[Sidenote: Mob Judgments.]
The plague raging in London and the neighbourhood may account for the delay. Pym relates in his Diary that it killed 2000 a week. The Tower was reported in September, 1603, to be infected. The King's Bench kept the next term at Winchester. So to Winchester their respective custodians conveyed Brooke, Sir Griffin Markham, Sir Edward Parham, who finally was acquitted, Brooksby, Copley, Watson, Clarke, Cobham, and Grey. They were escorted by under-wardens of the Tower, the Keeper of the Westminster Gate-house, and fifty light horse. Ralegh set out on November 10 in his own coach, under the charge of Sir Robert Mansel and Sir William Waad. Waad wrote to Cecil that he found his prisoner much altered. At Wimbledon a group of friends and relatives had assembled to greet him as he passed. Generally he encountered none but looks of hatred. Precautions had to be taken to steal the planter of Virginia, the hero of Cadiz, the wit and poet, the splendid gentleman, the lavish patron, from the curs of London, without outrage, or murder. It was 'hob or nob,' writes Waad to Cecil, whether or not Ralegh 'should have been brought alive through such multitudes of unruly people as did exclaim against him.' He adds, that it would hardly have been believed the plague was hot in London in presence of such a mob. Watches had to be set through all the streets, both in London and the suburbs. 'If one hare-brain fellow amongst so great a multitude had begun to set upon him, as they were near to do it, no entreaty or means could have prevailed; the fury and tumult of the people was so great.' Tobacco-pipes, stones, and mud were, wrote Cecil's secretary, Mr. Michael Hickes, to Lord Shrewsbury, thrown by the rabble, both in London and in other towns on the road. Ralegh is stated to have scorned these proofs of the aversion of base and rascal people. Mr. Macvey Napier, in his thoughtful essay, attributes to him 'a total want of sympathy with, if not a dislike of, the lower orders.' His disgust, perhaps, was rather evoked by the want of discrimination in all masses. He was habitually good to his dependents, and was beloved by them. A multitude, whatever the rank of its constituents, he regarded as 'dogs who always bark at those they know not.' He had never flattered a mob. He did not now cower before it. To manifestations of popular odium his nature rose, as to every peremptory call upon his powers. He foresaw that posterity would understand him, and would right him.
[Sidenote: Chief Justice Popham.]
[Sidenote: The Jury.]
Two days were taken to reach Bagshot, and three more to traverse the remaining thirty miles to Winchester. Ralegh and others of the accused were lodged in the Royal Castle of Winchester, built by Bishop Henry, Stephen's brother. A King's Bench Court had been fitted up in Wolvesey Castle, the old episcopal palace, now a ruin. There the trial opened on November 17. Sir John Popham was Lord Chief Justice of England. He was not prepossessing in appearance, 'a huge, heavy, ugly man,' and he had an uncouth history. As a child he had been stolen by gipsies. In early manhood he was a notorious gamester and reveller. He took purses, it is stoutly affirmed, on Shooter's Hill, when he was a barrister, and thirty years of age. Then he reformed his morals, read law, and entered the House of Commons. In 1581 he was elected Speaker, and in 1592 was appointed Chief Justice. Essex had imprisoned him in Essex House on the day of the rising, but protected his life from his crazy followers. He had the generosity to requite the favour by venturing to advise the Queen to grant a pardon. He amassed a vast estate, part of it being Littlecote, which he was fabled to have wrested, together with an hereditary curse, from a murderer, Sir Richard Dayrell. With Popham, Chief Justice Anderson, and Justices Gawdy and Warburton, there sat as Commissioners of Oyer and Terminer, Lord Thomas Howard, since July Earl of Suffolk and Lord Chamberlain, Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy and Earl of Devonshire, Lord Henry Howard, Robert Cecil, now Lord Cecil, Lord Wotton, Vice-Chamberlain Sir John Stanhope, and Sir William Waad. That the King, with his personal knowledge of Henry Howard's fierce hatred of Ralegh, as evinced in the whole private correspondence with Holyrood, should have appointed him a judge was an outrage upon decency. Attorney-General Coke, Serjeant Hele, who had been Ralegh's counsel against Meere, and Serjeant Phillips, prosecuted. The law allowed no counsel to prisoners. Sir Michael Stanhope, Sir Edward Darcy, Ralegh's neighbour in Durham House, and Sir William Killigrew, had been, it was rumoured, on the jury panel, but were 'changed overnight, being found not for their turn.' The report of a sudden modification in the list is not necessarily untrue, though the jury, it is said, was a Middlesex jury, and had been ordered long before to attend at Winchester. Other Middlesex men, of whom many were at Winchester, may have been substituted. At any rate, Ralegh did not except to any names. 'I know,' said he, 'none of them. They are all Christians and honest gentlemen.' Sir Thomas, or John, Fowler was chosen foreman.
Ralegh asked leave to answer the points particularly as they were delivered, on account of his failing memory and sickness. Coke objected to having the King's evidence dismembered, 'whereby it might lose much of its grace and vigour.' Popham was more considerate. He promised to let Ralegh, after the King's counsel should have produced all the evidence, answer particularly what he would. Hele opened. I cull a few flowers of his eloquence and logic: 'You have heard of Ralegh's bloody attempt to kill the King, in whom consists all our happiness, and the true use of the Gospel, and his royal children, poor babes that never gave offence. Since the Conquest there was never the like treason. But out of whose head came it? Out of Ralegh's. Cobham said to Brooke: "It will never be well in England till the King and his cubs are taken away." It appears that Cobham took Ralegh to be either a god or an idol. Bred in England, Cobham hath no experience abroad. But Ralegh is a man of great wit, military, and a swordsman. Now, whether these things were bred in a hollow tree, I leave to them to speak of who can speak far better than myself.'
[Sidenote: The Main, and the Bye.]
He meant Sir Edward Coke, who then addressed the Court. He started gently: 'We carry a just mind, to condemn no man but upon plain evidence.' Thence he proceeded: 'Here is mischief, mischief in summo gradu, exorbitant mischief!' He first explained 'the treason of the Bye.' That was the alleged plot of Grey, Brooke, and Markham to surprise the King, and carry him to the Tower. Ralegh reminded the jury that he was not charged with the Bye. 'No,' retorted Coke, but 'all these treasons, though they consisted of several points, closed in together; like Samson's foxes, which were joined in the tails, though the heads were severed.' He anticipated the objection that the Crown had but one witness, Cobham. It had, he argued, more than two witnesses: 'When a man by his accusation of another shall by the same accusation also condemn himself, and make himself liable to the same punishment, this is by law more forcible than many witnesses, and is as the inquest of twelve men. For the law presumes that a man will not accuse himself in order to accuse another.' That is, Coke chose to confuse an argument for the sufficiency of a man's evidence of his own guilt with its cogency as evidence of another's. After this, he declaimed upon the horror of the treason in the present case. 'To take away the fox and his cubs! To whom, Sir Walter, did you bear malice? To the royal children?' Ralegh protested: 'What is the treason of Markham and the priests to me?' Coke burst forth: 'I will then come close to you. I will prove you to be the most notorious traitor that ever came to the bar. You, indeed, are upon the Main; but you followed them of the Bye in imitation.' Ralegh asked for proof. 'Nay,' cried Coke, 'I will prove all. Thou art a monster; thou hast an English face, but a Spanish heart. Your intent was to set up the Lady Arabella, and to depose our rightful King, the lineal descendant of Edward IV.' Coke, it will be seen, did not choose to trace the Stuarts to Henry VII. He treated the Tudors as interlopers. 'You pretend,' he continued, that the money expected from Arenberg was to 'forward the Peace with Spain. Your jargon was peace, which meant Spanish invasion and Scottish subversion.' Cobham, argued Coke, never was a politician, nor a swordsman. Ralegh was both. Ralegh and Cobham both were discontented, and Cobham's discontent grew by Ralegh. Such was Ralegh's machiavellian policy that he would never confer with but one at once. He would talk with none but Cobham; 'because, saith he, one witness can never condemn me.'
[Sidenote: Master Attorney's zeal.]
Next, Coke turned to the communications between Ralegh and Cobham in the Tower. He exclaimed to the jury: 'And now you shall see the most horrible practices that ever came out of the bottomless pit of the lowest hell.' In reply to a protest by Ralegh as to his liability for some underhand practices of Cobham, as Warden of the Cinque Ports, Coke foamed out: 'All he did was by thy instigation, thou viper; for I thou thee, thou traitor! I will prove thee the rankest traitor in all England.' 'No, Master Attorney,' was the answer: 'I am no traitor. Whether I live or die, I shall stand as true a subject as ever the King hath. You may call me a traitor at your pleasure; yet it becomes not a man of quality or virtue to do so. But I take comfort in it; it is all that you can do; for I do not yet hear that you charge me with any treason.' The Lord Chief Justice interposed: 'Sir Walter Ralegh, Master Attorney speaks out of the zeal of his duty for the service of the King, and you for your life; be patient on both sides.' It is hard to see how Ralegh had shown impatience. Some impatience he manifested on the reading of Cobham's declaration of July 20. 'Cobham,' said he, 'is not such a babe as you make him. He hath dispositions of such violence which his best friends could never temper.' He was not of a nature to be easily persuaded by Ralegh. Assuredly Ralegh was not likely to 'conspire with a man that hath neither love nor following,' against a vigorous and youthful King, in reliance on a State so impoverished and weak as Spain, and so detested by himself. He ridiculed the notion that King Philip either could or would freely disburse 600,000 crowns on the mere word of Cobham. Elizabeth's own Londoners did not lend to her without lands in pawn. Yet more absurd was the supposition that Ralegh was in the plot. Thrice had he served against Spain at sea. Against Spain he had expended, of his own property, 40,000 marks. 'Spanish as you term me, I had at this time writ a treatise to the King's Majesty of the present state of Spain, and reasons against the peace.'
