« PreviousContinue »
to suffer them to languish long in prison, and by sundry artificial devices and terrors to extort from them great fines and ransoms, which they termed compositions and mitigations.
Neither did they, towards the end, observe so much as 5 the half-face of justice, in proceeding by indictment; but sent forth their precepts to attach men and convent them before themselves, and some others, at their private houses, in a court of commission; and there used to shuffle up a summary proceeding by examination, without trial of jury; 10 assuming to themselves there, to deal both in pleas of the crown, and controversies civil.
Then did they also use to enthral and charge the subjects' lands with tenures in capite, by finding false offices, and thereby to work upon them for wardships, liveries, pre- 15 mier seisins, and alienations, being the fruits of those tenures, refusing, upon divers pretexts and delays, to admit men to traverse those false offices, according to the law. Nay, the King's wards, after they had accomplished their full age, could not be suffered to have livery of their lands, without 20 paying excessive fines, far exceeding all reasonable rates. They did also vex men with informations of intrusion, upon scarce colourable titles.
When men were outlawed in personal actions, they would not permit them to purchase their charters of pardon, 25 except they paid great and intolerable sums; standing upon the strict point of law, which upon outlawries giveth forfeiture of goods : nay, contrary to all law and colour, they maintained the King ought to have the half of men's lands and rents, during the space of full two years, for a pain in 30 case of outlawry. They would also ruffle with jurors, and inforce them to find as they would direct, and, if they did not, convent them, imprison them, and fine them.
These and many other courses, fitter to be buried than repeated, they had of preying upon the people; both like tame hawks for their master, and like wild hawks for them
selves; insomuch as they grew to great riches and substance: 5 but their principal working was upon penal laws, wherein
they spared none, great nor small; nor considered whether the law were possible or impossible, in use or obsolete: but raked over all old and new statutes, though many of them
were made with intention rather of terror than of rigour, 10 having ever a rabble of promoters, questmongers, and lead
ing jurors at their command, so as they could have any thing found either for fact or valuation.
There remaineth to this day a report, that the King was on a time entertained by the earl of Oxford, that was his 15 principal servant both for war and peace, nobly and sump
tuously, at his castle at Henningham. And at the King's going away, the earl's servants stood, in a seemly manner, in their livery coats, with cognisances, ranged on both sides,
and made the King a lane. The King called the earl to 20 him, and said, “My lord, I have heard much of your hos
"pitality, but I see it is greater than the speech : These “handsome gentlemen and yeomen, which I see on both “sides of me, are sure your menial servants.” The earl
smiled, and said, “ It may please your grace, that were not 25 "for mine ease : they are most of them my retainers, that
“are come to do me service at such a time as this, and “chiefly to see your grace." The King started a little, and said, “By my faith, my lord, I thank you for my good
“cheer, but I may not endure to have my laws broken in 30 "my sight: my attorney must speak with you.” And it is
part of the report, that the earl compounded for no less than fifteen thousand marks. And to shew farther the King's extreme diligence, I do remember to have seen long
since a book of accompt of Empson's, that had the King's hand almost to every leaf, by way of signing, and was in some places postilled in the margin with the King's hand likewise, where was this remembrance.
“Item, Received of such a one, five marks, for a pardon 5 "to be procured; and if the pardon do not pass, the
money to be repaid; except the party be some
“other ways satisfied.” And over against this Memorandum, of the King's own hand,
“ Otherwise satisfied." Which I do the rather mention, because it shews in the King a nearness, but yet with a kind of justness. So these, little sands and grains of gold and silver, as it seemeth, helped not a little to make up the great heap and bank.
But meanwhile, to keep the King awake, the earl of 15 Suffolk, having been too gay at Prince Arthur's marriage, and sunk himself deep in debt, had yet once more a mind to be a knight-errant, and to seek adventures in foreign parts; and taking his brother with him, filed again into Flanders. That, no doubt, which gave him confidence, was 20 the great murmur of the people against the King's government: and being a man of a light and rash spirit, he thought every vapour would be a tempest. Neither wanted he some party within the kingdom : for the murmur of people awakes the discontents of nobles; and again, that calleth up com- 25 monly some head of sedition. The King resorting to his wonted and tried arts, caused Sir Robert Curson, captain of the castle at Hammes, being at that time beyond sea, and therefore less likely to be wrought upon by the King, to fly from his charge, and to feign himself a servant of the earl's. 30 This knight, having insinuated himself into the secrets of the earl, and finding by him upon whom chiefly he had
either hope or hold, advertised the King thereof in great secrecy: but nevertheless maintained his own credit and inward trust with the earl. Upon whose advertisements, the
King attached William Courtney earl of Devonshire, his 5
brother-in-law, married to the lady Catharine, daughter to King Edward the fourth; William de la Pole, brother to the earl of Suffolk; Sir James Tirrel, and Sir John Windham, and some other meaner persons, and committed them to
custody. George lord Abergavenny, and Sir Thomas Green, 10 were at the same time apprehended; but as upon less sus
picion, so in a freer restraint, and were soon after delivered. The earl of Devonshire being interested in the blood of York, that was rather feared than nocent; yet as one that
might be the object of others' plots and designs, remained 15 prisoner in the Tower, during the King's life. William de
la Pole was also long restrained, though not so straitly. But for Sir James Tirrel, against whom the blood of the innocent Princes, Edward the fifth and his brother, did still cry from
under the altar, and Sir John Windham, and the other 20 meaner ones, they were attainted and executed; the two
knights beheaded. Nevertheless, to confirm the credit of Curson, who belike had not yet done all his feats of activity, there was published at Paul's cross, about the time of the
said executions, the Pope's bull of excommunication and 25 curse against the earl of Suffolk and Sir Robert Curson, and
some others by name; and likewise in general against all the abettors of the said earl : wherein it must be confessed, that heaven was made too much to bow to earth, and re
ligion to policy. But soon after, Curson, when he saw 30 time, returned into England, and withal into wonted favour
with the King, but worse fame with the people. Upon whose return the earl was much dismayed, and seeing himself destitute of hopes, the lady Margaret also, by tract of time and bad success, being now become cool in those attempts, after some wandering in France and Germany, and certain little projects, no better than squibs of an exiled man, being tired out, retired again into the protection of the archduke Philip in Flanders, who by the death of Isabella
5 was at that time King of Castile, in the right of Joan his wife.
This year, being the nineteenth of his reign, the King called his parliament: wherein a man may easily guess how absolute the King took himself to be with his parlia- 10 ment, when Dudley, that was so hateful, was made speaker of the house of commons. In this parliament there were not made any statutes memorable touching public government. But those that were, had still the stamp of the King's wisdom and policy.
15 There was a statute made for the disannulling of all patents of lease or grant, to such as came not upon lawful summons to serve the King in his wars, against the enemies or rebels, or that should depart without the King's licence; with an exception of certain persons of the long robe : 20 providing nevertheless, that they should have the King's wages from their house, till their return home again. There had been the like made before for offices, and by this statute it was extended to lands. But a man may easily see by many statutes made in this King's time, that the 25 King thought it safest to assist martial law by law of parliament.
Another statute was made, prohibiting the bringing in of manufactures of silk wrought by itself, or mixt with any other thread. But it was not of stuffs of whole piece, for 30 that the realm had of them no manufacture in use at that time, but of knit silk or texture of silk; as ribbons, laces, cauls, points, and girdles, &c. which the people of England