Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

mankind. He had not the good fortune to have his life written by a secretary or relative, and not being a leader of any great political or religious party he did not gain posthumous fame by being praised like Cranmer, or abused like Gardyner. He was too ready in seconding the measures of Burghley to get rid of a Popish successor to the Crown, who had such reason to be hostile to the ministers of Elizabeth, but he does not seem liable to any other censure; and as an Equity Judge he was regretted till the very conclusion of this reign, when Lord Ellesmere was placed in the marble chair, and so much adorned it. On one occasion he very creditably maintained the independence of his office. Having refused, at the solicitation of Knyvet, a groom of the privy chamber, who had slain a man of the Earl of Oxford's in a brawl, to issue a special commission for his trial, Sir Christopher Hatton, in the Queen's name, sent him an order to do so. But he still resisted, showing that the interference was unconstitutional, and that thus to grant special commissions to humour the accused would lead to a failure of justice. *

It ought likewise to be mentioned to his honour, that in an intolerant age he was free from religious bigotry, and that while Chancellor he exerted himself to soften the execution of the laws against heretics.t

He was buried with great pomp in Westminster Abbey, where a magnificent monument was erected to his memory.

By his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Adrian Fortescue, he left several sons; but his male line failed in the fifth generation, when the heiress of the family was married to John Bromley, of Thornheath Hall, in the county of Cambridge; and their son, Henry, having represented that county in several parliaments, was, in 1734, raised to the peerage, by King George II, under the title of Baron Montfort,—being ancestor of the present Henry Bromley Lord Montfort.*

* See Sir Harris Nicholas's Memoirs of Sir Christopher Hatton, p. 256.

t Of this we have a striking proof in a letter, dated July 1,1582, addressed by him to the Bishop of Chester in favour of a Lady Egerton of Ridley, who had been sued in the Bishop's Court, and was in great danger of the flames :—

"I have been acquainted with her longe, and have alwaies known her in other respects to be very well given, and in regard thereof do pitie her the more. I would be glade that by gentle meanes and by conference with some grave and learned men, she might be persuaded and wonne (yf it maie be), whereof I have some good hope. 1 have therefore thought good to recommend her simpiicitie to yr Lordship, and to pray you to use some further tolleration with her until Candlemas next."—Peck's Desiderata, vol. i. p. 122,

% See Grandeur of Law, ed. 1843, by Mr. Foss. Nash's History of Worcestershire, p. 594., where there is a full pedigree of the Bronileys.

11*

CHAPTER XLV.

LIFE OF SIR CHRISTOPHER HATTON, LORD CHANCELLOR OF ENGLAND,

On the death of Lord Chancellor Bromley, Queen Elizabeth rer A 101 A:q7 i Gained the Great Seal in her own custody above

[april 149 lob/.j a fortnight Whiie-she deliberated upon'the appointment of his successor. During this interval, she thrice delivered it for the sealing of writs, commissions, and letters patent, to Lord Hunsdon, Burghley, and others; and they having carried it into the Council Chamber, and sealed all the instruments with it which required immediate despatch, returned it into her Majesty's hands.*

There was now much speculation at Court, in Westminster Hall, and in the City of London, as to who should be the new Chancellor. Easter term was going on without any one to preside in the Chancery*"^£i^Jii'e''StaT-=Ghamb-e]i*,''or-to superintend the ad^minislxaiion of Justice?^''''OpM0HS''Lfwere divided between Serjeant Puckering, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir John Popham, the Attorney General, and Sir Thomas Egerton, the Solicitor General. The first was in the direct line of promotion to high legal dignities, and he had given great satisfaction from the manner in which he had managed the House of Commons, in the delicate affair of the Scottish Queen, and in repressing the motions of the Puritans. Popham, afterwards so much distinguished as Chief Justice, had now a high reputation for profound knowledge of the common law, and Egerton had given earnest of that intimate familiarity with the general principles of jurisprudence, which being fully developed when he became Lord Ellesmere, made him be considered as the earliest founder of our system of Equity.! v But what was the astonishment of courtiers, of lawyers, and of r 1 ^87 1 citizens, when, on Saturday the 29th of April, it

»-A'' '-* was announced that her Majesty had chosen for the Keeper of her conscience,—to preside in the Chancery and the Star Chamber, and the House^Qf,.Lords,—and to superintend the administration of Justice throughout the realm,—a gay young

