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Full text of "The lives of the Lord Chancellors and Keepers of the Great Seal of England"

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VOL. I. 

London : 
Spottiswoodk and Shaw, 
New-street- Square. 














\J.\ - 



My dear Son, 

As you are not to inherit from me great posses- 
sions, or a name illustrated by long official career, 
I inscribe this work to you, in the hope that it may 
prove to you a lesson of true labour. 

I have hitherto had much reason to rejoice in the 
progress of your studies ; and when you return from 
viewing foreign cities and manners, I shall hope to 
see you struggling to confer benefits on your country, 
while you lay the foundation of a lasting reputation for 
yourself. Thus I shall be more gratified than by 
any power or distinction I myself could have ac- 
quired, and you will render contented and happy the 
declining years of 

Your ever affectionate Father, 


Nov. 1. 18-15. 

A 3 



In preparing a New Edition of the Lives op the Chan- 
cellors, I have availed myself of the numerous obliging 
communications which I have recently received suggesting 
corrections and additions; and from the careful revision which 
the work has undergone, I hope it may now be found not 
unworthy of the public patronage with which it has been 

Stratheden House, 
April 10 1848. 



When suddenly freed, in the autumn of 1841, from pro- 
fessional and official occupations, I revelled for a while in the 
resumption of my classical studies, and in the miscellaneous 
perusal of modern authors. By degrees I began to perceive 
the want of a definite object : I recollected what Lord Coke 
and Lord Bacon say of the debt due from every successful 
lawyer to his profession ; and I felt within me a revival of 
the aspiration after literary fame, which, in my most busy 
days, I was never able entirely to extinguish. Having 
amused myself with revising for the press " a Selection of 
my Speeches at the Bar and in the House of Commons," I 
resolved to write " The Lives of the Chancellors." 

It is for others to judge how this work is executed, but I 
am more and more convinced that the subject is happily 
chosen. " Histories," says Lord Bacon, " do rather set 
forth the pomp of business than the true and inward resorts 
thereof. But Lives, if they be well written, propounding 
to themselves a person to represent, in whom actions both 
greater and smaller, public and private, have a commixture, 
must of necessity contain a more true, native, and lively re- 
presentation."* In writing the lives of those who have suc- 
cessively filled a great office there is unity of design as well 
as variety of character and incident, and there is no office in 
the history of any nation that has been filled with such a 
long succession of distinguished and interesting men as the 

* Advancement of Learning. 


oflSce of Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper of the Great Seal 
of England. It has existed from the foundation of the 
monarchy; and although mediocrity has sometimes been 
the recommendation for it, generally speaking, the most 
eminent men of the age, if not the most virtuous, have been 
selected to adorn it. To an English statesman as well as an 
English lawyer the narrative ought to be particularly in- 
structive, for the history of the holders of the Great Seal is 
the liistory of our constitution as well as of our jurisprudence. 
There is even a sort of romance belonging to the true tale of 
many of those who are to be delineated, and the strange 
vicissitudes of their career are not exceeded by the fictions of 
novelists or dramatists. 

I foresaw the difiiculties that would beset me some- 
times from the want, and sometimes from the superfluity of 
materials. Struggling with these, I have attempted to present 
to the reader a clear and authentic account of all who have 
held the Great Seal of England from the earliest times 
adapting the scale of my narrative to the varying importance 
of what is to be told, and trying as I proceed to give a 
glimpse of the most important historical events, and of the 
manners of the age. 

If I have failed, it will not have been for the want of 
generous assistance. I wish to speak with the most heart- 
felt gratitude of the kindness which I have experienced. I 
have been treated like a shipwrecked mariner cast on a 
friendly shore every one eagerly desirous to comfort and 
to cherish him. In not one single instance since I entered 
on the undertaking, when I have applied for assistance, 
have I met with a rebuff; on the contrary, the most eager 
and disinterested disposition has been evinced to oblige me. 
Such good offices I have to boast of, not less from political 
opponents than from political associates, and my thanks are 
peculiarly due to many clergymen of the Church of England 
to whom I was personally unknown, and who have devoted 
much time and trouble in furnishing me with extracts from 


parish registers, copies of epitaphs, and other local in- 

I must be allowed publicly to express my thanks by name 
to Lord Langdale, for the use of his valuable collection of 
Extracts from the Close Roll, respecting the transfer of the 
Great Seal ; to Earl Fortescue, for the pardon under the 
Great Seal of his ancestor by Edward IV. ; to Lord 
Francis Egerton, for many original documents of great in- ^ 

terest relating to Lord Chancellor Ellesmere ; to Lord 
Hatherton, for an original mandate under the hand and seal 
of his kinsman. Lord Keeper Littleton, for raising money to 
carry on the war against the Long Parliament ; to Mr. 
DufFus Hardy, for many important writs, proclamations, and 
letters, never before published, which he has discovered for 
me in the Tower of London ; to Sir Francis Palgrave, 
acquainted with the Anglo-Saxon times more familiarly than 
most men are with the reign of George III., for the direc- 
tion which he has given to my inquiries whenever I have 
been at fault ; to Mr. M'Queen, author of " The Practice 
of the House of Lords," for some difficult researches made by 
him on my account into the antiquities of Equity Practice ; 
to Mr. Payne Collier, the learned Editor of Shakspeare, 
for various ballads and handbills published at the death of 
Lord Chancellor Jeffreys ; to Mr. Foss, Editor of "'The 
Grandeur of the Law," who has amassed a noble collection 
respecting all English lawyers in all ages, for helping me 
out with dates and facts respecting some of the early Chan- 
cellors ; to Mr. Spence, of the Chancery Bar, for his 
communication to me of a large portion of his materials for 
the important work in which he is engaged' on the jurisdic- 
tion of the Court of Chancery ; to Mr. Parkes, author of 
" The History of the Court of Chancery," for the loan of his 
large assortment of tracts on English jurisprudence ; to 
Mr. Purton Cooper, Q. C, one of the Record Commissioners, 
for several unpublished MS. treatises on the Practice of the 
Court of Chancery in early times ; to Mr. Panizzi, for 


the good-humour and intelligence which have laid open to me 
all the treasures of the British Museum ; and to my friend 
and pupil, Mr. David Dundas, for his assistance in gleaning 
materials for some lives that have become obscure, but which 
ought to be known to mankind particularly that of Lord 
Chancellor John Russell. 

In rapidly travelling through a period of above a thousand 
years, I am well aware that I must have committed many 
mistakes, and have passed by, without discovering, much in- 
teresting matter. I shall receive very thankfully any inform- 
ation with which I may be favoured, either privately or in 
print, to enable me to correct errors and to supply omissions. 

I hope that I have shown myself free from any party or sec- 
tarian bias. The great principles of civil and religious liberty 
I ever wish boldly to avow, and resolutely to maintain; 
but I believe that I have fairly appreciated the acts and 
characters of those whose Lives I have had in hand, without 
being swayed by the consideration whether they were Roman 
Catholics or Protestants Whigs or Tories. I must request 
the candid reader not to judge by any particular expression, 
or any particular Life, but by the whole scope and tendency 
of the work. 

Horace Walpole seeks to deter all who have ever touched 
a Great Seal from engaging in such a task, by observing, 
after his criticisms on the historical labours of Sir Thomas 
More, Lord Bacon, and Lord Clarendon, " It is hoped no 
more Chancellors will write our story till they can divest 
themselves of that habit of their profession apologising 
for a bad cause."* My object has been uniformly to re- 
probate violence and fraud, and to hold up integrity and 
consistency for applause and imitation. 

I regret the length into which I have been drawn ; but, 
after a careful revision, I have found nothing that I could 
omit without injury to my design ; and when due regard is 

* Historic Doubts. 


had to the number of persons whose history was to be nar- 
rated, and to the multitudinous facts to be introduced, I am 
not without hopes that I may receive some little credit for 

It Avill be seen that this " First Series" comes down to the 
Revolution of 1688. I was advised to begin with the Chan- 
cellors during the eighteenth century, and to travel back, after 
the precedent of Hume. Such a plan would have had ad- 
vantages, the recent Lives being generally considered the 
most interesting ; but as I profess to give the history of our 
jurisprudence, I thought that I should best succeed by start- 
ing from its sources, and following the course which it has 

I calculate that the work will be completed in two ad- 
ditional volumes, for which I have already made considerable 
preparations, and which, if my life and strength be preserved 
to me, I shall ere long lay before the public. Little inter- 
ruption to study is offered by the^ political business of the 
House of Lords, and although I resolve still regularly to attend 
the hearing of Appeals and Writs of Error there, and the 
meetings of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, a 
considerable portion of the year is left entirely under my own 
control. That the " Second Series" may be less defective, I 
earnestly request the communication of any scarce tracts or 
unpublished MSS. which are likely to be of service to me. 

If the work should be worthily finished, my ambition is, 
that it may amuse the general reader ; that it may afford 
some instruction to those who wish to become well acquainted 
with our constitutional history ; and above all, that it may 
excite the young student of the law to emulation and indus- 
try, and confirm in his mind the liberal and honourable 
maxims which ought ever to govern the conduct of an 
English Barrister. 

Stratheden House, 
Not. 1. 1845. 



In presenting to the public a Second Edition of my First 
Series of the " Lives of the Lord Chancelloes of 
England," I would rather expose myself to the imputation 
of vanity than of ingratitude ; and I must therefore express 
my warm thanks for the favour with which the book has 
been received. I may truly say, that within a few weeks 
after its publication " it was on every table, and almost on 
every toilette." Though founded on historical records, and 
having solid instruction for its object, it has been as generally 
read as popular works of fiction, aiming at nothing beyond 

I must especially return my thanks for the kind manner in 
which, without regard to politics, the book has been treated 
in periodical publications quarterly, monthly, weekly, and 
daily. Gentlemen who have written these criticisms have 
done ample justice to any merits which they discovered, and 
have forborne to dwell upon mistakes which could not have 
escaped them. 

This edition will be found not only more correct, but 
enriched with several interesting documents which have re- 
cently been communicated to me, particularly a congratu- 
latory Epistle to John de Langton on his appointment as 
Chancellor by Edward I, ; Richard III.'s Letter to Lord 
Chancellor John Russell respecting the marriage of the 


Solicitor General with Jane Shore ; a letter to negotiate a 
marriage between the daughter of Lord Chancellor Audley 
and the son of Sir Anthony Denny ; the courtship of young 
Edward Trafford and Margaret Boothe under the decree of 
Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon ; Lord Chancellor Hatton's 
address to the Bar on a call of Serjeants ; Lord EUesmere's 
decree to punish the prolixity of an equity draughtsman ; 
two letters of Lord Keeper Williams, and a very curious 
letter to JeiFreys when Recorder of London, showing the 
detestation in which he was held even in that period of his 
career. I earnestly implore that errors and omissions may 
still be pointed out to me. 

I have made considerable progress with my Second 
Series ; and I trust that Volumes IV. and V. will be pub- 
lished before the end of the present year. These will bring 
down the Chancellors to the death of Lord Thurlow. A 
supplemental Volume, including Lord Loughborough, Lord 
Erskine, and Lord Eldon, will complete the work. I then 
propose (life and health being preserved to me) to proceed 
with the " Lives of the Lord Chancellors of Ire- 
land," among whom are to be found characters as interest- 
ing as any I have yet described, and whose history, I think, 
may be made to shed a new light upon the connection 
between the two countries. 

Stratheden House, 
April 22. 1846, 






Etymology of Word " Chancellor," Page I. Antiquity of the Office in England, 3. 
Original Duty of Chancellor to frame Writs, 3. And Royal Grants, 4. Custody 
of Great Seal, 4. Chancellor Keeper of King's Conscience, 4. Chancellor for- 
merly subordinate Officer, without judicial Power, 4. Common-law Jurisdiction 
of Chancellor, 5. Equitable Jurisdiction, 7. Objections to Antiquity of 
Equitable Jurisdiction, 7. Definition of Equitable Jurisdiction, 8. Extension 
of Equitable Jurisdiction of Chancellor, 9. From Inrolments in Chancery under 
Recognisance, 9. Fees, &c., 10. Harmony between Common Law and Equity, 
11. Discretion of Chancellor, 11. Appeal from Chancellor as Equity Judge, 
13. Habeas Corpus and Prohibitions, 13. Ne exeat Regno, 13. Jurisdiction 
over Coroners, 13. Criminal Jurisdiction, 14, Bankruptcy, 14. Lunacy, 14. 
Chancellor not ex officio Privy Councillor, 16. Speaker of Lords, 16. Protec- 
tion and Precedence, 1 7. Chancellor no Vote or Voice in Lords unless a Peer 
17. Anciently addressed two Houses at Meeting of Parliament, 17. Trial of 
Peers, and Impeachments, 18. Star Chamber, 18. Trial of the Pyx, 19. 
Chancellor appoints Justices of Peace, 19. Patronage, 19. Visitor, 20. Other 
Functions, 20. Office of " Keeper of the Great Seal," 20. Lords Commis- 
sioners of Great Seal, 22. Present Title of Lord Chancellor, 22. Mode of 
Appointment, 22. Tenure of Office, 23. Mode of using Great Seal, 23. Ne- 
gotiation of Marriage of Henry VI. under Great Seal, 24. Use of Great Seal 
by Edward IV., 25. Times of Tudors and Stuarts, 26. Use of Great Seal 
since the Revolution of 1688, 26. Origin of Expression of " The Seals," 26. 
Adoption of liew Great Seal, 27. Care in keeping the Great Seal, 27. 
Emoluments of Office, 28. Etiquette, 28. In Parliament, 29. When ad- 
ministering Oaths to Prince of Wales, 29. To King's younger Son, 29. To 
Peers in Chancery, 29. Lord Mayor's Day, 30. Statute respecting Apparel of 
Chancellor, 30. 



Merits of the Anglo-Saxons, 31. Augmendus, Chancellor to Ethelbert, 31, St. 

SwiTHiN, Chancellor to Egbert and Ethelwulf, 32. Turketel, Chancellor under 

Edward the Elder, 34. Athelstan, 35. Rattle of Brunenburgh, 35. Edmund 

and Edred, 35. Lord Chancellor Turketel becomes a Monk, 35. Adulphus, 36 

VOL. I. a 


Alfric, 36. Office of Chancellor divided between three Abbots, 37. Great Seal 
of Edward the Confessor, 37. Leofric, Chancellor to the Confessor, 38. Wul- 
wius, 38. Reimbaldl's, 38. Vice- Chancellor Swardus, 38. Origin of Masters 
in Chancery, 39. 



Chancellors under early Norman Reigns, 40. Chancellors of the Conqueror, 42. 
Maurice, 42. Made Bishop of London, and resigns Great Seal, 42. Conduct 
of Ex-chancellor Maurice on the Death of William Rufus, 43. Osmond, 44, 
His Character, 44. His literary Works, 44. Arfastus, 45. Baldrick, 45. 
Herman, 45. Welson, 46. W. Giffard, Chancellor under three Reigns, 46. 
His Character, 46. Conduct of Giffard on Death of Conqueror, 47. Chancellor 
to William Rufus, 47. Dismissed, 47. Bloet, Chancellor to William Rufus, 47. 
Death and Character of Bloet, 48. Flambard, 49. Oppressions of Flambard, 
49. Plot against Flambard, 50. His Preferments, 50. Committed to the 
Tower, 51. Exile and Death of Flambard, 51. Giffard, Chancellor the third 
time, 52. Dismissal and Banishment of Giffard, 52. Roger, Bishop of Salis- 
bury, Chancellor, 53. His Origin and History, 53. Roger's Rise, 53. His 
Conduct as Chancellor, 54. Made Chief Justiciar, 54. Roger's Conduct on 
Settlement of the Crown, 54. Dismissal of Roger, 55. Roger supports Usurpa- 
tion of Stephen, 55. Roger besieged in his Castle, 55. Surrenders, 56. His 
Death, 56. His Career described by William of Malmesbury, 56. Other Chan- 
cellors of Henry I., 57. Geoffrey Rufus, 57. Bought Office of Chancellor, 
57. Ranulphus, 58. Roger, Chancellor to King Stephen, succeeded by his 
Nephew Alexander, 59. His Conduct as Chancellor, 59. Character of Alex- 
ander, 60. Roger Pauper, Chancellor, 60. Queen Matilda, 60. Fitzgilbert 
her Chancellor, 61. Other Chancellors of Stephen, 61. 


life of lord chancellor THOMAS a becket. 

Parentage, 62. Story of his Mother being the Daughter of an Emir, 62. Birth 
and Education, 63. Holds Office under Sheriff of London, 64. Patronised by 
Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, 64. Made Archdeacon of Canterbury, 64. 
Missions to Rome, 65. Appointed Chancellor, 65. Intimacy with Henry II., 
65. His Duties as Chancellor, 67. Fitzstephen's Account of his Habits, 67. 
Story of the King, the Chancellor, and the Beggarman, 68. His Conduct as 
Chancellor, 70. Becket Tutor to the Prince, 70. Becket's Embassy to Fiance, 
70. Origin of Scutage, 73.* Becket's Military Prowess, 73. Siege of Toulouse, 
74. Single Combat with Engleran de Trie, 74. Plis judicial Merits, 75. His 
Views and Intentions, 75. Conversation with Prior of Leicester, 76. Death of 
Archbishop Theobald, 77. Objection to Becket's Appointment as Archbishop, 
on the ground of his being hostile to the Church, 77. Foliot, Bishop of Hereford, 
Rival of Becket, 77. Becket elected Archbishop of Canterbury, 78. Becket 
consecrated Archbishop, 79. Sudden Alteration in Becket's Character and 
Conduct, 79. He resigns the Great Seal, 80. The King and Becket meet and 
quarrel, 80. Struggle between Civil and Ecclesiastical Authority, 8J. Con- 
ference between the King and the Prelates, 82. Constitutions of Clarendon, 82. 
Becket swears to Constitutions of Clarendon, 84. Great Council at Northamp- 
ton, 85. Trial of Becket, 85. Found Guilty, 85. Further Proceedings against 
him, 85. He escapes to the Continent, 87. Becket takes refuge in the Abbey 
of Pontigny, 87. Measures of the King, 88. Becket goes to Rome, 88. Coro- 
nation of King's son by Archbishop of York against Papal Bull, 89. Interview 
between Becket and Henry at Fereitville, 89. Peace of Fereitville, 91. Henry 
refuses Becket the Kiss of Pence, 91. Henry breaks his Engagement, 91. 
Becket resolves on Vengeance, 91. Becket returns to England, 92. Reception 


at Canterbury, 92. Visit to London, 93. Is ordered back to Canterbury, 93. 
Excommunicates the three Prelates, 93. Arrival at Canterbury of four Knights 
sworn to assassinate Becket, 94. They enter his Presence, 94. Calm and 
courageous Conduct of Becket, 95. Assassination of Becket, 96. Horror of 
the People, 97. Becket canonised, 97. Quo Warranto by Henry VIII. to un- 
saint Becket, 97. Character of Becket, 98. By his Vituperators, 98. By his 
Eulogists, 99. Just Estimate of his Character, 101. Result, 101. Whether 
Becket Champion of Saxon Race, 101. Becket's Letters, 102. 




Obscure Chancellors after Becket, 103. Chancellor John, 103. GEOFFREr Plan- 
TAGENET, Chancellor, 104. His Birth and Education, 104. A Bishop, 104. 
His Military Exploits, 104. Receives Great Seal, 105. His Conduct as 
Chancellor, 105. His filial Piety, 106. State of Law during Reign of 
Henry II., 107. 



Geoffrey made Archbishop of York, 108. Longchamp, Chancellor, 108. Richard I. 
sails for the Holy Land, 109. Longchamp imprisons the Bishop of Durham, 
109. His Tyranny, 109. His Rapacity, 110. Prince John takes arms against 
him, 111. Geoffrey, the Ex-chancellor, invades England, 111. Geoffrey de- 
feated and imprisoned, 111. Combination of the Nobles against Longchamp, 
112. Saxon Inhabitants of London called in to assist, 112. Longchamp sur- 
renders, 1 1 3. Longchamp flies in the Disguise of a female Pedlar, 113. Is 
seized by the Mob, 114. Arrives in France, 115. Visits Coeur de Lion in 
Captivity, 1 15. Geoffrey Piantagenet again Chancellor, 115. Subsequent Fate 
of Geoffrey Piantagenet, 115. His Exile and Death, 116. Longchamp again 
Chancellor, 116. Parliament at Nottingham, 116. Longchamp forges Letter 
from " The Old Man of the Mountain" to clear Richard of Murder of Marquis 
of Montferrat, 116. Resigns Great Seal, 117. His Death, 117. Eustace, 
Bishop of Ely, Chancellor, 118. Origin of Vice-chancellors, 118. Vice-chan- 
cellors John de Alen9on and Malchien, 118. Vice-chancellor Bennet, 119. 
Death of Richard I., 119. Laws of Oleron, 119. 



Accession of John, 121. Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chancellor, 121. 
Death of Lord Chancellor, 123. Great Seal sold to Walter de Gray, 123. His 
Conduct, 124. Vice-chancellor Wallys, 124. Surrender of England to the 
Pope, 125. De Gray, Bishop of Worcester and Archbishop of York, 126. His 
Ignorance, 126. His Death and Character, 126. Richard de Marisco, Chan- 
cellor, 126. Magna Charta, 127. Death of King John, 127. Beginning of 
Statute Law, 128. 


chancellors during the reign of henry III. TILL THE APPOINTMENT OF QUEEN 

Marisco, 129. Confirmation of the Great Charter, 129. Ralph de Neville, 
Vice-chancellor, 129. Misconduct of Vice-chancellor De Neville, 130, Letter 
of Remonstrance from the Chancellor to the Vice-chancellor, 130. De Neville, 
Chancellor, 132. Grant to him of Office of Chancellor for Life, 132. He 

a 2 


. islikewise made Chancellor of Ireland, 133. And Guardian of Realm, 133. Dis- 
appointed of the Primacy, 13.3. Triumph of Peter de Rupibus, 133. De Neville 
deprived of Great Seal, 134. " Simon the Norman," Chancellor, 134. Dis- 
missed for Honesty, 135. De Neville restored to the Office of Chancellor, 135. 

- His Death, 135. His Character, 135. Statute of Merton, 136. Attempt by 
Parliament to acquire Right of appointing Chancellor, 136. Ranulph Briton, 
Chancellor, 137. John SIaunsel, Chancellor, 138. Origin of the Dispensing 
Power in England, 138. This Chancellor the greatest Pluralist on Record, 138. 
John de Lexington, Chancellor, 139. Complaint in Parliament that Chancel- 
lor ,not more consulted, 139. Petition to remove him, 139- King's Answer, 139. 



Queen Eleanor, Lady Keeper, 140. Her Parentage, 140. Wit and Beauty, 140. 
Marriage with Henry, 141. Her Unpopularity, 142. Quarrels with the Citizens 
of London, 142. Birth of Edward L, 143. She receives the Great Seal, 
6th August, 1253, 143. Her Conduct as Lady Keeper, 143. Her Accouchement, 
143. Her Exaction of " Queen Gold," 144. A Parliament, 144. She resigns 
the Great Seal, 144. Ballads upon her, 145. Pelted by the London Mob, 145. 
She flies abroad, 146. Returns to England, 146. Takes the Veil, 146. Her 
Death, 146. Her Character, 146. 



William de Kilkenny, Chancellor, 148. Reprimand to the Clergj', 148. Kil- 
kenny's Resignation, 148. Embassy to Spain, 149. Death, 149. Henry de 
Wengham, 149. Mad Parliament, 149. " Provisions of Oxford," 149. Ni- 
cholas DE Ely made Chancellor by the Barons, 150. King recovers his Autho- 
rity, 150. A Parliament, 150. Walter de Merton, Chancellor, 151. History 
of De Merton, 152. Keepers of Seal, 152. Public Confusion, 152. Writs for 
Simon de Montfort's Parliament, 49 Henry III , 153. Reference to King of 
France, 153. His Award, 154. Battle of Lewes, 154. Meeting of Simon de 
Montfort's Parliament, 154. Origin of House of Commons, 155. Thomas de 
Cantilupe, Chancellor, 156. His Salary, 156. Battle of Evesham, 157. Death 
of Cantilupe, 157. Walter Giffard, Chancellor, 157. Resigns, being made 
Archbishop of York, 158. Godfrey Giffard, Chancellor, 158. Removed for 
Incompetency, 158. John de Chishull, Chancellor, 159. Richard de Min- 
PLETON, Chancellor, 159. Prince Edward in the Holy Land, 160. John de 
Kirby, Keeper of Great Seal, 160. Character of Chancellors during Reign of 
Henry III., 161. Bracton, Merits of, 162. Abolition of Office of Chief Jus- 
ticiar, 162, Disruption of Aula Megia, 163. Chancellor now Head of Law, 



Walter de Merton, Chancellor, 164. His Conduct and Character, 165. Robert 
BuRNEL, Chancellor, 165. Birth and Education, 166. Accompanies Prince 
Edward to tlie Holy Land, 166. Law Reform, 167. Statute of Westminster 
THE First, 167. Provisionsof the Code, 167. Its Omissions, 168. Conquest of 
Wales, 168. Judgment against Llewellyn, 169. Lord Chancellor employed in 

' Government of Principality, 169. Parliament held in Chancellor's Castle at 
Acton Burnel, 170. His Plan for Government of Ireland, 172. Vice-chancellor 

' Kirby, 172. Prosecution by Chancellor of the Judges for Bribery and Cor- 

" ruption, 173. Dispute about Succession to Crown of Scotland, 173. Chancellor 


addresses the Scottish Nobles in French, 173. His Dexterity, 174. Chancellor 
gives Judgment in favour of Baliol, 175. Death of Burnel, 175. His Cha- 
racter, 1 75. 



John de Langton, Chancellor, 178. His Origin, 178. Ordinance for Despatch 
of Business, 179. Appeal of Earl of Fife v. King of Scots, 1 79. Parliament at 
Berwick, 180. King goes abroad, 180. Parliament at Westminster, 181. 
" Confirmation of the Charters," 181. " Articuli super Chartas," 181. Chan- 
cellor elected Bishop of Ely, 182. Goes to Rome, 182. Resignation of Lang- 
ton, 183. Adam de Osgodebey, Keeper of Great Seal, 183. William de 
Grenefield, Chancellor, 184. His Family, 184. Attempt in Parliament to 
make OfBce of Chancellor elective, 184. Letter to the Pope respecting Inde- 
pendence of Scotland, 185. Resignation of De Grenefield, 186. His Journey 
to Rome, 186. His Death, 186. William de Hamilton, Chancellor, 187. 
Statute " De Tallagio non concedendo," 187. Conviction and Execution of Sir 
William Wallace for Treason, 187. Death of the Chancellor, 188. Ralph de 
Baldock, Chancellor, 188. His Education and Rise, 189. Death of Edward I., 
189. Accession of Edward IL, 189. Removal of De Baldock, 190. His 
Death, 190. Jurisdiction of Chancellor in the Reign of Edward I., 190. Im- 
provements in Law, 190. Gratitude to Law Reformers, 190. Law Books 



Accession of Edward II., 192. John de Langton Chancellor the Second Time, 
192. King abroad, 193. King goes to Boulogne, 193. King himself uses the 
Great Seal, 193. Revolution in the Government, 194. The Chancellor resigns, 
194. His Character, 194. Office of Chancellor in Abeyance, 195. Walter 
Reynolds, Chancellor, 195. Tutor to Edward II., 195. His conduct as Chan- 
cellor, 196. His Resignation, 196. Execution of Gaveston, 196. Reynolds, 
the Ex -chancellor, made Keeper of the Great Seal, 196. Battle of Bannock- 
burn, 197. Q. Whether the Great Seal was taken at the Battle of Bannock- 
burn, 197. Council at York, 198. Resignation of Reynolds, 198. His subse- 
quent Career, 198. His Death, 198. Chancellor still' Chief of Chapel Royal, 
198. John de Sandale, Chancellor, 199- Keepers of Seal concurrently, 199, 
De Sandale removed, 199. Epicurism of Lord Chancellor De Sandale, 199. 
John de Hotham, Chancellor, 200. Ascendancy of Earl of Lancaster, 200. 
Resignation of Chancellor, 201. John de Salmon, Chancellor, 201. Chancel. 
lor goes to France with King, 201. Surrender of Great Seal by De Salmon, 
202. Great Seal in Custody of Queen Isabella, 202. Isabella not " Lady 
Keeper," 202. De Salmon again acts as Chancellor, 203. Chancellor opposes 
Earl of Lancaster, 203. Execution of Earl of Lancaster, 203. Edward's incu- 
rable Love of Favourites, 203. Resignation of the Chancellor, 203. Robert de 
Baldock, Chancellor, 204. Civil War, 204. Landing of Queen, 204. The 
Bishop of Exeter beheaded by the Mob, 205. Fate of the Spcnsers, 205. Sen- 
tence on jounger Spenser, 205. Chancellor Baldock seized by the Mob, and 
thrown into Newgate, 206. Dies of his wounds, 206. Prince Edward chosen 
Custos of the Kingdom, 206. Imprisonment of Edward II., 206. King sends 
Great Seal to Queen, 207. Queen's Proclamation, 207. Edward 1 1. deposed, 
207. Murder of Edward II., 208.-" Adam de Ouleton acts as Chancellor, 208. 
His equivocal line respecting the Murder of the King, 208. Origin of Office of 
Master of the Rolls, 208. Complaints in Parliament of the Court of Chancery, 
209. Jurisdiction of the Court in Reign of Edward II., 209. Letters of 
Marque and Reprisals granted by Cliancellor, 210. Year Books, 210. Estab-. 
lishment of Inns of Court, 2] 1. 

a 3 




John de Hotham again Chancellor, 212. His Death and Character, 212. Henry 
DE BuRGHERSH, Chancellor, 212. New Great Seal, 21;?. Temporary Ascendancy 
of Mortimer, 213. Edward III. seizes the Reins of Government, 214. A Par- 
liament, 214, King's Speech, 214. Burghersh dismissed, 214. His exile and 
Death, 215. John de Stratford, Chancellor, 215. His Origin and Education, 
216. Ambassador to Pope, 216. His Rise till appointed Chancellor, 216. 
Punishment of Queen Isabella, 216. Measures to restore internal Tranquillity, 
216. Court of Chancery becomes stationary, 216. Marble Chair and Table in 
Court of Chancery, 217. A Parliament, 218. Questions put to Parliament by 
the Chancellor, 218. Chancellor returns from Embassy, 218. Separation of 
Lords and Commons, 219. Great Influence of Parliament under Plantagenets, 

219. Chancellor's Speech on Meeting of New Parliament, 219. Keepers of 
Great Seal appointed by the Chancellor, 220. Richard de Bury, Chancellor, 

220. His Family, 221. Education 221. His College Life, 22i. Tutor to 
Edward III. when Prince, 221. His rise on Accession of Edward III., 222. 
His Splendour at Court of Rome, 222. Bishop of Durham, 222. His Conduct 
as Chancellor, 22.3. A Parliament, 223. Ambassador to Paris, 223. His Re- 
tirement, 224. Philobibion, 224. His love of Books, and Mode of collecting 
them, 224. His Encouragement to the Study of Greek, 227. His Description 
of the Bad Usage of Books, 228. Gross Ignorance of the Laity, 229. Scrip- 
tural Authorities for taking great Care of Books, 229. Death and Burial of 
Richard de Bury, 230. His Merit, 2.30. Archbishop John Stratford Chancel- 
lor the second Time, 230. Claim of Edward III. to the Crown of France, 230. 
Resignation of John de Stratford, 231. Robert de Stratford, Chancellor, 231. 
Bynteworth, Chancellor, 232. His History, 232. His Death, 233. John de 
Stratford, Chancellor the third Time, 233. A Parliament, 233, Resignation 
of John de Stratford, and re-appointment of Robert, 233. Administration of the 
Stratfords, 234. Their Fall, 234. Embarrassments of the King, 234. His 
sudden Return, 234. Imprisonment of the Lord Chancellor, 234. Edward's 
Rage against the Priesthood, 234. Advantages and Disadvantages of appointing 
Ecclesiastics to Office of Chancellor, 234. 



Sir Robert Buurchler, Chancellor, 236. His Birth and military Career, 236. 
Retirement and Death of Ex-chancellor Robert de Stratford, 236. Prosecution 
of Ex-chancellor John de Stratford, 237. A Parliament, 237. Writ of Sum- 
mons refused to the Archbishop, 237. His Remonstrance, 237. His Appear- 
ance in Palace Yard, 238. Information against him in Exchequer, 238. Triumphs 
over the King, 238. Spirited Conduct of House of Peers, 238. King submits, 
239. His death and Character, 239. Conduct of Lord Chancellor Bourchier, 
239. King himself uses the Seal, 240. Complaints against Lord Chancellor 
Bourchier, 240. Attempts in Parliament to regulate the Appointment of Chan- 
cellor, 240. Statute for periodical Resumption of Office of Chancellor, 241. 
Oath to observe the Statute, 241. Edward's perfidious Violation of the Statute, 
241. Renewed Controversy between the King and Ex-chancellor John de Strat- 
ford, 242. King resolves to sacrifice the Chancellor to public Discontent, 243. 
Dismissal of Bourchier, 243. Death of Ex-chancellor John de Stratford, 243. 
Disadvantages of Lord Chancellor Bourchier, 243. Bourchier's subsequent 
Career, 244. Sir Robert Parnynge Chancellor, 244. His legal Studies, 244. 
"When Chancellor he continues to study the Common Law, 244. Use of the 
Great Seal, 245. King abroad, 245. Commons pray that Chancellor may be a 


Peer, 245. Sudden Death of Lord Chancellor Parnynge, 246. Robert de 
Sadyngton, Chancellor, 247. His Descent, 247. Bad Equity Judge, 247. A 
Parliament, 247. Lord Chancellor Sadyngton dismissed, 248. Return to Ec- 
clesiastical Chancellors, 248. John de Offord, Dean of Lincoln, Chancellor, 
249. Battle of Cressy, 249. Complaints in Parliament against Court of Chan- 
cery, 249. Death of Chancellor de OfFord, 251. John de Thoresby, Chancel- 
lor, 251. His writings, 251. Statutes of Treason, 251. Attack in Commons 
on equitable Jurisdiction of Chancellor, 252. Thoresby, being made Archbishop 
of York, resigns the Great Seal, 253. His Death, 253. William de Edington, 
Chancellor, 253. Peace of Bretigni, 254. Statute for Use of English Lan- 
guage, 254. Refuses the Primacy, 255. Resignation of Lord Chancellor Ed- 
ington, 255. Simon de Langham, Chancellor, from being a Monk, 256. His 
Rise, ,256. Translated to Canterbury, 256. Quarrels with WicklifFe, 257. 
Custom of Chancellor opening Parliament with Discourse from text in Scripture, 
257. He retires to Avignon, and aspires to the Popedom, 258. His Death, 


chancellors and keepers of the great seal from the appointment of 
william of wickham till the death of edward iil 

William of Wickham, 259. His Origin, 259. Education, 259. Introduced to 
Edward III., 260. Builds Windsor Castle, 260. Order of the Garter, 261. 
Inscription on Castle, 261. Wickham takes Holy Orders, 261. His Prefer- 
ment, 262. Engages in Politics, 262. His Income, 262. Made Bishop of 
Winchester, 263. Receives the Great Seal, 263. Impropriety of the Appoint- 
ment, 263. Wickham an incompetent Judge, 264. Complaints against him in 
Parliament, 2(.'4. He is removed from Office, 264. Sir Robert Thorpe, Chan- 
cellor, 264. His Birth and Education, 265. His Promotions in the Law, 265. 
Popularity of Chancellor, 265. His Death, 265. His Learning and Ability, 
266. Sir John Knyvet, Chancellor, 266. His Origin, 267. An excellent 
Judge, 267. A Parliament, 267. Chancellor's Speech, 268. The " Good 
Parliament," 269. Alice Pierce, 269. Chancellor's Speech to the Parliament, 
269. Vote of" Want of Confidence," 270. Prosecution of William of Wick- 
ham, 270. Resignation and Death of Lord Chancellor Knyvet, 272. Adam 
DE Houghton, Chancellor, 271. A Parliament, 272. Death of Edward III., 
272. His Domestic Government, 272. Jurisdiction of Court of Chancery, 273. 
Character of the Chancellors of Edward III., 274. Origin of Parliamentary 
Impeachments, 274. Justices of Peace, 274. 



De Houghton continues Chancellor, 276. His Speech to Parliament, 276. Pro- 
ceedings of Commons, 277. Parliament at Gloucester, 277. Sir Richard le 
ScROPE, Chancellor, 278. Death of Houghton, 278. Rise of Richard le 
Scrope, 278. Made a Peer, 279. A Parliament, 279. Removal of Lord Scrope, 
and Appointment of Simon de Sudbury as Cliancellor, 280. His Origin and 
Education, 280. Made Archbishop of Canterbury, 280. Lord Chancellor, 280. 
He proposes the Poll Tax, 281. Wat Tyler's Rebellion, 281. Chancellor seized 
in the Tower, 282. Beheaded, 282. Miracles by the deceased Chancellor, 282. 
William Courtenay, Chancellor, 282. His illustrious Descent, 283. Disputes 
with John of Gaunt, 283. His Behaviour as Judge, 283. Removal on Address 
of Commons, 283. Lord le Scrope again Chancellor, 284. Death of Ex- 
chancellor Courtenay, 284. King quarrels with Lord le Scrope who is dis- 
missed, 284. Robert de Braybboke, Chancellor, 285. Parliament, 285. Wick- 
lifFe, 285. The Chancellor's pious Fraud to put down Heresy, 285. Michael dk 
la Pole, Chancellor, 286. His Conduct as Judge, 287. In Parliament, 287. 

a 4 


Chancellor made an Earl, 288. Altercation in the House of Lords between the 
Chancellor and the Bishop of Ely, 288. A Parliament, 289. Proceedings 
against the Chancellor, 290. The Earl of Suffolk removed from the Office of 
Chancellor, 291. Thomas Arundel appointed, 291. Impeachment of the Ex- 
chancellor, 291. His Defence, 291. Death of the Earl of Suffolk, 292. His 
Character, 293. Thomas Arundel, Chancellor, 293. His Family, 293. Edu- 
cation, 293. Misconduct of Richard II., 293. Civil War, 294. A Parliament, 
294. Arundel dismissed, 294. 



William of Wickham again Chancellor, 295. His History between his two Chan- 
cellorships, 295. A Parliament, 296. The Chancellor lays down his Office in 
Parliament and is re-appointed, 296. Resignation of William of Wickham, 297. 
His Retirement from public Life, 298. His Death, 298. His Merits, 298. 
Thomas de Arundel's second Chancellorship, 298. History of John de Waltham, 

299. His Invention of Writ of Subpoena, 299. Proceedings in Parliament 
against the Court of Chancery, 300. Chancellor goes with King to Ireland, 

300. His Death, 300. Removal of Arundel, 301. Edmund Stafford, Chan- 
cellor, 301. Chancellor's Speech on opening Parliament, 301. Ex -chancellor 
Arundel impeached and convicted, 301. Family of the Staftbrds, 302. Henry 
of Bolingbroke claims the Crown, 303. John Searle, Chancellor, 303. Ex- 
chaneellor Arundel accompanies Henry, 304. Deposition of Richard II., 305. 
Henry raised to the Throne, 306. New Parliament, 306. Celebrated Speech 
for Richard by Bishop of Carlisle, 306. Fate of Richard, 307. Equitable 
Jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery in Reign of Richard II., 307. Complaint 
against Masters in Chancery, 308. 



John Searle, nominally Chancellor, 310. A Parliament, 310. Chancellor not 
allowed to address the two Houses, 310. Resigns, 310. His Obscurity, 311. 
Edmund Stafford restored, 311. Issues of Fact arising in Court of Chancery to 
be tried in a Court of Common Law, 311. The Chancellor resigns, 312. His 
Retreat and Death, 318. Cardinal Beaufort, Chancellor, 312. His Origin 
and early Career, 312. His Conduct as Chancellor, 313. Attempt of House of 
Commons to seize Church Property, 313. " Lack-Learning Parliament," 314. 
Cardinal Beaufort removed, 315. Thomas Longley, Chancellor, 315. Attempt 
to introduce Salic Law into England, 315. Proceedings in Parliament respect- 
ing the Court of Chancery, 316, Archbishop Arundel restored to Office of 
Chancellor, 317. Chancellor dismissed, 318. Great Seal in custody of Master 
of Rolls, 318. Ex-chancellor Beaufort addresses the two Houses, 318. Church 
in danger, 319. Sir Thomas Beaufort, afterwards Duke of Exeter, Chancellor, 
319. His History and Conduct as Chancellor, 319. His subsequent Career 
and Death, 319. Archbishop Arundel Chancellor the fifth Time, 320. Illness 
of Henry IV., 320. Character of Chancellors of Henry IV., 320. Conviction 
and Execution of an Archbishop, 321. 


chancellors during the reign of henry v. 

Accession of Henry V., 322. Great Seal taken from Archbishop Arundel, and re- 
stored to Cardinal Beaufort, 322. Subsequent Career of Ex-chancellor Arundel 


323. He sentences Lord Cobham to be burnt, 323. Renewed Attempt of the 
Commons to seize the Property of the Church, 323. King claims Crown of 
France, 324. Chancellor's Speech at the Opening of Parliament, 325. Petition 
against the Court of Chancery, 325. Petition negatived, 326. Other Proceed- 
ings of Commons against Court of Chancery, 327. Chancellor lends Money to 
the King, taking the Crown in pawn, 328. Act against the Irish, 329. Judicial 
Conduct of Cardinal Beaufort, 329. Great Seal taken from Cardinal Beaufort, 
829. Longley, Chancellor the second Time, 330. A Parliament, 330. Treaty 
of Troy es, 330. Death of Henry V., 331. Administration of Justice during 
his Reign, 332. 



l^ord Chancellor Longley resigns Great Seal to Infant King, 333. A Parlia^ 
ment, 333. Longley re-appointed Chancellor, 334. Duke of Gloucester, Pro- 
tector, 334. Proceedings in Parliament against the Court of Chancery, 334. 
Lord Chancellor's Speech on opening Parliament, 335. Disputes between Duke 
of Gloucester and Cardinal Beaufort, 335. Longley deprived of Great Seal, 335. 
Cardinal Beaufort Chancellor the third Time, 335. Death and Character of 
Ex-chancellor Longley, 336. Henry VI., in Mother's Arms, opens Parliament, 
336. Lord Chancellor Beaufort's Speech, 336. Chancellor to grant Licences 
for Exportation of Butter and Cheese, 337. Riots in London caused by Chan- 
cellor and Protector, 337. Chancellor's Letter to Duke of Bedford, 338. " Par- 
liament of Bats," 338. Impeachment of Chancellor, 339. Chancellor and Pro- 
tector reconciled, 339. Cardinal Beaufort resigns Great Seal, 340. His 
subsequent History, 340. Sits on Trial of Maid of Orleans, 341. Fresh Quarrel 
with Duke of Gloucester, 341. Murder of Duke of Gloucester, 342. Death of 
Cardinal Beaufort, 342. His Character, 342. 



Obscure Origin of Lord Chancellor Kempe, 344. His Rise, 344. His Conduct as 
Chancellor, 344. Resignation of Cardinal Kempe, 346. John Stafford Chan- 
cellor, 346. His Birth and Education, 346. His long Continuance in Office, 
346. Act to restrain excessive Jurisdiction assumed by Court of Chancery, 347. 
Lord Chancellor Stafford's Style of Eloquence, 347. Repeal of Act for Chan- 
cellor to license Exportation, 349. King's Marriage, 350. Disgraceful Treaty 
with France, 350. Foundation of Eton College, 350. National Indignation on 
discoveiing secret Article in Treaty with France, 350. A Parliament, 351. 
Lord Chancellor Stafford dismissed, 351. His Death and Character, 351. Car- 
dinal Kempe again Chancellor, 352. Banishment and Death of Duke of Suffolk, 
352. Jack Cade's Rebellion, 352. War of the Roses, 353. Death and Cha- 
racter of Lord Chancellor Kempe, 354. King's Illness, 355. The Earl of 
Salisbury appointed Chancellor by the Duke of York, 356. King's Recovery, 357. 
Cardinal Bourchier made Chancellor by the Queen, 357. Great-grandson to 
Edward III., 357. His good Qualities, 357. His Rise, 358. Battle of St. 
Alban's, 358. Duke of York, Protector, 359. Chancellor seals Writ to super- 
sede Duke of York, 359. Seal taken from Archbishop Bourchier, 360. Wil- 
liam Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, Chancellor, 360. His Origin, 361. 
Fellow and Provost of Eton, 361. His Conference with Jack Cade, 361. The 
Chancellor supports the Lancastrians, 362. His judicial Conduct, 362. Ap- 
jiarent Pacification, 363. Hostilities resumed, 363. Battle of Blore Heath, 363. 
A Parliament, 363. Yorkists attainted, 364. Battle of Northampton, 364. 
Waynflete resigns Great Seal, 364. His subsequent Career, 365. Submits to 


Edward IV., 365. Entertains Richard III. at the College founded by him, 365. 
His Death and Character, 366. 



Great Seal in Custody of Archbishop Bourchier, 367. George Neville, Bishop 
of Exeter, Chancellor, 367. A Parliament, 367. Duke of York claims Crown, 
367. Right to Crown argued at Bar of Lords, 368. Judgment for Duke of 
York after Death of King Henry, 368. Battle of Wakefield, 369. Death of 
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, 369. Execution of Ex-chancellor the Earl 
of Salisbury, 369. His Children, 369. Q,ua;re, Whether Sir John Fortescue 
was ever Chancellor in England ? 370. Supposed to have been only Chancellor 
in partihus, 370. His Family, 371. His Rise at the Bar, 371. Chief Justice, 
371. While Chief Justice, fights in Battle of Towton, 372. Attainted by Act 
of Parliament, 372. Goes into Exile, 372. Writes " De Laudibus," 372. 
Submits to Edward IV., 373. Writes in favour of Title of House of York, 373. 
He is pardoned, 373. Exemplification of Reversal of the Attainder of Lord 
Chancellor Fortescue, 373. Retires to Ebrington, 374. Death, 375. Epi- 
taph, 375. His celebrated Judgment on Parliamentary Privilege, 376. Thorpe's 
Case, 376. Release of Manor of Ebrington, 376. Equity Lawyer, 378. His 
literary Merits, 378. His Character, 378. His Descendants, 378. End of the 
Reign of Henry VI., 379. Law against a Queen Dowager marrying without 
the Consent of the reigning Sovereign, 379. Equitable Jurisdiction of Chancery 
during Reign of Henry VI., 379. Rude State of Equity, 380. 



George Neville again Chancellor, 382. A Parliament, 382. Chancellor's Speech 
on opening Session, 382. Acts against wearing piked Shoes, 383. Chancellor 
abroad on an Embassy, 384. Edward's Rupture with the Nevilles, 384. Neville 
dismissed from Office of Chancellor, 384. Robert Stillington, Chancellor, 
385. Subsequent Career of Ex-chancellor Neville, 385. His Death, 386. 
Character of Robert Stillington, 386. His Origin, 386. His Speech at Proro- 
gation of Parliament, 386. His Speech on opening next Session, 387. Inva- 
sion by Earl of Warwick, 388. Henry VI. restored, 388. " The Hundred 
Days," 388. Doubtful who was Chancellor on Restoration of Henry VI., 389. 
Edward IV. restored, 389. Death of Henry VI., 389. Stillington again 
Chancellor, 389. Illness and Resignation of Chancellor, 390. Ex-chancellor 
goes on an Embassy, 390. Quaere, Whether he assisted in Usurpation of Richard 
III.? 390. Imprisoned by Henry VII. for taking part with Lambert Simnel, 
391. His Death, 391. Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex, Keeper of Great 
Seal, 391. His Family, 391. Bred a Soldier, 391. His Resignation, 391. 
Knight of the Garter, 391. Lawrence Booth, Bishop of Durham, Chancellor, 
391. His Rise, 392. His Incompetency, 392. He is dismissed, 392. Ro- 
theram. Bishop of Lincoln, Chancellor, 393. A Parliament, 393. Length of 
Parliaments in early Times, 394. Characters of three Chancellors who presided 
in one Parliament, 394, John Alcock, Chancellor a short Time, 394. Ro- 
theram restored, 395. Chancellor's Speech to Parliament, 395. Statute against 
Irishmen, 395. Disputes between King and Clarence, 396 . " Statute of Ker- 
queue," 396. Death of Edward IV., 396. Decision of Lord Chancellor 
Rotheram, 397. Attempts of Common-law Judges against Injunctions, 397. 
Jurisdiction established over Trusts, 398, Equity Pleading, 399. 




Disputes between the Duke of Gloucester and the Queen, 401. Rotheram de- 
livers up the Great Seal, 401. Prevails on the Queen to part with her younger 
Son, 402. John Russell, Chancellor to Edward V., 402. Final History of 
Ex-chancellor Archbishop Bourchier, 403, And Rotheram, 403. Character of 
Lord Chancellor Russell, 404. His Origin and Rise, 404. His Conduct on 
the Usurpation of Richard III., 404, Russell reappointed Chancellor by 
Richard III., 405. Letter of Richard to the Chancellor, 405. Postscript, 406. 
A Parliament, 406. Excellent Laws now enacted, 407. Act against " Bene- 
volences," 407. Chancellor regulates Treaty with Scotland, 408. Removed 
from his Office, 410. His subsequent History, 411. First perpetual Chancellor 
of Oxford 411. His Death, 411. His Epitaph, 411. Disposal of Great Seal 
at end of Reign of Richard III., 412, Legal Proceedings during Reigas of 
Edward V. and Richard III., 413, 


chancellors and lord keepers FROM THE ACCESSION OE HENRY VIF. TILL THE 

Alcock, Bishop of Worcester, first Chancellor to Henry VII., 414. Difficult 
constitutional Questions settled, 415. Made Bishop of Ely, 415. Alcock removed 
from Office of Chancellor, 415. Death of Ex-chancellor Alcock, 416. Car- 
dinal Morton, Chancellor, 416. His Birth and Education, 416. A Lancastrian, 
but reconciled to Edward IV., 417. His Conduct under Richard HI., 417. 
Strawberry Scene at the Tower of London, 417. Imprisoned by Richard III,, 
418. Escapes to Continent, 418. Recalled by Henry VII., 419. His Policy 
when Chancellor, 419. His Speech to the two Houses of Parliament, 419. Star 
Chamber remodelled, 420, Limitation of Claims to Land, 421. Law protect- 
ing Acts under King de facto, 421. " Benevolence" imposed, 422 Cardinal 
Morton's " Fork," 423. His Death, 423, Sir Thomas More's Character of him, 

424. Henry Deane, Bishop of Salisbury, Lord Keeper, 424. Distinguished 
at the University, 425. His subsequent Rise, 425. Conduct as Lord Keeper, 

425. Negotiates Marriage between the King of Scots and the Princess Mar- 
garet, 426. His Resignation, 426, His Death, 426. Great Seal delivered to 
Archbishop Warham, 426. 



Birth and Education, 427. Practises in Doctors' Commons, 427, His Embassy 
to Duke of Burgundy, 427, Speech to Duke and Duchess, 427. Made Master 
of Rolls and Bishop of London, 428. Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor, ^28, 
His despatch of Business in Chancery, 428. Opposed Marriage between Prince 
Henry and Catherine, Widow of Arthur, 428. His Panegyric on Dudley, the 
Attorney General, afterwards hanged, 429. Death of Henry VII., 429. Le- 
gislation in his Reign, 429. Administration of Justice, 430. Equity Jurisdic- 
tion, 430. Accession of Henry VI IL, 431. Warham continued Chancellor, 
431. Still opposes Henry's Marriage with Catherine, 431 Improperly joins 
in Prosecution of Empsom and Dudley, 432. A Parliament, 432. Chancellor's 
Speech to Two Houses, 432. His Advice to Soldiers in the Field, 433. War- 
ham's last Address to the Two Houses, 433. Makes a Speech in House of 
Commons, 434. Abuse of the Scotch, 434. Dispute as to the Rank of the 


Earl of Surrey in the House of Lords, 434. Warham undermined by Wolsey, 

435. Driven to resign, 436. His Character as a Judge, 436. His Occupations 
in Retirement, 436. Still insulted by Wolsey, 436. Complains to the King, 

436. Fall of Wolsey, 437. Qusere, Whether Warham was again offered the 
Great Seal ? 437. Countenances Holy Maid of Kent, 437. His Death, 437. 
Conduct on Death-bed, 438. His Friendship with Erasmus, 438. Character of 
Warham by lErasmus, 438. Letter of Warham to Erasmus, 440. General Es- 
timate of Character of Warham, 441. 



Wolsey, the Son of a Butcher, 442. Proofs, 442. Sent to the University, 443. 
Wolsey " the Boy Bachelor," 443. Fellow of Magdalen, and Schoolmaster, 
443. Tutor to Sons of Marquess of Dorset, 443. Wolsey a country Parson, 444. 
Wolsey set in the Stocks for Drunkenness and Rioting at a Fair, 444. His 
Revenge when Lord Chancellor, 445. Wolsey leaves his Parish, 445. Chaplain 
to Archbishop of Canterbury, 446. To the Governor of Calais, 446. Chaplain 
to Henry VIL, 446. His Success at Court, 446. Wolsey's Embassy to the 
Emperor, 447. Extraordinary Rapidity of his Journey, 448. Rewarded with 
the Deanery of Lincoln, 450. Death of Henry VIL, 450. Wolsey introduced 
to the new King, 450. Influence gained by Wolsey over Henry VII I., 450. 
Wolsey Almoner to the King, 451. Wolsey Prime Minister, 452. Grants and 
Preferments, 453. Wolsey Commissary- General to the Army in France, 453. 
Appointed Bishop of Tournay, 453. Wolsey made Bishop of Lincoln, 454. 
Archbishop of York, &c., 454. Cardinal and Legate a latere, 454. Measures 
to disgust Lord Chancellor Warham, 455. Wolsey, Chancellor, 455. Quaere, 
Whether Warham resigned voluntarily, and Wolsey was reluctant to take Great 
Seal ? 456. 




Homage paid to Wolsey by Foreign Powers, 458. By the University of Oxford, 
458. Letters to him from the King's Sisters, 459. Letter to him from the Earl 
of Argyle, 460. His splendid Mode of living, 460. Wolsey's Banquets to the 
King, 46L His Procession to the Court of Chancery, 462. Jests against him, 
464. His Conduct as a Judge, 464. A Parliament, 466. Money Bill originates 
in Lords, 466. Wolsey causes Death of Duke of Buckingham, 467. Aims at 
the Popedom, 468. Wolsey is disappointed of the Popedom. 469. Again 
disappointed, 469. His Love of Education, 470. A new Parliament, 471. 
Convocation, 471. Publication of Debates in House of Commons, 471. Wol- 
sey's Visit to the House of Commons, 472. Conduct of >'r Thomas More, the 
Speaker, 472. Indignation of Wolsey, 474. Wolsey tries to levy a Tax without 
Authority of Parliament, 474. Masque at Gray's Inn to expose Wolsey, 474. 
Wolsey's Embassy to France, 475. His Journey, 476. His Reception at Calais, 
476. Meeting of Wolsey with King and Court of France, 477. His Courage 
and Skill as a Diplomatist, 478. Treaty concluded, 479. Relation in Star 
Chamber of his Embassy, 479. Arrival of French Embassy, 479. Ratification 
of Treaty at St. Paul's, 479. Splendid Entertainment by Wolsey to French at 
Hampton Court, 480. Wolsey's Prosperity before his Disgrace, 481. Origin of 
Wolsey's Disgrace, 481. Anne Boleyn, 481. Wolsey at first dissuades King's 
Marriage wi'h Anne, 482. Afterwards labours for the Divorce, 482. Obtains 
conditional Licence from the Pope, 483. Campeggio, 483. Cardinal Campeggio 
arrives in England, 483. Near Prospect of Wolsey being elected Pope, 484. 


Hearing of the Divorce Suit before Wolsey and Campeggio, 485. King's Anger 
at the Delay, 486. Divorce Suit carried before the Pope, 487. The King 
makes a Progress in the Country, 487. The Court at Grafton, 487. Wolsey 
neglected, 488. His last Interview with Henry, 488. Dialogue between Henry 
and Anne respecting Wolsey, 489. Wolsey returns to London, 489 His last 
Appearance in the Court of Chancery, 490. Refuses to deliver up Great Seal 
without proper Warrant from King, 490. Deprived of his Office and all his 
Possessions, 490. 



Praemunire Informations filed against Wolsey, 491. Pleads guilty, 491. Proceeds 
to Esher, 491. At Putney met by a Messenger from the King, 492. Lord 
Chancellor's " Fool," 492. Wolsey's Residence at Esher, 493. Letter from 
Erasmus, 493. Returning Kindness of the King, 493. Nocturnal Visit to 
Wolsey from Sir John Russell, 493. A Parliament, 494.^ Visit to Wolsey from 
the Duke of Norfolk, 494. Impeachment of Wolsey, 49.5. Agreed to by the 
Lords, but rejected by the Commons, 495. Wolsey deserted by his former 
Friends, 496. Settlement with the King, 497. Permitted to remove to Rieh- 
mond, 497. Ordered to York, 497. Journey to the North, 497. Inter- 

view between Wolsey and Judge Shelley, 497. His Installation as Archbishop 
appointed, 498. Alarm at Court from his Popularity, 498. He is arrested for 
High Treason, 499. His Behaviour, 499. He is carried off a Prisoner, 5C0. 
His Stay at Sheffield Park, 500. His Alarm at Prophecy that he should die 
near Kingston, 500. His Illness, 501. Arrives at Leicester, 501. Prophesies 
the Hour of his Death, 501. He dies, 502. His Burial, 502. His Conduct as 
a Judge, 503. His Notions of Equity, 503. Increase of Equity Business, 503. 
Establishes auxiliary Courts, 503. His Complaints of the Lawyers, 504. Wolsey 
free from Bribery and Corruption, 504. His natural Children, 505. His Re- 
pentance, 506. 



Difficulty of appointing a Successor to Wolsey, 507. Sir Thomas More appointed, 
508. His Birth, 508. His Education, 509. Page to Cardinal Morton, 509. 
Goes to the University, 510. His early Poems, 511. At Inns of Court, 511. 
His great Proficiency in Law, 512. Gives Lectures in a Church, 512. Wishes 
to become a Monk, 513. On trial dislikes Carthusian Discipline, 513. Resolves 
to marry, 514. His Courtship, 514. Happily married, 515. Rapid Progress 
in his Profession, 515. He is Under-sheriff of London, 515. Returned to Par- 
liament, 516. Excessive Subsidy demanded by Henry to marry his Daughter, 
516. Proofs that More held the Office of Under-Sheriff', 516. More's Maiden 
Speech against the Subsidy, 517. Indignation of the King, 517. More resolves 
to go into Exile, 518. Death of Henry VII., 518. 



More resumes his Practice at the Bar, 519. Introduced to the King and Wolsey, 
520. Counsel for the Pope in a great Cause, 520. Enters the Service of the 
King, 520. Leaves the Bar, 521. Master of the Requests, &c., 521. His 
House at Chelsea, 521. His second Wife, 521. His domestic Life, 522. His 
Letter to Peter Giles, 523. Intimacy with the King, 523. Literary Occu- 

. pations, 524. Embassies, 524. Residence at Calais, 524. Resigns Office of 


the Sheriff, 525. Elected Speaker of House of Commons, 525. He disqualifies 
himself, 526. His Oration to the King, 527. His laudable Conduct as Speaker, 
528. Wolsey's Attempt to send him to Spain, 529. Made Chancellor of 
Duchy of Lancaster, 529. King's Visits to him at Chelsea, 529. More's early 
Insight into Character of Henry VIII., 530. Morethe Mouthpiece of the King, 
530. His literary Reputation, 530. His famous Question to a Pedant at 
Bruges, 531. King's Divorce, 531. More conceals his Opinion, 531. Pre- 
serves Neutrality, 532. Scene at the Council Table between Wolsey and More, 
532. More Ambassador at Cambray, 532. His Loss by Fire, 533. Beautiful 
Letter to his Wife, 533. He is made Lord Chancellor, 534. 




Installation of the new Chancellor, 535. Duke of Norfolk's Speech, 536. Sir 
Thomas More's Speech, 537. More's Appointment applauded Abroad, 539. 
The Embarrassments of his Situation, 540. A Parliament, 541. Chancellor's 
Speech, 541. Prosecution of Wolsey not creditable to More, 542. Good Laws 
passed, 543. Admirable Conduct as Judge in Chancery, 543. Anecdote, show- 
ing his Love of Justice and Jesting, 543. His Diligence, 544. Remonstrance 
of Son-in-Law against his Impartiality, 544. Decree against his Son-in-Law, 
545. His Practice as to Injunctions, 545. Grumbling of Judges, 545. Dinner 
to the Judges, 546. His Offer to them about Injunctions, 546. His Criticism 
on Judges, 546. His great Dispatch, 547. Entry on Record that there were 
no Arrears in the Court of Chancery, 547. Daily receives his Father's Blessing 
in the Court of King's Bench, 547. His Father's Death, 548. Simplicity of 
his Habits, 548. While Chancellor on Sundays walked to Church and sang 
among the Choristers, 548. His Judgment in the great Case of " The Little 
Dog," 548. Charge of Persecution of Heretics, 549. Difficulty as to King's 
Divorce, 551. Opinion of the Universities, 551. Thomas Cromwell, 552. A 
Parliament, 552. Threatened Rupture with Rome, 553. Perplexity of More, 
553. Act passed prohibiting Appeals to Rome, 553. More's Speech to House 
of Commons on the Divorce, 554. His distressed State of Mind, 554. Scene 
with the King respecting the Divorce, 553. He resigns the Great Seal, 556. 




More's high Spirits on his Resignation, 557. Jesting Mode of announcing it to 
his Wife, 557. His " Fool," 557. More's Mode of Life in Retirement, 558. 
Sayings of Sir Thomas More's Fool, 558. His Letter to Archbishop Warham, 
559. Letter to Erasmus, 560. His Occupations, 560. King's Marriage with 
Anne Boleyn, 560. More refuses to be present at her Coronation, 561. Sum- 
moned before Privy Council on Charge of Bribery, 562. Accused of Treason in 
the Affair of the Maid of Kent, 563. He is heard before a Committee, 563. 
Threats used, 564. His Constancy, 564. History of Henry's Treaties against Lu- 
ther, 564. More's Joy at finding himself able to act with Courage, .'>65. He escapes 
this Peril, 566. Attempts to make him submit, 566. His Prophecy respecting 
Anne Boleyn, 566. Oath to the King's Supremacy required, 567. Commis- 
sioners appointed to administer the Oath, 567. More summoned before Com- 
missioners, 68. Solemn Departure from his House at Chelsea, 568. His 
Refusal to take Oath, 568. Committed to Custody of Abbot of Westminster, 
569. Sent to Tower, 569. His Reception in the Tower, 569. Jest on that 
Occasion, 569. Interview with his Daughter, 570. Visit from his Wife, 571. 
Act of Attainder, 572. Farther Proceedings against More, 572. Infamous 


Conduct of Rich, the Solicitor General, 573. Trial of More in Westminster 
Hall, 573. His Behaviour at Trial, 574. The Attorney General's Address, 574. 
No Evidence to support the Charge, 575. Defence, 575. More about to be 
acquitted, 576. Rich, Solicitor General, becomes Witness, and commits Perjury, 
576- More's Reply on this Evidence, 577. Summing up of Lord Audley, 578. 
Verdict of Guilty, 578. Forms observed before Sentence. 579. Sentence of 
Death passed, 579. More's Speech to the Judges, 580. Carried back to the 
Tower, 580. Affecting Interview with his Daughter on Tower Hill, 581. 
Death Warrant issued, 582. His last Letter to his Daughter, 582. Announce- 
ment to him of his Execution, 582. Conducted to Scaffold, 583. His Devo- 
tions, 583. His Jests, 583. His Death, 583. His Head stolen by his Daugh- 
ter, 584. Barbarous Conduct of Henry VIII. to More's Family, 584. General 
Horror produced by the Murder of More, 584. More's Person, 585. His Cha- 
racter, 585. Merits of the Reformers, 586. More's History of Edward V. and 
Richard III., 586. His " Epigrammata," 586. His " Utopia," 589. More's 
enlightened Views on Criminal Law, 590. On the Law of Forfeiture, 590. On 
Religious Toleration, 591. His Oratory, 592. His Wit and Humour, 592. 
Practical Joke, 593. Sir Thomas More compared to liis immediate Successors, 



Sir Thomas Audlev, Lord Keeper, 595. His Character and Conduct, 595. His 
Birth, 596. Education, 596. Member of House of Commons, 597. Gains 
the Favour of King Henry VIII., 597. Is made Chancellor of the Duchy of 
Lancaster, 598. Speaker of the House of Commons, 598. Proceedings of 
Commons on Speech in Lords by Bishop of Rochester, 598. Rupture with 
Rome, 600. Audley remains Speaker of the House of Commons while Lord 
Keeper, 601. Installation as Lord Keeper, 601. Audley made Lord Chan- 
cellor, 602. His conduct as a Judge, 603. As a Politician, 603. Commis- 
sioners to administer Oath under new Act of Settlement, 603. Act to make 
Denial of King's Supremacy High Treason, 603. Presides at Trial of Bishop 
Fisher, 604. Evidence of Solicitor General Rich, 604. Solicitor General Rich's 
Commentary as Counsel on his own Evidence as Witness, 605. Scandalous 
Conduct of the Lord Chancellor and Judges, 606. Lord Chancellor pronounces 
Sentence of Death on Bishop Fisher, 606. Trial of Sir Thomas More, 606. 
Rise of Thomas Cromwell, 607. Henry VIII. in love with Jane Seymour, 608. 
Audley assists in the Prosecution of Anne Boleyn, 609. Audley sits on the 
Trial of Anne Boleyn, 609. Marriage of King with Anne Boleyn declared 
void from the Beginning, 610. King's Marriage with Jane Seymour, 610. Lord 
Chancellor's Speech to the two Houses, 611. Speaker Rich out-flatters the 
Chancellor, 612. Act giving King Power to dispose of Crown, &c., 613. 
Fresh Contest between Rich and Audley in flattering the King, 614. Chan- 
cellor created a Peer, 614. Presides at Trial of Marquess of Exeter and Lord 
Montague, 614. The Lord Chancellor solicits a Recompense for the Infamy he 
had incurred, 615. Grant in consequence, 616. He is made Knight of the 
Garter, 617. A Parliament, 617. Chancellor's Speech, 617. " Bloody Bill of 
the Six Articles," 618. Act Regulating Precedence, 619. Act giving King's 
Proclamation force of Law, 619. King's Marriage with Anne of Cleves, 619. 
Fall of Cromwell, 620. Chancellor's Plan to attaint Cromwell without hearing 
him in his Defence, 620. King's Marriage with Anne of Cleves dissolved, 622. 
Disgraceful Conduct of Cranmer in Divorce of Anne of Cleves, 623. Eastern 
Custom of Prostration introduced, 624. Chancellor dissolves " Long Parlia- 
ment," 624. His Impartiality in Persecution, 624. King's Contentment with 
Queen Catherine Howard, 624. Her Incontinence discovered, 625. Opinion 
of the Judges upon her Case, 625. A Parliament, 626. The Chancellor's 
Speech, 626. Bill of Attainder against the Queen, 627. Execution of the 
Queen, 628. Act requiring Spinster whom King asks in Marriage, if not Maid, 


to disclose her Shame, 629. Terror of young Ladies at Court, 629. King 
marries a "Widow, 629. Queen Catherine Par, 629. A Parliament, 630. Suc- 
cession to Crown, 630. Audley's last Illness, 631. Resigns the Great Seal, 631. 
Letter proposing Marringe between his Daughter and the Son of Sir Anthony 
Denny, 63.?. His Death, 633. His Career, 633. His Character, 633. His 
Epitaph, 633. His Descendants, 634. 




Character of new Chancellor, 635. His Descent, 635. Renounces Heraldry, 635. 
Is called to the Bar, 635. Obtains Office in Common Pleas, 635. Made 
Secretary of State, 635. Opposed to Reformation, 636. Ambassador to ne- 
gotiate the King's Marriage, 6S6. Succeeds Cromwell as chief Minister, 636. 
His Dismay on the Detection of the Catholic Queen, Catherine Howard ; and 
the King's Marriage with the Protestant Queen, Catherine Par, 636. His 
Plans against the new Queen, 637. He is made Lord Keeper, 637. His Ab- 
juration of the Pope, 638. Lord Chancellor, 639. His Installation, 639. His 
Deficiency in Law, 639. A very Incompetent Judge, 639. His Unhappiness, 
639. He tries to study Equity, 640. Commission to assist him in hearing 
Causes, 640. His relentless Bigotry, 640. Anne Ascue tortured and burnt by 
the Lord Chancellor, 640. The Chancellor's offer of Pardon to Anne Ascue, 
,642. His Attempt against the Queen, 642. Prosecution ordered against the 
Queen, 643. .Her Terror, 643. Her Discretion, 644. King reconciled to her, 
644. Chancellor coming to arrest her, is reprimanded, 645. Chancellor made 
Knight of the Garter, 645. A Parliament, 645. Appointment of Custos 
Rotulorum taken from the Great Seal, 646. King's Speech after Chancellor's, 
646. King's Illness, 646. Chancellor makes the King's Will, 647. Prosecution 
of Duke of Norfolk and Lord Surrey, 647. Execution of Surrey, 648. Attain- 
der of Duke of Norfolk, 648. Death of Henry VIII., 649. Tears of the Chan- 
cellor, 649. Juridical Review of Reign of Henry VIII., 649. Statutes, 650. 
Commission to hear Causes, 650. Reports, 650. 



Edward VI. proclaimed, 651. Wriothesley expects to retain Great Seal, and to 
have the chief Power during King's Minority, 651. Somerset Protector, 651. 
Young King's first Appearance in public, 652. Honours conferred by the 
Executors on themselves, 653. Wriothesley made Earl of Southampton, 653. 
Intrigues in the Council, 653. Charge against Wriothesley for issuing an illegal 
Commission, 654. His Defence, 655. He submits, 655. He is deprived of 
the Great Seal, and expelled from the Council, 655. New Powers to Protector 
656. Wriothesley two Years in Retirement, 656. Unpopularity of Protector, 

656. Wriothesley restored to the Council, 656. Proceedings against the 
Protector, 657. He is committed to Tower, 657. Wriothesley hopes to enjoy 
supreme Power, 657. Superseded by Earl of Warwick, 658. He retires from 
Public Life, 658. His Death, 658. His Character, 658. His Descendants, 






Before entering upon the Lives of the individuals who 
have successively filled the office of Lord Chancellor in 
England, I propose to take a general view of its origin, 
functions, and jurisdiction, reserving for future considera- 
tion a more detailed account of the progressive changes which . 
it has from time to time undergone. 

