« AnteriorContinuar »
first is the greate learninge, wisdome, and judgment that resteth in your Maie, to whome my ignoraunce and rudeness will easily appere: the seconde is, that yf your Highnes shall ympose this greate charge uppon me, I shall succede one in whome all good qualities did abounde fyt for the due execution of your Maies service in that place, wherby my want and insufficiency shalbe made more manifest. Yet nevertheles, trustinge in the assistaunce of Almightie God, and in the noblenes and bounty of your Maies nature, I do, as my duty bindeth me, humblye submyt my selfe to be disposed of as shall stande with your Maies good pleasure. Concerning these good preceptes and admonitions which it hath pleased your Highnes very prudentlie to give unto me, I shall pray ernestlie to Almightie God to give me his grace that I may follow the same, and do my best and uttermost endevor effectually to performe them.”*
** Egerton Papers,” published by Camden Society, p. 82. It is there supposed that Bromley was first made Lord Keeper and afterwards Lord Chancellor, and a speech is given supposed to be spoken by him on the former occasion; but the Close Roll demonstrates that he was constituted Lord Chancellor wben the Great Seal was first delivered to him, and the first speech can only be a MS. sketch with which he was dissatisfied. The following passage is rather eloquent :—“To be plaine with your Maie, I have found in the course of my life that I have led sithence the Kinge your father's death, such suretie in all changes, and such quietnes and delight in other tymes, that I cannot but like and love that sort of life as the best for my selfe; nor cannot make myselfe beleeve that I can make any change therof but for the worste respectinge my private comodities. Mary, againe when I re. member this tyme ( which I give thanks that it is my chaunce to live to see), and therwith my dutie to your Maie as my soveraigne Lady, and my duty to my countrie, I am then driven to thinke that I ought of right to make of every paine tending to that end a delight, and to preferre busines and trouble before quietnes and ease, and to adventure any daunger without regard of private suretie.” p. 81.
The Close Roll taks no notice of these speeches, but describes the melo dramatic part of the ceremony with great minuteness. “ Et postea Die Dominica &c. prdm magnum Sigillum Anglic in custodia prfte Dne Regne sic ut prdm existens apud prdm Palacium suum Westmonasterii circa horam undecimam ante meridiem ejusdem diei prta Dna Regina in sua Camera privata ibidem tunc existens ex mandato suo regali per nobilem virum Thomam Comitem Sussex Dnum Camerar. Hospicii sui sue Majestati eductum fuit Illudque in purpureo sacculo de veluto suis Regalibus Signaculis perpolito remanen, sua Majestas percepit eripi et immediate eciam mandavit sigillacionem cujusdem Loculi corei infra sacculum prdm tunc existen. frangi et prdm Mag. Sigil. tunc et ibidem evelli et aperi. Quod antedictum Mag. Sig. in binas seperatim partes dicta Dna Regina unam in sua manu sublimitas tenuit partem et prdus Comes Sussex alteram sua partem tenuit manu Et cum prda Dna Regina in eam paulisper contemplata esset prdm sigillum precepit conjungi et in prdo lo ulo in coreo insigillat. locari et extempore reponi in sacculum prdum ex purpureo veluto factum et tunc prdm in manu sua propria respiciens sacculum ac ibidem in manibus suis aliquantisper retinens illud et Mag. Sig. prdm in nobilium et egregiorum virorum Edwardi Comitis Lincoln,” &c. A long list, ending with “et Thome Bromley militis unius privati consilii sui et aliorum presencia prsto horiorabili viro Thome Bromley militi traddidit et deliberavit," &c. Then follows the usual language that he was constituted Chancellor with all the powers exercised by his predecessors, and that he, gratefully accepting the Seal, carried it off and still retains it. -Rot. Cl. 21 Eliz. See Cary's Reports, p. 108.
Lord Chancellor Bromley, as an Equity Judge, followed in the footsteps of Lord Keeper Bacon, and gave almost as great satisfaction. Although he had previously practised principally in the Court of Queen's Bench,—from the time when he was made Solicitor General he had been engaged in all the important cases which occurred in Chancery, and he was well acquainted with the practice of the Court which had now assumed considerable regularity. The common-law Judges at this time were very distinguished men,- Wray, Anderson, Manwood, Gawdey, Windhan, Periam. The Chancellor showed much deference for their opinion, without hesitating to interfere by injunction where he thought that, from the defective or too rigid rules of the common law, justice was likely to be perverted. He professed to hold jurisdiction over “covin, accident, and breach of confidence,” according to the rule that “ matters cognisable by the common law ought not to be decided in Chancery,”—but by “cognisable” by the common law, he understood where by the common-law process truth could be effectually discovered, and right done to all parties interested.* He was likewise in the habit of calling in the assistance of common-law Judges when questions of novelty and difficulty arose before him; and in in this way the indecent contests which agitated the opposite sides of Westminster Hall in the succeeding reign were avoided.