[Sidenote: Call for Cobham.]
When the first or second examination of Cobham was cited, Popham offered himself practically as a witness. He had heard Cobham say of Ralegh, as he signed his deposition: 'That wretch! That traitor Ralegh!' 'And surely,' added the Chief Justice, 'his countenance and action much satisfied me that what he had confessed was true, and that he surely thought Sir Walter had betrayed him.' Upon this Ralegh demanded to have his accuser, who was under the same roof, brought in, and examined face to face. Long before, and equally in vain, had his father-in-law, Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, called, as Sir Michael Foster mentions, for the witnesses against him 'to be brought face to face upon the trial.' Ralegh cited 1 Edward VI, that no man shall be condemned of treason, unless he be accused by two lawful accusers. He referred also to 1 and 2 Phil. and Mary, which ordained that an accuser of another of treason shall, if living and in the realm, be brought forth in person before the party arraigned, if he require it. The Canon of God itself in Deuteronomy, he urged, requires two witnesses. 'I beseech you then, my Lords, let Cobham be sent for. Let him be charged upon his soul, upon his allegiance to the King; and if he will then maintain his accusation to my face, I will confess myself guilty.' Popham's answer was: 'This thing cannot be granted; for then a number of treasons should flourish. The accuser may be drawn by practice while he is in prison.' Again and again Ralegh called for Cobham. Popham objected that he might prevaricate in order to procure the acquittal of his 'old friend.' 'To absolve me,' cried Ralegh sarcastically, 'me, the infuser of these treasons! Me, the cause of all his miseries, and the destruction of his house!' Coke asserted: 'He is a party and cannot come. The law is against it.' 'It is a toy to tell me of law,' was the reply, 'I defy law. I stand on the facts.' At one moment his passionate appeal seemed to have awed the Court into justice. Cecil asked if he would really abide by Cobham's words. 'Yes, in a main point.' 'If he say you have been the instigator of him to deal with the Spanish King, had not the Council cause to draw you hither?' asked Cecil. 'I put myself on it,' answered Ralegh. 'Then, call to God, Sir Walter,' said Cecil; 'and prepare yourself; for I verily believe my Lord will prove it.' Cecil knew of Cobham's recent reiteration of his charge, and supposed he could be trusted to insist upon it in Court. The Lords Commissioners, on consultation, doubted this, and finally decided to keep him back, and rely upon his letter.
[Sidenote: Two Witnesses.]
[Sidenote: A Spider of Hell.]
The trial pursued its course. Popham laid it down that 1 Edw. VI. c. 12, was repealed by 1 and 2 Phil. and Mary. Mr. Justice Gawdy corroborated this, uttering the solitary judicial dictum recorded of him, that 'the statute of Edward had been found inconvenient, and had therefore been repealed.' The provision cited by Ralegh from Philip and Mary's repealing statute, Popham ruled, applied solely to the specific treasons it mentioned. The Act ordained that the trial of treasons in general should follow common law procedure, as before the reign of Edward VI. But by common law one witness was sufficient. The confession of confederates was full proof, even though not subscribed, if it were attested by credible witnesses. Indeed, remarked Popham, echoing Coke, 'of all other proofs the accusation of one, who by his confession first accuseth himself, is the strongest. It hath the force of a verdict of twelve men.' Coke himself later, when, as Mr. Justice Michael Foster expresses it, 'his disgrace at Court had given him leisure for cool reflection,' intimated in his Institutes that the statute of Edward the Sixth had not been repealed, and that the obligation, as specified by it, to produce two witnesses to charges of treason remained in force. That was not the view of Elizabethan Judges. At the trial of the Duke of Norfolk it was laid down that the necessity no longer existed. In fairness it must be admitted that Popham and his brethren were bound to assume the law had then been correctly stated. They were equally bound by a series of precedents to allow written depositions to be treated as valid testimony. Only by the assent of counsel for the Crown was the oral examination of witnesses permitted. Ralegh did not struggle against the ruling. He could but plead, 'though, by the rigour and severity of the law, this may be sufficient evidence without producing the witness, yet, your Lordships, as ministers of the King, are bound to administer the law in equity.' 'No,' replied Popham: 'equity must proceed from the King; you can have only justice from us.' Coke triumphantly exclaimed: 'This dilemma of yours about two witnesses led you into treason.' Cobham's letter of July 29 to the Council about the money asked of Arenberg was read. In it occurred the expression: 'We did expect the general discontentment.' Coke's comment was: 'The peace pretended by Sir Walter Ralegh is merely jargon; for it is clear the money was for discontented persons. Now Ralegh was to have part of the money; therefore, he was a discontented person, and, therefore, a traitor.' That was the logic thought good enough at a trial for treason. So, to Ralegh's indignant remonstrance at the use of the evidence of 'hellish spiders,' like Clarke and Watson, concerning 'the King and his cubs' as evidence against him, Coke answered: 'Thou hast a Spanish heart, and thyself art a spider of hell; for thou confessest the King to be a most sweet and gracious Prince, and yet thou hast conspired against him.' With equal relevancy he cited from the depositions: 'Brooke thinketh the project for the murder of the King was infused by Ralegh into his brother's head.' For Coke this was valid evidence against Ralegh.
[Sidenote: Serjeant Phillips.]
On rolled the muddy stream of inconsequential testimony, and of reasoning to match; the 'irregular ramble,' as Sir John Hawles has termed it. Snagge's book was discussed; how Ralegh borrowed it from Burleigh's library; and how Cobham had it, whether by gift from Ralegh, or by borrowing it when Ralegh was asleep. To Ralegh the whole appeared the triviality it was. 'It is well known,' said he, 'that there came out nothing in those times but I had it. I believe they will find in my house almost all the libels writ against the late Queen.' As utterly irrelevant against him was the introduction of Arabella Stuart to deny her knowledge of any plots in her pretended interest. Worse than irrelevant was pilot Dyer's gossip with a gentleman at Lisbon, to whom Dyer had observed that the King of England was shortly to be crowned. 'Nay,' saith the Portugal, 'that shall never be; for his throat will be cut by Don Ralegh and Don Cobham before he be crowned.' 'What will you infer upon that?' asked Ralegh. 'That your treason hath wings,' replied Coke. Hereupon Serjeant Phillips relieved Coke, and almost outdid him. Phillips argued that the object of procuring money was to raise up tumults in Scotland, and to take the lives of his Majesty and his issue. For those purposes a treasonable book against the King's right to the Crown was 'divulged.' Commencing with the unproved allegation that 'Sir Walter Ralegh confesseth my Lord Cobham guilty of all these treasons,' Phillips proceeded: 'The question is, whether Ralegh be guilty, as joining with or instigating him. If Lord Cobham's accusation be true, he is guilty. If not, he is clear. Ralegh hath no answer. Of as much wit as the wit of man can devise, he useth his bare denial. A denial by the defendant must not move the jury.' Nothing could be more crushing than the calm rejoinder: 'You have not proved any one thing by direct proofs, but all by circumstances. I appeal to God and the King on this point whether Cobham's accusation be sufficient to condemn me.'
[Sidenote: Cobham's New Statement.]
So weak was the case for the prosecution that to this stage, by the admission of a reporter of the trial, the result was very doubtful. Coke, however, with the cognizance, it may be presumed, of the Court, had prepared a dramatic surprise. Cobham, the day before, had written or signed a repetition of his charge. Ralegh's account of the transaction at the trial was that Lady Kildare, Lady Ralegh's enemy, had persuaded Cobham to accuse Ralegh, as the sole way of saving his own life. A letter from her to him goes some length towards confirming the allegation. She writes: 'Help yourself, if it may be. I say no more; but draw not the weight of others' burdens.' According to another, and not very likely, story, told by Sir Anthony Welldon in his Court of King James, Cobham subsequently stated that Waad had induced him by a trick to sign his name on a blank page, which afterwards was thus filled in. The paper alleged a request by Ralegh to obtain for him a pension of L1500 for intelligence. 'But,' it ambiguously proceeded, 'upon this motion for L1500 per annum for intelligence I never dealt with Count Arenberg.' 'Now,' added the writer, as if it were a conclusion from premisses, 'as by this may appear to your Lordships, he hath been the original cause of my ruin. For, but by his instigation, I had never dealt with Count Arenberg. And so hath he been the only cause of my discontentment; I never coming from the Count, or Court, but still he filled and possessed me with new causes of discontentments.' The reading of the statement was set in a more than usually decorated framework of Coke's amenities. Ralegh throughout the trial had been for the King's Attorney an 'odious fellow;' the 'most vile and execrable traitor.' He had been stigmatized as 'hateful to all the realm for his pride,' to which Ralegh had retorted: 'It will go near to prove a measuring cast, Mr. Attorney, between you and me.' With Cobham's deposition in his hand, Coke cried: 'I will lay thee on thy back for the confidentest traitor that ever came to a bar.' When Cecil prayed him not to be so impatient, Coke flew out: 'If I may not be patiently heard, you will encourage traitors.' Sulkily down he sat, and would speak no more till the Commissioners entreated him to go on. Resuming, he criticized Ralegh's letter to Cobham in the Tower, which was next read: 'O damnable Atheist! He hath learned some text of Scripture to serve his own purpose. Essex died the child of God. Thou wast by.