The etymology of the word " Chancellor " sheds such a Etymology 
feeble and doubtful light on the subject of our inquiry, that f, Qj^n 
I must decline engaging in the great controversy, whether cellor," 
" Cancellarius " be derived from " cancellare" or " cancelli? " 
from the act of cancelling the king's letters patent when 
granted contrary to law, or from the little bars for fencing off" 
the multitude from the recess or chancel in which sat the 
door-keeper or usher of a court of justice. Of the former 
opinion, a distinguished champion is John of Salisbury, wIk) 
flourished in the reign of Henry II., and in the verses pre- 
fixed to his Polycraticon thus glorifies the Chancellor : 

" Hie est qui leges regni cancellat iniquas, 
Et mandata pii principis aequa facit." * 

So when Lord Chancellor Gardyner, in the reign of Queen 

* See 4 Inst. 88. 3 Bl. Com. 47. 
VOL. T. B 


Mary, presiding on the woolsack, in the sight of all the 
Lords, cut off from a bill certain clauses to which the 
Commons had dissented, he said, "I now do rightly the 
office of a Chancellor."* 

But more weight will probably be attached to the authority 
of Gibbon, who, after exposing the profligate conduct of the 
Emperor Carinus in having selected his favourites, and even 
his ministers, from the dregs of the populace, and intrusted 
a " Chancellor" with the government of the city, observes, 
*' This word, so humble in its origin, has by a singular fortune 
risen into the title of the first great office of state in the 
monarchies of Europe." f 

It would likewise be foreign to our purpose (though very 
curious) to trace the steps by which, under the later Roman 
Emperors, the " Cancellarius," like " the Justice-clerk " in 
Scotland, from being a humble scribe or secretary, came 
to be invested with high judicial powers. Nor should I be 
justified in inquiring how the office passed from the Roman 
Emperors to that body ever emulous of imperial state the 
Roman Church, in which every bishop had his " Chancellor," 
or into the manner in which the office was established, 
with a great variety of powers and duties, in the different 
states on the continent of Europe founded by the Northern 

* Die Veneris videlicet, 4. Januarii," (1 &2 Ph. & Mar, 1.554-5.) 
" Hodie allatae sunt a Domo Communi tres Billa? : quarum 
" Prima. For the repealing of all outlawries and other attainders had or 
made against Richard Pate, Bishop, AVilliam Peytoo, and others. 

" Secunda. That persons dwelling in the country shall not sell divers -wares 
in cities and towns corporate, by retail. 

" Terlia. Repealing all statutes, articles, and provisions made against the 
See Apostolick of Rome since the 20th year of King Henry the Eighth ; and for 
the establishment of all spiritual and ecclesiastical possessions and hereditaments 
conveyed to the laity, with two new provisoes added thereto by the Commons ; 
and also a request that the two clauses, containing nineteen lines, and concerning 
the Bishops of London, &c., and the Lords Wentworthe, &c., should be clearly 
put out. Whereof one of the provisoes, for the manner of the penning thereof 
being misliked to the House, another to the same effect was commanded to be 
drawn, which being three times read, and agreed unto by the whole House, 
except the Viscount Montacute and the Bishops of London, and Coven, and 
I^ichef , was sent down to the Commons, where being also thrice read and 
agreed unto, it was brought up again as an act fully assented unto by both 
Houses; nor the said nineteen lines were not razed nor taken out of the Act; hut 
the Chancellor, in the sight of all the Lords, ivith a knife, cut them, saying these 


vol. i. p. 484. 

f Dec. and Fall, ii. 99. ; and see Casaubon and Salmasius ad Hist. Aug. 253. 


invaders, who, clinging to their own institutions, were fond of 
borrowing titles from the conquered. Our business here is 
exclusively with " the Chancellor of the Kings of England." 

This office has existed from the most remote antiquity. Antiquity 
The almost fabulous British King Arthur is said to have of office m 

=> England. 

appointed a Chancellor.* The Anglo-Saxon monarchs, from 
Ethelbert downwards, certainly had such an officer, although 
we must not therefore assent to the statement of Lord 
Coke, that the Chancery dispensed justice as an ordinary 
tribunal, in the remote reign of King Alfred. The office 
then existed, but, as we shall see hereafter, centuries elapsed 
before it assumed the functions of a Court. How the 
office originally sprung up in England, and what it has since 
become, it will now be my endeavour to describe. 

With us the King has ever been considered the fountain Original 
of justice. In very early times, as he could not himself in ^^^_J L 
person decide all controversies and remedy all wrongs, tri- to frame 
bunals were constituted, over which deputed judges presided, ^" ''" 
to carry the law into execution. Still, applications were 
made to him personally by injured parties for redress ; these 
were to be referred to the proper forum, and process was to 
be made out for summoning the adversary, and directing 
that after both sides had been heard, the appropriate relief 
should be administered. To assist him in this department 
the King employed a secretary, on whom by degrees it was 
entirely devolved; and this officer, on a statement of facts 
by the complainant, framed writs or letters, in the king's 
name, to the judges, by which suits were instituted. Forms 
were adopted, to be always followed under similar circum- 
stances, and a place was named to which all suitors might 
resort to be furnished with the means of obtaining justice. 
This was the officina justitioe called Chancery, and the 
officer who presided over it was called Chancellor.! 

* Mirror of Justices. 

f " Every one was to have a remedial writ from the King's Chancery, accord- 
ing to bis plaint," of which the following is the most ancient form : 

" Rex, &c." [to the Judge]. " Questus est nobis A. quod B., &c. Et ideo 
tibi (vices nostras in hac parte committentcs) pra?cipiinus quod causara illam 
audias et legitimo fine decidas." Mirror of JuKtices, 8. Sec Fritzhert. Nat. 

B 2 


And royal Again, grants of dignities, of offices, and of lands were 
granu. ^^^ 1^^ ^j^^ ^^^^ j^ ^^^^ neccssary that these grants should 

be framed and authenticated by an officer well versed in the 
laws and customs of the kingdom ; and it was found con- 
venient to employ for this purpose the same person who 
superintended the commencement of suits between subject 
and subject. Here we have the other great branch of the 
pristine duties of Chancellor. 
Custody of These writs and grants in the earliest times were verified 
Great ScaL merely by signature. From the art of writing being little 
known, seals became common ; and the king, according to 
the fashion of the age, adopted a seal with which writs and 
grants were sealed. This was called the Great Seal, and 
the custody of it was given to the Chancellor.* 
Chancellor But how are we to account for the important function 
keeper of ^hjch has immemorially belonged to this officer, of " Keeper 

king s con- ^ . . 

science. of the King's Conscience ? " From the conversion of the 
A.D. 596. Anglo-Saxons to Christianity by the preaching of St. Au- 
gustine, the king always had near his person a priest, to 
whom was intrusted the care of his chapel, and who was his 
confessor. This person, selected from the most learned and 
able of his order, and greatly superior in accomplishments 
to the unlettered laymen attending the Court, soon acted 
as private secretary to the king, and gained his confidence in 
aifairs of state. The present demarcation between civil and 
ecclesiastical employments was then little regarded, and to 
this same person was assigned the business of superintending 
writs and grants, with the custody of the great seal. 
Chancellor For ages to come the Chancellor had no separate judicial 
Subordinate P^^^^'^' ^^^ ^"^^ "^* Considered of very high dignity in the 
officer. State, and the office was chiefly courted as a stepping-stone 
jli'dic^ial *^ ^ bishopric, to which it almost invariably led. Particular 
power. individuals holding the Great Seal acquired a great ascend- 
ancy from their talents, but among the Anglo-Saxons the 
Chancellor was not generally a conspicuous member of the 
government, and in the early Anglo-Norman reigns he ranked 

It has generally been supposed that Edward the Confessor was the first 
English sovereign who used a seal ; but Dugdale shows that there were some 
Rrtnts under seal as far back as King Edgar. Dug. 01? ch. 2. 


only sixth of the great officers under the Crown, coming after 
the Chief Justiciar, the Constable, the Mareschal, the 
Steward, and the Chamberlain. At this time the Chief 
Justiciar was by far the greatest subject, both in rank and 
power.* He was generally taken from among the high here- 
ditary barons ; his functions were more political than judicial ; 
he sometimes led armies to battle ; and when the Sovereign 
was beyond the sea, by virtue of his office, as regent he 
governed the realm.f 

The office of Chancellor rose into importance from the 
energy of A'Becket, Longchamp, and other ambitious men 
who held it| ; but it was only in the end of the reign of 
Henry III., or the beginning of the reign of Edward I,, that 
its supremacy was established. Till then the Aula Regia 
existed, of which the Chief Justiciar was president, and in 
which all causes of importance, of whatever description, 
were decided. 

The origin of the different courts in Westminster Hall, Common- 
as they now exist, may be distinctly traced to the disruption (j-^Jtioii of 
of this great tribunal like the formation of the planetary Chancellor, 
system from the nebulous matter of which some philoso- 
phers tell us it is composed. The Chancellor always sat as 
a member of the Aula Regia, and from his usual duties and 
occupations he must have been its chief legal adviser. In 

* Mad. Exch. b. 1. 

f Hence comes the title of the " Lords Justices," appointed to represent 
the King in England in the reigns of George I. and George II. ; and of the 
" Lords Justices" now appointed to act in Ireland in the absence of the Lord 

There was likewise from very remote times a Grand Justiciar in Scotland 
with very arbitrary power. In that country when the Judges going the circuit 
approach a royal burgh, the Lord Provost universally comes out to meet 
them with the exception of Aberdeen, of which there is by tradition this 
explanation. Some centuries ago, the Lord Provost, at the head of the ma- 
gistrates, going out to meet the Grand Justiciar at the Bridge of Dee, the 
Grand Justiciar, for some imaginary offence, hanged his Lordsliip at the end of 
the Bridge, since which the Lord Provost of Aberdeen has never trusted 
himself in the presence of a Judge beyond the walls of the city. Ex relatione 
of a very venerable person who has filled the office now called Lord Justice 

;J: The office of Chancellor in Prance appears to have risen into great im- 
portance by the same means. " Magnitudinem virorum qui eo munere [Can- 
cellarii] fungebantur, vires decusque illi attulisse crediderim, ut ab exiguis 
initiis ad tantam majestatem pervenerit." Paul. Encycl. de rebus c/estis Francon. 
p. 104. a. 

He was wont to act, together with the Chief Justiciar and other great men, 
in matters of revenue at the Exchequer, and sometimes with the other jus- 

B 3 


all probability, early in its history, the different branches of 
judicial business which came before it were allotted to the 
consideration of particular members most conversant with 
them ; and while matters of chivalry might be decided by the 
opinion of the constable and mareschal, the validity of the 
king's grants would be referred to him whose duty it was to 
authenticate them, and proceedings by virtue of mandatory 
writs or commissions, under the Great Seal, could best be 
judged of by the same person who had issued them. So, 
questions arising out of " petitions of right," " monstrans de 
droit" and " traverses of office," where a complaint was 
made that the King had been advised to do any act, or was 
put in possession of any lands or goods, to the prejudice of 
a subject, would be naturally referred to " the Keeper of 
his Conscience."* 

The officer to whom such references were made by degrees 
became a separate judge ; and hence the origin of what is 
considered the common-law jurisdiction of the Chancellor. 

It is certain, that almost immediately after the esta- 
blishment of the Court of King's Bench for criminal law, 
the Common Pleas for civil suits, and the Exchequer for the 
revenue, all extraordinary cases of a juridical nature being 
reserved for the King in council, the Chancellor held a 
separate independent court, in which the validity of royal 
grants was questioned by scire facias, and the other matters 
were discussed which I have supposed to have been previously 
referred for his opinion, to guide the decision of the Aula 
Regia. To assist in this new separate jurisdiction, officers 
were appointed, and they had the privilege of suing and 
being sued in all personal actions in the court to which they 
were attached. These proceedings were carried on in accor- 
dance with the rules and maxims of the common law. 

Here then we have the Chancellor with two great occupa- 

ticiars itinerant in their circuits. About the beginning of King Henry the 
becond's reign, there were pleas in the county of Kent holden before the King's 
Chance or, and before Henry de Essex, the King's Constable," and before the 
L-hancellor and the Earl of Leicester." Amerciaments were set upon several 
persons m Worcestershire by ' the Chancellor and Stephen de Segrave :" and 
in the counties of Nottingham and Derby by the same persons. Mzrfd Exch. 
cap. 2. p. 42. 

Gilbert's History of the Exchequer, p. 8. 


tioiis : the first, his earliest one, of supplying writs to 
suitors who wished to litigate in other courts ; the second, 
the decision of a peculiar class of suits as a judge. Accord- 
ing to ancient simplicity, the place where he carried on the 
business of his office was divided between the " Hanniper " 
or hamper, in which writs were stored up ; and the " Petty- 
bag," in which were kept the records and proceedings in the 
suits to be decided by himself.* Thus did the Chancellor 
decide all matters of law that might arise by his own au- 
thority, subject to a writ of error to the King's Bench ; but 
he had no power to summon a jury; and issue being joined 
on a question of fact, he at once handed over the record to the 
King's Bench, where the suit proceeded, and was finally dis- 
posed of.f 

This " common-law jurisdiction " of the Chancellor has 
been generally carried back to the reign of Edward I. by 
some much higher, and the validity of it has never been 
questioned ; but his " Equitable Jurisdiction," which has 
become of infinitely greater importance, has been supposed 
to be a usurpation, and not to have been exercised till the 
reign of Richard II., upon the introduction of uses and trusts 
of real property, and the invention of the writ of subpoena 
by John of Waltham, Bishop of Salisbury. After much 
investigation, I must express my clear conviction, that the 
Chancellor's equitable is as Indubitable and as ancient as his 
common-law jurisdiction, and that It may be traced In a 
manner equally satisfactory. 

The silence of Bracton, Glanvil, Fleta, and other early Objections 
juridical writers, has been strongly relied upon to disprove ouit'yof 
the equitable jurisdiction of the Chancellor ; but they as little equitable 
notice his common-law jurisdiction, most of them writing tion. 

* Even now a distinction is made between the " hanniper " side and the 
" petty bag" side of the court. 

f I have followed the authority of Blackstone (Com. vol. iii. 49.); but 
Mr. Macqueen, in his very learned and valuable treatise " On the Appellate 
Jurisdiction of the House of Lords," has collected weighty decisions and 
arguments to show that the writ of error from the petty-bag or common- 
law side in Chancery is directly to Parliament, and that when the issue of fact 
has been determined in the King's Bench, the record goes back to the Court of 
Chancery, where final judgment ought to be given. See p. 369, et seq. Ideo 

B 4 


during the subsistence of the Aula Regia ; and they all speak 
of the Chancery, not as a court, but merely as an office for the 
making and sealing of writs.* There are no very early 
decisions of the Chancellors on points of law, any more than 
of equity, to be found in the Year Books, or old Abridg- 
ments. It was formerly objected, that there were no Bills or 
Petitions in Chancery extant of an earlier date than the time 
of Henry VI., but by the labours of the Record Commis- 
sioners many have been discovered of preceding reigns. Till 
the 17th Richard II., when the statute was made giving the 
Chancellor power to award damages or costs to the defendant 
on the plaintiff's suggestions being proved to be false, there 
was little use in filing or preserving them, and from that era 
we have them in abundance. 
Definition By " equitable jurisdiction " must be understood the extra- 
jumd/c- ^ ordinary interference of the Chancellor, without common- 
tion. la^v process, or regard to the common-law rules of proceeding, 

upon the petition of a party grieved, who was without 
adequate remedy in a court of common-law; whereupon 
the opposite party was compelled to appear and to be ex- 
amined, either personally or upon written interrogatories ; and 
evidence being heard on both sides, without the interposition 
of a jury, an order was made secundum (Bquum et bonum, 
which was enforced by imprisonment. Such a jurisdiction 
had belonged to the Aula Regia, and was long exercised by 
Parliament t ; and when Parliament was not sitting, by the 

* The first law book which treats of the jiulicial powers of the Lord Chan- 
cellor is the " Diversite des Courtes," written in the end of the fifteenth or be- 
ginning of the sixteenth century, tit. Chancery, fol. 296. 

( Audley v. Audley, 40 Edward IIL This, the earliest instance I have found 
of a suit for a specific performance, is fully reported in the close roll of that year. 
By a deed executed in contemplation of the marriage of Nicholas son of James 
Lord Audley, he had covenanted to settle lands in possession or reversion to 
the amount of 400 marks. After the marriage, Elizabeth, the wife, petitioned 
the King in parliament that Lord Audley should be ordained to perform the 
covenant. The King caused the defendant to come before the Chancellor, the 
Treasurer, and the justices and other " sages" assembled in the Star Chamber. 
ITie Lady Audley " showed forth her grievances ;" that is to say, she de- 
clared ihem by word of mouth, and produced the indenture of covenant. A 
demurrer put in on the part of the defendant was overruled ; and after various 
proceedings before the Chancellor and Treasurer in the Council, performance of 
the covenant was at last obtained. 

One of the most remarkable examples of Parliament acting as a court of 
equity is William Lord Clynton's case, in the 9th of Hen. V., where Wil- 


king's ordinary council. Upon the dissolution of the Aula 
Regia many petitions, which Parliament or the Council could 
not conveniently dispose of, were referred to the Chancellor, 
sometimes with and sometimes without assessors. To avoid 
the circuity of applying to Parliament or the Council, the 
petition was very soon, in many instances, addressed originally 
to the Chancellor himself. For some ages these extraordinary 
applications for redress were received by the Parliament, 
by the Council, and by the Chancellor concurrently. The 
Parliament by degrees abandoned all original equitable juris- 
diction, acting only as a court of appeal in civil cases, and 
taking original cognizance of criminal cases on impeachment 
by the Commons ; but it will be found that the Council and 
the Chancellor long continued equitably to adjudicate on the 
same matters, and that there were the same complaints and 
statutes directed against both. 

From various causes, however, the equitable jurisdiction Extension 
of the Council gradually declined. The proper and imme- jurisdiction 
morial business of the Chancellor being the preparation of of Chancel- 
writs, where a case occurred to which no known writ was 
properly applicable, and in which the common-law- courts 
could not grant redress, he took it into his own hands, and 
having heard both parties, gave relief. Again, where the 
proceedings in the courts of law under writs which he had 
issued were grossly defective and inequitable, he was naturally 
called upon to review them, and to prevent judgments which 
had been fraudulently obtained from being carried into effect. 

Another source of equitable jurisdiction to the Chancellor, from in- 
of considerable importance, though little noticed, arose from chancerv 
the practice of inroUing in Chancery covenants and agree- ""J^^rre- 

1 /! Ill' c ^ c cognizance** 

raents, releases oi right, and declarations of uses, and of 
securing the performance of these deeds by a recognizance 
acknowledged before the Chancellor, and entered upon the 
close rolls. On applications for writs of execution by reason 

liam de la Pole, a feoffee to uses, was compellecl to reconvey his lordship's 
estates. This might possibly have proceeded on the ground of parliamentary 
privilege. I believe the records of the Court of Chancery, although they 
prove the exercise of the equitable jurisdiction of the Chancellor much further 
back, do not show any example so early of compelling the execution of a trust. 
R. P. 9 H. 5. 


of the alleged forfeiture of the recognizance, the Chancellor 
was of course bound to hear both parties, and to make such 
decree between them as justice required. 
Fees, &c. For the sake of fees to the Chancellor and his officers, 

great encouragement was given to suitors resorting to Chan- 
cery, and from the distinguished ability of the men presiding 
there, who were assisted by the Master of the Rolls and the 
other masters, ecclesiastics well skilled in the civil law, 
the business was more systematically and effectively trans- 
acted than before the Council, which has ever been a tribunal 
without fixity in its members or regularity in its proceedings. 
These various causes combining, the equitable jurisdiction 
of the Council fell into desuetude, like that of the Parlia- 
ment ; and in the Court of Chancery that admirable system 
of equity which we boast of in England, and which with our 
common law has been adopted by our brethren in America, 
was gradually developed and matured. 

It is thus a great mistake to suppose that the clerical 
expedient of a conveyance to uses, for the purpose of evading 
the statutes of mortmain, gave rise to the equitable juris- 
diction of the Chancellor, or that he at first interfered only 
in cases of trust binding on the conscience. From the 
researches of the Record Commissioners it appears that his 
equitable jurisdiction was well established long anterior to 
the time when such cases came before him, and that the 
earliest applications to- him for relief were from those who 
suffered by direct violence and the combinations of great men, 
against which they were unable to gain redress by the or- 
dinary process of law.* Then followed cases in which it 
was necessary to correct the absurdities of the common-law 
judges, who in their own courts laid down rules utterly sub- 
versive of justice t, or in which, from multiplicity of 
parties, disability to sue, intricacy of accounts, suppression 
of documents, facts being exclusively in the knowledge of 

A bill in Chancery still alleges " combination and confederacy," which, 

if specially charged, ought to be denied by the answer. 

t As, for example, that where a claim was founded on a deed detained in 
the hands of another, no action could be maintained ; that if a deed of grant 
were lost, the thing granted was lost with it ; and that a man was liable to pay 
money due by deed twice over, if on payment he had omitted to take an ac- 
quittance under seal. 


the adverse party, the importance of specific relief, and the 
urgent necessity for preventing irremediable damage to pro- 
perty, trial by jury and common-law process afforded no 
adequate remedy. The maxim of the common-law judges, 
that if a man accepted the conveyance of land as a trustee, 
they could only look to the legal estate, and they would allow 
him to enjoy it discharged of the trust, was not the earliest, 
nor for a long time the most usual, ground for seeking relief 
in equity.* 

I must likewise observe, that there was not by any means Harmony 
the constant struggle between the two iurisdictions of com- ^^*"'een 

o ^ ^ ^ ^ common 

mon law and equity which is generally supposed. At times, law and 
from personal enmity, from vanity, from love of power, and ^l'"*^- 
from love of profit. Chancellors and Chief Justices came into 
unseemly collision, and in this warfare they resorted un- 
sparingly to the artillery of injunctions, attachments, writs 
of habeas corpus, indictments, and praemunires. But, gene- 
rally speaking, the common-law judges co-operated har- 
moniously with the Chancellor, and recognised the distinction 
between what might fitly be done in a court of law and in 
a court of equity. He sometimes consulted them before 
issuing a subpoena to commence the suit. In hearing causes, 
if not satisfied with the advice of the Master of the Rolls 
and the Masters in Chancery (his ordinary council), he was 
from the earliest times in the habit of calling in the assistance 
of some of them ; and questions of extraordinary importance 
he adjourned into the Exchequer Chamber, that he might 
have the opinion of all the twelve, f 

For the benefit of the general reader I may here be per- 
mitted to make a few observations upon the Chancellor's 
supposed prcetorian power, or nobile officium. It is a common 
opinion that English equity consists in the judge acting upon 

* Even so late as the reign of Charles II. it was vexata questio whether an 
action on the case could be maintained by cestuique trust against the trustee. 
See Barnardiston v. Soame, 7 St. Tr. 443. ; 1 Vernon, ,344. n. 

f From this practice the decrees ran, Per curiam Cancellaria et omnes Justitia- 
rios ; sometimes, Per decretum Cancellarii ex assensu omnium Justitiarium ac aliorum 
tie Concilii Domini Regis prcesentium. Again, Idea consideratum est per curiam 
de assensu Johannis Fortescue, Capitalis Justitiurii Domini Reyis ad phicita tenenda, 
et diversorum aliorum Justitiariorum el servicntiu/n ad legem in curice prasentium. 
Seld, Off. Lord. Ch. 3. 


his own notions of what is right, always softening the rigour 
of the common law when he disapproves of it, and dispens- 
ing with the application to particular cases of common-law 
rules allowed to be generally wise, so that he may reach 
justice according to the circumstances of each particular 
case, in pursuance of the suggestion of Lord Bacon, 
" Habeant Curiae Praetorias potestatem tam subveniendi 
contra rigorem legis quam supplendi defectum legis."* But 
with us there is no scope for judicial caprice in a court of 
equity more than elsewhere. Our equitable system has 
chiefly arisen from supplying the defects of the common 
law, by giving a remedy in classes of cases for which the 
common law had provided none, and from a universal disre- 
gard by the equity judge of certain absurd rules of the com- 
mon law, which he considers inapplicable to the whole cate- 
gory to which the individual case under judgment belongs, f 
In former times unconscientious Chancellors, talking perpe- 
tually of their conscience, have decided in a very arbitrary 
manner, and have exposed their jurisdiction to much odium 
and many sarcasms. \ But the preference of individual opinion 
to rules and precedents has long ceased : *' the doctrine of 
the court" is to be diligently found out and strictly followed; 
and the Chancellor sitting in equity is only to be considered 
a magistrate, to whose tribunal are assigned certain portions 
of forensic business, to which he is to apply a well-defined 
system of jurisprudence, being under the control of fixed 
maxims and prior authorities, as much as the judges of the 
courts of common law. He decides " secundum arbitrium 
boni viri;" but when it is asked, " Vir bonus est quis?" 

* De Augmentis Sclent. Iviii. ; Aphor. 35. 

f Notwithstanding the rudeness and defects of the common Jaw, we should 
ever remember its favour to personal liberty, and its admirable machinery for- 
separating law and fact, and assigning each to a distinct tribunal ; wherein it 
excels all other systems of jurisprudence which have appeared. We should 
likewise bear in mind that it offered many specific remedies, which, after the 
improvement of equitable jurisdiction, fell into desuetude. 

X The most celebrated is the saying of Selden : " Equity is a roguish thing : 
for law we have a measure. Equity is according to the conscience of him 
who is Chancellor, and as that is larger or narrower, so is equity. It is all one 
as if they should make the standard for the measure we call a foot ' a chan- 
cellor's foot.' What an uncertain measure would this be? One chancellor 
ha-s a long foot ; another, a short foot ; a third, an indifferent foot : it is the same 
thing in the chancellor's conscience" Tahle Talk. 


the answer is, " Qui consulta patrura, qui leges juraque 
servat." * 

There was long great doubt and difficulty with respect Appeal 
to the mode of reviewing the decrees of the Lord Chan- cdior^as^"' 
cellor on the equity side of the court ; but, after a violent equity 
parliamentary struggle, it was at last settled, in the reign of ^" ^^' 
Charles II., that an appeal lies from them to the House of 

There are other judicial functions to be exercised by the Habeas 
Chancellor in his own court, which I ought to notice. In <^orpus and 

. . . prolubi- 

conjunction with the common-law judges, he is a guardian tions. 
of personal liberty ; and any one unlawfully imprisoned is 
entitled to apply to him for a writ of habeas CORPUS, either 
in term or in vacation, f So the Chancellor may at any time 
grant Prohibitions to restrain inferior courts from ex- 
ceeding their jurisdiction, though he listens with reluctance 
to such motions when they may be made to the King's Bench, 
whose habits are better adapted to this sort of business. } 

The Chancellor has an exclusive authority to restrain a Ne exeat 
party from leaving the kingdom, where it appears that he is ""^sno- 
purposely withdrawing himself from the jurisdiction of the 
court, to the disappointment of honest creditors. This is 
effected by the writ " ne exeat regno^'' issuing under the great 
seal ; a high prerogative remedy, which, as it affects per- 
sonal liberty, is granted with great circumspection, particu- 
larly where foreigners are concerned. 

It is the province of the Chancellor to issue a writ under Jurisdic- 
the Great Seal ^"de coronatore eligendo,^'' directed to the sheriff. Coroners. 

* " The discretion of a judge is the law of tyrants : it is always unknown ; 
it is different in different men ; it is casual, and depends upon constitution, 
temper, and passion. In the best, it is oftentimes caprice ; in the worst it 
is every vice, folly, and passion, to which human nature is liable." Lord 

See 2 Peer Wms. 752. ; 1 Bl. Com. 47. ; Story's Equity, i. 30. ; Haddocks' 
Chancery, i. 29. ; Correspondence between Lord Hardwicke and Lord Kames ; 
Tytler's Life of Lord Kames, 230. ; Cooper's Letters ; Sur la Cour de la 
Chancellerie ; Abuses and Remedies of Chancery, by George Norbury ; Harg. 
I^aw Tracts ; and two pieces concerning Suits in Chancery by Subpoena, temp. 
H. VIII., likewise in Harg. Law Tracts, and are both exceedingly curious. 

f Crawley's Case, 2 Swanst. 6. 

X Per Lord Redesdale, 2 Sch. & Lef. 136. See 4 Inst. 81. ; 2 P. Wms. 202. 

De Carriere v. Calonne, 4 Vess. 577. See Beames' Writ Ne exeat regnOy 
and Beames' Chancery Orders, p. 39. 


and requiring the freeholders of the county to choose a 
coroner.* He also decides in the Court of Chancery ques- 
tions arising as to the validity of the election, f And upon 
complaint against a coroner for neglect of duty, or upon an 
allegation of incapacity, as from being confined in prison, 
or of incompetency, as from mental derangement or habits 
of extreme intemperance, the Chancellor may remove him 
from his office. | 
Criminal Anciently the Chancellor took cognizance of riots and 

tim. "^ conspiracies, upon applications for surety of the peace ; but 
this criminal jurisdiction has been long obsolete, although 
articles of the peace still may, and sometimes are, exhibited 
before him. 
Bank- The Chancellor has a most important jurisdiction in 

r*iptcy. Bankruptcy^ which arose partly from the commissions for 
distributing the effects of insolvent traders being under the 
Great Seal, and partly from the powers directly given to him 
by act of parliament. The proceeding is here generally by 
Petition, in which case there is no appeal ; but on questions 
of difficulty the Court makes its equitable machinery ancillary 
to this summary jurisdiction ; and, a Bill being filed, the 
matter may be carried to the House of Lords. The weight 
of this branch of business, which was at one time nearly 
overwhelming, has been greatly lightened by the appoint- 
ment of permanent Commissioners and the Court of Review ; 
but the Chancellor still retains a general superintendence over 
Lunacy. It has bccu a common opinion that the Chancellor has 

no jurisdiction whatever in Lunacy by virtue of his office, 
and that this jurisdiction is entirely derived from a special 
authority under the royal sign manual, which might be con- 
ferred on any one else. But I clearly apprehend that a com- 
mission " de idiota^'' or " de lunatico inquirendo,'"' would issue 
at common law from the Court of Chanceiy under the Great 

* F. N. B. 163. ; 1 Black. 347. 

t Re Coroner Co. Stafford, 2 Russ. 475. 

\ Ex parte Parnell, 1 Jac. & W. 451.; Ex parte Pasley, 3 Drur. & War. 34. 

Tunnicliffe v. Tunnicliffe, a.d. 1823 ; Williams v. Williams, a.d. 1841. 


Sealj and that the Lord Chancellor, without any special dele- 
gation for this purpose, would have authority to control the 
execution of it, and to make orders for that purpose. The 
sign manual takes its origin from stat. 17 Edw. 2. c. 9., by 
which the rents and profits of the estates of idiots are given 
to the Crown, and form part of the royal revenue. During 
the existence of the Court of Wards and Liveries, the ma- 
nagement of the estates of idiots and lunatics was intrusted 
to it, and since has been delegated to the Chancellor. Being 
a fiscal matter, the warrant is countersigned by the Lord 
High Treasurer, or Lords Commissioners of the Treasury.* 

* I was obliged to investigate this matter during the short time when I had 
the honour to hold the great seal of Ireland. By an oversight, the usual war- 
rant under the sign manual respecting lunatics had not in the first instance been 
delivered to me, but I found that I might safely make some orders in lunacy 
before I received it. On such matters, perhaps, the appeal ought to be to the 
House of Lords, although the appeal respecting others comprehended in the 
special delegation be to the sovereign in council. See 3 Bl. Com. 48. 427. ; 
Story's Equity, ii. 542. ; In Re Fitzgerald, 2 Sch. & Lef. 432. 151. 

As the form of the warrant throws some light upon the subject, and is 
nowhere to be found in print, I subjoin a copy of that which was addressed to 
me : 
" Victoria R. 

" Right trusty and wellbeloved councillor, We greet you well. Whereas 
it belongeth unto us in right of our royal prerogative to have the custody of 
idiots, and their estates, in that part of our United Kingdom called Ireland, 
and to take the profits thereof to our own use : And whereas such idiots and 
lunatics, and their estates, since the erecting of the Court of Wards and Liveries, 
*have been in rule, order, and government of that court, and upon the disuse 
thereof are now in our immediate care, commitment, and dispose, which doth 
occasion multiplicity of suitors and addresses to our own person : We there- 
fore, for the ease of ourself, and of the said suitors, from the charge of attendance, 
and considering that the writs of inquiry of idiots and lunatics are to issue out 
of the Queen's Court of Chancery of that part of our said United Kingdom 
called Ireland, and the inquisitions thereupon taken and found are returnable in 
that court, have thought fit to intrust you with the care and commitment of the 
custody of the said idiots and lunatics, and their estates. And we do by these 
presents give and grant unto you full power and authority, without expecting 
any further special warrant from us, from time to time to give orders and 
warrants for the preparing of grants and custody of such idiots and lunatics, 
and their estates, as are or shall be found by inquisition thereof taken or to be 
taken, and returnable in our said High Court of Chancery; and thereupon to 
make and pass grants and commitments, under our Great Seal of that part of 
our United Kingdom called Ireland, of the custodies of all and every such idiots 
and lunatics, and their estates, to such person or persons, suitors in that behalf, 
as according to the rules of law and the use and practice in those and the like 
causes you shall judge meet for that trust, the said grants and commitments to 
be made in such manner and form as hath been heretofore used and accustomed, 
and to contain such apt and convenient covenants, provisions, and agreements, 
on the parts of the committees and grantees to be performed, and such security 
to be by them given as shall be requisite and needful. And for so doing, 


So much may for the present suffice respecting the forensic 
character of the Lord Chancellor ; and I now proceed to give 
a rapid sketch of his other functions. 
Chancellor It is Said by Selden that the Chancellor is a privy coun- 
pTiv'""^""' c'^lor by virtue of his office ; but this can only mean that 
Councillor, he is entitled to oiFer the king advice, as any peer may do ; 
not that by the delivery of the Great Seal to him he is in- 
cidentally constituted a member of the Privy Council, with 
the powers lawfully belonging to the office of a privy coun- 
cillor ; for no one can sit in the Privy Council who is not by 
the special command of the Sovereign appointed a member of 
it ; and, as far back as can be traced, the Lord Chancellors 
who were not privy councillors previous to their elevation 
have been sworn of the Privy Council, like other great officers 
of state."* 
Speaker of He certainly is ex officio Prolocutor or Speaker of the 
House of Lords, whether he be a peer or not. Without 
any commission or express authority for the purpose, he 
always presides there when present. This privilege is said 
to belong to him by prescription, and he has enjoyed it many 
centuries, although in the reigns of Richard I., John, and 
Henry III. (within time of legal memory) it was exercised 
by the Chief Justiciar. The Crown may by commission 
name others to preside in the House of Lords in the absence 
of the Chancellor ; and, no speaker appointed by the Crown 
being present, the Lords of their own authority may choose 
one of themselves to act as speaker, which they now often 
do in hearing appeals : but all these speakers are imme- 
diately superseded when the Chancellor enters the House,! 

this shall be your wyrant. Given at our palace at Buckingham House, this 
16th day of July, 1841. In the fifth year of our reign. 

By Her Majesty's command. 
" To our right trusty and wellbeloved councillor "j W. Cowper. 

John Baron Campbell, our Chancellor of that I J. Baring. 

part of our United Kingdom called Ireland. J H. Tufnell. 

" Entered at the Signet OfBce, the 16th day of July, 1841. 

" Bridges Tavlor, Deputy." 
* See Selden's Office of Lord Chancellor, 3. It has often been said that 
the Lord Mayor of London is a privy councillor by virtue of his office, but for 
this there is not the slightest pretence, although he is styled "right honour- 
able," and on a deniise of the Crown joins with the aldermen and other notables 
in recognising the title of the new sovereign. 

t Lord Chief Baron Gilbert suggests that the Chancellor sits on the woolsack 


By 25 Edw. III. c. 2., to slay him in the execution of his Protection 
oflfice is high treason. By 31 Hen.YIII. c. 10., he has prece- dence.'^^'^^ 
dence above all temporal peers, except the king's sons, nephews, 
and grandsons, whether he be a peer or a commoner. If he 
be a peer, he ought regularly to be placed at the top of the 
dukes' bench, on the left of the throne ; and if a commoner, 
upon " the uppermost sack in the parliament chamber, called 
the Lord Chancellor's woolsack."* For convenience, here he 
generally sits, though a peer, and here he puts the question, 
and acts as prolocutor ; but this place is not considered within 
the House, and when he is to join in debate as a peer, he 
leaves the woolsack, and stands in front of his proper seat, at 
the top of the dukes' bench. 

If he be a commoner, notwithstanding a resolution of Chancellor 
the House that he is to be proceeded against for any miscon- 

or voice in 

duct as if he were a peer, he has neither vote nor deliberative Lords un- 
voice f, and he can only put the question, and communicate ^^''^P^^''' 
the resolutions of the House according to the directions he 
receives. | 

From very early times the Chancellor was usually employed Anciently 

on the meeting of a new parliament to address the two Houses l^yJ^^^^scs 

in the presence of the King, and to explain the causes of at meeting 

their being summoned, although this was in rare instances men^ '^" 

as steward of the King's Court Baron, and draws an ingenious but fanciful 
parallel between the Court Baron of a manor and the House of Lords. Gilb. 
Ev. 42. By an old standing order of tlie House of Lords, his constant attend- 
ance there is required. 

* There are woolsacks for the Judges and other assessors, as well as for the 
Lord Chancellor. They are said to have been introduced into the House of 
Lords as a compliment to the staple manufacture of the realm ; but I believe ' 
that in the rude simplicity of early times a sack of wool was frequently used 
as a sofa when the Judges sat on a hard wooden bench, and the advocates 
stood behind a rough wooden rail, called the bar. 

f From the manner in which the journals are kept, it might have been in- 
ferred that the Chancellor, or Keeper of the Great Seal, though a commoner, 
was considered a member of the House. Thus, in the times of Sir Nicholas 
Bacon, his presence is recorded as if he were a peer, under the designation of 
" Custos Mag. Sig. ;" and the same entries continued to be made with respect 
to Sir N. Wright and Sir R. Henley. So, on the 22d Nov. 1830, there is an 
entry in the list of peers present, " Henricus Brovgham Cancellarius," but he 
had no right to debate and vote till the following day, when the entry of his 
name and office appears in the same place, " Dominus Brougham et Vaux 

;j: I>ord Keeper Henley, till raised to the peerage, used to complain bitterly 
of being obliged to put the question for the reversal of his own decrees, without 
being permitted to say a word in support of them. 

VOL. I. C 



Trial of 
peers, and 

Star Chaiii' 

done by the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and by other 

Whether peer or commoner, the Chancellor is not, like the 
Speaker of the Commons, moderator of the proceedings of 
the House in which he seems to preside ; he is not addressed 
in debate ; he does not name the peer who is to be heard ; 
he is not appealed to as an authority on points of order ; and 
he may cheer the sentiments expressed by his colleagues in 
the ministry, f 

On the trial of a peer for treason or felony, either before 
the House of Lords or before selected peers Avhen parliament 
is not sitting, the presidentship of the Lord Chancellor is 
suspended, and a Lord High Steward is specially appointed 
pro hac vice by the Crown. This arose from the Lord Chan- 
cellor, in early times, being almost always an ecclesiastic, 
who could not meddle in matters of blood. Since the Chan- 
cellor has been a layman, he has generally been nominated 
Lord High Steward ; but then he becomes *' His Grace," and 
presides in a different capacity. % On the impeachment of com- 
moners (which can only be for high crimes and misdemeanors ) 
he presides as in the ordinary business of the House. 

The Chancellor was once a most important criminal judge, 
by ruling the Court of Star Chamber. Here he alone had 
a right to speak with his hat on ; and if the councillors pre- 
sent were equally divided, he claimed a double vote, whether 
for acquitting or convicting. || While this arbitrary tribunal 
flourished in the plenitude of its power under the Tudors and 
Stuarts, with a view to proceedings here rather than in the 
Court of Chancery was the Great Seal often disposed of ; 
but since the abolition of the Star Chamber, the Chancellor 

See Elsynge on Parliaments, p. 137. 

t This arises from a proper distrust of a Speaker holding his office during 
the pleasure of the Crown, and necessarily an active political partisan ; but most 
inconvenient consequences follow from there being no moderator in an assembly 
which is supposed to be the most august, but is probably the most disorderly 
in the world. 

% On the late trial of the Earl of Cardigan, Lord Denman was appointed 
and acted as Lord High Steward, on account of the temporary illness of Lord 
Chancellor Cottenham. 

So settled in Fitzharris's case, Temp. Car. II. See Lives of Shaftesbury 
and North. ' 

II Hudson's Star Chamber, 2 Coll. Jur. 31. ; 4 Inst. 63. 



has been released from taking any part in criminal proceed- 
ings, unless on the rare occasions of impeachments, and the 
trials of peers.* 

Still he presides at "the trial of the Pyx," when a jury Trial of the 
of goldsmiths determine whether new coinages of gold and ^^' 
silver be of the standard weight and fineness, and the Master 
of the Mint be entitled to his quietus. 

Since the institution of justices of the peace in the reign Chancellor 
of Edward III., instead of the conservators of the peace for- fPP?i"** 

' ^ justices of 

merly elected by the people, to the Lord Chancellor has peace, 
belonged the power of appointing and removing them 
throughout the kingdom, f Upon this important and deli- 
cate subject, he generally takes the advice of the Lord Lieu- 
tenant, or Gustos Rotulorum, in each county ; but when any 
extraordinary case arises, it is his duty, and his practice, to 
act upon his own judgment. 

He nominates, by his own authority, to many important Tatronage. 
offices connected with the administration of justice, and he is 
by usage the adviser of the Crown in the appointment to 
others still more important, including the Puisne Judges in 
the three superior courts in Westminster Hall|, and the 
Masters in Chancery. 

* Various statutes, now repealed, delegated to the Chancellor functions in aid 
of the criminal law. Thus by 2 H. 5. st. 1 . c. 29. he was enabled to issue 
writs of proclamation in cases of bloodslied ; and by S5 H. 6. c. 1 . the like 
power was granted to him for the apprehension of fugitive servants embezzling 
the goods of their masters, to be exercised with the advice of the Chief Justice 
of either Bench, or of the Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Till the late new 
modelling of the courts of error, he likewise, by 31 E. I. c. 12., sat in the 
Exchequer Chamber, to decide wTits of error from the Court of Exchequer. 
He is now, ex officio, a member of the Central Criminal Court, and of the 
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council ; but he is not expected to attend 
in the former, and in the latter only in cases of great difficulty. Till the acces- 
sion of the present Queen, the Chancellor had a most painful duty to perform, 
in advising on the report of the Recorder of London in what cases the law 
should be allowed to take its course ; but convictions in the metropolis are 
now left as those at the Assizes with the Judges and the Secretary of State. 
7 W. 4. & 1 Vic. c. 77. 

t See 1 Ed. 3. st. 2. c. 16. ; 28 Hen. 6. c. 11. 

% Lord Eldon likewise claimed the patronage of the office of Chief Baron, 
as belonging to the Great Seal ; but this, since the Court of Exchequer was re- 
formed, has been supposed to belong to the Prime Minister, of course with 
the concurrence of the Cabinet and the Sovereign. 

By 3&4 W. 4. c. 94. s 16., Masters in Chancery are now appointed by 
letters patent under the Great Seal ; but the nature of the office remains un- 
changed. When, as a little check on cancellarian favouritism, the mode of 
appointing a Master in Chancery was changed from the Chancellor putting on 





Office of 
" Keeper of 
the Great 

He is patron of all the king's livings of the value of 20Z. 
and under, in the king's books.* These he was anciently 
obliged to bestow upon the clerks in Chancery, King's Bench, 
Common Pleas, and Exchequer, who were all in orders ; but 
he can now dispose of them according to his notions of what 
is due to religion, friendship, or party. 

He is visitor of all colleges and hospitals of royal found- 
ation ; and representing the Sovereign as parens patria, he 
has the general superintendence of all charitable uses, and is 
the guardian of all infants who stand in need of his pro- 

The custody of the royal conscience may possibly be con- 
sidered one of the obsolete functions of the Chancellor, for 
he is no longer a casuist for the Sovereign as when priest, 
chaplain, and confessor ; and it is now merely his duty, like 
other sworn counsellors, to give honest advice, for which he 
is responsible in parliament. I may observe, however, that 
the Chancellor has in all ages been an important adviser of 
the Crown in matters of state as well as a great magistrate. 
The Chancellor in former times was frequently prime 
minister ; and although the Earl of Clarendon in the reign 
of Charles II. is the last who ostensibly filled this situation, 
his successors have always been members of the Cabinet, and 
have often taken a leading part, for good or for evil, in 
directing the national councils. 

There is a distinction which it may be convenient that 
I should explain between the title of " Chancellor" and 
" Keeper of the Great Seal." As we have seen, there was 
in very early times always an officer called "the Chancellor," 
Kar' ^o')(r)v, or " King's Chancellor," to distinguish him from 
the Chancellors of bishops or of Counties Palatine. He 
generally was intrusted with the personal custody of the 
Great Seal ; but occasionally while there was a Chancellor 
the seal was delivered to another person who was called 
" Custos sigilli," or " Vicecancellarius," and did all the duties 

his hat in Court to a nomination by the Crown, it was expressly stated that 
the patronage was to continue with the Chancellor, and not to be transferred to 
the Prime Minister. 

The limit used to be twenty marks ; but since the new vnlor beneficiorum in 
the time of Henry VUl. pounds are supposed to have been substituted (or marks. 


of the office connected with the sealing of writs and grants, 
and the administration of justice, accounting for all fees and 
perquisites to the Chancellor. In the 28th of Henry III. a 
statute passed to check this practice : '- Si rex abstulerit 
sigillum a Cancellario, quicquid fuerit interim sigillatum 
irritum habeatur." However, the attempt to prevent such a 
deputation soon failed. Chancellors going upon embassies, 
or visiting their dioceses, or laid up by long sickness, could 
not themselves use the seal, and were unwilling to surrender 
the office to a rival, from whom there might have been great 
difficulty in recovering it when he had tasted its sweets. 
Wherefore, in defiance of the law, on all such occasions 
while they retained the favour of the Sovereign, they handed 
over the seal to a " lieu-tenant'''' from whom they could at 
any time demand it back. By-and-by, between the death, 
resignation, or removal of one Chancellor and the appointment 
of another, the Great Seal, instead of remaining in the personal 
custody of the Sovereign, was sometimes intrusted to a 
temporary keeper, either with limited authority (as only to 
seal writs), or with all the powers, though not with the rank, 
of Chancellor. At last, the practice grew up of occasionally 
appointing a person to hold the Great Seal with the title of 
" Keeper," where it was meant that he should permanently 
hold it in his own right, and discharge all the duties belong- 
ing to it. Queen Elizabeth, ever sparing in the conferring 
of dignities, having given the Great Seal with the title of 
"Keeper" to Sir Nicholas Bacon, objections were made to 
the legality of some of his acts, and to obviate these, a 
statute was passed * declaring that " the Lord Keeper of the 
Great Seal for the time being shall have the same place, 
pre-eminence, and jurisdiction as the Lord Chancellor of 
England." Since then there of course never have been a 
Chancellor and Keeper of the Great Seal concurrently, and ' 
the only difference between the two titles is, that the one 
is more sounding than the other, and is regarded as a higher 
mark of royal favour. During the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries there were various instances of the Great Seal 
being delivered to a " Lord Keeper," who not rarely, for 

5 Eliz. c. 18. 
c 3 



sioners of 

title of 
Lord Chan- 

:Mode of 

acceptable service, has been raised to the dignity of " Lord 
Chancellor;" but since the commencement of the reign of 
George III., the title of "Lord Chancellor" has always been 
conferred in the first instance with the Great Seal, and 
"Lord Keepers" probably will be seen no more. 

We have still to treat of "Lords Commissioners of the Great 
Seal," whom it may continue convenient to appoint. From 
very early times there had been a custom of occasionally 
giving the Great Seal into the joint custody of several pei-sons, 
who held it under the Chancellor, or while the office was 
vacant. Immediately after the Revolution, in 1689, Serjeant 
Maynard and two other lawyers were appointed by a com- 
mission under the Great Seal to execute the office of Lord 
Chancellor. Doubts were started as to their powers and 
precedence, which gave rise to the statute 1 W. & M. c. 21., 
enacting "that commissioners so appointed should have all 
the authority of Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper, one of 
them being empowered to hear interlocutory motions, and 
the presence of two being required at the pronouncing of a 
decree or affixing the Great Seal to any instrument; the 
commissioners to rank next after peers and the Speaker of 
the House of Commons." 

On the union with Scotland, the Chancellor was designated 
" Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain," and now his 
proper title is " Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and 
Ireland," the Great Seal which he holds testifying the will 
of the Sovereign as to acts which concern the whole empire, 
although there are certain patents confined in their operation 
to Scotland and Ireland respectively, which still pass under 
the separate Great Seals appropriated to those divisions of the 
United Kingdom.* 

The appointment to the office of Lord Chancellor in very 
remote times was by patent or writ of Privy Seal, or by sus- 

By Art. xxiv. of the union with Scotland, it is provided that there shall be 
one Great Seal for the United Kingdom. There is no such provision in the 
Act for the union with Ireland ; and s. S. of 39 & 40 G. 3. e. 67. provides that 
the Great Seal of Ireland may continue to be used as theretofore. But patents 
of peerage of the United Kingdom, treaties with foreign states, and other imperial 
acts, are under the seal held by our Lord Chancellor, who is therefore, in some 
sense, the Chancellor of the empire, although he has no judicial jurisdiction be- 
yond the realm of England. 


pending the Great Seal by a chain round his neok *, but for 
many ages the Sovereign has conferred the office by simply 
delivering the Great Seal to the person who is to hold it, 
verbally addressing him by the title which he is to bear. He 
then instantly takes the oaths f, and is clothed with all the 
authority of the office, although usually, before entering upon 
the public exercise of it, he has been installed in it with great 
pomp and solemnity. 

The proper tenure of the office is during pleasure, and it Tenure of 
is determined by the voluntary surrender of the Great Seal 
into the hands of the Sovereign, or by his demanding it in 
person, or sending a messenger for it with a warrant under 
the Privy Seal or Sign Manual. There have been grants of 
the office of Chancellor for life and for a time certain, but 
these Lord Coke pronounces to be illegal and void ; and, while 
its political functions remain, the person holding it must 
necessarily be removable with the other members of the ad- 
ministration to which he belongs. 

I must now make a few observations respecting the Great Mode of 
Seal and the mode of applying it. It is considered the em- Great 
blem of sovereignty, the clavis regni, the only instrument Seal, 
by which on solemn occasions the will of the Sovereign can 
be expressed. I Absolute faith is universally given to every 
document purporting to be under the Great Seal, as having 
been duly sealed with it by the authority of the Sovereign. 

* " Forma cancellarium constituendi, regnante Henrico Seeundo, fuit ap- 
pendendo magnum Anglia; sigillum ad collum concellarii electi." See 4 Inst. 
87. ; Camden, p. 131. 

t The oath of office consists of six parts : " 1. That well and truly he 
shall serve our Sovereign Lord the King and his people in the office of Chan- 
cellor. 2. That he shall do right to all manner of people, poor and rich, after 
the laws and usages of the realm. 3. Tliat he shall truly counsel the King, 
and his counsel he shall layne ' and keep. 4. That he shall not know nor suffer 
the hurt or disheriting of the King, or that the rights of the Crown be decreased 
by any means as far as he may let it. 5. If he may not let it, he shall make 
it clearly and expressly to be known to the King, with his true advice and coun-*' 
sel. 6. And that he shall do and purchase the King's profit in all that he 
reasonably may, as God him help." 4 Inst. 88. 

\ 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown, ch. xvi. 

The most striking illustration of this maxim is given by the course pur- 
sued by Parliament in 1788 and 1811, when from the mental alienation of 
George III., the royal authority was completely in abeyance. Commissions, 

' An old Norman word signifying to conceal. 

c 4 


The law, therefore, takes anxious precautions to guard 
af'ainst any abuse of it. To counterfeit the Great Seal is 
high treason*, and there are only certain modes in which the 
genuine Great Seal can be lawfully used. 

Letters patent ought always to state the authority under 
which they have passed the Great Seal. In early times 
we find such notices as these : " By the king himself," By 
the king himself and all the council," " By the petition of 
the council," " By the king himself and the great council," 
" By the king and council in full parliament," " By letters 
of the king himself of the signet," " By petition in parlia- 
ment," " By the king's own word of mouth." 

To guard against grants improperly passing under the 
Great Seal, an ordinance was made in 14431, requiring that 
the Chancellor should not fix the Great Seal to a grant with- 
out authority under the Privy Seal ; but this was not by 
any means rigorously observed. Thus, in 1447, Henry VI. 
having pardoned a person who had been convicted of high 
treason, a letter sealed with "the signet of the eagle" was 
sent to the Chancellor, commanding him to make out a 
pardon to him under the Great Seal, with this P. S., " when 
the Privy Scale shall come into the countrey, wee shall sende 
you your suffycient warrant in this behalf." 
Negotia- Another instance of this king's disregard of the ofl&cial forms 

marriage intended to prevent the Crown acting without the sanction 
ofHcn.VL of its advisers we have in the negotiation of his marriage. 
Great Seal. In 1442 instructions wei-e issued under the Great Seal em- 
powering ambassadors therein named to treat for an alliance 
with the eldest daughter of the Count of Armagnac, but the 
King afterwards wished to " set it general," that he might 
have the choice of any one of the Count's daughters. Instead 
of causing so important a variation from the original instruc- 
tions to be executed in a proper manner under the Great Seal, 
it was merely expressed in a private letter from the King to the 

without any royal warrant, were produced under the Great Seal for opening 
parliament and giving the royal assent to the Regency Bill, and in point of 
law they were supposed to express the deliberate will of him who in point of 
fact was unconscious of these proceedings. Pari. Hist. vol. xxvii. 1162. ; Pari. 
Dib. vol. xviii. 830. 1102. 

25 Ed. ;j. t 25 Hen, 6. 


ambassadors under " the signet of the eagle ;" the King thus 
trying to excuse the irregularity " And forasmuch as ye 
have none instructions of this form but this only which pro- 
ceedeth of our own motion, desiring therefore that ye, not- 
withstanding all other, do the execution thereof, we have 
signed this letter of our own hand, the which as yet, wot 
well, we be not much accustomed for to do in other case." 
The ambassadors declined to act upon that letter, and in- 
formed the King that, " according to their simple wits," it 
had altogether superseded their commission. They therefore 
prayed for new powers ; and another commission was " issued 
under the Great Seal, which expressly authorised them to 
select any one of the Count's daughters for consort to His 
Majesty." * 

On many occasions King Edward IV. enforced directions in Use of 
letters to the Chancellor for using the Great Seal, by adding ^' gj^'^^li 
his commands in his own handwriting. Thus Kirkham, the IV. 
Master of the Rolls, while he had the custody of the Great 
Seal, having hesitated to make out letters of safe conduct for 
a Spanish ship without a warrant under the Privy Seal, the 
King ordered a letter to be sent to him under the signet, 
expressing surprise at his non-compliance with the former 
request, and commanding him that, immediately on sight of 
that letter, he should make out and deliver the instrument, 
and that he should afterwards have further warrant if neces- 
sary. " Albeit," the King adds, " our speech to you, us 
thinketh, Avas sufficient warrant." And at the bottom he 
wrote, with his own hand, " Sir, we will the premises be 
sped without delay." f 

Some riots having occurred at Bristol, the Chancellor was 
ordered by a letter signed by the King, and sealed with the 
signet, to make a commission for the trial of the oiFenders ; 
and Edward wrote on it with his own hand, " Cosyn, yff ye* 
thynke ye schall have a Warrant, ye may have on made in 
dew forme ; We pray you hyt fayle not." X 

* Journal of Bishop Beckington, p. 6. 
f Ex orig. in Turr. Lond. 

I Warrant here evidently means letters of Privy Seal, without which the 
King doubted wlietlier his order would he obeyed. 



Times of 
Tudors and 

Use of 
Grcnt Seal 
since the 
of 16S8. 

Orif^in of 
of" Tl.c 

In 1479 the Chancellor was ordered to grant letters patent 
of a corody to one of the King's servants on his petition 
signed by the King, who wrote under it, " My Lord Chan- 
seler, AVee praye you spede thys Bille, and take hyt for your 

Towards the end of his reign Edward directed a writ for 
an inquisition to be made out for the benefit of his " Lady 
Mother " by a letter to the Chancellor, concluding thus : 
" This we wol you speed in any wise, as our trust is in you ; " 
adding, in his own hand, " My Lord Chanseler, thys most be 
don." * 

Much greater irregularities, in this respect, prevailed under 
the Tudors and the Stuarts; and the practice became not 
very uncommon for the Sovereign, where an instrument of 
doubtful legality was to pass, to affix the Great Seal to it 
with his own hand. 

Since the Revolution of 1688, when the principles of re- 
sponsible government were fully established, the Great Seal 
could only be lawfully used by a Lord Chancellor, Lord 
Keeper, or Lords' Commissioners ; and unless with respect to 
the sealing of writs and commissions of course, for which the 
delivery of the Seal to them is sufficient authority, there 
must be a warrant under the royal sign manual for the pre- 
paration of " a bill " or draught of the proposed patent. 
This, when prepared, is superscribed by the Sovereign, and 
sealed with the Privy Signet in the custody of a secretary 
of state ; then it sometimes immediately passes under the 
Great Seal, in which case it is expressed to be " per ipsum 
regem," " by the king himself ; " but in matters of greater 
moment, the bill, so superscribed and sealed, is carried to the 
keeper of the Pi-ivy Seal, who makes out a writ or warrant 
thereupon to the Chancery, in which last case the patent is 
expressed to be " per breve de privato sigillo," " by writ of 
privy seal."f 

In early times, the king used occasionally to deliver to the 
Chancellor several seals of diiferent materials, as one of gold 

* Ex orig. in Turr. Lend. 

t See 2 Inst. 551. 555. ; 2 Bl. Com. 347. 



and one of silver, but with the same impression, to be used 
for the same purpose ; and hence we still talk of " the seals 
being in commission," or of a particular individual being " a 
candidate for the seals,^^ meaning the office of Lord Chan- 
cellor ; although, with the exception of the rival great seals 
used by the king and the parliament during the civil war in 
the time of Charles I., there has not been for many cen- 
turies more than one great seal in existence at the same time.* 

When on a new reign, or on a change of the royal arms or Adoption 
style, an order is made by the sovereign in council for using q^.^^^ ^^^ 
a new Great Seal, the old one is publicly broken, and the 
fragments become the fee of the Chancellor, f 

The Close Roll abounds with curious details of the careful Care in 
manner in which this Great Seal was kept in its " white lea- creaTleai! 
thern bag and silken purse " under the private seal of the 
Chancellor. There was a rule that he should not take it out 

* The French expression of " Garde des Sceaux" arose from the Chancellor 
in France always having the custody of a variety of different seals applicable 
to different purposes. In England the same person has had the custody of 
the Great Seal and the Privy Seal ; but^this was contrary to law and usage, the 
one being a check upon the other. 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown, ch. xvi. 

f This being the general rule, an amicable contest, honoris causa, arose upon 
the subject between two of the most distinguished men who have ever held the 
office. Lord Lyndhurst was Chancellor on the accession of William IV., when 
by an order in council a new Great Seal was ordered to be prepared by his 
Majesty's chief engraver ', but when it was finished and an order was made 
for using it*. Lord Brougham was Chancellor. Lord Lyndhurst claimed 
the old Great Seal on the ground that the transaction must be referred 
back to the date of the first order, and that the fruit must therefore be con- 
sidered as having fallen in his time ; while Lord Brougham insisted that the 
point of time to be regarded was the moment when the old Great Seal ceased to 
be the " clavis regni," and that there was no exception to the general rule. The 
matter being submitted to the King as supreme judge in such cases, his Majesty 
equitably adjudged that the old Great Seal should be divided between the two 
noble and learned litigants, and as it consisted of two parts for making an 
impression on both sides of the wax appended to letters patent, one representing 
the Sovereign on the throne, and the other on horseback, the destiny of the two 
parts respectively should be determiued by lot. His Majesty's judgment was 
much applauded, and he graciously ordered each part to be set in a splendid 
silver salver with appropriate devices and ornaments, which be presented to the 
late and present Keeper of his Conscience as a mark of his personal respect for 
them. The ceremony of breaking or " damasking" the old Great Seal consists 
in the Sovereign giving it a gentle blow with a hammer, after which it is sup- 
posed to he broken, and has lost all its virtue. But to counterfeit the old 
Great Seal is treason. So held in the 9th of Edward IV. of counterfeiting the 
Great Seal of Henry VI., although this sovereign had been attainted as an 
usurper. 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown, 177 

4 th August, 1830. 

31st August, 1831. Books of Privy Council. 



ments of 


of the realm ; and this was observed by all Chancellors except 
Cardinal Wolsey, who, in 1521, carried it with him into the 
Low Countries, and sealed writs with it at Calais, a sup- 
posed violation of duty which formed one of the articles of 
his impeachment. Indeed, the better opinion is that the 
Great Seal cannot be used out of the realm even by the 
sovereign. Edward I. having himself affixed the Great Seal 
at Ghent to a confirmation of the charters, the Earls of Nor- 
folk and Hereford objected that this act in a foreign country 
was null, and the charters were again confirmed under the 
Great Seal on the King's return to England.* 

Some readers may feel a curiosity to know whether there 
are any emoluments belonging to the office of Chancellor 
besides the fragments of the old Great Seal when a new one 
is adopted. I shall hereafter present copies of grants of 
salary, and tables of fees and allowances, showing the profits of 
this high officer in different reigns. In the meanwhile it must 
suffice to say, that, on account of his distinguished rank, his 
important duties, his great labours, and the precariousness of 
his tenure, he has generally received the largest remuneration 
of any servant of the crown. In early times this arose mainly 
from presents, and I am afraid from bribes. The deficiency 
was afterwards often supplied by grants of land from the 
crown, which continued down to the time of Lord Somers, 
Then came the system of providing for the Chancellor and 
his family by sinecure places in possession and in reversion. 
Now all these places are abolished, together with aU fees; 
and parliament has provided a liberal, but not excessive, 
fixed salary for the holder of the Great Seal, with a retired 
allowance when he has resigned it to enable him to maintain 
his station, and still to exert himself in the public service as 
a judge in the House of Lords and in the Privy Council. f 

I shall conclude this preliminary discourse with the notice 
of certain forms connected with the Great Seal, to which 
high importance has sometimes been attached, and which 
have given rise to serious controversies. 

A. D. 1298. See Black. Law Tracts, 345. 

t I-ord Loughborough was the first Chancellor who had a retired allowance 
l>y act of parliament. The.present arrangement was made by Lord Brougham. 
tH.-c2& 3 W. 4. c. 122. J' 6 


By a standing order of the House of Lords, the Lord In parlia- 
Chancellor, when addressing their Lordships, is to be un- '^"'* 
covered ; but he is covered when he addresses others, including 
a deputation of the commons. 

When he appears in his official capacity in the presence 
of the Sovereign, or receives messengers of the House of 
Commons at the bar of the House of Lords, lie bears in 
his hand the purse containing (or supposed to contain) the 
Great Seal. On other occasions it is carried by his purse- 
bearer, or lies before him as the emblem of his authority. 
When he goes before a Committee of the House of Commons 
he wears his robes, and is attended by his mace-bearer and 
purse-bearer. Being seated, he puts on his hat to assert the 
dignity of the upper House ; and then, having uncovered, 
gives his evidence. 

Although the Lord Chancellor no longer addresses the 
two Houses at the opening or close of a session of parlia- 
ment, he still is the bearer of the royal speech, which, 
kneeling, he delivers into the hand of the Sovereign. 

When the Prince of Wales is to take the oaths for any When ad- 
purpose in the Court of Chancery, the Lord Chancellor ^th's\^""^ 
meets him as he approaches Westminster Hall, and waits Prince of 
upon him into court. The Prince's Chancellor holds the 
book, and the oaths are read by the Master of the Rolls. 
The Lord Chancellor sits covered while the oaths are ad- 
ministered, the bar standing. The Lord Chancellor then 
waits on the Prince to the end of Westminster Hall.* 

When a younger son of the King is to take the oaths, To King's 
the Lord Chancellor meets him at the steps leading from )'^" 
the Hall to the Court, and conducts him into court. The 
Master of the Rolls reads the oaths, the senior Master in 
Chancery holding the book. His Lordship sits covered, the 
bar standing. He then uncovers, takes the purse in his 
hand, and attends his Royal Highness down the steps into 
the HalLf 

When peers take the oaths before the Lord Chancellor, To peers 



the deputy usher holds the book, while a deputy of the clerk 

* Case of Prince of Wales, afterwards George II. Dickens, xxix. 
j- Case of Duke of Cumberland, IGth June, 1755. Dickens, xxx. 

in Chan- 





apparel of 

of the crown reads the oaths. The Lord Chancellor sits covered 
during the time the i)eers are in court, except at their en- 
trance and departure, when he rises and bows to them.* 

When the Lord Mayor of London comes into the Court 
of Chancery on Lord Mayor's Day, and by the Recorder 
invites the Lord Chancellor to dinner at Guildhall, the Lord 
Chancellor remains covered, and does not return any answer 
to the invitation.f 

I have only further to state respecting the privileges and 
disabilities of the office of the Lord Chancellor, that by 
Stat. 24 Hen. VIIL c. 13., he is entitled "to weare in his 
apparell velvet satene and other silkes of any colours excepte 
purpure, and any manner of furres except cloke genettes.^'' 

And now let us proceed to the Lives of the distinguished 
men who have held the office thus imperfectly described. 

* Dickens, xxxii. 

t Ex relatione a Lord Chancellor who never would be wanting in any point 
of due courtesy to high or low Lord Lyndhurst. 





It has been too much the fashion to neglect our history and CHAP, 

antiquities prior to the Norman conquest. But to our ' 

Anglo-Saxon ancestors not only are we indebted for our Merits of 

language and for the foundation of almost all the towns and '^e Anglo- 

11 T-iiii p 1' 1 ' 1 Saxons. 

Villages m liingland, but lor our political institutions ; and to 
them we may trace the origin of whatever has most benefited 
and distinguished us as a nation.* It is a point of filial duty 
incumbent upon us, to commemorate and to honour the indi- 
viduals among them who in any department attained to great 
eminence. Of those who filled the office of Chancellor under 
the Anglo-Saxon kings, little has been handed down to us ; 
but that little ought not to be allowed to fall into oblivion. 

According to Selden, Ethelbert, the first Christian king a.d. 605. 
among the Saxons, had Augmendds for his "Chancellor" bus, Chan- 
or Refer endarius, the officer who received petitions and sup- p'!*^"! '** 
plications addressed to the Sovereign, and made out writs 
and mandates as Custos Legis. There is great reason to 
believe that he was one of the benevolent ecclesiastics who 
accompanied Augustine from Rome on his holy mission, and 
that he assisted in drawing up the Code of Laws then pub- 
lished, which materially softened and improved many of the 
customs which had prevailed while the Scandinavian divi- 
nities were still worshipped in England, f 

There are three others whose names are transmitted to us 
as having been Chancellors to Anglo-Saxon kings without any 

* The descendants of the Anglo-Saxons seem destined to be by far the most 
numerous and powerful race of mankind, occupying not only the British Isles 
in Europe, but the whole of America from Mexico to the Polar Seas, and the 
whole of Australia and Polynesia. The English language will soon be spoken 
by an infinitely greater number of civilised men than ever was the Greek, the 
Latin, or the French. 

f Selden's Office of Chancellor, 2. Dugd. Or. Jur. 32. Philpot's Catalogue 
of Chancellors. Spel. Gloss. Cancellarius, p. 109. 


CHAP, history attached to them, legendary or authentic, Cenwona, 
under Offa, king of the Mercians, BoSA, under Withlofe, 
and SwiTiiULPHUS, under Berthulph.* 


A- n. 758. 

A. i>. 825. Next comes the Chancellor so celebrated for his pluvious 

St"swnH- propensity, St. Swithin, who held the office under two 
IN, Chan- govereio-ns, and of whom much that is true, as well as much 
Egb^rrand that is fabulous, has been transmitted to us. We can trace 
Ethelwulf. ijjg history as certainly as that of Bede or Alcuin, and he left 
like them, among his countrymen, a bright reputation for 
learning and ability, which was rationally cherished till ob- 
scured by the miracles afterwards imputed to him. 

Swithin was a native of Wessex, and was born at the very 
commencement of the ninth century. He was educated in a 
monastery at Winchester, then the capital of the kingdom. 
He prosecuted his studies with such ardour that he made 
wonderful proficiency in all the knowledge of the age, and 
having been ordained presbyter in 830 by the Bishop of Hel- 
maston, was selected by King Egbert for his chaplain, and 
tutor to his son Ethelwulf. f He soon showed a capacity for 
state affairs, and was placed in the office of Chancellor, con- 
tinuing, like his successor, a-Becket, while intrusted with the 
administration of justice, to superintend the education of the 
heir-apparent. He is said to have enjoyed the confidence of 
the King without interruption, and by his counsels to have 
contributed to the consolidation of the states of the Hep- 
tarchy into one great kingdom. 
A.D. 836. On the accession of his royal pupil to the throne, he re- 

tained his office of Chancellor, and >vas in still higher favour. 
So wise a minister was he esteemed, that William of Malmes- 
bury, referring to his sway, says the ancient opinion of Plato 
was verified in this reign, that " a state would bft happy when 
philosophers were kings, or kings were philosophers." Alstan, 
Bishop of Sherborne, took a more conspicuous lead, and 

Selden's Office of Chancellor, 2. Dugd. Or. Jur. 32. Philpot's Catalogue 
of Chancellors. Spel. Gloss. Cancellarius, p. 109, 

f William of Malmesbury represents that he was employed in affairs of state 
before he had the care of the King's son. " Natura, industriaque laudabilis 
auditum Ilegis non effugit. Quocirca ilium hactenus excoluit, ut et multa 
negotiorum ejus consilio transigeret, et filium Adulfum ejus magisterio locaret." 
W. Malm. 242. 


several times in person conducted the army to battle against CHAP. 
the Danes ; but Swithin guided the counsels of the sovereign ' 

as well as being personally beloved by him. He was now 
made Bishop of Winchester, being recorded as the 17th 
prelate who had filled that see. He proved a devoted friend 
to the church, hitherto slenderly provided for among the 
Anglo-Saxons, and he procured a law to pass in the Witte- 
nagemot for the universal and compulsory payment of tithes. 

