the late Duke of Buckingham," and he prayed "the House to
examine the truth of these assertions, before allowing itself to be
contaminated by illegitimate blood."

This warning to the Lords against contaminating itself by illegitimate
blood, at a time when Charles II. was constantly enriching it with his
own illegitimate offspring, or what at least purported to be so, is
rather entertaining. On the other hand, in support of the claim, the
claimant's counsel professed to be able to prove the legitimacy of
Robert Villiers, alias Wright.[106]

The House of Lords after considering the matter petitioned the King to
allow the introduction of a Bill to disable Robert from claiming the
title of Viscount Purbeck: but seven peers opposed this petition
stating in writing that "the said claimant's right ... did, both at
the hearing at the bar and debate in the House, appear to them clear
in fact and law and above all objection." Charles II. replied that he
"would take it into consideration." This appears to have been the last
official word ever pronounced upon the subject, and nobody has since
then been summoned to the House of Lords as Viscount Purbeck.

The claimant, however, continued to call himself Lord Purbeck. He came
to an early end, being killed in a duel by Colonel Luttrell, at Liège,
when he was only twenty-eight; but he left a son. Nor did this son
only call himself Lord Purbeck, for on the death of the childless
second Duke of Buckingham, of whom Dryden wrote:--[107]

    Stiff in opinion--always in the wrong--
    Was everything by starts, but nothing long;
    Who in the course of one revolving moon
    Was chemist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon.
    Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking:
    Besides a thousand freaks that died in thinking;

John Villiers, alias Danvers, alias Wright, in addition to the title
of Viscount Purbeck, assumed that of Earl of Buckingham, the reversion
of which had been secured by the first Earl and Duke to his brother
and his heirs, in the case of his own direct heirs failing. This
self-styled Earl squandered his fortune in a life of debauchery, and
then married the daughter of a clergyman, a widow with a large
jointure but about as dissolute in character as himself, which is
saying much. He left no sons.

Such claims as there were to the titles of Purbeck and Buckingham then
lay with the Rev. George Villiers, Rector of Chalgrove, in
Oxfordshire. He was the son of Edward, the second son of the boy
christened Robert Wright. In the year 1723, on the death of his
cousin, the so-called Earl of Buckingham, this clergyman put in a
claim to the titles of Earl of Buckingham and Viscount Purbeck; but,
unlike his cousin, he does not appear to have ever "lorded" himself.

This cleric left a son named George, who also became a parson, and
Vicar of Frodsham in Cheshire. Efforts were made in his youth to
obtain for him a summons to the House of Lords; but, in addition to
the doubtful character of his claims, he was no _persona grata_ to the
King, as he was known to be an ardent Jacobite. As Burke says:
"Republicans during the reign of the Stuarts--Jacobites during the
reign of the Guelphs--this unfortunate family seems always to have had
hold of the wrong end of the stick." As a rule, they appear to have
held that end of it, but certainly it is a rule to which George
Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham, was a remarkable exception.

The Rev. George Villiers, who still owned property which had been
settled by Sir Edward Coke on his daughter, Lady Purbeck, died without
issue, in 1774, and his brother died a bachelor. The male line of
Villiers, alias Danvers, alias Wright, then expired. We hear no more
of any claims to the Purbeck peerage; henceforward the title which
stands at the head of this story was no longer to have any place in
living interests. At this point, let us also take leave of it; and the
author hopes that his readers, if ever reminded of this book by the
mention of Lady Purbeck, may not exclaim in the words of a character
in Macbeth:--"The devil himself could not pronounce a title more
hateful to mine ear."

FOOTNOTES:

[101] _Coles' MSS._, Vol. XXXIII., p. 17.

[102] He married a daughter of Sir William Slingsby of Kippax,
Yorkshire.

[103] Burke's _Extinct and Dormant Peerages_.

[104] The authorities for most of what follows are _The Historical
MSS. Commission_, Ninth Report, Part II., p. 58; _MSS. of the House of
Lords_, 30th April, 5th May, and 3rd June, 1675, 14th March, 16th
June, and 9th July, 1678, and Burke's _Extinct and Dormant Peerages_.

[105] _MSS. of the House of Lords_, 228, 30th April, 1675.

[106] _MSS. of the House of Lords_, 228, 30th April, 1675.

[107] _Absalom and Achitophel_, line 447, _seq._





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