Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Murder of Buckingham
By James Howell (c. 15941666)
(To the Right Honourable the Lady Scroop, Countess of Sunderland: from Stamford)
From Familiar Letters
MADAMI lay yesternight at the post-house at Stilton, and this morning betimes the post-master came to my beds head and told me the Duke of Buckingham was slain: my faith was not then strong enough to believe it, till an hour ago I met in the way with my Lord of Rutland (your brother) riding post towards London; it pleased him to alight, and show me a letter wherein there was an exact relation of all the circumstances of this sad tragedy.
Upon Saturday last, which was but next before yesterday, being Bartholomew Eve, the Duke did rise up in a well-disposed humour out of his bed, and cut a caper or two, and being ready, and having been under the barbers hands (when the murderer had thought to have done the deed, for he was leaning upon the window all the while) he went to breakfast attended by a great company of Commanders, where Monsieur Soubize came unto him, and whispered him in the ear that Rochelle was relieved, the Duke seemed to slight the news, which made some think that Soubize went away discontented: after breakfast the Duke going out, Colonel Fryer stepped before him, and stopping him upon some business, and Lieutenant Felton being behind, made a thrust with a common tenpenny knife over Fryers arm at the Duke, which lighted so fatally, that he slit his heart in two, leaving the knife sticking in the body: the Duke took out the knife, and threw it away, and laying his hand on his sword, and drawing it half out said, The villain hath killed me (meaning, as some think, Colonel Fryer), for there had been some difference betwixt them, so reeling against a chimney he fell down dead: the Duchess being with child hearing the noise below, came in her nightgears from her bed-chamber, which was in an upper room, to a kind of rail, and thence beheld him weltering in his own blood. Felton had lost his hat in the crowd, wherein there was a paper sewed, wherein he declared that the reason which moved him to this act was no grudge of his own, though he had been far behind for his pay, and had been put by his Captains place twice, but in regard he thought the Duke an enemy to the state, because he was branded in Parliament, therefore what he did was for the public good of his country. Yet he got clearly down, and so might have gone to his horse which was tied to a hedge hard by; but he was so amazed that he missed his way, and so struck into the pastry,1 where although the cry went that some Frenchman had done it, he thinking the word was Felton, he boldly confessed, twas he that had done the deed, and so he was in their hands. Jack Stamford would have run at him, but he was kept off by Mr. Nicholas, so, being carried up to a tower, Captain Mince tore off his spurs, and asking how he durst attempt such an act, making him believe the Duke was not dead, he answered boldly that he knew he was dispatched, for twas not he, but the hand of heaven that gave the stroke, and though his whole body had been covered over with armour of proof he could not have avoided it. Captain Charles Price went post presently to the King four miles off, who being at prayers on his knees when it was told him, yet he never stirred, nor was he disturbed a whit till all divine service was done. This was the relation, as far as my memory could bear, in my Lord of Rutlands letter, who willed me to remember him unto your Ladyship, and tell you that he was going to comfort your niece (the Duchess) as fast as he could: and so I have sent the truth of this sad story to your Ladyship, as fast as I could by this Post, because I cannot make that speed myself, in regard of some business I have to dispatch for my Lord in the way; so I humbly take my leave, and rest