But the nation was most of all indebted to him for instil- 
ling the rudiments of science, heroism, and virtue into the 
infant mind of the most illustrious of our sovereigns. The 
son of Ethelwulf, afterwards Alfred the Great, was, from 
childhood, placed under the care of the Chancellor, who as- 
sisted his mother in teaching him to read and to learn the 
songs of the Scalds, and afterwards accompanied him on a 
pilgrimage to Rome, taking the opportunity of pointing out 
to him the remains of classical antiquity visible in the twilight 
of refinement which still lingered in Italy. 

On Swithin's return to England, his last years were dis- 
turbed by the successes of the Danish invaders, and not 
having the military turn of some ecclesiastics and Chancellors, 
he shut himself up in his episcopal house, employing himself 
in acts of piety and charity. He died on the 2d of July, 862, 
having directed that his body should be buried, not in the 
Cathedral, but in the churchyard among the poor.* 

He was much admired by ecclesiastics at Rome, as well as 
in his own country, having first established in England, for 
the benefit of the Pope, the payment called "Peter's pence." 
In consequence, about fifty years after his death, he was 

Now comes the legend of St. Swithin. It was thought 
that the body of the Saint ought to be translated from the 
churchyard to be deposited under the high altar, and the 15th 
of July was fixed for that ceremony, when there were to 
be the most gorgeous processions ever seen in England. But 
he highly disapproved of this disregard of his dying injunc- 

* " Jam vero vitae praesenti valefacturuspontificali ajithoritate prsecepit astan- 
tibus, ut extra ecclesiam cadaver suum humarent ; ubi et pedibus praetereuntium 
et stillicidiis ex alto rorantibus esset obnoxium." Wm. of Malm. 242. 

VOL. I. D 






under Ed- 
ward the 
A. D. 920. 

tion, and sent a tremendous rain, which continued without 
intermission for forty days, and until the project was aban- 
doned. Ever since he regulates the weather for forty days 
from the day of his proposed translation, laying down this 
rule, that as that day is fair or foul, it will be fair or foul for 
forty days thereafter. 

The founders of the Keformation in England seem either 
to have believed in his miraculous powers, or to have enter- 
tained a very grateful recollection of his services to the 
Church, for they have preserved the 15 th of July as a Saint's 
day dedicated to Lord Chancellor Swithin.* 

It must be admitted that there is great difficulty in dis- 
tinguishing between what is authentic and what is fabulous 
in his history, t 

TuRKETEL is the first English Chancellor with whom we 
can be said to be really acquainted. He was of illustrious 
birth, being the eldest son of Ethel wald, and the grandson of 
Alfred. He was early distinguished for learning, piety, and 
courage. Taking priest's orders, his royal uncle, Edward the 
Elder, immediately offered him high ecclesiastical preferment. 
This he declined, thinking that it might interfere with the 
civil employments which, notwithstanding his tonsure, he 
preferred. Ingulphus informs us that the King thereupon 
made him his Chancellor and Prime Minister : " Cancel- 
larium suum eum constituit, ut quaecunque negotia tem- 

See Phillpot's Catalogue of Chancellors, p. 1. Gostelin. Fit. Swithini. 
Henry of Huntingdon. Wm. of Malmesburv, Gest. Reg. Angl. p. 151. Spel- 

man's Life of Alfred. de Gest. Pont 242. 

f Most of Lord Chancellor Swithin's decisions have perished, but I find one 
case reported which was brought judicially before him, and in which he gave 
specific relief, altliough seemingly the remedy was at common law by an action 
of trespass. An old woman came to complain to him that the eggs in her basket 
which she was carrying to market had all been wantonly broken. Is ante se 
adductae mulierculae annis et pannis squalidae querelam auscultat, damnum 
suspirat, misericordia mentis cunctantem miraculum excitat, statimque porrecto 
crucis signo, fracturam omnium ovorum consolidat." Wtti. of Malm. 242. 

There is much faith in the Ex-chancellor, not only in England but in Scot- 
land, where for many centuries there has been this proverb : 
" St. Swithin's day, gif ye do rain, 
For forty days it will remain ; 
St. Swithin's day, an ye be fair. 
For forty days twill rain na mair." 
In some parts of Scotland, St. Martin (whose day is 4th July) is the raining 


poralia vel spiritualla Regis judicium expectabant, illius chap. 
consilio et decreto (nam tantae fidei et tam profundi ingenii 
tenebatur) omnia tractarentur, et tractata irrefragabilem sen- 
tentiam sortirentur."* 

He retained his office under his cousin Athelstan, who Athelstan. 
by his advice first took the title of " King of England."! 

At the famous battle of Brunenburgh, so celebrated in the battle of 
relics of Saxon and Scandinavian poetry, in which Athelstan burgh. 
had to fight for his crown against five confederated nations, a.d. 938. 
Norwegians, Danes, Scots, Irish, and Britons, Chancellor 
Turketel rendered the most signal service to his sovereign 
and his country. The citizens of London marched under his 
banner, and supported by Singin with the men of Worcester- 
shire, he penetrated into the midst of the Scots, killed the 
son of their king, and compelled Constantine himself to seek 
safety in flight. Some historians relate that, although the 
Chancellor led his troops to the scene of action, he refused 
himself to mix in the fight, because the canons prohibited to 
clergymen the effusion of blood ; but it was the doctrine of 
the age, that an exception was allowed in war undertaken for 
the protection of the country against a pagan invasion, and 
we shall find some of his ecclesiastical successors combating 
stoutly in the field even against Christian adversaries. X 

Turketel still continued Chancellor under the two sue- Edmund 
ceeding monarchs, Edmund and Edred, the brothers of a.d. 940. * 
Athelstan, and was likewise " Consiliarius primus, praeci- ^- " ^'^^ 
puus et a secretis familiarissimus." As Edred was afflicted 
with a lingering and painful disease during the greater part 
of his reign, the sceptre was actually in the hands of the 
Chancellor, and he was obliged not only to superintend the 
administration of justice and to conduct the civil government 
of the kingdom, but on several occasions to command the 
military force both against foreign and domestic enemies. 

In a fit of religious enthusiasm, while still powerful and i^ord 
prosperous, he suddenly bade adieu to worldly greatness for Turketel 

* Ingulphi Hist. g. h. Dug. Or. Jur. 32. 

f His father and grandfather had been styled kings of the Anglo-Saxons, 
and their predecessors merely kings of Wessex. 

% See Lingard, i, 212. Ingul. g. h, 

D 2 





becomes a 
*.n. 948, 

AD. 959. 


the seclusion of a monastery. It is related, that going on a 
message from the King to Archbishop Wolstan, it chanced 
that his road lay by the abbey of Croyland, which had been 
reduced to ruins in recent warfare, and now only afforded a 
miserable shelter to three aged monks. Touched by their 
piety and resignation, he believed himself divinely inspired 
with the design to enter into their society, and to restore their 
house to its ancient splendour. Having obtained permission 
to carry this design into eifect, before his civil extinction, in 
imitation of a dying caliph, he sent the public crier through 
the streets of London, where, during four reigns, he had ex- 
ercised such authority, announcing to the citizens that the 
Chancellor, before quitting his office and entering into the 
monastic order, was anxious to discharge all his debts, and 
offered to make threefold reparation to any person whom he 
might have injured. Every demand upon him being liberally 
satisfied, he resigned the office of Chancellor into the King's 
hands, made a testamentary disposition of his great pos- 
sessions, put on the monastic cowl, was blessed by the Bishop 
of Dorchester, recovered for the abbey all that it had lost in 
the Danish wars, endowed it with fresh wealth, was elected 
Abbot, and procured from the King and the Witan a con- 
firmation of all the rights which his house had ever enjoyed, 
with the exception of the privilege of sanctuary, which he 
voluntarily renounced, on the ground that his experience as 
Chancellor made him consider it a violation of justice and 
an incentive to crime. He survived twenty-seven years, per- 
forming, in the most exemplary manner, the duties of his 
new station, and declaring that he was happier as Abbot of 
Croyland than Chancellor of England.* He died in 975. 

The next Chancellor of whom any mention is made was 
Adulphus under King Edgar ; but we are not told what 
part he took in the measures of this peaceful and prosperous 
reign, f 

Ethelred, who mounted the throne in 978, had, for his 
first Chancellor, Alfric, the eleventh Abbot of St. Alban's, 
of whom nothing memorable has been transmitted to us. The 

Ingul. 2552. Ordine, 340. 

t Or. Jur. 82. 


King then made a very whimsical disposition of the office, CHAP. 

which he meant to be perpetual, "dividing it between the ' 

Abbots for the time being of Ely, of St. Augustine in Can- office of 

terbury, and of Glastonbury, who were to exercise it by turns ; ^'^?"''^^^'^ 

the Abbot of Ely, or some monk by him appointed, act- between 

ino; as Chancellor four months yearly from Candlemas, and ^l^J"?^^ 
1 1 1 Abbots. 

the other two abbots each four months successively, making 
up the twelve."* Lord Coke commenting upon this arrange- 
ment says, " Albeit It was void in law to grant the chan- 
cellorship of England in succession, yet it proveth that then 
there was a Court of Chancery."! 

We are not informed how the three Abbots actually dis- 
charged their duties, or how long they enjoyed the office. If 
the grant was not revoked as illegal at the accession of Ed- 
mund Ironside, we need not doubt that it was violated on 
the conquest of the kingdom by Canute, who probably em- 
ployed one of his own countrymen to assist him in adminis- 
tering justice to his new subjects. 

We have no further notice of any Chancellor till the reign a.d. 1043. 
of Edward the Confessor. During his long exile In Nor- ^"^g^^r^j 
mandy he had contracted a taste not only for the language, the Con 
but also for the usages of that country ; and among other 
Norman fashions, he Introduced that of having a great seal 
to testify the royal will in the administration of justice, and 
in all matters of government. Sealing bad been occasionally 
resorted to by his predecessors on solemn occasions |, but 
they then only used a private seal, like the prelates and 
nobles ; and public documents were generally verified by the 

* The words of an old monk of Ely are : " Statuit atque concessit quatenus. 
Ecclesia de Ely extunc et semper in Regis curia Cancellarii ageret dignitatem 
quod et aliis, Sancti, viz. Augustini et Glaconia? Ecclesiis constituit, ut abbates 
istorum coenobiorum vicissim assignatis suceedendo temporibus, annum trifarie 
dividerint cum sanctuarii et caeteris ornatibus altaris ministrando." See Dug. 
Off. Ch. 1. 

f 4 Inst. 78. 

J Thus on inspecting an old Saxon charter of King Edgar to the abbey of 
Pershore, still extant, three labels are to be seen for seals to be appended by ; 
and Godfric, Archdeacon of Worcester, writing to Pope Alexander III. of this 
very charter, says : " Noverit sanctitas vestra, verum esse quod conscripti hujus 
scriptum originale in virtute Sancta; Trinitatis sigilla tria, trium personarum 
autenticarum, ad veritatem, triplici confirmatione commendat ; Est autem sigil- 
lum primum illustris Regis Edgari ; secundum Sancti Dunstani Cant. Arch. ; 
tertii Alferi Ducis Merciorum, sicut ex diligenti literarum impressarum in- 
spectione evidenter accepi." Dug. Off. Chan. 3. 

D 3 





to the Con- 
A.D. 1045. 






signature of the Chancellor, or by the King aflSxlng to them 
the sign of the cross. A large state seal was now made, upon 
the model which has been followed ever since. It bore 
the representation of the King, in his imperial robes, sitting 
on his throne, holding a sceptre in his right hand and a 
sword in his left, with the inscription " Sigillum Edwardi 
Anglorum Basilei."* 

Leofric was the Confessor's first Chancellor f ; but it is 
doubtful whether this great seal had been adopted in his 
time, as he is not recorded as having used it. We know 
that it was in the custody of Wulwius his successor. A 
royal charter to the church of Westminster, framed by him, 
thus concludes : " Ut hoc decretum a nobis promulgatum 
pleniorem obtineat vigorem, nostra manu subter apposito 
signo roboravimus, atque fidelibus nostris prassentibus robo- 
randum tradidimus, nostraeque imaginis sigillo insuper assig- 
nari jussimus," &c., with the attesting clause, " Wulwius, 
regiae dignitatis Cancellarius, relegit et sigillavit," &c. | 

The next Chancellor was Reimbaldus, who likewise sealed 
with the royal seal, as we find by another charter of the 
Confessor to the Church of Westminster, thus authenticated : 
" Ego, Reimbaldus, Regis Cancellarius, relegi et sigillavi," 
&c. When he was prevented by absence or indisposition 
from acting, his duties were performed by Swaedus, who 
appears to have been his Vice-Chancellor. Thus another 
charter of the Confessor, granting many manors to the church 
of Westminster, has this concluding clause : "Ad ultimum, 
cartam istam sigillari jussi, et ipse manu mea propria signum 
crucis impressi, et idoneos testes annotari praecepi." Then 
follows : " Swardus, notarius ad vicem Reimbaldi regice 
dignitatis cancellarii, banc cartam scrips! et subscripsi." 

Lord Coke is justified in his contemptuous assertion that 
Polydor Virgil, in affirming that the office of Chancellor came 
in with the Conqueror, " perperara erravit H : " but he himself 

See an engraving of it, Palgrave's History of England, i. 328., taken from 
the original in the British Museum. An admirable picture by words, of the 
Chancellor sitting in the Wittenagemot, will be found in the preface to the same 
valuable publication, p. xiv. 

t Spel. Gloss. 109. + Or. Jur. 34. 

'^ Inst- 78. II 4 Inst. 78. 


was very imperfectly acquainted with its history, and we are CHAP, 
still left much in the dark respecting its duties, and the man- 
ner in which it was bestowed in the Saxon times. Then, as 
long after, the little learning that existed being confined to 
the clergy, we need not doubt that a post requiring the art 
of writing and some knowledge of law, was always filled by 
an ecclesiastic ; and as it gave constant access to the person 
of the King, and was the highway to preferment, even if 
the precedence and emoluments belonging to it were not very 
higli, it must have been an object struggled for among the 
ambitious. Human nature being ever the same, we may 
safely believe that at that early period, as in succeeding ages, 
it was the prize sometimes of talents and virtue, and sometimes 
of intrigue and servility. 

As we approach the aera of the Conquest, we find distinct Origin of 
traces of the Masters in Chancery, who, though in sacred ^^an^eV'^ 
orders, were well trained in jurisprudence, and assisted the 
Chancellor in preparing writs and grants, as well as in the 
service of the royal chapel. They formed a sort of college of 
justice of which he was the head. They all sate in the Wit- 
tenagemot, and, as " Law Lords," are supposed to have had 
great weight in the deliberations of that assembly.* 

* Or. Jur. chap. xvi. Palgrave's Hist. Eng. Preface. 

D 4 




CHAP. From the Conquest downwards we have, with very few 
interruptions, a complete series of Chancellors. Yet till we 
A.a. 1066. reach the reign of Richard I., when records begin which are 
still extant, containing entries of the transfer of the Great 
Seal, we can seldom fix the exact date of their appointment ; 
and we glean what is known of them chiefly from the charters 
which they attested, from contemporary chroniclers, and from 
monkish histories of the sees to which they were promoted. 

Few of those who held the office under the Norman 
monarchs before Henry II. took any prominent part in the 
conduct of public affairs, and they appear mostly to have 
confined themselves to their official duties, in making out 
'*" writs, superintending royal grants, authenticating the acts of 
the sovereign by affixing the Great Seal to all instruments 
which ran in his name, and by sitting, in a subordinate 
capacity, in the Aula Regia to assist in the administration of 
Chancel- The office of Chief Justiciar, introduced by William, 

eariy'Nor- ^^^o Continued to confer great splendour on those who held 
man reigns, it, while the highest functions of the Chancellor were con- 
sidered those of being almoner and secretary to the King. 
Odo, Bishop of Bayeux*, William Fitzosborne, and William 
de Warenne, successively Justiciars, were men of historical 
renown ; they assisted William in his great military enter- 
prise ; they afterwards took an active part in imposing the 
yoke on the conquered, and they governed the realm as 
viceroys when he occasionally visited his native dominions. 

J. *. H*.^3s William's uterine brother, and, though an ecclesiastic, he was a 
distinguished military leader. In the famous Bayeux tapestry giving a pic- 
torial history of the Conquest, he makes the greatest figure next to William 
and Harold. The other Justiciars of this reign were hardly less eminent. 



Till Thomas a-Becket arose to fix the attention of his own CHAP, 

age and of posterity, the Chancellors were comparatively 


They probably, however, were William's advisers in the 
great changes which he made in the laws and institutions of 
the country. English writers, with more nationality than 
discrimination or candour, have attempted to show that he 
was called Conqueror, merely because he obtained the crown 
by election instead of hereditary descent.* In all history 
there is not a more striking instance of subjugation. Not 
only did almost all the land in the kingdom change hands 
the native English being reduced to be the thralls of the 
invaders but legislative measures were brought forward, 
either in the sole name of the Sovereign, or through the form 
of a national council under his control, seeking to alter the 
language, the jurisprudence, and the manners of the people, j 
It would have been very interesting to have ascertained 
distinctly by whose suggestion and instrumentality the 
French was substituted for the English tongue in all schools 
and courts of justice ; the intricate feudal law of Normandy 
superseded the simplicity of Saxon tenures ; trial by battle 
was introduced in place of the joint judgment of the Bishop 
and the Earl in the county court ; the separation was 
brought about between ecclesiastical and civil jurisdictions ; 
and the great survey of the kingdom was planned and ac- 
complished, of which we have the result in Domesday, " the 
most valuable piece of antiquity possessed by any nation." | 
But while there is blazoned before us a roll of all the warlike 
chiefs who accompanied William in his memorable expe- 
dition, and we have a minute account of the life and cha- 
racter of all those who took any prominent part in the 
battles, sieges, and insurrections which marked his reign, we 
are left to mere conjecture respecting the manner in which 

* As in the law of Scotland property acquired by an individual is called his 

t The vitality of the Anglo-Saxon language and institutions at last prevailed, 
but there is hardly to be found such a striking instance of race tyrannising over 
race, as in England during the reigns of the Conqueror and his immediate 

\ Hume, 





A.D. 1067. 
lors of the 


Bishop of 
and resigns 
Great Seal. 

justice was administered under him *, and the measures of his 
civil government were planned and executed, t 

But I must now proceed to give the names of William's 
Chancellors, with such scanty notices of their history as can 
be furnished from the imperfect materials which are preserved 
to us. 

In 1067, the year after the battle of Hastings, when he had 
obtained the submission of a considerable part of England, 
although it was not till long after that he reduced the 
northern and western counties to his rule, he appointed as 
his first Chancellor, Maurice, a Norman ecclesiastic, who 
had accompanied him as his chaplain when he sailed from 
St. Vallery for the coast of England. 

We know little with certainty of the acts of this func- 
tionary beyond his perusing and sealing a charter by which 
the Conqueror, after the example of the Confessor, granted 
large possessions to the abbot and monks of Westminster. | 

In the usual course of promotion, Maurice, being Chan- 
cellor, was made Bishop of London. Here we find him 
highly celebrated for his exertions to rebuild St. Paul's. The 
year before his consecration the greatest part of the City of 

* A very ample report of the cause cel^bre between Odo, as Earl of Kent, 
and Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, at Penenden Heath, before Chief 
Justiciary Godfrey, has come down to us, but no notice of any other judicial 
proceeding in this reign can be traced. 

t In classic antiquity lawgivers were honoured not less than conquerors, and 
all the most celebrated laws of Rome bore the names of their authors; but in 
our own history (horresco referens) oblivion seems to await all those who 
devote themselves to legal reform. We do not know with any certainty who 
framed the Statutes of Westminster in the time of Edward I., the Statute of 
Fmes, the Statute of Uses, the Statute of Wills, or the Statute of Frauds, 
although they ought to have been commemorated for conferring lasting benefit 
on their country. 

" Sed omnes illacrimabiles 

Urguentur, ignotique longa 
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro." 

The Grenville Act for the trial of controverted elections was the first which 
conferred any eclat on the name of its author, and Fox's Libel Act is almost the 
only other down to our own times. 
L'^'.V'^'"^*^'' '^ *^"^ attested, Ego, Mauritius Cancellarius, favendo legl et 
r ''.vn- ,"'* ''^- ~ '^'^^ ^^ordsof the Conqueror's first charter are curious, 
i.go, Willielmus, Dei gratia. Rex Anglorum, Dux Normannorum, et Prin- 
ceps Lenomannorum, hoc pra^ceptum scribere pracepi, et scriptum hoc signo 
Domuuco sic confirmando + stabilivi, nostraque imaginis sigiUo insuper assi- 
gnari curavi, &c. o o r 


London, built of wood, had been consumed by fire, and the chap. 
Cathedral where it now stands, on the site of an ancient 

A.D. 1100. 

temple of Diana, had been almost entirely destroyed. But 
by his pious exhortations, assisted by a royal grant, it rose 
from its ashes with new magnificence.* 

Maurice enjoyed the dignity of Chancellor on his first ap- 
pointment but for a short space of time, as it seems to have 
been the policy of William never to allow his great seal to 
remain long in the same hands. Spelman represents him as 
having been again Chancellor in 1077 f, and there can be no 
doubt that he continued a person of considerable influence 
during the whole of this and the succeeding reign. 

We have, however, no distinct account of the part Conductor 
which he again took in public affairs till Rufus was acci- ^fr*^^,^'^' 

, , , cellorMau- 

dentally killed by Sir Walter Tyrrel while hunting in the rice on the 
New Forest. Henry, the king's younger brother, who ^^l^am 
was of the party, in violation of the superior claims of Rufus. 
Robert, then absent in Normandy, hastened to London to 
claim the vacant throne. In those days anointment by 
a prelate was supposed to give a divine right to kings, 
and the commencement of a reign was calculated from 
the day of the coronation, not from the death of the prede- 
cessor. The privilege of crowning the Kings of England 
has always been considered to belong to the Archbishop of 
Canterbury as Primate, but Anselm from his quarrel with 
the late King was now in exile. Henry in this extremity 
applied to Maurice, the Ex-chancellor, and overcame his 
scruples respecting the law of primogeniture by a share of 
the royal treasure, which he had secured to himself as he 
passed through Winchester, and by which history records 
his usurpation was accomplished. On the third day from 
the tragical end of Rufus, Maurice placed the crown on the 
head of the new sovereign in the abbey of Westminster. 

The Great Seal was now again within his reach, but 
he preferred the quiet use of his riches, and the hope eagerly 
cherished, though never realised, of succeeding to the primacy. 
He died in 1107, still Bishop of London, having seen a 

W. Malmesb. De Gestis Pontificum, lib. ii. 
f Gloss. Series Cancell. Angl. 





His charac- 

His literary 

rapid succession of eight or nine Chancellors after his own 
resignation or dismissal. 

The Conqueror's second Chancellor was Osmond. Dugdale 
and Spelman leave the year of his appointment uncertain, and 
we might never have been informed of his having filled this 
office, had it not been that in 1078 he was promoted to the 
bishopric of Sarum, and we find some account of him in 
the annals of that see. He was, of course, a Norman, for 
now, and long after, no Saxon was promoted to any office, 
civil, mihtary, or ecclesiastical. Having come over with 
William, and fought for him in the field, he was first made 
Earl of Dorset, and now being girt with a sword, while he 
held the Great Seal in one hand, a crosier was put into the 

Of Osmond's conduct in his office of Chancellor few par- 
ticulars are transmitted to us; but he is said to have been 
much in the confidence of the Conqueror, who consulted him 
about all the most arduous and secret affairs of state, as 
well as confiding to him the superintendence of the adminis- 
tration of justice. William of Malmesbury is his chief 
panegyrist, celebrating his chastity, his disinterestedness, his 
deep learning, and, above all, his love of sacred music, re- 
presenting as the only shade on his character his great seve- 
rity to penitents, which was caused by his own immaculate 
life. After his elevation to the episcopal dignity, he devoted 
himself entirely to his sacerdotal duties. 

He is the first Chancellor I have to mention as an author. 
His principal work was " A History of the Life and Miracles 
of Alden, a Saxon Saint, the first Bishop of Sherborne." He 
likewise composed the service " secundum usum Sarum," 
which remained in great repute, and was followed in the West 
of England till the Reformation.! 

From a charter of the Conqueror, dated in 1069, confirm- 

* Such a combination long continued very common, and the Reformation 
even did not recognise the separation which now prevails between sacred and 
secular employments. James I. had a bishop for Lord Keeper of the Great 
Seal ; Charles I. had a bishop for his Lord Treasurer ; Queen Anne, with the 
loud approbation of Swift and the High Church party, had a bishop for her Lord 
Privy Seal and one of her ambassadors to negotiate the treaty of Utrecht. 

t De Gesiis Pontificum, lib. i. 



ing a grant of the Confessor to Leofrlc, who was the first CHAP. 
Bishop of Exeter, and from another charter of the Conqueror, ' 

dated in 1073, granting lands to the Dean and Canons of 
St. Martin's, in the City of London, we know that the Great 
Seal was at those times held by Arpastus *, who is stated to 
have been Bishop of Helmstadt, in Germany. He is sup- 
posed to have been one of the ecclesiastical adventurers who 
ranged themselves under the standard which the Pope had 
blessed when William proclaimed his grand enterprise. As 
a reward for his services he was in 1070 appointed Bishop of 
Elmham, in Norfolk, a see established there as early as 673. 
In 1075 he removed the see to Thetford, where he died in 

Of his successor we know little but the name, there being Baldrick 
no description added to it to tell us from what country he 
sprang, or what other office he ever filled; but a charter granted 
at this time by the Conqueror to the monks of St. Florentius 
of Andover is witnessed and authenticated by Baldrick as 
King's Chancellor. | He was no doubt King's Chaplain, but 
does not seem to have reached any higher ecclesiastical 
dignity. Although the custody of the Great Seal was in those 
days considered a certain step to a bishopric, premature death 
or loss of power had disappointed the hopes of this aspirant. 

Next came Herman, with whose origin and history we Herman. 
are well acquainted. He was a Norman by birth, and before 
the coming in of William he had been promoted to the bishop- 
ric of Sherborne. It is a curious consideration that in the 

* He thus subscribes both charters : 

" + Ego Arfastus Cancellarius." 

f Vide Spelm. Gloss. 109., where he is stated to have been twice Chancellor. 
The see was soon after removed to Norwich, where it has ever since remained. 
Annal. Winton. Angl. Sax. I. 294. Weaver, 827. 

I Inspex. Pat. Ed. 2. p. 2. MS. Lold. Chron. Ser. 1. 

It is said that the poetical name for a belt or girdle was taken from this 
Chancellor, who is supposed to have worn one of uncommon magnificence. 

" Athwart his breast a Baldrick brave he ware 
That shined like twinkling stars with stones most precious rare." 

" A radiant Baldrick o'er his shoulders tied 

Sustain'd the sword that glitter'd at his side." Pope. 

But this probably arose from the difficulty of finding any other etymology for 
the word. 





rciffn of the Confessor there was the most familiar inter- 
course between England and Normandy ; the French language 
was spoken at his Court *, and many Normans were employed 
by him. Of these Herman was one of the most favoured, and 
he is supposed to have assisted in the artifices which his native 
prince resorted to for the purpose of being designated heir to 
the crown of England, in derogation of the rights of the true 
representative of the line of Cerdic, and of the claims of 
Harold, who aspired to be the founder of a new Saxon 
dynasty. Immediately after the battle of Hastings he sent 
in his adhesion to William, and he steadily supported him in 
the protracted struggle which took place before the Norman 
yoke was imposed upon the whole of England. For reasons 
not explained to us, he wished to remove his episcopal see 
from Sherborne to Old Sarum, which has been so often 
talked of as a decayed borough, but which William of Malmes- 
bury describes as being at this time such a wretched place, 
that "a miserable commerce was carried on there in water." f 
He was gratified in this whim, and his services were farther 
rewarded by the custody of the Great Seal. 

He was succeeded by William Welson, who being ap- 
pointed Bishop of Thetford soon gave up the office of Chan- 
cellor, and retired to the discharge of his spiritual duties. J 

The Conqueror's last Chancellor Avas William Giffard, 
who, though promoted to the rich See of Winchester, eagerly 

He was a very dexterous man, who 
could accommodate himself to the various tastes of persons 
and times. Though once deprived of office by an unexpected 
turn of affairs, and for a considerable interval baffled in his 
schemes for recovering it, he at last contrived to be rein- 
stated ; and he was Chancellor under three successive sove- 

He was not incapable of giving good advice, and of taking 
the liberal side when it suited his interest. Although he had 
heartily concurred in the oppression of the Saxons in the 
early part of William's reign, and had declared that they were 


W. GiF- 



under three retained the Great Seal 


See Thiery's History of the Norman Conquest. 

t De Gest Pont. lib. ii. ^ Spel. Gloss. 109. 


to be considered aliens in their native land, and had assisted CHAP, 
in the measures for upsetting English law and extirpating 

the English language, yet, when the two great Earls, Morcar 
and Edwin, appeared still formidable, and discontent among 
the natives had become so deep and general as to threaten a 
dangerous revolt, the Chancellor joined with several other 
prelates in praying that the conquered people might be 
emancipated from some of the galling disabilities which had 
been inflicted upon them, and he induced the Conqueror to 
restore a few of the laws of the Confessor, which, though 
seemingly of no great importance for the protection of general 
liberty, gave extreme satisfaction by creating the hope of 
farther concessions. He was associated with Godfrey, Bishop a.d, io87, 
of Constance, the grand Justiciar, in the government of the 
country, while the Conqueror was engaged in his last fatal 
campaign against the French King. 

When Rufus suddenly presented himself in England, Conduct of 
announcing his father's death and claiming the crown, GifFard ^^^^^^^^ 
at first cordially supported him, and gained him the good Conqueror, 
will of. the native English by promises to them of good 
treatment and of enjoying the licence of hunting in the 
royal forests. As a reward for his services he was con- chancellor 
firmed in the office of ChanceUor. This, however, he did r^^"'''' 
not then long hold. It is suspected that, thinking he dis- 
covered in the public mind a strong feeling for the rights of 
primogeniture, and influenced by the promise of still higher 
promotion from Prince Robert, he was engaged in the 
abortive conspiracy among the Barons in favour of that un- 
fortunate prince. Whatever might be the cause, the Great Dismissed. 
Seal was taken from him, and he was relegated to his see 
during the remainder of this reign. We take leave of him 
for the present. 

He was succeeded by a man more unscrupulous than him- a.v. loss, 
self, Robert Bloet, a Norman who, with several brothers, chancellor 
had come over with the Conqueror.* He laughed at the to William 
conciliatory policy which had been lately adopted, and keenly 

* The family still subsists in Monmouthshire, the name being now spelt 




Death and 
of Bloet. 

abetted the King in all the arbitrary proceedings now- 
resorted to for the purpose of breaking the spirit of the 
English. Although in high favour, he could not obtain a 
mitre till he had been Chancellor five years, and then he 
owed his promotion to a dangerous illness with which the King 
was visited. The sees of Canterbury and Lincoln had been 
kept long vacant, that their rich temporalities might swell the 
royal revenue. The Keeper of the King's Conscience had in 
vain pointed out to him the impiety of this practice, till his 
arguments were enforced by a disease which left the royal 
spoliator little hope of recovery. Now, for the good of his 
soul, he bestowed the primacy on Anselm, who afterwards 
became so famous a champion of the church, and Lincoln 
was the prize of the Chancellor himself. But there was still 
much difficulty in getting possession of the see ; for no 
sooner did the penitent monarch become convalescent than 
his appetite for ecclesiastical property returned in full force, 
and it was only on the condition of large pecuniary con- 
tributions that he would accept the homage of the new 
bishop.* The better to enable him to support these, Bloet 
himself set up as a wholesale dealer in church preferment, 
while he was guilty of great extorticai in his office of Chan- 
cellor ; and he became famous above all his predecessors for 
venality and oppression. 

Authors difier as to the circumstances of his end. Some 
assert that for his crimes he was thrown into prison by the 
King, where he died; while others circumstantially state 
that he contrived to keep the King in good humour by large 
presents; that riding together near Woodstock, the Chan- 
cellor fell from his horse in an apoplectic fit ; and that being 
carried into the palace, he presently died, the King lament- 
ing over him. Lord Coke dryly observes of him, " that he 
lived without love, and died without pity, save of those 

* Afterwards repenting himself of such liberality in that he had not kept it 
longer m his hands towards the enriching of his coffers, he devised a shift how 
to wipe the bishop's nose of some of his gold, which he performed after this 
manner. He caused the bishop to be sued, quarelinglie charging him that he 
had wrongfuUie usurped certeine possessions together with the citie of Lincoln, 
which apperteined to the see of Yorke. Which although it was but a forged 
cavillation and a shameful! untruth ; yet could not the bishop be delivered out 
ot that trouble till he had paid to the king 50001." H. Hollinsh. ii. 34. 



who thought it pity he lived so long." Yet he Is not CHAP, 
without admirers; he was of agreeable manners, and he 
softened censure by an ostentatious disclaimer of principle, so 
that the world, seeing that he was not so profligate as he 
pretended to be, gave him credit for some portion of latent 
honesty. By one writer he is characterised as " a handsome 
man, well spoken, and of a serene mind." His death happened 
in 1090.* 

The odium which Bloet excited was much softened by his Flambard. 
successor. Chancellor Flambard, a monster unredeemed 
from his vices by any virtue or agreeable quality. His ori- 
ginal name was Ranulphus or Ralfe, but he afterwards ac- 
quired the nickname of Flambard or " devouring torch," 
which stuck to him, and by which he is known in history. 
Of the lowest origin, he reached high station by extreme 
subtlety and by a combination of all sorts of evil arts. I am 
sorry to say he is the first practising advocate I read of who 
was made Chancellor. Having begun his career as a common 
informer, he took to the practice of the law, and being- "a 
pleader never to be daunted, as unrestrained in his words 
as in his actions, and equally furious against the meek as 
the turbulent f," he rose to great eminence both in the civil 
and ecclesiastical courts. Of course he was a priest. X Bred 
in Normandy, he was familiar with the language as well as 
the law, now introduced into England. He succeeded in 
making himself useful to the Ex-chancellor Maurice, Bishop 
of London, who employed him and introduced him at Court. 
There he was found a ready and efficient instrument of 
extortion and tyranny, and he was rapidly promoted. He 
first acted as chaplain and private secretary to the King, and on 
the disgrace or death of Bloet, the Great Seal was delivered 
to him. His ingenuity was now sedulously employed in Oppres- 
devising new methods of raising money for his rapacious em- p^^j^^ajd 
ployer. The liberty of hunting was circumscribed by addi- 
tional penalties ; new offences were created to multiply fines ; 

Anglia Sacra, vol. il. 694. Hunt. De Contemptu Mundi, 698. Spel. 
Gloss. 109. Or. Jur. 1. Turner's History of England, i. 406. Lives of Chan- 
cellors, i. 4. I'arkes, 22. 

} William of Malmesbury. 

\ The true maxim was " nuUus causidicus nisi clericus." 

VOL. I. 









f lis pre- 

capital punishments were commuted by pecuniary mulcts, 
and a fresh survey of the kingdom was ordered to raise the 
renders to the Crown of those estates which were alleged, to 
have been underrated in the Eecord of Domesday, and to dis- 
cover ancient encroachments on the royal domains.* Though 
a churchman he openly advised the King to apply the re- 
venues of the church to his own use. So greatly was Rufus 
delighted with these services, that he pronounced Chancel- 
lor Flambard to be the only man who to please a master 
was willing to brave the vengeance of all the rest of man- 


In the midst of the ill-will and the envy which the Chan- 
cellor excited, a plot was laid to get rid of him, very different 
from the intrigues of modern times resorted to for the same 
purpose. Gerold, a mariner who had formerly been in his 
service, set on by rival courtiers, one day pretended to come 
to him as a messenger from the Bishop of London, and pre- 
vailed on him to step into a boat on the margin of the 
Thames, that he might visit this venerable Prelate, repre- 
sented to be lying at the point of death in a villa on the 
opposite bank. When the Chancellor had reached the middle 
of the river the boat was suddenly turned down the stream, 
and he was soon forcibly taken from it, put on board a ship, 
and carried out to sea. The intention was, that he should be 
thrown overboard, but fortunately for him, before this was 
executed, a tremendous storm arose ; a superstitious dread 
overtook some of those engaged to murder him; they 
quarrelled among themselves ; Gerold, the chief conspirator, 
was induced by entreaties and promises to put him ashore ; 
and on the third day, to the amazement and terror of his 
enemies, he appeared at Court with the Great Seal in his 
hand, as if nothing extraordinary had happened. 

He was now made Bishop of Durham, in consideration of 
a present of 1000/. extracted from him by the King, who had 

* Hic juvenem fraudulentis stimulationibus inqulelavlt Regem, incitans ut 
totius Angha; reviseret descriptionem, Anglicaeque telluris comprobans iteraret- 
partitionem, subditisque reciderit, tarn advenis quam indigenis quicquid invsne- 
retiir ultra certam dimcnsionem. Ord. Vital. 678. 

t Malmes. 69. 158. 


been taught by him to keep ecclesiastical benefices long CHAP, 
vacant, and then to sell them to the highest bidder. * 

According to some authorities Flambard was farther ad- 
vanced to the offices of Treasurer and Grand Justiciar, but 
at all events he appears to have held the Great Seal along 
with his other employments (whatever they were) till the end 
of this reign. 

On Rufus coming to his untimely end, the indignation of Committed 
the people broke out against his obnoxious minister ; and to 
satisfy the public clamour, Flambard was committed to the 
Tower by the new government. Here he is said to have lived 
sumptuously on the allowance which he received from the 
Exchequer, and presents which were sent him, till, having 
lulled the vigilance of his keepers, he contrived to escape. In 
the bottom of a pitcher of wine sent to solace him was con- 
cealed a coil of rope. He invited the knights who guarded 
him to dine with him and partake of the wine ; they remained 
drinking till late in the evening, and when they had at last 
reclined on the floor to sleep, the Ex-chancellor, with the aid 
of this rope, let himself down from the window*, and was 
received by his friends, who conducted him to the sea-shore 
and safely landed him in Normandy. He was there kindly Exile and 
entertained by Duke Robert, and notwithstanding his many Flambard. 
misdeeds, and the perils he had run, he was afterwards re- a.d. 1105. 
stored to his see, and he peaceably ended his days in his 
native land. A month before he died he caused himself to 
be carried from the castle to the high altar of the Cathedral 
of Durham, and there, in the presence of the clergy and lay- 
men of rank in the county, he began with many groans to 
repent him of his conduct towards the church, confessing that 
his proceedings had been prompted not by necessity but by 
the purest avarice. After this confession, he proceeded to 
make restitution ; and the charter is preserved, sealed on the 
occasion with his episcopal seal, by which he restores to the 
monks the lands of which he had deprived them. The peni- 
tent language of this charter is very strong, and we may 
hope that it was sincere : " Ea omnia qua? els voluntate et 

* This window, with the mullion to which the rope was attached, may still 
be admired by antiquaries in the Tower. 

E 2 


CHAP, cupiditate mea abstuleram, sciatis me elsdem in perpetuum 
^^' possidcnda, mali facti poenitens, et mlsericordiam quaerens, 
super altare Sancti Cuthberti per annulum reddidisse." * 
Nevertheless he was branded to all posterity as " the plun- 
derer of the rich, the exterminator of the poor, and the con- 
fiscator of other men's inheritances." f 
A.n. 1 100. Henry T. was no sooner placed on the throne by the means 
we have glanced at in the life of Lord Chancellor Maurice, now 
GiFFARD, Bishop of London :f, than he restored the Great Seal to WiL- 
ciianceiior lj^jj Giffard, BishoD of Winchester, who, from the infamous 

the third ' ^ ..,.. 

time. conduct of the last two Chancellors, an spite of his inconsist- 

encies and want of steady principle, had come to be regarded 
with some respect ; and the new Sovereign aimed at popu- 
larity by this appointment, as well as by the commitment 
and threatened punishment of Flambard. 

When Duke Robert returned from the taking of Jerusalem 
and invaded England, claiming the crown both as his birthright 
and under the agreement with Rufus, it was generally felt that, 
from his incapacity to govern, notwithstanding his personal 
bravery, he had not for a moment any chance of success, 
and Lord Chancellor GifFard adhered steadily to the youngest 
brother, to whom he had sworn allegiance. He continued to 
hold the Great Seal under him for six years, until, after the 
conquest of Normandy and the imprisonment of Robert, the 
formidable dispute broke out with Anselm respecting inves- 
titures. GifFard's feelings as a churchman outweighed his 
gratitude to the family of the Conqueror, and the leaning 
which, as Chancellor, he must have had in favour of the 
power of the Crown. He took a decided part with the Pri- 
mate, and re-echoed the words of Pascal, the Pope, " Priests 
are called gods in Scripture, as being the vicars of God; 
and will you, by your abominable pretensions to grant them 
their investiture, assume the right of creating them." 
A.D. 1107. Henry dismissed him from the office of Chancellor, and 
andb.lnTi- ^^"^*^^^ ^^^ ^^^ kingdom. After the compromise with 
mei.t of Anselm, he was allowed to return to his diocese, but he was 


Communicated to me by one of the present prebendaries, 
t William of Malmesbury, ^ Ante, p. 42. 

Eadmcr, p. 6 1 . 


never restored to favour. He lived some years in tran- CHAP, 
quillity, and dying at Winchester was buried in the cathedral ' 

there. He is famed for having built the palace in South- 
wark, near London Bridge, in which, for many centuries, 
the Bishops of Winchester resided when they visited the 
metropolis, and the site of which still belongs to the see. He 
likewise founded a convent for monks at Framley, and 
another for nuns at Taunton.* 

On the dismissal of Giffard, Henry would have been glad 
to have appointed a layman for his Chancellor, but persons 
in orders only were then considered qualified to hold the 
office. He selected one who, though a priest, had not yet 
received much preferment, and who might be expected to be 
submissive to the royal will. This was Roger, afterwards Roger, 
Bishop of Sarum, who was of obscure origin and of defective Salisbury, 
education, but who, from his parts and his pliancy, made a Chancellor, 
distinguished figure in this and the succeeding reign. 

Roger began his career as a country parson, the incum- His origin 
bent of a small parish in the neighbourhood of Caen, in ^n^ history. 
Normandy. The story goes, that Prince Henry, then in the 
employment of his brother Robert, accidentally entered with 
some of his companions the little church in which Roger was 
saying mass. The priest recollecting that soldiers do not 
generally like long prayers, and being more anxious for 
favour on earth than in heaven, dispatched the service with 
extraordinary rapidity. Whereat they were all so well 
pleased that the Prince jestingly said to him, " Follow my 
camp," Avhich he did ; and this was the first step in the 
preferment of the man who was afterwards Lord Chancellor, 
Bishop of Salisbury, and Chief Justiciar, and who had great 
influence in disposing of the Crown of England. 

Henry at first employed him only as chaplain, but as he Roger's 
kept up his reputation for short prayers and showed other 
courtier-like qualities, though he was rather illiterate, he 
was appointed private secretary, and gained the entire good 
will of the Prince. Since the commencement of the present 
reign he had been a sort of humble dependant at court, 

* Or. Jur. 1. Spel. Gloss. 109. De Ge.stis Pont. lib. i. 
E 3 




His con- 
duct as 

Chief Jus- 

A.v. 1120. 
couduct on 
of the 


generally liked, but not much respected, and hardly con- 
sidered fit to be promoted to any high station. Henry, afraid 
of clerical pride and obstinacy, in his present difficulty to 
find a pliant priest, conferred the Great Seal upon him, with 
the title of Chancellor. 

Koger's faculties always expanded with his good fortune. 
He now showed much dexterity in business, and executed all 
the duties of his office entirely to the satisfaction of the King, 
and even of the public. Without seeming to desert the in- 
terest of his order, he supported the royal prerogative, and 
he was mainly instrumental in bringing about the accommo- 
dation with Anselm, which suspended to a future time the 
collision between the crown and the mitre. Henry rewarded 
him with the Bishopric of Salisbury, and grants of many 

When he had filled the office of Chancellor for some years, 
he resigned it for the still higher one of Chief Justiciar *, 
which he held till near the conclusion of this reign. He was 
now really prime minister, although the title was not yet 
known in any European monarchy, and during the King's 
residence in Normandy, sometimes for years together, he 
governed England as Regent. 

He is much celebrated for his skill in conducting the ne- 
gotiations respecting the succession to the Crown after the 
melancholy shipwreck in which the King's only son perished. 
Matilda, his daughter, married first to the Emperor Henry V., 
and then to Geoifry, Count of Anjou, was the great object of 
his affections ; and his solicitude now was that she might suc- 
ceed him in all his dominions. But the laws by which the 
Crown was to descend were then by no means ascertained. 
Although Queen Boadicea had ruled over the Britons, among 
the Anglo-Saxons no female had mounted the throne: the 
Salic law was supposed to prevail in Normandy, and no one 
could say whether with the Norman dynasty it was to be 
considered as transferred into England, Supposing females 
to be excluded from the succession, it Avas doubtful whether 
the exclusion would extend to a male derivins: his descent 

* n. Hunt. lib. vii. p. 219. 


from the royal stock through a female. Roger, to suit his CHAP. 
present purpose, now laid it down ex cathedra as incontro- 

vertible doctrine, " that the Crown, like a private inheritance, 
should descend to the daughter and heiress of the person last 
seised ; " and he was greatly instrumental in obtaining from 
the Barons of England as well as Normandy a recognition 
of Matilda as successor to her father in both countries. He 
even succeeded in prevailing upon them to swear fealty to her 
himself setting the example. 

He continued in high favour with Henry for several years ; Dismissal 
but afterwards from some dispute, the nature of which has ".D.'^'nss. 
not been explained to us, he was dismissed from the office 
of Chief Justiciar, which was given to De Vere, Earl of 

No sooner did a demise of the Crown take place than a.d. 1135. 
Roger forgetting what he owed to the late King, and his supports 
oath to Matilda, and listening to the offers of her rival usurpation 
Stephen, the grandson of the Conqueror by his daughter, 
married to the Count of Blois, was active in persuading the 
Archbishop of Canterbury to give the royal unction to the 
usurper, and influenced many of the Barons to declare in 
his favour, on the new constitutional doctrine which he 
propounded, " that males only could mount the throne of 
England, but that a male might claim through a female." He 
defended his consistency, asserting that circumstances only 
had changed, and that he still remained true to his principles. 

Stephen, getting possession of the government, Roger, the 
Ex- chancellor, was rewarded for his bad law and his perfidy 
first with the Great Seal, and then with the office of Lord 
Treasurer. He was now in all things highly favoured by the 
new king, and, under a licence from him, erected at Devizes 
one of the largest and strongest castles in England, where he 
appears to have displayed a sort of sovereign state and in- 

Before long he quarrelled with Stephen, who had con- 
vened a council at Oxford, to which the Bishops were all 
summoned. Roger refused to attend, and set at defiance all 
the threats held out to induce him to submit. A strong Roger be- 
force being sent against his castle at Devizes, he showed a i,'is^castle. 



CHAP, determination to hold out to the last extremity, and he would 
^'' probably have made a long defence, and might have been 
rescued by the assistance of other turbulent and faithless 
Barons if an expedient had not been resorted to which 
Surrenders, strongly marks the barbarous manners of the times. The 
Bishop had a natural son, to whom he was much attached. 
The King having got possession of this youth, threatened to 
hang him before the walls of the castle, in his father's sight, 
unless the castle were immediately delivered up. The menace 
had the desired effect, and the Bishop unconditionally sur- 
rendered. His sacred office protected him from personal 
His death, violence, but he soon after fell ill of a quartan ague, and died 

on the 4th of December, 1139. 
His career We havc the following graphic sketch of the career of this 
brwimtm Chancellor from William of Malmesbury. On the 3d of 
ofMaimes- the idcs of December, Roger Bishop of Salisbury, by the 
"'^^' kindness of death, escaped the quartan ague which had long 

afflicted him. To me it appears that God exhibited him to 
the wealthy as an example of the mutability of fortune, that 
they should not trust in uncertain riches. He first in- 
gratiated himself with Prince Henry by prudence in the 
management of domestic matters, and by restraining the ex- 
cesses of his household. Roger had deserved so well of him 
in his time of need, that, coming to the throne, he denied him 
nothing ; giving him estates, churches, prebends, and abbeys ; 
committing the kingdom to his fidelity ; making him Chan- 
cellor and Bishop of Salisbury. Roger decided causes, had 
the charge of the treasury, and regulated the expenditure of 
the kingdom. Such were his occupations when the King 
was in England; such, without an associate or inspector, 
when the King resided in Normandy. And not only the 
King, but the nobility even those who were secretly stung 
with envy by his good fortune, and more especially the in- 
ferior ministers and the debtors of the King gave him 
almost whatever he could fancy. Did he desire to add to his 
domain any contiguous possession ? he would soon lay hold 
of it by entreaty, or purchase, or force. He erected splendid 
mansions of unrivalled magnificence on all his estates. 
His cathedral he dignified to the utmost with matchless 


buildings and ornaments. In the beginning of Stephen's CHAP, 
reign his power was undiminished, the King repeating ' 

often to his companions, * By the birth of God, I would give 
him half England, if he asked for it. Till the time be 
ripe, he shall tire of asking before I tire of giving.' But 
Fortune, who in former times had flattered him so long and 
so transcendently, at last cruelly pierced him with scorpion 
sting. The height of his calamity was, I think, a circum- 
stance which even I cannot help commiserating ; that 
though in his fall he exhibited to the world a picture of such 
wretchedness, yet there were very few who pitied him ; so 
much envy and hatred had his excessive prosperity drawn on 
him from all classes, not excepting those very persons whom 
he had advanced to honour."* 

The precise time when Roger gave up the custody of the Other 
Great Seal in exchange for the office of Chief Justiciar is not lo^^ "f^ ' 
ascertained ; and there is much obscurity with respect to the Henry I. 
Chancellors after him during the remainder of the reign of 
Henry I. Waldric, Godfrey Bishop of Bath, Herbert 
Bishop of Norwich, Geoffrey Rufus Bishop of Durham, 
Ranulphus, or Arnulph, and Reginald Prior of 
Montague, are enumerated in different lists of Chancellors, 
and are casually noticed by different writers as having held 
the Great Seal in this interval f ; but the superior splendour 
of Roger of Salisbury threw them all into obscurity; and 
little is known respecting any of them, with the exception 
of Geoffrey Rufus and Ranulphus, and it would have been 
Avell for the memory of these two if they had been as little 
known as all the rest. 

Geoffrey Rufus is famous for being recorded as the Geoffrey 
first that openly bought the office of Chancellor for money. 
There was an ancient legal maxim, " Quod Cancellaria non 
emenda est|," yet the Pipe Roll of 31 Henry I. states that 
Geoffrey Rufus, Bishop of Durham, purchased the Chancery Bought 
from the King for 3006Z. 13s. 4c/., a sum equivalent to cIlaTiccllor, 

* Gesta Reg. Angl. p. 637. 

t Or. Inst. 1. Spel. Gloss. 109. 

\ Tliis probably arose from the semi-sacred nature of the office, including 
the care of the king's chapel and the keeping of his conscience, so that the 
purchase of it might be considered to savour of simony. 





45,000/. of present money*; and he must, no doubt, have 
been guilty of much extortion and oppression to indemnify 
himself for so great an outlay. From the fractional sum which 
the Great Seal then fetched, we might almost suppose that it 
had been put up to auction and sold to the highest bidder. 
In subsequent reigns we shall find other instances of its being 
disposed of for money ; but we are never distinctly informed 
whether this was by public auction or private contract, f 

Of Ranulphus Henry of Huntingdon relates, that from 
the general hatred excited by his misdeeds, he was supposed 
to have come to his end by a special visitation of Divine 
Providence. The King having kept his Christmas at Dunsta- 
ble, proceeded to Berkhamstead. " Here there was a manifesta- 
tion of God worthy of himself. Ranulphus, the King's Chan- 
cellor, had laboured under sickness for twenty years. Never- 
theless, at court he was ever more eager than a young man 
after all manner of wickedness, oppressing the innocent and 
grasping many estates for his own use. It was his boast, that 
while his body languished his mind was still vigorous. As 
he was conducting the royal party to his castle, where the 
King proposed to stay some time as his guest, and he had 
reached the top of a hill from which the stately structure 
might be descried, while he was pointing to it with great 
elation, he fell from his horse, and a monk rode over him. 
In consequence, he was so bruised that he breathed his last 
in a few days. Ecce quanta superbia quam vilissirne, Deo 
volente, deperiit.''^ X 

* Et idem Cancellarius, viz. " Gaufridus debet MMMetvil. et xiijs. et iiijd. 
pro sigillo." This is the most ancient roll in the series, and for many years was 
supprsed to belong to the 5th Stephen. But, first, Prynne discovered it had been 
wrongly assigned, and fixed it to the 18th Henry I. : then Madox (though he 
always quotes it as 5 Steph. in the body of his " Exchequer "), in a learned Latin 
" Disceptatio," following the " Dialogus de Scaccario," at the end of his work, 
clearly shows that it belongs to Henry's reign, but leaves the precise year 
uncertain : lastly, Mr. Joseph Hunter, in his Preface to the Roll itself, pub- 
lished by the Record Commission, proves, without the possibility of a doubt, 
that the Roll is that of 31 Henry 1. 

i Tlie office of Common-law Judge was likewise venal. The same year 
Richard Fitz-Alured fined in fifteen marks of silver that he might sit with 
Ralph Basset at the King's Pleas, Ricardus filius Aluredi dabat xxv. marcas 
argenti ut sederet cum Radulfo Basset ad Plaeita Regis." Mad. Ex. iv. S. 

\ Hen. Hunt. lib. vii. p. 382. The last reflection is too quaint for trans- 


We shall not attempt giving any further details respecting CHAP, 
the Chancellors of Henry I. It is to be regretted that the ' 

accounts of them which have descended to us are so very 
scanty. From the character of this Sovereign, who was not 
only a great warrior, but the brightest wit and most accom- 
plished scholar of his age, we may believe that those who 
were selected by him to hold his great seal, and consequently 
to be in constant familiar intercourse with him, were dis- 
tinguished by their talents, acquirements, and agreeable 
manners. We should be particularly glad to know which 
of them was the author of the Code which passes under the 
name of Henry I., but which must have been compiled by a 
jurist under his orders, a work so useful to instruct us in 
the manners and customs of the times, and showing the broad 
distinction still made between the English and the Normans. 
But though the names of these functionaries are preserved as 
having filled the office of Chancellor, dark night envelops 
their history and their character, 

AVhen, on the usurpation of Stephen, Roger, Bishop of ad. use. 
Salisbury, had by his treachery to the family of Henry, his chancellor 
benefactor, acquired such influence with the new Sovereign, * ^'"S 
after presiding as Chancellor at the Convention of Estates succeeded 
held at Oxford, when the charter was passed confirmino; the ^^ ^'^ 

^ " nephew 

liberties of the church, the barons, and the people, he Alex- 
bestowed the oflSce on his nephew Alexander, and made a**^^*^- 
him Bishop of Lincoln.* 

The new holder of the Great Seal was not without good His con- 
qualities ; but it is said that having been brought up in great Chancellor. 
luxury by his uncle, he had contracted an inordinate taste 
for expence, which soon brought him into difficulty and dis- 
grace. Wishing to excel other chiefs by his splendour and 
his largesses, he tried to supply the deficiency of his own 
resources by preying upon others who were in his power. 
Still his extravagance exceeded all his means of supplying it. 
His vanity was gratified by being called "the Magnificent" 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 5. There is extant among the archives of tlie Dean and 
Chapter of Exeter the original of the famous " Charta Stcphani Regis de Li- 
bcrtatibus Ecclesia; Angllfe et Regni ; " dated at Oxford, Rcgni mei anno 
primo, A. D. 1136, and witnessed " Rogeuo Cancellario." 


CHAP, at the Court of Kome. He went thither in 1 142, and again in 
^^" 1 144, with a view to settle the disputes between the King and 
the Pope, and he had the singular good luck in these negotia- 
tions to please both parties. With the approbation of the 
King he was appointed legate by the Pope, with power to 
convene a Synod, at which several useful canons were made 
to repress the enormities of the times. He made a third 
journey to the Pope, then in the south of France, where, in 
the month of August, in the year 1147, growing sick, as was 
supposed from the heat of the climate, he returned home and 
Character During his career he had been more than once in arms 
^^^*-'^- against his Sovereign. Besides founding convents, he built 
three strong castles, Banbury, Sleford, and Newark. These 
excited the jealousy of Stephen, who compelled him to sur- 
render them, and, after getting possession of Newark, this 
capricious tyrant for some time detained him in prison. How- 
ever, he was speedily restored to favour, and at his death was 
denominated " Flos et Cacumen Regni et Regis."* 
Roger His successor as Chancellor was the natural son of his 

Chancellor "^^le " RoGER THE Great," Bishop of Salisbury. This 
promotion shows strongly the power and influence which the 
family had attained ; for the new Chancellor displayed no 
personal good qualities to compensate for the stain on his 
birth. He is mentioned by the monkish historians under the 
name of "Roger Pauper." He seems neither to have 
possessed the wealth nor the pliancy of his father. Taking 
part with the Barons who held out their castles against the 
King, he was made prisoner. He might have been set at 
liberty if he would have changed sides ; but this he constantly 
refused to do, even when threatened with the penalties of 
treason. As a singular favour he was allowed to abjure the 
realm, and he is supposed to have died in exile. f 
A.D. ii4'j. We ought here to mention the Chancellors of Queen 
Qiucn Matilda. Though not enumerated by historians among the 

31atil(ia. p T-i 1 1 1 

sovereigns ot JLngland, she was crowned Queen, and while 
Stephen was her prisoner, by the prowess and fidelity of 

Hen. Hunt. lib. vii. p. 290. Guil. Neib. 1. i. c. 6. 
t Ord. Vit. p]). 919, 920. 

BERT her 



her natural brotlier, Robert Earl of Gloucester, she was in CHAP, 
the enjoyment of supreme power throughout the greatest part 
of the kingdom. Making the city of Gloucester her me- 
tropolis, she filled up all the great offices of state with her 
adherents. She was the first English sovereign that ever in- 
trusted the Great Seal to the keeping of a layman. For her 
Chancellor she had William Fitzgilbert, a knight who Fitzgu- 
had gallantly fought for her ; and she granted the office in 
reversion to Alberic de Vere, Earl of Oxford, to be held by 
William de Vere his brother, when it should be rendered up 
by William Fitzgilbert. 

But Stephen was released from prison, and after a pro- a.d. ii50, 
tracted struggle, being successful in the field, this grant was 
nullified by the arrangement which allowed him to reign 
during ms life, the sceptre on his death to descend to the 
issue of Matilda. 

There are three other Chancellors of this reign whose Other 
names have been discovered by antiquaries, Philip, Robert i^^^^^f ' 
de Gant, and Reginald, Abbot of Walden * ; but every Stephen, 
thing respecting them is left in impenetrable obscurity. 
What part they took in the civil war, whether they mitigated 
or aggravated its horrors, and whether they were steady to 
their party, or changed sides as interest prompted, must re- 
main for ever unknown. Of this disturbed period little can 
be learned respecting the administration of justice or change 
of laws. The contending parties were both exclusively 
Norman ; the descendants of the conquered were equally 
oppressed by both, and no one had yet arisen to vindicate the 
reputation or to defend the rights of the Anglo-Saxon race. 
The darkest hour is immediately before break of day, and the 
next Chancellor we have to introduce to the reader was of 
Saxon origin ; he was one of the most distinguished men of 
any race that this island has ever produced, and he is now 
invoked as a Saint by all the votaries of the Romish church. 
We have a full and minute biography of him by a contem- 
porary who was his kinsman, and the various events of his life, 
which make a conspicuous figure in our national annals, are 
as well known and authenticated as if he had flourished in the 
eighteenth century. 

* Spel. Glos. 109. 






Hen. 2. 
A.D. 1154. 


King Stephen having died in the year 1154, he was suc- 
ceeded by the son of Matilda, the first of the Plantagenet 
line, a prince for vigour and ability equal to any who ever 
filled the throne of England. From early youth he had 
given presage of his discrimination and talents for govern- 
ment, and one of the first acts of his reign after his arrival 
in England, was to appoint as his Chancellor the lamous 
Thomas a Becket.* 

Gilbert Beck or Becket, the father of this most extraor- 
dinary man, was of Saxon descent, a merchant in London, 
and though only of moderate wealth had served the office of 
sheriff of that city. His mother, whose name was Matilda, 
was certainly of the same race, and born in the same con- 
Story of dition of life as her husband; although, after her son had 
btfing'thT become chancellor and archbishop, a martyr and a saint, a 
daughter of romantic story was invented that she was the daughter of an 
Emir in Palestine ; that Gilbert, her future consort, having 
joined a crusade and being taken prisoner by her father, she 
fell in love with him ; that when he escaped and returned to 
his native country, she followed him, knowing no words of 
any western tongue except " London " and " Gilbert ; " that 
by the use of these she at last found him in Cheapside ; and 
that being converted to Christianity and baptized, she became 
his wife, t 

an Emir. 

* We are not informed in whose custody the Great Seal was between the 
king's accession and the appointment of Becket. 

t That monkish chroniclers and old ballad-mongers should have repeated and 
credited this fable is not surprising ; but I cannot conceal my astonishment to 
find it gravely narrated for truth by two recent, most discriminating and truthful 
historians, Sharon Turner and Tliierry, who, while they were enlivening, one 
would have thought must have had some suspicion that they were deluding their 
readers. Becket himself, in an epistle in which he gives an account of his 
origin, is entirely silent about his Syrian blood ; and Fitzstephen, who describes 


Thomas, their onh'- child, was born in London in the CHAP. 


year 1119, in the reign of Henry I. Being destined for the 

Church, his education was begun at Merton Abbey in Birthing. 
Surrey, and from thence he was transferred to the schools of Education. 
London, which (making ample allowance for exaggerated 
praise) seem then to have been very flourishing.* He was 
afterwards sent to finish his studies at Paris, where he not 
only became a proficient in philosophy and divinity, but like- 
wise in all military exercises and polite acquirements, and 
was made an accomplished cavalier. One great object of his 
residence in Paris was to get rid of his English accent, which 
was then a mark of degradation and a bar to advancement. 
When he returned, it might well have been supposed from 
his conversation and manners, that his ancestor had fought at 

himself as " his fellow-citizen, chaplain, and messmate, remembrancer in his chan- 
cery, and reader of papers in his court," says expressly that he was born of 
parents who were citizens of London. I should much sooner expect to find the 
statement believed, that his mother when with child of him dreamed that she 
carried Canterbury Cathedral in her womb, or that the midwife, when she first 
received him into the world, exclaimed, " Here comes an archbishop," for 
which there is uncontradicted authority, " Eum in lucem editum obstetrix in 
manibus tollens, ait, Archiepiscopum quendam a terra elevavi." Fitzst. 10. 
The story of the Emir's daughter first appears in the compilation called 
Quadrilogus, not written till long after. Lib. i. c. 2. There has been a suppo- 
sition equally unfounded recently started, that Becket was of the Norman race. 
See Ed. Rev. CLXXIII., July, 1847, p. 137. His Saxon pedigree appears 
from all contemporary authorities. 

* " In Lundonia tres principales ecclesia2 scholas celebreshabent de privilegio 
et antiqua dignitate. Disputant scholares, quidam demonstrative, dialectice 
alii ; hii rotant enthymemata ; hii perfectis melius utuntur syllogismis. Qui- 
dam ad ostentationem exercentur disputatione, quas est inter coUuctantes ; alii 
ad veritatem, quas est perspectionis gratia. Oratores aliqui quandoque orationi- 
bus rhetoricis aliquid dieunt apposite ad persuadendum, curantes artis pra>cepta 
servare et ex contingentibus nihil omittere. Pueri diversarum scholarum 
versibus inter se conrixantur ; aut de principiis artis grammaticB, vel regulis 
prasteritorum vel supinorum, contendunt. Sunt alii qui in epigrammatibus, 
rythmis et metris, utuntur veteie ilia trivial! dicacitate; licentia Fescennina 
socios, suppressis nominibus, liberius lacerant ; loedorias jaculantur et scom- 
mata; salibus Socraticis sociorum vel forte majorum, vitia tangunt; vel mor- 
dacius dente rodunt leonino audacibus dithyrambis. Auditores, multum ridere 

Ingeminant tremulos naso crispante cachinnos." 

Descriptio poluUgnam<B civitatis Limdonia:, 4. Fitzstephen is equally eloquent 
in describing the sports of the Londoners. " Plurimi civium delectantur, 
ludentes in avibus coeli, nisis, accipitribus et hujusmodi, et in canibus mili- 
tantibus in sylvis. Habentque cives suum jus venandi in Middlesexia, Hert- 
fordsira et tota Chiltra, et in Cantia usque ad aquam Crayse, p. 9. But he 
shakes our faith in all his narratives by asserting that, in the reign of Stephen, 
London was capable of sending into the field 20,000 cavalry, and 60,000 in- 
fantry, p. 4. 


CHAP. Hastings under the banner of the Conqueror, and that his 

'" family had since assisted in continuing the subjugation of the 

conquered race. 

Holds Like Sir Thomas More, one of his most distinguished 

office under gucccssors, he began his career of business by holding a 

Sherjttof ' ~ n t ^^^ 'iy> r-r 1 ! 

London. situation in the office of the Sherift ot Liondon ; but this was 
not at all to his taste, and he soon contrived to insinuate 
himself into the good graces of a great baron of Norman blood 
resident in the neighbourhood of the metropolis, with whom 
he gaily spent his time in racing, hunting, and hawking, 
amusements forbidden to the Saxons. 
Patronised His next patron was Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, 
blid^'A*' h ^^^^ finding him a youth of uncommon parts, and captivated 
bisiiop of with his graceful and winning address, made him take deacon's 
buTv.^*^' orders, and conferred upon him the livings of St. Alary le Strand 
andOthford in Kent, with prebends in the cathedrals of London 
and Lincoln. His ambition for high preferment was now 
kindled ; but he found himself deficient in a knowledge 
of the civil and canon law, then the great means of advance- 
ment both in church and state, and he prevailed on his patron 
to send him to Bologna, which had been for some time the 
most famous university in the world for such studies. After 
residing there a year, attending the lectures of the celebrated 
Gratian, he went to Auxerre in Burgundy, where there was 
likewise a flourishing juridical school, and he returned to 
England fully qualified for any situation, however exalted, 
to which fortune might raise him. 
Made He was now promoted to the archdeaconry of Canterbury, 

con^)f Can- ^^ officc of Considerable trust and profit. Displaying great 
terbury, talcuts for busiucss, he gained the entire confidence of the 
primate, and was employed by him in two delicate negotia- 
tions with the court of Rome. The first was to recover for 
the see of Canterbury the legatine power which properly 
belonged to the primacy, and of which it had been stript. 
This point he carried, to the great delight of Theobald, who 
attached the highest importance to it. 
A.D. 1153. The next was a matter of more national importance. Not- 
withstanding the solemn treaty between Stephen the reigning 
king, and Henry the son of Matilda, the right heir to the 


crown. Intrigues were going on to defeat the succession of CHAP, 
the Angevin line, and a plan was in contemplation to have 
Eustace, the son of Stephen, crowned King of England in his 
father's lifetime. Theobald and the majority of the prelates 
remaining true to their engagement, deputed Archdeacon 
Becket to obtain from Pope Eugenius a bull against any 
bishop officiating at the coronation of the son of Stephen. 
This mission was attended with considerable difficulty, for Missions to 
young Henry Plantagenet had already shown himself hostile ^''"'^ 
to the encroachments of the papal see, and there was an 
apprehension of danger from the union of the crown of 
England with his immense continental possessions, extending 
from Picardy to the Pyrenees ; and one of the cardinals 
who favoured Eustace observed to Becket, that " it would 
be easier to hold a ram by the horns than a lion by the tail." 
But Becket's great abilities in negotiation proved successful, 
the intended coronation was prevented, and on the death of 
Stephen, Henry was peaceably proclaimed king. 

The new Sovereign was then in Normandy. On his arrival a.d. 1 154. i 
in England he was informed by Archbishop Theobald, who chrnceibr 
crowned him, of the services of the Archdeacon of Canterbury ; 
and a Becket, then the handsomest and the most accomplished 
young man in the kingdom, was presented to him. Henry 
was at once captivated by his appearance and his agreeable 
acquirements, and soon admitted him to his familiarity and 
confidence. The future Saint, at this stage of his career, has 
incurred the suspicion of having forgotten what was due to 
the priestly character and to the strict rules of morality, for 
the purpose of securing an influence over the dissipated 
Sovereign. He not only joined him in military exercises 
and in the sports of the field, but in all sorts of court 
festivities, and it is to be feared in revelries, which could 
only be palliated by the habitual licence of Norman mannei's; 
although some of his biographers stand up for his immaculate 
purity in the midst of the most alluring temptations. 