Bromley is not celebrated as a great jurist, or as being one of those who laid the foundation of our system of Equity ; but while he held the Great Seal I find no trace of any complaint against him as a Judge, either on the ground of corruption cr usurpation, or delay; and we may be sure if there had been abuse there would not have been silence, from the shout of discontent set up when a mere courtier was appointed to succeed him. Camden describes him as “ Vir jurisprudentia ;” and it was said of him that “ such was his learning and integrity, that although he succeeded so popular a Judge as Sir Nicholas Bacon, the bar and the public were not sensible of any considerable change.”
He had to take his place on the woolsack in the House of Lords (A. D. 1582.]
o, on the of 16th January, 1582. The Commons, in
:] great perplexity on account of the death of their Speaker during the recess, sent a deputation to the Lord Chancellor and the Lords to request their aid and advice. The Lord Chancellor, having ordered them to withdraw, informed the House of their petition, and it was resolved to appoint such of the Lords as were of the Privy Council to go along with a select number of the Commons to represent the case to the Queen. A commission thereupon passed the Great Seal authorising the Chancellor to require the Commons to choose a new Speaker. Popham, the Queen's Solicitor General, was chosen accordingly and approved of. But when he claimed the accustomed privileges of the House,
* See 4 Inst 83, 84.
the Chancellor, by the Queen's order, gave him this admonition : “ That the House of Commons should not deal or intermeddle with any matters touching her Majesty's person or estate, or Church government.”*
This injunction was not very strictly observed, especially by the Puritans, who now began to be very troublesome. As soon as a subsidy had been voted the session was therefore closed, and the Lord Chancellor in his speech took care to exclude from the Queen's thanks “ such members of the Conmons as had dealt more rashly in some things than was fit for them to do.” He soon afterwards dissolved this parliament, which had been continued by prorogations during a period of eleven years.f
It is remarkable how few instances of poisoning or assassination occur in the history of England compared with that of France or the States of Italy. The reason may be, that with us parliament was a more ready and convenient instrument of vengeance than the bowl or the dagger, and the object of the ruling party could always be attained under the forms of law. The captive Queen of Scots, the presumptive heir to the Crown of England, had not only rendered herself odious and dangerous to Elizabeth, but the English ministers who had concurred in all the rigorous measures against her, were alarmed by the apprehension that, in case of any accident happening to the reigning Sovereign, she whom they had persecuted might at once be taken from a prison and placed on the throne, the arbitress of their destiny. Leicester repeatedly recommended that she should be taken off by poi. son, and, with all his profligacy, pretending a great regard for religion, defended the lawfulness of this expedient. The wary Burghley consulting with the Chancellor, thought that un it would be much better to proceed by act of parlia- 14..
[A. D. 1585.] ment and a mock court of justice ;-"thus they would make the burden better borne, and the world abroad better satisfyeed.” I Accordingly, summonses were issued for a parliamant to meet on the 23d of November, 1585.
Lord Chancellor Bromley opened the session with a speech stating that parliament was called to consider of a new law which had become necessary for the protection of her Majesty's person against the machinations of her enemies, and for securing the peace of the realm.§
It was resolved that Mary should be brought to trial, but a great difficulty arose as to the tribunal before which she should be tried.
The House of Peers or a Lord High Steward's Court consisting of a selection of Peers, would have been very convenient; but although of the blood royal of England, she was not an English peeress. A packed jury might easily have been impannelled to convict her; but foreign powers would have exclaimed against a Sovereign Princess being condemned as if she were a common * 1 Parl. Hist 811. † Ibid. 821. Ellis, iii. 5. § 1 Parl. Hist. 821.
felon. Therefore a bill was immediately introduced, which speedily passed both Houses, enacting that a Court should be established, consisting of twenty-four at the least, whereof part should be of the Queen's Privy Council, and the rest Peers of the realm, to examine the offences of such as should make any open invasion or rebellion within the kingdom, or attempt hurt to the Queen's person, or any like offence, by or for any pretending title to the Crown, and that any such offender being convicted shall be disabled to have or pretend title to the Crown, and shall be pursued to death by all the Queen's subjects."*
Elizabeth was so much pleased to find her victim now at her mercy, that she would not trust the Lord Chancellor to return thanks, but herself said," My Lords, and ye of the Lower House, my silence must not injure the owner so much as to suppose a substitute sufficient to render you the thanks that my heart yieldeth you, not so much for the safe keeping of my life for which your care appears so manifest, as for the neglecting your private future peril, not regarding other way than my present state. No prince herein, I confess, can be surer tied or faster bound than I am with the link of your good will, and can for that but yield a heart and a head to seek forever all your best.” The Lord Chancellor now took an active part in the examina
261 tion and prosecution of Babington and his associ[A. D. 1586.]