"* Iidem nobiles viri dictum magnum sigillum secum portabant usque in Cameram Consilii ibidem et permittebant sigillari omnes tales litteras patentes commissioner et brevia antedicta et sigillacione Anita sigillum predictum in bagam de coreo albo in qua antea ineludebatur reponi preceperunt et cum sigillis eorum muniri fecerunt et sic sigillum predictum ad presenciam sue Majestatis in baga de velueto rubeo insignis sue Majestatis decoraf.a tulebant et in manus sue Majestatis redeliberabant. —K. CI. 29 Eliz.

t Camden says there was a speculation likewise at Court that Edward, Earl of Rutland,whom he describes as "juris scientia et omni politiori eruditione ornatissimus," would be appointed Chancellor had he not suddenly died; but this seems exceedingly improbable, for he could have had no professional experience, and he was not a personal favourite.—Camden, Hist. EL, 1475,

cavalier never called to the bar, and chiefly famed for his handsome person, his taste in dress, and his skill in dancing,—Sir ChrisTopheit Hatton!!!

In the long reign of Elizabeth, no domestic occurrence seems so strange as this appointment;—but, with the exception of her choice of Burghley for her minister, she was much influenced in the selection of persons for high employment by personal favour; and on the same principle that Leicester was sent to command in the Low Countries, and Essex in Ireland, Hatton was placed at the head of the magistracy of the realm,—because he was her lover. Burghley had resisted her propensity on this occasion as far as his own safety would permit; but considering that Hatton could never be dangerous to him as a rival for power, and that this freak would only be injurious to the administration of justice, which ministers often sacrifice to political convenience, he yielded, and joined in the effort to give eclat to the installation of the new Chancellor.—We must proceed to trace the origin and history of this minion, that we may account for his extraordinary elevation.

He was born in the year 1539, being the third and youngest son of William Hatton, Esq., of Holdenby, in Northamptonshire, a family originally from Cheshire, of considerable antiquity, but very moderate wealth. His father died when he was a child, and he had soon to lament the loss of his two elder brothers, so that when still very young he inherited the small patrimonial estate. Under the care of his mother he imbibed with difficulty, from a domestic tutor, the first rudiments of knowledge. He is said to have been idle and volatile, but to have been remarkable for good humour and vivacity, as well as for comeliness.

At the age of fifteen he was entered a gentleman-commoner at St. Mary Hall, Oxford. While at the university, he was exceedingly popular with his companions; but he spent much more time in fencing and archery than in perusing Aristotle and Aquinas, and from the fear of being plucked, he left Oxford without trying for a degree.

Being intended for the bar, he was now transferred to the Inner Temple; but it was said, that "he rather took a .-»-. 9fi 1 -fift , bait than made a meal at the inns of court, whilst *- ''-*

he studied the laws therein."* He was, in truth, a noted roisterer and swash buckler, hearing the chimes at midnight, knowing where the bona robas were; and sometimes lying all night in the Windmill, in St. George's Fields.t But while he spent much of his time in dicing and gallantry, there were two amusements to which he

* When he became a great man, his flatterers pretended that he never meant to make the law a profession, and that he was sent to an inn of court merely to finish his education in the mixed society of young men of business and pleasure there to be met with; but there can be no doubt that it was intended that he should earn his bread by " a knowledge of good pleading in actions real and personal."

t See Justice Shallow's career at the inns of court, Second Part Henry IV. act iii. sc. 2.

particularly devoted himself, and which laid the foundation of his future fortune. The first was dancing, which he studied under the best masters, and in which he excelled beyond any man of his time. The other was the stage; he constantly frequented the theatres, which, although Shakspeare was still a boy at Stratfordon-Avon, were beginning to flourish,—and he himself used to assist in writing masques, and took a part in performing them. We r -trc-i } firs^ hear of his being admired as "Master of the

*-A*' "J Game" in a splendid masque with which the Inner Temple celebrated Christmas, and in which Lord Robert Dudley, afterwards the Earl of Leicester and his rival in love, held the mimic rank of " Constable and Marshal." He was afterwards one of five students of the Inner Temple who wrote a play entitled "Tancred and Gismund," which was acted, by that Society, before the Queen.*

* This piece was not printed till 1592. It then came out thus entitled: "The Tragedie of Tancred and Gismund, compiled by the gentlemen ©f the Inner Temple, and by them presented before her Majestie. Newly revived and published according to the decorum of these daies, by R. W." This edition was by Robert Wilmot, who is often called the author of the tragedy, but there is no doubt that the five students contributed each an act. The future Lord Chancellor's contribution was the fourth act, at the end of which there is this notice, " Composuit Chr, flatton." This edition is so scarce, and so much valued by book collectors, that a defective copy of it sells for ten guineas. There is one in the British Museum which belonged to (Tarrick.