Archbishop Theobald was at first the King's chief favourite Intimacy 
and adviser, but his health and his influence declining, Becket j^j*^ ^"""^ 
was found apt for business as well as amusement, and gra- 
dually became intrusted with the exercise of all the powers 

VOL. I. F 



CHAP, of the crown. He received the wardenshlp of the Tower of 
"^' London, the custody of the castle of Berkhamstead, and a 
grant of the honour of Eye, with the service of 140 knights. 
A.B. 1154 The exact time of his appointment as Chancellor has not 
been ascertained, the records of the transfer of the Great Seal 
not beginning till a subsequent reign, and old biographers 
being always quite careless about dates.* But he certainly 
had this dignity soon after Henry's accession, and to him are 
ascribed by historians the restoration of the laws of Henry I., 
the resumption of the grants by Avhich Stephen had im- 
poverished the crown, the restoration of the English exiles 
who had fled to the Continent during the late troubles, and 
the other wise and liberal measures which characterised the 
commencement of this reign. While he continued Chancellor, 
the office of Grand Justiciar does not seem to have been 
filled up, and, except the King, he had no superior. Tall in 
stature, with a placid, handsome, and commanding counte- 
nance, his figure pleased the eye ; while his subtle reasonings, 
his polished elocution, and facetious gaiety, won the heart. 
His loftiness of mind, that was proud and ceremonious with 
rank and power, softened into affability, gentleness, and 
liberality towards his inferiors and dependents. Popularity 
being his passion, he studied to be attractive, and he knew 
that the condescensions of greatness have still greater in- 
fluence than its power, f He was the first to give the office 
of Chancellor the pre-eminence and splendour which have 
since belonged to it. 

We may imagine the joy of the Saxon race in witnessing 
his elevation. For nearly a century they had been treated as 
aliens and serfs in their own country ; no one of Saxon blood 
had been promoted to any office of distinction, civil, military, 
or ecclesiastical. The tradition was, that the Danish dynasty 
established by Canute, had been overturned by too great 
leniency being shown to the native English: and William 
and his descendants were resolved to avoid a similar error. 
The Anglo-Saxon language was proscribed at court: the 

* Spelman makes him Chancellor in 1 154, and Dugdale not till 1157. 
t Gervase, 1668. 


Normans would at this time as little have condescended to CHAP, 
learn it as the language of the wild Irish whom they soon 

after conquered; and every opportunity was taken to show a.i).ii54 
contempt for the dress, the habits, and the manners of the ^'^^'^^ 
subjugated descendants of Hengist and Horsa. 

Becket had risen by acquiring the dialect and accomplish- 
ments of the dominant caste, but he was too noble-minded 
now to be ashamed of his origin : he proclaimed his lineage, 
and professed himself a protector of the rights and liberties of 
all his countrymen. 

It is doubtful whether at this time the Chancellor had any His duties 
separate judicial duties ; but we know that Becket sat as a celior^"^" 
member of the Supreme Court or Aula Regis ; that he sealed 
all the King's grants with the Great Seal ; that he had the care 
of the royal chapel; and that he acted as secretary to the 
King in domestic affairs, and in all foreign negotiations. 

Of his conduct, habits, and demeanour, while he continued Fitzste- 
Chancellor, we have a very graphic and trustworthy account count* of" 
from his secretary; and instead of diluting it, after the his habits, 
modern fashion, into a mixture from which all its pun- 
gency and raciness would evaporate, I think I shall much 
better convey an accurate notion of the character of the 
individual, and of the manners of the times, by a literal trans- 
lation of a few of the most remarkable passages of this in- 
teresting work : 

*' The Chancellor's house and table were open to all of 
every degree about the court who wished to partake of his 
hospitality, and who were, or appeared to be, respectable. 
He hardly ever sat down to dinner without earls and barons 
whom he had invited. He ordered the rooms in which he 
entertained company to be daily covered during winter with 
clean straw and hay, and in summer with clean rushes and 
boughs *, for the gentlefolks to lie down upon, who on account 
of their numbers could not be accommodated at the tables, so 
that their fine clothes might not be soiled by a dirty floor. 
His house was splendidly furnished with gold and silver 

* A custom which continued in England down to the time of Erasmus, and 
which he describes in nearly the same words. 

F 2 


CHAP, vessels, and was plentifully supplied with the most costly 

^^'' meats and wines. 
~~j^^ The prime nobility of England and the neighbouring king- 
1 157. doms sent their sons to be servants to the Chancellor. He 

o-avc these young men handsome entertainment and a liberal 
education, and when he had seen them duly admitted into 
the order of knighthood he returned them back to their 
fathers and relations. Some he retained near his own person. 
The King himself intrusted his own son, the heir apparent of 
the kingdom, to be brought up by him, and the Chancellor 
maintained the prince with all suitable honour, together with 
many sons of the nobility of the same age, and all their train, 
instructors, and servants. 

" Many nobles and knights paid homage to the Chan- 
cellor, which he received with a saving of their allegiance to 
the King, and he then maintained and supported them as 
their patron. 

" When he was going beyond sea he had a fleet of six or 
more vessels for his own use, and he carried over free of 
expence all who wished to cross at the same time. When he 
was landed he recompensed the masters of his ships and the 
sailors to their hearts' content. Hardly a day passed in which 
he did not give away magnificent presents, such as horses, 
hawks, apparel, gold or silver furniture, or suras of money. 
He was an example of the sacred proverb : Some hountifully 
give away what belongs to them, and still always abound ; while 
others seize what does not belong to them, and are always in 
want. So gracefully did the Chancellor confer his gifts, that 
he was reckoned the charm and the delight of the whole 
Latin world. 

" The Chancellor was in high favour with the King, the 
clergy, the army, and the people, on account of his eminent 
virtues, his greatness of mind, and his good deeds, which 
seemed to spring spontaneously from his heart. Serious 
business being finished, the King and he consorted as young 
comrades of the same station, whether in the palace, in 
church, in private society, or in excursions on horseback. 
Story of " One cold wintry day they were riding together through 

the cimnl ^^ Streets of London when they observed an old beggar-man 


coming towards them, wearing a worn-out tattered garment. CHAP. 
Said the King to the Chancellor, * Do you see that man?' 
Chancellor. ' I see him.' King. ' How poor ! how wretched ! cellor, and 
how naked he is ! Would it not be great charity to give him the beggar- 
a thick warm cloak?' Chancellor. ^ Great indeed ; and you, a.d.ii54-. 
as King, ought to have a disposition and an eye for such 'i^'^- 
things.' Meanwhile the beggar comes up ; the King stops, 
and the Chancellor along with him. The King in a mild 
tone addresses the beggar, and asks him * if he would like to 
have a good cloak ? ' The beggar, not knowing who they 
were, thought it was all a joke. The King to the Chancellor. 
^You indeed shall have the grace of this great charity;' 
and putting his hands on a very fine new cloak of scarlet and 
ermine which the Chancellor then wore, he struggled to pull 
it off, Avhile the Chancellor did his best to retain it. A great 
scufile and tumult arising, the rich men and knights who 
formed their train, in astonishment, hastened to find out what 
sudden cause of contest had sprung up, but could gain no 
information : both the contending parties were eagerly en- 
gaged with their hands, and seemed as if about to tumble to 
the ground. After a certain resistance the Chancellor allowed 
the King to be victorious, to pull oiF his cloak, and to 
give it to the^ beggar. The King then told the whole story 
to his attendants, who were all convulsed with laughter. 
There was no want of offers from them of cloaks and coats to 
the Chancellor. The old beggar-man walked off with the 
Chancellor's valuable cloak, enriched beyond his hopes, re- 
joicing and giving thanks to God.* 

" Sometimes the King took his meals in the dining-hall of 
the Chancellor for the sake of amusement, and to hear the 
stories told at his table and in his house. While the Chan- 
cellor was sitting at table the Kino; would be admitted into 
the hall on horseback, sometimes with a dart in his hand, 
returning from the chase or riding to cover ; sometimes he 
merely drank a cup of wine, and having saluted the Chan- 

* It is impossible not to admire the finesse with which Fitzstephen tells this 
story, particularly the courtly acquiescence of the Chancellor after a proper 
resistance, and the profusion of offers of coats and cloaks to the Chancellor, then 
the favourite, and the distributor of the favours of the Crown. 

F 3 




His con- 
duct as 

A.D. 1158. 
tutor to the 

embassy to 

cellor, retreated ; sometimes jumping over the table he sat 
down and partook of the banquet. Never in any Christian 
age were two men more familiar or friendly." 

Becket continued Chancellor till the year 1162, without 
any abatement in his favour with the King, or in the power 
which he possessed, or in the energy he displayed, or in the 
splendour of his career. He not only presided in the Aula 
Regis and superintended the domestic administration of the 
kingdom, but, when the necessities of the state so required, 
he himself went on foreign embassies, and led armies into the 

The King's eldest son was still a boy and a pupil of the 
Chancellor, to whom it was thought that his education might 
be better intrusted than to any other, both for literature and 
chivalry. According to the custom of that time, which con- 
tinued for centuries afterwards, it was usual to contract mar- 
riage between the children of sovereign princes long before 
they reached the age of puberty, and Henry the son of a 
Count, thought it would add to the splendour of his family 
and to the stability of his throne, if his infant heir were 
affianced to a daughter of the King of France. To bring 
about this alliance, which was opposed by the Emperor of 
Germany, Henry proposed that the Chancellor should him- 
self proceed to the French court, and he at once accepted the 

" He prepared," says Fitzstephen, " to exhibit and pour 
out the opulence of English luxury, that among all persons 
and in all things the Sovereign might be honoured in his 
representative, and the representative in himself. He took 
with him about two hundred mounted on horseback, of his 
own family, knights, priests, standard-bearers and squires, 
sons of noblemen, forming his body-guard, and all com- 
pletely anned. .AH these, and all their followers, were fes- 
tively arrayed in new attire, each according to his degree. 
He likewise took with him twenty-four changes of raiment, 
almost all to be given away, and left among the foreigners he 
was to visit. He carried along with him all kinds of dogs 
and birds for field sports used by kings and rich men. In 
his train he liad eight waggons; each waggon Avas drawn 


by five horses equal to war horses, well matched, and with CHAP, 
imiforin harness ; each horse was taken care of by a stout 

young man dressed in a new tunic. Two Avaggons carried ^ ^ ^j^g. 
nothing but ale made with water and malt *, in casks fastened 
with iron, to be given to the French. The furniture of the 
Chancellor's chapel filled one waggon, his chamber another, 
his kitchen another ; others were loaded with eatables and 
drink for the use of himself and his train. He had twelve 
sumpter horses ; eight carried the Chancellor's gold and silver 
plate. Coffers and chests contained the Chancellor's money 
in good store, sufficient for his daily expenses, and the 
presents which he meditated, together with his clothes, 
books, and articles of the like nature. One horse, which 
preceded all the rest, carried the holy vessels of his chapel, 
the holy books, and the ornaments of the altar. 

" Likewise each waggon had chained to it, either above or 
below, a large, strong, and fierce mastiff, which seemed able 
to contend with a bear or a lion, and on the top of every 
sumpter horse there was a monkey with a tail, or an ape, 
mimicking the human countenance. On entering the French 
towns and villages the procession was headed by about 250 
young men on foot, in groups of six, or ten, or more, singing 
some verses in their own tongue, after the manner of their 
country. Then came at a little distance harriers and other 
dogs coupled, together with their keepers and whippers-in. 
Soon after the waggons, strengthened with iron and covered 
over with great skins of animals sewed together, rattled over 
the stones of the streets : at a short distance followed the 

I find no mention of hops in the text, and I suspect that the ale so boasted 
of was only the ancient Scandinavian drink described by Tacitus as " a corrup- 
tion of barley," and still manufactured in Flanders under the name of " bierre 
blanche." Some say that hops were unknown in England till the end of the 
reign of Henry VIII., when the liquor made bitter by them was called by the 
new name of " beer." Hence the popular lines 

" Hops, Reformation, Carp, and Beer, 
Came to England all in one year," 

According to Virgil, the northern nations knew how to flavour their wort 
with acids : 

" et pocula laeti 

Fermento atque acidis imitantur vitea sorbis." 
F 4 

A.o. 1158. 


CHAP, sumpter horses, rode by their grooms, who sat upon their 
^^'- haunches. The Frenchmen running out from their houses 
at all this noise, inquired whose family can this he ? Being 
answered, * Behold the Chancellor of the King of England 
going on a mission to the King of France,' they exclaimed, 
How wonderful must be the King of England himself whose 
Chancellor travels in such state P 

" After the sumpter horses followed esquires carrying the 
shields of the knights and leading the saddle horses ; then 
came other knights, then pages, then those who bore 
hawks, then the standard bearers and the upper and lower 
servants of the Chancellor's household, then soldiers and 
priests riding two and two ; last of all came the Chancellor, 
surrounded by some of his friends. 

" As soon as the Chancellor landed in France, he sent 
forward a messenger to inform the French King of his 
approach. The King appointed to meet him at Paris by a 
certain day. It is the custom for the French Kings to purvey 
for all persons coming to court and while they remain there ; 
and the King now wishing to purvey for the Chancellor, by 
an edict published by him at Paris, prohibited all persons 
from selling any thing to the Chancellor or his people. This 
coming to the knowledge of the Chancellor, he sent on his 
servants to St. Denis and the neighbouring towns, that, 
changing their dress and concealing their names, they should 
buy for him bread, flesh, fish, wine, and aU eatables in 
abundance, and when he entered the " Hotel du Temple," 
which he was to occupy in Paris, they ran up and informed 
him that he would find it supplied with provisions fully suffi- 
cient for the use of a thousand men for three days. 

" He gave away all his gold and silver plate and changes 
of raiment, to one a robe, to another a furred cloak, to a 
third a pelisse, to this man a palfrey, and to that a war 
horse. Why should I enter into further particulars ? He 
won favour above all men. He successfully completed his 
embassy : he gained his object : whatever he solicited was 
granted to him. 

" In returning, he apprehended and lodged in prison Vedo 


de la Val, an enemy of the King of England, and a notorious CHAP. 
public robber." * 

That this union might not afterwards be broken off, and 
might cement a good understanding between the two coun- 
tries, according to the treaty which the Chancellor had 
concluded, Margaret the infant princess was put under the 
care of a Norman baron, who was to superintend her educa- 
tion ; and her dower, consisting of a great domain in the 
Vexin, was placed in the hands of the Knights Templars till 
the celebration of the marriage. 

It is said that the Chancellor continued zealously to cul- a.d. 1159. 
tivate peace ; but in spite of his efforts, war with France scutage^ 
became inevitable. The duchy of Toulouse had belonged to 
the father of Eleanor, who had been married to the King of 
France, and being divorced from him, was now Queen of 
England. Henry claiming this territory in her right, under 
some pretence Louis insisted that he was entitled to dispose 
of it, and both parties prepared to settle the dispute by an 
appeal to arms. The Chancellor, with his usual penetration, 
saw, that instead of the feudal militia, who were to fight with- 
out pay for forty days, it would be much better to commute 
personal service for a pecuniary contribution, by which a 
regular army might be equipt and maintained. He therefore 
introduced the pecuniary aid, called scutage, of 3/. to be levied 
on every knight's fee ; and the number of 60,000 knights' fees 
established by the Conqueror still remaining, he thus col- 
lected 180,000/., and engaged a numerous force of mercenaries, 
whose attendance in the field was to be extended to three 
months. With them marched, from the love of glory, an 
illustrious host, consisting of English Barons, and many from 
Henry's continental dominions; a Prince of Wales, 
Malcolm King of Scotland, and Raymond King of Arragon, 
to whose infant daughter had been affianced the King's son, 
Richard, afterwards Coeur de Lion, then an infant in his 
nurse's arms. But of all who composed this great army, the Bccket's 
bravest and the most active warrior was Lord Chancellor a ""''t*""y 


Beckct, who had enlisted a body of 700 knights at his own 

* Fitzstephen. 



A. n. 1159. 
Siege of 

with En- 
jlleran de 

expense, and, marching at their head, was the foremost in 
every enterprise. 

Louis was shut up with a small force in the city of Toulouse, 
to which Henry laid siege. Becket represented that it might 
easily be taken by assault, oiFering to lead on the storming 
party himself, and it is generally allowed that this blow might 
at once have put a glorious termination to the war; but 
Henry, when congratulated on the prospect of having in his 
power such an illustrious captive, conceived conscientious 
scruples against offering violence to his liege lord, whom he 
had sworn to guard and protect. The Chancellor laid down 
for law that the King of France, by assuming the command 
there in person, had deliberately put himself in the situation 
of an enemy on equal terms with his opponent. During this 
discussion a great French army came to the rescue of their 
King: the golden opportunity was lost, and Henry was obliged 
to retreat Avith the bulk of his forces into Normandy. " The 
Chancellor, with his own followers and the single aid of Henry 
of Essex, the King's Constable, remained to preserve the 
English authority in that quarter, all the other leaders having 
refused to do so. Armed with helmet and coat of mail, he 
afterwards, with his own brave band, took three very strong 
castles which had been deemed impregnable. Nay, more, he 
crossed the Garonne with a military force, attacked the enemy, 
and having established the authority of the King in all that 
province, he returned triumphant and honoured."* 

In a subsequent campaign, the Chancellor, besides 700 
knights of his own family, had under his command 1200 
cavalry and 4000 infantry, whom he had taken into pay, for 
the space of forty days. " Each soldier serving on horseback 
received from him three shillings a day to provide horses and 
attendants, and was entertained at the Chancellor's table. 
He himself, although in holy orders, encountered Engleran 
de Trie, a valiant French knight, who, in full armour, rode 
furiously against him, his lance in the rest: the priest un- 
horsed the knight, and made prize of his charger. Of the 
whole army of the King of England, the soldiers of the 

* Fitzst. 


Chancellor were always the first, the most daring, and the CHAP, 
most distinguished for their exploits, he himself instructing 

them, encouraging them, and leading them on."* 

Peace being at last restored, the Chancellor unbuckled his a.d. iieo. 
sword, again put on his robes at Westminster, and returned . 'f " ." 

' o I ' cial merits. 

to the discharo-e of his civil duties. His administration of 
justice was vigorous and impartial, no favour being shown to 
Saxon or Norman, to layman or ecclesiastic. Hitherto he 
preferred the interests of the Crown to those of his own 

During the late war the rich prelates and abbots of the 
Norman race, whose military zeal had greatly subsided since 
they could no longer plunder a vanquished people, excused 
themselves from yielding to the summons to serve in the field, 
because, said they, HoIt/ Church forbade them to shed blood ; 
and farther, on the same pretence, they refused to pay the 
tax substituted for personal service, which, they said, was in- 
directly violating a divine precept. But the Chancellor over- 
ruled their scruples, and compelled them to pay up the 
arrears. Upon this the heads of the Church uttered the most 
violent invectives against him. Foliot, Bishop of London, 
publicly accused him of plunging a sword into the bosom of 
his mother, the Church ; and Archbishop Theobald, his former 
patron, threatened to excommunicate him. Becket still 
showed an entire indifference to ecclesiastical censures, and 
established Henry's right to personal service or scutage for 
all the lands held by the Church. One day, at a meeting of 
the clergy, some bishops affected to talk in high-flown terms 
of their being independent of the royal authority ; but the 
Chancellor, who was present, openly contradicted them, and, 
in a severe tone, reminded them that they were bound to the 
King by the same oath as men of the sword, "to be true and 
faithful to the King, and truth and faith to bear of life and 
limb and earthly honour." 

Some have supposed that Becket all this time, while he held His views 
the office of Chancellor, was hypocritically acting a part to tj^ns*"**^"' 
secure Henry's favour, that he might be elevated to the 





A.n. 1160. 

tion with 
Prior of 

primacy, with the premeditated purpose of then quarrelling 
with the King, and taking part against him in the contro- 
versies which had been going on between the civil and eccle- 
siastical authorities. But notwithstanding his conversation 
with the Abbot of Leicester, it is much more probable that 
his change of sentiments and policy was brought about by 
change of situation, and that hitherto he had served the King 
with sincerity and zeal, although it was foreseen by those well 
acquainted with his character, that he might become a very 
dangerous subject if placed in a high situation independent of 
the Crown. 

It would appear that he himself, while Chancellor, and a 
devoted friend and servant of Henry, had a presentiment 
of his future destiny, and, we may believe, an earnest desire 
to avoid it. The age and infirmities of Theobald showing that 
the primacy must soon be vacant, the general expectation was 
that the Chancellor would succeed to it, not only from his 
extraordinary merits and success, but such being the usual 
course of promotion.* 

In this state of things, Becket, residing at St. Gervas, near 
Rouen, fell dangerously ill ; and such interest did his con- 
dition excite, that he had a visit from the King of England 
and the King of France on the same day. Afterwards, when 
the danger was over, and he was convalescent, he one day sat 
playing at chess dressed in a cloak with sleeves, like a young 
courtier. " Aschatinius, Prior of Leicester, coming from the 
King's Court, then in Gascony, entered to pay him a visit, 
and addressing him with familiarity, on account of their long 
intimacy, said, -'How is it that you wear a cloak with 
sleeves ? This dress is fitter for those who go a-hawking ; but 
you are an ecclesiastical character, one in individuality but 
many in dignity Archdeacon of Canterbury, Dean of Hast- 
ings, Provost of Beverley, canon here and prebendary 
there, nay, the proxy of the Archbishop, and (as the report 
goes at Court) archbishop soon to be.' To this speech the 

* Fitzstephen in describing the nature of the office of Chancellor says, " All 
ecclesiastical preferments are disposed of by his advice ; so that, by God's grace 
and his own merits, he is almost sure to become an archbishop or bishop if he 


Chancellor made answer, among other things: 'Truly I CHAP, 
know three poor priests in England, any one of whom I '___ 

would rather wish to be promoted to the primacy than myself; 
for if by any chance I were appointed, knowing my Lord the 
King previously so well, I should be driven either to lose his 
favour, or (which Heaven forefend !) to sacrifice the service of 
God.' Nevertheless this afterwards fell out as he foretold."* 

In April, 1161, Archbishop Theobald died. Henry de- a.d. iisi. 
clared that Becket should succeed, no doubt counting upon ^^^j^_ " 
his co-operation in carrying on the policy hitherto pursued in bishop 
checking the encroachments of the clergy and of the see of 
Home, and hoping that his obsequious minister, uniting 
supreme and ecclesiastical dignity, the remainder of his 
reign would be characterised by internal tranquillity and 
harmony, so that he might turn his undivided attention to 
schemes of foreign aggrandisement. 

The same opinion of Becket's probable conduct was gene- Objection 
rally entertained, and a cry was raised that "the Church apnoint-*^*^ 
was in danger." The English bishops sent a representation ment as 
to Henry against the appointment, and the electors long on'^tjir ^ 
refused to obey his mandate, saying that " it was indecent ground of 
that a man who was rather a soldier than a priest, and who i,ostile to 
had devoted himself to hunting and falconry instead of the the Church, 
study of the Holy Scriptures, should be placed in the chair 
of St. Augustine." 

Matilda, the King's mother, with more penetration into 
character, interfered to prevent the election on another 
ground, and warned her son that when once Becket was 
independent of him, being consecrated archbishop, he would 
turn out a rival and an enemy, and would disturb the peace 
of the kingdom. Henry's eagerness for the appointment was 
only inflamed by opposition, and he resolved to carry it in 
spite of all obstacles. 

Becket himself still pretended indiiference or aversion, Foliot, 
occupied himself with the duties of Chancellor, and con- Here*fbrd 
tinned his usual courtly life and secular habits. His rival, rival of 
Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of Hereford, a prelate from his youth 

* Fifzst. 


CHAP. upwai*ds, of rigid morals and severe demeanour, who was 
^"* liimself looking to the primacy, had been in the habit of 
asserting that the Chancellor was impatiently watching the 
demise of Theobald, and being in Normandy when he heard 
of that event, immediately hastened to England in the hope 
of succeeding: him. The ecclesiastics with whom the election 
was, remaining obstinate, Becket with seeming unconcern 
attended to business at Harfleur, or hunted in the forests 
around Rouen. 
An. 1162. At the end of a year the King, determined to be trifled 
with no longer, communicated to the Chancellor at Falaise 
that he must prepare for a voyage to England, and that in 
a few days he should certainly be Archbishop of Canterbury. 
It would be difficult to analyse the feelings of the future 
Martyr at this announcement. He probably experienced 
a glow of pleasure at the near prospect of greatness, and yet 
was so far his own dupe as to persuade himself that he was 
unwilling to have it thrust upon him. His biographer in- 
forms us, that, casting a smile of irony on his dress, he re- 
plied, " that he had not much the appearance of an arch- 
bishop, and that if the King was serious, he must still beg 
leave to decline the preferment, because it would be im- 
possible for him to perform the duties of the situation and at 
the same time retain the favour of his benefactor," 

The legate, Henry of Pisa, happening to be present, 
assisted in combating these scruples, and Becket, taking an 
aifectionate leave of the King, sailed for England, agreeing 
to be consecrated as Primate if the election should fall upon 
Becket On the 3d of June, 1162, the prior and monks of Canter- 

A^ch- bury, with the suffragan bishops, assembled at Westminster, 

bishop of and now, with one exception, concurred, after many prayers 
bury,^i*i62. ^"^ masscs. In electing Becket as Archbishop. The dis- 
sentient was Follot, who observed, when the ceremony was 
over, that " the King had worked a miracle in having that 
day turned a layman into an archbishop, and a soldier into a 
samt." Many of the nobles who happened to be present 
testified their approbation by loud applause, and Prince 


Henry, under a commission from his father, gave the royal CHAP. 
assent to the election. 

Down to this time Becket, notwithstanding his many ^ ^ jjg^ 
ecclesiastical benefices, was only in deacon's orders, which Becket 
were then supposed to be consistent with most of the pursuits ^rch- 
and habits of a layman ; but he was now ordained priest by l>ishop. 
the Bishop of Rochester, and, proceeding to Canterbury, he 
was consecrated by the Bishop of Winchester, assisted by 
many other bishops. He was enthroned with extraordinary 
solemnity. The ceremony was almost as pompous as a 
coronation, all ranks being eager to gratify the King, and to 
pay court to the favourite. 

The universal expectation was, that Becket would now 
play the part so successfully performed by Cardinal Wolsey 
in a succeeding age ; that. Chancellor and Archbishop, he 
would continue the minister and personal friend of the King ; 
that he would study to support and extend all the prero- 
gatives of the Crown, which he himself was to exercise ; and 
that in the palaces of which he was now master he would 
live with Increased magnificence and luxury. When we 
judge of his character, we must ever bear in mind that all this 
was easily within his reach, and that if he had been actuated 
by love of pleasure or mere vulgar ambition, such would 
have been his career. 

Never was there so wonderful a transformation. Whether Sudden 
from a predetermined purpose, or from a sudden change of ^^ Bec'kefs 
inclination, he immediately became in every respect an al- character 
tered man. Instead of the stately and fastidious courtier, juct, 
was seen the humble and squalid penitent. Next his skin 
he wore haircloth, populous with vermin ; he lived upon roots, 
and his drink was water, rendered nauseous by an infusion of 
fennel. By way of further penance and mortification, he 
frequently inflicted stripes on his naked back. Daily on his 
bended knees he washed the feet of thirteen beggars, re- 
freshed them with ample food, and gave each of them four 
pieces of silver. He wandered alone in his cloister, shedding 
many tears, from the thought of his past sins, and his great 
occupation was to pray and read the Scriptures. He wore 
the habit of a monk ; and the monks, astonished at the sane- 


CHAP, tity he displayed, already talked of his conversion as a most 
"' evident miracle of Divine grace, poured out upon him at his 

A.D. 1162. consecration. 

He resigns The wouder of mankind was still further excited by the 
^^P'^^'^^ next step, which he speedily took, without ever consulting 
the King, or any previous notice of his intention ; he sent the 
Great Seal to Henry, in Normandy, with this short message, 
" I desire that you will provide yourself with another Chan- 
cellor, as I find myself hardly sufl&cient for the duties of one 
office, and much less of two." 

The fond patron, who had been so eager for his elevation, 
Avas now grievously disappointed and alarmed. He knew 
Becket too well to believe that this resignation proceeded 
from real humility and dislike of temporal power ; he there- 
fore looked upon it as an indication of a higher and more 
dangerous ambition, believing that the Archbishop would 
have continued his Chancellor if he had not aspired to be- 
come his competitor, and to exalt the mitre above the crown. 
He at once saw that he had been deceived in his choice, and 
that the worst predictions of his mother were likely to be 
speedily verified. 

He resolved, however, to treat the Archbishop with pa- 
tience and forbearance, though with firmness, and that, while 
he showed to the world that he would be master in his own 
dominions, he should not appear the aggressor in the con- 
troversy which he anticipated. He therefore still allowed 
Prince Henry to remain under the tuition of the Arch- 
The King The two old friends first met at Southampton, on the 
meet and King's retum from Normandy. Becket went thither to do 
quarrel. homage for the temporalities of his see, and was received 
courteously, though coldly. Having intimated his incapa- 
city to fulfil the duties of two offices, he was required to 
resign that of archdeacon of Canterbury, which was of great 
value, and which he wished to retain. Here the King had 
clearly the law on his side, and he succeeded. But Becket 
immediately resolved, by an appeal to the law, to be re- 
venged. On the ground of vindicating the rights of his see, 
he demanded of the King the castle and town of Eochester 

A.D. 1163. 


with other possessions ; of the Earl of Clare, a favourite of CHAP. 
the King, the castle of Tunbridge, and of other noblemen 
various other properties, which he alleged had once be- 
longed to the church of Canterbury, and to which no length 
of time could ever confer a title as lay fee. 

How far he might have been able to establish these claims 
may be doubtful, but before they could be brought to a legal 
inquiry he set up others which he could not support, and the 
King being determined to curb ecclesiastical encroachments 
by new laws, which the Archbishop resolutely resisted, a 
fatal rupture took place between them. 

William de Eynsford, a military tenant of the Crown, 
having ejected from a rectory in Kent, the advowson of 
which belonged to him, a priest presented to it by Becket, 
was immediately excommunicated by him, contrary to a well 
established law, which had been respected ever since the Con- 
quest, that the tenants of the Crown should not be excom- 
municated without the Kinsf's knowledge and consent. 
Henry, by a messenger, sent him orders to absolve Eynsford, 
but received for answer that it belonged not to the King to 
inform him whom he should absolve and whom excom- 
municate. After many remonstrances and menaces, the royal 
mandate was at last obeyed. Henry had at this time great 
advantages in asserting the royal prerogative, for his reputa- 
tion was high from the success of his government both at 
home and abroad ; his barons all concurred in his policy ; 
and the power of the Church was weakened from there being 
two rival popes ; each claiming to be the successor of 
St. Peter ; one under the title of Victor IV., residing at 
Rome, and patronised by the Emperor ; and another under 
the title of Alexander III., who kept his court in France, 
protected by Louis VII. Henry had sent in his adhesion to 
the latter, but with significant doubts of his title. Alexander, 
who was only restrained by his peculiar situation from carry- 
ing the pretensions of the triple crown as high as any of his 
predecessors, looking on Becket as a great prop of his power, 
had received him with high distinction at Tours, and secretly 
abetted him in all his designs. 

The grand struggle which the Church was then making Struggh 

VOL. I. G between 




civil ami 
tical autho- 

tho King 
and the 

A. I). 1164. 
tions of 

was, that all churcliracn should be entirely exempted from 
the jurisdiction of the secular courts, whatever crime they 
might have committed. A priest in Worcestershire, having 
about this time debauched a gentleman's daughter, had pro- 
ceeded to murder the father. On a demand that he should 
be delivered up and brought to trial before the King's judges, 
Becket insisted on the privileges of the Church, confined 
the criminal in the bishop's prison lest he should be seized by 
the King's officers, passed upon him merely sentence of 
degradation, and insisted that, when degraded, he could not 
affain be broufjht to trial for the same oftence. 

Henry, thinking that he had a favourable opportunity for 
bringing the dispute to a crisis, summoned an assembly of 
all the prelates at Westminster, and himself put to them 
thi.' plain question : " Whether they were willing to submit 
to the ancient laws and customs of the kingdom ? " Their 
reply, framed by Becket, was : " We are willing, saving our 
own order.''^ There v/as only one dissenting bishop : he was 
willing to give an unqualified answer in the affirmative, but 
Becket sorely upbraided him for his servility. The King, 
seeing what was comprehended in the reservation, retired 
with evident marks of displeasure, deprived Becket of the 
government of Eye and Berkhamstead, and all the appoint- 
ments which he held at the pleasure of the Crown, and 
uttered threats as to seizing the temporalities of all the 
bishops, since they would not acknowledge their allegiance to 
him as the head of the state. The legate of Pope Alexander, 
dreading a breach with so powerful a prince at so unseason- 
able a juncture, advised Becket to submit for the moment ; 
and he with his brethren, retracting the saving clause, abso- 
lutely promised "to observe the laws and customs of the 

To avoid all future dispute, Henry resolved to follow 
up his victory by having these laws and customs, as far as 
the Church was concerned, reduced into a code, to be 
sanctioned by the legislature, and to be specifically acknow- 
ledged by all the bishops. This was the origin of the famous 
" Constitutions of Clarendon." 

We Protestants must approve of the Avhole of them, for 


they in a great measure anticipate the measures which were CHAP. 
taken when the yoke of the Church of Rome was thrown oif 
at the Reformation; but, in justice to Becket, we must ^ ^ ng4 
acknowledge that they were in various particulars an inno- 
vation upon the principles and practices which had long pre- 
vailed. Not only did they provide that clerks accused of any 
crime should be tried in the King's courts ; that all suits con- 
cerning advowsons and presentations should be determined 
according to the course of the common law; and that the 
clergy should no longer pretend to the right of enforcing 
payment of debts contracted by oath or promise, whereby 
they were drawing all questions of contract and property 
before their tribunals ; but that all appeals in spiritual 
causes should be carried from the archdeacon to the bishop, 
from the bishop to the primate, and from the primate to the 
king, without whose consent it should go no farther ; that no 
clergyman should leave the realm without the King's licence ; 
that, on a vacancy, the revenue of episcopal sees should 
belong to the Crown ; that the members of each chapter, or 
such of them as the King might please to summon, should sit 
in the King's chapel till they made the new election with his 
consent ; and that the bishop elect should do homage to the 

Under these constitutions, Henry would have disposed of 
all ecclesiastical dignities by his own authority, would have 
prevented all appeals to Rome, and would have been himself 
" the Head of the Church." Being submitted to the great 
council called at Clarendon, they were unanimously and joy- 
fully carried by the barons. The prelates were then called 
upon individually to set their seals to them, and to promise 
to observe them. No one ventured to oppose the King's 
will, except Becket. He for some time resolutely refused his 

* One of the articles shows that the right of sitting in the House of Lords 
now belonging to bishops, and greatly prized by them, was originally forced 
upon them at a time when they thought it an indignity to sit in any assembly 
except by themselves, as a separate order : " That the archbisliops, bishops, 
and otlier spiritual dignitaries sliould be regarded as barons of the realm, should 
possess the privileges and be subjected to the burthens belonging to that rank, 
and should he hound to attend the kiny in his great councils, and assist at all trials, 
till sentence cither of death or loss of members be given against the criminal." 

G 2 




A.o. 1164. 
swears to 
tions of 

assent, though urged to compliance by prelates as well as 
barons of the greatest authority in the kingdom. 

What follows subjects him to the imputation of occasional 
weakness or duplicity, and disregard of the sacred obligation 
of an oath. At a private meeting of the prelates, Richard de 
Hastings, Grand Prior of the Templars, throwing himself on 
his knees before him, and with many tears entreating him 
that if he paid any regard to his own safety or that of the 
Church, he shguld yield, he exclaimed, " It is my master's 
pleasure that I should forswear myself, which I resolve to do, 
and to repent afterwards as I may." He then marched at 
their head to the King, and took an oath, " with good faith 
and without fraud or reserve, to observe the Constitutions." 

They were immediately sent over to Pope Alexander, and 
it was hoped he would ratify them, thinking only of his 
recent obligations to the Sovereign of England; but he 
plainly seeing that they went to establish the independency 
of England on the papacy, condemned them in the strongest 
terms, abrogated and annulled them, absolved all who had 
taken an oath to submit to them, and threatened with excom- 
munication all who should presume to enforce them. 

Becket, who had been overwhelmed with remorse from the 
moment of his weakness, followed Henry to Woodstock 
some think with the intention of abdicating the primacy ; 
but, not being able to obtain an interview, and being en- 
couraged by the spirited conduct of the Pope, he resolved to 
make ample atonement for the offence he had committed, and 
from this time to his death showed a fortitude, perseverance, 
and self-devotedness, which have never been surpassed. He 
refused to exercise any part of his archiepiscopal functions 
till he received the special pardon and absolution of the Pope, 
and proportioning his discipline to the enormity of his sup- 
posed offence, he redoubled his austerities to punish himself 
for his momentary consent. 

Much less with a view to his own safety than in the hope 
of more eflFectually embarrassing the King by his absence 
from the realm, he twice attempted to cross the Channel ; but 
was driven back by contrary winds, and being brought into 


the royal presence, he was asked by Henry "if he thought CHAP, 
that one island could not hold them both ?" 

A great council was called at Northampton, where Henry ^ ,, hq^ 
planned to accomplish the utter destruction of his competitor. Great 
He was peremptorily summoned and compelled to attend. Northamp- 
When seated among the peers, various charges were brought '*^"- 
against him, of which several were alleged to amount to 
high treason, and others sought to make him accountable for 
larger sums of money than it was possible for him to repay. 

This is the earliest state trial of which there is any account Trial of 
extant ; and we have a very minute and seemingly very ac- 
curate report of it.* It lasted a good many days, the court 
sitting on Sundays as well as week days. The judges were 
English prelates, and Norman as well as English barons. 
The high treason consisted in the Archbishop not having ap- 
peared when summoned in one of the King's courts, although 
he had sent four knights to appear for him. He was found Found 
guilty, and his person being admitted to be sacred, he was ^"' ^' 
sentenced to forfeit all his goods and chattels, a penalty 
commuted for a fine of 500/. 

Judgment was then prayed against him that he might Further 
refund 300Z. of the rents which he had received as warden of ^^l^^ ' 
Eye and Berkhamstead. He coolly answered that he would against 
pay it ; for although he had expended a larger sum in repairs, 
money should never prove a cause of dissension between him 
and his Sovereign. The next item was 500/. alleged to have 
been advanced to him when he was Chancellor, and lay 
before Toulouse. He maintained that it was a gift, but he 
was obliged to give sureties for the amount. Then followed 
a demand which testified a total disregard of justice, and a 
fixed determination to ruin him 44,000 marks alleged to 
have been received from vacant bishoprics and abbeys during 
his chancellorship. He pleaded that he had been publicly 
released of all such obligations under the King's authority, 
by the Earl of Leicester and the Prince when he was con- 
secrated, and that it was well known that he had spent all 
these sums in the public service. His plea Avas overruled. 

* St. Tr. vol. i. p. 1. 

G 3 


CHAP. The object was to force his resignation, and Foliot strongly 
^"- (not disinterestedly) advised him to yield ; but he would now 

AD 1164 sooner submit to martyrdom. 

The following morning, having first celebrated the 
mass of St. Stephen with the office beginning " Princes 
sat and spake against me," he proceeded to Court, arrayed 
in his pontifical robes, and bearing in his hand the archi- 
episcopal cross. The King, astonished at this parade, 
retired with the barons into an inner apartment, and 
was soon after followed by the bishops. Becket remained 
alone with his attendants in calm and intrepid dignity. 
Henry used the most violent language against him, in which 
he was joined by his courtiers. Bloodshed being dreaded, the 
bishops came to him in a body, and Hilary of Chichester said 
to him in an upbraiding tone, " You were our primate, but 
by opposing the royal customs you have broken your oath of 
fealty to the King. A perjured archbishop has no right to 
our obedience." " I have," was his only reply. The bishops 
seated themselves on the opposite side of the hall, and solemn 
silence long prevailed. At length the door opened, and the 
Earl of Leicester, at the head of the barons, desired him to 
listen to his sentence. " My sentence ! " interrupted the arch- 
bishop. " Son and Sir Earl, hear me first; you know with 
what fidelity I served the King, how reluctantly, to please 
him, I accepted my present office, and in what manner I was 
declared by him free from all similar claims. For what hap- 
pened before my consecration I ought not to answer, nor will 
I. Know, moreover, that ye are my children in God ; neither 
law nor reason allows you to judge your father. I therefore 
decline your tribunal, and refer my quarrel to the de'cision of 
the Pope. To him I appeal ; and shall now, under the pro- 
tection of the Catholic Church and the apostolic see, depart." 
As he slowly withdrew, some courtiers threw straw at him 
which they picked up from the floor, and the voice of one 
whom he recognised called out to him, " Traitor!" A feel- 
ing of his ancient knightly prowess was for a moment excited, 
and as soon suppressed. Turning round he rejoined, " Were 
it not that my order forbids me, that coxoard should repent 
of his insolence." At the gate the populace received him 


with acclamations, and he was conducted in triumph to his CHAP. 

He then asked permission to go beyond the seas, and being jj^ escapes 
told that he should have his answer next morning, concluded to the Con- 
that a plan had been laid to assassinate him in the night. 
He pretended that he was going to seek sanctuary, and he had 
a bed prepared for himself in a church ; but this was only to 
further his escape, against which they had taken great pre- 
cautions. By the help of a disguise he eluded the vigilance 
of the guards stationed at the north gate of the town, and 
assuming the name of " Brother Christian," and travelling 
as a pilgrim, after many adventures and perils he reached 
Sandwich, and was safely landed at Gravelines. 

Forthwith he visited the King of France, who was de- 
lighted to receive and encourage him, as an instrument to 
disturb the government of the King of England. He next 
proceeded to Sens, the court of Pope Alexander, whose 
feelings were more divided, and who was obliged to act with 
more caution. The Pontiff, however, although he was un- 
willing to incur the direct hostility of Henry, behaved with 
generosity to the illustrious exile who had suffered so much 
for the cause of the Church. Becket having resigned his 
mitre, on the ground that there had been something un- 
canonical in his original election, was immediately reinstated 
by him with the archiepiscopal dignity, and a secure resi- 
dence was assigned to him in the convent of Pontigny. Here Becket 
he put on the habit of a Cistercian monk, and for some years fi^lte^jj^^the 
found an asylum ; but he lived in state, and received strangers Abbey of 
with great magnificence, having ample funds from the volun- " '"^' 
tary contributions of his admirers. The persecution he had 
undergone had made all his errors be forgotten, and he was 
now high in the favour of mankind. With general applause 
he compared himself to our blessed Saviour, who had been 
condemned by a lay tribunal, and who, he said, " was crucified 
anew in the present oppressions under which his Church 
laboured." He still pretended to be the spiritual father of the 
King and all the people of England ; propounded the doctrine 
that kings reign solely by the authority of the Church, and 
threatened to pronounce sentence of excommunication against 




of the 

AD. 1167. 
goes to 

A.D. 1168. 

the King, whereby his subjects would be absolved from their 

Henry, on the other hand, sequestrated all Becket's pro- 
perty in England ; banished his servants and dependants, to 
the number of 400 ; suspended the payment of Peter's pence ; 
made overtures for an alliance with the Emperor Frederic 
Barbarossa, the enemy of Alexander ; and indicated an inten- 
tion of recognising the Antipope Pascal III. as the true 
successor of St. Peter. 

The exiled Archbishop, being forced from his retreat at 
Pontigny, by a threat of Henry to confiscate the possessions 
of all the Cistercian abbeys in England, took shelter some 
time at Sens, and afterwards removed to the city of Rome, 
of which Alexander had got possession on the death of Victor 
the succeeding Antipope. In this interval he wrote many 
letters, which are still extant, to support his cause, some 
addressed to the Pope, some to the English bishops, and 
some to Henry himself, whose heart he attempted to touch by 
addressing him in a very different strain from that to which 
they had been accustomed when, as boon companions, they 
had both rather laughed at sacred things.* 

The English nation, and even the English clergy, took p%rt 
with their sovereign, and treated the primate as a factious 
and turbulent demagogue, who was looking only to gratify 
his own vanity and to aggrandise his own power f; but in the 
continental dominions of England there was a strong dispo- 
sition to regard him as a martyr and a hero, and Henry 

Speaking of Henry's supposed persecution of the Church, he says, " the 
Daughter of Zion the Spouse of the great King is held captive in your 
hand." Ep. Beck. lib. iv. ep. 63. 

t This appears clearly from the letters addressed to him which are preserved. 
Thus writes the Bishop of Lisieux ; " Some think that your struggle does not 
proceed from virtue but from pride ; that still the Chancellor in spirit, you are 
striving that none should resist your will ; that you seek to make the diadem 
subordinate to the Church, and that you hope that having overcome royalty, your 
power will be without limit or control." L. i. ep. 85. So the clergy in an 
address to him, after ironically reciting his pretences to piety, they advise him 
to continue in a course of humility and charity, and abstaining from injury and 
menaces, to advance his cause by patience, meekness, and dependence on Heaven. 
" Study with paternal care to feed the sheep committed to your charge, that they 
may have life, peace, and security." Ibid. John of Salisbury wrote him a 
private letter in a still severer strain, concluding with the words, " Take it as 
you please," " vos accii)iatis ut placet," and was excommunicated for his 
pains Ep. 31. 


trembled for the consequences of being put under the ban of chap. 
the Church. Alexander now could afford to support Becket 
more openly, and conferred legatine powers upon him, which 
rendered him more formidable. Had England alone been 
concerned, Henry might probably, like his successor of his 
own name, have entirely thrown off the yoke of Rome ; but 
he was obliged to temporise; for the Pope and Louis, of 
whom he held his fair provinces in France as liege sovereign, 
were stirring up a most formidable resistance to his authority. 

The crisis was hastened by the offence taken on account a.d. ii69. 
of the coronation of Henry, the King's son, by the Arch- J'Sl'*" 
bishop of York, in derogation of the rights of the see of son by 
Canterbury, and in the teeth of a papal bull enjoining that no o/york ^ 
Ena-lish prelate except the primate should officiate at this against 

* ^ r r Papal bull. 


Henry saw with alarm that the thunder which he had so 
long feared was about to burst upon him, and he was ready 
to resort to any expedient which should not permanently 
disable him from future resistance, for the purpose of now 
averting the storm. Negotiations were repeatedly attempted 
without effect ; the King in the terms proposed always in- 
sisting on a salvo to " his royal dignity," and the Archbishop 
on a salvo to " tlie honour of God," each of which was in- 
dignantly rejected as a cloak for treachery. Henry tried to 
gain over tlie King of France to his side, by an appeal to 
their common interests as sovereigns, saying, " There have 
been many Kings of England, some of greater, some of less 
authority than myself; there have also been many Arch- 
bishops of Canterbury, holy and good men, and entitled to 
every sort of respect. Let Becket but act towards me with 
the same submission which the greatest of his predecessors 
have paid to the least of mine, and there shall be no con- 
troversy between us." Louis, struck with this mode of 
putting the case, professed to condemn the primate, but was 
soon again carried away by a common feeling of animosity 
to Henry. 

At last it was agreed that the King of England and the A.n. 1170. 
Archbishop of Canterbury should have a personal interview j'"*^'^^'^*^ 
in a spacious meadow near the town of Fereitville, on the Becket and 


CHAP, borders of Touraine. Henry pretended to be desirous of a 

^^^' cordial and permanent reconciliation, but still fostered secret 

^^^^ j^^ schemes of vengeance, and privately took an oath that he 

Fert-itville. would stop short of giving the Archbishop " the kiss of 

A.v. 1170. pg^^^n which, like eating salt with an enemy among eastern 

nations, would have for ever prevented him from executing 

or being privy to any act of violence against him.* 

However, they met with apparent cordiality. As soon as 
Becket appeared, the King galloped up with his cap in his 
hand, and respectfully saluted him ; and, as if there never 
had been any difference between them, addressed him with 
the easy familiarity which had distinguished their foi'mer 
friendship. Henry, carrying his politeness to an excess 
which might have excited the suspicion of the Archbishop, 
exclaimed, " As for the men who have betrayed both you and 
me, I will make them such return as the deserts of traitors 
require." The Archbishop, probably likewise dissembling 
his real feelings, as if melted to submission and tenderness, 
alighted from his horse, and threw himself at the feet of his 
Sovereign. But the King immediately raised him, and, 
holding his stirrup, insisted that he should remount, saying, 
" In short, my Lord Archbishop, let us renew our ancient 
affection for each other." Then returning to his attendants, 
he observed, " I find the Archbishop in the best disposition 
towards me ; were I otherwise towards him, I should be the 
worst of men." The articles agreed between the high con- 
tracting parties were, That the King should restore to the 
Archbishop the possessions of the see of Canterbury, taking 
him into his grace and favour, and in mercy make amends 
to that Church for the injury it had sustained at the late 
coronation of his son: in return for which the King was 
promised love, honour, and every service which an Archbishop 

* We have a lively description from an eye-witness of the effect produced 
upon Henry by receiving a dispatch disclosing a new machination of the arch- 
bisliop, and we may conceive how mucli it must have cost him, even for a short 
time, to affect moderation. " He threw his cap from his head, imfastened his 
belt, cloak, and vest, scattered them to a distance, with his own hand tore off 
the silk covering from his l)ed, and began to gnaw pieces of straw." " Pileum 
de capite projecit, balteum discussit, pallium et vestes longius abjecit, 
stratum sericeum quod erat supra lectum manu propria reraovit et coepit stra- 
minis masticare festucas." L. i. ep. 44. 


could render in the Lord to his earthly Sovereign; that CHAp. 
the Archbishop should return to England to resume the 

exercise of his sacred functions, and that the King should ^ ^ ^^q 
furnish him with a sum of money to discharge his debts, and 
defray the expenses of his journey. 

Henry was then asked to seal the compact with '" the kiss Peace of 
ofpeace,^^ but he declined, making this excuse: "In my 
own country I will kiss his face, hands, and feet, a hundred 
times ; but now let it be postponed. To salute him in Eng- 
land will be thought an act of favour and affection ; it would 
look like compulsion here." 

The French King construed this refusal as a proof of Henry re- 
unextinguished resentment, and counselled Becket not to Becket the 
leave France ; but the Archbishop said that " duty called *' / 
him to England, whatever perils he might encounter." After 
some interval, during which the kiss of peace was studiously 
avoided by Henry, Becket took leave of him with a fore- 
boding mind, emphatically telling him he was afraid he 
should see him no more. Henry exclaimed, " Do you take 
me for a traitor?" Becket added these pathetic words, 
which, however he may have feigned on other occasions, he 
probably spoke with sincerity : " Necessity obliges me, in the 
lowly state to which I am reduced, to revisit ray afflicted 
Church. I go. Sir, with your permission, perhaps to perish 
for its security, unless you protect me. But whether I live 
or die, yours I am, and yours I shall ever be, in the Lord. 
Whatever may befall me, may the blessing of God fall upon 
you and your children !" 

Henry promised to meet him at the sea- coast, to supply iienry 
him there with the stipulated pecuniary aid, and to accom- ^'r^aks ins 

. . engage- 

pany lum to England ; but failed in all these promises, and ment. 
Becket was obliged to borrow 300/. for the payment of his 
debts and expenses, from the Archbishop of Rouen, and to 
embark under the superintendence of John of Oxford, with 
whom he had had a personal feud, and who was set over him 
as a spy. 

Finding the King still so hostile, he determined to make Bucket 

,1 , . p ,1 1 resolves on 

the most vigorous use ot the weapons now m his own power, veno-eance. 
and to maintain his independence and ascendancy to the last 




A.D. 1170. 

Becket re- 
turns to 

at Canter- 

extremity. The Pope, before he heard of the peace of 
Fercitville, had issued letters of excommunication against the 
Archbishop of York and the Bishops of London and Salis- 
bury for officiating at the coronation of the King's son, con- 
trary to the papal bull. Becket having received these letters, 
at first, for the sake of peace, had wisely resolved to suppress 
them ; but in a fit of irritation he now dispatched them to 
England, before himself, by a trusty messenger, who had in- 
structions to elude the search for bulls from Rome, now 
strictly made at all the outports, and who succeeded in pub- 
lishing them at Canterbury, so as to give effect to them 
according to the canon law. The three excommunicated 
prelates inveighed against the Archbishop's implacable hatred 
of his opponents and unquenchable thirst for agitation ; they 
denounced him to the young King as a person who was 
coming to tear the crown from his head ; and they hastened 
to Normandy to inflame the resentment and to invoke the 
vengeance of Henry. 

Becket being informed that it would be dangerous for him 
to land at Dover, Avhere the castle was garrisoned by the 
King's troops, directed his ship to Sandwich, then a port 
belonging to his see, where he was sure of a good reception 
from his tenants. After he had disembarked he experienced 
some rudeness from the sheriff of Kent, who hastened to the 
spot with a band of soldiers, and without venturing to offer 
any violence to him, told him that he was entering the land 
with fire and sword, that he had excommunicated the Arch- 
bishop of York and two other prelates for merely doing their 
duty, and that unless he took better counsel it would be 
safer for him to remain in foreign parts. The Archbishop 
boldly asserted his right to punish the prelates for dis- 
obedience to their canonical superiors, and, denying all trea- 
sonable intentions, expressed his resolution to defend the 
liberties of the Church. 

His march to Canterbury was a triumphal procession. 
There, to honour his return, banquets of unexampled splen- 
dour were prepared ; the cathedral was hung with silks and 
precious vestments, and as he walked up to take possession 
of his throne, the notes of the organ were drowned by the 



sound of trumpets, the ringing of bells, and the shouts of the CHAP, 
multitude, thrown into all the raptures of religious enthusiasm. ' 

Encouraged by this expression of public feeling, he made a ^d. ii7o. 
progress to London, intimating that, under his archiepiscopal Visit to 
and legatine powers, he there meant to begin his visitations 
on those ecclesiastics whose conduct had been uncanonical in 
his absence. The dignitaries of the church, who had taken 
part against him, now under great apprehensions, expos- 
tulated with him for disturbing the public tranquillity. 
He answered, "that the peace of sinners was no peace; that 
the Pope had sent a mandate ordering evil peace to be 
broken ; that Jerusalem in her wealth and self-indulgence 
might think she was at peace, but that the Divine vengeance 
was hovering over her." He was every where greeted with 
the loudest acclamations of the multitude, who believed that 
he had been persecuted, and among whom a notion very 
generally prevailed that he had quarrelled with the King in 
standing up for the Saxon race. As he approached South- 
wark the metropolis was emptied of its inhabitants the 
clergy, the laity, men and women of all ranks and ages pour- 
ing forth to meet him, and celebrating with hymns of joy his 
triumphant entrance. 

He was very desirous of seeing Prince Henry, over whom. Is ordered 
as his pupil, he hoped to exercise great influence ; but the Ca*nte*r ' 
King's ministers, who carried on the government in the ^^u- 
Prince's name, became alarmed, and sent a peremptory order 
to the Archbishop immediately to return to Canterbury, and 
not to march through any towns or castles on his way back. 
He obeyed travelling privately in company with a few 
knights, to protect him from insult. When he arrived at 
Canterbury, meeting with many indignities from those con- 
nected with the government, he had a presentiment of his 
fate : he told his clergy that the quarrel could not now end 
without effusion of blood, and he wrote to the Pope that the 
sword of death hung over him, but that he was ready to perish 
in the cause which, however unworthy, he had been called by 
Providence to support. 

On Christmas day, celebrating high mass himself, and Excommu- 
preaching to the people, he took occasion to say that one of "/,ree^^re 



CHAP, their Archbishops had been a martyr, and that it was possible 
'" they might have another, but he should never flinch from his 

A.n. 1170. ^^^y ; ^"^^ ^^c concluded the service of this sacred anniversary 
with pronouncing the excommunication of the three prelates, 
with all the energy and fierceness which could be engendered 
by religious fanaticism and personal resentment. 
Dec. L'9. On the fourth day afterwards, about two in the afternoon, 

Arr?val at entered abruptly the Archbishop's apartment the four knights 
Canterbury whosc names have become so famous in the martyrdom of 
knights St. Thomas, Reginald Fitzurse, William Tracy, Hugh de 
sworn to Morvillc, and Richard Brito. They had been present at the 
Becket. court of Henry in Normandy when, on the arrival of the 
three excommunicated prelates and their account of Becket's 
insolent proceedings in England, the King had exclaimed: 
" Of the cowards who eat my bread, is there not one who will 
free me from this turbulent priest?" Construing this ex- 
pression into a royal licence, or recommendation, or command, 
they bound themselves by oath to return to England and 
avenge their Sovereign. To avoid suspicion they travelled by 
separate routes, and they met at Saltwood, near Canterbury, 
the residence of Robert de Broc, a baron included in the 
excommunication, to axTange their operations. Henry was not 
aware of their departure, and sent other messengers to arrest 
Becket. The four knights, however, having collected a large 
military force from the neighbouring castles, entered the city 
of Canterbury, and ordered the mayor to arm the citizens and 
have them ready for the King's service. He hesitated, sus- 
pecting their design, when he was commanded, as he valued 
his own safety, to keep all quiet within the walls whatever 
might happen. 
They enter They were unarmed when they appeared before the Arcli- 
sence. bishop, and seating themselves without saluting him, they first 

tried to gain his submission by intimidations, and in the King's 
name ordered him forthwith to absolve the excommunicated 
prelates. With the greatest calmness and intrepidity he re- 
plied, that the Pope alone could decide the case of the Arch- 
bishop of York ; but that he himself would absolve the others, 
on condition that they previously took the accustomed oath of 
submitting to the determination of the Church. " From whom 


had you your archbishopric?" demanded Reginald. "Its CHAP, 
temporals from the King," said Becket, " its spirituals from 

God and the Pope." The barons murmured, and gnashed ^^ j,. 1170. 
their teeth. Becket, still undaunted, said to them, " In 
vain you menace me. If all the swords in England were 
brandishing over my head, your terrors could not move me. 
Foot to foot, you would find me fighting the battle of the 
Lord." It so happened that three of them had been in his 
service when he was Chancellor, and had sworn allegiance to 
him. Alluding to this circumstance, he added, in a tone of 
tenderness, " Knowing what has passed between you and me, 
I wonder that you should threaten me in my own house." 
" We will do more than threaten," cried Reginald, fiercely, 
and with his accomplices left the apartment. They then 
rushed through the hall to the fore-court, where was stationed 
the band that had accompanied them, and called " to arms." 
Reginald having put on his mail, seized an axe, and began to 
batter the gate Avhich had been shut against them. 

The Archbishop's attendants were in an agony of alarm ; Calm and 
but he, neither in look, tone, or gesture, betrayed the slightest condu^t'o'f 
symptom of apprehension. In this moment of suspense, the Becket. 
voices of the monks singing vespers in the adjoining choir were 
heard, and it being suggested that the church offered the 
best chance of safety, Becket agreed to join the worshippers 
there, thinking that, at all events, if he were murdered before 
the altar, his death would be more glorious, and his memory 
would be held in greater veneration by after ages. He then 
ordered the cross of Canterbury to be carried before him, 
and slowly followed his friends through the cloister. He 
entered the church by the north transept, and hearing the 
gates barred behind him, he ordered them to be re-opened, 
saying, that the temple of God was not to be fortified like a 
castle. He was ascending the steps of the choir when the 
four knights, with twelve companions, all in complete armour, 
burst into the church, their leader calling out, " Hither, to 
me, ye servants of the King." 

As it was now dusk the Archbishop might have retreated 
and concealed himself, for a time at least, among the crypts 
and secret passages of the building, with which he was well 

AD. 1170. 


CHAP, acquainted ; but, undismayed, he turned to meet the assassins, 

'" followed by his cross-bearer, the only one of his attendants 

who had not fled. A voice was heard "Where is the 

traitor?" Silence for a moment prevailed ; but when Fitz- 

urse demanded "Where is the Archbishop?" he replied, 

" Here I am ; the Archbishop, but no traitor ! Keginald, 

I have granted thee many favours. What is thy object now ? 

If you seek my life, let that suffice ; and I command you, 

in the name of God, not to touch one of my people." 

Assassina- Being again told that he must instantly absolve the pre- 

*'"",''^ lates, he answered, " Till they make satisfaction I will not 


absolve them." " Then die," said Tracy. The blow aimed 
at his head only slightly wounded him, as it was warded off 
by the faithful cross-bearer, whose arm was broken by its 
force. The Archbishop, feeling the blood trickle down his 
face, joined his hands and bowed his head, saying, " In the 
name of Christ, and for the defence of his Church, I am 
ready to die." To mitigate the sacrilege, they wished to 
remove him from the church before they despatched him ; 
but he declared he should there meet his fate, and retaining 
the same posture, desired them to execute their intentions or 
their orders, and, uttering his last words, he said, " I humbly 
commend my spirit to God, who gave it." He had hardly 
finished this prayer when a second stroke quickly threw him 
on his knees, and a third laid him prostrate on the floor, at 
the foot of the altar. There he received many blows from 
each of the conspirators, and his brains were strewed upon 
the pavement. 

Thus perished, in the fifty-third year of his age, the man 
who, of all English Chancellors since the foundation of the 
monarchy, was of the loftiest ambition, of the greatest firm- 
ness of purpose, and the most capable of making every 
sacrifice to a sense of duty or for the acquisition of renown. 

To the general historian it belongs to narrate the escape 
of the conspirators and their subsequent destiny, the in- 
dignation and horror of the whole Christian world when the 
deed was made public, the remorse of Henry, and the 
humiliations to which he submitted by way of penance and 
atonement, together with the permanent consequences of 


this memorable controversy upon religion and the state. I CHAP. 
must content myself with a short notice of subsequent occur- 
rences connected personally with Becket, and an attempt at 
a fair estimation of his character. 

The government tried to justify or palliate the murder. The Horror of 
Archbishop of York likened Thomas a Becket to Pharaoh, ^ ^^^ ^' 
who died by the Divine vengeance, as a punishment for his 
hardness of heart ; and a proclamation was issued, forbidding 
any one to speak of Thomas of Canterbury as a martyr : but 
the feelings of men were too strong to be checked by 
authority ; pieces of linen which had been dipped in his 
blood Avere preserved as relics ; from the time of his death 
it was believed that miracles were worked at his tomb ; 
thither flocked hundreds of thousands, in spite of the most 
violent threats of punishment ; at the end of two years he Becket 
was canonised at Rome, and, till the breaking out of the *'*"'^"'^^ 
Reformation, St. Thomas of Canterbury, for pilgrimages and 
prayers, was the most distinguished Saint in England. 

Henry VIII., when he wished to throw off the authority Quo war 
of the Pope, thinking: that as long as the name of St. Thomas ^^1"* ^^ 

i ^ o o ^ Henry 

should remain in the calendar men would be stimulated by VIII. to 
his example to brave the ecclesiastical authority of the Sove- ^^^^l 
reign, instructed his Attorney- General to file a quo warranto 
information against him for usurping the office of a Saint, and 
he was formally cited to appear in court to answer the 
charge. Judgment of ouster would have passed against him 
by default had not the King, to show his impartiality and 
gueat regard for the due administration of justice, assigned 
him counsel at the public expense. The cause being called, 
and the Attorney-General and the advocate for the accused 
being fully heard, with such proofs as were offered on both 
sides, sentence was pronounced, that " Thomas, sometime 
Archbishop of Canterbury, had been guilty of contumacy, 
treason, and rebellion ; that his bones should be publicly 
burnt, to admonish the living of their duty by the punish- 
ment of the dead ; and that the offerings made at his shrine 
should be forfeited to the Crown." A proclamation fol- 
lowed, stating, that " forasmuch as it now clearly appeared 
that Thomas Becket had been killed in a riot excited by his 

VOL. I. H 




of Becket. 

By liis 



own obstinacy and intemperate language, and had been after- 
wards canonised by the Bishop of Rome as the champion of 
his usurped authority, the King's Majesty thought it expe- 
dient to declare to his loving subjects that he was no saint, 
but rather a rebel and traitor to his Prince, and therefore 
strictly charged and commanded that he should not be 
esteemed or called a saint ; that all images and pictures of 
him should be destroyed, the festivals in his honour be 
abolished, and his name and remembrance be erased out of 
all books, under pain of his Majesty's indignation and im- 
prisonment at his Grace's pleasure."* 

But the permanent reputation of Becket must depend on 
the qualities he displayed, and the actions he performed in 
his lifetime ; not on the decrees of popes or the proclamations 
of kings since his death. In considering his merits and 
defects, it is, above all, requisite to guard against religious 
prejudices, by which he has been elevated into a hero of 
almost spotless virtue, or degraded into a hypocrite, stained 
with the crimes of ingratitude and perjury. 

The early part of his career, so brilliant and so successful, 
is not liable to any severe censure. His participation in the 
irregularities of his youthful Sovereign is denied, and when 
repented of might be forgiven. All the functions of the office 
of Chancellor he is allowed to have fulfilled most satisfactorily, 
and the measures which he recommended as minister were 
just and prudent. His military prowess and skill we cannot 
read of without being dazzled; and, with the exception of 
Ignatius Loyola, there is probably no such striking meta- 
morphosis of a soldier into a saint. The grand dispute re- 
specting his character and conduct begins from the time 
when, being consecrated Archbishop, he resigned the Great 
Seal. As he proved such a champion of the supremacy of 
the Pope, it is perhaps not surprising that in recent times 
his vituperators are bigoted Protestants, and his unqualified 
eulogists are intolerant Roman Catholics. 

The former contend that Becket, being in reality little 
better than an infidel, had nothino; in view but his own 

Walk. Con. iii. 385. 841, Burn. Ref. 152. 


aggrandisement, which he thought he could most promote CHAP, 
by exalting the power of the Church; that he had long 
aimed at the primacy, with the intention, as soon as he 
had obtained it, to trample on the Crown ; and that, to dis- 
arm the suspicion of the King, he pretended to conform to 
all his notions respecting ecclesiastical as well as secular 
affairs ; that from the moment of his elevation he threw off 
the mask, and did every thing in his power to annoy and 
injure his benefactor, as if animated by the most deadly spite 
against him ; that he proved his want of principle by 
swearing to observe the Constitutions of Clarendon, and 
immediately afterwards, regardless of his oath, infringing 
them himself, and stirring up others to resist them ; 
that during his banishment, though he displayed firmness 
worthy of a better cause, he continued, from selfish motives, 
to refuse all reasonable terms of accommodation, and to plot 
against his Sovereign and his country ; that when at last 
restored, he broke the engagements into which he had entered, 
persecuted his opponents with implacable resentment, and 
showed that, according to his long-fostered design, he was still 
determined to make priests in the West, like Brahmins in the 
East, the dominant caste, for the purpose of himself, as their 
leader, exercising absolute sway ; that he provoked his tragi- 
cal end; and that, although the deed of his assassins cannot 
be strictly defended, there is reason to rejoice in it, as the 
hazards and the evils of his daring enterprise were thus 
shown to be greater than the advantages to be attained by 
it, ecclesiastical encroachment was effectually checked, 
and no more Odos, Dunstans, Anselms, or Beckets appear in 
our annals. 

On the other hand, say the undiscriminating worshippers By liis 
of Papal supremacy, Becket having had the primacy pressed ^" ^^ ^* 
upon him by the King for the purpose of subverting the 
authority of the Church, so necessary to the maintenance of 
true religion, then, for the first time, thought seriously of the 
duties and obligations of this new dignity, and his eyes were 
at once opened to the necessity of a new course of life, both 
for his own sake and for the good of others. Although, like 
Wolsey in a subsequent age, he might have joined in his 

H 2 


CHAP, own person all civU and spiritual power, enjoyed ease, wealth, 
^"* and pleasure, and reigned in the King's name, he saw that 
such a course, however agreeable, would be sinful; that 
great sacrifices were required from him, and that he must 
thenceforth exclusively dedicate himself to the discharge of his 
spiritual duties. He therefore afforded the single instance 
which has ever occurred of tlie Chancellorship being volunta- 
rily resigned, either by layman or ecclesiastic. He meditated 
nothing beyond what belonged properly to his sacred office, 
when the King began the persecution against him, which only 
ended with his murder. The Constitutions of Clarendon, 
however consonant to the doctrines of WicklifFe, afterwards 
adopted by Luther, were inconsistent with the clear precepts 
of the gospel, and the privileges and immunities conferred 
upon the apostles and their successors, and, at all events, were 
inconsistent with established law and custom. In a moment 
of weakness Becket promised to observe them ; but this was 
to save himself from fatal violence which then threatened, 
and at last overtook him. A forced promise is not binding, 
and from this promise he was formally absolved by the Vicar 
of Christ. The unfounded charges brought against him at 
Northampton, and the unjust pecuniary demands then made 
upon him, with the threats of personal outrage, rendered it 
necessary for him to seek an asylum on the Continent, to ap- 
peal to foreign nations, and to put himself under the protection 
of the common Father of Christians. While at Pontlgny, 
Sens, and at Rome, he was always willing to make any per- 
sonal sacrifice for reconciliation, so that the cause of religion 
was safe ; but the King, under pretence of guarding his royal 
dignity, was still bent on prosecuting his scheme for annihilat- 
ing the influence of the clergy, which nothing but the heroic 
courage of one man hindered him from accomplishing. The 
conditions solemnly ratified at Fereitvllle the King was the 
first to violate. The excommunication of the three prelates 
was in strict accordance with the canon law, which was parcel 
of the law of the land ; and Becket's only chance, either of 
personal safety or of preserving the liberties of the country, 
was then to enforce the rights which clearly belonged to his 
office and to his ordei'. His martyrdom must be considered one 
of the most splendid that has occurred since the propagation 


of the gospel to edify Christians, for, not ignorant of what CHAP. 
was prepared for him, and being able at any time, by a slight 

concession, to avert his fate, he braved the assassins whom he 
could not withstand, and he received the deadly wounds they 
inflicted upon him with a constancy which could only have 
proceeded from a fervent faith in the promises of revelation, 
and the immediate aid of its divine Author. 

Setting aside exaggeration, and miracle, and religious pre- Just esti- 
judice, I must confess I am inclined to think that this last ^aracte"' 
view of Becket is not only the more merciful, but the 
more just. I cannot doubt his sincerity, and almost all 
will agree that he believed himself to be sincere. Let us 
consider the sudden effect of the touch of the mitre on men 
of honour in our own time. It must be remembered that 
by the same ardour and enthusiasm he was led to put on a 
coat of mail and engage in single combat with a stalwart 
knight, and afterwards to Avear a shirt of hair and to submit 
to the discipline of the whip. If he bore implacable resent- 
ment, he showed inflexible resolution in the support of what 
he consi^pred a good cause, willingly submitting to poverty, 
exile, and death itself. 

Both sides concur in ascribing to him brilliant talents. Result, 
great acquirements, and delightful manners, which captivated 
alike king and commonalty. 

