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Attorney General, succeeded him; Popham, the Solicitor General, was made Attorney; and Egerton, who, on account of his unrivalled eminence, had been long destined to the honours of the law, both by the Queen and the voice of his pro- ri fession, was the new Solicitor General. He held l"
(JUNE 28, 1581.] this office near twelve years, during which time he took a very prominent part in conducting state prosecutions, and all the business of the Crown; for, though inferior in rank, he was superior in eloquence and address to the Queen's Serjeants and the Attor. ney General. Conforming to the practice of the times, when prosecuting for high treason, he put questions to the prisoner, and stated facts, of which he offered no proof beyond his own assertion. For example, on the trial of Tilney, charged with being concerned in a conspiracy along with Babington and Ballard to assassinate the Queen, the prisoner having answered, “ As for Ballard's coming to me, I do confess it; but it was in such a public manner as no man in the world could judge his coming for any such intent as treason: he came openly in the day-time, and undisguised ;"—this retort is made by the Solicitor General:—“Tilney, you say true; he came not disguised, but I will tell you how he came; being a popish priest he came in a grey cloak laid on with gold lace, in velvet hose, a cut satin doublet, a fair hat of the newest fashion, the band being set with silver buttons."*
When the unfortunate Mary was to be tried before her prosecucutors, Egerton was particularly consulted as to the designation by which she ought to be indicted. There [A. D. 100
[A. D. 1586 ) was a great scruple about calling her “ Queen of Scots,” because many thought a Sovereign Prince could not lawfully be tried before any earthly tribunal; therefore he recommended that she should be named “Maria, filia et hæres Jacobi Quinti, nuper Regis Scotorum, communiter vocata Regina Scotorum, et Do'aria Franciæ.” The indictment being framed, he went special, with Gaudie and Popham, to Fotheringay, to conduct the prosecution. He summed up at the conclusion of the second day, putting the Com
Worseley of Brothes, and that you were not the right heyre, and so to call in ques. tion tytle and the ould poynt of the bastardye agayne. For doubt of this you shall doe well to sende uppe the Pope's bull touching that mariage, and the copye of the recorde in the seconde yeare of King Henrye the Fourthe's tyme, by which your auncestor recovered in the assyse agaynst Worseley of Brothes. Yf ye sende uppe also the copye of the roceverye at Lancaster, and the copye of the indenture inrollen at Chester, and deeds of refeffment made ao 9 H. 8., ye shall doe well. You have all but the dede of refeffment layed togyther to have used the same at Lancaster agaynst Tho. Brereton, and the dede of refeffment I thought good to suppresse and not to shewe in that matter, but now, for the better answering of all thes and such lyke qnarrellinge objections, I woulde have you to sende all uppe to me, and then they maye be used as occasion shall requyre. And so I bidd you agayne fare well. 16 Octobris, 1580.
“Your's all I can,
Tho. EGERTON." From Lord Francis Egerton's MSS. * 1 St. Tr. 1150.
missioners in mind what would become of them, their honours, estates, and posterity, if the kingdom were to be transferred from her present Majesty to a Popish successor.* The Lord Treasurer, though the directing Judge, followed on the same side before he asked the royal prisoner for her defence; when she begged to be admitted to the presence of Elizabeth, and to be heard before a full parliament,
Mr Solicitor was particularly severe as Counsel against the Earl of Arundel, arguing that, because it was proved he had said he would be ruled by Cardinal Allen in any thing that should con
oncern the Catholic cause, “ My Lord must needs be [A. D. 1589.]
000.] culpable for all the treasons Allen hath practised or procured. When the Spanish fleet was upon our coast, and news was brought to the Tower (where he was confined) that the Spaniards sped well, then the Earl would be merry, and when news came that the English fleet sped well, the Earl would be sorry. When the Spanish fleet was upon the coast of Kent, my Lord said, It is a great wood, and a puissant fleet; we shall have lusty play shortly, and I hope we shall plague them that have plagued us.” † On such overt acts of treason, so proved, was the head of the house of Norfolk convicted; but Elizabeth wished only to daunt him and his adherents, and she suspended the execution of the sentence till, after a long imprisonment, he died a natural death.
On the 2d of June, 1592, Egerton succeeded Popham as Attorney General, and had for his new colleague, as Solicitor, the famous Sir Edward Coke, who had already fixed the attention of the public by his extraordinary vigour of intellect, his profound knowledge of the common law, and his unexampled arrogance.