The story which has been the subject of so many poems and dramas is taken from the first novel of the fourth day of the Decameron. I am afraid that Hatton could not read Boccacio in the original, but he might find this fable in " Paynter's Collection," and in an old ballad printed by Wynkin de Worde in 1532.

Sir Christopher's contribution being hitherto the only tragic effort of a Lord Chancellor, I will offer the reader as a specimen the fourth scene of the fourth act, between Tancred and Guiozard, after the King has discovered the guilty loves of the Count and Sigismunda.

"Tancr. And durst thou, villain, dare to undermine
Our daughter's chamber? Durst thy shameless face
Be bold to kiss her? th' rest we will conceal.
Wherefore content thee that we are resolv'd
That thy just death, with thine effus'd blood,
Shall cool the heat and choler of our mood."

"Guioz. My Lord the King, neither do I mislike
Your sentence, nor do your smoaking sighs,
BeachM from the entrails of your boiling heart,
Disturb the quiet of my calmed thoughts.
Such is the force and endless might of lovo,
As never shall the dread of carrion death,
That hath envy'd our joys invade my breast,
But unto her my love exceeds compare:
Then this hath been my fault for which I joy,
That in the greatest lust of all my life
I shall submit for her sake to endure
The pangs of death. Oh, mighty lord of love,
Strengthen thy vassal boldly to receive
Large wounds into this body for her sake;
Then use my life or death, my Lord and King,
For your relief to ease your grieved soul;

He did not act in this piece himself; but his fashionable accomplishments and agreeable manners introducing r 1 -fi. -, him into the best company, he at last had a part as- *■ ^ signed him in a masque at Court, which gave him a very favourable opportunity to show off his accomplishments.

The tender heart of Elizabeth was at once touched by his athletic frame, manly beauty, and graceful air; and she openly expressed her high admiration of his dancing. An offer was instantly made by her to admit him of the band of gentlemen pensioners. He expressed great willingness to renounce all his prospects in the profession of the law, but informed her that he had incurred debts which were beginning to be troublesome to him. She advanced him money to pay them off—at the same time (more sno) taking a bond and statute merchant to repay her when he should be of ability. He little thought he should ever hear of these securities, which afterwards were supposed to have contributed to his death;—and before he had even reached the degree of apprentice or utter barrister, he joyfully transferred himself from his dull chambers in the Temple to a gay apartment assigned him in the Palace, near the Queen's. He was at first only a gentleman pensioner, or private in the body-guard*, but being henceforth the reigning favourite, his official promotion was rapid. He was sucKnowing by death I shall bewray the truth Of that fond heart, which living Was her own, And died alive for her that lived mine."

"Tunc. Thine, Paluriti 1 What! lives my daughter thine?
Traytor, thou wrong'st me, for she liveth mine.
Rather I wish ten thousand sundry deaths
Than I to live and see my daughter thine."

[The King hastetk into his palace,]

Ck Guioz (solus.) 0 thou, great God, who from thy highest throne
Hast stooped down and felt the force of love,
Bend gentle ears unto the woful moan
Of me, poor wretch, to grant that I require;
Help to persuade the same, great God, that he
So far remit his might, and slack his fire
From my dear lady's kindled heart, that she
May hear my death without her hurt. Let not
Her face, wherein there is as clear a light
As in the rising moon, let not her cheeks
As red as is the party-colour'd rose,
Be paled with the news hereof: and all,
To him, to her for whom my death shall show/5
I liv'd; and as I liv'd I dy'd, her thrall."

Act iv. sc. 4,

There is a chorus somewhat after the Greek fashion, and the tragedy is a curious illustration of the state of the drama in England in the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign; although we shall in vain look in it for such felicity of thought and harmony of numbers as in Dryden's exquisite poem of " Sigismonda and Guiscardo."

* There is extant a warrant, dated June 30, 1564, from the Queen to the Master of the Armoury, commanding him u to cause to be made one armour complete, fit for the body of our well-beloved servant Christopher Hatton, one of our gentlemen pensioners, he paying according to the just value thereof."

« AnteriorContinuar »