Some have lately thought they discovered in Becket a Whether 
patriot who took up the cause of the Saxons, and quarrelled pi,am^bn 
with the Normans in trying to obtain justice for his country- of Saxon 
men; but although he is celebrated for his impartiality to 
both races while Chancellor, I can find nothing political in 
his subsequent disputes, which appear to me to have been 
purely between the civil and spiritual authorities, and not 
between race and race.* 

* Thierry, the great supporter of the notion that Becket's actions and his fate 
are to be explained from his being the champion of the Saxon race against Nor- 
man oppression, quotes (iii. 190.) from a note in Hearne's edition of William 
of Newbury ; 

" Willelmus Maltret percussit cum pede sanctum 
Defunctum, dicens ; Pereat nunc proditor illc, 
Qui regem regnumque suum turbavit, et omnes 
Angligenas adversus eum consurgere fecit." 

But there was no insurrection in England during' Henry's reign, and the poem 

H 3 


CHAP. We can best judge him by the large collection of his 
letters which have come down to us. In these, although we 
Becket's should in vain look for the classical style and delicate raillery 
letters. of Erasmus, we find a vigour, an earnestness, and a reach of 
thought quite unexampled in the productions of the age in 
which he lived. Making us familiar with him, they ex- 
plain to us the extraordinary ascendancy which he acquired 
over the minds of mankind.* 

from which these lines are taken, giving an exaggerated account of the martyr- 
dom of St. Thomas, is evidently the production of a later age. 

* See Fitzstephen, Hoveden, Quadrologus, Lord Lyttelton's History of 
Henry II., Thierry's History of the Norman Conquest, Epist. Sane. Thom. ; 
Sanctus Thomas Cantuariensis, ed. J. A. Giles ; and a Life of Becket in the 
" English Review," for September and December 1 846. 




The history of the Great Seal during the reign of Henry II. CHAP. 
is left in a state of much uncertainty from the time when it ' 

was resigned in 1162 by Thomas a Becket till it ^as deli- obscure 
vered in 1181 to Geoifrey Plantagenet, the King's natural Chancel- 

-ri** i-i rtT"i/> Jors sitter 

son. In this mterval there were very powerful chief jus- Becket. 
ticiars Richard de Luci, and Robert Earl of Leicester ; and 
they probably rendered the office of Chancellor for the time 
of little consequence. However, we find the names of several 
who are said to have held it. 

First, "Joannes Cancellarius "* occurs ; but of this John Chancellor 
we know not the surname, nor what other dignity he ever ^ ^ {,,^3 
attained. Next comes Rodolphus de Warnavilla, of whom 
we only know that when he was appointed he was arch- 
deacon of Rohan. I The third is Walter de Constantiis, who 
was made Bishop of Ely. Although the last is supposed to 
have been at one time Chancellor to the King, it would 
appear that in the year 1175 he only held the Great Seal as 
a deputy, if we may judge from the account given us by 
Hoveden of an embassy to the Earl of Flanders, in which he 
was joined with the famous Ranulphus de Glanvil, after- 
wards Chief Justiciar, and the earliest writer on the Law 
of England. On this occasion he is described as " Vice- Can- 
cellarius.":}; What share any of these Chancellors had in the 
stirring events of the time, the framing of the Constitutions 
of Clarendon, the deadly controversy with Becket, the 
conquest of Ireland, the war with Scotland, the feudal 

Spel. Glos. 109. t Ih. Or. Jur. 3. 

I Et ad audieiiQum inde responsum comitis ( Flandrue) misit Walterum de 
Constantiis, Vice-Cancellarium suum ct Raimlphum de Glanvilla. Hoveden, 
P. ii. p. 561. n. 10. 

B 4 







His birth 
and educa- 

A bishop. 

His mili- 
tary ex- 

subjection of that country on the capture of William the 
Scottish King, and the continued disputes and wars between 
Henry and his sons, we shall never learn. 

It is the fashion of historians down to a much later era, to 
ascribe all the acts of government, even those connected with 
leo^islation and domestic administration, to the autocracy of 
the nominal chief of the state ; but the most active sovereign 
could only in general have the merit of selecting good coun- 
sellors and taking good advice ; and if our sovereigns would 
sometimes lose credit, they might as often be relieved from 
obloquy, by a disclosure of the share which each minister 
had in the measures of their reign. 

We now come to another Chancellor, whose origin, career, 
and character are well known to history. In the year 1181 
Henry delivered the Great Seal to Geoffrey, his son by 
the fair Rosamond.* Of all his progeny, legitimate or ille- 
gitimate, this was his favourite. The boy was tenderly reared 
at Court, and as he displayed lively parts, great pains were 
taken with his education. He could not have a regular 
appanage, as if he had been a son of the Queen, but it was 
thought that an ample provision might be made for him in 
the Church. While yet a youth, he was appointed archdeacon 
of Lincoln, and while in the 20th year of his age, by royal 
mandate he was elected bishop of that see. For a consi- 
derable time, under favour of a papal dispensation, he enjoyed 
the temporalities, without having been consecrated bishop, 
or even admitted into holy orders. A rebellion breaking out 
in 1 1 74, he raised a large military force, took several castles, 
displayed great personal prowess, and was of essential service 
in reducing the insurgent Barons to subjection. 

When Henry was raising an army to repel an invasion of 
the Scots, Geoffrey joined him, and brought, under his own 
banner, 140 knights raised in his bishopric, with many more 
men-at-arms, well mounted and accoutred. The King re- 
ceived him with much joy, and said in the hearing of a great 
multitude of persons who were present at their meeting, 
" My other sons, by their conduct, have proved themselves 

Orig. Jur. 1. Spel Glos. 109. 


bastards, but this alone has shown himself to be really my CHAP. 
true and legitimate son." 

Though as a soldier Geoffrey obtained reputation, he was ^^^ jjgj 
very deficient in his duty as a churchman, and after being 
seven years a bishop, he still refused to become a priest. At 
last, in the year 1181, Pope Alexander III. sent a mandate 
to Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury, requiring the Primate 
to compel him by ecclesiastical censures no longer to defer 
what could not without scandal be any longer dispensed with, 
or to renounce his election to the bishopric of Lincoln. 

The slender restraints then imposed on ecclesiastical dig- 
nitaries weighed with him little, but to priestly tonsure and 
tunics he would not submit ; and as in spitg of all remonstrance 
he persisted in sincerely saying, " Nolo episcopari," so the see 
was declared vacant and bestowed on another. This was not 
from any levity of character or love of idleness, for Geoffrey had 
applied himself diligently to study, and had made considerable 
progress in the civil and canon law. By way of indemnity Receives 
for his loss, the office of Chancellor was conferred upon him. a ^ ea . 

Even in those days such an appointment must have been His con- 
considered a very glaring job, the young man, notwithstanding ^^ ^^j, 
his talents and acquirements, being entirely without expe- 
rience, and the custody of the Great Seal having important 
judicial duties annexed to it. Nevertheless, he is said to 
have dedicated himself to business in a very exemplary 
manner, and to have given considerable satisfaction to the 

A doubt exists how long he remained in the office. Some 
accounts represent him as holding it during the remaining 
eight years of his father's reign *, while there are notices of 
three others having during this interval been in possession of the 
Great Seal, Nigel, Bishop of Ely f, Walter de Bidun:}:, 
and the before-mentioned Walter de Constantiis. Perhaps 
the authorities may be reconciled by supposing that these 
merely assisted as Vice-Chancellors, while Geoffrey remained 
Chancellor, enjoying the dignity and emoluments of the office 

* TViis opinion is espoused by Lord Lyttelton in his History of Henry IL 
f Cart. 5 Ed. 3. m. L | Lei. Coll. vol.'i. p. 38. 

His filial 


CHAP, till his father's death. Eanulphus de Glanvil was now Chief 
^^' Justiciar, and he must have thrown into the shade all others 
connected with the administration of the law. A skilful 
military commander, he quelled a dangerous rebellion and 
gained a brilliant victory over the Scots, taking their King 
prisoner ; he presided with distinguished lustre in the Ai^la 
Regia ; and he wrote a book on the law and constitution of 
England, which is now read by all who wish to acquire a 
critical knowledge of them as they stood in the first century 
after the Conquest, before they were modified by the great 
charter of King John.* 
AD. 1189. Whatever might be the qualifications of Geoifrey Plan- 
tagenet for his office of Chancellor, all authors are loud in his 
praise for his steady fidelity and attachment to the King, 
while his brothers were constantly thwarting and annoying 
him, and were often in arms against him. In 1189, near the 
close of this reign, the pious Chancellor fought valiantly by 
his father's side in a hard-contested battle near Frenelles in 
Normandy, and the English army being obliged to retreat in 
some disorder, he offered to keep watch at an outpost, 
fatigued and spent as he was, while his father should enjoy 
some repose ; but Henry would not suffer him to be his guard 
with so much danger to himself. 

Soon after, hearing of his father's dangerous illness at 
Chinon, he hastened thither, and finding him so much op- 
pressed by fever that he could not sit up in his bed, he gently 
raised his head and supported it on his own bosom. Henry 
fetched a deep sigh, and turning his languid eyes upon him, 
said : " My dearest son, as you have in all changes of 
fortune behaved yourself most dutifully and affectionately to 
me, doing all that the best of sons could do, so will I, if the 

* Glanvil not having been Chancellor, I do not feel myself at liberty to give 
any detailed account of his life; but I may be excused transcribing in a note a 
character of him to be found in the preface to the eighth part of Lord Coke's 
reports " Et nota quod pra;fatus Ranulph' de Glanvilla fuit vir praeclarissimus 
generc ufpote de nobili sanguine, vir insuper strenuissimus corpore, qui provec- 
tiori relate ad Terram Sanctam properavit et ibidem contra inamicos crucis 
Christi strenuissime usque ad necem dimicavit." Coke seems to envy the glory 
of the crusader ; for though he himself had " written learnedly and profoundly," 
his own exploits as ex-chief justice when sheriff of Buckinghamshire, could not 
compare with those of ex-chief justice Glanvil. 


mercy of God shall permit me to recover from this sickness, chap. 
make such returns to you as the fondest of fathers can make, " 

and place you among the greatest and most powerful subjects 
in all my dominions. But if death should prevent my ful- 
filling this intention, may God, to whom the recompence of 
all goodness belongs, reward you for me." " I have no soli- 
citude," replied Geoffrey, " but that you may recover and may 
be happy." 

The King with his last breath expressed a wish that this 
pious son should be provided for by his successor, a wish 
that was held sacred by the penitent Richard. 

Geoffrey, dutiful to the last, attended the corpse to the 
nunnery of Fontevrault, where blood running from its 
mouth at the approach of Richard, that generous though 
violent spirit, in a fit of remorse, reproached himself as the 
murderer of his father. 

During the latter part of the reign of Henry II., while his State of 
son Geoffrey was Chancellor, all things being reduced to ^^jg^ ^f 
peace, our legal polity is supposed to have made greater ad- Henry u. 
vances than it had done from the Conquest downwards. The 
great regularity in the order of proceeding, and the refine- 
ment with which questions respecting property were treated, 
show that if the age was barbarous, it produced individuals 
of enlarged minds and well skilled in the principles of juris- 

Very able men followed as Chancellors in the succeeding 
reigns, but from foreign war and domestic strife little im- 
provement was effected by any of them for near a century 

Although there be as yet no traces of the Chancellor 
having a separate court of his own, either for common law 
or equitable jurisdiction, it is certain that in the time of 
Henry II. he was looked up to as a high judicial authority, 
and he occasionally went the circuit as a justice in eyre or of 

* Mad. Ex. p. 61. Sec Lord Lyttelton's Hist. iii. 479. 4 Inst. 159. 




CHAP. Richard, as soon as he had attended his father's funeral, 
was impatient to join the Crusade. From the arrangements 
jjj^jj^j.^ he had made for the government of the realm in his absence, 
A.D. 1189. it was not convenient that Geoffrey should be continued in 
the office of Chancellor, but an offer was made to him of 
Geoffrey ccclcsiastical preferment which he could not resist. He was 
bishop of appointed Archbishop of York, and being now in France, he 
York. suffered himself to be consecrated to the holy office by the 

Archbishop of Tours, metropolitan of Anjou. He agreed 
not to take possession of his see for three years, during which 
time he swore that he would not set foot on English ground, 
an oath required of him by Richard, who had some sus- 
picions as to his fidelity. How he observed the oath we shall 
see as we proceed with the life of his celebrated successor. 
LoKG- Richard's Chancellor was William Longchamp, Bishop 

.Chancellor. ^^ ^^7 *' ^^^ ^^ *^6 most eminent men who have ever held the 
Great Seal. He was a native of Beauvais in France, and of 
mean extraction, but he gave early proof of extraordinary 
ability and address. He first came into notice in the service 
of the Chancellor Geoffrey, the son of Rosamond. Being 
afterwards introduced to Prince Richard, he contrived to 
insinuate himself into his good graces without incurring the 
suspicion of the old King, and through successive promotions 
in the Church he was made Bishop of Ely always dis- 
playing great vigour of character and capacity for business, 
and hitherto concealing his inordinate ambition and rapacity. 
Although he had now resided many years in England he did 
not understand one word of the English language ; but such 

Or. Jur. Hoved. 375. Spel. Gloss. 109. 


was still the depression of every thing Anglo-Saxon, that CHAP, 
neither in parliament, nor in courts of justice, nor in the ' 

society of the great, did he experience any inconvenience from 
this deficiency. The King, about to set off upon his memo- Richard i. 
rable expedition to the Holy Land, not only conferred upon Holy Land! 
him the office of Chancellor, but made him Grand Justiciar 
and guardian of the realm jointly with Hugh, Bishop of 
Durham* ; and that he might better insure the public tran- 
quillity, procured for him the authority of legate from the 
Pope. Richard's great object was to deprive his brother 
John of all power and influence, being apprehensive that 
this Prince, who had early displayed his faithless character 
and turbulent disposition, would, in his absence, according to 
various prior examples in the Norman line, anter into cabals 
with discontented Barons, and aim at the Crown. But he 
fell into a mistake in appointing the Bishop of Durham as a 
check on the power of Longchamp. The one would bear no 
equal, and the other no superior. 

No sooner had Richard left England on his voyage to the Long- 
Mediterranean than their animosities burst forth, and threw '^^^v - 

prisons the 

the kingdom into combustion. Longchamp |, presumptuous Bishop of 
in his nature, elated by the favour which he enjoyed with his ^^"^- 
master, holding the Great Seal, and armed with the le- 
gatine commission, refused to share the executive power of 
the state with his colleague, treated him with contumely, 
and, upon some show of resistance, went so far as to arrest 
him, and, as the price of his liberty, extorted from him a 
resignation of the earldom of Northumberland, and his other 
dignities. The King, informed of these dissensions, ordered, 
by letters from Marseilles, that the Bishop should be re- 
instated in his offices ; but the Chancellor had still the 
boldness to refuse compliance, on pretence that he himself 
was better acquainted with the King's secret intentions. He iiis ty- 
proceeded to govern the kingdom by his sole authority, to ''''"">' 

* Hoved. 378. M. Par. in Ann. 1189. 

f In the following account of the administration of Longchamp, his flight 
and his subsequent career, I have chiefly followed "the History of the Norman 
Conquest " by Thierry, who cites authorities, most of which I have examined, 
and which fully support his statements. See vol. iv. 40 52. 64 75. 


CHAP, treat all the nobility with arrogance, and to display his power 
^' and riches with the most invidious ostentation. A numerous 
suard was stationed at his door. He never travelled without 
a body of 1500 foreign soldiers, notorious for their rapine and 
licentiousness. Nobles and knights were proud of being 
admitted into his train. He sealed public acts with his own 
signet seal instead of the Great Seal of England. His retinue 
wore the aspect of royal magnificence ; and when in his pro- 
gress through the kingdom he lodged in any monastery, his 
attendants, it is said, were sufficient to devour in one night the 
revenue of several years. To drown the curses of the natives, 
he brought over from France, at a great expense, singers and 
jesters, who sang verses in places of public resort, declaring 
that the Chancellor never had his equal in the world. 
His rapa- In the meanwhile he abused his power to enrich himself 
"^^ ^* and his family ; he placed his relations and friends of foreign 

birth in all posts of profit or honour, and gave them the 
government of castles and cities, of which, under various 
pretexts, he deprived men of the pure Norman race, spoiling 
them and the descendants of the Saxon thanes with indis- 
criminate violence. Contemporary authors say, that " by 
reason of his rapines a knight could not preserve his silver 
belt, nor a noble his gold ring, nor a lady her necklace, nor 
a Jew his merchandise." He showed himself, besides, haughty 
and insolent, and he enforced submission to his will by the 
severity and promptitude of his vengeance. The King, who 
was obliged to winter in Sicily, and was detained in Europe 
longer than the Chancellor expected, being informed of the 
arbitrary and tyrannical conduct of his minister, made a 
fresh attempt to restrain his power, and sent orders ap- 
pointing Walter, Archbishop of Rouen, "William Marshal, 
Earl of Strigul, Geoffrey Fitz-Peter, William Briewere, and 
Hugh Bardolf councillors to Longchamp, and commanding 
him to take no measure of importance without their con- 
currence and approbation. But such general terror had he 
created by his violent conduct, that for a long while they did 
not venture to produce the King's mandate. When it was 
produced the Chancellor insisted that it was a forgery, and he 
still exercised an uncontrolled authority over the nation. 


Prince John, aware of the general discontent, and seeing CHAP, 
with envy the usurpations of the Chancellor, at last took ' 

courage to make head against him; and all those who were ^^ j, ugj 
smartino; under his exactions, or who hoped to better their Prince 

John takes 

condition by change, actively engaged in the party formed a^ms 
for his overthrow. An open rupture broke out between those against 
rivals for power, on the occasion of the Chancellor's attempt 
to deprive Gerard de Camville, a Norman by race, of the 
office of sheriff of the county of Lincoln, which the King 
had made over to him for a sum of money. The Chancellor, 
who wished to bestow this office on one of his friends, 
summoned Camville to deliver up to him the keys of the 
castle of Lincoln ; but he resisted the demand, saying that he 
was a liege man to Prince John, and that he would not 
surrender his fief till tried and condemned in the court of his 
liege lord. On this refusal the Chancellor came with an 
army to besiege the castle of Lincoln, and took it. Camville 
demanded justice from his superior and protector. By way 
of reprisals, John took possession of the royal castles of 
Nottingham and Tickhil there raised his flag, and stationed 
his men, declaring, according to Hoveden, that if the Chan- 
cellor did not do speedy justice to Camville his vassal, he 
would visit him with a rod of iron. The Chancellor quailed 
under his threat, and entered into a treaty, by which John 
remained in possession of the two castles he had taken. 

The next assault upon the authority of the Chancellor Geoffrey, 
proceeded from his predecessor in office, Geoffrey, now Arch- chancellor, 
bishop of York. Regardless of his oath not to enter the invades 
realm of England for three years, and of a solemn warning 
he received when about to embark, he resolved to take pos- 
session of his see, and to enjoy the benefit of any chances of 
farther preferment which might open to him. The Chan- 
cellor sent armed men to seize him upon his landing. He 
escaped their pursuit in disguise, and gained a monastery in 
the city of Canterbury, where the monks hospitably received 
him and concealed him. A report, however, getting abroad GeofFrey 
that he had taken refuge there, the convent was surrounded a^jfl^. 
by soldiers, and the Archbishop being seized in the church, prisoned, 
when he was returning from celebrating mass, was shut up 




tion of the 

Saxon in- 
of London 
called in to 

in the castle of the city under the keeping of the Constable de 

The violent arrest and imprisonment of an Archbishop 
made a great noise all over England, and John, thinking this 
a favourable occasion for extending his own power, openly 
took the part of his captive brother. Although he had 
hitherto regarded Geoffrey as an enemy, he now pretended 
to feel for him the most tender affection, and with menaces 
he insisted on the Chancellor setting the Archbishop at 
liberty. Longchamp, on account of the sacred character of 
his prisoner, did not venture to resist. John then wrote to 
all the Bishops and Barons to assemble at Reading ; while 
the Chancellor, by other letters, forbade them to accept the 
invitation of a prince whose object it was to disinherit his 
Sovereign. The assembly, however, was held : John and 
Geoffrey met, wept, and embraced, and the latter on his 
knees besought his fellow-peers to avenge the insult which 
had been offered in his person to the immunities of the 
Church and the right of sanctuary. 

John, becoming bolder and bolder, repaired to London, 
there convoked the great council of the Barons and Bishops, 
and accused the Chancellor before them of having grossly 
abused the authority with which the King had intrusted 
him. The accused had injured and offended so many of 
those who were to decide his case, that the accuser was sure 
of a favourable hearing. 

The Chancellor Avas cited to appear before the Barons by 
a certain day. He refused, and assembling a military force, 
marched from Windsor, where he kept his Court, upon 
London, to anticipate the re-assembling of the body who 
presumed to act as his judges. But John's men-at-arms 
came upon him at the gates of the city, attacked and dis- 
persed his followers, and compelled him in great haste to 
throw himself into the Tower of London, where he shut 
himself up, while the Barons and Bishops assembled in Par- 
liament and deliberated on his fate. 

The majority of them had resolved to strike a great blow, 
and to depose by their authority the man who, holding the 
royal commission, could not regularly be deprived of office 


without the express order of the Sovereign. In this daring CHAP, 
enterprise, they being themselves Normans, were desirous of 
having the assistance of the Saxon inhabitants of London, 
constituting the great mass of the population. In the 
morning of the day appointed for their meeting, they caused 
the great alarm-bell to be rung, and as the citizens issued 
forth from their houses, persons stationed for the purpose 
directed them to repair to St. Paul's Cathedral. The 
merchants and trades-people going thither to see what was 
the matter, we're surprised to find assembled the grandees of 
the country, the descendants of those who had conquered at 
Hastings, with whom hitherto they had had no other re- 
lation than that of lord and villain. Contrary to custom, 
the Barons and Prelates gave a gracious reception to the 
citizens, and a temporary equality was established among all 
present. The English guessed as well as they could the 
meaning of the speeches addressed to them in French, and 
there was read and explained to them a pretended letter of 
the King, intimating that if the Chancellor should be guilty 
of malversation in his office, he might be deposed. A vote 
was then taken of the whole assembly, without distinction of 
race, and the Norman heralds proclaimed "that it pleased 
John, the King's brother, and all the Bishops, Earls, and 
Barons of the kingdom, and the citizens of London, that the 
Chancellor should be deposed." 

It was at first thought that he would have stood a siege in Long- 
the Tower, but he was without courage at the approach of renders. 
real danger, and he immediately offered to capitulate. He 
was freely allowed to depart on condition of delivering up 
the keys of all the King's castles. He was made to swear 
that he would not leave England till he had done so, and 
two of his brothers were detained as hostages for his good 

He withdrew to Canterbury, under pretence of fulfilling Long- 
his oath : but when he had remained there a few days, he !='>^p |!'^^ 

' ^ ^ ^ *' , in the dis- 

formed the resolution to fly, liking better to expose his guise of a 
brothers to death than to deliver up the castles, by the pos- ^^^^^^ 
session of which he hoped to recover what he had lost. He 
left the city on foot and in disguise, having over his own clothes 
VOL. I. I 


CHAP, a gown with great sleeves and a petticoat, his face being 
^' covered by a thick veil, carrying under his arm a pack of 
linen, and in his hand an ell measure.* In this attire, which 
was that of an English female pedlar of the time, the Chan- 
cellor made for the sea-shore, and was obliged to wait for the 
ship in which he was to embark. He seated himself quietly 
on a stone with his pack on his knees, and some fishermen's 
wives, who were passing by, accosted him and asked him the 
price of his wares ; but, not knowing a single word of En- 
glish, the Chancellor made no reply, and shook his head, to 
the great surprise of those who wished to become his cus- 
tomers. They walked on ; but other women coming up, and 
examining the quality of the linen, made the same demand as 
the first.' The pretended female pedlar still preserved silence, 
and the women repeated their questions. At length, at his 
wit's end, the Chancellor raised a loud laugh, hoping so to 
escape from his embarrassment. At this laugh without a 
jest, they believed they saw before them a female out of her 
mind, and raising her veil to ascertain who she was, dis- 
covered the face of a man of a swarthy complexion, lately 
Is seized shavcd. f Their cries of surprise attracted the workmen of 
by the mob. ^j^g p^j.^^ ^yj^^^ g|j^^ ^^ ^^^ ^^^ object of sport, scized hold of 

the person in masquerade, drawing him by his garments |, 
causing him to tumble on the ground, and making merry 
with his vain efforts to escape from them and to make them 
comprehend who he was. After dragging him a long way 
over stones and through mud, the sailors and fishermen con- 
cluded by shutting him up in a dark cellar. Here he re- 
mained till he contrived to communicate his misadventure to 
the agents of the government. He was then forced to deliver 
up the keys of all the royal castles, according to his engage- 
ment, and was permitted freely to leave England. 

* " Tunica foeminea viridi . . . cappam habens ejusdem coloris . . . mani- 
catam . . . peplum in capita . . . pannum lineum in manu sinistra . . . virgam 
venditoris in dextra." Hovedeu. 

f " Viderunt faciem hominis nigram et noviter rasam." Ibid. 

f " Et facta est statim multitudo virorum ac mulierum extrahentium de 
capite peplum et trabentium eum prostratum in terram per manicas et capu- 
cium." Il^id. 

" Pluribusque raodis turpiter tractavit per totam villam et . , in quodara 
cellario tenebroso . . . inclusit." Ibid. 


On arriving in France, he immediately wrote to the King CHAP. 
that Prince John, having got possession of his fortresses, was 

about to usurp the throne, and pressing him immediately to Arrives in 
return from the Holy Land. He seems to have convinced France. 
Richard that he himself had acted as a good and loyal sub- 
ject, and that his struggle with the Barons was only in the 
support of the royal authority. To his honour it is recorded Visits 
that, hearing of Richard's captivity in Germany, he repaired j^^i^ 
thither, and obtained permission to visit, in prison, that captivity, 
generous master, whom the universe seemed to have aban- 
doned.* Richard received him as a personal friend per- 
secuted in his service, and employed him in repelling the un- 
founded charge brought against him as a pretext for his 
detention, and in conducting the negotiations for his libe- 

As soon as Longchamp had been subdued and exiled by Geoffrey 
John and the Barons, the office of Chancellor was restored to F'**"**- . 

genet again 

Geoffrey Plantagenet, now fully installed in his archbishopric. Chancellor, 
and he held it till Richard's return to England, when he was 
finally deprived of it. He experienced clemency to which 
he was not much entitled, considering his perfidy and breach 
of oath, and he seems to have employed himself in the dis- 
charge of his ecclesiastical duties during the remainder of 
this reign. 

It will be convenient that I should here relate what fur- a.d. ]199, 
ther is known of him as Ex-chancellor. After the death of fate of 
Richard he was no longer suffered to live in tranquillity. Geoffrey 
John seized all his goods, and the profits of his archbishopric, genet. 
and Geoffrey raised a strong party against him. A truce 
was established between them ; but this was of short dura- 
tion. J ohn requiring for his wars, without the consent of 
the great council of the nation, the tenth shilling of what 
every body was worth, this tax was resisted as illegal by 

* Thus the Chancellor is supposed to have serenaded the King : 

" O Richard, O mon Roy, 
L'univers t'abandonne, 
Mais pour moy je garde ma foy, 
Toujours fidele a ta personne." 
I 2 


CHAP. Geoffrey, who pronounced sentence of excommunication on 

^" all within his diocese who should pay it. John vowed a 

bitter revenge, and was proceeding to such extremities 

His exile ao-aiust him that he went into voluntary exile, and died at a 

and death, ^jjg^j^jj^jg ^^.^^ j^jg native land before the memorable aera when 

the Barons at Runnymede obtained security against unlawful 

taxation, and the tyranny of John was effectually restrained. 

Long- But we must now return back to Longchamp. No sooner 

iiiamp ^as Richard again in possession of the royal authority, than, 

Chancellor, disregarding all the charges which were brought against his 

vicegerent of abuse of authority, he re-instated him in the 

office of Chancellor, and restored to him all his authority. 

Parliament In 1194 a parliament was called at Nottingham. When 

ham "'"^' it was Opened, Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, sat on 

the King's right hand, and Geoffrey Archbishop of York, on 

his left. But Longchamp, the Chancellor, was present, and 

although only ranking according to the precedence of his see, 

he guided all their deliberations. The session was about the 

usual length, viz. four days. On the first day sentence was 

passed on several rebellious Barons and sheriffs, who were 

deprived of their castles and jurisdictions. On the second 

day the King pronounced judgment against his brother John, 

who was absent, for having, contrary to his oath of fealty, 

usurped his castles, and entered into a conspiracy with the 

King of France against him when he was ordered to appear 

by a certain day under pain of banishment. On the third 

day a supply of two shillings on every ploughland was voted 

to the King; and the last day was spent in hearing and 

redressing grievances, and resolving that to nullify the King's 

submission to the Emperor when in captivity, he should be 

crowned again. This ceremony was actually performed at 


Long- But Longchamp, the Chancellor, had soon to extricate the 

Vrg^ King from a new perplexity. A calumny was propagated, 

letter from and generally believed, that while in the East he had murdered 

Man'^ofthe the Marquis of Moutfcrrat.* This charge was invented by 

Mountain ' 

* See the tale of the " Talisman " by Sir Walter Scott. Sir Robert Comyn's 
History of the Western Empire," ii. 265. 


Philip, King of France, Richard's great rival, with whom he CHAP. 
was now at open war, and much damped the zeal of his 

supporters, both in England and on the Continent. All pro- ^^ pie^r 
testations and reasonable proofs of innocence being vain, the Kichard of 
Chancellor forged a supposed autograph letter, professing to Marquis of 
have been written by " The Old Man of the Mountain," to Mont- 

'' . ferrat. 

the Duke of Austria, in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin charac- 
ters, of which the following is a translation : 

" To Leopold, Duke of Austria, and to all princes and 
people of the Christian faith, greeting. Wheijeas many Kings 
in countries beyond the seas impute to Richard, King and 
Lord of England, the death of the Marquis, I swear by the 
God who reigns eternally, and by the law which we follow, 
that King Richard had no participation in this murder. 
Done at our castle of Messina, and sealed with our seal, Mid- 
September, in the year 1503 after Alexander." 

This extraordinary missive was formally communicated by 
the Chancellor to foreign sovereigns, and he likewise sent 
copies of it to the monks who were known to be employed in 
compiling the chronicles of the time. Its manifest falsity was 
not remarked in an ao^e when criticism and a knowledge of 
eastern manners had made little progress in the north of 
Europe. It had a sensible effect in weakening the im- 
putations of the King of France among his own subjects, 
and it greatly encouraged those of the King of England to 
fight for a master whose character was thus proved to be im- 

Longchamp soon after resigned the Great Seal; but a.d. iigg. 
Richard made as much use of his counsel as ever to the day Greafseal. 
of his death. He was, in 1197, together with the Bishop of 
Durham, sent on an embassy to the Pope, and while still in 
the public employment, he died at Poictiers in the beginning His death, 
of the following year. He certainly was a man of great 
energy and ability, and, tried by the standard of honour and 
morality which prevailed in the 12th century, he probably is 
not to be very severely condemned either as a Chancellor or a 

See 1 Pari. Hist. 7. 
I 3 




liishop of 
Ely, Chan- 

Origin of 

John de 
and Mal- 

Richard appointed as his successor, Eustace, Bishop of 
Ely *, who had previously been Vice-chancellor. 

In this reign we have tKe earliest distinct evidence of the 
existence of the officer connected with the Great Seal, called 
indifferently " Gustos Sigilli," " Sigillifer," and " Vice-can- 
cellarius ; " but in all probability the office was long before 
well known. It has been usual to consider the Great Seal 
as inseparable from the person of an existing Chancellor, 
and that the Keeper of the Great Seal, from the remotest 
antiquity, exercised all the functions of the Chancellor under 
another title ; but, as we shall see, for many ages to come 
there were often concurrently a Chancellor and Keeper of 
the Great Seal. When the King went abroad, sometimes 
the Chancellor accompanied him with the Great Seal, another 
seal being delivered to a Vice-chancellor, to be used for the 
sealing of writs and despatch of ordinary business. At other 
times the Chancellor remained at home, with the custody of 
the Great Seal, and a Vice-chancellor attended the King 
with another seal while he was abroad, and acted as Secretary 
of State. While the King remained in England, if the 
Chancellor went abroad, a Vice-chancellor was always ap- 
pointed to hold the Seal in his absence ; and while the King 
and the Chancellor were both in England, it often happened 
that, from the sickness of the Chancellor, or his absence from 
Court on public or private business, or from his being 
ignorant of law or absorbed in politics, a Vice-chancellor was 
appointed, who, as deputy, transacted all affairs connected with 
the Great Seal, the patronage and profits still belonging to 
the Chancellor. 

Longchamp, while he held the office of Chancellor, always 
had Vice-chancellors acting under him, who were intrusted 
with the custody of the Great Seal. The first of these was 
John de Alen^on, Archdeacon of Lisieux. Then came Roger 
Malus Catulus, or Malchien. Hoveden relates, that while 
Longchamp, the Chancellor, remained in England to admi- 
nister the government, Malchien, as Vice-chancellor, at- 

According to Spelman, Eustace was made Chancellor in 1190, Gloss. 100., 
and according to Dugdale, in 1198. Or. Jur. 5. 


tended Richard in Sicily, on his way to Palestine, and was CHAP, 
afterwards drowned near Cyprus, having the Great Seal 
suspended round his neck.* It is said that the King, on his 
return, ordered all charters that had been sealed with it to be 
resealed with another seal, bearing a different impression, 
made to replace it, upon the suggestion that the lost seal 
might have been misapplied, and therefore would not properly 
authenticate the royal grants, this being in reality a device 
to draw money to his exhausted exchequer. 

Subsequently, one " Master Bennet " was Yice-chancellor ; vice-chan- 
but he must have been appointed in England by John and ^^^*"^ ^"' 
the rebellious Barons, or by their Chancellor, for we find 
him anathematised by Longchamp, who, as Bishop of Ely 
and Pope's legate, could call in the censures of the Church 
to aid his temporal authority. In a list of those excom- 
municated for disobedience to the Chancellor, who repre- 
sented the King, we find " Etiam denunciamus excommu- 
nicatum Magistrum Benedictum, qui sigillum Domini Regis 
contra statuta Regis et Regni, et contra prohibitionem nos- 
tram, ferre praesumpsit."f 

When Longchamp was again Chancellor, he had for his 
Vice-chancellor one Eustace, styled " Sigillifer," Dean of 
Salisbury, who succeeded him as Chancellor, and as Bishop 
of Ely. Eustace likewise had a Vice-chancellor, Warine, 
Prior of Loches. 

Eustace and Warine remained in their respective offices Death of 
without any thing memorable occurring to them, till the Lion- 
hearted Richard, who had gained such renown by his pro- 
digies of valour in the East, fell ingloriously before the little 
castle of Chalos; and, as might have been expected, they 
were immediately dismissed by his successor, who had been 
at constant enmity with him during his life, and even 
hated his memory. 

We have one remarkable juridical monument of this Laws of 
reign the Laws of Oleron, the foundation of the maritime 

* This occurrence induced Lord Coke to say, that the form of conferring the 
office of Chancellor was by suspending the Great Seal round the neck of the 
person appointed 4 Inst. 87, 

t Hoved. P. ii. p. 707. n. 30. 

I 4 


CHAP, jurisprudence of modern Europe, and cited as authority at 
the present day on both sides of the Atlantic. The Code is 
said to have been framed by .Richard himself, when on a visit 
to his continental dominions, but was probably the work of 
Vice-chancellor Malchien, or some lawyer who had accom- 
panied him.* 

Some are now disposed to ascribe the Laws of Oleron to a different author 
and to a later age. Luders's Essays ; Hallam's Middle Ages ; Penny Cyclopadia, 
tit. Oleron, Laws of. But I do not think that their arguments outweigh the 
record in the Tower of London, and the authority of Coke, Selden, Hale, 
Prynne, and Blackstone. No doubt the Code is a collection of rules and cus- 
toms which had gradually sprung up, but I see no sufficient reason to doubt 
that it was compiled and published to the world under the authority of 




We have now materials for an exact history of the Great CHAP. 
Seal. From the beginning of the reign of ^ing John to ' 

the present time, it has seldom been placed in the custody of ^.d. 1 1 99, 
any person, even for a single day, without a memorandum of 
the transfer being entered in records still extant. 

This, the most worthless of English sovereigns, having Accession 
usurped the throne in derogation of the rights of Arthur, j^ygj^j^^ 
the unfortunate son of Geoffrey his elder brother, was Arch- 
anxious to prop up his defective title by the support of the Qant^j..'' 
Church; and, with that view, he aj)pointed as his Chan- bury, 
cellor Walter Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, who 
had been for a short time Chief Justiciar, during the stormy 
period of the preceding reign.* While he held this office, 
the monks of Canterbury had complained to the Pope that, 
contrary to the canons of the church, their archbishop was a 
judge in causes of blood, and that, being involved in secular 
affairs, he neglected his ecclesiastical duties. The Pope, 
therefore, sent a paternal remonstrance to the King, re- 
quiring him to remove the Archbishop from all lay employ- 
ments, and, for the future, not to admit him, or any priest, 
into any secular office. 

Hubert, however, without hesitation, accepted the offer of 
the Chancellorship from John, and was in the habit of boast- 
ing of its power and emoluments. It is related that, when 
he was stating how much this office was to be preferred to 
any other, he was thus rebuked by Hugh Bardolfe, an un- 
lettered baron, " My Lord, with your good leave, if you 
would well consider the great power and dignity of your 
spiritual function, you would not undertake the yoke of 
lay servitude." f The office was too lucrative to be aban- 
doned for such a gibe, and the Archbishop, on the contrary, 

* Spel. Gloss. 100. Or, Jur. 5. f Hovcden, 451. 


CHAP, immediately obtained a charter from the King which, under 
pretence of regulating, increased the fees to be taken by him 
and his officers.* 

The reader may be amused by a translation of this curious document. 
" Ordinance of the King concerning the Fees of the Great Seal of England. 

" John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of 
Normandy, Aquitain, and Earl of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, 
earls, barons, justiciaries, sheriffs provosts, and all bailiffs and faithful people, 
greeting. Forasmuch as divine mercy has called us to the government of the 
kingdom of England, which belongs to us of hereditary right, and, under the 
unanimous assent and favour of the clergy and people, has most mercifully 
exalted us to be king ; we desire with great desire, as indeed we ought, to 
provide fully for the liberty and freedom of the clergy and people ; and for the 
honour of God and the holy church, and the peace and tranquillity of the clergy 
and people, to entirely abolish bad and wicked customs which have arisen either 
from covetousness, bad counsel, or evil disposition of the mind. 

" And forasmuch as the Seal of Richard, our illustrious brother, formerly 
King of England, of good memory, in his days had fallen into that state, that 
for certain acts pertaining to the Seal some things were received out of the usual 
ancient course, more from inclination than reason, to the prejudice of the regal 
dignity and the liberty of the kingdom ; to wit, for letters patent of protection 
eighteen shillings and fourpence were given, for which only two shillings ought 
to have been given, and for simple confirmations in which nothing new is 
inserted, twelve marks and five shillings were given, for which only eighteen 
shillings and fourpence ought to have been given ; we, for the health of the 
souk of ourself, of Henry, formerly king of England, our father, of happy 
memory, and of the said King Richard, our brother, and all our ancestors and 
successors, will and grant, and at the instance of the venerable father Hubert, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, our Chancellor, do ordain that in future times 
nothing shall be received by the Seal of us or our successors, for acts, beyond 
what was anciently ordained to be received for the Seal of the Kings of England, 
and which was received for the Seal of Henry, our father, formerly King of 
England, of good memory, to wit, for a charter of new infeofFment of lands, 
tenements, or liberties, shall be taken one mark of gold or ten marks of silver for 
the use of the Chancellor, and one mark of silver for the use of the Vice-chan- 
cellor, and one mark of silver for the use of the prothonotary, five shillings for 
wax. For a simple confirmation, in which nothing new is added, shall be given 
one mark of silver for the use of the Chancellor, one besant for the use of the Vice- 
chancellor, and one besant for the use of the prothonotary, and twelve pence for 
wax. For a simple protection two shillings shall be given. 

" If any one shall presume to act contrary to this our ordinance, he shall 
incur the anger of Almighty God, and of us, and every curse by which an 
anointed and consecrated king can curse. Moreover, the aforesaid Archbishop 
of Canterbury, our Chancellor, and all bishops who at our consecration laid 
hands on us, have with our consent promulgated sentence of general excommu- 
nication against all who shall presume to act contrary to this our ordinance. 
To this our ordinance which we have made concerning our Seal, we have put 
that Seal in witness and perpetual confirmation. Witness, &c. 

" Ciiven under the hand of Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, our Chan- 
cellor, at Northampton, on the 7th day of June, in the first year of our reign." 
Fad. 7.5. Beyond these fees, it appears in an ancient memorial concerning 
the constitution of the king's house, registered in the Red Book of the Exche- 
quer by Alexander de Swereford, that the Chancellor at this time had five 
shillings a day, besides an allowance of Siranel's bread, salt, wine, candles, &c. 
Lib. Kab. fol. xxx. col. 2. The Chancellor had also in the next reign "ad 
sustentationem suam et clericorum Cancellaria Regis D. marcarum per an- 


Hubert retained the office of Chancellor till his death, in CHAP. 
1205, but does not seem to have attended much to its 

duties, as he constantly had the assistance of Vice-chan- Qg^th of 
cellors; first of Simon Fitz-Robert, Archdeacon of Wells, Lord 
and John de Gray, Archdeacon of Cleveland, jointly ; then 
of John de Brancestre, Archdeacon of Worcester; next of 
Hugh Wallys, Bishop of Lincoln ; and, lastly, of Josceline de 
Wells, afterwards Bishop of Bath and Wells. 

This is the most disgraceful period in the annals of Eng- 27th May, 
land. Arthur, the right heir to the throne, was murdered ^^^^* 
by the King, and the English were expelled from Normandy, 
and almost the whole of the possessions in France which had 
been united to the Crown since the accession of the house of 

John, upon his return after these disasters, attempted to 
throw the blame of them upon the Chancellor and his other 
ministers in England, whom he accused of remissness in not 
sending him proper supplies ; and, under pretence of a new 
expedition to recover his Continental dominions, he, in the 
most arbitrary manner, extorted taxes from his subjects, 
which he wasted in wanton prodigality. 

On the death of Hubert, the Archbishop, the office of Oct 3. 
Chancellor came into the King's hands*, and then the ' * 
Great Seal remained some time in the custody of John de 
Brancestre, who had before acted as Vice-chancellor, 
while the King considered how he should dispose of it. To 
raise money for his necessities, he at last put it up for sale. 
The purchaser was one Walter de Gray, who paid doAvn Great Seal 
5000 merks (equal to 61,245/. of present money) for it ^^tw^vniyE 
during the term of his natural life, and the grant was made Guay. 
out to him in due form. Under this he actually held the 
Chancellorship, without interruption or dispute, for six years. 
He began by doing the duties of the office himself f, but he 
afterwards had for Keepers of the Seal, or Vice-chancellors, 

* nic devenit Cancellaria in manum Domini Regis post mortem H. Canta- 
riiensis Archiepiscopi. Chart. 7 John, m. 8. 

f Hie recepit Uominus W. de Gray Cancellariam. And of the first charter 
next following it is said, " Data per manum Walteri de Gray, iij die Octobris, 
anno vii." Chart. 7. J. n. 51. 


CHAP. Hugh Wallys, and Richard de Marisco, Archdeacon of Eich- 
^ ^" mond, who afterwards was himself Chancellor, 
jj;^ ^^^ Walter de Gray, having become, by purchase, " Keeper of 

duct. the King's Conscience," appears to have been much in his 

confidence, and to have abetted him in those fatal measures 
which brought the Crown of England under feudal subjection 
to the see of Rome. But Hugh Wallys, the Vice-chancellor, 
who had expressed great zeal on the King's side, went over 
to the opposite faction on receiving a favour which was 
intended as a reward for his fidelity. 
Vicc-chan- The grand dispute had arisen respecting the appointment to 
lys.*"^ * " ^^^ see of Canterbury, the Pope having consecrated Langton 
archbishop, without the King's authority or privity. Langton 
was not allowed to take possession of his archiepiscopal throne, 
and was obliged to reside abroad. In the mean time the see 
of Lincoln became vacant, and Wallys was elected to it by 
the King's recommendation, on the condition that he should 
not recognise Langton as archbishop. The Bishop elect de- 
sired leave to go abroad in order to receive consecration from 
the Archbishop of Rouen ; but he no sooner reached France 
than he hastened to Pontigny, where Langton then resided, 
and paid homage to him as his primate.* It has happened in 
all ages of the church that ecclesiastics, on reaching the dig- 
nity of the mitre, have preferred the interest of their order to 
the ties of gratitude or the reputation of consistency, and 
have speedily forgotten the express or implied undertaking 
which was the condition of their elevation. The pliant 
Archdeacon, become Bishop of Lincoln, showed himself a 
rigid supporter of papal supremacy, and received consecration 
from Langton, whom John still disowned. By way of 
punishment for his contumacy, he was for five years deprived 
of the temporalities of his bishopric. He afterwards took 
an active part in obtaining Magna Charta, acting, it is to be 
feared, rather from revenge than from patriotism. 
A.n. 1313. Walter de Gray was still Chancellor when the most igno- 
minious charter passed to which the Great Seal of England 

* Hume calls this person " Hugh Wells," and describes him as " Ch in- 
cellor," but JValli/s was his true name, and he never held the Great Seal as 
Chancellor Vol. ii 60. 


has ever been appended. Pandulph, the Pope's legate, not CHAP, 
being satisfied with John's promise that he would acknow- 

ledge Langton for primate, that he would restore all the Surrender 
exiled clergy and laity who had been banished on account of of England 
the contest, that he Avould make them full restitution of p^ 
their goods and compensation for all damages, and that every 
one outlawed or imprisoned for his adherence to the Pope 
should immediately be received into favour, required John 
to resign his kingdom to the Church, to put himself under 
the immediate protection of the Apostolic See, to acknow^ 
ledge the Pope as his liege lord, and to authenticate the act 
by an instrument under the Great Seal, which should be 
confirmed by the national council. Accordingly, with the 
King's concurrence, a charter was framed in his name, in 
which he declared that, " not constrained by fear, but of his 
own free will, and by the common consent and advice of his 
barons, he had, for the remission of his own sins and those 
of his family, resigned England and Ireland to God, to St. 
Peter and St. Paul, and to Pope Innocent and his successors 
in the apostolic chair ; he agreed to hold these states, as feu- 
datory of the church of Rome, by the annual payment of 
1000 marks 700 for England, 300 for Ireland; and he 
stipulated, that if he or his successors should ever presume to 
revoke or infringe this charter, they should instantly, except 
upon admonition they repented of their offence, forfeit all 
right to their dominions." 

To the honour of the memory of Walter de Gray and his 
deputies, and to the credit of the nation, there is reason to 
believe that the King could not find a subject in his domi- 
nions sufficiently base to put the Great Seal to this charter, 
although, owing to the presence of a French army, and the 
deplorable condition to which public affairs had been reduced, 
it could not be successfully resisted. From an entry in the 
Patent Roll it appears that about this time the Great Seal 
was in the King's own keeping, and we may reasonably sup- 
pose that he affixed it to the charter with his own hand.* 

* English historians, '.vhen they would infer the feudal dependence of Scot- 
land on England from the homage done by William while a prisoner of war to 
Henry II,, notwithstanding the release of Richard I, of any such claim, utterly 





De Gray 
Bis!<op of 
. and Arch- 
bishop of 

His igno- 

His death 
and cha- 

A.D. 1214. 
DE Ma- 



Lord Chancellor de Gray now bartered his office for prefer- 
ment in the Church. He was first elected Bishop of Lichfield 
and Coventry, but some obstacle arising about his consecration, 
he never was in possession of this see. In 1214, however, 
he became Bishop of Worcester. He finally reached the dig- 
nity of Archbishop of York, not without difficulty, for the 
Chapter long refused to elect him on the ground that he was 
" minus sufficiens in literaturd,^^ notwithstanding that* he had 
studied at the University of Oxford, and for some years 
filled the office of Lord Chancellor. His election being at 
last carried, he could not for some time obtain consecration 
from the Pope, who again urged the objection of " crassa 
ignorantia.''^ This was hardly denied ; but the topic relied 
upon in answer was his virgin chastity amidst the general 
profligacy of churchmen. Still the scruples of His Holiness 
could not be overcome without an exacted present of 10,000/. 
sterling. This is said to have compelled the Archbishop to 
lead, for some time, a very mean and penurious life, and 
unjustly to incur the censure of covetousness ; but having 
reached extreme old age, and been Archbishop forty years, 
he not only contributed much to the ornamenting of the 
cathedral, but he annexed the manor of Thorpe, in York- 
shire, to the archiepiscopal see, and bought York Place, in 
Westminster, of the Dominicans, w^hich remained the town 
residence of his successors till it was made over, by Cardinal 
Wolsey, to Henry VIIL 

The next Chancellor after Walter de Gray, was Richard 
DE Marisco*, Dean of Salisbury, Archdeacon of North- 
umberland, and afterwards Bishop of Durham, who twice held 
the office. His first Chancellorship ceased in about a year, 
when the King .pjoing into Poitou, Peter de Rupibus, Bishop 
of Winchester, was appointed Chief Justiciar and Regent, 

forget that, according to their reasoning, there is much more ground for contend- 
ing that England is now subject to the Pope of Rome as superior ; for this 
superiority was solemnly yielded by tlie king and the legislature; not only King 
John, but King Henry III. did homage to the pope as liege lord ; the stipulated 
tribute or render as the badge of dependence was paid for ages, even by such a 
prince as Edward I., and there has never at any time been a renunciation of 
the claim by the court of Rome. 
Rot. Cart. 16 John, m. 7. 


and the Great Seal was delivered to be held under him to CHAP. 
Ralph de Neville.* 

The King soon returned to England, and continuing his 29th Dec. 
tyrannical and oppressive measures, the insurrection of the 1213. 
Barons took place, which ended in their obtaining Magna J""^ 19. 
Charta. No one witnesses it as Chancellor, and it does not Magna 
clearly appear in whose keeping the Great Seal then was, Charta. 
there being no farther entry in the records on the subject 
during the rest of this reign; but there is great reason to 
believe that it remained in the hands of Ralph de Neville, -7- 
the Nevilles, already a powerful family, taking part with the 
King, and Hugh de Neville being mentioned among the 
barons who appeared on his side at Runnymede. f 

Whoever might then be Chancellor or Keeper of the Great 
Seal, he had nothing to do with the framing of Magna 
Charta. There was no negotiation as to terms. Archbishop 
Langton and the insurgent barons dictated whatever clauses 
they deemed desirable ; and it is considered a great proof of 
their moderation and wisdom, that they merely guarded 
against abuses, and introduced useful reforms, without touch- 
ing on the essential prerogatives of the Crown. The Bishop 
of Winchester and the Bishop of Worcester, who had been 
the King's Chief Justiciar and Chancellor, certainly were 
with him at Runnymede, and one of them might have acted 
as Chancellor on this occasion. At all events, the Great 
Seal was in due form affixed either by the King personally, 
or by some one under his authority, not only to the original, 
but to various copies of the Great Charter sent to arch- 
bishops, bishops, and priors, to be safely kept in perpetiiam 
rei memoriam. | 

From this time till his death, John could scarcely have Death of 
had any counsellors near him, and he seems merely to have ^"^ "* 

* Nono die Octobris anno regni Domini Regis quinto decimo liberavit 
Magister Ricardus de Marisco, Archidlaconus Richemundiae et Northumbria! 
Domino Regi sigillum apud Ospreng. Vicesimo secundo die Decembris 
liberatum fuit sigillum apud Windlesor Radul])ho de Nevill sub Domino Win- 
toniensi Episcopo deferendum. Put. 15 J. m. 8. n. 28. m. 6. n. 18. 

f This was after the famous fine paid by his wife to the king, of 200 hens, 
that she might be allowed to sleep with Ralph one night." Madd. Exch. 326. 

I 4 Inst. Proeme. Some of them are still extant. See Bl. Ed. of Charters, 
p. 303. 


CHAP, acted according to the Impulses of his own capricious mind; 
^^' all regular government must have been at an end, and the 
administration of justice entirely suspended. We may, there- 
fore, consider the office of Chancellor as In abeyance till the 
autumn of the following year, when John, after a long agony 
of body and spirit, closed his wicked and disgraceful career. 
A.D. 1216. The Chancellors during this reign did nothing to be entitled 
to the gratitude of posterity, and were not unworthy of the 
master whom they served. The guardians of law were the 
feudal barons, assisted by some enlightened churchmen, and 
by their efforts the doctrine of resistance to lawless tyranny 
was fully established in England, and the rights of all classes 
' of the people were defined and consolidated. 
Beginning We here reach a remarkable asra In our constitutional 
law'**'"*^ history. National councils had met from the most remote 
times ; but to the end of this reign their acts, not being pre- 
served on record, are supposed to form a part of the lex non 
scripta, or common law.* Now begins the distinction be- 
tween common and statute law, and henceforth we can dis- 
tinctly trace the changes which our juridical system has 
undergone. These changes were generally Introduced by 
the Chancellor for the time being ; and I shall hereafter 
consider it my duty to notice them in each successive reign. 

* It was in the interval between the Conquest and the end of the reign of 
King John, that what we call the Common Law of England, which differs es- 
sentially from the Anglo-Saxon law, must have been framed. See Hallam's 
Middle Ages, ii. 122. 




Henry III. on his accession, being still a child, the valiant chap. 
Earl of Pembroke, who had held the office of Mareschal at 
the conclusion of the late reign, was elected Protector with ^^ ^^^^ 
royal authority, and he appointed B-ichard de Marisco Marisco. 
Chancellor.* The conduct of these two men was Avise and 
conciliatory. They Immediately summoned a parliament. In Confirma- 
which the Great Charter, with a few alterations, was con- Q^g^j 
firmed In the name of the Infant sovereign. Charter, 

For three years all grants passed under the seal of the 
Protector, although In the King's name.f A new Great Seal 
was then made X, but that It might n^t be abused to the King's 
disherison, an act was passed that " no charter or letters 
patent of confirmation, alienation, sale, or grant of any thing 
In perpetuity, should be sealed with the King's Great Seal 
until his full age ; and that If any such were sealed with that 
seal they should be void." In the ninth year of his reign 
the Great Charter was again confirmed, as It now appears at 
the head of the statute law of England. 

De Marisco had for his Vice-chancellor Ralph de Neville, Ralph de 
an ambitious and unprincipled man, who was constantly in- 
triguing against him, and finally supplanted him. cellor. 

In the year 1226 a national council was held at Oxford, 
at which, contrary to the advice of the Chancellor, and by the 
instigation of Hubert de Burgh and De Neville, the King, 
after declaring himself, resolved to take the management of 
public affiiirs Into lils own hands, cancelled and annulled the 

Pat. Rol. 3 H. 3. m. 14. Spel. Gloss. 100. Or. Jiir. 8. 

f " Tn cujus rei testimonium has literas nostras sigillo comitis mariscalli 
rectoris nostri sit^illatas, quia nondum sigillum habuimus, vobis mittimus, teste 
WiLLiELMo comite Mariscallo." 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown, ch. xvi, 

J Claus. 3 H. 3. m, 14. hie incepit sigillum regis currere. 

VOL. T. K 





duct of 
cellor De 

Letter of 
from the 
to the Vice- 

Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest, which he had 
previously confirmed and directed to be observed throughout 
the kingdom, now alleging that they were invalid, having 
been granted during his minority, when there was no power 
in his own person or his seal to infringe the prerogatives of 
the Crown. 

This was followed up by another arbitrary act, with a view 
to fill the treasury, for which a precedent in Richard's reign 
was cited. All persons enjoying liberties and privileges were 
required to take a fresh grant under the Great Seal, the King 
being now of age, and they were compelled to pay for these 
renewals according to the extortionate discretion of the Jus- 
ticiar and the Vice-chancellor, who were the authors of the 

The insolence of Vice-chancellor Neville,' backed by 
Hubert de Burgh, who was now rising rapidly to the uncon- 
trolled power he afterwards possessed, grew to such a pitch, 
that he entirely superseded De Marisco in all his functions, 
and in writing to him styled him merely "Bishop of Durham," 
without deigning to give him his title of " Chancellor." 

This conduct drew forth the following reprimand : 

" Richard, by the grace of God Bishop of Durham, Chan- 
cellor of our Lord the King, to his beloved Ralph de Neville, 
Dean of Lichfield, greeting. It is marvellous in our eyes, 
and it must be a subject of general astonishment, that in your 
letters you have omitted to address us by the title of * Chan- 
cellor,' since you must be well aware that we were solemnly 
appointed to that office, and that by God's grace we are still 
resolved to enjoy its powers and pre-eminence, the attempts 
of our enemies recoiling upon themselves, and in no respect 
shaking our constancy. However much they may strive to 
partition me, I am resolved to remain entire. 

"Know, that in letters with which I have been lately 
favoured from our lord the Pope and several of his cardinals, 
they have all saluted me by the title which you suppress, and 
you are bound to follow, or rather to worship their footsteps. 

" Be advised then by me for the future to act a discreeter 
part, and having a proper respect for others when you write 
to them, give them the appellations of honour to which they 

Culminis qui cupi 
Et sedata si 
Qui populos regi 
Quod mors iinini 
Vobis prasposi 
Quod sum vos eri 

'laudes pompasquesui 
si me peiisare veli 
memore super omnia si 
non parcit honore poti 
similis fueram bene sci 

_ad me currendo veni 


are entitled. Reverence for the law requires that every one chap. 
should be called by the name of his dignity. Accius the ' 

poet, being addressed at supper by his own proper name, 
brought his action of damages.* 

" We might consider this suppression of our title by you 
as a premeditated injury, and act accordingly ; but we are 
contented with this remonstrance for the present, in the hope 
of your amendment. Farewell. "f 

If any such hope was really entertained it was disappointed. 
De Neville not only did all the duties of Chancellor, but took 
every opportunity of insulting his superior, and refused to 
give him any account of fees received. De Marisco, finding 
that he could obtain no redress, sent in the long-wished re- 
signation, and retired to his diocese, where he soon after 
died. :j: 

* See " Rhetoricorum ad Herennium," lib. i. 14., where the case being put that 
" the fact is admitted and the law is disputed," Cicero, or whoever the author 
may be, gives this illustration : " Mimus quidam nominatim Accium poetam com- 
pellavit in scena : cum eo Accius injuriarum agit : hie nihil aliud defendit, nisi 
licere nominari eum, cujus nomine scripta dentur agenda." The Chancellor has 
changed " scena " into " coenaculo." " Scena cum eo " had, probably, been 
first turned into " scoenaculo." This is a specimen of the perils to whicli ma- 
nuscript literature is exposed. However, the familiarity of the Mediaeval 
writers, from Bede downwards, with the Latin classics is often very striking. 

f " Ricardus Dei gratia Dunelmensis Episcopus Domini Regis Cancellarius 
dilecto suo Radulpho de Neville Decano Lichefeldensi Salutem. Mirabile fuit 
in oculis nostris et satis admirari dignum vos nomen Cancellarii in Uteris vestris 
nobis destinatis suppressisse ; cum expericntiam vestram non lateat nee consci- 
entiam vestram latere debeat, nos dicta dignitatis officio fuisse et esse sollemp- 
niter assignatos, ejusdem praerogativse preeminentia gratia Dei ulterius gavisuros, 
oblatrantium morsibus in se ipsos redeuntibus, et nostri constantiam in nullo 
contaminantibus. Quia quid me dimidiant integer esse volo. Dominus autem 
Papa, et Cardinales sui quamplures, nos pridie literarum suarum beneficiis 
memoratfe dignitatis appellatione minus suppressa gratia sui visitarunt, et vos 
eorum non solum sequi sed potius adorare vestigia tenemini. Et de consilio 
nostro de cjetero non intercepto discretiori judicio teneamini, reverencia locum 
suum decenter etiam sortita inter caetera attributa personae de jure, et ratione 
convenientia nequaquam in Uteris vestiis exterminata. Legis enim reverencia 
est quemvis nomine dignitatis nuncupare, et Accium Poetam in coenaculo 
proprio nomine compeilatum injuriarum egisse. Et nos sepedicta* suppressionis 
occasione licet condigna et consimiU ratione injuriarum agere possimus in pra;- 
sentiam dignum duximus sub expectatione melioris subticere. Valete." Ex 
Orig. in Turr. Lond. 

J He was interred in his own cathedral, where a monument was erected to 
his memory with the following curious epitaph : 




A.D. 1227. 
Dk Ne- 

A.n. 1231. 
Grant to 
him of 
office of 
for life. 

The title of Chancellor was conferred on De Neville, who 
had for some time enjoyed the powers and the profits of the 

This ambitious man was now also Bishop of Chichester, 
and was bent upon engrossing the highest civil and ecclesias- 
tical dignities. That he might be secure in the office of 
Chancellor against such acts as he himself had practised, he 
obtained a charter from the King, dated the 12 th of February, 
in the 11th year of the reign, "granting and confirming to 
him the King's Chancery, to hold during his w^hole life, with 
all the issues, liberties, and other things thereto belonging, as 
freely, quietly, entirely, and honourably as the Chancellors 
of former Kings, his predecessors, held the same." 

Four years after he received a renewal and confirmation of 
this grant, " with power that he might bear and keep the 
Seal, either by himself in person as long as he pleased, or by 
some other discreet, sufficient, and fit assignee ; which assignee 
should be sworn to the King for his faithful service for the 
true and faithful keeping of the said Seal, in the room of the 
said Ralph, before receiving it into his custody ; and if such 
assignee died, or became professed in religion, or should be 
put out for any reasonable cause, either by the King or the 
Chancellor, or if the assignee refused to keep the Seal any 
longer, then the Chancellor, in the room of such assignee, was 
to substitute some other discreet, sufficient, and fit person, who 
should be sworn to the King for his faithful service, in like 
manner as the first assignee was before he received the Seal 
into his keeping."! For some reason, which we do not under- 
stand, this grant Avas twice renewed, nearly in the same 
words. According to Matthew Paris, these grants were con- 
firmed in Parliament, so that the Chancellor was not to be 
deposed from the custody of the Seal unless it were so ordained 
by the consent and advice of the whole realm.| 

De Neville's cupidity was not yet satisfied, and in the 

* Rot. Cart. 1 1 Hen. 3. 

t Thisjis an exact translation of the clause giving a power to appoint a 
deputy, which shows that the multiplication of words in legal instruments is 
not a very modern invention. 

I Itaque scilicet ut non deponeretur ab ejus sigilli custodia nisi totius regni 
ordmante consensu et concilio. 


eighteenth year of the reign, the King "granted and con- CHAP, 
firmed for himself and his heirs to Ralph Bishop of Chichester, 

then his Chancellor of England, the Chancellorship of Ireland, ^^ 1233^ 
to hold during the life of the Chancellor, with all the appur- He is like- 
tenances, liberties, and free customs to the said Chancellor- chancellor 
ship of Ireland belonging. And the King sent a writ patent, "^ Ireland, 
dated at Gloucester the 21st May, in the eighteenth year of 
his reign, to Maurice Fitzgerald, his Justiciar of Ireland, 
reciting the said grant of the Chancellorship of Ireland, and 
ordering " that G. de Turville, Archdeacon of Dublin, should 
be admitted Vice-Chancellor, the Chancellor having deputed 
him thereto."* This, I believe, is the only instance of the 
office of Chancellor of England and Chancellor of Ireland 
being held at the same time by the same individual. 

Neville for a while enjoyed the additional dignity of And Guar- 
Guardian of the realm. The King, going into Gascony with realm. 
Hubert de Burgh, and taking the Great Seal with him, 
appointed the Chancellor and Stephen de Segrave to govern 
the kingdom during his absence, directing all writs and 
grants to be sealed with another seal, which he gave into the 
Chancellor's keeping. f 

This insatiable lover of preferment still longed for higher Disap- 
ecclesiastical dignity, and had nearly reached the summit of P'''"*^? ^ 
his ambition, for, upon a vacancy in the see of Canterbury, he macy, 
was elected Archbishop ; but the Pope thought him too much 
attached to the Crown by his civil offices, and assumed to him- 
self the power of annulling the election. In the hope of better 
success b}^ bribery another time, the Chancellor went on 
amassing immense wealth by the plunder of England and 

Hubert de Burgh was no check on his rapacity, for the Chief 
Justiciar had obtained a similar grant for life of his own 
office, although it had hitherto been always held during plea- 
sure. His grant likewise was confirmed in Parliament ; and, 
to support these corrupt jobs, the plausible maxim was relied 
upon, that judges ought to be independent of the Crown. 

But little respect was paid to charters or acts of parliament Triumph of 

Peter de 
* Rot. Cart. 17 Hen. 3. m. 8. f !'' ^^ Hen. 3. m. 3 

K 3 


CHAP, making judges for life when the opposite ftiction prevailed, 
^^^' and Peter de Rupibus or des Roches, Bishop of Winchester, 
at the head of it, succeeded to absolute power in the name of 
the feeble Henry. 
A.D. 1235. As soon as this revolution was accomplished, an attempt 
was made to remove De Neville from his office, and the Great 
Seal was demanded from him in the King's name ; but he 
refused to deliver it up, alleging, that as he had received it 
from the common council of the realm, he could not resign it 
without their authority.* 

Some time after this the Chancellor was elected by the 
monks of Winchester bishop of that see, in preference to the 
King's half-brother, who was a candidate for it on the court 
interest. Hereupon, the King's indignation being beyond 
control, he bitterly reproached both the Chancellor and the 
De Neville monks ; he banished the Chancellor from court, and forcibly 
*^f Gr^at taking possession of the Great Seal, delivered it into the 
Seal. custody of Geoffrey, a Templar, and John de Lexing- 

ton.! De Neville, residing in his diocese, retained the title 
of Chancellor, and the emoluments of the office. 

He was then summoned to return to court and to perform 
his official duties ; but he refused, as his enemies had a com- 
plete ascendancy there, and he felt that, although he might as 
a priest be safe from personal violence, he must be exposed to 
perpetual mortification and insult. For this contumacy he 
was superseded. 
"Simon THE He was succecdcd, if not by a very learned or able, by a 
Ch'^^^n'' ^^y honest man, " Simon the Norman," who is cele- 
brated among the few who have lost the office of Chancellor 
by refusing to comply with the royal will, and to do an 
unconstitutional act. He was a great favourite at court, and 
seemed likely to have a long official career, but is said to 

* M. Par. 294. 319. 

f " Cum autem videret Rex, iterum instantiam precum suarum effectu 
caruisse, justae postulationi monachorum adversando, multaconvitia congessit in 
eundem Episcopum ; dicens eum impetuosum, iracundum, perversum ; vocans 
omnes fatuos, qui eum in Episcopum postularunt. Insuper sigillum suum 
quod idem Episcopus universitatem regni receperat custodiendum Rex violenter 
abstulit et fratri Galfrido Templario, et Johanni de I.exirsbuna commisit baju- 
landum; emoiumentis tamen ad Cancellariam spectaiitibus Episcopo quasi 
Canccllario redditis et assignatis." M. Paris, 320. 


liave Incurred the King's displeasure (more probably Queen CHAP. 
Eleanor's) because he -would not put the Great Seal to a 

grant of fourpence on every sack of wool to the Earl of 
Flanders, the Queen's uncle. He was too good for the Dismissed 
times in which he lived, and we hear no more of him, except ^"^ oaesty. 
that he was " expelled from court." * 

The Great Seal was then sent into the temporary keeping a,d. 1242, 
of Richard Abbot of Evesham : but before a new Chan- 
cellor was appointed a sudden counter-revolution took place 
at court. Hubert de Burgh, who, on his disgrace, had been 
obliged to take sanctuary in a church, and, being dragged 
thence by the King's orders, had been confined in the castle 
of Devizes, contrived to make his escape, immediately 
found himself at the head of a great confederation, put all 
his enemies to flight, and was once more lord of the as- 
cendant, although he declined to resume his own office, 
thinking that he could irregularly enjoy more power without 
it. By his influence, the Great Seal was restored to De Neville, De Neville 
who continued in the undisturbed possession of the office of the office'of 
Chancellor till his death. Notwithstanding increasins: in- Chancellor, 
firmities, he was afraid to employ a Vice-chancellor, lest he 
should be the victim of the same policy which he had practised 
against his predecessor De Marisco. He expired in Novem- His death, 
ber, 1244, in his episcopal palace, which he had built In 
Chancery Lane, now the site of Lincoln's Inn.f 

Notwithstanding the unscrupulous means he employed to Hischarac- 
advance himself, and the rapacity of which he was guilty, he ^^^' 
is said to have made a good judge. Matthew Paris, in re- 
lating the manner in which the Great Seal was forcibly taken 
from him, speaks of him as one " who long irreproachably 
discharged the duties of his office |," and afterwards warmly 
praises him for his speedy and impartial administration of 
justice to all ranks, and more especially to the poor 

* Spel. Gloss. 100. M. Par. 320. 

f " Venerabilis Pater Episcopus Cicestrensis Redulphus de Neville, Cancel- 
larius Anglia?, vir per omnia laudabilis, ct immota colnmna in regni negotiis, 
fidelitatis, Londini in nobili palacio suo, quod a fundamentis non procul a Novo 
Templo construxerat vitam temporalem terminavit, perpetuam adepturus." 
M. Par. A.n. 1244. Dug. Or. Jur. 230. 

X " Qui irreprehensibiliter officium diu ante administraverat." M. Par. 328. 

" Radulphus de Neville qui erat Regis fidelissimus Cancellarius et incon- 

K 4 




Statute of 

by parlia- 
ment to 
right of ap- 

Under the presidency of De Neville, in the twentieth year 
of the King's reign, was held the famous parliament at Mer- 
ton Abbey, in Surrey, where he was overruled upon a pro- 
posal brought forward, *' that children born out of wedlock 
should be rendered legitimate by the subsequent marriage of 
their parents." All the prelates present were in support of 
the measure ; but all the earls and barons with one voice 
answered, " We will not change the laws of England hitherto 
used and approved." * 

Shortly before De Neville's death, a national assembly had 
been summoned to meet at Westminster for the purpose of 
obtaining a pecuniary aid. But the bishops and the barons 
took time to consider, and the result of their deliberations 
was to give to the King a statement of grievances, which if 
he would redress, the aid required should be granted to him. 
The chief grievance was, that by the King's interference 
with the Great Seal the course of justice had been inter- 
rupted, and they therefore desired that both the Chancellor 
and Justices should be elected " per solemnem et universalem 
omnium convocationem et liberum assensum,^^ and that, if upon 
any occasion the King should take his Seal away from the 
Chancellor, whatever might be sealed with it should be con- 
sidered void and of none effect till it should be re-delivered to 
the Chancellor. 