The only official act of Mr. Attorney General Egerton which has come down to us is his praying for judgment against Sir John Perrot, late Lord-Deputy of Ireland, who had been previously convicted of treason for using some discourteous language respecting the Queen. Mr. Attorney now complained much that “ Sir John protested his innocency to seduce and deceive the audience to think him innocent, whereas it was most manifest that he was most justly condemned of most heinous treason, and that in his trial he received most favourable hearing." Whereunto Sir John Perrot replied, and said, “ Mr. Attorney, you do me wrong now, as you did me before." "I never did you wrong," said Mr. Attorney. -“ You did me wrong,” said Sir John. — “ Instance wherein I did you wrong," said Mr. Attorney. —“ You did me wrong," said Sir
* "Solicitator Delegatos submonuit quid de illis et eorum honoribus fortunis et posteris fieret si regnum ita transferretur.”-- Camb. Eliz. vol. i. p. 430. 1 St. Tr. 1188.
† Camden's account of this proceeding agrees substantially with that in the State Trials. “Egertonus Solicitator, sive procurator secundarius, his summatim repetitis, Majestatem læsisse arguit ex triplice temporis distinctione, scilicet priusquam classis Hispanica adveneret, cum adveneret, cum fugeret,” &c.—Camd. Eliz. vol. ii. p. 6. 1 St. T. 1249.
John. — * I never did you wrong," said Mr. Attorney. All these speeches were spoken with great vehemency, each to the other.* But notwithstanding this unseemly altercation, Egerton was a man of mild demeanour, and was never known to be betrayed into such invective and vituperation as his successor indulged in upon the trials of the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh.
He now rcached the honour of knighthood, which was in that age highly esteemed, and conferred only as the re
re. [A.D. 1593.) ward of long service.t
While Attorney General he was appointed Chamberlain of the County Palatine of Chester, an office of considerable power and dignity.
On the 10th of April, 1594, he was made Master of the Rolls, as successor to Sir Gilbert Gerrard. In this new office, ably disposing of certain suits which were referred to him, and occasionally assisting the Lord Keeper, he speedily showed the highest qualifications as an Equity Judge, – and the Great Seal was considered his on the next vacancy.
During this interval, having comparative leisure, he exercised his pen, and, amongst other things, wrote a little treatise, which we should have found a great curiosity if it had been preserved to us, “On the Duties of the Office of Solicitor General.” This was dedicated to young Francis Bacon, who was then impatiently expecting the office, whom he always patronised, and whose claims he thought he might thus strengthens
On the sudden death of Lord Keeper Puckering, Egerton was immediately hailed as his successor.The Queen having made up her mind in his favour, he was 11
s [May 6, 1296.) sent for to the Court at Greenwich. On the landing at the top of the stair, Lords Cobham and Buckhurst and Sir Robert Cecil were ready to receive him. They conducted him into the Queen's outer private room, where her Majesty was standing upon a piece of embroidered carpet,-Lord Burghley the Lord Treasurer, attending her, Him alone, on account of his age and infirmity, she desired to be seated, and she begged him to lean his back against the tapestry.ll
* i St. Tr. 1329.
t I have observed various instances during the Tudor reigns of men being knighted after having been long in the office of Attorney or Solicitor General, Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Speaker of the House of Commons. | Eg. Pap. 192.
Sir Robert Cecil thanked Egerton in a letter, in which he says, "I have un. derstood, by my cousin Bacon, what a friendly and kind offer you have made him, the better to arm him with your ohservations (for the exercise of solicitorship,) which otherwise may be got with time. I will study to let you know how great an obligation any man's kindness to him doth throw upon me.” But as we shall see hereafter, the Cecils were jealous of their kinsman, and tried to depress him.
|| The Close Roll, after stating that Egerton was sent for to Greenwich, thus procecds : “Et eo ubi ventum est inter horas quintam et sextam ejusdem diei in mesaula juxta cacumen gradus honoratissimi Dns Cobham Dns Buckhurste et Robertus Cecil miles aderant quando omnes tres dem Thomam Egerton militem Serenissime Dne Regine presentabant que adtunc in exteriore privata camera insimul ade
Egerton having then knelt down on his right knee, the Queen made a speech, magnifying his fame and fitness for high judicial dignity; and, taking the Great Seal with both her hands, she delivered it into his keeping. He remaining on his knee, made a suitable reply, acknowledging his insufficiency, and comparing himself disparagingly with his predecessors. Her Majesty placed both her hands on his shoulders, and offered to raise him from the ground.* He was then sworn of the Privy Council; and having sealed a writ and gone through the usual forms, he gave the Seal to his purse-bearer, to be borne before him. After which it pleased her Majesty to hold a private conversation with him for near half an hour, and, then very graciously to permit him to walk off with the Great Seal. †
As a special mark of her Majesty's favour, Egerton still continued Master of the Rolls; and he held this office, along with the Great Seal, during the remainder of the present reign. He was so familiarly acquainted with the practice of the Court, and so devoted to the discharge of his judicial duties, that he could easily get through the business of Chancery without any assistance, and the suitors never had such cause to be satisfied since the time of Sir Thomas More, although there had been at the same time both a Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper and a Master of the Rolls to act as his assistant or deputy.