Et lupus et turpes instant morientibus ursae.'
Being asked what he said of Cobham's statement to the Lords, 'I say,' answered Ralegh, 'that Cobham is a base, dishonourable, poor soul!' 'Is he base?' retorted Coke. 'I return it into thy throat on his behalf. But for thee he had been a good subject.'
[Sidenote: Exaggeration of its Importance.]
The document did not amount to a confession by Cobham even of his own treason. At highest it was evidence against him of negotiations with Count Arenberg which might have been 'warrantable,' and of discontent which need not have been in the least criminal. If such secondary testimony had been legal when its author was available as a witness, and if its statements had been incontrovertible, it ought to have been held worthless against Ralegh. Nothing, so far as appears even from the paper, was ever done towards the gratification of the desire for a foreign pension imputed to him. Within limits, Cobham's allegation that Ralegh had fomented his anger against the new state of things is plausible enough. It would be strange if the two disgraced favourites did not at their frequent meetings club and inflame their mutual pique. Obviously, apart from acts, of which there was no evidence, no irritation by Ralegh, however envenomed, as it was not shown to have been, of Cobham's discontent, could in him have been treason. Judged by all sound laws of evidence, the testimony of the statement was as flimsy as all the rest of the proofs. To attach importance to it was a burlesque of justice. It was treated as demonstrative by a packed Bench, a Bar hungering for place, and a faint-hearted jury, anxious above all things to vindicate authority, and not caring to discriminate among the prisoners on the charges against them. To the whole court it came like a godsend. The author of the fullest report, that which is preserved in the Harleian MSS., expresses the sentiment of Jacobean lawyers: 'This confession gave a great satisfaction, and cleared all the former evidence, which before stood very doubtful.'
[Sidenote: The Prior Recantation.]
In the reporter's judgment it overwhelmed the defendant himself. Reasonably Ralegh 'was much amazed.' He could not have anticipated Cobham's retractation of his retractation. He perceived the new peril in which he was plunged by the statement that he had solicited, or been offered by Cobham, a Spanish pension, though, as he told the King in January, 1604, so little account had he made at the time of the conversation in which the offer was made, that he never remembered any such thing till it was at his trial objected against him. He felt public opinion shaken. His faith in himself was not weakened. 'By and by,' says the reporter, 'he seemed to gather his spirits again.' Pulling out of his pocket the recantation, the second, which Cobham had addressed to him from the Tower, and attested by his hope of salvation and God's mercy on his soul, he insisted upon having it too read in court. Hereupon, says the reporter, 'was much ado, Mr. Attorney alleging that the letter was politicly and cunningly urged from the Lord Cobham,' and that the latest paper was 'simply the truth.' When Ralegh raised the natural objection that a statement written by Cobham on the eve of his own trial might be supposed to have been extorted in some sort by compulsion, Coke appealed to Popham to interrogate the Commissioners. Devonshire, as their mouthpiece, declared to the jury that it was 'mere voluntary,' and had not been written under a promise of pardon. But Cecil supported Ralegh in the demand that the jury should have before it the earlier letter also. Coke, in a report printed in 1648 under the name of Sir Thomas Overbury, is represented as exclaiming: 'My Lord Cecil, mar not a good cause.' Cecil replied: 'Master Attorney, you are more peremptory than honest; you must not come here to show me what to do.' Throughout he had been careful to blend the friend with the judge, so far as professions of regret went. He had spoken of the former dearness between himself and this gentleman, tied upon the knot of his virtues. He had declared that his friendship was not extinguished, but slaked. He had vowed himself still his friend, 'excepting faults, I call them no worse.' Now he strained that friendship to the extent of the simple justice of undertaking the duty, 'because he only knew Cobham's hand,' of reading out the letter, which, if the construction put by the prosecution on the other paper were correct, proved the writer a perjured liar either in the Tower or at Winchester.
Coke need not have feared the consequences. Both judges and jurymen had comfortably made up their minds. They were not to be moved by so slight a thing as a contradiction of Cobham in one place by Cobham in another. So prejudiced were they that the Tower letter does not appear to have produced any effect at all. Ralegh, at all events, could do no more. He had striven for many hours, and was utterly exhausted. Without more words he let the jury be dismissed to consider its verdict.
[Sidenote: The Verdict and Judgment.]
[Sidenote: Popham's Exhortation.]
In a quarter of an hour it returned into court with a verdict of guilty of high treason. Ralegh received the decision with dignity: 'My Lords,' said he, 'the jury hath found me guilty. They must do as they are directed. I can say nothing why judgment should not proceed. You see whereof Cobham hath accused me. You remember his protestation that I was never guilty. I desire the King should know the wrong I have been done to since I came hither.' Then Popham pronounced judgment. Addressing Ralegh, he said: 'In my conscience I am persuaded Cobham hath accused you truly. You cannot deny that you were dealt with to have a pension of L1500 a year to be a spy for Spain; therefore, you are not so true to the King as you have protested yourself to be.' He lamented the fall of one of 'so great parts,' who 'had showed wit enough this day,' 'who might have lived well with L3000 a year; for so I have heard your revenues to be.' Spite and covetousness he held to have been Ralegh's temptations. Yet the King could not be blamed for wishing to have for Captain of the Guard 'one of his own knowledge, whom he might trust,' or for desiring no longer to burden his people with a wine monopoly for Ralegh's particular good. Popham embellished his confused discourse, partly apologetic, and partly condemnatory, but not intentionally brutal or malevolent, by a glance at Ralegh's reputed free-thinking. He had been taxed, said Popham, by the world with the defence of most heathenish and blasphemous opinions. 'You will do well,' the virtuous Chief Justice exhorted him, 'before you go out of the world, to give satisfaction therein. Let not any devil,' or, according to the Harleian MSS. version, 'Hariot nor any such doctor, persuade you there is no eternity in Heaven; if you think thus, you shall find eternity in Hell fire.' Ralegh had warned Cobham against confessions. Let him not apply the advice to himself. 'Your conceit of not confessing anything is very inhuman and wicked. In this world is the time of confessing, that we may be absolved at the Day of Judgment.' By way of peroration he added: 'It now comes into my mind why you may not have your accuser face to face. When traitors see themselves must die, they think it best to see their fellow live, that he may commit the like treason again, and so in some sort seek revenge.' Lastly, he pronounced the savage legal sentence.
When Popham had ended Ralegh spoke a few words. He prayed that the jury might never have to answer for its verdict. He 'only craved pardon for having concealed Lord Cobham's offer to him, which he did through a confidence that he had diverted him from those humours.' Praying then permission to speak to Lords Suffolk, Devonshire, Henry Howard, and Cecil, he entreated their intercession, which they promised, Cecil with tears, that his death might be honourable and not ignominious. He is alleged further to have requested their mediation with the King for a pardon, or, at least, that, if Cobham too were convicted, and if the sentence were to be carried out, Cobham might die first. The petition was not an ebullition of vindictiveness. It had a practical purpose. On the scaffold he could say nothing for Cobham; Cobham might say much for him. It was possible that, when nothing more was to be gained by falsehoods, his recreant friend would clear his fame once for all. Then he quitted the hall, accompanying Sir Benjamin Tichborne, the High Sheriff, to the prison, according to Sir Thomas Overbury, 'with admirable erection, yet in such sort as a condemned man should.'
JUSTICE AND EQUITY OF THE CONVICTION.
[Sidenote: Exceptionally iniquitous.]
Students of English judicial history, with all their recollections of the strange processes by which criminal courts in Ralegh's age leaped to a presumption of a State prisoner's guilt, stand aghast at his conviction. Mr. Justice Foster, in his book, already cited, on The Trial of the Rebels in Surrey in 1746, professes his inability to see how the case, excepting the extraordinary behaviour of the King's Attorney, differed in hardship from many before it. He is referring to the legal points ruled by the judges against Ralegh. Possibly previous prisoners had been as ill-treated; and the fact amounts to a terrible indictment of English justice. But one broad distinction separates this from earlier convictions. Other prisoners in general were guilty, though their guilt may have been a form of patriotism, or may not have been logically proved. Ralegh's guilt of the crime imputed to him was not proved at Winchester, and has never been proved since. If to have cherished resentment for the loss of offices, to have incurred popular odium, to be reputed superhumanly subtle, to have been the sagacious comrade of a foolish malcontent, to have been alleged by that man, whom he was not permitted to interrogate, to be disaffected at a time at which strangers to him happened to be plotting rebellion, to have abstained from betraying overtures for the exertion by him of an influence he never used and did not possess on behalf of a pacification which the sovereign was negotiating, be high treason, then it is possible, though even then not certain, that Ralegh was a traitor. If none of these possibilities amount to the crime of treason, then he was not.
[Sidenote: The Spanish Pension.]
[Sidenote: James and Arenberg.]