The King negatived the petition, and would go no further 
than to promise that he would amend any thing he might find 
amiss. This refusal raised such a storm, that, to quiet it, 
he was obliged to grant a charter, by which he agreed that 
the Chancellor should be elected by the common consent 

cussa columna veritatis, singulis sua jura, precipue pauperibus, singulis juste 
reddens et indilate." M. Par. p. 312. 

We have not a list of the lords spiritual and temporal at this parliament, to 
ascertain their comparative numbers ; but we have such a list of those sum- 
moned to and present at various subsequent parliaments, showing that the 
spiritual peers sometimes considerably outnumbered the temporal ; and the 
difficulty arises, why, upon matters respecting the church and churchmen, on 
which they always acted together, the prelates did not succeed in carrying 
whatever measures they wished. But I suspect that although the two bodies 
sat in the same chamber, they were long considered as separate orders, the 
consent of each being necessary to the making of laws, so that although the 
bishops and mitred abbots might be more numerous, they could not carry a law 
against the will of the earls and barons. 


of the great council. But this was soon disregarded; for CHAP. 

. . . VII. 

popular election was found quite as bad as appointment by ' 

court favour or corruption, and the complaints against the 
venality and extortion of the Chancery were louder than 

A rapid succession of Chancellors followed during the 
remainder of this reign, few of them much distinguished for 
learning or ability ; and the personal contests in which 
they were engaged were of no permanent interest. We 
shall therefore do little more than enumerate their names. 
" History," says Hume, " being a collection of facts which 
are multiplying without end, is obliged to adopt arts of 
abridgment, to retain the more material events, and to drop 
all the minute circumstances which are only interesting during 
the time, or to the persons engaged in the transactions. This 
truth is no where more evident than with regard to the reign of 
Henry III. What mortal could have patience to write or 
read a long detail of such frivolous events as those with which 
it is filled, or attend to a tedious narrative which would follow, 
through a series of fifty-six years, the caprices and weaknesses 
of so mean a prince ? " We must be consoled by the reflec- 
tion that we are now approaching the period when our repre- 
sentative constitution was formed, and the administration of 
justice was established on the basis upon which they remained 
through nearly six centuries to our own time. 

The next Chancellor was Ranulph Briton, Bishop of Ranulph 
Bath and Wells, of whom we know little, except that almost chancellor 
immediately after he received* the Great Seal, he is said to 
have died of apoplexy, without any insinuation that his 
days were shortened by remorse at having deserted his party 
in agreeing to accept it. He is represented likewise as having 
been Chancellor to the Queen, an oflfice I do not find men- 
tioned elsewhere, the Queen Consort being considered suffi- 
ciently protected by being privileged as a feme sole, and having 
a right to sue by her attorney-general. f 

M. Par. 564. Mad. Ex. 43. 

f " Ranulfus Brlto Regi et Reglna; CaticcUarius Ictliali apoplexia corruit." 
INI. Paris, p. 719. n. 40. Spclman doubts whether he was more than Keeper 
of the Great Seal under De Neville Gloss. 110. 




A.D. 1244. 

A.D. 1246. 

Origin of 
the dis- 
power in 

Tins Chan- 
cellor the 
pluralist on 

He was succeeded by Silvester de Everdon *, who had 
been the King's chaplain and Vice-chancellor, and who very 
soon retired from state affairs against the wishes of the King, 
being elected Bishop of Carlisle, and choosing to devote him- 
self to the superintendence of this remote see. 

Next came John Maunsel f, who held the office of Lord 
Chancellor for nearly two years. He had gained some dis- 
tinction as an ecclesiastical judge while Chancellor to the 
Bishop of London. While he held the Great Seal, he was 
promoted to be provost of Beverley ; but he does not seem 
to have obtained any farther preferment. This could not 
have arisen from the want of courtly compliance ; for it was 
in his time that the dispensing power was first practised by 
a King of England since the Conquest, and he introduced 
the non obstante clause into grants and patents. The Chan- 
cellor might have urged by way of extenuation, that till this 
reign the prerogative could hardly be said to be under the 
restraint of law. The novelty being objected to, the defence 
actually made was, " that the Pope exercised a dispensing 
power, and why might not the King imitate his example ? " 
which made Thurkesley, one of the King's justices, exclaim, 
" Alas, what times are we fallen into ? Behold, the civil 
Court is corrupted In imitation of the ecclesiastical, and the 
river is poisoned from that fountain." These irregularities 
becoming more grievous, they were made the subject of 
solemn remonstrance to the King by the great men assembled 
m Parliament, who, complaining of the conduct of the 
Chancellor, desired " that Such a Chancellor might be 
chosen as should fix the state of the kingdom on its old 
basis." The King promised " that he would amend what 
he had heard was amiss," but did not farther attend to the 

If Maunsel did not reach the mitre, he was a considerable 
pluralist, as he Is computed to have held at once 700 eccle- 
siastical livings, having, I presume, presented himself to all 
that fell vacant, and were in the gift of the Crown, while he 
Avas Chancellor. Matthew Paris observes of him, that " it 

* Rot. Pat. 29 Hen. 3. m. 20. 

t Rot. Pat. 31 Hen. 3. m. 2. 


may be doubted whether he was either a wise or a good man CHAP, 
who could burthen his conscience with the care of so many 


John de Lexington, who had been entrusted with the John ue 
custody of the Great Seal during his absence on an em- To^^'chmi- 
bassy, succeeded him as Chancellor f , and continued in the cellor. 
office four years, having for his keepers of the Seal Peter 
de Rivallis and William de Kilkenny, Archdeacon of 

Great disputes now arose respecting the King's partiality Complaint 
to foreigners, and the national discontents were loud and J^enrthat 
deep. Yet the Chancellor at first was not blamed as author Chancellor 
of the bad measures of the government ; and, on the contrary, consulted, 
regret was expressed that he was not more consulted. In an 
answer by the Parliament to a demand of the King for sup- 
plies, they complained, among many other grievances, " that 
he had neither Chancellor, Chief Justiciar, nor Treasurer in 
his council, as he ought to have, and as his most noble pre- 
decessors had before him." " The King, when he heard all 
this, was much confounded within himself, and ashamed," says 
M. Paris, " because he knew it all to be very true." 

The Parliament obtaining no redress, afterwards petitioned Petition to 
for the removal of the present Chancellor, Chief Justiciar, j'^^o^^ 
and Treasurer, and the appointment of others deserving to 
be employed and trusted. 

This roused the indignation of the King, who said, " The King's 
servant is not above his lord, nor the disciple above his 
master; and what is your King more than your servant, if 
he is to obey your commands ? Therefore my resolution is 
neither to remove the Chancellor, Justiciar, nor the Trea- 
surer at your pleasure, nor will I appoint any other." The 
Barons unanimously replied, that their petition being refused, 
they would no longer impoverish themselves to enrich 
foreigners, and the Parliament being dissolved without any 
supply, the King was obliged to raise money by the sale of 
his plate and jewels4 

Lexington continued Chancellor till he was succeeded by 
a Lady Keeper. 

* M. Paris, 856. f Rot. Claus. 33 Hen. 3. m. 2. 

\ 1 Pari. Hist. 23. 25. 







A.D. 1253. 





Her pa- 

Wit and 

In the summer of the year 1253 King Henry, being about 
to lead an expedition into Gascony to quell an insurrection 
in that province, appointed Queen Eleanor Lady Keeper 
of the Great Seal during his absence, with this declaration 
" that if any thing which might turn to the detriment of the 
Crown or realm was sealed in the King's name whilst he 
continued out of the realm with any other seal, it should be 
utterly void." The Queen was to act with the advice of 
Richard Earl of Cornwall, the King's brother, and others of 
his council.* 

She accordingly held the office nearly a whole year, per- 
forming all its duties, as well judicial as ministerial. I am 
thus bound to include her in the list of " Chancellors and 
Keepers of the Great Seal," whose lives I have undertaken 
to delineate. 

Eleanor was the second daughter of Berenger, Count of 
Provence, and his wife Beatrice of Savoy. From infancy 
she was celebrated for her wit and her beauty. While only 
thirteen years old she had written "an heroic poem in the 
Provencal tongue, and it was sung by troubadours, who 
added verses of their own, pi-aising the unparalleled charms of 
" Alienora la bella.'''' 

In the year 1235 Henry HI. had agreed to marry Joanna, 
a daughter of the Count de Ponthieu, but broke off the 

* The commission to her as " Lady Keeper " is extant, and curious. " De 
Magno Sigillo commissio. Ilex omnibus, &c., sahitem. Noverit universltas 
vestra quod nos in Vasconiam proficiscentes dimisimus Magnum Sigillum nos- 
trum in custodia dilecta Reginaj nostra? sub sigillo nostro privato et sigillis 
dilecti fratris et iidelis nostri Ricardi Comitis CornubicE et quorundam aliorum 
de cohsilio nostro; tali conditione adjecta quod si aliquid signatum fuerit 
nomme nostro, dum extra regnum Angliae fuerimus, alio sigillo quam illo, quod 
vergere potcrit in corona nostrae vel regni nostri detrimentum vel diminutionem, 
nullius sit momenti et viribus careat omnino." T. &c, pat. 37 H. 3. m. 8. 


match on hearlnor so much of the attractions of Eleanor of CHAP. 

. . VIII. 
Provence, and sent an embassy to solicit her to share his ' 

throne. He would trust no layman on such a delicate 
mission, but chose for his ambassadors four sober priests 
the Bishops of Ely and Lincoln, the Master of the Temple, 
and the Prior of Harle. After some difficulties about dower 
had been surmounted, the contract was joyfully signed, 
although Henry was more than double the age of the 
" Infanta ; " and she was delivered, with all due solemnity, 
to the very reverend plenipotentiaries. 

The royal bride began her journey to England, attended Marriage 
by all the chivalry and beauty of the south of France, " and Hej.y. 
followed by a stately train of nobles, demoiselles, minstrels, 
and jongleurs." Having been feasted with great distinction 
by Theobald King of Navarre, himself a poet, and welcomed, 
on crossing the French frontier, by her elder sister. Queen of 
St. Louis, she landed safely at Dover, and, on the 4th of 
January, 1236, she was united to Henry, by the Archbishop 
of Canterbury, before she had completed her fourteenth 

We have the following description of her from Piers of 
Langtoft : 

" Henry owre Kynge at Westmonster tuke to wyfe 
Th' Earle's daughter of Provence the fayrest Maye in lyfe, 
Her name Elinore of gentle nurture 
Beyonde the sea there was no suche creature." 

The contemporary chronicles are filled with accounts of the 
festivities with which she was received in the City of London, 
and the jewels and rich dresses which she wore at her coro- 
nation particularly of the wedding present of her sister, 
the Queen of France ^a large silver peacock, whose train 
Avas set with sapphires and pearls, and other precious stones, 
wrought with silver and gold, used as a reservoir for sweet 
waters, which were forced out of its beak into a chased silver 
basin for the use of the guests at the banquet. 

Although Eleanor conducted herself Avith great personal 
propi'iety at the English court, her popularity was short-lived. 

* Matthew of Westminster, p. 295. 




Her unpo- 

with the 
citizens of 

Unfortunately she was accompanied by an immense number 
of relations and countrymen, and the King's half-brothers, 
sprung from his mother's second marriage with the Count de 
la Marche, coming over soon after and obtaining great pre- 
ferment, it was said that " no one could prosper in England 
but a Provencal or a Poictevien." 

She enriched one uncle, Peter of Savoy, by a large grant 
of land between London and Westminster, a part of which 
still bears his name ; and for Boniface, another uncle, she 
obtained the Archbishopric of Canterbury by writing, with 
her own hand, a very elegant epistle in his behalf, " taldng 
upon herself," indignantly says Matthew of Westminster, 
" for no other reason than his being of kin to her, to urge 
the suit of this unfit candidate in the warmest manner ; and 
so my lord the Pope named to the primacy this man, who 
had been chosen by a woman ! " 

She likewise soon commenced an unextingulshable feud 
with the citizens of London, by requiring that all vessels 
freighted with corn, wool, or any valuable cargo navigating 
the Thames, should unlade at her hithe or quay called 
" Queenhithe," where she levied an excessive tax upon 
them, which she claimed to be due to the Queen-consort of 

In spite of such extortions, so poor were she and her 
husband by their largesses to foreigners *, that they ceased 
to put on their royal robes, and unable to bear the expense 
of keeping a table, they daily invited themselves, with a 
chosen number of their kindred or favourites, to dine with 
the rich merchants of the city of London, or the great men 
of the court, and manifested much discontent unless presented 
with costly gifts at their departure, which they took, not as 
obligations and proofs of loyal affection to their persons, but 
as matters of right. 

Eleanor never made any attempt to acquire the slightest 
knowledge of English, the use of which was still confined to the 

* Her finances had likewise been very much deranged by a large bribe she 
had found it necessary to give to the Pope for his decree declaring null the 
precontract of Henry with Johanna of Ponthieu, on account of which the validity 
of her own marriage had been questioned. 


lowest ranks, Norman-French or Provencal being spoken CHAP, 
at Court*, and Latin being the language of the church. 

There were great rejoicings when she gave birth to an heir j^^^^ ^339 
to the throne, afterwards Edward I., one of the bravest Birth of 
and wisest of our sovereigns ; and we ought to honour her 
memory for the skilful manner in which she conducted his 
education, notwithstanding the indiscreet interference of her 
imbecile husband. 

But while Henry was generally liked, her manners were 
so haughty and overbearing, that she quarrelled with Hubert 
de Burgh, Peter des Roches, Simon Montfort, and the leaders 
of all parties, as well as being odious to the populace from 
her ill-concealed contempt for English barbarism. She 
acquired, however, a great ascendant over the mind of the 
King, who had sufficient sense to value her superior under- 
standing and accomplishments. 

In the prospect of his going into Gascony in 1253, having She re- 
intrusted her with the custody of the Great Seal, on the 6th ^q^'^I ^^^, 
of August he sailed from Portsmouth for Bourdeaux to take 6th August, 
the command in person of an army there assembled, and the 
Queen was left in the full exercise of her authority as Lady 

The sealing of writs and common instruments was left, lier con- 
under her direction, to Kilkenny, Archdeacon of Coventry ; j" j' ^* 
but the more important duties of the office she executed in Keeper. 
person. She sat as judge in the Aula Regia, beginning her 
sittings on the morrow of the nativity of the blessed Virgin 

These sittings were interrupted by the accouchement of the Her ac- 
judge. The Lady Keeper had been left by her husband in a 
state of pregnancy, and on the 25th of November, 1253, she 
was delivered of a princess, to whom the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury, her uncle, stood godfather, and baptized by the name 
of Catherine, being born on St. Catherine's day.| 

* Proclamations to preserve the peace were read in three languages, French, 
Latin, and Saxon. We still have the commencement in the first Oyez 1 Oyez ! 
Oyez ! corrupted into O yes ! O yes ! O yes ! 

t " Placita coram Domina Rcgina et consilio Domini Regis in Crastino 
Nativitatis Beat. Mariaj." Rot. Thes. 37 Hen. 3. 

\ " Et nomen aptante et baptizante infantulam Archiepiscopo, vocata est 





Her ex- 
action of 
" queen 

A parlia- 
A.D. 1254. 

She resigns 
the Great 

The Lady Keeper had a favourable recovery, and being 
churched*, resumed her place in the Aula Regia. 

She now availed herself of the King's absence, not only to 
enforce rigorously her dues at Queenhithe, but by demanding 
from the city of London a large sum which she insisted they 
owed her for " aurum reginaj " or " queen gold," being a 
claim by the Queens of England on every tenth mark paid 
to the King on the renewal of leases on crown lands or the 
granting of charters, matters of grace supposed to be ob- 
tained from the powerful intercession of the Queen.f Eleanor 
in this instance demanded her " queen gold " on various 
enormous fines that had been unrighteously extorted by the 
King from the plundered citizens. For the non-payment of 
this unjust demand, the Lady Keeper, in a very summary 
manner, committed the Sheriffs of London, Richard Picard 
and John de Northampton, to the Marshalsea Prison, and she 
soon after sent Richard Hardell, the Lord Mayor, to keep 
them company there, for the arrears of an aid unlawfully 
imposed towards the war in Gascony. 

These arbitrary proceedings caused the greatest alarm and 
consternation ; for the city of London had hitherto been a sort 
of free republic in a despotic kingdom, and its privileges had 
been respected in times of general oppression. 

In the beginning of 1254 a parliament was called, and the 
Queen being present and making a speech, pressed for a 
supply ; but, on account of her great unpopularity, it was 
peremptorily refused. 

A new arrangement was then made for carrying on the 
government ; the Great Seal was transferred into other 
hands, and on the 15th of May she sailed from Portsmouth 
with a courtly retinue of ladies, nobles, and knights, and 
joined the King at Bourdeaux. They then visited Paris, 
where Queen Eleanor had the happiness of meeting her three 

Catherina, eo quod die Sanctae Catherinse nata, aera hauserat primitivum." 
M. Paris. 

One of the grandest scenes ever seen in England was the queen's churching 
after the birth of her eldest son, all the great ladies of the land being summoned 
to attend the queen to church ; but the ceremony on this occasion was conducted 
very privately. 

t 1 Bl. Com. 221. 


sisters, all splendidly married*, and where a banquet was CHAP. 
given, much celebrated by the chroniclers, at which the kings 

of France, of England, and of Navarre, with all their prime 
nobility, were present, trying to outvy each other in courtesy 
as well as splendour. 

Eleanor and her husband landed at Dover on the 5th of a.d. 1255. 
January, 1255, and on the 27th of the same month made 
their public entry into London with extraordinary pomp ; but 
notwithstanding the display of banners and tapestry by the 
different companies, it was evident that hatred of the Queen 
was still rankling in the hearts of the citizens. 

She disdained to take any step to mitigate their resent- 
ment. All the violations of Magna Charta were imputed 
to her, and she was charged with instilling her own political 
opinions into her eldest son. 

The following is a specimen of the ballads published upon Ballads 

]lQY : upon her. 

" The queen went beyond the sea, the king's brethren also, 
And ever they strove the charter to undo ; 
They purchased that the pope should assoil I wis 
Of the oath and the charter, and the king and all his. 

" It was ever the queen's thought, as much as she could think, 
To break the charter by some woman's v/renckef ; 
And though Sir Edward J was proved a hardy knight and good, 
Yet the same charter was little to his mood." 

In the following year, while residing in the Tower, she was Pdted by 
threatened with violent treatment by the citizens of London, t'^cLondon 
and she resolved for safety to proceed by water to the Castle 
of Windsor ; but as she approached London Bridge the po- 
pulace assembled to insult her. The cry ran, " Drown the 
Witch" and besides abusing her with the most opprobrious 
language, and pelting her with dirt and rotten eggs, they 
had prepared great stones to sink her barge when she should 
attempt to shoot the principal arch. She was so frightened 

Dante, in celebrating Ramondo Berlinghieri, seems to have been most of 
all struck with the elevation of his daughters : 

" Quattro figlie ebbe, e ciascuna reina." Parad. c. vi. 

f Wrenching or perverting the meaning of the charter. 

\ Prince Edward. Robert of Gloucester. 

VOL. I. L 




4th Aug. 
She flies 

Returns to 

Takes the 

The death. 

Her cha- 

that she returned to the Tower. Not considering herself 
safe in this fortress, she took sanctuary at night in the Bishop 
of London's palace, within the precincts of St. Paul's. She 
was thence privately removed to Windsor Castle, where 
Prince Edward was at the head of a military force. He 
never forgave the Londoners the insult they had offered to his 

In the civil wars that took place at the close of her hus- 
band's reign, Eleanor often showed great determination and 
courage, and after repeated disasters still made head against 
the impetuous Earl of Leicester. At last, when the con- 
federated barons were triumphant and Henry was made a 
prisoner, she took refuge with her younger children in France; 
but after the battle of Evesham she returned to England and 
had her revenge upon the citizens of London, who for their 
ill behaviour to her were fined 20,000 marks to her use. She 
continued to act a conspicuous part during the remainder of 
this reign. 

Soon after the accession of her son to the crown, she 
renounced the world and retired to the monastery of Am- 
bresbury, where, in the year 1284, she actually took the veil. 
She had the satisfaction of hearing of the brilliant career of 
her son, and she died in 1292, when he was at the height of 
his glory, having subdued Wales, pacified Ireland, reduced 
Scotland to feudal subjection, and made England more pros- 
perous and happy than at any former period. 

Although the temper and haughty demeanour of Elea- 
nor were very freely censured in her own time, I believe 
no imputation was cast upon her virtue till the usurper 
Henry IV., assuming to be the right heir of Edmund her 
second son, found it convenient to question the legitimacy 
of Edward her first-born, and to represent him as the fruit 
of an adulterous intercourse between her and the Earl 
Marshal. Then was written the popular ballad represent- 
ing her as confessing her frailty to the King her husband, 
who, m the garb of a friar of France, has come to shrive her 
in her sickness, accompanied by the Earl Marshal in the same 


" Oh, do you see yon fair-haired boy * CHAP. 

That's playing with the ball ? VI I L 

He is, he is the Earl Marshal's son, 

And I love him the best of all. 

" Oh, do you see yon pale-faced boy f 
That's catching at the ball ? 
He is King Henry's only son, 
And I love him the least of all." 

But she was a very different person from her successor, 
Isabella of France, Queen of Edward II., and there is no 
reason to doubt that she was ever a faithful wife and a loving 
mother to all her children. 

Although none of her judicial decisions, while she held the 
Great Seal, have been transmitted to us, we have very full and 
accurate information respecting her person, her career, and 
her character, for which we are chiefly indebted to Matthew 
Paris, who often dined at table with her and her husband, and 
composed his history of those times Avith their privity and 
assistance. :j: 

* Prince Edward. ( Prince Edmund. 

I Mat. Par. 562. 654. 719. 799. 884. 989. 1172. 1200. 1202. Miss Strick- 
land's Lives of the Queens of England tit. " Eleanoe." 






DE Kil- 
A.D. 1254. 

to the 


On Queen Eleanor's resignation of the office of Lady Keeper, 
William de Kilkenny, who had been employed by her to 
seal writs while she held the Great Seal*, was promoted to 
the office of Chancellor. 

He did not continue in it long, and in his time nothing 
memorable occurred, except the representation from the clergy 
respecting alleged encroachments by the Crown upon their 
order. A deputation, consisting of the Primate and the 
Bishops of Winchester, Salisbury, and Carlisle, came to the 
King with an address on the frequent violation of their pri- 
yileges, the oppressions with which he had loaded them and 
all his subjects, and the uncanonical and forced elections which 
were made to vacant ecclesiastical dignities. Lord Chancellor 
Kilkenny is said to have written the King's celebrated answer, 
" It is true I have been faulty in this particular^: I ob- 
truded you, my Lord of Canterbury, on your see : I was 
obliged to employ both entreaties and menaces, my Lord of 
Winchester, to have you elected. My proceedings, I confess, 
were very irregular, my Lords of Salisbury and Carlisle, when 
I raised you from the lowest stations to your present dig- 
nities. I am determined henceforth to correct these abuses ; 
and it will also become you, in order to make a thorough re- 
formation, to resign your present benefices, and try again to 
become successors of the Apostles in a more regular and 
canonical manner."! 

On St. Edward's day, in the year 1255, William de Kil- 

* Rex dilectae consorti sutc A, eadem gratia Reginae salutem. Mandamus 
vobis quod cum delectus clericus noster W. de Kilkenni, Archidiaconus Coven- 
trensis ad vos venerit, liberatis ei sigillum scaccarii nostri bajulandum et custo- 
diendum usque ad reditum nostrum de partibus Wasconia, &c. Pat, 37. 
H. 3. m. 5. 

t Mat. Par. a. d. 1253. 


kenny* resigned his office of Chancellor, but he was still in CHAP. 
such favour, that, though suspected of having misapplied 

funds that came officially into his hands, the King granted 
him letters patent, whereby he declared that William, having 
long served him diligently and acceptably, should be quit of 
all reckonings and demands for the whole time that he had 
been Keeper of the King's Seal in England. He was after- Embassy 
wards sent on an embassy to Spain, where he died on the ^'^ P**"' 
21st of September, 1256. He is said to have been a very 
handsome person, eloquent, prudent, and well skilled in the 
municipal laws of the realm, as well as in the civil and canon 

On the day of his resignation, the Great Seal was delivered Henry de 
to Henry de Wengham, afterwards Bishop of London, a.d.^'izs" 
and, with Walter de Merton for his deputy, he remained 
Chancellor till he was removed by the mutinous Barons who 
for some time established an oligarchy in England, f 

The ill-humour of the nation was manifested at a General 
Council called to meet in London at Easter, 1255, when the 
attempt was renewed that the Chancellor and other great 
officers should be appointed by the Prelates and Barons, as 
was said anciently to have been the custom, and that those 
officers "might not be removed, except upon notorious faults, 
without the common assent. The King refusing these 
demands, a resolution was carried to postpone the further 
consideration of supply till Michaelmas. J 

Simon de Montfort was now taking advantage of the 
unpopularity of the government for his own aggrandisement, 
and attempting successfully to wrest the sceptre from the 
feeble hand which held it. In June, 1258, met " the Mad Mad Par- 
Parliament," where, notwithstanding the resistance of the 
Chancellor and the King's other ministers, were passed the 
famous "Provisions of Oxford," by which twenty-four Barons " Provi- 
were appointed, with unlimited power, to reform the Common- Oxford." 
wealth, and annually to choose the Chancellor and other 
great officers of state. The King for the time submitted. 

* Rot. Pat. 39 H. 3. m. 16. t 1 I'arl. Hist. 29. 

* M. Paris, 904. 1 Pari. Hist. 27. Rot. Pat. 39 H. 3. m. 16. 

L 3 




Oct. 18. 



DE Ely 



by the 


King re- 
covers his 

A parlia- 

and even Prince Edward was obliged to take an oath to obey 
their authority. 

De Wengham was for some time permitted by them to 
retain the office of Chancellor, having made oath that he 
would duly keep the King's Seal under their control.* 

However, to give a full proof of their prerogative, they sub- 
sequently removed him, and elected in his place Nicholas 
DE Ely, Archdeacon of Ely f, a mere creature of their own. 
The old Great Seal, surrendered up by De Wengham, was 
broken in pieces, and a new one was delivered to the Chan- 
cellor of the Barons. We have a very circumstantial account 
of this ceremony, showing that the King was present as a mere 
puppet of the twenty-four. After relating the oath of the 
new Chancellor, and that he forthwith sealed with the 
new seal, it says that " the King delivered the pieces of the 
old broken seal to Robert Wallerand, to be presented to 
some poor religious house of the king's gift." J 

But the nation was soon disgusted by the arbitrary and 
capricious acts of Montfort and his associates : there was a 
strong reaction in favour of the King, and for a time he 
recovered his authority. Before proceeding to resume the 
full exercise of bis royal functions, he applied to Rome for a 
dispensation from " the Provisions of Oxford," which he had 
very solemnly sworn to observe. This was readily promised 
him ; but, unluckily, Alexander the Pope died before the 
dispensation was sealed, and considerable delay was likely to 
arise before a successor could be elected. 

Henry or his advisers, to take advantage of the present 
favourable state of the public mind, called a Parliament to 
meet in the castle of Winchester. There he openly declared 

The oath made by the Chancellor was to this efFect : " That he would not 
seal writs without the command of the King and his Council, and in the presence 
of some of them, nor seal the grant of any great wardship, great marriage, or 
escheat, without the assent of the Council or the major part of it, nor would seal 
any thing contrary to the ordinances made or to be made by the twenty-four, or 
the greater part of them, nor would take any reward but only such as other 
Chancellors have formerly received ; and if he should appoint a deputy, it should 
be only according to the power to be provided by the council." Annal 
Burton, 413. 

t Rot. Pat. 44 H. 3. m. 2. 

t Pat. 44 H. 3. n. 2. Claus. Rol. 44 H. 3. n. 2. 


that he would no longer be bound by " the Provisions of CHAP. 

. IX 

Oxford," which had rendered him more a slave than a King. ' 

He then called before him the Chancellor and Justiciar 
appointed by the Barons, and demanded from them the seals 
and the rolls of their respective offices. They answered that 
they could not lawfully obey him, without the consent of the 
Council of twenty-four. The baronial officers were, however, 
in his power: they were obliged to submit, and the Great 
Seal was delivered up to Henry. 

He appointed Walter de Merton as Chancellor.* At Walter de 
the same time, to put on an appearance of moderation, cif^'lj^]^^ 
the following Letters Patent were passed under the Great a.d. 1261. 
Seal, in compliment to the Ex-chancellor thus forcibly dis- 
placed : 

" The King to all whom, &c. Know ye that our beloved clerk, 
Master Nicholas, Archdeacon of Ely, did, on the day of St. Luke 
the Evangelist, in the 44th year of our reign, receive from us our 
Great Seal to be kept, which said seal we received from him on 
Tuesday next after the Feast of the Translation of St. Thomas the 
Martyr, in the 45th year of our reign. We have therefore spe- 
cially to recommend him for his good services to us. In witness, 
85c. Witness the King, at the Tower of London, on the 14th day 
of July." t 

De Wengham would probably have been restored to the 
office ; but he had fallen into bad health, and he died soon 
after. De Merton's appointment was by patent, with an 
express declaration that it was " without the consent of the 
Barons^ At the same time a grant was made to him of 400 
marks a year for support of himself and the Chancery, so long 
as he should remain in office. X 

* Rot. Pat. 45 H. 3. m. 8. 

t Pat. 45 H. 3. m. 7. Liberata 45 H. 3. m. 3. Pat. 49 H. 3. m. 18. 

4 This sum would be equal to about 4000Z. of present money. An addition 
of 100 marks was made to the salary of his successor. Out oi this the Chan- 
cellor had to pay the Chancery clerks or Masters in Chancery, and to defray 
other expenses of the Chancery ; but he had besides, as we have seen, high fees 
on grants from the crown, and he generally held large ecclesiastical benefices, 
so that he must have had a reveime and maintained a state equal to the great 
hereditary Harons. In the reign of Henry II. the Chancellor was allowed " five 
shillings a day, two deinean and seasoned simnels, one sextary of clear wine, one 
sextary of vinum expansabile, one pound of wax and forty pieces of candle." The 
five shillings per diem would have been then equal to about 1400/. per annum, 

L 4 




History of 
De Merton. 

Keepers of 


Walter de Merton Is the most considerable man we have 
found in the office during the present reign. He gained great 
distinction as a student at Oxford, where he afterwards 
founded Merton College. He had been appointed to act as 
Vice-chancellor from his knowledge of law and capacity for 
business. He was twice Lord Chancellor, and, being ap- 
pointed to the see of Rochester, he was distinguished as a 
prelate for his sanctity and good works. 

In 1262 the King went abroad, and was accompanied by 
John de Mansel, his secretary, appointed Keeper of the Seal, 
Avhile Walter de Merton, remaining at home, was continued 
in the office of Chancellor.* Henry returned to England in 
a few months, and Walter de Merton continued for some 
time to act as his minister, under the title of Chancellor, 
employing Keepers of the Seal to do the laborious duties of 
the office. Of these the only distinguished man was John 
de ChishuU, who was afterwards Chancellor. 

Not only " the Provisions of Oxford," but the Great 
Charter, and the Charter of the Forest, were now dis- 
regarded, and the doctrine was promulgated, which had abet- 
tors among lawyers down to the revolution of 1688, that no 
royal grants or acts of the legislature are binding on the 
Sovereign if they infringe his essential prerogatives, the nature 
and extent of which are to be judged of by him and his 

The bold and artful Montfort, in exile, hearing of the 
discontents occasioned by these arbitrary measures, came over 
secretly from France, again collected the forces of his party, 
and commenced an open rebellion. He seized and imprisoned 
John de Mansel, the Ex-keeper of the Great Seal, because 
he had published the bull at last obtained from Rome, absolv- 
ing the King and kingdom from their oaths to observe " the 

but it is impossible to estimate the value of the other items. From a schedule 
found in the chamber of accounts at Paris, it appears that Philippe d'Antoigni, 
Chancellor to St. Louis, a contemporary sovereign, received for himself and his 
horses seven shillings a day ; and another schedule states that the same Chan- 
cellor received seven shillings a day for himself, his horses, his grooms (valets a 
cheval), and for all others except his clerk and his valet-de-chambre, who sat at 
the king's tables. 

liot. Claus. 47 ri. 3. m. G. The Chancellor, during the king's absence, 
was only to seal instruments attested by H. le Despenser, the Justiciar. 



Provisions of Oxford ;" and he threatened the utmost vengeance 
against William de Merton, and the other adherents of the 
King, as soon as they should fall into his power. Deserted 
by all ranks, they found it prudent to set on foot a treaty of 
peace, and to make an accommodation with him on terms the 
most disadvantageous. " The Provisions of Oxford " were 
confirmed, even those which entirely annihilated the royal 
authority, and the Barons were again reinstated in the sove- 
reignty of the kingdom. Their first step was to remove 
William de Merton from the office of Chancellor, and to 
restore it to their partisan, Nicholas de Ely.* 

He continued to hold the Great Seal as Chancellor till 
the famous parliament assembled by Simon Montfort, in 
the 49th of Henry III., which was summoned by writs in 
the form now used, which was attended by representatives 
from counties, cities, and boroughs, and which was the model 
of all succeeding parliaments in England. 

Under this last settlement an interval of quiet arose, 
during which Henry crossed the Channel, to confer with the 
French monarch, who was then holding a meeting of his 
states at Boulogne. The Great Seal remained in the custody 
of Archdeacon Nicholas, who, during the King's absence, put 
it only to instruments of course.f 

Henry returned to celebrate the feast of the Translation 
of St. Edward, and to hold a Parliament at Westminster. 
Here a party sprung up for the King, and an attempt was 
made to repeal " the Provisions of Oxford," and to restore to 
the Crown the power of appointing the Chancellor ; but the 
Earl of Leicester still had a majority of spiritual and lay 
Peers. Several treaties were attempted between the mo- 



A.D. 1263, 

Writs for 
Simon de 
49 Hen. 3. 

A.D. 1265. 

to King of 

* Tlie entries in the Close Roll are still worded as if the government had been 
regularly proceeding under the royal authority. " Here W. de Merton departed 
from court, and on Thursday next before the feast of St. Margaret the Virgin, 
in the presence of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, and of the other nobles 
of England, Master Nicholas, Archdeacon of Ely, took at Westminster the cus- 
tody of the King's Seal, and he immediately sealed with it." Rot. CI. 47 H. 3. 

t Memorandum, that on the 18th of September the Lord the King departed 
from Westminster towards foreign parts, and the King's Great Seal remained in 
the custody of Nicholas, Archdeacon of Ely, who acted during the King's stay 
l)eyond the sea. He however sealed nothing but writs which were attested 
by H. le Despenser, Justiciar of England, &c Pat. 47 H. 3. m. 1. 


CHAP, derate men of both parties, and, according to the custom of 
the age, it was at last agreed to refer " the Provisions of 
Oxford," and all other matters in difference, to the arbitration 
of the French King. 
Jan. 1264. The royal arbitrator, having taken upon himself the burthen 
of the reference, and having patiently heard both sides in full 
assembly of his nobility, gave judgment in favour of the 
King of England, by declaring " the Provisions of Oxford " 
null and void, and adjudging that the King might nominate 
his Chancellor, and the other great officers of the kingdom, 
according to his own pleasure. 

The King was proceeding to act upon the award ; but the 
Barons refused to be bound by it, alleging that it was con- 
tradictory on the face of it, and that the arbitrator had ex- 
ceeded his authority. 
May, 1264. Both parties again flew to arms, and soon after was fought 
Lewes." t^^ " Mise " or " battle of Lewes," which ended in the 
captivity of Henry, of his brother the King of the Romans, 
of Prince Edward his son, and of Comyn, Bruce, and all the 
chief opponents of Montfort who survived the perils of that 
bloody field. 
Meeting of The parliament was called in the King's name, the King 
Montfort's l^^ing apparently on the throne, the Lords spiritual and tem- 
parliament. poral attending, and the commonalty of the realm fully re- 
presented by the knights, citizens^ and burgesses who had been 
elected under the new-fashioned writs which Montfort or his 
Chancellor had framed. This assembly, however, had merely 
to register the decrees of the usurper. An Act was passed 
(the first professing to have the sanction of the third estate), 
according to the following tenour : " This Is the form of the 
peace unanimously approved of by our Lord the King, and 
the Lord Edward his son, and all the Prelates and Barons, 
together with the whole community of the kingdom of England^'' 
the leading enactment being, that, for the reformation of the 
state of the kingdom, there should be chosen three discreet 
and faithful men who should have power and authority from 
the King of choosing nine counsellors, out of whom three at the 
least, by turns, should always be present at Court, and the 
King, by the advice of those nine, should make his Justiciar, 


Chancellor, Treasurer, and all the other great and small officers ^^^^' 
connected with the government of the kinfjrdom.* ^ 

For some reason not explained, Nicholas de Ely was re- 
moved by De Montfort from the office of Chancellor. He 
was probably siispected of having temporised between the 
two parties, and of having countenanced the reference to the 
King of France. He is to be had in remembrance as the 
first Chancellor who ever sealed writs for the election of 
knights, citizens, and burgesses to Parliament.f Whether he. Origin of 
as a native of England, suggested the measure foreseeing the commons. 
benefits it might confer upon his country or De Montfort, 
Avho had been born and educated abroad, introduced it from 
some country in which the third estate Avas admitted to grant 
supplies and have a share in legislation, or whether the two 
thought of nothing but a present expedient for enlarging and 
confirming their power, by taking advantage of the popularity 
they then enjoyed with the classes on whom the elective fran- 
chise was bestowed, without looking to precedent or regarding 
distant consequences, it would now be vain to conjecture. 
Although there was much of accident with respect to the 
time when the institution first appeared among us, yet it could 
not have continued to flourish if it had not been suited to the 
state of society and the wants of the nation. In spite of 
violence and oppression, in spite of continued foreign or 
domestic war, commerce made advances, wealth increased 
among the middling orders, the feudal system began gradually 
to decline, and both the King and the people favoured a new 
power which was more submissive than the Barons to the 
regular authority of the Crown, and at the same time afforded 
protection against their insolence to the inferior classes of the 

Nicholas de Ely seems, after Montfort's fall, to have re- 

1 Pari. Hist. 31. 

f Some writers have attempted to give a much earlier date to the popular 
representation in England, but I think without success ; for not only are there 
no earlier writs for the election of representatives extant, but there is no trace of 
the existence of such a body in accounts of i)arlianientary proceedings, where, if 
it had existed, it must have been mentioned, as the trial of Thomas a Becket, 
which is as minutely reported as the impeachment of Warren Hastings. Tlie 
great council of the nation hitherto consisted of the prelates and barons, assisted 
by the officers of states and the judges. 




Thomas dk 


A.D. 1265. 

His salary. 

conciled himself to the Court, for though he did not again 
hold any civil office, he was made Bishop of Worcester in 
1268, and before the end of that year translated to the see of 
Winchester, which he held till his death in 1280. 

The new Chancellor appointed by the twenty-four Barons 
now vested with supreme power, was Thomas de Can- 
TiLurE.* He was of noble extraction, being son of William 
Baron de Cantilupe, of an illustrious Norman family. Being 
destined for the church, he studied at Oxford, where he 
made great proficiency in the Canon Law : he took the degree 
of Doctor of Laws, and became Chancellor of that University, 
then an annual office ; but he had not yet reached any 
higher ecclesiastical dignity than that of Archdeacon of 

Lord Chancellor Cantilupe had a grant of 500 marks a- year, 
payable at the Exchequer at four terms in the year, for the 
support of himself and the clerks of the King's Chancery f, 
so long as he should continue Archdeacon of Staffiard. 

He had a very short and troubled possession of his new 
office. Prince Edward had escaped from imprisonment, and 
was again in the field at the head of a numerous and well 
appointed ai'my. Cantilupe's services were wanted to assist 
in opposing him at a distance from London, and the Great 

The entry on the record, however, shows that the government was still 
decently carried on in the King's name. " On Wednesday next after the feast 
of St. Peter in cathedra, Master John de Chishull, Archdeacon of London (who 
had been sigillifer), restored to the King his Seal, and he on the same day com- 
mitted the custody of it to Master Tliomas de Cantilupe, who immediately 
sealed with it." Claus. 49 H. 3. m. 9. 

f This document is still extant, and is curious as recognising the election of 
the Chancellor by parliament, and showing the form observed when a grant was 
to pass under the Great Seal in favour of the Chancellor himself " Rex 
omnibus, &c., salutem. Cum dilectus nobis in Christo Magister Thomas de 
Cantilupo, per nos et magnates nostros qui sunt de Concilio nostro, electus sit 
in Cancellariam Regni nostri, et nos ipsum ad officium illud gratanter admiseri- 
mus, nos sustentationi sua; et clericorum Cancellarice nostras providere volentes, 
concessimus ei quingentas marcas, singulis annis percipiendas ad Scaccarium 
nostrum, &c., ad sustentationem suam et Clericorum Cancellariae nostra; pre- 
dicte quamdiu steterit in officio. In cujus, &c. Teste Rege apud Westmon. 
xxvj die Marcii. Et sciendum quod Dominus Rex manu sua propria plicavit 
istud breve et in presentia sua fecit consignari, presentibus similiter H. le 

Dispenser, Justiciario Anglia;," &c Pat. 49 II. 3. m. 18. This grant was 

continued to his successors, as we several times find credit given to sheriffs for 
payments made to the Chancellor by the King's order in discharge of the allow- 
ance of 500 marks for the sustentation of himself and the clerks of the Chancery. 
Mag. Rot. 52 II. 3. 50 II. 3. 



Seal was temporarily transferred to Ralph de Sandwich, 
Keeper of the Wardrobe, to be kept by him till Thomas de 
CantUupe should return, under the superintendence, and to 
be used with the concurrence, of Peter de Montfort, Roger 
St. John, and Giles de Argentine.* Ralph de Sandwich 
was probably a personal attendant on the King in whom no 
confidence was reposed. The three superintendents were 
devoted adherents of the party, who now kept the King pri- 
soner, and ruled in his name. 

Before Thomas de Cantilupe did return the battle of 
Evesham was fought, Simon de Montfort was slain, and 
his party was for ever extinguished. 

Prince Edward is celebrated for the merciful disposition he 
now displayed. No blood was shed on the scaffold, and all 
who submitted were pardoned. Cantilupe, though removed 
from his oflfice, was afterwards taken into favour, made Bishop 
of Hereford, and employed in an embassy to Italy, where he 
died in 1282. Notwithstanding the political factions in which 
he was engaged, he acquired a character for extraordinary 
sanctity ; miracles were said to be wrought by his dead body. 
He was canonised by Pope John XXII. ; and all his succes- 
sors, the Bishops of Hereford, out of respect to his me- 
mory, have used his family arms as the heraldic bearings of 
their see. 

The victory of Evesham having fully re-established the 
royal authority during the remainder of this reign, Walter 
GiFFARD, who had always steadily adhered to the court party, 
was appointed to the office of Chancellor, f 

* The following memoranduin of this transfer is to be found in the Patent 
Roll : " That on Thursday next after St. John Port Latin Master Thomas de 
Cantilupe, the King's Chancellor, delivered the King's Seal to Ralph de Sand- 
wich, the keeper of the wardrobe, in the presence of the King and of Hugh le 
Despenser, Justiciar of England, and Peter de Montfort, to be kept by him 
until Thomas should return ; to be used in this manner Ralph to keep it in 
the wardrobe under the seal of Peter de Montfort, Roger de St. John, and 
Giles de Argentein, or one of them when taken out, Ralph to seal the writs 
of course in the presence of the person under whose seal it had been then 
inclosed, or in his absence if he was not minded to be there, but mandatory 
writs only in the presence of such person and with his assent ; and when the 
writs either of course or mandatory were sealed, then the King's Seal was to be 
sealed up under the seal of one of the three persons above named, and to be 
carried by Ralph into the wardrobe, to be there kept in form aforesaid, until 
Thomas de Cantilupe should return," Rot. Pat. 49 H. 3. m. 16. 

t Rot. Pat. 49 H. .3. m. 10. 


Aug. 4. 
Battle of 

Death of 



Aug. 10. 




being made 
bishop of 



A.D. 1266. 

for incom- 

He was of a good family, and of great abilities. Having 
mastered all that was to be learned in England, he completed 
his education in Italy, Avhere he was ordained priest and made 
private chaplain to the Pope. On his return to his own coun- 
try, mixing in secular affairs, he rose to be Lord Treasurer, an 
office which he lost by a sudden revolution in the state. In 
1264 he reached the secure elevation of the prelacy, being 
made Bishop of Bath and Wells. This dignity he held when 
he received the Great Seal. In about a year after, the Arch- 
bishopric of York falling vacant, he aspired to it, and had the 
court interest ; but William de Langton, Dean of York, was 
elected by the Chapter. Both parties appealed to the Pope, 
and, after a keen struggle, Giffard succeeded through his 
superior interest. As soon as he was installed Archbishop, 
he voluntarily resigned the Great Seal, and devoted himself 
to the government of his new see, which he held above ten 
years. He left behind him the reputation of great learning, 
as well as of integrity and piety. 

He was succeeded in the office of Chancellor by Godfrey 
GiFFARD, Archdeacon of Wells *, another member of the 
same family, who, through his mother, was related to the 
King, and seems to have owed his promotion entirely to 
court favour. He was removed from the office after he had 
held it a very short time, without any turn in politics, and 
without any advancement in the church, whence it is in- 
ferred that he was found wholly incompetent for secular 
duties. Nevertheless he was afterwards considered suffi- 
ciently qualified for high ecclesiastical preferment, and in 
1269 he was appointed to the see of Worcester, which he 
held without reproach for 24 years. While he was Chan- 
cellor, in the 5 2d year of the King's reign, a parliament 
assembled at Marlbridge, where many useful laws were 
passed for restraining the abuse of Distresses, regulating the 
mcidents of tenure, and improving civil and criminal pro- 
cedure. Several of these display great discrimination, and 
an acquaintance with the general principles of Jurisprudence 

Rot. Pat. 51 H. 3. m. 22. 52 H. 3. m, 30. Rot. Claus. 52 H, 3. m. 10. 


greatly above the comprehension of the Chancellor ; and if he criAP. 
introduced them, they must have been framed by superior 
men whom he had the wit to employ.* 

The next Chancellor was a man of much renown in his John de 
day, John de Chishull, Dean of St. Paul's. He had risen ^^^^""jj^ 
from an obscure origin by his own powers, and being well Oct. so. 
skilled in the civil and common law, with a great readiness for ^^^^ 
business, he had been found very useful to Lord Chancellor de 
Merton, who made him his Vice-chancellor. f Having always 
taken the royalist side, he was persecuted by the Barons ; but 
they being now crushed, his fidelity was rewarded with the 
office of Chancellor, which he filled with great applause till 
the year 1270, when he exchanged it for that of Treasurer. 
In 1274 he was made Bishop of London, and he spent the 
remainder of his days in works of charity, and in seeking to 
expiate the sins he had committed in his political career. | 

His successor in the office of Chancellor was Richard de Richard 
Middleton, of whom so little is known that it has been ^on, Chan- 
questioned whether he was a layman or an ecclesiastic ; but ceiior. 
there can be little doubt that he was one of the active aspir- i269. 
ing priests who, in those troublous times, were employed 
as secretaries to the King, and were intrusted with the Great 
Seal as a step to high promotion in the church. While he 
was Chancellor he certainly provided for the expenses of the 
King's chapel out of the profits of his office, and no doubt 
officiated in it as chaplain. He died while Chancellor, on 

* See Stat. Marlb. 52 H. 3. 

t There is an entry in the Charter Roll, 49 H. 3., which has induced some 
to suppose that Chishull was Chancellor before Cantilupe, but though he de- 
livered the Great Seal to the King, he had not before held it as Chancellor. 

J Matthew of Westminster. The family of de Chishull was settled for several 
centuries at Little Bardfield in Essex ; and in the parish register of that place 
there is the following entry respecting him, which seems to have been written 
about the year 1539 : " John de Chishull, archdeacon of London, and treasurer 
of England, was made Keeper of the Great Scale in the yeare of our redemption 
one thousande two hundred sixtie and four, being the eight and fortie yeare of the 
raigne of King Henry the Third. This man was consecrated Bishopp of Lon- 
don in the yeare of Christ one thousand two hundred seventie and foure, the 
third kalendes of May. He died in the yeare that the word of the father became 
flesh one thousand two hundred seventie and nine, the fourth ides of February, 
in the seventh yeare of the scourge of the Scotts and Welshmen." Extracted 
from the parish register by my son Hallyburton. 

In the fifty- fifth year of King Henry III., John le Fauconer, receiver of the 
fees of the Great Seal, rendered to De Middleton his account, which is still 
extant, and in which he is allowed certain disbursements for the King's chapel, 





Edward in 
the Holy 

John de 
Keeper of 
Great Seal. 

Aug. 7. 

Sunday before the Feast of St. Lawrence, in the year 1272, 
before any other provision had been made for him*, and the 
Great Seal was deposited in the King's wardrobe to abide the 
disposal of the Council who now governed the kingdom. 

Prince Edward, having crushed De Montfort and the as- 
sociated Barons, seduced by his avidity for glory, and by 
the passion of the age for crusades, had undertaken an expe- 
dition, in conjunction with St. Louis, to recover the Holy 
Sepulchre, and, after the death of that pious and romantic 
sovereign, was now signalising himself by acts of valour in 
Palestine, and reviving the splendour of the English name 
among the nations of the East. King Henry, overcome by 
the cares of government and the infirmities of age, was 
visibly declining, and could no longer even appear to take a 
part in the government. Letters were written in his name 
to the Prince, urging his immediate return, and pointing out 
the dangers to which the state was exposed from the mu- 
tinous Barons, who were again commencing their machi- 
nations and disorders. In the mean time the Council did 
not venture to appoint a new Chancellor, but delivered the 
Great Seal to John de Kirby, with the title of Vice-chan- 
cellor, that he might seal writs with it, and do what was 
requisite for the ordinary routine of government till the 
Prince's arrival. 

Kirby was a churchman, eager for promotion ; as yet only 
Dean of Winburn and Archdeacon of Coventry, but active, 
cunning, and unscrupulous. His conduct in this emergency 
gave such satisfaction, that in the ensuing reign he was made 
Bishop of Ely and Lord Treasurer. But he is accused by 

among other expenses to be defrayed by the Chancellor. " Compotus Johannis 
le Fauconer Receptoris denariorum provenienciura de exitibus Sigilli Regis, a 
festo Apostolorum Simonis et Judae, anno Liiij usq ; ad idem festum anno Lvj 
incipiente, videlicet per duos annos. Summa summarum, DCCCCLxxiij 1. 
xvj s. In thesauro nichil." Among the credits, " Et Johanni Partejoye custodi 
summarum Regis Cancellarii pro vadiis suis per CCCxxx dies vj 1. iij s. ix d. 
per idem breve [Regis]. Et in percameno ad opus clericorum Cancellariee 
predictcE, et aliis minutis expensis ejusdem Cancellariae et Capella; Regis xiij 1. 
ij s. vi d. per idem breve." Mag. Rot. 55 H. 3. Rot. 1. a. in Rot. Compotor. 
The amount of these fees is considerable, regard being had to the value of money 
in those times. 

Die Dominica proxima ante festum Sancti Laurentii obiit Ricardus de 
Middleton quondam Cancellarius Regis et Sigillum Regis liberatum fuit in 
Garderobam Regis. Chart. 56 H. 3. m. 2. 


contemporary writers of having neglected his spiritual for his chap. 
temporal duties, and of^ having taken but little notice of the 
flocks committed to his charge, except when he was to shear 

He held the Great Seal from the 7th of August, 1272, to 
the 16th of November following, the day that closed the in- 
glorious reign of Henry III. The moment that the King had 
breathed his last, Kirby surrendered it to Walter Archbishop 
of York and the rest of the Council assembled to take mea- 
sures for securing the accession of the new Sovereign.* 

During this reign there were sixteen Chancellors, and 
many Keepers f of the Great Seal besides; but none of 
them of much historical importance. Learning was very 
low, and was confined entirely to the clergy. Not only 
were the Chancellors of this order, but many dignitaries of 
the Church were Justices in the Courts at Westminster and 
in the Eyre. Nay, the advocates in the secular courts were 
ecclesiastics, and from them only could any competent Judges 
be selected. There was a canon published about this time, 
" Nee advocati sint clerici, vel sacerdotes, in foro seculari, 
nisi vel proprias causas vel miserabilium prosequantur.^^ The 
exception excused their appearance in Westminster Hall, 
and their violation of the rule was, from necessity, con- 
nived at. I 

After the Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest had Character 
been confirmed, the King's ministers were too much occu- of Chancel- 

. . . . 1''^ during 

pied in counteracting the plots and resisting the violence of reign of 

the mutinous Barons to have much leisure for legal reform, 
and the only attempts at it by legislation were the statutes of 
Merton and Marlbridge. || Several provincial and legatine 
constitutions were passed by convocations of the clergy, at 
the instigation or with the concurrence of clerical Chan- 
cellors, for exempting ecclesiastics from all secular jurisdic- 

Rot. Claus. and Pat. 57 H. 3. m. 1. 

f In the longer reign of George HI. there were only eight. 

\ But the inns of court for education in the common law were about this 
time established, and a separate order of laymen learned in the common law 
sprung up and flourished. 

20 H. 3., the chief enactment of which was to encourage the inclosure of 
waste land. 

II 52 H. 3., for regulating the right of distress. 

VOL. I. M 

lien. II L 




merits uf. 

of office of 
Chief Jus- 

tion, and effecting those objects which had been defeated by 
the constitutions of Clarendon and the vigorous adminis- 
tration of Henry II. 

It is curious that, in the most disturbed period of this tur- 
bulent reign, when ignorance seemed to be thickening and 
the human intellect to decline, there was written and given 
to the world the best treatise upon law of which England 
could boast till the publication of Blackstone's Commen- 
taries, in the middle of the eighteenth century.* It would 
have been very gratifying to me if this work could have been 
ascribed, with certainty, to any of the Chancellors Avhose 
lives have been noticed. The author, usually styled Henry 
de Bracton, has gone by the names of Brycton, Britton, Bri- 
ton, Breton, and Brets ; and some have doubted whether all 
these names are not imaginary. From the elegance of his 
style and the familiar knowledge he displays of the Roman 
law, I cannot doubt that he was an ecclesiastic who had ad- 
dicted himself to the study of jurisprudence ; and as he was 
likely to gain advancement from his extraordinary profi- 
ciency, he may have been one of those whom I have commemo- 
rated, although I must confess that he rather speaks the 
language likely to come from a disappointed practitioner than 
of a Chancellor who had been himself in the habit of making 
Judges.f For comprehensiveness, for lucid arrangement, for 
logical precision, this author was unrivalled during many ages. 
Littleton's work on Tenures, which illustrated the reign of 
Edward IV., approaches Bracton; but how barbarous, in 
comparison, are the Commentaries of Lord Coke, and the 
Law treatises of Hale and of Hawkins ! X 

Towards the end of this reign the office of Chief Jus- 
ticiar, which had often been found so dangerous to the 

* Tlie book must have been written between the years 1262 and 1267, for it 
cites a ease decided in the 47th of H. 3., and takes no notice whatever of the 
Statute of Marlbridge, which passed in the 52d of H. 3. 

f Describing the judges of his time he calls them, " Insipientes et minus 
docti, qui cathedram judicandi ascendunt antequam leges dedicerint." 

I It must be admitted that juridical writing is a department of literature in 
which the English have been very defective, and in which they are greatly 
excelled by the French, the Germans, and even by the Scotch. The present 
state of the common law may now probably be best learned from " the notes of 
Patteson and Williams on Serjeant Williams's notes on Saunders's Reports of 
Cases decided in the reign of Charles II.," and written in Norman- French. 




of Aula 

Crown, fell into disuse. Hugh le Despenser, in the 49th of 

Henry III., was the last who bore the title.* The hearing 

of common actions being fixed at Westminster by Magna 

Charta, the Aula Regia was gradually subdivided, and 

certain Judges were assigned to hear criminal cases before the 

King himself, wheresoever he might be, in England. These 

formed the Court of King's Bench. They were called 

" Justitiarii ad placita coram Rege," and the one who was to 

preside " Capitalis Justiciarius." He was inferior in rank to 

the Chancellor, and had a salary of only 100 marks a yearf, 

while the Chancellor had generally 500. Henceforth the Chancellor 

Chancellor, in rank, power, and emolument, was the first of law. 

magistrate under the Crown, and looked up to as the great 

head of the profession of the law. 

There are some cases decided in this reign which are still 
quoted as authority in Legal Digests; the writs and sum- 
monses to Simon de Montfort's parliament are now given in 
evidence on questions of peerage, and the England in which 
we live might be descried. 

Dugdale, in his Chronica Series, when he comes to 55 H. 3., a.d. 1271, 
changes the heading of his column of justices from " Justiciariorum Angliae" to 
"Justic. ad Plac. coram Rege." 

f Dugd. Or. Jur. p. 104. The puisnes had only forty pounds a year. The 
chief justice of Common Pleas had one hundred marks, the chief baron forty 
marks, and the puisne barons twenty. 2 Reeve's Hist, of Law, 91. This is 
certainly poor pay, and I am afraid may have induced the judges to be guilty of 
the corrupt conduct for which they were punished in the following reign. 
The work was, however, very light till the times when salaries were so much 
increased. In the reign of Henry VI. the judges never sat more than three 
hours a day, from eight in the morning till eleven, employing the rest of their 
time in refection, reading, and contemplation, while the councillors and Serjeants 
went to the parvise at Paul's to meet their clients. Fort, de Laud. 

H 2 




CHAP. Edward being proclaimed King, while still absent from 

' England, the Council, as an act of power authorised by the 

Nov. 20. urgency of the case, resolved to appoint a Chancellor. After 

ll''^- nine days' deliberation they selected Walter de Merton, 

Walter de ' ' 

Mertok, who had filled the office in the preceding reign, and who. 

Chancellor, jj^ying always been a zealous royalist, they had every reason 

to believe would be agreeable to the new Sovereign. 

The letters addressed to the Prince requiring his presence 
had produced the desired effect, and he had reached Sicily on 
his return from the Holy Land, when he received intelligence 
of the death of his father. Learning the quiet settlement of 
the kingdom, he was in no hurry to take possession of the 
throne ; but from France he wrote a letter dated the 9th of 
August, in the first year of his reign " To his beloved 
Clerk and Chancellor, Walter de Merton," confirming his 
appointment, and requesting him to continue to discharge the 
duties of the Chancellorship.* 

* " Edward, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, and 
Duke of Aquitaine, to his beloved Clerk and Chancellor, Walter de Merton, 

" We give you special thanks for the diligence you have applied to our affairs 
and tliose of our kingdom, beseeching that what you have so laudably begun 
you will happily take care to continue, causing justice to be done to every one 
in matters which belong to your office, inducing others also to do the same, not 
sparing the condition or rank of any person, so that the rigour of justice may 
control those whom the sense of equity cannot restrain from injuries. Those 
things which you shall have rightly done in this matter we, God willing, will 
cause to be fully confirmed. 

" Given at Mellune on Seine, 9th of August, in the first year of our reign." 

This letter shows that the king clearly conceived he had a right to remove the 
Chancellor if he liad thought fit, though he had been appointed by the council. 
This appointment Is adduced by Prynne in his " Opening of the Great Seal," 
as a proof that the Chancellor was the officer of the parliament, not of the king ; 
but the appointment of De Merton was an act of power exercised in the king's 
name, and demanded by necessity, as at the decease of Henry III. there was no 



The nobles assembled at the "New Temple" in London* 
had ordered a new Great Seal to be made, having the name 
and style of Edward inscribed upon it, and in the attestation 
of public documents by the guardians of the realm during 
the King's absence the words occur, "In cujus, &c., has 
literas sigillo Domini Regis quo utimur in agendis, eodem 
absente, fecimus consignari." De Merton displayed extra- 
ordinary ability as Chancellor, and materially contributed to 
the auspicious commencement of the new reign. 

To the great joy of the people the King at last arrived, 
was crowned, and took the Government into his own hands. 
He ordered another Great Seal, under which he confirmed the 
grants made in his absence, by "inspeximus" according to 
the following form : "Is erat tenor praedictarum literarum 
quas praedicto sigillo nostro fecimus quo praedicti locum 
nostrum tenentes utebantur, quod quia postmodum mutatum 
est, tenorem literarum prasdictarum acceptantes prsesenti 
sigillo nostro fecimus consignari." f 

De Merton was now removed from the office, not because 
his conduct was at all censured, but the King wished to 
promote to it a personal friend who had followed him in all 
his fortunes, and for whose abilities and character he had the 
highest respect. The bishopric of Rochester was bestowed 
on the Ex-chancellor, and he employed his time in building, 
endowing, and making statutes for Merton College, Oxford, 
where his memory is still revered. He died in 1277.$ 

On the day of St. Matthew the Apostle , 1274, the office 
of Chancellor was conferred on Robert Burnel, and he 
continued to hold it with great applause for eighteen years. 

Chancellor, and the Seal was deposited in the wardrobe. Unless some one had 
been appointed Chancellor, writs could not have been sealed, and the govern- 
ment of the country could not have been conducted till the king should return 
or manifest his pleasure upon the subject. 

Mat. West. 401. f Pat. Rot. 1 Ed. J. 

^ In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, his tomb being much dilapidated, it was 
repaired by the Warden and Scholars of Merton, who supplied an epitaph giving 
a minute account of the life and dignities of their Founder, and concluding with 
these lines : 

" Magne senex titulis Musarum sede sacrata, 
Major Mertonidum maxime progenie. 
Ha;c tibi gratantes post secula sera nepotes, 
Et votiva locant Marmora, Sancte Parens." 


His con- 
duct and 

A.D. 1274. 

Sept. 21. 





Sept. 21. 

M 3 




Birth and 

Edward to 
the Holy 

during all which time he enjoyed the favour and confidence 
of Edward, and was his chief adviser in all public affairs. 
He is a striking example of the unequal measure with which 
historical fame has been meted out to English statesmen. 
Although intimately connected with the conquest and settle- 
ment of Wales; although he conducted Edward's claim to 
the superiority over Scotland, and pronounced the sentence 
by which the crown of that country was disposed of to be 
held under an English liege Lord; although he devised a 
system for the government of Ireland upon liberal and en- 
lightened principles; although he took the chief part in the 
greatest reforms of the law of England recorded in her 
annals, and there can be no doubt that he occupied a con- 
siderable space in the public eye during his own age, his 
name has since been known only to a few dry antiquaries 
incapable of appreciating his merits.* 

Robert Burnel was the younger son of Robert de Burnel, 
of a powerful family settled from time immemorial at Acton 
Burnel, in the county of Salop, f Here the future Chancellor 
was born $ ; here, he afterwards, by the King's licence, erected 
a fortified castle ; and here, to illustrate his native place, he 
prevailed on the King to hold a parliament at which was 
passed the famous law, " De Mercatoribus," called " the 
Statute of Acton Burnel." 

As his elder brother, Hugh, was to inherit the paternal 
estate, and was, of course, to do military service as a knight 
and baron, Robert was destined to rise in the state by civil 
and ecclesiastical employments, which were then generally 
combined. He early distinguished himself by his proficiency 
not only in the civil and canon law, but in the common law 
of England ; and there is reason to think that after he had 
taken holy orders, he practised as an advocate in the Courts 
at Westminster. During the Barons' wars, while still a 
young man, he was introduced to Prince Edward, who was 

* In Hume's very superficial history of the reign of Edward I., Lord Chan- 
cellor Burnel is not once named or alluded to. 

t I'le little village of Acton Burnel, picturesquely placed near the foot of 
the northernmost Caer Caradoc in Shropshire, and contiguous to a Roman road 
ongmally connecting Wroxeter with Church Stretton, is remarkable both for its 
early history and its architectural xnvaains.Hartshorne. 

\ Rot. Pat. 12 Ed. 1. m. 7. m. 18. 


about his own age, and was much pleased with his address CHAP. 
and social qualities, as well as his learning and ability. He ' 

became chaplain and private secretary to the heir apparent, 
suggested to him the counsels which enabled him to triumph 
over Simon de Montfort, and attended him in his expedition 
to the Holy Land.* 

When appointed Chancellor he had reached no higher 
ecclesiastical dignity than that of Archdeacon of York. He 
was soon after raised to the see of Bath and Wells, with 
which he remained contented, devoting the whole of his 
energies to affairs of state. 

He presided at the Parliament which met in May, 1275, May, 1275. 
and passed " the Statute of WESTMi>fSTER the First," fo*^/^' 
deserving the name of a Code rather than an Act of Par- Statute op 
liament. From this chiefly, Edward I. has obtained the ^^^^ ^^^ 
name of " the English Justinian " absurdly enough, as the First. 
Roman Emperor merely caused a compilation to be made of 
existing laws, whereas the object now was to correct abuses, 
to supply defects, and to remodel the administration of 
justice. Edward deserves infinite praise for the sanction he 
gave to the undertaking ; and from the observations he had 
made in France, Sicily, and the East, he may, like Napoleon, 
have been personally useful in the consultations ^for the 
formation of the new Code, but the execution of the plan 
must have been left to others professionally skilled in juris- 
prudence, and the chief merit of it may safely be ascribed to 
Lord Chancellor Burnel, who brought it forward in parliament. 

The statute is methodically divided into fifty- one chapters, provisions 
Without extending the exemption of churchmen from civil of the 
jurisdiction, it protects the property of the Church from the 
violence and spoliation of the King and the nobles, to which 
it had been exposed. It provides for freedom of popular 
elections, then a matter of much moment, as sheriffs, coroners, 
and conservators of the peace were still chosen by the free- 
holders in the county court, and attempts had been made 
unduly to influence the election of knights of the shire, 
almost from the time when the order was instituted. It 

* Rot. Claus. 2 Ed. 1. m. 4. Rot. Pat. 50 H. 3. m. 

M 4 




Its omis- 

A.D. 1281. 

of Wales. 

contains a strong declaration to enforce the enactment of 
Magna Charta against excessive fines which might operate 
as perpetual imprisonment. It enumerates and corrects the 
great abuses of tenures, particularly with regard to the 
marriage of wards. It regulates the levying of tolls, which 
were imposed in an arbitrary manner, not only by the Barons, 
but by cities and boroughs. It corrects and restrains the 
powers of the King's escheator and other officers under the 
Crown. It amends the criminal law, putting the crime of 
rape on the footing to which it has been lately restored, as 
a most grievous but not a capital offence. It embraces the 
subject of " Procedure " both in civil and criminal matters, 
introducing many regulations with a view to render it cheaper, 
more simple, and more expeditious. 

Having gone so far, we are astonished that it did not go 
farther. It does not abolish trial by battle in civil suits, 
only releasing the demandant's champion from the oath 
(which was always false) that he had seen seisin given of 
the land, or that his father, when dying, had exhorted him to 
defend the title to it. But if total and immediate abolition 
of this absurd and impious practice had been proposed, there 
would have been sincere and respectable men who would 
have stood up for ancestral wisdom, asserting that England 
owed all her glory and prosperity to trial by battle in civil 
suits, and that to abolish it would be impiously interfering 
with the prerogative of Heaven to award victory to the just 

Lord Chancellor Burnel was soon to appear in a very difie- 
rent capacity. Llewellyn, Prince of Wales, had given great 
assistance to the Montfort faction, and though he was in- 
cluded in the general amnesty published after the battle of 
Evesham, there was a lurkino; resentment agrainst him for his 
past misdeeds, and a strong desire to curb and curtail his 
power, that he might be less dangerous in future. By the 
Chancellor's advice he was summoned to this parliament to 
do homage for his principality, which he admitted that he held 
of the British Crown. The Welsh Prince neglected the 
summons and sent for excuse, " that the King, having 


shown on many occasions an extreme animosity against him, CHAP, 
he would not trust his person with his declared enemy." 

Nevertheless, he offered to come, provided Edward would give 
him his eldest son in hostage, with the Earl of Gloucester 
and the Lord Chancellor. We may believe that Burnel, 
known to be very unfriendly to the Welsh, would not have 
been very willing to trust himself among these savage men In 
the recesses of Snowdon. 

The Prince was peremptorily summoned to appear at a par- judo-ment 
liament held in 1276, and, making default, after a solemn against 
hearing of the matter in his absence, he was adjudged by the 
mouth of the Chancellor to be guilty of felony, and war was 
immediately proclaimed against him. Llewellyn being soon ^ ^ ,^^ 
after slain in battle, the principality of Wales was completely 
subjugated, and Burnel was employed to devise measures for 
its pacification and future government. He was stationed LordChan- 
at Bristol, where he held courts of justice for the southern cellor em- 

. . /> . . ployed in 

counties, and gave general directions for the introduction of govem- 
English institutions among the natives, who, notwithstanding pr"nci*^a. 
their boast of ancient independence and love of poetry, had Hty. 
made very little advance in civilisation or the common arts of 
life. He then prepared a Code under which Wales was 
governed till the reign of Henry VIII., when it was allowed 
to send members to parliament, and was fully included 
within the pale of the English constitution. This was first, 
in the form of a charter, to which the Great Seal was affixed, 
but being confirmed in a parliament held at Kuthlan Castle, 
it is generally called " Statutum WalliEe," or " the Statute 
of Rutland*;" reciting that Wales, with its inhabitants, 
had hitherto been subject to the King jure feudali, but had 
now by divine providence fallen in proprietatis dominum, it 
introduces the English law of inheritance, regulates the 
jurisdiction of the " Justiciarius de Snaudon" establishes 
sheriffs and coroners, and provides for the administration of 
civil and criminal justice. Seconded by the immense castles 
erected by Edward, which now give us such a notion of his 
wealth as well as of his wisdom, this Code had the effect of 

* 10 Ed. 1. 




preserving tranquillity, and gradually preparing the way for 

greater improvements. 