“: 100%.] atest, whose conspiracy had been under the superintendence of the Cabinet, and they being justly convicted and executed, the time had arrived when proceedings might be taken against Mary herself, who was well aware of the plan to liberate her from imprisonment, but (as I firmly believe) by no means of the intention to assassinate Elizabeth. A commission passed the Great Seal, appointing the Chancellor and forty-five others, Peers, Privy Councillors, and Judges, “a court to inquire into and determine all offences committed against the recent statute either by Mary, daughter and heiress of James V., late King of Scotland, or by any other person whatsoever."'s
Mary had been removed to Fotheringay in Northamptonshire, the place selected for her trial and death. On the 11th of October, thirty-six of the Commissioners, headed by Bromley, arrived there, and took the command of the Castle from Sir Amias Paulet, who for some time had acted as her gaoler. The next day a letter from Elizabeth was delivered to her by a notary, announcing to her that she was to be tried. She said, “Let it be remem. bered that I am also a Queen, and not amenable to any foreign jurisdiction;" and she referred to the protest she had before made to Sir Thomas Bromley when Solicitor General. Lord President Bromley was much perplexed; for if she refused to plead before the Commissioners, -although they might have passed sentence upon her as contumacious, the proceeding would have lost all its
* 27 Eliz. c. 1.
1 1 Parl. Hist. 822.
Ellis, iii, 5.
§ Camden, 456.
dignity and effect. He prevailed upon her to meet him and a deputation of the Commissioners in a preliminary interview in the hall of the Castle to discuss the question of jurisdiction. He then pointed out to her that the commission under which they acted was fully authorised by the statute 27 Eliza- ,
ai [A. D. 1586.] beth. She maintained that this statute did not bind 14. D. her; that she was no party to it; that it was contrived by her enemies, and passed for her ruin, and that, as an independent Sovereign, she was not subject to English law. Bromley read to her a passage in Elizabeth's letter, explaining that, “as she lived under the protection of the Queen of England, she was bound to respect the law of England.” She eagerly and repeatedly asked him what was the meaning of that part of Elizabeth's letter, and whether she was to be considered as protected when she was detained in England against her will, and kept in a state of rigorous imprisonment. The Lord President could only give her an evasive answer, saying that “the meaning was obvious enough, and that it was not for him to interpret the letter of his Sovereign, nor had he come there for that purpose.” She said that his Sovereign was her equal, not her superior, and that she could not be lawfully tried till they found persons who were her peers. The baffled President urged that “neither her imprisonment nor her prerogative of Royal Majesty could exempt her from answering in this kingdom ; with fair words advising her to hear what matters were to be objected against her; otherwise he threatened that by authority of law they both could and would proceed against her, though she were absent.” She still answered, that “ she was no subject, and rather would she die a thousand deaths than acknowledge herself a subject; nevertheless she was ready to answer to all things in a free and full parliament. She warned them to look to their consciences, and to remember that the theatre of the whole world is much wider than the kingdom of England." The wily lawyer asked her “whether she would answer if her protestation were admitted.” “I will never," said she, “submit myself to the late law mentioned in the Commission.”
Sir Christopher Hatton, one of the deputation, though then a gay young courtier, thought he might succeed better than the grave old Chancellor with all his saws, and begged her Majesty to call to mind that if she refused to plead, the world might put an unfavourable construction upon her conduct, whereas her reputation, to the general joy, might now be cleared from all suspicion. But no reasoning of the lawyers, no threat of proceeding against her for contumacy, not even the imputation cast upon her fame, could at that moment shake her resolution. The last consideration, however, so artfully thrown out by Sir Christopher Hatton, on reflection distressed her, and receiving a second letter from Elizabeth saying,—" Act candidly, and you may meet with more favour,” she sent a message to Lord Chancellor Bromley that "she was willing to vindicate her innocence before the Commis