He was alleged to have listened to disclosures by Cobham of a scheme for obtaining money from the Archduke, or the King of Spain. He was alleged to have been offered a share. He was alleged to have asked for a pension as the price of the revelation of Court secrets. No other relevant charges were brought. Of the evidence against him, the second or third hand hearsay depositions of Brooke, Watson, Copley, and Clarke, like the gossip of Dyer, had no effect even upon the Lords Commissioners and the jury. The fragments of testimony actually credited were contributed by Cobham alone, himself the principal in the supposed transaction, who had retracted his original statement over and over again, whom the Court refused to confront with the man he accused. Had the allegations been ever so consistent, cogent, credible, and corroborated, they proved nothing, except that Ralegh might, not would, have accepted foreign gold if it had been proffered to him. Cecil accepted it for years to come, and died at once Prime Minister and pensioner of Spain. Northumberland had recently taken a pension to furnish France with secret intelligence. The fact does not abate the admiration of Lingard, who yet thinks it reasonable that a jury should have convicted Ralegh on the bare suspicion of a similar offer by Spaniards to induce him to help them towards peace. James was eager for peace. He placed the utmost faith in the possibility of permanent amity with Spain. He was enthusiastically certain of its importance and value to the kingdom and his dynasty. So little did he object to the agent of Ralegh's alleged intrigue through Cobham with the Spanish Court that he never allowed a symptom of impatience on that side to escape him. Ralegh's guilt at worst depended wholly on the reality of his partnership in Cobham's dealings with Arenberg. In the spring of 1604, Arenberg, who had left England at the end of the previous October, before the Winchester trials commenced, returned as the Archduke's envoy for the negotiation of peace between Spain and this country. He went away finally in the summer. To the Archduke who had commissioned this suspected plotter of treason James wrote in August, 1604: 'We thank you most affectionately for the sincerity and affection you have shown yourself to bear towards the conclusion of this peace and friendship by the choice you have made of such worthy and eminent instruments as are our cousin the Prince Count of Arenberg and his colleague, who, by their sufficiency, prudence, and integrity, have so conducted this important affair that we have received therein very great satisfaction.' He had used the same benevolent tone with respect to the Count during the Winchester proceedings. Cecil officially informed Sir Thomas Parry that the Count had always been made by Cobham to understand that the combinations and money were to be employed simply for the advancement of the peace. An identical defence might be offered for Ralegh, if not for Cobham himself. But it was convenient for James and his Court to exonerate the envoy; it was convenient for them to use the same transaction for a deadly weapon against Ralegh. Of any care or sense of actual truthfulness in King or counsellors throughout the whole business, not a trace can be found.
All concerned in Ralegh's trial and conviction have a heavy burden of bloodguiltiness to bear. But the Judges were less culpable than their lay colleagues and the Crown counsel; the whole bench of Commissioners and the Bar than the jury; the jury than the King, his Ministers, and courtiers. Sir John Hawles, afterwards Solicitor-General, in a printed reply in 1689 to Shower's apology, called The Magistracy and Government of England Vindicated, for Lord Russell's conviction, censured Popham for dispensing with a second witness, and with the presence of Cobham. He argued from the practice of a later period, that Judges who had deviated from it must have been violating their consciences. That is unreasonable. The course taken by the Chief Justice and his brethren conformed, as we have seen, to the legal usage of their time, however opposed to natural justice. The fault was greater in the lay members of the Court, and in the Attorney-General, who might undoubtedly, as representing more directly the Crown, have produced Cobham. All that the Judges declared was that the Crown need not, not that it must not. Still more heinous was the verdict based upon evidence which, if enough in quantity, was manifestly worthless in quality. Twelve worthy gentlemen awarded a horrible death to a man guilty of no other offence, as they knew, than that he had been offered a sum of Spanish money, which he denied he would have accepted, and certainly never received. Most shameful of all was the conduct of the Government which knew the emptiness of the entire case, yet strained every nerve to extort a conviction.
[Sidenote: Legal and Moral Innocence.]
The question of Ralegh's moral innocence is not the same as that of his legal innocence. All writers answer the latter unanimously in his favour. On the former they are divided. Hume, indeed, a far from partial critic, who could not sympathise with one of his 'great but ill regulated mind,' pronounces wholly for him. He finds no proof or any circumstance to justify the condemnation, which he roundly stigmatises as contrary to all law and equity. Historians since Hume have commonly been willing to suppose that the Government proceeded upon some solid ground. In Lingard's Catholic eyes, Ralegh was simply an unscrupulous flatterer of Elizabeth, and an immoral adventurer. Not pledging his own judgment to the righteousness of the verdict, he remarks that 'the guilt of Ralegh was no longer doubted after the solemn asseveration of Cobham' on the scaffold. Hallam had no bias. Though he thought Ralegh 'faulty,' 'rash,' destitute of 'discretion,' and not 'very scrupulous about the truth,' he admired him as a bright genius, 'a splendid ornament of his country,' 'the bravest and most renowned of Englishmen.' He has declared the verdict against him contrary to law, but thinks it 'very probable that the charge of plotting to raise Arabella to the throne was partly at least founded in truth.' Mr. Gardiner condemns the particular accusation as 'frivolous and false,' but believes it had some basis in his character, in his habit of 'looking down from the eminence of genius upon the acts of lesser men.'
[Sidenote: Absence of Evidence of Guilt.]
[Sidenote: Apologies for Condemnation.]
For such support of the prosecution and verdict, qualified as it is, there is a difficulty in perceiving any foundation, except the improbability that a Government should have conspired to obtain the capital condemnation of an illustrious Englishman on no better testimony than that which it vouchsafed or dared to offer. That even Cobham had engaged in plots for the deposition of James in favour of Arabella, which the Ambassador of the Infanta, herself a Pretender, would not have been in the least likely to further, no evidence except French hearsay from James's Ministers exists to prove. That he may have intrigued for the exercise of illegitimate pressure in Spanish interests upon the King, is very probable on his own admission, though 'it does not follow,' as Ralegh writes in his History, 'that every man ought to be believed of himself to his own prejudice.' It is not equally clear, but it is credible, that he had sounded Ralegh, and had appealed to his constant pecuniary necessities, with a view to his engagement in the design. Ralegh may well have suspected enough, without direct complicity, to be able, if he had chosen, to deliver up Cobham to the Government some time before his interview with the Council at Windsor. His omission may have been a breach of his legal duty as a loyal subject, as his hint to Cecil of the transactions with la Renzi was a breach of perfect faithfulness to friendship. But there is no sufficient ground for questioning his own apology, that he regarded the scheme as the vapouring it for the most part was. Moreover, it is not impossible, or improbable, that he may, as he stated to the Lords Commissioners, have endeavoured to dissuade Cobham from plotting. He may have used threats for the purpose, though he did not carry them out. This would explain Cobham's alarm, otherwise unintelligible, that Ralegh meant to inveigle him and other agitators into Jersey, and then give them up. That he actively abetted a conspiracy, either with Arenberg, or against James, is in itself as improbable as it is in fact unproved. James, on his side, may have believed that Ralegh was willing to acquiesce in a treasonable conspiracy, and to enjoy some of its fruits. In this mode the King, and Cecil also, would lull their consciences, while they availed themselves of law for the ruin of one whom they disliked and dreaded. They acted upon surmises, and historians have followed them. Honest-minded writers have been ashamed to think the State could have persecuted an innocent man as it persecuted Ralegh without other evidence than that it disclosed. They have tried to explain the incomprehensible by the unknown. Forgetting the characters of James and his Minister, they have inferred Ralegh's criminality from his subjection to the treatment of a criminal.
Every effort was made at the time to demonstrate his capital guilt. The efforts were continued for thirteen years without success. As Ralegh ironically wrote in 1618, Gondomar's readiest way of stopping the Guiana expedition would have been, had he been guilty, 'to discover the great practices I had with his Master against the King in the first year of his Majesty's reign.' In default of direct testimony, apologists for Ralegh's condemnation have even attempted to plead a remark by the French Ambassador, Beaumont, to his Court before the trial that, though there was no sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction, yet the truth was 'Cobham with Ralegh had conducted the practices with the Archduke.' As Hallam observes, Beaumont possessed no more information than the English Government gave out. He arrived at his conclusion against Ralegh on the testimony of Arenberg's intercepted letters, which James had shown him. Of the correctness of the inference from them, Lingard admits, 'we have no opportunity of judging.' That the Frenchman would rejoice to believe a rival diplomatist had traitors for his confederates, and that they had tampered with assassination plots, is obvious. His bias towards such a result must have been so strong as to incapacitate him, even beyond de Thou, for a neutral scrutiny of the facts. Inquirers since have ransacked all sources of information, official and unofficial, English, Spanish, French, and Venetian. No higher criminality has been discovered in him than that he may have been aware of the project of an acquaintance to influence by means of Spanish gold the King's policy. If he were guilty of worse than this, it is a solecism in the history of treasons that in the course of three centuries not a tittle of evidence of it should have been unearthed.
[Sidenote: Cobham's Trial.]