,Qg In May, 1282, the King paid his Chancellor a visit of three 

Parliament days at Acton Bumsl, and the following year spent six weeks 

Omncei- with him there, from the 29th of September to the 12th of 

lor's Castle November, during the trial of Prince David for high treason 

Burnel!" before the Parliament at Shrewsbury, from which, as an 

aifair of blood, all prelates were absent. After the disgraceful 

sentence passed on the last of a princely line, that for bravely 

defending his own rights and the independence of his country, 

he should be dragged at horses' heels through the streets of 

Shrewsbury, hanged, beheaded, and divided into four quarters, 

to be distributed through the four chief towns of England*; 

the King, to gratify his host, adjourned the parliament to 

Acton Burnel, and it is said that the prelates, barons, knights, 

citizens, and burgesses assembled in the great hall of the 

strong castle which, by royal licence, the Chancellor had built 

in his native place, f Here was passed the most admirable 

statute, "De Mercatoribus:}:," for the recovery of debts, 

showing that this subject was fully as well understood in the 

time of Chancellor Burnel as in the time of Chancellor Eldon 

or Chancellor Lyndhurst. The grievance (which is peculiar 

to England) of being obliged to bring an action and have a 

* There was a keen controversy between York and Winchester for his right 
shoulder, which was awarded to the capital of Wessex. 

f Pro Roberto Burnel Bathon 'et Well ' \ Rex omnibus ad quos etc. salutem. 
Episcopo de manso Kernellando. J Sciatis quod concessimus pro nobis 
et heredibus nostris venerabili patri Roberto Burnel Bathoniensi et Wellensi 
Episcopo Cancellario nostro quod ipse et heredes sui mansum suum de Acton 
Burnel muro de petra et calce firmare et Carnellare possint quandocumque 
voluerint, et mansum illud sic firmatum et carnellatum tenere sibi et heredibus 
suis in perpetuum ; sine occasione vel impedimento nostri et heredum nostrorum 
Justiciariorum et ministrorum nostrorum quorumcunque. In cujus etc. T. R. 
apud Lincolniam, xxviii die Januarii. Pat. 12. Ed. 1. 

The remains of the castle still attract the curious in mediaeval architecture. 
It is a quadrangular structure, enclosing an area of 70 feet by 47, with 
engaged square towers at each angle. 'Die interior has been much disturbed, 
and is now so choked up with modern erections, that the dimensions and uses 
of the original chambers can no longer be ascertained. However, there had 
certainly been a spacious hall on the first floor, lighted by three large windows 
to the south, in which, probably, the parliament assembled. There seems to be 
no doubt that the three estates of the realm were not then separated as has been 
supposed into two chambers, but deliberated together, and formed one legislative 
assembly. See Rymer, vol. ii. 247., and preamble of statute. Hartshome on 
" Ancient Parliament, and Castle of Acton Burnel." 

t 11 Ed. 1. 



debt established by the judgment of a court of law before chap, 
enforcing payment of it, where there is not the smallest 
doubt of the validity of the instrument by which it is con- 
stituted, has always been a reproach to the administration of 
justice in this country. To mitigate the evil, the Statute of 
Acton Burnel enacts, that where a debt has been acknow- 
ledged before the Mayor of a town, immediately after de- 
fault of payment, there shall be execution upon it, and that 
by an application to the Chancellor the creditor may obtain 
satisfaction by sale of the debtor's goods and alienable lands 
in any part of England.* 

As long as Burnel continued in office, the improvement of 
the law rapidly advanced, there having been passed in the 
sixth year of the King's reign the " Statute of Gloucester ;" 
in the seventh year of the King's reign the " Statute of Mort- 
main ;" in the thirteenth year of the King's reign the " Statute 
of Westminster the Second," the " Statute of Winchester," 
and the " Statute of Circumspecte agatis ; " and in the eigh- 
teenth year of the King's reign the " Statute of Quo Warranto,^^ 
and the " Statute of Quia Emptores" With the exception of 
the establishment of estates tail, which proved such an obstacle 
to the alienation of land till defeated by the fiction of Fines 
and Common Kecoveries, these laws were in a spirit of 
enlightened legislation, and admirably accommodated the law 
to the changed circumstances of the social system, which 
ought to be the object of every wise legislator. The provisions 
for checking the accumulation of property in the possession of 
ecclesiastical corporations, for defining the jurisdiction of the 
ecclesiastical courts, for preventing subinfeudation by enact- 
ing that on every transfer of land it shall be held of the 
chief lord of the fee, and for the appointment of the circuits 
of the judges, such as we now have them, deserve particular 
commendation. But we must not conclude the brief notice 
of the legislation of this period, under the auspices of the 
Chancellor, without mentioning the " Ordlnatio pro Statu 

* I liavc repeatedly, but ineffectually, attempted to extend the principle of 
this measure to modern securities, bonds, and bills of exchange, and to assi- 
milate our law in this respect to that of Scotland, of France, and of every other 
civilised country. 


CHAP. Hibernise*," for effectually introducing the English law into 

^* Ireland, and for the protection of the natives from the 

jjj^ j^i^ rapacity and oppression of the King's officers ; a statute 

for govern- framed in the spirit of justice and wisdom, which, if steadily 

"reiand enforced, would have saved Ireland from much suffering, and 

England from much disgrace, 
vice-chan- The Chancellor, being so deeply engaged in state affairs, 
^1'?' was often unable to attend to his judicial duties, and he was 

obliged from time to time to intrust the Great Seal to the 
custody of a Keeper, who acted under him. This was gene- 
rally John de Kirby, who had been in possession of the 
Great Seal, as Keeper, without any Chancellor over him, at 
the conclusion of the last reign. In 1278 there is an entry 
that, on the Chancellor going abroad, he delivered the King's 
Seal into the King's wardrobe, to be kept under the seal of 
Kirby, whom the Chancellor had appointed to expedite the 
business of the Chancery.f There is an original letter extant 
in the Tower, written in the following year by the King to 
Kirby, in which he is desired to come to the King, and to 
leave the Seal, sealed up under his own seal, in the custody 
A.D. 1279. of Thomas Bek. From the 25th of May to the 19th of 
June the Chancellor was with the King in France. During 
this time the Seal was in the joint keeping of Kirby and 
Bek, and it was restored to Burnel on his return.:}: There 
are likewise several entries of the Seal being delivered to 
Kirby when the Chancellor was about to visit his diocese, 
or to retire to his country house (ad partes proprias).^ 
Kirby, for his good services, was in 1287 made Bishop of 
Ely. The subsequent Keepers of the Seal, under Burnel, 
were Hugh de Hendal, Walter de Odiham |, and William de 
A.D. 1290. However, the Chancellor himself, as head of the law, 

* 17 Ed 1. f Rot. Clans. 6 Ed. 1. m. 12. 

I Rot. Vase. 7 Ed. 1. Rot. Claus. 7 Ed. 1. m. 6. Rot. Pat. 7 Ed. 1. 
m. 1.5. 

Rot. Pat. 4 Ed. 1. m. 16. Rot. Pat. 10 Ed. 1. m. 18. m. 14. Rot. 
Claus. 10 Ed. 1. m 6. 11 Ed. 1. m. 8. Rot. Pat. 12 Ed. 1. m. 7. 18. Madd. 
Exch. 49. Rot. Claus. 12 Ed. 1. m. 4. 

II He on one occasion delivered the seal to these two as early as 1284 at 
Aberconwav, when he was going to Acton Burnel. Rot. Claus. 12 Ed. 1. 
m. 47. 


exercised a vigilant superintendence over the administration chap. 
of justice, and in the parliament held at Westminster, in the 
beginning of the year 1290, brought forward very serious Prosecu- 
charges against the Judges for taking bribes and altering the tion by 
records, upon which they were all convicted except two, of the 
whose names oug-ht to be held in honourable remembrance Judges for 

, , , bribery and 

John de Matingham and Elias de Bekingham. Sir T. Way- corruption, 
land. Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, being found the 
greatest delinquent, had all his goods and estate confiscated 
to the King, and was banished for life out of the kingdom. 
Sir A. de Stratton, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, was fined 
34,000 marks. Sir R. de Hengham, Chief Justice of the 
King's Bench, was let off with a fine of 7000 marks, for 
although he had improperly altered a record, it was not 
supposed to have been from corrupt motives. The taint had 
spread into the Court of Chancery, and E.. Lithebury, 
Master of the Rolls, was fined 1000 marks. These sentences, 
pronounced in parliament by the Chancellor, had upon the 
whole a very salutary effect, but are supposed, for some ages, 
to have induced the Judges to adhere too rigorously to forms 
and the letter of the law. 

The Chancellor was now engaged in assisting the King in a.d. 1290. 
the most memorable transaction of his reign, the settlement 
of the dispute respecting the succession to the Crown of 
Scotland, which arose on the death of Alexander III. The Dispute 
ambitious scheme of getting possession of Scotland by a cession to 
claim of feudal superiority when the hope of accomplishing crown of 
the object by marriage had failed, is, no doubt, to be ascribed 
to Edward himself; but the manner in which it was con- 
ducted was chiefly devised by Burnel. He accompanied the May, 1291. 
King to Norham, and there addressed the Scottish Parliament, 
assisted by Roger de Braba9on, the Chief .lustice. 

It is remarkable tliat the English Chancellor spoke to the Chancellor 
Scotch parliament in French*; but this was then the court ^^^gTu" h 
language, not only of England, but of Scotland, wliere almost nobles in 


* Rymer, vol. ii. 543. It is hardly possible that, like Chancellor Longchamp, 
he knew no other language than French, the vernacular tongue, springing from 
the Anglo-Saxon, being now generally spoken in England and in the lowlands of 


CHAP, the whole of the nobility were of Norman extraction, 

superior knowledge and address having established the illus- 

A D i'J9i. trious descendants of Rollo in the northern part of the island, 

as superior bravery had in the southern. 
His dex- Nothing can exceed the dexterity with which the com- 

terity. petitors for the crown were induced to submit themselves to 

the arbitrament of Edward, and the whole Scottish nation to 
put themselves in his power. These results were chiefly 
ascribed to the management of the Chancellor. The Prelates, 
Barons, and Knights of Scotland, representing the whole 
community of that kingdom, having met in a green plain on 
the left bank of the Tweed, directly opposite to the castle of 
Norham, in pursuance of the leave given them to deliberate 
in their own country, Burnel went to them in his master's 
name, and asked them ** whether they would say any thing 
that could or ought to exclude the King of England from 
the right and exercise of the superiority and direct dominion 
over the kingdom of Scotland which belonged to him, and 
that they would there and then exhibit it if they believed 
it was expedient for them ; protesting that he would fa- 
vourably hear them, allow what was just, or report what 
was said to the King and his council, that what justice re- 
quired might be done." Upon repeated demands, the Scots 
answered nothing; whereupon the Chancellor recapitulated 
all that had been said at the last meeting relative to the 
King's claim ; and a public notary being present, the right of 
deciding the controversy between the several competitors for 
the crown of Scotland was entered in form for the King of 
England. After which the Chancellor, beginning with 
Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale, asked him in the presence 
of all the Bishops, Earls, Barons, &c., " whether, in demand- 
ing his right, he would answer and receive justice from the 
King of England as superior and direct Lord over the king- 
dom of Scotland ? " Bruce, in the presence of them all, and 
of the public notary, none contradicting or gainsaying, 
answered "that he did acknowledo;e the King of England 
superior and direct Lord of the kingdom of Scotland, and 
that he would before him, as such, demand answer and receive 
justice. The same question was successively put to all the 



other competitors, who returned the like response. Not con- 
tented with this, Burnel required that they should sign and 
seal a solemn instrument to the same effect, which they 
accordingly did, quickened by hints thrown out that the 
candidate who was the most complying would have the best 
chance of success.* 

Eighty commissioners were appointed from both nations to 
assist in taking evidence, and hearing the arguments of all 
who were interested. Their meetings were held at Berwick, 
and the English Chancellor presided over their deliberations. 

Edward being obliged to return to the south to attend the 
funeral of his mother. Queen Eleanor (Ex- Lady-Keeper of 
the Great Seal), left Burnel behind at Berwick to watch over 
the grand controversy, which was now drawing to a close. 
The claims of all the competitors, except two, were speedily 
disposed of ; and as between these the doctrine of representa- 
tion prevailed over proximity of blood. The judgment was 
accordingly in favour of Baliol, the grandson of the elder 
sister, against Bruce, the son of the younger, the judge 
being probably influenced as much by a consideration of the 
personal qualities of the competitors as by the opinion of the 
great jurists in diifercnt parts of Europe who were consulted. 
Baliol had already exhibited that mixture of subserviency and 
obstinacy, of rashness and irresoluteness, which made him 
such a desirable vassal for a Lord, resolved by all expedients, 
as soon as a show of decency would permit, to get the feud, 
by pretended forfeiture, into his own hands. 

Lord Chancellor Burnel died at Berwick on the 25th day 
of October, 1292, and was buried in his own cathedral at 
Wells. He surely well deserves a niche in a gallery of British 

He was censured for the great wealth he amassed f ; but he 
employed it nobly, for he not only erected for his family the 
castellated dwelling in which he received the King and par- 


A.D, 1292. 

gives judg- 
ment in 
favour of 

Death of 

His cha- 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 40. 

t It appears from the inquisition held in the year after his death (21 Ed. 1), 
that the extent of his temporal possessions was commensurate with his dignities, 
as he held more than thirty manors, besides other vast estates in nineteen dif- 
ferent counties. Cal. Lug. p. m. L p. 1 15. 


CHAP, liament, but likewise a splendid episcopal palace at Wells, 
^' long the boast of his successors. Nepotism was another charge 
against him, from his having done so much to push forward 
two brothers and other kindred. This however must be re- 
garded as a venial failing in churchmen, whose memory could 
not be preserved in their own posterity.* If he was rather 
remiss in the discharge of his episcopal duties, he is to be 
honoured for the rational and moderate system he pursued in 
ecclesiastical affairs, neither encroaching on the rights of the 
clergy, nor trying to exalt them above the control of the law. 
As a statesman and a legislator, he is worthy of the highest 
commendation. He ably seconded the ambitious project of 
reducing the whole of the British Isles to subjection under 
the crown of England. With respect to Wales he succeeded, 
and Scotland retained her independence only by the unrivalled 
gallantry of her poor and scattered population. His measures 
for the improvement of Ireland were frustrated by the incur- 
able pride and prejudices of his countrymen. But England 

* The whole of the family possessions centred in the Chancellor's nephew, 
Philip, who was summoned to parliament as a Baron by writ in 1311. The 
male line of the family soon after failed; but in the reign of Edward III. the 
Chancellor was represented, through a female, by Nicholas Lord Burnel, who 
gained great renown in the French wars, and had a keen controversy respecting 
the Burnel arms with the renowned warrior Robert de Morley. It happened 
that they both were at the siege of Calais, under Edward II I., in 1346, arrayed 
in the same arms. Nicholas Lord Burnel challenged the shield as belonging 
to the Burnels only, he having at that time imder his command 100 men, on 
whose banners were his proper arms. Sir Peter Corbet, then in his retinue, 
offered to combat with Robert de Morley in support of the right which his 
master had to the arms, but the duel never took place, probably because the 
king denied his assent. The suit was then referred to the court of chivalry, 
held on the sands at Calais, before William Bohun, Earl of Northampton, high 
constable of England, and Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, earl marshal. 
The trial lasted several days, when Robert, apprehending that the cause would 
go against him, took an opportunity, in presence of the king, to swear by God's 
flesh, that if the arms in question were adjudged from him, he never more 
would arm himself in the king's service. On this the king, out of personal re- 
gard for the signal services he had performed in those arms, and considering the 
right of Nicholas Lord Burnel, was desirous to put an end to the contest with as 
little offence as possible. He, therefore, sent the Earl of Lancaster, and other 
lords, to Nicholas, to request that he would permit Robert de Morley to bear 
the arms in dispute for the term of his life only, to which Nicholas, out of 
respect to the king, assented. The king tiien directed the high constable, and 
earl maishal, to give judgment accordingly. This they performed in the church 
of St. Peter, near Calais, and their sentence was immediately proclaimed by a 
herald in the presence of the whole army there assembled." Pennant's North 


continued to enjoy the highest prosperity under the wise laws chap. 
which he introduced.* 

* Edward L, returning from the Holy I>and, at Bologna engaged in his 
service Franciscus Accursii, a very learned civilian, whom he employed as his 
ambassador to France and to Pope Nicholas III., but, as far as I can trace, 
not in his law reforms, or in any part of his domestic administration. A hall at 
Oxford was appropriated to the use of this Italian, from which some have 
supposed that he there gave lectures on the civil law. When he left England in 
1281, he received from the king 400 marcs, and the promise of an annuity of 40 
marcs. See Palg. on Council, note L. p. 134. Duck. xxii. 

VOL.T.. N 




CHAP. On the death of Burnel the Great Seal was, for a short 

^'- time, in the keeping of William de Hamilton*, a man of 

~ business and of moderate abilities, who subsequently became 

1292. Chancellor. But if he expected to succeed to the envied 

John de q^qq on this occasion, he was disappointed ; for soon after the 

Langton, ' ^^ _ 

Chancellor. King: heard of the loss he had sustained, he named as the 
Dec. 17. new Chancellor John de Langton, a person who, though 
1292. much inferior to his predecessor, acted a considerable part in 

His origin, this and the succeeding reign. He was of an ancient family 
in Lincolnshire, which produced Cardinal Stephen Langton, 
Archbishop of Canterbury, so illustriously connected with 
Magna Charta, and of which Bennet Langton, the friend of 
Dr. Johnson, was the representative in the reign of George 
IIL He early distinguished himself by his talents and in- 
dustry, and rendered himself useful to Lord Chancellor Burnel. 
Being introduced into the Chancery as a clerk, he rose to be 
Master of the Rolls, and showed qualities fitting him for the 
highest offices in the state, f 

* There is an entry in the Close Roll, 20 Ed. 1., stating that the Great 
Seal was in the keeping of Walter de Langton, keeper of the wardrobe, under 
the seal of William de Hamilton ; but it is certain that Hamilton sealed the 
writs, and did the business of the Great Seal, which was probably ordered to 
be kept in the King's wardrobe under the superintendence of the keeper of the 

f Tlie following is a true copy of a letter of congratulation to him on his 
appointment as Chancellor, lately discovered in the Tower : 

" Domino suo reverendo suus devotus in omnibus si quid melius sit salutem. 
Immensa Dei dementia qua; suae virtutis gratia gratis interdum occurrit homini 
non qua;sita vos ad regni gubernaculum in regite Cancellarias officio feliciter 
promovit non est diu. Super quo Ei regratior a quo fons emanat indeficiens 
totius sapientiEB salutaris. Sed ecce Domine vos qui in parochia de Langeton 
orii'^inem duxistis sicut placuit Altissimo et ibidem refocillati fuistis maternis 
sinibus nutritivis. Quae immenso gaudio vos post doloris aculeos pariendi 
refocillavit ad honorem Dei et Regni gubernaculum quo praestis in quo ipse 
placeat qui vos ad culmen honoris hujusmodi evocare dignatus 'est ut ei primo 


He continued Chancellor for ten years to the entire satis- CHAP. 

faction of his royal master, who required no ordinary zeal ' 

and activity in his ministers. 

Immediately upon his appointment he published an ordi- Ordinance 
nance in the King's name for the more regular despatch of patch of 
business, "that in all future parliaments all petitions shall business, 
be carefully examined, and those which concern the chancery 
shall be put in one bundle, and those which concern the ex- 
chequer in another, and those which concern the justices in 
another, and those which are to be before the King and his 
Council in another, and those which are to be answered in 

A parliament was called at Westminster soon after, when a.d. 1293. 
the new Chancellor had to begin the session with disposing of EarTof 
a very novel appeal, which was entered by the Earl of Fife Fife . King 
against Baliol King of Scotland as vassal of Edward King 
of England ; and the question arose, whether the appeal lay ? 
This was immediately decided by Lord Chancellor Langton, 
with the unanimous concurrence of the Lords, in the affirm- 
ative ; and the respondent was ordered to appear. Formerly 
in the English parliaments there had always been placed on 
the right hand of the throne, and on the same level with it, 
a chair for the King of Scotland, who came to do homage 
for Cumberland and his other possessions in England, as 
the Kings of England did homage to the Kings of France 
for Normandy and Guienne. Baliol now claimed the place 
and precedence of his royal predecessors ; but the Chancellor, 
in the name of the House, announced the resolution of their 
Lordships, " that he should stand at the bar as a private 
person amenable to their jurisdiction, and that having been 
guilty by his contumacy of a breach of feudal allegiance, 

secundario domino Regi et popuio complacere possitis ad honorem Jesu Christi, 
ut autem ei tiducialius obsequamini qui vos sic promovit de gratia sua speciali 
ut ei visceralius obsequamini cum vacare poteritis afFectionc pleniori portitorium 
quoddam non extra septa portarum portantem vobis mitto rogans quatcnus 
exilitatem tanti munusculi exemplo Catonis placide admittentes servitium 
divinum in eodem cxercere et discere vobis placeat in honorem illius qui omnia 
creavit ex nichilo et retributor est universalis bonitatis." Royal and other 
Letters, temp. Edward I. 65. xx. S. 

* Claus. 21 Ed. 1. m. 7. This shows the Aula Regia to have become 

Ji 2 




at Berwick. 

A.D. 1297. 

King goes 

three of his principal castles should be seized into the King's 
hands till he gave satisfaction." * 

Baliol, seeing the degradation to which he had reduced 
himself and his country, soon after renounced his allegiance 
as unlawfully extorted from him, and in the vain hope of 
effectual assistance from France, set Edward at defiance. 
" And now," says Daniel, " began the contests between the 
two nations which spilt more Christian blood, did more mis- 
chief, and continued longer, than any wars that we read of 
between any two people in the world, "f 

Lord Chancellor Langton had the proud satisfaction of pre- 
siding at a parliament held at Berwick in 1296, after Edward 
had overrun, and for the time subjugated, Scotland. There he 
administered the oaths of allegiance to all the Scottish no- 
bility, who were reduced to the sad necessity of swearing 
fealty to the haughty conqueror, and of binding themselves 
to come to his assistance at any time and place he might 
prescribe. But Wallace soon arose ; Robert Bruce was to 
follow; and amid the general gloom the Highland seers 
could descry in the distant horizon shadows of the glories of 

We must confine ourselves to events in which Lord Chan- 
cellor Langton was more immediately concerned. The fol- 
lowing year Edward, thinking that he had conquered Scot- 
land, determined to carry on war against France, that he 
might take vengeance for the perfidy of the monarch of 
that country, by which he asserted he had been tricked out 
of Guienne. Having assembled his fleet and army at Win- 
chelsea, then the great port of embarkation for the Continent, 
he hastened thither himself to meet them, accompanied by the 
Chancellor, who on board the ship " Edward " delivered the 
Great Seal into his own hand as he was setting sail for Flan- 
ders. I The King carried it abroad with him, having appointed 
John de Burstide, who attended him as his secretary, to keep 
it. But Langton still remained Chancellor, and on his way 
back to London, at Tonbridge Castle, another seal was de- 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 41. 

t Rot. Pat. 25 Ed. 1. n. 2. m. 7. 


t Dan. Hist. p. 111. 
Claus. m. 7, 


livered to him by Prince Edward, appointed guardian of the CHAP, 
realm in the Kinji's absence. 

A parliament was soon after held while the King remained ^ j,. 1297. 
abroad, nominally under the young Prince, but actually Pariiament 
under Langton. Here broke out a spirit of liberty which minster, 
coidd not be repressed, and the Chancellor was obliged to 
allow the statute to pass both Houses, called " The Confirm- Confirm- 
ation of the Charters," whereby not only Magna Charta charters*"^ 
and Charta de Foresta were confirmed ; but it was 
enacted that any judgment contrary to them should be void ; 
that copies of them should be sent to the cathedral churches 
throughout the realm, and read before the people twice every 
year * ; that sentence of excommunication should be pro- 
nounced on all who should infringe theraf ; and that no aids 
should be taken without the consent of parliament. X 

The statute was in the form of a charter, but the Chan- 
cellor conceived that he had no power to give the royal 
assent by putting the seal to it, and it was sent to Flanders 
by messengers from both Houses, to be submitted to Edward 
himself. After much evasion and reluctance, he ordered De 
Burstide to seal it with the Great Seal which he had brought 
along with him. 

The King, baffled in his military operations against France, 
and alarmed by the news of an insurrection in Scotland 
under Wallace, found it prudent to return to his own domi- 
nions, and (according to the Close Roll) on Friday, the i4th 
of March, 1298, he landed at Sandwich from Flanders, and 
the next day, about one o'clock, John de Langton, the Chan- 
cellor, came to the King's bed-chamber at Sandwich, and 
there, in the presence of divers noble persons, by the King's 
bed-side, he delivered up to the King the seal that had been 
used in England during his absence, and the King imme- 
diately after, with his own hand, delivered to the Chancellor 
the Great Seal which he had taken with him to Flanders. 

Edward, having obtained (it is to be feared by the advice a.d. 1298 
of the Keeper of his conscience) a dispensation from the Pope 


* 25 Ed. 1. c. 2. f C. 3. t C. 4. C. 5 and 6, 2 Inst. 525. 

Rot. Pat. 26 Ed. 1. mm. 2X 12. in dorso. 26 Ed. 1, Rot. 57. a. 

N 3 





Goes to 

from the observance of "the confirmation of the Charters" to 
which he had given his assent when out of the realm, the 
Parliament the following year passed the statute of " Articuli 
super Chartas*," which introduced the new enactment, "that 
the commonalty should choose three persons in every county 
to be authorised by the King's letters patent under the 
Great Seal, to hear and determine such complaints as should 
be made of those who offended in any point against the 
Charters, as well the King's officers as others, and to punish 
them by imprisonment, ransom, or amercement, according to 
the trespass." To this statute the King gave his royal assent 
in person from the throne, "the Chancellor and the Judges 
sitting on the woolsacks," and from this time no sovereign of 
England has denied that the Charters are law, however in 
practice they may have been violated, f 

The Chancellor was now involved in a dispute in which he 
was personally interested, and which caused him great trouble 
and anxiety for some years. He had not had the good luck 
to be promoted to the episcopal bench, when the see of Ely 
becoming vacant, he thought he was secure of it. But while 
some of the monks voted for him according to the wishes of 
the government, others gave their voices for their own Prior, 
who, they said, would have much more leisure to attend to 
the duties of a faithful overseer of the church of Christ. 

The Court then lay at York, the Chancellor, as usual, 
attending the King. He posted off to Lambeth to consult 
the Archbishop of Canterbury, leaving the Seal with three 
persons, John de Crancombe, John de Caen, and William de 
Birlay, to be kept by them in their joint custody on the 
King's behalf until he should return. | The Archbishop 
advised him to proceed in person to Rome, the Prior of Ely 
having already appealed to the Pope. Langton, without 
resigning his office of Chancellor, had leave of absence to 
prosecute his suit, and on the 14th of February, 1299, deli- 
vered up the Great Seal, to be held during his stay abroad, 
by John de Burstide as Keeper. He landed at Dover on his 

* 28 Ed. 1. Stat. 3. f 1 Pari. Hist. 43. 

t Rot. Pat. 26 Ed. 1. m. 27., and Rot. Claus. 26 Ed. 1. m. 10. 


return, on the 11th of June following, and on the 16th of the CHAP. 
same month the Seal was re-delivered to him by the King. ' 

* XT. 

He had not succeeded at the Vatican, notwithstanding all the ^ . 1302. 
influence exerted in his favour. The Holy Father, taking 
this opportunity to show the plenitude of his power, entirely 
set aside the election of the monks, consecrated the Bishop 
of Norwich to the see of Ely, bestowed Norwich on the 
Prior of Ely, and, by way of consolation to the English 
Chancellor, made him Archdeacon of Canterbury. 

On the 12th day of August, 1302, Langton resigned his Resigna- 
office of Chancellor for some reason not explained to us. This ^" ^ 
occurrence certainly did not proceed from a desire to sacrifice 
liim to a rival, for the King was much perplexed in the ap- 
pointment of a successor. The Close Roll gives a very cir- 
cumstantial account of the ceremony of the resignation : 

" Be it remembered that in the 30th year of King Edward, on 
Monday after the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, about the 
hour of vespers, in the chamber wherein the King then lodged, in 
the Hostel of the Archbishop of York, near Westminster, imme- 
diately after the King rose from council. Lord John de Langton, 
the Chancellor of England, restored to the King his Great Seal, 
and the King in the presence of Amadio Earl of Savoy, John de 
Bretagne, and divers others of his council, delivered the same to 
the Lord John de Drakensford, then Keeper of his wardrobe, to be 
kept there." f 

After a lapse of ten days, the King had not yet made up Adam de 
his mind who should be Chancellor, but there being a ne- Keener oT' 
cessity that the judicial business connected with the office Great Seal. 
should proceed, the Great Seal was given under certain re- 
strictions into the keeping of Adam de Osgodebey, Master of 
the Rolls, of which we have the followine; entrv : 

" On the 23d of August, in the 30th year of the King, in the 
King's chamber at Kensington, in the presence of Otho de Grandi- 
son, Amadio Earl of Savoy, John de Bretagne, and others of the 
King's Council, the King's Great Seal was delivered by the King's 
order by the hand of Lord John de Drakensford, Keeper of the 
wardrobe, to Lord Adam de Osgodebey, Keeper of the Rolls of the 
Chancery, who was enjoined to keep it under the seal of Master 

* Rot. CI. 27 Ed. 1. in. 11. f CI. Rol. 30 Ed. I. m. 8. 

M 4 




A. D. 1302. 
DE Grene- 



His family. 

Attempt in 
to make 
office of 

John de Caen, and the Lords William de Birlay and Robert de 
Bardelley, until the King should provide himself with a Chan- 
cellor* The Seal being so disposed of, the King set forward on 
his journey to Dover by the way of Chichester." 

At last, on the 30th of September following, a new Chan- 
cellor was declared in the person of William de Grene- 
FiELD, Dean of Chichester. The reader may be gratified by 
the record of the appointment and installation : 

" On Sunday the morrow of St. Michael, in the same year, in 
the King's Chapel, at St. Redegund, immediately after mass, in the 
presence of Lord John de Drakensford and others, chaplains and 
clerks of the said chapel of the King, Lord Adam de Osgodebey 
delivered the Great Seal to our Lord the King, who then received 
it into his own proper hands, and straightway delivered it to 
Master William de Grenefield, Dean of Chichester, whom he had 
chosen for his Chancellor, to keep, and the said Chancellor deli- 
vered the said Seal again to the said Adam, to be carried with him 
the said Chancellor to Dover ; and on the same day at Dover, the 
Chancellor received it back from the said Adam, and the next day 
sealed writs with it in the House of God there." f 

Langton, the Ex-chancellor, remained some years without 
any promotion; but in 1305 he was made Bishop of Chi- 
chester, and he obtained quiet possession of that see, which 
he continued to govern with great credit till he was again 
restored to the office of Chancellor in the succeeding reign. 

William de Grenefield (sometimes called Grenevill), now 
his successor, was descended from an ancient family in the 
West of England, represented by the present Duke of Buck- 
ingham. He entered the Church when very young, and was 
a Canon of York before he was Dean of Chichester. He 
frequented the court of Edward I., and had shown qualities 
which induced the belief that he would make a useful servant 
to the Crown. When raised to his new dignity he is said to 
have been " eminent in counsel, and very eloquent." 

He and Edward's other ministers were excessively un- 
popular, insomuch that at a parliament called soon after his 
appointment, an attempt was made to carry a favourite 

quousque Dominus Rex sibi de Cancellario providisset. CI. 30 Ed. 1. 
m. 6. 

t CI. Rol. 30 Ed. 1. m. 5. 


scheme several times brought forward in weak reigns about chap. 


this period of English History, but which we should hot have 

expected to find proposed to him who had conquered Wales, ^ j, J302. 
and led his victorious armies to the extremity of Scotland, 
"that the Chancellor, Chief Justice, and Treasurer should 
be chosen or appointed by the community of the kingdom." 
The King, by the Chancellor's advice, returned for answer, 
" I perceive you would at your pleasure make your King 
truckle to you and bring him under subjection. Why have 
you not asked the Crown of me also ? whilst at the same 
time you look upon that as very fit and necessary for your- 
selves which you grudge me that am your King ; for it is 
lawful for every one of you, as master of his own family, to 
take in or turn out what servant he pleases ; but if I may 
not appoint my Chancellor, Chief Justice, and Treasurer, I 
will be no longer your King : yet if they or any other officers 
shall do you any wrong or injustice, and complaint be made 
of it to me, you shall then have some reason to grumble if 
you are not righted." This firmness had such an effect, that 
the Barons humbly begged the King's pardon for their 

The only other public matter in which Lord Chancellor Letter to 
Grenefield was concerned, was in framing an answer to a letter *espetfn< 
which the Pope had written to Edward, remonstrating with indepen- 
him upon his invasion of Scotland, and claiming that kingdom gcotknd. 
as a right belonging to the see of Rome ; but his Holiness 
was gravely assured that " ever since the coming of Brute 
and his Trojans into this island, Scotland had been under 
feudal subjection to the Kings of England, who had fre- 
quently made gift of it to one of their subjects, and resumed 
the gift at their pleasure." The Barons of England, to the 
number of 112, unanimously concurred in "an address to 
the Pope, devoutly kissing his blessed feet," in which they 
told him " that he had no right to interfere in the affairs of 
Scotland, which belonged exclusively to the Crown of Eng- 
land." It is curious that although this address was voted in 
Parliament and appears on the Parliament lioll, subscribed 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 48, 49. 




tion of De 

His jour- 
ney to 

His death. 

by all the Barons, it is not subscribed by the Chancellor or 
any spiritual Peer. 

De Grenefield had great reason to avoid appearing too 
openly in this controversy, and notwithstanding his caution, 
he seems to have given offence to the Roman Pontiff. On 
the 4th of December, 1303, he was elected Archbishop of 
York, and on the 24th of the same month the royal assent 
was given to his election ; but although he was not liable to 
any reasonable objection, the Pope refused to allow his con- 
secration. Letters and proxies being ineffectual, the Arch- 
bishop elect resolved to go in person to Rome ; and, to show 
his devotedness to his spiritual duties, he absolutely resigned 
the office of Chancellor before his departure. 

The journey of the Ex-chancellor to Rome must have been 
very rapid, and the energy of his personal application extra- 
ordinary, for having delivered up the Great Seal at West- 
minster on the 29th of December, 1304, he was consecrated 
there on the 30th of January following, his representations 
on the equity of his case being fortified by a present to the 
Pope of 9500 marks. He was admitted to the temporalities 
of the see on the 31st of March, 1305 ; but he is said to have 
been reduced to such poverty by the exactions of the Court of 
Rome, that he was twice forced to have recourse to the clergy 
of his diocese for subsistence, first by way of " benevolence," 
and the second time of " subsidy." He is celebrated for his 
support of the Knights Templars, then persecuted by the Pope 
and Philip of France. In the year 1311 he sat in the Coun- 
cil of Vienna, called to quiet the disputes Avhich then agitated 
the church, and representing the clergy of England he was 
allowed precedence next after the Prince, Archbishop of 
Treves. He died in 1315.* 

During a temporary absence of De Grenefield, when he 
had been sent on an embassy, Osgodebey, the Master of the 
Rolls, had acted as Keeper of the Seal ; but on his resignation 

* While he was Chancellor, the practice was established of members of the 
House of Commons being allowed their wages. At the end of the session, writs 
out of Ciiancery under the Great Seal were delivered to them, certifying their 
attendance, and requiring the sheriff by assessment, to raise the necessary sura 
for paying them Rolls of Parliament, 33 Edward I. 



a new Chancellor was appointed, William de Hamilton, 
Dean of York.* 

At the time of his nomination, being absent from court, 
the Great Seal was delivered into the king's wardrobe to be 
kept by John de Burstide; and on the 16th of January fol- 
lowing it was delivered to the new Chancellor, who continued 
to hold it above two years. Soon after he was appointed 
there was an admonition given to him by the King in full 
parliament (probably in consequence of a petition from the 
Commons) against granting letters of protection from suits to 
persons absent in Ireland, f 

In 1306 the Chancellor put the Great Seal to the famous 
statute " De Tallagio non concedendo |," framed in the form 
of a charter, which had become necessary from the King, of 
his own authority, having taken a talliage of all cities, bo- 
roughs, and towns, and which finally put an end to the direct 
claim of the kings of England to impose any tax, and drove 
those Avho, in future, wished to rule without a parliament, to 
resort to such subterfuges as "benevolences," and "ship- 

Any credit which De Hamilton might have had in inducing 
the King to agree to this concession was outweighed by the 
disgrace which he allowed to be brought upon the King and 
the nation from the mock trial and murder of Sir* William 

* Rot. Glaus. 33 Ed. 1. m. 22. " Master William de Grenefield, Canon of 
York and the king's Chancellor, being elected Archbishop of York, did in the 
king's chamber at Lincoln, on Tuesday next after the feast of the Lord's 
nativity, to wit, on the feast of St. Thomas the Martyr, in the thirty-third year 
of the king's reign, say to the king before liis council, that it behoved him to go 
to Rome on the Thursday following relative to the business of the said election, 
and begged the king to ordain what was to be done with the Great Seal ; and 
the king then nominated and elected William de Hamilton, Dean of York, 
Chancellor and Keeper of the Seal, and commanded the Archbishop elect to 
deliver the Seal the next day into the wardrobe to Sir John de Burstide, to 
remain there under the seals of Sir Adam de Osgodebey, &c., until the arrival 
of the new Chancellor ; and the archbishop elect the next day, at the sealing 
time, delivered the Seal to the king in bed." On the IGtli of January following, 
by virtue of a writ of privy seal the Great Seal was delivered to Sir William de 
Hamilton, so chosen Chancellor, and the same day after dinner he sealed a writ 
for Master William de Grenefield, elect of York, tl)e Ex-chancellor. Rot. 
Tat. 33 Ed. 1. p. 1. m. 29. 

t Rot. Pari. 38 Ed. 1. Memorandum quod v.j die April, a. 33. Dominus Rex 
in pleno parliamento suo ajjud Westm. inhibuit Wilhilmo de Hamelton, Can- 
cellario suo ne de cetero concedat alicui literas Regis de protectione in Hibn. 

I 34 Ed. 1. 2 Inst. 531. Its genuineness has been questioned, without 
sufficient reason. 


A. D. 1304. 
BE Hamil- 
ton, Chan- 

De Tal- 
lagio non 

and execu- 
tion of Sir 
for treason, 
Aug. 1305. 




August 23. 

Death of 

the Chan- 

April 21. 

Ralph de 

Wallace, who, owing no allegiance to the King of England, 
was tried at Westminster under a commission sealed by an 
English Chancellor, and was executed on Tower Hill as a 
traitor, for having defended, against a public and oppressive 
enemy, the liberties of his native land with signal conduct, 
intrepidity, and pereeverance, entitling him to be placed in the 
highest class of heroes and patriots. 

De Hamilton did not live to see the eifect of this barbarous 
policy in the rising of the Scottish nation, headed by Robert 
Bruce, all ready again to brave every danger in the hope of 
freedom and vengeance. He died in possession of the office 
of Chancellor on the 20th of April, 1 307, while in attendance 
on the King near the Scottish border, not having reached 
any higher dignity in the church than that of Dean of York. 

The Great Seal was found in a purse sealed up under the 
private seal of the deceased Chancellor. The King imme- 
diately declared his resolution to bestow the vacant office on 
Ralph de Baldock, Bishop of London, then in the South, and 
the following day, as the Great Seal could not be personally 
delivered to him, his appointment was made out in the follow- 
ing form : 

" Edward, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ire- 
land, and Duke of Aquitaine, to the Treasurer or his deputy, and 
to the Barons of our Exchequer, health. Forasmuch as William 
de Hamilton who was our Chancellor is now with God, we com- 
mand and ordain that the Bishop of London be our Chancellor, 
and that he come without delay to London to our said Exchequer 
to receive in your presence our Great Seal, which we now send 
thither by our dear clerks Adam de Osgodebey, Master John de 
Caen, and Robert de Bardelley. We command you that you cause 
the said Seal to be delivered to the said Bishop, and that you re- 
ceive from him the oath of office belonging to the said office. Given 
under our Privy Seal at Cornhill the 21st day of April, in the 35th 
year of our reign."* 

" Hereupon on the vigil of the Ascension next following, Ralph 
DE Baldock, in the Court of Exchequer at Westminster, before 
William de Carleton, Baron of the Exchequer, Deputy of the 
Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, the King's Treasurer, then with 

* Pas. Commun. 35 Ed, 1. Rot. 46. 

A D. 1307. 


the King in the Marches of Scotland, before the other Barons, and CHAP. 
also Roger de Braban^on, the King's Justiciary for Pleas before ^^ 
the King himself, and Ralph de Hingham, Justiciary of the Bench, 
took the oath well and faithfully to demean himself in the office of 
Chancellor, and the impressions of the private seals with which 
the purse containing the Great Seal was guarded, being broken, it 
was taken therefrom and delivered to the said Ralph de Baldock, 
to be kept by him as Chancellor."* 

De Baldock, by industry and ability, had reached his His educa- 
present high station from an obscure origin. He studied at rise. 
Merton College, Oxford, and made himself master of all the 
learning of the times. He wrote in Latin " Annals of the 
English Nation," a work which was praised in his lifetime, 
although it has not come down to us. When appointed 
Bishop of London, he gained great fame by the splendid 
repair of St. Paul's Cathedral at his cost, and it was on this 
occasion that the immense collection of ox skulls were dug 
up, which fortified the tradition that here had stood a great 
temple of Diana. 

Having received the Great Seal he remained stationary. Death of 
devoting himself to his official duties, till news reached ^^^ " 
London of the death of the King. Edward, at the head of a 
mighty army, was marching for Scotland to take vengeance 
for the defeat which his General, Aymer de Valence, had 
sustained from Robert Bruce, and (as he hoped) finally to 
subjugate the Scottish nation ; but he sickened and died at 
Burgh on Sands, near Carlisle, on the 7th of July 1307, in July 7. 
the 69th year of his age, and the 35th of his reign. 

In the present day such an event as the demise of the 
Crown would be known in a few hours all over the kingdom ; 
but for a period of eighteen days the news of the death of 
Edward I. did not reach the Chancellor in London, who 
down to the 25th of July, continued to seal writs as usual, 
unconscious that a new reign had commenced. Letters of Accession 
Privy Seal were then received from the new King, ordering jj ^^'^ 
that his father's seal should be sent to him under the seal of 
the Chancellor, and accordingly he received it into his own 
hands at Carlisle, on the 2d of August.f 

* Rot. Fin. 35 Ed. 1. m. 1. Uot. Pat. .35 Ed. 1. m. 1, 
t Rot. Fin. 1 Ed. 2. m. 11. 




Removal of 



His death. 

tion of 
in the reign 
of Edw. I. 

ments in 

to law re- 

His eagerness to change the Chancellor In whom his father 
had confided, showed that the influence of personal favourites 
was already felt, and was a prelude to his own misfortunes and 
the disgrace which he brought upon the country. 

De Baldock, freed from the cares of office, spent the re- 
mainder of his days in the pursuit of literature and the ser- 
vices of religion. He died on the 24th of July, 1313. 

Althougrh we have no trace of the decisions of the Chan- 
cellors of Edward I., we know, from recent discoveries in the 
Tower of London, that they exercised important judicial 
functions, both in the King's council and in their own court, 
where they sometimes had the assistance of others, and some- 
times sat alone. No case of importance was heard in the 
Council when the Chancellor was absent; and cases were 
referred by the Council for his consideration in Chancery, 
either by himself, or with the advice of specified persons 
whom he was to summon to assist him. Sometimes the sub- 
ject of these suits was such as would now only be taken cog- 
nisance of in courts of common law, as disturbance of right 
of pasture; but others were of a nature that would now be 
properly considered in a court of equity, as assignment of 
dower, a discovery of facts by the examination of the defend- 
ant, and the exercise of the visitatorial power of the Chan- 
cellor representing the Sovereign. 

All writers who have touched upon our juridical history 
have highly extolled the legal Improvements which distin- 
guished the reign of Edward I., without giving the slightest 
credit for them to any one except the King himself; but if 
he is to be denominated the English Justinian, it should be 
made known who were the Tribonians who were employed 
by him : and the English nation owes a debt of gratitude to 
the Chancellors, who must have framed and revised the sta- 
tutes which are the foundation of our judicial system, who 
must, by explanation and argument, have obtained for them 
the sanction of Parliament, and who must have watched 
over their construction and operation when they first passed 
Into law. I shall rejoice If I succeed In doing tardy justice 
to the memory of Robert Burnel, decidedly the first in this 
class, and If I attract notice to his successors, who walked in 


his footsteps. To them, too, we are probably indebted for CHAP, 
the treatises entitled "Fleta*" and "Brittonf," which are ^^" 
said to have been written at the request of the King, and Lawbooks 
which, though inferior in style and arrangement to Bracton, 
are wonderful performances for such an age, and make the 
practitioners of the present day, who are bewildered in the 
midst of an immense legal library, envy the good fortune of 
their predecessors, who, in a few manuscript volumes, copied 
by their own hand, and constantly accompanying them, could 
speedily and clearly discover all that was known on every 
point that might arise. 

We now approach a period when civil strife and national 
misfortune suspended all improvement, and when a career of 
faction and violence terminated in the deposition and murder 
of the Sovereign. 

* Fleta must have been written after the thirteenth year of the King, and 
not much later ; for it frequently quotes the statute of Westminster the second, 
without referring to the later statutes of the reign. The title is taken from 
its having been written in the Fleet Prison. 

f Britton has been attributed to John Breton, Bishop of Hereford ; but this 
cannot be correct, for he died in the third year of the King, and the Treatise 
quotes the statutes of the thirteenth. It set the example of writing lawbooks 
in French, which was followed for four centuries. 






July 8. 
of Ed- 
ward II. 

John de 
the second 

It is not certainly known from records or otherwise, how the 
young King disposed of the Great Seal from the time when 
he received it at Carlisle till his return to London in the 
autumn of the year 1307. He probably carried it with him 
into Scotland in the short and inglorious campaign which 
he then made in that country, forgetting alike what the 
exigencies of justice required in his own dominions, and the 
dying injunctions of his father to lead on the expedition with 
the utmost energy, and never to desist till he had reduced 
the Scottish nation to complete subjection. From the hour 
of his accession to the throne, he betrayed an utter incapacity 
for government, and an unconquerable aversion to all serious 
business. He seems for a long time to have appointed neither 
Chancellor nor Keeper of the Seal. He retreated without 
striking a blow, disbanded his army, and thought of nothing 
but conferring power and places on his favourite, Piers 

"Whilst the Barons, from the beginning, showed the utmost 
indignation at the advancement of this upstart, John de 
Langton, Bishop of Chichester, who had been Chancellor in 
the late reign, formed a coalition with him, and in re- 
compense was restored to his former office. It was thought, 
even by the Gascon youth himself, that it woulc^ have been 
too great an outrage at once to have made him Chancellor, 
although, as we shall see, he was ere long intrusted with 
the Seal as Keeper. 

The two years during which John de Langton was now 

A charge was afterwards brought against Gaveston of having about this 
time put the Great Seal to blank charters, which he filled up according to his 


Chancellor, were chiefly occupied with the disputes between chap, 
the King and the Barons on account of the preference shown ' 

to the foreign favourite. 

Edward continued occasionally to find a respite beyond King 
sea from the factious proceedings of his native subjects. In * ^^^ ' 
the beginning of 1308, going to Aquitaine, he left the Chan- 
cellor guardian of the realm, and delivered to him a new 
seal to be used for certain necessary purposes. The Great 
Seal was intrusted to the keeping of William Melton, the 
King's secretary, who accompanied him. On Edward's 
return, the Chancellor delivered to him the Seal which had 
been in use during his absence, and the King delivered back 
to the Chancellor the Great Seal which he had carried with 
him abroad.* 

Soon after, the King paid a short visit to Boulogne, when King goes 
the Chancellor seems to have accompanied him, for Piers J ^"" 
Gaveston was left with a seal to be used for the sealing of 
writs and other necessary business. In the Close Roll we 
have a very circumstantial account of the manner in which 
this seal was dealt with in the Court of Exchequer on the 
King's return, t 

Edward was in the habit of occasionally taking the Seal King him- 
into his own custody, and using it without any responsible the Great 
adviser. Thus, on the 13th of June, 1308, at the New Seal. 
Temple in London, the Bishop elect of Worcester, the Trea- 
surer, ordered the Chancellor, pursuant, he said, to the verbal 
commands he had received from the King, to send the Great 
Seal to Windsor by Adam de Osgodebey, which was ac- 

Rot, Cl. 1 Ed. 2. m. 7. 

j- Whereupon William de Melton, controller of the King's wardrobe, came 
and brought into the Exchequer the King's Seal used in England at the time 
when the King was in foreign parts ; which Seal was used for sealing the writs 
that issued out of the King's Chancery in England, at that time under the teste 
of Peter de Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall, then the King's lieutenant in England, 
and the said Seal being in a bag or purse of white leather, sealed with the Privy 
Seal of John de Langton, Bishop of Chichester, Chancellor of England, was by 
him delivered in at the Exchequer in the presence of the Chancellor of the same 
Exchequer, and the Barons and the Remembrancer. And straightway the said 
Seal, being in the purse so sealed up, was delivered to the Chamberlain of the 

Exchequer to be kept in the King's treasury," &c Hil, Com. 1 Ed. 2. Rot. 

40. b, Madd. Exch. 51, 52. 

VOL. I. O 





A.D. 1310. 

in the go- 

The Chan- 
eel I or re- 

His cha- 

cordingly done, and it remained with the King till the 20th 
of the same month, when it was again restored to the Chan- 
cellor in London. In this interval, by the personal command 
of the King, was sealed the patent appointing Gaveston 
Lieutenant of Ireland, contrary to the sentence pronounced 
against him in Parliament.* 

In May, 1310, John de Langton was obliged to yield to 
the storm raging against him and the favourite. A petition 
was presented in Parliament, which, being backed by an 
armed force, was equivalent to a command, praying that 
Edward would dismiss his ministers, and devolve on a junto 
the whole authority of the Crown, with power, for a limited 
time, to enact ordinances for the government of the kingdom 
and the regulation of the royal household. 

Gaveston was banished, and Langton, resigning the Great 
Seal, retired to his bishopric. f He did not again mix with 
the factious disputes which long continued to. convulse the 
kingdom. He seems to have been a man unscrupulous as to 
the means by which he reached power, but, as far as he 
thought consistent with the safety of his tenure of it, dis- 
posed to promote beneficial measures, and to restrain irregu- 
larities and excesses in the o-overnment. Having; assisted the 
zeal of the first Edward for the public good, he continued, 
while he remained in office, to a certain degree, to mitigate 
the son's evil propensities, which at last produced conse- 
quences so tragical. Lord Coke relates the following anec- 
dote, to show that this Lord Chancellor of England was of 
a great spirit, and feared not the face of great men in that 
dangerous time to do that which he ought. Earl Warren, 
though married to the King's niece, carried off the Countess 
of Lancaster from her husband to his castle of Kyegate, in 
Surrey, and there lived with her in open advoutry. Lang- 
ton, as Bishop of Chichester, according to his office and 
duty, called the said Earle Warren in question for the said 
shameful offence, and by ecclesiastical censures excommunl- 

See Mem. in Ci. R. 1 Ed. 2., which the Chancellor is supposed to have 
enterea to show that he was not to be considered answerable for Gaveston's 

t May 11. 1310. 


cated him for the same ; in revenge whereof, the Earle CHAP. 
adding a new offence to the old, came with many of his 

followers, weaponed for the purpose, towards the Bishop to 
lay violent hands upon him ; but the Bishop being well 
attended with gentlemen and other his household servants 
issued out, and not only manfully defended himself against 
that barbarous attempt, but valiantly overcame the Earle, 
and laid him and his gallants in prison : armaque in armatos 
sumere jura sinunt.''^* 

For some time after Langton's resignation of the Great Office of 
Seal there was great difficulty as to the disposal of it. As j^^ abe - "'^ 
the person holding it necessarily came so much into the royal ance. 
presence, even the Barons felt a delicacy in putting it into 
the hands of any one personally obnoxious to the King. 
For about two months it remained in the custody of In- 
gelard de Warlegh f, with power merely to seal writs with it 
in the presence and with the concurrence of three persons 
specified ; and then Osgodebey, the Master of the Rolls, held 
it for a short time under similar restrictions. | 

At last, on the 6th of July, a compromise took place, and a.d. isio. 
Walter Reynolds was declared Chancellor , he having on ^^^l^^^,^ 
the occasion advanced lOOOZ., said to have been lent to the Chancellor. 
King, but probably divided between the King and the Barons. 

Reynolds, by his parts and address, had gained the favour Tutor to 
of that discerning prince, Edward I., who made him tutor to E'^^a'''^ I^- 
his son, a Privy Councillor, and Bishop of Worcester. He 
cannot be held accountable for the defective character or 
conduct of his royal pupil, who, though he might have been 
expected to have inherited great talents from both his 
parents, was by nature of an understanding narrow, frivolous, 
and incapable of cultivation or correction. Edward was 
nevertheless attached to his preceptor, in spite of profiting so 
little by his tuition, and was much gratified by the forbear- 
ance of the Barons in allowing one he loved to hold the office 
which was substantially in their gift. 

* 2 Inst. 574. He died 9th July, 1337, and he was buried in the cathedral 
of Chichester, under the great south window, which remains to this day a 
monument of his taste as well as of his magnificence. 

t Rot. CI. 4 Ed. 2. m. 6. % Rot. CI. 4 Ed. 2. m. 26. Ibid. 

o 2 




His con- 
duct as 

His resig- 

of Gave- 
June 12. 

the Ex- 
Keeper of 
the Great 

Oct. 6. 

Reynolds continued Chancellor till the 28tli of September, 
1311, having twice during that time given the Seal to be 
kept by Osgodebey, the Master of the Rolls ; once when he 
attended the King to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and the second 
time when he went to assist at a general council of the 
western church held at Vienne, in Dauphiny. Soon after his 
return he resigned the office of Chancellor, or, more properly, 
he was driven from it by the disputes between the King and 
the Barons, which now raged with more violence than ever. 
Edward had the indiscretion to recall Gaveston, and again 
to load him wuth favours at court. This proceeding excited 
such general disgust, that he was compelled to agree to an 
act, to confer permanently upon a committee of Parliament 
the power of appointing to all the great offices of state ; 
and Gaveston being taken prisoner, his head was struck off by 
the hand of the executioner. 

While these things were going on, the Barons, for expe- 
diting judicial business, arranged that the Great Seal should 
remain with the Master of the Rolls. Twice the King got 
possession of it ; but he was obliged to return it to the same 

The unpopular favourite being put to death, the Barons 
became more moderate, and there was a reaction in the 
nation against a parliamentary commission for carrying on 
the government, which, in experience, had always been found 
to aggravate the confusion whence it had arisen. 

A settlement accordingly took place, upon the under- 
standing that there should not, for the present, be a Chan- 
cellor, but that the King should appoint a Keeper to do all 
the duties of the office, under the superintendence of three 
persons, to be named by the Barons. 

Walter Reynolds was the new Keeper*, and he is a 
singular instance of a person holding the Great Seal with 
this title after having held it as "Chancellor," while there 
are very many Instances of a person holding it as " Chan- 
cellor " after having held it as " Keeper." 

Reynolds was translated from Worcester to the see of 

* Rot. Cl. 6 Ed. 2. m. 26. 


Canterbury, by Papal permission, on the 1st of October, CHAP. 
1313*; but he had a keen controversy for this dignity with 
Thomas Cobham, Dean of Salisbury. He at last prevailed, 
and, in April, 1314, he was installed in the archbishopric 
with extraordinary magnificence. He still continued Keeper, 
with the same restrictions ; the Great Seal being deposited in 
a purse, under the seals of the superintendents, and, after 
each day's sealing, restored to the purse in their presence. 

Intestine feuds now ceased for a time, that the nation a.d. 1314. 
might take vengeance on the Scots, who not only had recon- Bannock- 
quered their own country, but, under Robert Bruce, had made burn, 
successful inroads into England, enriching themselves by the 
plunder of the northern counties. The Barons, forgetting their 
paltry differences about the appointment of the Chancellor, 
rallied round Edward, and he marched to the frontier with 
a well-equipped army, amounting to a hundred thousand 
men. It is Avell known that this expedition ended in the 
fatal battle of Bannockbum, the greatest defeat which Eng- 
land has sustained since the Norman conquest. 

According to the English authorities, which I think may June is. 
be relied upon, no one had attended the Kino* to the North *^^^' 

. . Q Whether 

as Chancellor or Keeper ; but Hume of Goldscroft, in his the Great 

*' History of Scotland and of the House of Douglas," relates ^^^^ ^^^ 

that the Lord Keeper was among the slain, and that the battle of 

Great Seal being taken as a trophy of the victory, was re ^*""ock- 
stored to the English by Robert Bruce. f Reynolds, who 

* In December, 1313, Edward went on a pilgrimage to a statue of Our Lady 
at Boulogne, still famous. During his absence, the Great Seal remained in the 
custody of the Archbishop elect. R. CI. 7 Ed. 2. 

f " The English king did bring into the field all that he was able to make, 
not only of English, but of his beyond-sea dominions; neither of those that were 
his own subjects only, but he was also aided and assisted by his friends and con- 
federates in Flanders, Holland, Zealand, Brabant, Picardy, Gascony, Normandy, 
Guienne, Bullonois, and Bourdeaux ; of these and of his own countrymen he had 
in all 150,000, intending to have exterminated the whole nation of Scots, with 
so confident a presumption of victory, that he brought with him a Carmelite 
friar (a poet according to the time) to commit his triumph to writing. He was 
defeated by 30,000, or 35,000 at the most (as all agree), and that in a plain and June 22. 
open field, where there was slain of his men 50,000." " The Carmelite also 1314. 
changed his note, singing their victory whose overthrow be came to set forth, 
and chanting their discomfiture whose praises he was hired to proclaim. He 
thus began his ditty : 

" De planctu cudo metrum cum carmine nudo, 
Risum detrudo, dum tali themate ludo.'" 
Among the slain he enumerates " Sir Robert Northbrooke (Lord Keeper of the 

o 3 




Council at 

tion of 

His sub- 

His death. 

still chief 
of Chapel 

had probably remained, with the Great Seal, in London, 
went to York to be present at the Parliament, or rather 
Council of the prelates and nobility, which Edward called on 
his arrival there, after his precipitate flight. However, the 
nation was in such consternation from their late calamity, 
that no business was conducted at this assembly except the 
exchange of the wife of Robert Bruce against some English 
prisoners of war. 

Reynolds did not long retain the Great Seal after his 
return to the South, having finally resigned it on the 26th of 
September, 1314. 

He is much blamed for his subsequent conduct. He now 
took part with the Court of Rome in its encroachments on 
the prerogatives of the Crown, and he obtained no fewer than 
eight bulls from the Pope, conferring upon himself privileges 
and jurisdictions of a novel and invidious nature. But what 
was much worse, he took part against the King, his former 
pupil, who had treated him with so much personal kindness, 
and had exalted him to his present height of greatness. By 
abetting the profligate Queen and her associates, he was sup- 
posed to have hurried the unhappy Edward to a prison and 
a grave. 

The Ex-chancellor became more superstitious as he became 
more unprincipled, and he is said to have died of fear, because 
the Pope had threatened him with spiritual censures for 
having somewhat irregularly consecrated Berkeley, Bishop of 
Exeter, with a view to please the Queen and her favourite. 

While he was Chancellor there was published an ordinance 
by the King, relating to the chapel at Windsor, which shows 
that the Chancellor for the time being was still considered 
chief of the Chapel Royal, and bound to see that it was pro- 
vided with proper ornaments.* 

On his resignation of the Great Seal he was succeeded by 

Broad Seal) and Sir Ralph Mortimer, who had married the King's sister." He 
adds, Mortimer was dimitted ranscme free, and obtained the King's Broad Seal 
at Bruce's hands." pp. 32 35. 

" Et le Chaunceler de Roy, qui quil soit, pur coe quil est chef de la Chapele 
nostre Seignour le Roy face chescun an un tour illoeges sil puit, pur congie de 
nostre Seignour le Roy pur veer que la dite Chapele (i. e. de Wyndesor) soit 
servie des ornementz," &c. Ryl. Append, ad Plac. P. p. 535. Anno 6 Ed. 2. 


John de Sandale, then Treasurer of the Exchequer, who chap. 
was declared Chancellor *, and held the office near four years. 

He had the good "luck to be speedily promoted to the Jqhn de 
Bishopric of Winchester. Saxdale, 

He was present at the parliament held at Lincoln on the Sept. 26. 
28th of January, 1315, and superintended the judicial business ^2^^- 
there transacted when the Justices of both Benches brought 
in briefs of such matters as were properly determinable in 
parliament t; but the King himself declared the cause of the 
summons*to be for advice and assistance against the Scots. 

During almost the whole time he was Chancellor, there Keepers of 
were concurrently Keepers of the Great Seal, whether to currentu". ' 
assist or control him, may be doubtful. In the entries in the 
KoUs, a reason is generally assigned for the appointment of 
these Keepers, as that the Chancellor was going to the Earl 
of Lancaster at Kenilworth on the King's business, or was 
absent from Court about his election to his diocese, or was 
employed on a foreign mission for the King. 

De Sandale at last incurred the displeasure of Hugh le De Sandale 
Despenser, the new favourite, and was removed from the ^^"^""^ 
office of Chancellor on the 11th of June, 1318. He lived in 
obscurity about two years, and fortunately died before the 
transactions occurred which brought such a reproach on the 
memory of his predecessor. 

Little is to be found respecting his character, conduct, or Epicurism 
tastes, except that he appears to have been somewhat of an chancellor 
epicure. In the 10th year of the King's reign (1316), he ^^ San- 


Rot. CI. 7 Ed. 2. m. 7. 

f An order was made by the Lords that the Chancellor and the other judges 
should lay before parliament the cases pending in their courts, which they 
cannot decide without parliament. Rolls, i. 350. By another order made at 
this parliament, we have great light thrown upon the history of proxies in the 
House of Lords. " Et injunctum fuit Johi. de Sandale, Cancellar. quod ipse 
rcciperet procuratoria et excusationes Prelatorura et aliorum summonitorum ad 
dictum parliamentum et non venientium et quod ipse ac alii quos Dns. Rex 
sibi associaret, ea examinaret et excusationes sufficientes allocarent, dum tamen, 
excusantes Procuratores herent sufficientes : et quod nomina non venientium 
nee se excusantium nee procuratores destinantium Dno. Rcgi referrent, ita quod 
ipse inde posset pcipere quod deberet." Rolls, v. 2. p. 350, Other entries 
show that the attendance of peers in early times was very strictly enforced, and 
that aU who were absent without the king's licence were fined. But the King 
gave such as he favoured leave to attend by a proxy, who was at first a stranger, 
and afterwards another peer. 

o 4 





John sb 


June 11. 

dancy of 
Oct. 1319. 

sent two famous poulterers, Adam Fitz Kupert and Thomas 
de Duston, into divers parts of the realm to purchase delicate 
poultry for his table, and he fortified them with letters patent 
of intendance and safe conduct under the Great Seal, for 
which he obtained a warrant under the King's sign-manual.* 

His successor was John de Hotham, who rose to the 
dignity of Chancellor by the successive steps of King's chap- 
lain, Provost of Queen's College, Oxford, Chancellor of that 
University, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Bishop of Ely. 
He is said to have been a prudent and pious man, but of no 
learning ; yet he now held the oflSce of Chancellor till the 
beginning of the year 1320, and he was restored to it at the 
commencement of the succeeding reign. 

During his first Chancellorship he nominally presided at a 
parliament held at York, where the Earl of Lancaster, at 
the head of a military force, dictated all the laws that were 
passed. One of these was, " that the Chancellor should make 
a charter under the Great Seal, absolute and without con- 
dition, pardoning the Earl of Lancaster himself, and all such 
as he should by his letters name to the Chancellor, of all 
treasons against the King, and other crimes of which they 
might at any time hitherto have been guilty." Here likewise 
a parliamentary sanction was given to an indenture which the 
King had been forced to sign, providing that two Bishops, 
one Earl, one Baron, named by parliament, and one Baron or 
Banneret of the family of the Earl of Lancaster acting in his 
name, should be present and remain with the King, to de- 
liberate with and advise him in due manner, and it was 
ordered that this indenture should be carried by the Chan- 
cellor to the Chancery, and enrolled there, f 

While De Hotham continued Chancellor, it is difficult to 
say whether he was to be considered the minister of the King 

Adam filius Robertl et Tliomas de Duston, Prelatarli venerabilis Patris 
J. Wyntoniensis Episcopi Cancellarii Regis, quos idem 'Cancellarius ad prele- 
triam pro sustentatione ipsius Cancellarii et Clericorum Regis de eadem Cancel- 
laria pro dcnariis ipsius Cancellarii emendam et providendam ad diversas partes 
rcgni mittat, habent literas Regis omnibus ballivis et fidelibus suis, quod eisdem 
preletariis in praemissis intendentes sint et respondentes quociens et quando, &c., 
per unum annum duraturas. T. R. apud Westm. primo die Junii. Pat. 
10 Ed. 2. partii. m. 10. 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 65, 


or of the Earl of Lancaster. There are three different entries CHAP. 


in the Close Roll of his going from court, being sent by the 

King to the Earl of Lancaster, and of the appointment of 
Keepers of the Great Seal in his absence ; but the object of 
these missions must have been to receive the commands of the 
haughty Baron, who was now master of the kingdom. 

A new parliament was held in the beginning of 1320, the Resigna- 
Earl of Lancaster still maintaining his ascendancy, when charTcellor. 
De Hotham, disgusted with the irksomeness of his position, 
or frightened by the perils that were thickening round all who 
were connected with the Court, resigned his office of Chan- 
cellor*, and withdrew from secular affairs tiU Edward III. 
was placed on the throne. 

The new Chancellor was John de Salmon, Bishop of John de 
Norwich f, who is stated in the Close Roll to have been chancellor 
*' made in full parliament," meaning, I presume, by the body Jan. 26. 
of the Barons, on the recommendation of the Earl of Lan- 
caster, the authority of the committee, which he ruled by 
his proxy, being suspended while parliament was sitting, 
although in ordinary times a creation in " full parliament" 
only means an exercise of the royal prerogative in the pre- 
sence of the three estates of the realm, for the sake of greater 
solemnity, and to do honour to the object of the royal favour. 

There was now an interval of tranquillity in England, and A.n. 1320. 
the Chancellor went to France Avith the King, who was Chancellor 

o' goes to 

summoned to do homage for the Duchy of Aquitaine. The France ' 
Great Seal was not carried abroad with the King as had been ^' '"^' 
usual, but was ordered to be kept close in some secure place 
during his absence, and the little seal which had been before 
used when the King was absent in France, was to be again 
used in England while he remained abroad. The Chancellor 

* 23cl Jan. 1320. 

f Rot. Glaus. 13 Ed. 2. m. 9. It is there stated that the King had com- 
manded Ilotham not to execute any mandate under the Great Seal, in conse- 
quence of the messages of any person of whatever rank who might come to him 
in his Majesty's name, unless he had verbally, or under the Privy Seal declared 
to him his pleasure thereupon ; that on the 23d of January, 1320, the Chancellor 
delivered the Great Seal to the King at York, who with his own hands placed 
it at the head of his bed, but subsequently intrusted it to three clerks in Chan- 
cery, and on the following day the Uishop of Norwich, who had been appointed 
Chancellor, in full parliament received it from the King. 




of Great 
Seal by 
Dc Salmon. 

July, 1321, 
Great Seal 
in custody 
of Queen 

Isabella not 

" Lady 

scaled up the Great Seal and delivered it to the King, and 
gave the little seal to the Master of the KoUs, to be assisted 
by Kobert de Bardeley and William de ClyiF. He returned 
to England in about two months, when the Great Seal was 
restored to him. 

He was soon after absent from court visiting his diocese, 
and he made a journey to the marches of Scotland on a 
public embassy, on which occasions, by his appointment, the 
Master of the Rolls held the Great Seal and acted for him ; 
but in the end of July, 1321, being grievously indisposed, he 
surrendered the Great Seal to the King, that his majesty 
might dispose of it as to him should seem good. The King 
forthwith sent it by Richard Camel, his Chamberlain, to the 
Queen, with directions that it should remain in her custody, 
and that she should deliver it daily to the Master of the Rolls, 
who should return it to her after each day's sealing. Imme- 
diately on the Queen's receiving it, she delivered it to the 
Lady Elizabeth de Montibus, lady of her bed-chamber, to be 
enclosed in a casket, and every day on which the seal was re- 
quired for use, the Master of the Rolls had it from the hands 
of the Queen, or the Lady Elizabeth, and returned it to them 
to be placed in the casket when the sealing was finished.* But 
I cannot fairly include Queen Isabella more than the Lady 
Elizabeth de Montibus in my list of " Keepers," whose lives 
are to be written, as, unlike Queen Eleanor's, her functions 
were merely ministerial ; she had no commission, and she was 
not intrusted with any portion of judicial power. I am not 
permitted, therefore, to attempt to enliven my tedious nar- 
rative by entering into the details of her character or her 
actions her spirit, her enterprise, her deadly antipathies, 
her guilty loves, her share in her husband's murder, or her 
punishment by her heroic son. 

On the 5th of November the Queen restored the Great 
Seal to the King, and it remained a considerable time in his 
own keeping ; his majesty intrusting it daily to persons who 
were to use it, and receiving it back from them after each 
day's sealing. At the end of some months De Salmon, who 

* CI. Rol. 15 Ed. 2, 


was still considered Chancellor, having recovered his health, chap. 
returned to Court and resumed the discharge of his duties. 


He now took a decided part against the Earl of Lancaster, j^^ Salmon 
who, become generally odious by his violent and arbitrary again acts 
conduct, had raised the standard of revolt. The King, acting cellor. 
by the Chancellor's advice, displayed more energy and conduct Chancellor 
at this juncture than during any other part of his reign. Sud- Eai-rof 
denly collecting an army, he marched against the rebels, took Lancaster, 
their castles, dispersed their forces, got possession of the person ^''^''"1**'^ 
of Lancaster, tried him by a court-martial, and ordered him Lancaster, 
to be led to instant execution. ^^2^9^ ^^' 

But the Chancellor in vain attempted to prevail on Edward Edward's 
to begin a new plan of government, on the principle of an incurable 
impartial administration of justice to all his subjects. The favourites, 
banished Spensers were recalled and loaded with new favours. 
Not only were the forfeitures of the Lancastrian party be- 
stowed upon them, but to enrich them, royalist barons were 
stripped of manors inherited from a long line of ancestors, 
and the insolence of the younger Spenser was enflamed by 
success to a pitch insupportable to all who approached him. 