His appointment to the Great Seal seems to have given universal satisfaction. “The Master of the Rolls,” says Reynolds in a letter to the Earl of Essex,“ has changed his style, and is made Lord Keeper-only by her Majesty's gracious favour and her own choice. I think no man ever came to this dignity with more applause than this worthy gentleman." }
So Anthony Bacon, the elder brother of Francis, writing at this time to a friend at Venice, after mentioning the death of Lord Keeper Puckering, thus proceeds,—"into whose place, with an extraordinary speed, her Majesty hath, ex proprio motu et speciali gratia, advanced Sir Thomas Egerton, with a general applause both of court, city, and country, for the reputation he hath of in. tegrity, law, knowledge, and courage. It was his good hap to come to the place freely, without competition or mediator.”d Camden's testimony, though more moderate, is more valuable. “ Successit Thomas Egertonus, primarius Regis Procurator, magna ex. pectatione et integritatis opinione.”|||
rat ibique stetit super polymitam Phrigiam infra peristromæ Regale honoratissimo Dno Burghley Magno Thesaurario Anglie illam attenden. quem ob ætatem inferm et imbecillem Regina sedere jussit et dorsum suum ad aulea attalica declinare.”
*"Dna Regina utrisque suis manibus super humeros ejus impositis modo quodam illam ab humo quasi obtulit sublevare.”
† “ Serenitati sue visum est secum per dimidiatam ferc horam colloqui et tunc cum magno sigill graciosissime abire permisit."-(I. R. 38 Eliz. | Birch's Memoirs of Queen Flizabeth.
Ibid. li Cam, Eliz. vol. ii. 128.
High as the expectations of the public were of the new Lord Keeper, they were by no means disappointed. Having taken his seat in the Court of Chancery in Easter term with as little parade as possible, he immediately proceeded to the dispatch of business, and from the beginning he afforded the example of a consummate Judge. He was not only courteous in his manner, but quiet, patient, and attentive—waiting to be instructed as to the facts and law of the case by the counsel who had been studying them-never interrupting to show quickness of perception or to anticipate authorities likely to be cited, or to blurt out a jest-yet venturing to put a question for the right understanding of the points to be decided, and gently checking wandering and prolixity by a look or a hint. He listened with undivided attention to the evidence, and did not prepare a speech in parliament or write letters to his correspondents under pretence of taking notes of the arguments addressed to him. Nor did he affect the reputation of great despatch by deciding before he had heard both parties, or by referring facts and law to the Master which it was his own duty to ascertain and determine. When the case admitted of no reasonable doubt, he disposed of it as soon as the hearing was finished. Otherwise, he carried home the papers with him,-not throwing them aside to moulder in a trunk, till driven by the im. portunity of counsel asking for judgment, he again looked at them, long after the arguments he had heard were entirely forgotten and he could scarcely make out from his “breviate book" the points that had been raised for his decision—but within a short time spontaneously giving judgment in a manner to show that he was complete master of the case, and never aggravating the anguish of the losing party by the belief that if the Judge had taken more pains the result would have been different. Being himself Master of the Rolls, and there being no Vice-Chancellors-he was tried as a Judge of appeal only in hearing exceptions to the Master's reports; but on such occasions he did not grudge the necessary trouble to understand the matters submitted to him, no shrink from the responsibility of reversing what he considered to be erroneous.
Although a few of his judgments are mentioned in Tothill and other compilers, none of them have come down in a shape to enable us to form an adequate opinion of their merits; but they are said to have been distinguished for sound learning, lucid arrangement, and great precision of doctrine.
The only persons by whom he was not entirely approved were the Common-law Judges. He had the boldness to question and correct their pedantic rules more freely than Lord Keeper Puckering, Lord Keeper Bacon, or any of his predecessors had done, and after judgment in actions at law he not unfrequently granted injunctions against execution, on the ground of fraud in the plaintiff, or some defect of procedure by which justice had been de. feated. He thus not only hurt the pride of these venerable mag.