Ralegh, to the last, clung to the chance of rehabilitation through Cobham. He should have understood the man too well by this time to repose the most slender trust in his truthfulness, generosity, or courage. Privy Councillors examined him after Ralegh's trial, and he repeated his calumnies. On the following Friday he was tried by his peers in the County hall, the great hall of Winchester Castle, known as Arthur's Hall from a picture of the Round Table at the east end. 'Never,' reported Sir Dudley Carleton, afterwards Lord Dorchester, who was present at both trials, 'was there so poor and abject a spirit.' He listened to his indictment with fear and trembling. He confessed he had hammered in his brains imaginations of the matters charged against him, but never had purposed to bring them to effect. He repeated in an incoherent manner his charges against Ralegh. Ralegh, he asserted, had stirred him up to discontent, and thereby overthrown his fortunes. Ralegh had proposed the despatch of a Spanish army to Milford Haven. Ralegh had made himself a pensioner of Spain. As earnest of services for which he expected a salary of 1500 crowns, Ralegh had disclosed to Arenberg State deliberations at Greenwich. Ralegh had nothing to hope from the compiler of this wonderful medley, who was willing to buy his life by calumnies upon his friend. He had nothing to hope from the legal justice of his cause. His only real hope was in a discovery by the Fountain of Mercy that the prosecution of him was a mistake; that he was too precious a weapon in the royal armoury to be thrown away, or be let rust; that though law condemned, the national conscience had acquitted him, and cancelled his sentence. His trust, at all events, in public opinion was justified. In 1603 it was not plain to his contemporaries that not a shadow of evidence had ever existed on which he could justly be sent to trial. They saw no absurdity in the association of his name as a traitor in scurrilous ballads with those of Watson and Brooke. But they had seen him in the dock. He had compelled them to weigh the proofs against him and recognise their hollowness and inconclusiveness. The manliness with which he had stood at bay against Coke's insolence, Cobham's perfidy, and Cecil's damaging apologies for estrangement had brought over to him the sympathy of public opinion. The tide of popular feeling turned, and ceased henceforth to run turbulently against him.
[Sidenote: Public Opinion.]
The Court had been densely thronged. A multitude of eye-witnesses spread through the kingdom their own 'great admiration.' 'Never man,' writes Sir Toby Matthew, 'spoke better for himself. So worthily, so wisely, so temperately he behaved himself that in half a day the mind of all the company was changed from the extremest hate to the extremest pity.' His demeanour was extolled as perfect; to the Lords humble, yet not prostrate, to the jury affable, not fawning, rather showing love of life than fear of death, to the King's counsel patient, but not insensibly neglecting, not yielding to imputations laid against him in words. Michael Hickes wrote to Lord Shrewsbury that his conduct 'wrought both admiration for his good parts and pity towards his person.' His demeanour and eloquence, Hickes heard, had elicited some tears from Mar and Cecil. It was 'wondered that a man of his heroic spirit could be so valiant in suffering that he was never overtaken in passion.' Carleton's account to Chamberlain was that he answered Coke and the rest 'with that temper, wit, learning, courage, and judgment, that, save it went with the hazard of his life, it was the happiest day that ever he spent. And so well he shifted all advantages that were taken against him, that, were not fama malum gravius quam res, and an ill name half hanged, in the opinion of all men he had been acquitted. In one word, never was a man so hated and so popular in so short a time.' James wished to have an independent account of the trial, and had commissioned two gentlemen, Roger Ashton and a Scotchman, to report. They carried the news of the trial to the King at Wilton House. 'Never,' stated Ashton, according to Carleton, 'man spake so well in the time past, nor would in the time to come.' The Scotchman seems to have reported that, 'whereas, when he saw Sir Walter Ralegh first, he was so led with the common hatred that he would have gone a hundred miles to see him hanged, he would, ere they parted, have gone a thousand to save his life.'
The shock inflicted upon the national instinct of fairness by the conviction of such a man, on such evidence, and after such a defence, showed itself by legends which clustered round the facts of the trial. 'Some of the jury,' it is related by Francis Osborn in his Memorials on the Reign of King James, 'were, after he was cast, so far touched in conscience as to demand of him pardon on their knees.' Coke himself was rumoured to have been astonished at the form of the verdict. He was in a garden resting his brazen lungs and his venomous temper, when his man announced that the jury had brought in Ralegh guilty of treason. 'Surely,' observed Coke, 'thou art mistaken; for I myself accused him but of misprision of treason.' The story, which its narrator, in the anonymous Observations upon Sanderson's History of Queen Mary and King James, issued in 1656, 'upon the word of a Christian received from Sir Edward Coke's own mouth,' will appear to any reader of the trial a manifest fable. Not the less does it, like the myth of the fraud by which Cobham's accusing Winchester deposition is alleged to have been procured, testify to the difficulty the public experienced in digesting the judicial outrage upon reason. Similarly must be explained the anecdote, though told by Ralegh himself to the Privy Council after his return from Guiana, on the authority of his physician, Dr. Turner, of Sir Francis Gawdy's death-bed lament that 'Never before had the justice of England been so depraved and injured as in the condemnation of Sir Walter Ralegh.' Gawdy had uttered no word of protest against the shameless misbehaviour of his Chief and the Attorney throughout the hearing. On the contrary, his one remark was against the prisoner. If he really considered the conduct or result of the trial iniquitous, it is a pity he was not more prompt in denouncing it. His judicial sensitiveness needed to be awakened by a fit of apoplexy which carried him off in 1606 to his grave in the next parish, he having turned his own church at Wellington into a dog kennel.
REPRIEVE (December 10, 1603).
[Sidenote: Ralegh's Abasement.]
The nation was doing a great man justice, though tardily. Not even its hero's temporary self-abasement could put it out of conceit with him. One of the many curious surprises in Ralegh's history is the manner in which a sudden change in his demeanour seemed to give the lie to the general admiration. Almost a worse grievance against the Court and its legal tools than their persecution is the effect it had in humiliating and degrading him for a time. Though the proceedings had been a travesty of justice, they had been invested hitherto with a scenic stateliness. Ralegh had borne himself gallantly. He had kept and left the stage with unfailing dignity. The prosecution had at least evinced the respectable earnestness of stubborn hate. At the moment after the catastrophe the nobility, whether of persecuted greatness or of murderous vengefulness, evaporated. Ralegh's enemies appeared to have lost their motive and plan. They seemed no longer sure why or how they wished to wreak their rage. He, from his condemned cell, demanded justice for wronged innocence in the accents of a detected cut-throat. To the Lords Commissioners he wrote: 'The law is passed against me. The mercy of my Sovereign is all that remaineth for my comfort. If I may not beg a pardon or a life, yet let me beg a time. Let me have one year to give to God in a prison and to serve him. It is my soul that beggeth a time of the King.' He spoke of his fear that the power of law might be greater than the power of truth. He reminded Cecil that he was a Councillor to a merciful and just King, if ever we had any, and that the law ought not to overrule pity, but pity the law.' 'Your Lordship,' he proceeds, 'will find that I have been strangely practised against, and that others have their lives promised to accuse me.' In the same November in which he had told Cecil it would be presumption for him to ask grace directly of the King, he asked it. He assured his most dread Sovereign he was not one of the men who were greatly discontented, and therefore the more likely to be disloyal. He protested he had loved the King 'now twenty years'; that he had never invented treason, consented to treason, or performed treason. He invoked mercy in the name of English law, 'who knowing her own cruelty, and that she is wont to compound treasons out of presumptions and circumstances, does advise the King to be misericorditer justus.' In a rather loftier strain he exclaimed, 'If the law destroy me, your Majesty shall put me out of your power, and I shall then have none to fear, none to reverence, but the King of Kings.' But the burden throughout is the pitiful 'Send me my life.'
[Sidenote: Its motive.]
These prayers by Walter Ralegh to a most dread Sovereign, who happened to be James I, these genuflections of spirit to a Minister who must have been suspected of malevolent jealousy, if not of treason to ancient friendship, present a strange and sad spectacle. Excessive importance should not be attached to the phraseology. Not a little of the apparent abjectness was matter of style: 'What,' Ralegh himself has said, 'is the vowing of service to every man whom men bid but good morrow other than a courteous and Court-like kind of lying?' Much must be allowed for the fashion of the age in dealing with Princes and their Ministers. Grey, no more than Ralegh, could resist the impulse. The Puritan Baron had bidden a magnanimous farewell to his peers at Winchester: 'The House of the Wiltons have spent many lives in their Princes' service; Grey cannot beg his!' Within a few days he was grovelling in gratitude for an insulting reprieve: 'As your mercy draws out my life, I cannot deny it the only object it aspires to, by unfeigned confession and contrition to diminish my offence, and your displeasure.' Not till the Civil War had cleared the atmosphere through which royalty was seen, was the demeanour of subjects to the Sovereign in general conformity with the modern standard of manliness. Ralegh, the Court favourite, the poet, was cast in a more plastic mould than Grey. The suddenness of his ruin may well have thrown him off his balance now, as at the original explosion of the tempest in the summer. The tendency of men endowed with genius like his to indulge in extravagances of dejection when fortune frowns is notorious. But his long course of importunities to all possessed of the means of helping or hindering in the years after 1603 is not to be explained either by style, or by spasms of despair. Both their impulse and something too of an apology for them are to be found in the basis of his character, which was tough as well as elastic. After the shock of the plunge into the depths he braced himself to the task of rising to the surface, and reaching shore. Life, freedom, wealth, career, were forfeited. He determined to redeem the whole. He availed himself of the instruments at hand, though they were tarnished. He did not scruple to soil his fingers in groping his way out of a sea of mud.
[Sidenote: Doggedness of Purpose.]
