Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Strafford and the King
By Peter Heylyn (15991662)
From Cyprianus Anglicus
BUT now we must look back on the Earl of Strafford, the prosecution of whose impeachment had long been delayed upon some probable hope, that the displeasures of his greatest adversaries might be mitigated by some Court preferments. In order whereunto it was agreed upon (if my intelligence or memory fail not) that the Earl of Bedford should be made lord treasurer, and Pym chancellor of the Exchequer, the Earl of Essex governor of the prince, and that Hampden should be made his tutor, the Lord Saye master of the wards, and Hollis principal secretary in place of Windebank; the deputyship of Ireland was disposed of also, and some command appointed for the Earl of Warwick in the royal navy. Which earls, together with the Earl of Hertford, and the Lord Kimbolton (eldest son to the Earl of Manchester) were taken at this time into his majestys council, that they might witness to the rest of that party with what sincerity and piety his majestys affairs were governed at the council table. And in relation to this purpose the Bishop of London delivered to the king the treasurers staff, the Earl of Newcastle relinquished the governance of the prince, and the Lord Cottington relinquished his offices both in the Exchequer and the Court of Wards; there being no doubt but that Bishop Duppa in order to so good a work would relinquish the tutorship of the prince when it should be required of him: so gallantly did these great persons deny themselves to advance the service of their master. But before all these things were fully settled and performed, the kings mind was altered (but by whom altered, hath been more conjectured than affirmed for certain), which so exasperated them who were concerned in this designation, that they pursued the Earl of Strafford with the greatest eagerness. And somewhat to this purpose was hinted in the kings declaration of the 18th of August; in which he signified what overtures had been made by them, and with what importunity for offices and perferments, what great services should have been done for him, and what other undertaking even to have saved the life of the Earl of Strafford. By which discovery as he blemished the reputes of some principal members in the eyes of many of the people; so he gave no small cause of wonder to many others, when they were told from his own pen at how cheap rate (a rate which would have cost him nothing) he might have saved the life of such an able and deserving minister.
This design being thus unhappily dashed, the earl was called unto his trial on the 22nd day of March last past; which being continued many days with great expectation, his adversaries (though the ablest men in the House of Commons) perceived that his defences were so strong, and their proof so weak, that they thought it not safe to leave the judgment of the cause to the House of Peers in way of judicature. For finding that their proofs amounted not to a legal evidence; and that nothing but legal evidence could prevail in a court of judicature, they resolved to steer their course by another wind, and to call the legislative power to their assistance; according unto which both Lords and Commons might proceed by the light of their own understanding without further testimony. And so it was declared by Saint John, then solicitor-general, in a conference between the committees of both Houses, April 29, 1641. Where it is said, that although single testimony might be sufficient to satisfy private consciences, yet how far it would have been satisfactory in a judicial way, where forms of law are more to be stood upon, was not so clear; whereas in this way of Bill, private satisfaction to each mans conscience is sufficient, although no evidence had been given in at all. Thus they resolved it in this case; but knowing of what dangerous consequence it might be to the lives and fortunes of themselves and the rest of subjects, a saving clause was added to the Bill of Attainder, that it should not be drawn into example for the time to come. By which it was provided, that no judge or judges, justice or justices whatever, shall adjudge or interpret any act or thing to be treason, nor hear or determine any treason, nor in any other manner, than he or they should or ought to have done before the making of this Act, and as if this Act had never been made.
His Majesty understanding how things were carried, resolved to use his best endeavours to preserve the man who had deserved so bravely of him. And therefore, in a speech to both Houses of Parliament on the first May, absolved him from all treasons charged upon him; conjuring them by the merit of his former graces, and the hopes of greater, not to compel him to do anything against his conscience, to which no worldly consideration whatever should be able to tempt him. This put the Lords to such a stand, who were before inclinable enough to that unfortunate gentleman, that multitudes of the rabble were brought down out of London and Southwark, to cry for speedy justice and execution; the names of such as had not voted to the bill, being posted up in the Palace Yard, by the title of Straffordians and enemies to the Commonwealth. Which course so terrified the Lords, that most of them withdrawing themselves from the House of Peers, the attainder passed, and certain bishops were nominated to attend the king, for satisfying his conscience, and persuading him to sign that destructive bill. Never was poor prince brought to so sad an exigent, between his conscience on one side and the fears of such a public rupture on the other as seemed to threaten nothing but destruction to himself and his family. But human frailty, and the continual solicitation of some about him, so prevailed at last, that on Monday morning, the 9th of May, he put a most unwilling hand to that fatal bill, issuing a commission unto certain lords to pass the same into an Act, and with the same to speed another (which he had also signed with the same penful of ink) for the continuance of the present Parliament during the pleasure of the Houses. The Act thus passed on Monday morning, the earl was brought unto the scaffold on the Wednesday following, desiring earnestly, but in vain, to exchange some words with the archbishop before his death; which gave occasion to a report that a little before his death he had charged his misfortunes, oversights, and misdemeanours upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the prime author of the same, and had bitterly cursed the day of their first acquaintance; which being so scandalous and dishonourable to this great prelate, I shall lay down the whole truth in this particular, as it came from the archbishops own mouth, in the presence of Balfour, a Scot, and then lieutenant of the Tower, who was required to attest to each period of it.