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that Felton obtained amongst his acquaintances the nickname of 'honest Jack,' one which, after his assassination, became extremely popular throughout the nation.
D'Israeli remarks : "The assassination was a sort of theoretical one ; so that when the king's attorney furnished the criminal with an unexpected argument, which appeared to him to have overturned his own, he declared that he had been in a mistake; and lamenting that he had not been aware of it before, from that instant his conscientious spirit sank into despair.' Meade also tells us that Sir Robert Brook and others who were present at the murder "affirm, that when Felton struck the Duke, he exclaimed, “God have mercy upon thy soule ;" which occasioned a friend of mine wittily to say, There was never man murdered with so much gospell.
The strong public feeling in favour of Felton may be gathered from another anecdote. On the departure of the fleet, which Buckingham came to Portsmouth to command, in September 1628, after the king had made "a gratious speech, they shouted, and, for a farewell, desired his Majestie to be good to John Felton, their once fellow-souldier.'
But it was not the rude populace and rough sailors only who lauded the act of the assassin. Meade, in a letter dated November 15, 1628, says : On Friday sennight was censured in the Star Chamber, Alex. Gill, B.D., at Oxford, and usher in Paul's school under his own father, for saying in Trin. Coll. that our king was fitter to stand in a Cheapside shop with an apron on, and say, " What lack you ?” than
to governe a kingdome; 2d, that the Duke was gone down to hell to meet King James there; 3d, for drinking a health to Felton, saying he was a sorry fellow, and had deprived him of the honour of doing that brave action, etc. His censure was, to be degraded both from his ministrie and degrees taken, to lose one ear in London and the other at Oxford, and be fined £2000.' In another letter, dated November 22, we are told, ‘Gill is degraded;' but the fine there was mitigated, etc.
A collection of poems and songs relating to Buckingham and his assassination has been printed for the Percy Society, edited by the careful hand of the late Mr. Fairholt, F.S.A. Buckingham was so despised by the large majority of Englishmen, that his foul murder was hailed as a national deliverance; and the condemnatory poems which followed the Duke to the grave could only be exceeded by the laudations which were showered on Felton. In one of these poems, ‘Felton's Epitaph,' the ignominy of his fate is most ingeniously construed into a triumph by the author of the lines ensuing. There is another copy of this poem in Ashmole Ms., where it is said to have been made by D. Donn. It varies a little in words, and is less pure than the following from the Sloane ms. ; but the sense is the same. This is one of the best and most remarkable poems in the collection :
* Here uninterr’d suspends (though not to save
As large as fame, but whether badd or good
say not: by himselfe 'twas writt in blood;
Contend to beare his bodie to his soule.' While the vicious character of the Duke held him up to popular odium, his mismanaged and crooked dealings as a politician made him amenable to the denunciations of the satirists, who were unsparing in their coarsest lampoons. The whole is a strongly coloured picture of popular feeling, which can only be reproduced to the modern eye in the apologetic words of the transcriber of the Visions of Tundale:
‘Be it trowe, or be it fals,
An addition to this strange eventful history will be found in Mr. Forster's Life of Sir John Eliot; namely, that on the day preceding Felton's attack there had been a mutiny among the seamen at Portsmouth, of which the stir had not yet subsided. In an unpublished letter of Nethersole's, Mr. Forster found : At Portsmouth, the day before, a sailor was certainly killed in a kind of mutiny there ; some say by a servant of the Duke, others by his own hand.' Rous's Diary (Camden Society, 1856) gives from a letter
of the Captain of the Guard, to whose custody Felton was committed after killing the Duke, an account of the above mutiny, when a sailor who had offended Buckingham was by a court-martial condemned to die. A rescue was attempted, when the Captain of the Fleet drew upon the sailors with great fury; and next the Duke himself, with a great company on horseback, drove the sailors on the port point, when many were dangerously hurt, and two killed outright. The captain saw the first mutineer carried with a guard to the gibbet, where he was hanged by another nutinous sailor. Thus Buckingham personally superintended the execution of the man who had merely * affronted him, and who could have had no part in the subsequent outbreak. That a long course of unbridled power and profligacy had produced insanity in Buckingham, is suggested as the only solution of his profanity and grossness. Retribution was but unworthily represented in the individual vengeance of Felton ; but there can be little doubt that, had Buckingham evaded or survived the attack of the assassin, the long defied justice of England would at no distant period have consigned him to the executioner. (See Notes and Queries, 3d series, No. 189.)
HERE is a curious class of household tales, the
genuine appendices to the history of ancient
families, long occupying the same ground and stations; and perhaps no other certain deduction can be drawn from such legends, except that the families to which they relate are of ancient popular repute, against whose gentle condition 'the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.'
As to the matter-of-fact contained in these legends, says Sir Bernard Burke, “it is impossible to deny that, when a great part of England lay in moor, morass, and forest, wolves and bears must have been troublesome neighbours.' Wolves were by no means exterminated by King Edgar. The monks of Fors, in Wensleydale, about 1180, had a dangerous grant from Alan Earl of Richmond, of the flesh of all wild animals torn by wolves within their own dale. King James I. and vi. sometimes took the diversion of wolf-hunting in Scotland, in which kingdom the last wild wolf was killed as late as 1680; and in Ireland proclamations were issued against wolves in Antrim in the reign of Anne.