It is necessary continually to remind ourselves, when we are tempted to be incensed at his deportment, of the mode in which he had been treated, of his consuming sense of a mission, and his determination, little short of monomania, to return to its service. He and everybody knew that his conviction was an act of legal violence. There was no prospect of rescue through the machinery of the law from an overwhelming disaster which demonstrated law to be without a conscience or sense of responsibility. As soon as the law with its automatic violence had possession of his case, he felt himself held in a grasp not to be relaxed. He knew he must look outside law for justice as well as mercy. It and its ministers were not intentionally cruel. Simply their craft had assumed a scientific shape from which morality and common sense alike were absent. A defendant had a right to evade the penalties of the most manifest guilt by any loopholes and gaps he could discover in the works. It had the right to pursue him to the death, whether innocent or criminal, so long as the rules of the art were observed. Its point of honour was not to let the accused escape. Ralegh was penetrated with an acute and indignant consciousness of the iniquity of the Court intrigue from which he suffered. He despaired of correcting the wrong by the help of the law which had lent itself to be the agent. His struggle was to salve the malice of law with the remorse of the Prerogative which had been seduced into setting it in motion. The shape his efforts took was by no means admirable. Had he been more uniformly heroic, or less absolutely irrepressible, he would have gone to his prison, and laid himself down magnanimously or passively mute. There, early or late, he would have died. Never would his foes have opened the doors of their own good will. But his nature was not of that kind. He burnt with a longing to be up and doing. He knew he was caught in toils he could not burst by force. For his career's sake, he condescended to plead with and beseech them through whom alone he could emerge into the daylight. They who have idealized him as a downtrodden martyr will find the Ralegh portrayed by his own pen in scores of letters to princes, statesmen, and nobles, little to their taste. The real Ralegh will not cease to be honoured by all whom the sight of indomitable courage and doggedness in the accomplishment of a purpose moves. Only in his words and style could we wish him to have been less supple and less meek. That we have to wish in vain. He thought too highly both of the objects he meant to attain, and of the strength of those who kept him from them, to be sparing of such slight things as entreaties.
[Sidenote: Reverence for Kingship.]
Life was the first article in his programme of ends to be pursued, or losses to be redeemed. He prized life more than most. He had so much to do with a life. Half his work still, as he reckoned, was incomplete. The world was young, and abounded in possibilities. To save himself for life and work was worth playing at servility. He could hardly see the pettiness in a James, in his parasites, in his Ministers, for absorption in their one essential quality, their ability, as holding headsman and gaolers in a leash, to keep alive or kill, to bind or let loose. To this age James is an awkward, ludicrous pedant. The spectacle of Ralegh's veneration is exasperating. For Ralegh he was a symbol of sovereign authority, a mysterious keeper of the scales of fate. He represented for Ralegh a power above courts of law, and entitled to set right their mistakes or misdeeds. Of his mere will he could free Ralegh from persecution. For Ralegh he was a redresser of grievances; and he was more. He impersonated potentiality to do as well as undo. The idea of the opportunities embodied in an occupant of the throne was too engrossing for Ralegh to weigh the character of the individual. He imagined himself not merely pardoned, but trusted by the depositary of boundless national resources, which he was conscious of an infinite competence to employ. His admiration of the capabilities of the royal Prerogative, if utilized as he perceived that they could be utilized, embraced its titular tenant whoever he might be. He was dominated by an intense sense of all he might accomplish for the indistinguishable duality of himself and his country, if the King would. Sincerely he could profess he had loved James ever since he beheld in him the heir of the national crown.
On November 29, 1603, the priests, Watson and Clarke, underwent the hideous doom which had been pronounced upon Ralegh. They were drawn, hanged, and quartered. They still lived when the quartering began. On December 6 Brooke was beheaded. His last words were: 'There is somewhat yet hidden, which will one day appear for my justification.' Nothing ever has appeared. James at Wilton House signed warrants for the execution of Cobham, Grey, and Markham on Friday, December 10. He had not the hardihood to sign the warrant for Ralegh's execution; but it is believed to have been fixed for the Monday after. Queen Anne, it is said, was interceding for his life. So was the King's host, Lord Pembroke, at his mother's bidding. Cecil wrote to Winwood, afterwards Secretary of State, that the King 'pretended to forbear Sir Walter Ralegh for the present, till the Lord Cobham's death had given some light how far he would make good his accusation.' James, we will hope, had been staggered in conscience by the reports of his own messengers from Winchester. He and his courtiers had won from the criminal law Ralegh's condemnation. They were still hunting after apologies for the conviction. Watson, Clarke, and Brooke had supplied none of the missing links. In vain had Commissioners been examining and re-examining the prisoners. Their forlorn hope was the agony or recklessness of the two lords and Markham on the scaffold.
[Sidenote: Farewell to his Wife.]
Meanwhile, in his prison in the Castle, Ralegh made ready for death. He had the spiritual assistance of Bishop Bilson of Winchester, whom the King had deputed to console or confess him. Bishop Bilson, who was said by an admirer to carry prelature in his very aspect, furthered later on the divorce of Lord and Lady Essex. Ralegh found no fault with his behaviour to him, and gratefully characterized him in his History as grave and learned. He satisfied the Bishop of his Christian state; he could not be persuaded to acknowledge the truth of any of the charges against him, unless, very partially, as to the pension. That, he said, was 'once mentioned, but never proceeded in.' The day appointed for his death, he thought, was December 13. He had penned a last farewell to his wife on December 9, 1603. It reads very unlike the All Souls' College paper. He sends his 'love, that, when I am dead, you may keep it, not sorrows, dear Bess; let them go to the grave with me, and be buried in the dust. Bear my destruction gently, and with a heart like yourself.' He gives 'all the thanks my heart can conceive for your many troubles and cares taken for me.' He bids her, for the love she bare him living, not hide herself many days, but by her travail seek to help her miserable fortunes, and the right of her poor child. 'If you can live free from want, care for no more: for the rest is but vanity. Love God, and begin betimes to repose yourself on Him. When you have wearied your thoughts on all sorts of worldly cogitations, you shall sit down by sorrow in the end.' He does not know to what friend to direct her, for all his had left him in the time of trial. 'I plainly perceive,' he continues, 'that my death was determined from the first day.' He asks her, 'for my soul's health, to pay all poor men.' He warns her against suitors for her money; 'for the world thinks that I was very rich.' He prays her, 'Get those letters, if it be possible, which I writ to the Lords, wherein I sued for my life. God knoweth that it was for you and yours that I desired it; but it is true that I disdain myself for begging it. And know it, dear wife, that your son is the child of a true man, and who, in his own respect, despiseth Death, and all his misshapen and ugly forms. Beg my dead body, which living was denied you; and either lay it at Sherborne, if the land continue, or in Exeter church by my father and mother. I can write no more. Time and Death call me away.' Yet he can hardly part with wife or child, and adds still something: 'God teach me to forgive my persecutors and false accusers. My true wife farewell. Bless my poor boy; pray for me. Yours, that was, but now not my own.'
[Sidenote: The Pilgrimage.]
He was more than willing to live. He was not afraid to die. In the apparent presence of death his soul, as always, recovered its lofty serenity. With his head, as he thought, on the block, he burst into the grand dirge of the Pilgrimage. Such are the variances of taste that a writer of reputation has spoken of this noble composition as 'a strange medley in which faith and confidence in God appear side by side with sarcasms upon the lawyers and the courtiers.' That is a judgment with which few will agree. The poem in the most authoritative manuscript is described as having been composed the night before Ralegh was beheaded. But it can scarcely be doubted that it belongs to the present period, when he was daily expecting the arrival of the warrant for his execution at Winchester. His spirit had 'quenched its thirst at those clear wells where sweetness dwells.' It was bound in quiet palmer's fresh apparel—
to Heaven's bribeless hall, Where no corrupted voices brawl; No conscience molten into gold, No forged accuser bought or sold, No cause deferred, no vain-spent journey; For there Christ is the King's Attorney. And when the grand twelve-million jury Of our sins, with direful fury, Against our souls black verdicts give, Christ pleads his death, and then we live.
[Sidenote: Royal Intervention.]
At ten in the morning of December 10 Sir Griffin Markham was conducted to the scaffold, which had been erected in the Castle yard. He had said adieu to his friends, prayed, and was awaiting the axe. Suddenly the spectators in the Castle yard saw the Sheriff, Sir Benjamin Tichborne, stay the executioner. John Gibb, a Scotch groom of the royal bedchamber, had arrived, almost too late, at the edge of the crowd. He was the bearer of a reprieve. James himself, on December 7, had drawn it, with a preamble: 'The two prestis and George Brooke vaire the principall plotteris and intisairs of all the rest to the embracing of the saiddis treasonabill machinations.' He had kept it back to the last, as well to multiply the chances of eliciting confessions of guilt, as for the sake of the vividness of the stage play. He admired greatly his own ingenuity, and his courtiers applauded enthusiastically. Of the detestable feline cruelty he and they had no shame. Ralegh's window in the Castle overlooked the scaffold. He would be sensible of the interruption of the proceedings. He could not have seen Gibb. He must, says Carleton, 'have had hammers working in his head to beat out the meaning of the stratagem.' Beaumont, the French ambassador, was told by an imaginative reporter that he 'etait a la fenetre, regardant la comedie de ses compagnons avec un visage riant.'
[Sidenote: Scenes on the Scaffold.]
The Sheriff performed his part with a ready gravity which secured the King's approval. He was already a favourite for having proclaimed James on the first news of the death of Elizabeth, before the Council had declared him her successor. For his deserts both now and then the custody of the Castle soon afterwards was bestowed upon him and his heirs. He said to Markham, 'You say you are ill-prepared to die; you shall have two hours' respite.' Then he led him away, and locked him in Arthur's Hall. Next Grey was brought on the scaffold. He asserted that his fault against the King was 'far from the greatest, yet he knew his heart to be faulty.' He too was ready for the axe, when the Sheriff led him away to Arthur's Hall, saying the order of the execution was changed by the King's command, and Cobham was to precede Grey. Cobham came, with so bold an air as to suggest he had heard; but he prayed so lengthily that a bystander ejaculated he had 'a good mouth in a cry, but was nothing single.' He expressed repentance for his offence against the King. He corroborated all he had said against Sir Walter Ralegh as true 'upon the hope of his soul's resurrection.' The extortion of that confirmation of his calumnies had been a main object of the whole disgraceful farce. When he had thus bought his worthless life, the Sheriff brought back upon the scaffold Grey and Markham to stand beside him. All three were asked if their offences were not heinous, and if they had not been justly tried and lawfully condemned. Each answered affirmatively. Then said the Sheriff: 'See the mercy of your Prince, who of himself hath sent hither a countermand, and hath given you your lives.' At this the crowd burst into such hues and cries that they went from the Castle into the town, and there began afresh. Grey said, 'Since the King has given me my life without my begging, I will deserve life.' Henry IV was sceptical as to the magnanimity of James. He wrote to Beaumont to discover if 'Spanish gold' were concerned in the reprieves; if Don Juan de Taxis and Cecil had used influence for them; 'for it is rumoured that these persons, backed by money expended by Ralegh, brought the thing about.' The faith in Ralegh's endless resources and skill prevailed in France as in England.
A PRISONER (1604-1612).
On December 16, 1603, Ralegh, with his fellow convicts, returned to London. That would have been the close of an ordinary man's career. To him alone it did not seem the end, and he resolved it should not be. He had his life. Liberty and fortune were still to be regained. He looked around him, and endeavoured to retrieve the scattered fragments of his wealth. Like all his peers in arms and politics he had ever believed in the importance of riches. But now he was grasping at the possibility of continuing by money in lieu of his imprisoned self his schemes of a Guiana sovereignty. He was striving to construct out of the wreck of his grandeur a refuge for his wife and his boy from the anguish and dependence of penury. 'Poverty,' he preached to his son, 'is a shame, an imprisonment of the mind. Poverty provokes a man to do infamous and detested deeds.'
[Sidenote: Civilly dead.]
[Sidenote: Lord Nottingham's Rapacity.]
He was civilly dead. The division of his spoils had commenced before the trial. He had, as has been mentioned, been dismissed in July from his island government. In September Godolphin, High Sheriff of Cornwall, had been directed to take the musters, 'the commission of Lieutenancy granted to Sir Walter Ralegh being become void and determined.' Early in 1604 he formally returned the seal of the Duchy of Cornwall to Cecil. His successor was his connexion, Lord Pembroke. He was stripped of the Rangership of Gillingham Forest, and of the Lieutenancy of Portland, though he would regret the loss of those offices the less that they remained in the hands of their joint tenant, his brother, Sir Carew. His enjoyment of his patent as wine licenser had been suspended, that it might be considered if the post were a monopoly. The Council came to the conclusion that it was not. But before Ralegh could collect the arrears from the vintners he was arraigned. Thereupon, not waiting for the result of the trial, the King revoked the patent, and granted it to the Lord Admiral. Nottingham, not content with the profit from new licenses, claimed the arrears. Lady Ralegh remonstrated. She indignantly computed to Cecil in 1604 that the Admiral 'hath L6000, and L3000 a year, by my husband's fall. And since it pleaseth God that his Lordship shall build upon our ruins, which we never suspected, yet the portion is great and, I trust, sufficient, out of one poor gentleman's fortune to take all that remains, and not to look back before his Majesty's grant, and take from us the debts past, which your Lordship knows were stayed from us by a proclamation before my husband was suspected of any offence.' Sherborne was attached. Commissioners for it had been appointed, Serjeant Phillips and Meere. They had pounced upon the domain, and were selling stock, felling timber, and dismantling the castle. Cecil interfered peremptorily by letter, and for a time stayed all proceedings. He is likely to have 'spoken the one word' about the wine licence arrears which Lady Ralegh implored. No more is heard of the Lord Admiral's demand. A more important favour was obtained. In February, 1604, all Ralegh's goods, chattels, and money due to him, though forfeited for treason, were granted by the Crown to trustees for payment of debts owing before his attainder, and for the maintenance of his wife and child. The trustees named were Robert Smith and John Shelbury. Shelbury was Ralegh's steward, 'a man I can better entreat than know how to reward.'
[Sidenote: The Sandersons.]
The grant included, beside the wine arrearages, money in the hands of the wine licenser's deputy, William Sanderson. Sanderson was husband to Ralegh's niece, Margaret Snedale. He was father of Sir William Sanderson, writer in 1656 of a History of Queen Mary and King James, full of calumnies upon Ralegh. He denied the debt, and claimed L2000 from his principal. Thereupon Ralegh, 'in great anger,' sued him, apparently with success. It is unnecessary to credit the further allegation by the author, supposed to have been Ralegh's son Carew, though more probably somebody inspired by him, of the Observations, already cited, upon Sanderson's History, that the deputy was for the debt cast into prison, where he died a beggar. On the contrary, slender as is the authority of the historian, as of his critic, it is easier, as well as preferable, to accept Sir William Sanderson's statement, in answer to the Observations, that his father and his family continued to be prosperous, and, having resumed amicable relations with Ralegh, remained kind and faithful kinsfolk to the last. It is pleasant to be able to believe that Ralegh disappointed a relative's temporary calculations upon his incapacity of resistance, without acting the part of the insolvent steward of the Parable.
[Sidenote: The Wreck of his Estate.]
The mercy of the Crown extended for the present to the maintenance even of his rights over the estate of Sherborne itself. A dozen suitors had applied for it, Cecil told a Scotch courtier in October, 1603. But on July 30, 1604, in place of Ralegh's life interest, which was forfeited by the attainder, a sixty years' term of Sherborne and ten other Dorset and Somerset manors, with all other lands escheated, was conveyed by the Crown to trustees for Lady Ralegh and young Walter, should Ralegh so long live. This boon, following the rest, went far towards remedying the overwhelming pecuniary consequences of a judicial crime. The King is entitled to share the credit with Cecil. He was not incapable of caprices of beneficence. Pity, rather than a sense of justice, moved him. He loved to be magnanimous at small cost. He chose to regard Ralegh as a traitor when he was innocent. He reaped from the injustice the additional satisfaction of being exalted by his flatterers into a paragon of generosity for waiving part of the penalties for offences which had not been committed. Ralegh's estate was, however, indebted yet more to Cecil. If he would not, or could not, secure justice for his old ally, Cecil had no desire to see him reduced to beggary. Whatever the cause, Ralegh undoubtedly suffered in purse less than his condemned fellows. Cobham's and Grey's vast patrimonies were wholly confiscated. They subsisted on the charity of the Crown. Markham was sent into exile so bare of means that he had to barter his inlaid sword hilt for a meal. Ralegh was not thus stripped. Only, being guiltless, as they were not, and did not pretend to be, he was not always gratefully content with the morsels tossed back to him. Soon after his removal from Winchester he wrote to Cecil that L3000 a year, from Jersey, the Wine Office, the Stannaries, Gillingham, and Portland, was gone; there remained but L300 from Sherborne, with a debt upon it of L3000. His tenants refused to pay Lady Ralegh her rents. His woods were cut down, his grounds wasted, and his stock sold. Meanwhile he was charged at the Tower, at first, L4, and later, L5, a week for the diet of himself, his wife, child, and two servants. He had to urge the Council to stay the Commissioners at Sherborne, whose rapacious activity had again awoke. He told the Council that the estate, with the park and a stock of L400 in sheep, whatever its valuation by others, brought in but L666 13s. 4d. This has been estimated, perhaps somewhat excessively, as equivalent to an income now of L3333. Out of it he had to pay the Bishop of Salisbury L260. Fees and rates took another L50 a year. His personal property he reckoned at not worth a thousand marks, or L666 13s. 4d. His rich hangings were sold to my Lord Admiral for L500. He had but one rich bed, which he had sold to Lord Cobham before his misfortunes. His plate, which he describes as very fair, was all 'lost, or eaten out with interest at one Chenes', 'or Cheynes', the goldsmith, in Lombard-street.
[Sidenote: Struggle for Freedom.]
He thought it hard to be robbed of his revenues. He declared that he could have endured the calamity if penury had been all. Early in 1604 he wrote that, if Sherborne could be assured, he should take his loss for a gain, nothing having been lost that could have bettered his family, 'but the lease of the wines, which was desperate before his troubles.' He did not wish for his wife and son, 'God knows, the least proportion of plenty, having forgotten that happiness which found too much too little.' His one desire was that they should be able to eat their own bread. The interruption of his career was the real and unappeasable wrong. All his virtues made him struggle indomitably against that. He was supported in the contest by the vice itself, if it were a vice, of his abounding egotism. His incapacity for believing that powers like his could be wasted by the State, buoyed him up against the direst persecutions. He was unable at heart, whatever his groanings, to regard them as more than passing checks in a game in which he had chanced upon losing cards. He fought for liberty more stubbornly than for his property, that he might resume his work in the world. He complained in January, 1604, that Papists who plotted to surprise the King's person had been liberated, while Cecil's poor, ancient, and true friend was left to perish 'here where health wears away.' Cecil had written kind but cautious lines in another hand, of which Ralegh 'knew the phrase.' They had raised his hopes. Cecil dashed them by declaring to Lady Ralegh early in 1604 that, 'for a pardon, it could not yet be done.' Ralegh did not therefore leave off seeking it. For some time he could not believe that his imprisonment was to be more than transitory. His efforts were directed to the negotiation of terms to which he might consent for the abridgment of the liberty he deemed his right. He did not ask to be 'about London—which God cast my soul into hell if I desire.' He would be content to be confined within the Hundred of Sherborne. If he could not be allowed so much, he was ready to live in Holland. There he thought he might obtain some employment connected with the Indies. Else he petitioned to 'be appointed to any bishop, or other gentleman, or nobleman, or that your Lordship would let me keep but a park of yours—which I would buy from someone that hath it—I will never break the order which you shall please to undertake for me.'
[Sidenote: At the Fleet Prison.]
[Sidenote: His Ailments.]
He fretted in mind; and he was ill in body. For several years his health had been impaired. Only periodical visits to Bath for its waters assuaged his ailments. He prayed in vain that he might be suffered to go thither in the autumn after his conviction. His prognostication that, if he 'could not go this fall, he should be dead or disabled for ever,' was not likely to alarm his foes. They affected at all times to be incredulous of the gravity of his infirmities. But there is no reason to question his statement that he was 'daily in danger of death by the palsy; nightly of suffocation by wasted and obstructed lungs.' His complaints began in the early summer of 1604. After a week's sojourn in the Tower he seems to have been sent to the Fleet, where Keymis was for a short time his fellow prisoner. There bills for his diet show that he was staying between Christmas 1603 and Lady Day, 1604, or rather a few days later. He cannot have gone back to the Tower precisely by Lady Day to stay, for reasons not of State, but of Court. On Monday, March 26, 1604, Easter games were to be performed before the Court at the Tower. Two mastiffs were to be let loose on a lion, and the King wanted to have his fortress-palace cleared, for the occasion, of melancholy captives. A custom prevailed at such festivities of releasing prisoners. There was no intention of liberating the Winchester convicts. So, according to the rumour of the Court, as sent home by the Venetian Embassy, they 'were removed from the Tower and placed in other prisons.' If this statement is to be accepted literally, and to be reconciled with the Fleet bills for food, they must, at some time before Easter, have returned from the Fleet to the Tower, and then, before March 26, been sent back for a brief space to the Fleet. Ralegh had no cause for rejoicing when the time arrived for his permanent establishment in the Tower. After his return it was again, as in 1603, visited by the Plague. He prayed to be taken elsewhere, on the ground that the pestilence was come next door. In the adjacent tenement, with a paper wall between, were, he told Cecil, lying a woman and her child, dying of it. When the Tower was free from the Plague it was still an unsuitable lodging for one of Ralegh's constitution. Moisture oozed constantly into the walls from the wide muddy ditch. The cells were bitterly cold, and Ralegh was chilled and benumbed. 'Every second or third night,' he reiterated to Cecil in 1605, 'I am in danger either of sudden death, or of the loss of my limbs and senses, being sometimes two hours without feeling a motion of my hand and whole arm.' In 1606 his physician, Dr. Peter Turner, certified that his whole left side was cold. His fingers on the same side began to be contracted, and his tongue in some sort, insomuch that he spoke weakly, and that it was to be feared he might utterly lose the use of it. Only in consequence of Turner's authoritative representations was Ralegh's chamber changed. In the little garden under the terrace was a lath and plaster lean-to. It had been Bishop Latimer's prison. Since it had been used as a hen-house. Ralegh had already been permitted to employ this out-house as a still room. He was allowed now to build a little room next it, and use it as his habitual dwelling.
[Sidenote: In the Bloody Tower.]
Other alleviations of his confinement were granted, particularly in its earlier and again in its concluding years. For an inmate of a gaol, his treatment was commonly not very rigorous. His quarters themselves, though cold, were otherwise convenient. At his committal in July he had been put into the upper chamber of the Bloody tower. Formerly this was called the Garden tower. According to one authority it became known by the more ominous name after Lord Northumberland's death there in June, 1585. Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, who was born in the Tower, derives the appellation from a tradition of her childhood, that it was the scene of the murder of the Duke of Clarence. The assassination in it of Edward V and his brother seems to account for it more naturally. On Ralegh's return from Winchester, he was, says Lord de Ros, who was both Lieutenant of the Tower and one of his successors in the Captaincy of the Yeomen, placed in a semi-circular room, lighted by loopholes, in the White tower, and there remained all the years of his imprisonment. That, though a current local tradition, is grossly incorrect, as a Lieutenant of the Tower ought to have known. As, however, Lord de Ros also thought that Ralegh died on Tower Hill, it is the less surprising that he should not have known where in the Tower he lived. According to another legend equally baseless, he was lodged on the second and third floors of the Beauchamp tower. Really from Winchester he went back to the apartment he had previously inhabited. It had its advantages. A passage in the rear led by a door to the terrace, which has been christened Ralegh's Walk. From it he could look down on one side over a much-frequented wharf to the busy river. On the other it commanded the Lieutenant's garden and green. The suite of rooms accommodated Cottrell, and apparently also John Talbot, Talbot's son, and Peter Dean, who waited on Ralegh. There was space for Lady Ralegh, Walter, and Lady Ralegh's waiting maid. They occupied the room in which Edward V and his brother were murdered. When the Plague invaded their quarters they removed for a time to lodgings on Tower Hill, near the church of Allhallows, Barking. It is uncertain whether there, or in the room of the slaughtered Princes, a second son, Carew, was born to Ralegh and his wife in 1604. On the abatement of the epidemic, Lady Ralegh, with the children, returned.
[Sidenote: Alleviations of Confinement.]
Ralegh could entertain dependents and acquaintances. His Sherborne steward, John Shelbury, Hariot, his physician Dr. Turner, a surgeon Dr. John, and a clergyman named Hawthorn, were frequently with him. His Ralegh and Gilbert kinsfolk, we may be sure, did not desert him, though there was no especial reason to chronicle their visits. Had fuller details been preserved of his private life, we should doubtless have found mention of his brother Carew, who was living in apparent prosperity at Downton. His employment, as soon as he had the opportunity, of the naval and military services of his nephews, George Ralegh and Gilbert, shows that the family union survived unbroken. Admirers from the West and the Court came to listen to his conversation, and watch his chemical experiments. The Indians he had brought from Guiana had stayed in England. The register of Chelsea Church records the baptism of one of them by the name of Charles, 'a boy of estimation ten or twelve years old, brought by Sir Walter Rawlie from Guiana.' After his imprisonment they were lodged in the Tower, or near. He could amuse himself by catechising them on the wonders of their land. His freedom of movement in the early and late stages of his imprisonment, when he had 'the liberty of the Tower,' roused the envy of fellow prisoners. Grey murmured in 1611: 'Sir Walter Ralegh hath a garden and a gallery to himself.' In his deepest tribulations he had reverential valets and pages to comb by the hour his thick curling locks, to trim his bushy beard, and round moustache. Crowds thronged the wharf below to mark him pacing his terrace in the velvet and laced cap, the rich gown and trunk hose, noted by Aubrey's cousin Whitney, and the jewels, of which he retained an ample store.
[Sidenote: His Gaoler.]
But he was made in many respects, and at frequent intervals, to feel himself 'a dead man,' possessed of no rights, subject to all sorts of caprices. A kind-hearted Lieutenant might ameliorate his lot. He had fascinated Sir George Harvey, who had commenced ill with the suppression of Cobham's letter. They habitually dined together. Harvey had lent or let to him his garden. The door of the Bloody tower was suffered to stand habitually open. On August 16, 1605, Sir William Waad replaced Harvey. He had earned the post by his keen scent for plots. He came prepared to grudge privileges to the man who had foiled his inquisitorial cunning. A week after his appointment to the Lieutenancy he wrote to Cecil, to suggest the replacement of a lath fence, which ran past the Bloody tower gate, by a brick wall, as 'more safe and convenient.' His advice was taken, and a brick wall built. Still he was uneasy. In December, 1608, he complained indignantly to Cecil that 'Sir Walter Ralegh doth show himself upon the wall in his garden to the view of the people, who gaze upon him, and he stareth on them. Which he doeth in his cunning humour, that it might be thought his being before the Council was rather to clear than to charge him.' Waad took credit to himself that he had been 'bold in discretion and conveniency to restrain him again.' For Waad to reprove Ralegh ought to have needed boldness. He desired to repress the wife as well as the husband. Lady Ralegh does not seem to have been sufficiently awed by the august associations of the Tower. He had to issue an order forbidding her to drive into the court-yard in her coach. By another solemn order aimed at Sir Walter, he decreed that, at ringing of the afternoon bell, all the prisoners, with their servants, were to withdraw into their chambers. They were not to go forth again for that night.
Until May, 1613, Ralegh had to endure this man's petty spite and disciplinary pedantry. Then Waad retired, to the great contentment of his prisoners, though, as it happened, from a cause which did him honour. Lady Arabella Stuart's chief pleasure during her iniquitous imprisonment was the increase of her stock of jewels. From an order of Council after her death, she would seem to have consulted Ralegh as an expert. Several stones of price had disappeared in 1613. Suspicion was cast upon Waad, or his wife and daughter. Probably they were entirely innocent. The real object was that Carr might introduce a more pliant instrument for foul play against Sir Thomas Overbury. Under pressure of the accusation based on the missing trinkets, Waad accepted L1400 from Sir Gervase Elways, with a promise of L600 more, and vacated his office. Elways became an accomplice in Overbury's murder, and was hanged on his own Tower Hill. But he was less of a martinet than his predecessor. Perhaps his patrons were engaged in too serious crimes to waste their energy in inciting him to petty persecutions of Ralegh. At all events, Ralegh recovered the liberty of the Tower; and the restrictions on the presence of his wife were relaxed.