The Chancellor, although he had not opposed the recall of Resigna- 
the Spensers, whose banishment had taken place under an rhan/[f^ 
arbitrary ordinance of the Barons, in which neither the Pre- 
lates nor the Commons had concurred, strenuously resisted 
the influence they were now acquiring, and their illegal acts 
in the King's name. Finding his resistance ineffectual, he 
resolved to retire from political life, and his resignation was 
hastened by a severe recurrence of his former malady. He 
finally resigned the Great Seal on the 5th of June, 1323.* 
He died on the 6th of July, 1325, without having violated 
his purpose to spend the rest of his days in retirement. He 
is chiefly celebrated by his biographers for having built the 
hall and chapel of the episcopal palace at Norwich, and for 
having settled a maintenance for four priests there to pray for 
the pardon of his sins. 

The Spensers now for a time carried every thing their own 
way without the slightest check to their authority, and they 

* Rot. Cl. 17 Ed. 2. m. 39. 


CHAP, appointed for Chancellor one on whose fidelity, pliancy, and 
^'^' zeal they entirely relied, Egbert de Baldock, Archdeacon 
,.,a of Middlesex. 

A.n. 131:3. 

lioBKRT DK Dreadful storms were impending, but such tranquillity pre- 
Chancelbr mailed for a brief space as allowed the usual amusements of 
the King to proceed. It is related that the Court being at 
Windsor, and field sports going on in which the new Chan- 
cellor did not take much delight, he obtained leave from the 
King to return home for more suitable recreation. Impatient 
to escape, he delivered the Great Seal to the King, while his 
Majesty was engaged in hunting ; and when the chase was 
over, it was placed in the custody of William de Ayremynne, 
then Keeper of the Privy Seal.* From the 16th of No- 
vember till the 12th December the Chancellor was absent on 
a journey to York to treat with the Scots, during which 
time the Great Seal was in the keeping of Hichard de Ay- 
remynne, who had succeeded his brother William as Master 
of the EoUs.f 
Cirii war. Soon after his return the troubles began which terminated 
fatally for him as well as his royal master. Those troubles 
were mainly caused by the misconduct of Lord Chancellor 
Baldock, who seems to have been a very profligate man, 
and to have been unscrupulous in perverting the rules of 
justice, regardless of public opinion, and reckless as to con- 
sequences, so long as he gratified the royal favourites. It 
was his maladministration which made the nation blind to the 
enormity of the conduct of the Queen, now combined with 
Mortimer, her paramour, against the King her husband. 
A.D 1326. When she landed in Suffolk with her small army from 
Queen!^' " Holland, three princes of the blood, the Earls of Kent, Nor- 
folk, and Leicester, joined her, with all their followers. 
Three Prelates, the Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and Hereford, 
brought her both the force of their vassals, and the authority 
of their character. She rallied all ranks round her standard 
by the declaration " that the sole purpose of her enterprise 
was to free the King and kingdom from the tyranny of the 

Rot. Cl. 18 Ed. 2. m. 38. f Rot. Ci. 18 Ed. 2. ra. 26. 


Spensers, and above all of their creature Lord Chancellor chap. 
Baldock!" ^^^ 

Edward, after ineffectually trying to rouse the citizens of Oct. 1326. 
London to some sense of duty, having departed for the West, TheBishop 
where he vainly hoped to meet with a better reception, the beheaded 
rage of the populace broke out without control against him by the mob. 
and his ministers. Having seized the Bishop of Exeter, a loyal 
prelate, as he was passing through the streets, beheaded him, 
and thrown his body into the river Thames, they made 
themselves masters of the Tower, in the hope of there finding 
the Chancellor, whom they threatened with a similar fate; 
but he had fled to the King, carrying the Great Seal along 
with him. 

Before long Edward was a prisoner in Kenilworth Castle, Dec. 1326. 
and the two Spensers and Lord Chancellor Baldock fell into 
the hands of the insurgents. Spenser, the father, without Fate of the 
form of trial, was immediately condemned to death by the Spensers. 
rebellious Barons and hanged on a gibbet, his head being 
afterwards set on a pole, and exposed to the insults of the 
populace. The younger Spenser, the great favourite of the 
King and patron of Baldock, was arraigned before Sir William 
Trussel, a special Justiciar, and, without witness or proof of 
any sort, sentence of death was instantly pronounced upon 
him. The learned Judge's address to this prisoner is equally 
bitter against the Chancellor, and shows how he would have 
been dealt with had he been a layman : 

" Hugh, your father, Robert Baldock, and other false traitors Sentence 
your adherents, taking upon you royal power, you caused the King " younger 
to withdraw himself, and carried him out of the realm, to the P'^"*^'"* 
danger of his body and dishonour to him and his people, felo- 
niously taking with you the treasure of the realm, contrary to the 
Great Charter, Hugh, all the good people of the kingdom, great 
and small, rich and poor, by common assent do award that you 
are found as a thief, and therefore shall be hanged, and are found 
as a traitor, and therefore shall be drawn and quartered ; and for 
that you have been outlawed by the King and by common consent, 
and returned to the Court without warrant, you shall be beheaded ; 
and for that you abetted and procured discord between King and 
Queen, and others of the realm, you shall be embowelled and your 




A.D. 1326. 
seized by 
the mob, 
and thrown 
into New- 

Dies of his 

Prince Ed- 

chosen Gus- 
tos of the 

ment of 
Edward II. 

bowels burnt ; and so go to your judgment, attainted, wicked 

Baldock being a priest, he could not with safety be so 
suddenly despatched ; but he was sent to the Bishop of Here- 
ford's palace in London, and the populace were informed of 
his arrival, and reminded of his misdeeds. As his relentless 
enemies foresaw, the palace was broken open by a riotous 
mob, he was seized, and, after many indignities, thrown into 
Newgate, where he soon after expired from the cruel usage 
he had sustained. There seems a considerable resemblance 
between his fate and that of his successor. Lord Chancellor 
JeiFreys, at a distance of 360 years ; but, though not charge- 
able with the same degree of cruelty, his systematic perversion 
of justice had excited a still greater degree of resentment 
against him, or the rage of the people would have given way 
to their reverence for the sacerdotal character. He had 
reached no higher dignity in the Church than Archdeacon of 
Middlesex. When he received the Great Seal a few months 
before, he no doubt confidently expected that he should long 
hold it, and that it would lead to the primacy. 

On the 20th of October, 1326, the King having gone 
away with Hugh le Despenser to Ireland, and left the realm 
without any government, the prelates, earls, barons, and 
knights assembled at Bristol, and chose Edward, the King's 
son, Custos of the kingdom whilst his father continued ab- 
sent. On the same day the Prince assumed the government, 
and issued the necessary legal proceedings under his privy 
seal, " because he had no other seal for the purpose." 

When the King returned from Ireland he found himself 
already dethroned. The Queen was now in the enjoyment of 
supreme power. She kept her husband in close confinement, 
hypocritically pretending to lament his misfortunes. She pre- 
tended to associate the Prince her son with herself in the 
government; and she contrived to get the Great Seal into 
her possession, which considerably facilitated her proceed- 
ings, for less respect was paid by the multitude to the privy 
seal, which she had hitherto used. 

1 St. Tr. 36. 


The Bishop of Hereford was sent to the King, at Kenil- CHAP, 
worth, with a deceitful message, to request that he would 

give such directions respecting the Great Seal, as were ^ ^ ^^^e. 
necessary for the conservation of the peace, and the due King sends 
administration of justice. The King, without friend or ad- to Queen, 
viser, said he would send the Seal to his Queen and son, 
not only for these purposes, but likewise for matters of grace. 
He then handed the Great Seal to Sir William le Blount, 
who, on the 30th of November, delivered It to the Queen 
and the Prince ; but the Queen had the uncontrolled domi- 
nion over it. She pretended to hand it over to Ayremynne, 
the Master of the Rolls, as Keeper, and she employed it to 
summon a parliament at Westminster, in her husband's name, 
for the purpose of deposing him. According to the tenour of 
the writs under the Great Seal, the parliament was to be 
held before the King, if he should be present; and if not, 
before Isabel, the Queen-consort, and Edward, the King's 

The sympathies of the people beginning to be excited in Queen's 
favour of the King, and her scandalous commerce with Mor- ^^^^ *^" 
timer being published to the world, she was under some ap- 
prehension of a counter-revolution; but she uttered a pro- 
clamation, setting forth the misgovernment of the Spensers 
and the late Lord Chancellor Baldock, to the great injury of 
Holy Church and the dishonour of the King and his heirs, 
and she gathered a strong army round her to overawe the 

At the parliament which met on the 7th of January, 1327, Edward ir. 
no Chancellor was present. Adam de Orleton, Bishop of ^^"^^ ' 
Hereford, acted as Prolocutor, and put the memorable ques- 
tion to the assembled Lords and Commons, " Whether 
King Edward the father, or his son Edward, should reign 
over them ? " 

The articles against the King contained no specific charge 
of misrule to give any colour to the proposed deposition, and 
no proof was adduced in support of them. Nevertheless, no 
one ventured to raise a voice in his behalf; and a deputation 
sent to Kenilworth extorted from him a resignation of the 
Crown. Then Sir William Trussel, of whose oratory we 




A.D. 1327. 

Murder of 
Edward II. 

Adam be 
acts as 

His equi- 
vocal line 
the murder 
of the 

Origin of 
office of 
Master of 
the Rolls. 

have had a specimen, in the name of the whole Parliament, 
renounced their allegiance in the following form : 

" I, William Trussel, procurator of the prelates, earls, and 
barons, and other people in mj procuracy named, having for this 
full and sufficient power, do surrender and deliver up to you, 
Edward, heretofore King of England, the homage and fealty of the 
persons in my procuracy named, &c. ; and do make this protestation 
in the name of all those that will not, for the future, be in your 
fealty or allegiance, nor claim to hold any thing of you as King, 
but account you as a private person, without any manner of royal 

On the 20th of January, 1327, the deposition of Ed- 
ward 11. being completed, Edward III., then a youth of 
fourteen years of age, was proclaimed King, and was sup- 
posed to begin his reign, although it was not till the 21st of 
September following that, in Berkeley Castle, were heard the 
agonising shrieks caused by the horrid deed of Gournay and 

Without any formal appointment as Chancellor, after the 
death of Baldock, Adam de Orleton, Bishop of Hereford, 
must be considered as having acted in that capacity under 
the Queen. He is famous not only for having conducted the 
proceedings in parliament on the deposition of Edward, but 
for being supposed to have counselled his murder by the 
equivocal line which he composed and sent to his keepers, 

" Edwardum occidere nolite timere; bonum est." 

although he contended that his words, by a proper punc- 
tuation or pause, conveyed a strong injunction against 

No important change was introduced into the law during 
the reign of Edward II., but the institutions of his father 
were steadily maintained by his successive Chancellors, and 
having stood the shock of such convulsions, might now be 
considered permanently established for the administration of 
justice in England. It has been suggested that the office of 
Master of the Rolls, so nearly connected with that of Chan- 
cellor, was now created, and that William de Ayremynne was 

* Edwardum occidere nolite ; timere bonum est. 


the first who bore that title*; but John de Langton had chap. 

. XII 

been called " Custos Rotulorum Cancellariae Domini Regis." f 

Adam de Osgodebey is expressly stated to have filled the ^ ^ 1337. 
office in the same reign, and as there were clerks in the 
Chancery from the most remote antiquity to assist the Chan- 
cellor, who were afterwards denominated '* Masters in Chan- 
cery," I have little doubt that the senior or chief of them had 
for ages before had the particular care of the records of the 
Court, and being so often intrusted with the custody of the 
Seal in the Chancellor's absence, had gradually been permitted 
to act as his deputy. 

Towards the conclusion of this reign, under Lord Chan- Complaints 
cellor Baldock, there were heavy complaints in parliament of J||ent orihe 
the delays of justice, and that when petitions for redress were Court of 
presented to parliament, they were sometimes referred to the 
King and sometimes to the Chancellor, without any thing 
being ever done upon them. | 

From petitions and answers lately discovered, it appears jurisdic- 
that during this reign the jurisdiction of the Court of Chan- ^'^5"^^;*!'^ 
eery was considerably extended, and the " Consuetudo Can- reign of 
cellarije" is often familiarly mentioned. We find petitions 
referred to the Chancellor in his Court, either separately or 
in conjunction with the King's Justices or the King's Ser- 
jeants on disputes respecting the wardship of infants, par- 
tition, dower, rent-charges, tithes, and goods of felons. The 
Chancellor was in full possession of his jurisdiction over 
charities, and he superintended the conduct of coroners. 
Mere wrongs, such as malicious prosecutions and trespasses to 
personal property, are sometimes the subject of proceedings 
before him ; but I apprehend that those were cases where, 
from powerful combinations and confederacies, redress could 
not be obtained in the courts of common law. 

There was now and during some succeeding reigns the 
exercise of a prerogative of the Crown vested in the Court of 

Reeve's Hist, of the Law, vol. ii. p. 362. 

f See Discourse on Office of M. R. 

j Et auxint Sire firent vos liges gentz que par la ou ils ont liote leur avant 
lour petitions au diverses parliamentz des divcrses grievances et les unes sont 
ajournes devant le Roi, et les autres devant le Chancellier dount nul issue n'est 
fait q'il plaise a vautre haute seignurie comander remedie. Resp. II plest au 
Roi. Par. Rol. 19 Ed. 2. i. 430. 

VOL. I. P 


CHAP. Chancery, which we should have expected to find reserved 
^^^" for the King's executive government, viz. the power of 
Letters of granting letters of marque and reprisals against the subjects 
marqueand of a foreign state that refused to render justice to the subjects 
PluSd'by of the Crown of England.* Thus, in 2 Edward II., certain 
Chancellor. English merchants plundered by Flemish pirates, not ob- 
taining redress from the Earl of Flanders, they petitioned 
the King, and they were referred by him to the Court of Chan- 
cery, there to pursue their remedy as was accustomed in 
similar cases, f Again, in the 8th year of this reign, Adam 
le Clerk, having complained that his ship and merchandise 
had been captured and carried into the town of Perth in 
Scotland, it is ordered that he should apply to the Chancellor, 
and that justice should be done to him according to the 
custom of the Chancery. | 
Year Now begins the series of reports of cases decided in the 

Books. . . 

superior courts, the grand repertory of law in England ; but 
the " Year Books" are now rather curious for their antiquity 
than valuable for their contents, being chiefly the notes 
taken by the reporters in Court, without being properly 
digested or revised. 

In the 9th year of the King, while Sandale was Chancellor, 
was passed a statute, still acted upon, by which it was enacted 
that Sheriflfe who were formally chosen by the freeholders, 
should be assigned by the Chancellor and Judges, and the 
power of appointing them was vested in the Crown. 

At the close of the reign, at the Parliament held under 
Lord Chancellor Baldock, the statute " De Prei'ogativa Regis" 
was passed, giving to the King the profits of the lands of 
idiots II, the probable foundation of the Lord Chancellor's 
jurisdiction in lunacy under the royal sign-manual. 

The only law book imputed to this reign is the " Mirror of 

* It appears from Grotiiis and Puffendorf, that down to their time letters of 
reprisal were considered rather in the nature of a private remedy, and did not 
by any means amount to war betweea two nations. The capture was rather in 
the nature of a security to obtain justice. 

t Hesp. " Adeaiit Cancellariam et perquirant remedium sicut consuevit fieri 
m consimilibus caslbus, secundum formam petitionis." 

X llesp. " Sequatur in Cancel!, et ostendat processum inde habitum et literas 
testimon. si quas habeat de defen. exhibitionls justitiae et tunc sequatur secun- 
dum processum, &c., et fiat ei justitia secundum consuetudinem Cancellari*." 

9 Ed. 2. Stat. 2. II 17 Ed. 2. c. 9. 


Justices," which, though often quoted by Lord Coke, is a chap. 

wretched compilation, and shows an increasing degeneracy ' 

among English juridical writers. 

The Chancellors were still all churchmen, and from this Establish- 
order only could good lawyers hitherto be selected ; but there inns of 
was now rising up a class of laymen who, devoting them- Court, 
selves to the study of the municipal law of England, and 
educated at the Hostels or Inns of Court (of which Lincoln's 
Inn then was, and ever has continued to be, the most 
eminent*,) were attracting public consideration and con- 
fidence, and from among whom, in the succeeding reign. 
Chancellors were chosen, to the great content of the nation. 

* The Society of Lincoln's Inn was founded in the commencement of this 
reign, under the patronage of William Earl of Lincoln, who, for the accommo- 
dation of the men)bers, gave up to them his hostel, which he held under the 
Bishops of Chichester. 

p 2 






Jan. 25. 


John de 




His death 
and cha- 

DK Bdrg- 



The Parliament which continued irregularly to sit under 
writs issued in the name of Edward II., commenced the new 
reign by the appointment of a council of regency, consisting 
of twelve persons five prelates and seven temporal peers 
with the Earl of Lancaster as President or Protector; and 
John de Hotham, Bishop of Ely, was called from his retreat 
to be made Chancellor. But he only consented to hold the 
office till a settlement of the kingdom should take place ; and 
he finally resigned it on the 1st of March following. 

In this interval acts of parliament were passed indem- 
nifying the Queen and her partisans for all they had done, 
and enabling them to carry on the government in the name 
of the young King. As yet all went smoothly, for he 
was not of competent age to understand the wrongs done to 
his father, his mother's shame, or the usurpation of his own 

Hotham joyfully returned to his diocese, where he occu- 
pied himself in repairing and ornamenting the cathedral, till 
he was struck with the palsy. After being bed-ridden two 
years, he died in 1336. He is said to have been pious, and 
naturally shrewd, though of little knowledge acquired from 
books. He is gratefully remembered by his successors in 
the see of Ely for the princely munificence with which he 
enriched it. 

Till the 12th of May the Great Seal remained in the 
keeping of Henry de ClyfF, Master of the Rolls ; and on that 
day it was delivered to Henry de Burghersh, or Bur- 


WASH, as Chancellor.* He was of noble birth, and nephew CHAP. 


of Bartholomew de Badislimer, Baron of Leeds, a man of 

great power and fame in the reign of Edward II. Having ^ ^ ^^^7. 
been educated at Oxford, in 1320, while yet a young man, 
he obtained, through his uncle's interest, the rich bishopric of 
Lincoln. He soon after quarrelled with the King, and the 
temporalities of his see were sequestered. They were re- 
stored in 1324, and he was again taken into favour at court. 
But he subsequently took the Queen's part against her hus- 
band, and was active in bringing about the ruin of this 
unhappy prince. Along with the other chief conspirators, he 
was promoted at the commencement of the new reign, and 
enjoyed power till the young King discovered their plots and 
avenged the memory of his father. 

The Great Seal of Edward II., which had likewise been New Great 
that of Edward I., continued to be used till the 5th day of 
October, 1327, when a new Great Seal, with the effigies 
and style of Edward III., was put into the hands of the 

The business of the parliament being finished, he accom- 
panied the Queen-mother to Berwick. During his absence 
the Seal was left with the Master of the Rolls, and it was 
restored to him on his return to court. He went abroad with 
the King on the 26th of May, 1329, and returned on the 
11th of June following, still confident of continuing pros- 

But the termination of his official career was at hand. Temporary 
Mortimer, the paramour of Isabella, had quarrelled with the ^'^Mor*"*^^ 
Earl of Lancaster and the Princes of the blood, and had timer. 

* Rot, Cl. 2 Ed. 3. m. 26. 

t Rot. Cl. 1 Ed. 3. m. 11. "When the King dies, the Great Seal of the 
last King continues the Great Seal of England till another be made and deli- 
vered. Edward III., who began his reign 25th January, on the 3d of October 
following directed a proclamation to all the sheriffs of England, signifying that 
he had made a new Great Seal, sent them an impression of the new seal in wax, 
and commanded them, after the 4th of October, to receive no writs but under the 
new Seal. On the 4th of October, being Sunday, the Bishop of Ely, Chancellor, 
producing the new Seal, declares the King's pleasure that it should be from 
thenceforth used. The Monday after the old Seal is broken, prmcipiente rege, 
and the pieces delivered to the Spigurnel." 1 Hale's Pleas of the Crown, 176. 

The Spigurnel was an officer whose place was to seal the King's writs Camb. 

Rem. 26. 

P 3 




A.D. 1330. 
III. seizes 
the reins of 

Nov. 1330. 
A parlia- 


Nov. 28. 

made a victim of the Earl of Kent, the King's uncle. For a 
short time Mortimer enjoyed a sort of dictatorship. He 
threw the Earl of Lancaster into prison, and prosecuted 
many of the prelates and nobility. The immense fortunes 
of the Spensers and their adherents were mostly converted 
to his own use. He affected a state and dignity not inferior 
to the royal. His power became formidable to every one, 
and all parties, forgetting past animosities, conspired in a 
Avish for his overthrow. 

Edward, now in his 18th year, feeling himself capable of 
governing, repined at his insignificance, and resolved to free 
himself from the fetters of this insolent minister. By an ex- 
traordinary combination of courage and dexterity on the part 
of Mortimer's enemies, the minion was seized in the castle of 
Nottingham, in an apartment adjoining the Queen-dowager's, 
at a moment when he thought himself absolute and perma- 
nent master of the kingdom. 

A parliament was immediately summoned, before which 
he was accused of having procured the death of the late 
King, and of various other crimes, and upon the supposed 
notoriety of the facts, without hearing his answer, or ex- 
amining a witness, he was convicted and executed. 

Instead of the Chancellor, the young King himself is said 
to have made a speech at the opening of this parliament, 
complaining much of the conduct of the Queen and Mor- 
timer, and intimating that with the consent of his subjects, he 
designed to take the reins of government into his own hands.* 

Burghersh being an ecclesiastic, was safe from corporal 
punishment, but he was deprived of the Great Sealf, and on 
the day before Mortimer's execution it was intrusted to John 
DE Stratford I, Bishop of Winchester, by whose advice the 

I Pari. Hist. 83. 

t One of the charges against him was the abuse of his ecclesiastical patronage. 
It seems the livings in the Chancellor's gift were intended as a provision for the 
clerks of the different courts of justice who were then all in orders, and that 
Burghersh had been in the habit of selling them or giving them to favourites ; 
whereupon an order was made by parliament, that " the Chancellor should give 
the hvmgs in his gift, rated at twenty marks and under, to the King's clerks in 
Chancery, the Exchequer and the two Benches, according to usage, and to 
none others." Rolls, 4 Ed. 3. vol. ii. 136. 

t Rot. CI. 4 Ed. 3. m. 20. 


young King had acted in bringing about this revolution, chap. 
The Ex-chancellor died In exile at Ghent about ten years ' 

after. It is said that " he was a covetous man, and easily His exile 
abused his power to the oppressing of his neighbours."* and death. 

The new Chancellor was a native of Stratford in Essex, .Tohn de 
from which place he took his name according to the custom chancellor' 
of the age. He and his brother Robert, of whom we shall 
have to speak very soon, were instances then not uncommon 
of persons of talents, enterprise, and perseverance, raising 
themselves from obscurity to the highest offices in the state. 
He studied at Oxford, and there acquired great reputation His origin 
for his proficiency in the civil and canon law. It is curious ^^^^^ "*^*' 
to observe that the law in those times, not less than in the 
present, was the great avenue for new men to political ad- 
vancement. In the struggle for power which was ever going 
on, those who were distinguished for their learning and their 
subtlety were found useful to the Crown, to the barons, and 
to the great ecclesiastics were confidentially employed by 
them on occasions of difficulty, and were rewarded with eccle- 
siastical and temporal offices in which they had often more 
influence than the great hereditary nobles.f John de Strat- 
ford was early promoted to the deanery of Lincoln, and 
giving earnest of the talents which he afterwards displayed, 
he was promoted to the judicial office of Dean of the Arches, 
which has continued down to our own times to be filled by 
men of the greatest learning and ability. Here he showed 
such knowledge of the laws, and such judgment and prudence 
in deciding causes, that he was made a Privy Councillor to 
Edward II., and was admitted to an important share in the 
government of the kingdom. 

In 1323 he was sent ambassador to the Pope, then es- Ambas- 
tablished at Avignon, to settle various points of controversy p^ ^_ 
of great delicacy, which had arisen between the Crown of 
England and his Holiness. It happened that at that time 
the Bishop of Winchester died, and the Pope, at the earnest 

* See L. C. 26, 

I The two Stratfords, who successively held the office of Lord Chancellor in 
the 14th century, may aptly be compared to the two Scotts, Lord Eldon and 
Lord Stowell, in the 1 9th. 

P 4 




His rise till 



ment of 

to restore 

Court of 

request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, without the sanction 
of the King, somewhat irregularly consecrated his Excellency 
the English minister Bishop of the vacant see. 

Baldoek, then Lord Chancellor, having intended this pre- 
ferment for himself, was mortally offended, and took violent 
steps to prevent the new Bishop from deriving any benefit 
from the elevation. A very severe proclamation was issued 
against Stratford in the name of the King, *'so that none 
should harbour or relieve him," and the fruits of the bishopric 
were confiscated to the Crown. The Pope and the Arch- 
bishop, however, still befriended him, and Baldock's influence 
declining, he was again taken into favour and employed in 
several important embassies. In the last year of Edward 11. 
he was made Lord Treasurer, and he adhered with great 
constancy and zeal to his unhappy master. Probably this 
was the reason why, when the regicides were punished 
and the youthful Sovereign took upon himself the govern- 
ment of the realm, Stratford was appointed to the office of 

Lender his advice the Queen-mother was confined to her 
own house at Castle-Rising : and to prevent her from again 
forming a party which might be formidable to the Sovereign, 
her revenue was reduced to 4000Z. a-year, so that she was 
never able to reinstate herself in any credit or authority. 

Effective measures were taken to restore order and tran- 
quillity throughout the realm. Writs under the Great Seal 
were directed to the Judges, enjoining them to administer 
justice without paying any regard to the arbitrary orders 
they might receive from any great men or officers of state. 
As robbers, thieves, murderers, and criminals of all kinds, had 
during the late convulsions multiplied to an enormous degree, 
and they sometimes enjoyed high protection, a promise was 
exacted from the Peers in parliament that they would break 
off all connection with such malefactors ; and the ministers of 
justice were urged to employ the utmost diligence in dis- 
covering, pursuing, and punishing them. 

There was likewise introduced about this time a great im- 
provement in the administration of justice, by rendering the 
Court of Chancery stationary at Westminster. The ancient 



kings of England were constantly migrating, one principal ^^.^F' 

reason for which was, that the same part of the country, even 

with the aid of purveyance and pre-emption, could not long 
support the Court and all the royal retainers, and the render 
in kind due to the King could be best consumed on the spot. 
Therefore, if he kept Christmas at Westminster, he would 
keep Easter at Winchester, and Pentecost at Gloucester, 
visiting his many palaces and manors in rotation. The 
Aula Regis, and afterwards the courts into which it was 
partitioned, were ambulatory along with him to the great 
vexation of the suitors. This grievance was partly corrected 
by Magna Charta, which enacted that the Court of Com- 
mon Pleas should be held " in a certain place," a corner 
of Westminster Hall being fixed upon for that purpose. In 
point of law, the Court of King's Bench and the Court of 
Chancery may still be held in any county of England, 
" wheresoever in England the King or the Chancellor may 
be." Down to the commencement of the reign of Edward III., 
the King's Bench and the Chancery actually had continued 
to follow the King's person, the Chancellor and his officers 
being entitled to part of the purveyance made for the royal 
household. By 28 Edw. 1. c. 5., the Lord Chancellor and 
the Justices of the King's Bench were ordered to follow the 
King, so that he might have at all times hear him sages of the 
law able to advise him. But the two Courts were now by 
the King's command fixed in the places where, unless on a 
few extraordinary occasions, they continued to be held down 
to our own times, at the upper end of Westminster Hall, 
the King's Bench on the left hand, and the Chancery on 
the right, both remaining open to the Hall, and a bar being 
erected to keep oiF the multitude from pressing on the 

The Chancellor, on account of his superior dignity, had Marble 
placed for him a great marble table, to which there was an ^^i,]^ ; 
ascent by five or six steps, with a marble chair by the side of Court of 

Chsnccr V 

it. On this table writs and letters patent were sealed in the 
presence of the Chancellor sitting in the marble chair. Here 
he received and examined the petitions addressed to him. 




AD. 1331. 

A parlia- 

put to par- 
liament by 
the Chan- 

from em- 

A.D. 1332, 

On the appointment of a new Chancellor, he was inaugurated 
by being placed in this chair.* 

John de Stratford continued Chancellor under his first 
appointment nearly four years, during which time he appears 
to have been almost constantly absorbed in political business, 
and to have hardly ever attended personally to the judicial 
duties of his office. From the 4th to the 20th of April, 1331, 
he was in Normandy with the King. 

In the year 1331, a parliament met at Westminster, the 
day after Michaelmas-day. The Chancellor declared the 
cause of the summons, and applied himself to the prelates, 
earls, and barons for their advice, whether they thought it 
best for the King to proceed by war or by an amicable treaty 
with the King of France for the restitution of Aquitaine ? f 
The parliament agreed to the latter as the least dangerous 
process, and the Chancellor, accompanied by the Bishops of 
Worcester and Norwich, and others, went on an embassy to 
the court of France for this purpose. They set sail on the 
21st of November, and succeeded in preserving for a time the 
relations of amity between the two nations. 

The Chancellor's return is not recorded, but it must have 
been before the 12th of March in the following year, for on 
that day a new parliament was opened at Westminster by a 
speech from him, in which he intimated that the King wished 
for the advice of the parliament " whether he should comply 
with a request from the King of France and many other 
kings and princes, to accompany them to the Holy Land 
against the common enemy of Christendom?"! A subject of 
greater urgency on which the advice of parliament was asked 
was, " whether the King might go over to the French court 
to settle in person the differences between the two crowns?" 

* The marble table and chair are said to have been displaced when the Court 
was covered in from the Hall. But till the Courts were finally removed out 
of Westminster Hail, there were easy means of communication between the 
Chancery and King's Bench, which enabled Sir Thomas More to ask his father's 
blessing in the one Court before he took his seat in the other ; and I myself 
remember, when a student of law, that if the Chancellor rose while the King's 
Bench was sitting, a curtain was drawn and the Judges saluted him Orig. 
Jurid. tit. " Chancery." In the " Lives of Lord Clarendon, &c.," published in 
1712, It is said, " This marble table is now covered with the Courts there 
erected, to which there are four or five steps to go up." 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 88. \ Ibid. 89. 


Edward had begun to talk of his preposterous claim to the CHAP, 
throne of France through his mother Isabella, and Philip de 

Valois had threatened to declare forfeited all the fiefs which 
Edward held in France, as Edward, questioning his title, had 
declined to do homage to him as his liege lord. It is remark- 
able that after the Chancellor's oration. Sir Jeffrey Scroop, 
by the King's command and in his presence, harangued the 
parliament, and enforced the topics on which the Chancellor 
had dwelt.* 

The Lords and Commons objected to the expedition to the Separation 
Holy Land ; but consented to the proposed meeting with the "l^^co^- 
French King. It is remarkable that the knights, citizens, mons. 
and burgesses withdrew to a separate chamber to deliberate, ^'^' 
and that this is the first instance of their doing so. There 
seemed then a probability that there might have been three 
houses of parliament, one for each of the three estates of the 
realm, as there always had been in France till the memorable 
meeting of the States General at Versailles in 1789, for the 
Lords spiritual likewise on this occasion retired to a separate 
chamber, and came in the first instance to a separate vote, 
although all the branches of the legislature were finally 
unanimous in the advice they gave.f 

We may remark as we pass, that notwithstanding the great Great in- 
jealousy afterwards displayed by the Tudor sovereigns of pad"ament 
parliament ever interfering; with the functions of the execu- under 

. . . Planta- 

tive government, in the time of the Plantagenets nothing genets. 
was more common than for the King expressly and specifically 
to consult parliament on questions of peace and war, and 
even as to the manner in which war was to be carried on. 
It was probably found that lOths and 15ths were more 
readily voted from this seeming cordiality and confidence, 
and privilege had not yet acquired any independent sway by 
which it seemed likely ever to become formidable to pre- 

Edward called another parliament to meet on the 9th of Chancel- 
September, 1332, where Lord Chancellor Stratford declared, o^nmee^itiy 

" that the cause of their meeting was about the affairs of of new par- 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 90. f Ibid. 91. 




Keepers of 
Great Seal 
by the 



A.D. 1334, 

France and the King's expedition thither, and to put an end 
to the success his enemies gained in those parts."* The 
Lords and Commons did each by their several petitions advise 
the King not then to go into France, but to use all his efforts 
to brinsf to a conclusion the war that had broke out with 
Scotland after the death of Robert Bruce, and the attempt of 
Edward Baliol on the Scottish crown. This war lasted till 
after the termination of John de Stratford's first chancellor- 
ship. Such satisfaction had he given to the King up to this 
time, that in the beginning of 1334 he was raised to the 
metropolitan see of Canterbury. 

Being so much occupied with political and ecclesiastical 
affairs while he retained the office of Chancellor, he intrusted 
the custody of the Great Seal successively to Robert de 
Stratford his brother, to Henry de Clyff, M. R., to William 
de Melton, Archbishop of York, and for a short time jointly 
to Henry de Edenstowe, Thomas de Baumburgh, and John 
de St. Paul, probably masters in Chancery, and these persons 
sealed writs and charters, and despatched the other business 
of the court. The fees of the oflSce, as was usual when the 
custody of the Great Seal was thus deputed, were brought to 
the credit of the absent Chancellor.f 

On the 28th of September, 1334, Archbishop Stratford 
ceased to be Chancellor (whether from any quarrel with the 
King we are not informed), and the ofiice was conferred on 
Richard de Bury, Bishop of Durham |, one of the most 
eminent scholars and wits who cast a lustre on the reign of 
Edward III., and made it distinguished for literature as well 
as for military glory. From a most interesting book written 
by this estimable man, which is a sort of autobiography, his 

I Pari. Hist. 91. 

t Among these was a very liberal supply of wine from the King's vineyards 
in Gascony. In the Close Roll, 3 Ed. 3. we find the following memorandum 
respecting what was to be done by the customer of Southampton : " Quod de 
vino bianco Regis liberan. sex dolia et quatuor pipa." The few bottles of 
Constantia, till very lately given by the Crown to the Chancellor and the other 
great officers of state, may be considered the last remnant of such gratuities. 

Uhile Stratford was Chancellor, it was resolved in parliament "that the 
Chancellor is the Ordinary of the free chapels of the King, and that it belongs 
to him to visit them by virtue of his office." Rolls, 8 Ed 3. vol. ii. p. 77, 

t Rot. CI. 8 Ed. 3. m. 10. 


" Philobiblon," we are made familiarly acquainted with CHAP, 
his history, his habits, and his character. 

He was born in the year 1287, in the house of his father, jjj^ family, 
near Bury St. Edmunds. * Although the son of Sir Richard 
de Angraville, of an ancient knightly family, he, according 
to the custom of the age, took his name from the place of his 
birth. Having lost his father when very young, he was 
educated by his maternal uncle, a priest, descended from the Education, 
noble house of Willoughby. He studied at Oxford, where 
he gained great distinction from his proficiency both in 
philosophy and divinity, and was eminent at once for the 
brilliancy of his conversation and the sanctity of his life. 

In the work referred to, which was the amusement of his His college 
old age, he gives a delightful picture of his college days, ^'^^' 
showing the enthusiasm with which he had sought improve- 
ment.! "From an early age we attached ourselves with 
most exquisite solicitude to the society of masters, scholars, 
and professors of various arts, whom wit and learning had 
rendered most conspicuous ; encouraged by whose agreeable 
conversation, we were most deliciously nourished, sometimes 
with explanatory examination of arguments, at others with 
recitations of treatises on the progress of physics as it were 
with multiplied and successive dishes of learning. Such 
were the comrades we chose in our boyhood ; such we enter- 
tained as the inmates of our chambers and the companions of 
our journies ; such the messmates of our board, and such our 
associates in all our fortunes." | 

Being considered a very accomplished scholar, he was Tutor to 
selected as tutor for Edward III. when Prince of Wales, Edv^ard 
and to him may be traced the love for literature and the prince, 
arts displayed by his pupil when on the throne. He was 
rewarded with the lucrative appointment of treasurer of 

When the civil disturbances arose towards the end of the 

* " In quadam villula." Angl. Sax. vol. ii. p. 765. 

f It is written in very indifferent Latin. I have chiefly followed an English 
translation published anonymously in the year 1832; printed for that very 
learned and worthy bookseller, my friend, " Thomas liodd. Great Newport 

\ Phil. ch. viii. 






reign of Edward II., he took part with the Queen, and sup- 
plied her with money out of the royal revenue, which she 
made use of to the prejudice of her husband. He was ques- 
tioned for this during the ascendancy of the opposite faction, 
and having fled to Paris, and being demanded from the French 
government, it is said that he was glad to hide himself for 
several days in the belfry of a church there. 
His rise on Edward HI., on coming to the throne, with his own hand 
^^^I^rrT ^^ wrote a letter to the Pope, praying that the stalls in the 
cathedrals of Hereford, London, and Chichester, lately held 
by Gilbert de Middleton, might be conferred on his tutor, 
whom he says he loves beyond all the clerks in his realm : 
"Eo quod nostro assidue lateri assistendo, novimus ipsum 
vinim in consiliis providum, conversationis et vitae munditia 
decorum, literarum scientia pneditum, et in agendis quibus- 
libet circumspectum." His Holiness complied, and De Bury 
was now rapidly promoted in the state as well as in the 
church, being appointed cofferer to the King, then treasurer 
of the wardrobe, and soon after keeper of the Privy Seal. 
This office he held five years, during which time he twice 
visited Italy, made the acquaintance of Petrarch, and was 
treated with great honour and distinction by the Supreme 
Pontiff", John XXII., who nominated him chaplain to his 
principal chapel, and took upon himself to appoint him, by a 
special bull, to the first see which should become vacant in 

From the offices and preferments he already enjoyed, he 
was enabled to display great magnificence and splendour ; 
and when he appeared in the presence of the Pope or Car- 
dinals, he was attended by twenty clerks and thirty -six 
esquires, attired in the most expensive and sumptuous gar- 

Soon afterwards the see of Durham became vacant, and the 
Prior and Chapter elected as bishop, Robert de Greystones, 
a monk and subprior of Durham, who was actually conse- 
crated by the Archbishop of York. But at the request of 
the King the election was set aside by the Pope, De Bury 

His splen 
duur at 
court of 

Bishop of 

His last journey to Rome is said to have cost him 5000 marks. 


was substituted, and on the 19th of December, 1333, the CHAP. 


ceremony of his consecration was performed by the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury. The following year he was personally 
installed at Durham. On this occasion he gave a magnificent 
entertainment to the King and Queen, her mother, and the 
King of Scotland, at which were present two archbishops, 
five bishops, seven earls and their countesses, and all the 
nobility north of Trent, besides a great number of knights 
and esquires, and also many abbots and other ecclesiastics. 

Soon after this he was raised to the dignity of Chancellor. Sept 2S. 
We have no account of his procession to Westminster, or of ^^' 
the festivities on his being seated in the marble chair at the 
upper end of the hall, but we need not doubt that they were 
distinguished by their taste and sumptuousness. 

De Bury filled the office of Chancellor only from the 28th His con- 
of September, 1334, to the oth June, 1335, when he ex- J^^^u^^ 
changed it for that of Treasurer. During this interval he 
held the Great Seal himself, and did all the duties belonging 
to it, without the assistance of any Vice-chancellor, and he 
seems to have given satisfaction to the public 

A parliament met at Whitsuntide, and he presided at it ; -^ parfia- 
but we cannot celebrate him as a legislator, for at this par- 
liament only one act passed, wliich was " to regulate the 
herring fishery at Yarmouth;" and the time was occupied 
in obtaining a supply to enable the King to carry on war 
against the Scots. Edward having gained the battle of 
Hallidown Hill, in which Douglas the Scottish leader fell, 
was sanguine in the hope of being able to reduce the whole 
of Scotland to subjection ; but he was soon driven back by 
the spirit which had baffled all the efforts of his father and 
grandfather, and he came to the conclusion that he must look 
out for an easier field in which he might gain distinction as a 

De Bury went thrice to Paris as ambassador from Edward Ambas- 
to the King of France respecting his claim to the crown of 
that country, and afterwards visited Antwerp and Brabant, 
with a view of forming alliances for the coming contesL 
But before the French war had made much progress he 
resigned the Great Seal and retired from public life. 

sador to 





His retire- 


His love of 
books, and 
mode of 

He now shut himself up in his palace at Bishops Auck- 
land among his books, which he preferred to all other human 
enjoyments, still, however, exercising a most splendid hos- 
pitality.* He employed himself ardently in the extension of his 
library, which, whether out of compliment to him, or as a satire 
on his brother ecclesiastics, was said to " contain more volumes 
than those of all the other bishops in the kingdom put 
together." By the favour of Edward he gained access to the 
libraries of all the great monasteries, where he shook off the 
dust from volumes preserved in chests and presses, which 
had not been opened for many ages. Not satisfied with 
this privilege, he extended his researches by employing 
stationers and booksellers, not only In England, but also in 
France, Germany, and Italy, regardless both of expense and 

To solace his declining years, he wrote the " Phllobiblon," 
In praise of books; a treatise which may now be perused 
with great pleasure, as it shows that the author had a most 
Intimate acquaintance with the classics, and not only a 
passion for books exceeding that of any modern collector, 
but a rich vein of native humour, which must have made 
him a most delightful companion. 

An extract from chapter vlil., entitled " Of the numerous 
Opportunities of the Author of collecting Books from all 
Quarters," may bring some suspicion upon his judicial 
purity ; but the open avowal of the manner In which his 
library was accumulated proves that he had done nothing 
that would not be sanctioned by the public opinion of 
the age : 

" While we performed the duties of Chancellor of the most 
Invincible and ever magnificently triumphant King of England, 
Edward III., (whose days may the Most High long and 
tranquilly deign to preserve !) after first inquiring Into the 

This appears from the roll of his domestic expenses, preserved among the 
muniments of the bishopric. 

t " Pecuniam laeto corde dispersimus, nee eos (sc. librarios et stationarios) 
uUatenus impedivit distantia, neque furor maris absterruit, nee eis aut as pro 
expenso deficit, quin ad nos optatos libros transmitterent vel afferrent. Sciebant 
enim pro certo, quod spes eorum in sinu nostro reposita defraudari non poterat, 
sed restabat apud nos copiosa redemi)tis cum usuris." 


things that concerned his Court, and then the public affairs chap. 

of his kingdom, an easy opening was afforded us, under the ' 

countenance of royal favour, for freely searching the hiding- 
places of books. For the flying fame of our love had already 
spread in all directions, and It was reported not only that we 
had a longing desire for books, and especially for old ones, but 
that any body could more easily obtain our favour by quartos 
than by money. Wherefore, when supported by the bounty 
of the aforesaid Prince of worthy memory, we were enabled 
to oppose or advance, to appoint or discharge ; crazy quartos 
and tottering folios, precious however in our sight as well as 
in our affections, flowed In most rapidly from the great and 
the small, instead of new-year's gifts and remunerations, and 
instead of presents and jewels. Then the cabinets of the 
most noble monasteries were opened ; cases were unlocked ; 
caskets were unclasped ; and astonished volumes which had 
slumbered for long ages In their sepulchres were roused up, 
and those that lay hid In dark places were overwhelmed with 
the rays of a new light. Books heretofore most delicate, now 
become corrupted and nauseous, lay lifeless, covered Indeed 
with the e"!xcrement8 of mice, and pierced through with the 
gnawing of worms; and those that were formerly clothed 
with purple and fine linen, were now seen reposing In dust 
and ashes, given over to oblivion, the abodes of moths. 
Amongst these nevertheless, as time served, we sat down 
more voluptuously than the delicate physician could do amidst 
his stores of aromatics ; and where we found an object of love, 
we found also full enjoyment. Thus the sacred vessels of 
science came Into our power some being given, some sold, 
and not a few lent for a time.* 

" Without doubt, many who perceived us to be contented 
with gifts of this kind, studied to contribute those things 
freely to our use. We took care, however, to conduct the 

* A modern deceased Lord Chancellor was said to have collected a very 
complete law library by borrowing books from the bar which he forgot to 
return. If so, he only acted on the maxims of his predecessor De Bury : 

" Quiquis theologus, quisquis legista peritus 
Vis fieri ; niultos semper habeto libros. 
Non in mente manet quicquid non vidimus ipsi. 
Quisque sibi libros vendicet ergo. Vale." p. 151. 

VOL. I. Q 


CHAP, business of such so favourably, that the profit might accrue 
^^^'' to them: justice therefore suffered no detriment. 

" Moreover, if we would have amassed cups of gold and 
silver, excellent horses, or no mean sums of money, we could 
in those days have laid up abundance of wealth for ourselves ; 
but indeed wc wished for books, not bags ; we delighted 
more in folios than florins, and preferred paltry pamphlets to 
pampered palfreys. 

" In addition to this, we were charged with the frequent 
embassies of the said Prince, of everlasting memory, and, 
owing to the multiplicity of state affairs, were sent first to 
the Roman Chair, then to the Court of France, then to 
various other kingdoms of the world, on tedious embassies 
and in perilous times, carrying about with us, however, that 
fondness for books which many waters could not extinguish ; 
for this, like a certain drug, sweetened the wormwood of 
peregrination ; this, after the perplexing intricacies, scru- 
pulous circumlocutions of debate, and almost inextricable 
labyrinths of public business, left an opening for a little 
Avhile to breathe the temperature of a milder atmosphere. 
O blessed God of gods in Sion ! what a rush of the flood of 
pleasure rejoiced our heart as often as we visited Paris, the 
paradise of the world ! There we longed to remain, where, 
on account of the greatness of our love, the days ever ap- 
peared to us to be few. In that city are delightful libraries 
in cells redolent of aromatics ; there flourishing green-houses 
of all sorts of volumes ; there academic meads trembling with 
the earthquake of Athenian peripatetics pacing up and down ; 
there the promontories of Parnassus, and the porticos of the 
Stoics. There, in very deed, with an open treasury and 
untied purse-strings, we scattered money with a light heart, 
and redeemed inestimable books from dirt and dust. 

" Again. We will add a most compendious way by which 
a great multitude of books, as well old as new, came into our 
hands. Never indeed having disdained the poverty of re- 
ligious devotees, assumed for Christ, we never held them in 
abhorrence, but admitted them from all parts of the world 
into the kind embraces of our compassion ; we allured them 
with most familiar affability into a devotion to our person. 


and, ha vino; allured, cherished them for the love of God with CHAP. 

. . . XIII. 

munificent liberality, as if we were the common benefactor of ' 

them all, but nevertheless with a certain propriety of patron- 
age, that we might not appear to have given preference to 
any, to these under all circumstances we became a refuge; 
to these we never closed the bosom of our favour. Where- 
fore we deserved to have those as the most peculiar and 
zealous promoters of our wishes, as well by their personal as 
their mental labours, who, going about by sea and land, sur- 
veying the whole compass of the earth, and also inquiring 
into the general studies of the Universities of the various 
provinces, were anxious to administer to our wants, under a 
most certain hope of reward. 

" Amongst so many of the keenest hunters, what leveret 
could lie hid ? What fry could evade the hook, the net, or 
the trawl of these men ? From the body of divine law, 
down to the latest controversial tract of the day, nothing 
could escape the notice of these scrutinisers. If a devout 
sermon resounded at the fount of Christian faith, the most 
holy Roman court, or if an extraneous question were to be 
sifted on account of some new pretext; if the dulness of 
Paris, which now attends more to studying antiquities than 
to subtly producing truth ; if English perspi(;acity overspread 
with ancient lights, always emitted new rays of truth 
whatsoever it promulgated, either for the increase of know- 
ledge or in declaration of the faith this, while recent, was 
poured into our ears, not mystified by imperfect nar- 
ration nor corrupted by absurdity, but from the press of 
the purest presser it passed, dregless, into the vat of our 
memory." * 

He does not himself seem to have been much acquainted His en- 
with Grecian lore, but he was fully convinced of its value, ^ourage- 

' ^ ' ^ ' ment to the 

and he says, that " ignorance of the Greek language is at study of 
this day highly injurious to the study of Latin authors ; with- 
out it, neither Gentile nor Christian writings can be fully 
comprehended. Wherefore, we have taken care to provide 
for our scholars a Greek as well as a Hebrew grammar, with 

Pp. 5056. 
Q 2 






His de- 
of the bad 
usage of 

certain adjuncts, by the help of which, studious readers may 
be instructed in writing, reading, and understanding those 
languages, although hearing them spoken can alone give a 
perfect knowledge of their idiom." 

He is nowhere more entertaining than in describing and 
reprobating the ill-usage to which the clasp-books of his 
time were liable : " You will perhaps see a stiff-necked youth, 
lounging sluggishly in his study : while the frost pinches him 
in winter time, oppressed with cold, his watery nose drops, 
nor does he take the trouble to wipe it with his handkerchief 
till it has moistened the book beneath it with its vile dew. 
For such a one I would substitute a cobbler's apron in the 
place of his book. He has a nail like a giant's, perfumed 
with stinking ordure, with which he points out the place of 
any pleasant subject. He distributes innumerable straws in 
various places, with the ends in sight, that he may recall by 
the mark what his memory cannot retain. These straws, 
which the stomach of the book never digests, and which no- 
body takes out, at first distend the book from its accustomed 
closure, and being carelessly left to oblivion, at last become 
putrid. He is not ashamed to eat fruit and cheese over an 
open book, and to transfer his empty cup from side to side 
upon it : and because he has not his alms-bag at hand, he 
leaves the rest of the fragments in his books. He never ceases 
to chatter with eternal garrulity to his companions ; and while 
he adduces a multitude of reasons void of physical meaning, 
he waters the book, spread out upon his lap, with the sputter- 
ing of his saliva. What is worse, he next reclines with his 
elbows on the book, and by a short study invites a long nap ; 
and by way of repairing the wrinkles, he twists back the 
margins of the leaves, to the no small detriment of the volume. 
He goes out in the rain, and returns, and now flowers make 
their appearance upon our soil. Then the scholar we are 
describing, the neglecter rather than the inspector of books, 
stuffs his volume with firstling violets, roses, and quadrifoils. 
He will next apply his wet hands, oozing with sweat, to 
turning over the volumes, then beat the white parchment all 
over with his dusty gloves, or hunt over the page, line by 
Ime, with his fore-finger covered with dirty leather. Then, 


as the flea bites, the holy book is thrown aside, which, how- CHAP, 
ever, is scarcely closed once in a month, and is so swelled 

with the dust that has fallen into it, that it will not yield to 
the efforts of the closer."* 

I can only venture on one other extract, which goes to Gross igno- 
show why the Chancellors in those days were ecclesiastics, t^e*laity. 
and exposes the gross ignorance which prevailed among lay- 
men, who, being unable to read, did not know how to 
hold a book, and are coupled with " dirty scullions : " " Far- 
thermore, laymen, to whom it matters not whether they 
look at a book turned wrong side upwards or spread 
before them in its natural order, are altogether unworthy of 
any communion with books. Let the clerk also take order 
that the dirty scullion, stinking from the pots, do not touch 
the leaves of books, unwashed."! 

Like a Bishop and an Ex-chancelloi', he properly concludes Scriptural 
by supporting his doctrine with the highest authorities. f"J'^akb^^ 
" The most meek Moses instructs us about making cases great care 
for books in the neatest manner, wherein they may be safely 
preserved from all damage. Take this book, says he, and put 
it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. 
O befitting place, made of imperishable Shittim wood, and 
covered all over, inside and out, with gold ! But our Saviour 
also, by his own example, precludes all unseemly negligence 
in the treatment of books, as may be read in Luke iv. For 
when he had read over the scriptural prophecy written about 
himself, in a book delivered to him, he did not return it till 
he had first closed it with his most holy hands; by which 
act students are most clearly taught that they ought not, in 
the smallest degree whatever, to be negligent about the cus- 
tody of books." + He might well say of himself " ecstatic 
quodam librorum amore potenter se abreptum." 

Pp. 97, 98. t P. 100. 

\ P. 101. Luke, iv. 20. " And he closed the book, and he gave it again to 
the minister, and sat down." 

As it was said that Garth did not write his own " Dispensary," the 
Philohiblon has been attributed to Holcot, a Dominican friar, who was the 
author's amanuensis', hut without any reason, for it bears the strongest 
internal evidence of being the composition of the Chancellor De Bury himself; 

See " Bibliographical and Retrospective Miscellany," Art. De Bury. 
Q 3 


CHAP From his book-buying propensity, then much more costly 

^ than in our time, he got into pecuniary difficulties, and he was 

obliged to pledge to Lord Neville of Raby, for 100/., a set of 
gorgeous church vestments, of red velvet, embroidered with 
gold, and pearls, and imagery. * 
Death and He died at Bishops Auckland on the 14th of April 1345, 
Richard de f^U of years and of honours. Fourteen days after his death 
^uty. he was buried "quodammodo honorifice, non tamen cum 
honore satis congruo," says Chambre, before the altar of 
His merit, the blcssed Mary Magdalene, in his own cathedral. But 
the exalted situation he occupied in the opinion and es- 
teem of Petrarch and other eminent literary men of the 
fourteenth century, shed brighter lustre on his memory than 
it could have derived from funeral processions, or from monu- 
ments and epitaphs. " What can be more delightful to a 
lover of his country's intellectual reputation, than to 
find such a character as De Bury in such an age of war 
and bloodshed, uniting the calm and mild conduct of a le- 
gislator with the sagacity of a philosopher and the elegant 
mind of a scholar ? " f 
June 6. On De Bury's resignation of the Great Seal in 1335, it 

Arch- ^^^ restored to Archbishop Stratford, whose second Chan- 

bishopjohn ccllorship extended to 1337. | 

Chancellor From the groundless claim set up by the Plantage- 
the second nets to the crown of France against the house of Valois, 


Claim of ^^^ began the bloody wars which lasted above a century, 
Edw. III. and which laid the foundation of that jealousy and hostile 
crown of rivalry between the two nations, which unfortunately has 
France. never since entirely subsided. While the great bulk of the 
people of England eagerly supported the warlike measures of 
the King, it ought to be recorded to the immortal honour of 

It was attributed to him by his contemporaries, and a notice on an early copy 
of it says: " Quod opus (Philobiblon) Auclandia in habitatione sua com- 
plevit 24 die Januarii, anno a communis salutis origine 1344, aetatis sua 58, 
et 1 1 sui pontificatus." 

* After his death, Lord Neville being informed of his intention to leave these 
vestments to his successors, generously restored them, and they remained the 
boast of the see of Durham till the Reformation. 

t Dibdin, Bibliomania, p. 247. I am rather surprised that a " De Bury 
Club " has not yet been established by Philobiblists, as he was undoubtedly the 
founder of the order in England. 

\ Rot. CI. 9 Ed. 3. m. 28. 


this Chancellor, that he dissuaded the enterprise in Its com- CHAP. 
mencement, and always strove for the restoration of peace at 
the hazard of offending the King, and with the certainty of 
incurring public odium by combating the popular delusion. 

It must be confessed, that on this occasion we not only 
were the aggressors, but that there was not even any plausible 
or colourable pretence for going to war. No national griev- 
ance could be urged, for the French had merely assisted the 
Scotch in fulfilment of ancient treaties. Then, as to the 
family dispute, by the Salic law which had regulated 
the descent of the crown of France from the foundation 
of the monarchy, no female could wear the crown, so that 
no claim to the crown could be made through a female, and 
the title of Philip de Yalois, Avhich Edward himself had, 
though reluctantly, recognised by doing homage to him 
as his liege Lord, was unquestionable, both by hereditary 
right and the general consent of the French people. But 
the glaring absurdity in the claim was, that If the Salic law 
were entirely disregarded, and female descent were admitted 
in France as in England, there were females in existence, 
and males descended through females, whose title was clearly 
preferable to that of Edward.* 

Archbishop Stratford resigned the Great Seal the second Reslgna- 
tlme lust before Edward assumed the title of King of France ^''u j 

^ _ " _ John de 

with the armorial bearings of that crown, and set out on his Stratford. 
first expedition to support his title. There is great reason to 
think that it was the Chancellor's pacific policy which led to 
his retreat. Still, however, he was on good terms with the 
King, and his brother was appointed to succeed him. f 

Robert de Stratford appears to have been almost as a.d. 1337. 
much distinguished for ability, and to have had a career stratford 
almost as brilliant as John, and they exhibit the single Chancellor, 
instance of two brothers holding successively the office of 
Lord Chancellor. He, too, had studied at Oxford, and had 

* This was the sensible view of the question taken by the Chancellor, who 
gave very different advice to Edward III. from that which, according to 
Shakspeare, was given by Archbishop Chicheley to Henry V. 

K. Hen. " May 1 with right and conscience make this claim?" 
Archb. " The sin upon my head, dread Sovereign." 
i Rot. CI. 1] Ed. 3. ra. 29. 

<J 4 


CHAP, gained the highest honours of the University. When the 
XIII. Crreat Seal was delivered to him his rank in the Church was 
only that of Archdeacon of Canterbury, but he was soon 
after raised to the see of Chichester ; and he was elected 
Chancellor of the University of Oxford, probably as much 
from hopes excited by his present power as from the recol- 
lection of his academical proficiency. He had several times 
previously been intrusted with the custody of the Great Seal 
as Vice-chancellor, and he must have been familiar with the 
duties of the oflSce ; but, on account of his many avocations* 
soon after his elevation he delivered the Great Seal into the 
keeping of St. Paul, the Master of the Rolls, who was to act 
as his deputy. * 
ByNTE. He continued Chancellor till the 6th of July, 1338, when 

WORTH, j^g retired for a time, and was succeeded by Richard de 

Chancellor. ' ' 

Bynteworth, or Bentworth, or WentworthI, Bishop 
elect of London. What was the reason of this change I 
have not been able to discover. The Stratfords do not seem 
then to have lost the favour of the King, and while he was 
engaged in preparing to prosecute the French war, they still 
assisted him with their counsels, however much they might 
disapprove of his measures. 
His his- I find little respecting the history of the new Chancellor 

*^y- except that he had been a prebendary of St. Paul's. He 

enjoyed for a very short time his new dignities. Having 
received the Great Seal and been sworn in as Chancellor at 
Walton, he immediately returned the Seal to the King, 
being obliged to go to London to be consecrated. It was 
then given in charge to St. Paul and Baumburgh, to keep 
until the Chancellor should be returned to court. The King 
left England for France on the 11th of July, having sent 
them a new Great Seal, which he wished to be used in 
England during his absence, he taking abroad with him the 
Great Seal before in use. The temporary Seal was delivered 

* Rot. Cl. 11 Ed. 3. 

t Rot. Cl. 12 Ed. 3. This is an instance of B and W being interchangeable, 
of which we have another in the Bicestre at Paris, built by the Bishop of Win- 
chester, Vincester Bincester, Bicestre. So in some parts of England walnuts 
are called halnuts or bonnets. In the Spanish language every v is convertible 
into 6. Hence the felicitous pun : " Beati quibus rivere est 6ibere." 


to the Chancellor on the 19th of July*, and continued in his CHAP, 


possession till the 7th of December in the following year, 

when he suddenly died. j^ n 1339 

The Seal was delivered the next morning, by two of the His death, 
officers of the deceased Chancellor to the Archbishop of Can- 
terbury, who immediately sent it to the Council appointed 
by the King to administer the government in his absence. 
They handed it over to three persons to be used for sealing 
necessary writs, and on the 16th of February following it 
was placed in the sole custody of the Master of the Rolls, by 
virtue of a letter of Prince Edward, Guardian of the realm. 

The King having returned to England in about a fortnight 
after, he delivered to the Master of the Rolls a new Seal, 
which he had brought with him from France, with the fleur- 
de-lys engraved upon it, impressions of which were sent into 
every county in England for the purpose of making it gene- 
rally known, t 

On the 28th of April, 1340, John de Stratford, Arch- John de 
bishop of Canterbury, was made Lord Chancellor for the rh*'^'j^' 
third time. The King was again to pass beyond the seas, the third 
and he placed this old public servant at the head of the *'^* 
Council to govern in his absence, in the belief that he was the 
fittest man that could be selected to obtain supplies from 
Parliament, to levy the subsidies that might be voted, and to 
raise men for the war now carrying on to win the crown of 

While Edward lay at the siege of Tournay a parliament a. d. 1340. 
was held by commission at Westminster, and the Chancellor, ^ P^rl'a- 

' ' merit. 

on the 7th of July, the first day of the session, declared that 
it had been summoned " to consult what farther course was 
best for the King and his allies to take against France. "| 
Liberal supplies in money and provisions were voted, and 
notwithstanding the charge of treachery or remissness after- 
wards brought against the Archbishop, he seems to have 
exerted himself to the utmost to render them available to the 
public service. 

On account of his infirmity of body he again resigned the Kesi-rna- 

tion of 
Rot. CI. 12 Ed. 3. m. 22. f Rot. CI. 14 Ed. 3. m. 42. 

\ 1 Pari. Hist, 99. 




John de 
and re- 
ment of 

tration of 
the Strat- 

Their fall. 
ments of 
the King. 

His sudden 

ment of 
the Lord 


against the 

tages and 
tages of 
to office of 

office of Chancellor, and the King again appointed Robert 
Stratford, Bishop of Chichester, as his successor.* 

The two brothers continued jointly to manage the King's 
affairs in England without the slightest suspicion of any 
change in his sentiments towards them till his sudden and 
wrathful return, when they were dismissed from their em- 
ployments, and, but for their sacred character as ecclesiastics, 
would have been in great danger of losing their heads. 

Edward had derived no fruits from the great naval victory 
he had lately gained on the coast of Flanders, and though he 
had commanded a more numerous army than ever before or 
since served under the banner of an English sovereign, he 
had been able to make no progress in his romantic enterprise. 
He had incurred immense debts with the Flemings, for which 
he had even pawned his own person. The remittances from 
England came in much slower than he expected, and he found 
it convenient to throw the blame on those he had left in 
aifthority at home. 

He escaped from his creditors, and after encountering a 
violent tempest, arrived at the Tower of London in the 
middle of the night of the 30th of November. He began by 
committing to prison and treating with unusual rigour the 
constable and others who had charge of the Tower, on pre- 
tence that it was negligently guarded. His vengeance then 
fell on the Lord Chancellor, whom next day he deprived of 
his office, and ventured for some time to detain in prison. 

Nay more, he inveighed against the whole order of the 
priesthood as unfit for any secular employment, and he as- 
tonished the kingdom by the bold innovation of appointing a 
layman as Chancellor. Considering how ecclesiastics in 
those ages had entrenched themselves in privileges and im- 
munities, so that no civil penalty could regularly be inflicted 
upon them for any public malversation, and that they were 
so much in the habit, when once elevated to high station by 
royal favour, of preferring the extension of priestly domi- 

Ilot. CI. 14 Ed. .'}. m. 13. Upon this occasion the Great Seal was broken 
on account of a change in the King's armorial bearings, and another Seal, with 
an improved emh\^zomnent of the Jieur-de-lys, was delivered by the King, when 
embarking for France, to St. Paul, the Master of the Rolls, to be carried to the 
new Chancellor. 


nation to gratitude or respect for temporal authority, it seems CHAP. 

at first sight wonderful that the great offices of state were |__ 

ever bestowed upon them. On the other hand, there were 
peculiar causes which favoured their promotion. Being the 
only educated class, they were best qualified for civil em- 
ployments requiring knowledge and address ; when raised to 
the prelacy they enjoyed equal dignity with the greatest 
barons, and gave weight by their personal authority to the 
official powers intrusted to them, while at the same time 
they did not excite the envy, jealousy, and factious combi- 
nations which always arose when laymen of obscure birth 
were elevated to power. They did not endanger the Crown by 
accumulating wealth or influence in their families, and they 
were restrained by the decency of their character from that 
open rapine and violence so often practised by the nobles.* 
These motives had hitherto induced Edward to follow the 
example of his predecessors, and to employ ecclesiastics as 
his ministers, at the risk of their turning against him and 
setting him at defiance. But, finding that by the Clementine 
Constitutions he was obliged immediately to release the dis- 
missed Chancellor from prison, and that the Archbishop, 
whom he likewise wished to call to account, fulminated an 
excommunication against him, he resolved in future to employ 
only men whom he could control and punish. 

* Hume's Hist. vol. ii. p. 409. 






Dec. 14. 


Sir Robeet 




His birth 
and mili- 
tary career. 

and death 
of Ex- 
Robert de 

The first lay Lord Chancellor appointed by an English king 
was Sir Robert Bourchier, Knight *, a distinguished 

He was the eldest son of Sir John Bourchier, a Judge of 
the Court of Common Pleas, the representative of a family 
long seated at Halstead, in Essex, His education was very 
slender, being engaged in military adventures from early 
youth ; but he showed great capacity as well as courage in 
the field, and was a particular favourite of King Edward III., 
whom he accompanied in all his campaigns. In 1337 he 
was at the battle of Cadsant, and had lately before Tournay 
witnessed the discomfiture of all Edward's mighty prepar- 
ations for the conquest of France. He joined in the loud 
complaints against the ministers who had been appointed to 
superintend the supplies and levies at home, and in the ad- 
vice that the Stratfords should be punished for their supposed 

The resolution being taken to put down the ascendancy of 
ecclesiastics, from the shrewdness and energy of this stout 
knight, he was thought a fit instrument to carry it into 
effect, and not only was the Great Seal delivered to him, but 
he was regarded as the King's chief councillor. 

After Robert de Stratford, the late Chancellor, had been 
released from prison, he made submission, and it was agreed 
to take no farther steps against him. He appears now to 
have retired from politics, and we read no more of him except 
that he acquired great applause for the prudence with which 

Rot. CI. 14 Ed. 3. m. 10. 


he suppressed a mighty sedition in the University of Oxford, CHAP, 
arising from the opposite factions of the northern and southern 
scholars, the former, by reason of the many grievances they 
complained of, having retired for a time to Stamford in 
Lincolnshire. He afterwards resided entirely in his diocese. 
His life was prolonged to the 9th of April, 1392. 

But it was determined to take ample vengeance on Ex- Prosecu- 
chancellor John de Stratford, to whose mismanagement was chancellor" 
imputed the bad success of the war, and who continued to John de 
defy the power of the Crown. 

First came a proclamation under the Great Seal, framed 
by Lord Chancellor Bourchier, and ordered to be read in all 
churches and chapels, charging the Ex-chancellor with 
having intercepted the supplies granted to the King, and 
either with having appropriated them to himself, or having 
diverted them from their legitimate objects. To this Strat- 
ford opposed a pastoral letter, victoriously refuting the 

But a parliament was always considered the ready engine A parlla- 
of vengeance in the hands of the dominant party, and one was ^" * 
summoned to meet at Westminster, in April, 1341. Still 
some apprehensions were entertained from the sacred cha- 
racter of the party to be accused, and from his eloquence 
and influence if he were regularly heard in his own defence. 
The King and his military Chancellor therefore resorted to Writ of 
the unconstitutional step of withholding from him a writ of refused to 
summons, thinking that he might thus be prevented from the Arch- 
appearing in the Upper House. The Ex-chancellor, nothing 
appalled, sent a remonstrance to the King, stating (among Hisremon- 
other things), " that there were two powers by which the ^*''^"'''^* 
world was governed, the holy, pontifical, apostolic dignity, 
and the royal subordinate authority ; that of these two powers 
the clerical was evidently the supreme, since priests were to 
answer at the tribunal of the Divine judgment for the 
conduct of Kings themselves ; that the clergy were the 
spiritual fathers of all the faithful, and therefore of Kings and 
Princes, and were entitled by a heavenly charter to direct 
their wills and actions, and to censure their transgressions ; 
and that Prelates had heretofore cited Emperors before their 




His ap- 
in Palace 

tion against 
liim in Ex- 

over the 

conduct of 
House of 

tribunal, had sat in judgment on their life and behaviour, and 
had anathematised them for their obstinate offences." * 

On the day when parliament met the Archbishop showed 
himself before the gates of Westminster Hall, arrayed in 
his pontifical robes, holding the crosier in his hand, and 
attended by a pompous train of priests. This ceremony 
being finished, he was proceeding to the chamber where 
the Peers were assembled, but he was forbid by the captain 
of the guard to enter. While demanding admittance, he 
was seized by officers and carried to the bar of the Court of 
Exchequer, where he was called upon to plead to an Inform- 
ation which had been filed against him by the Attorney- 
General, and which treated him as a great pecuniary 
defaulter to the Crown. He then stationed himself in Palace 
Yard, and solemnly protested that he would not stir Aom 
that place till the King gave him leave to come into par- 
liament, or a sufficient reason why he should not. Standing 
there in this manner, with the emblems of his holy office, 
some that were by began to revile him, saying to him, 
" Thou art a traitor : thou hast deceived the King and be- 
'trayed the realm." He answered them, " The curse of Al- 
mighty God and of his blessed Mother, and of St. Thomas, 
and mine also, be upon the heads of them that inform the 
King so. Amen, amen." 

During two days the King rejected his application; but 
he petitioned the Peers against the injury thus offered to the 
first Peer in the realm, and the House took it up as a matter 
of privilege. The King agreed to a personal conference with 
him in the Painted Chamber, and after some discussion, con- 
sented to his taking his seat in the House, but his Majesty 
then abruptly withdrew, and employed Sir John Darcy and 
Sir William Killesby to accuse him before the citizens of 
London and the House of Commons. 

The Lords, alarmed for the rights and honour of their 
body, prayed the King to acknowledge, that when a Peer was 
impeached by the Crown for high crimes and misdemeanours, 
he could not be compelled to plead before any other tribunal 

* 1 St. Tr. 57. 


than the House of Peers ; and when Edward obiected that CHAP. 


such an acknowledgment would be prejudicial to the public 

interests, and derogatory to the royal prerogatives, they re- 134Q 

quested his permission to refer the matter to a committee of i34i. 
four prelates, four earls, and four barons. The committee 
reported, as an undeniable principle, " that no Peer could be 
arraigned or brought to judgment, except in parliament and 
by his peers." This was unanimously approved of by the 
House, and embodied in an address to the King.* 

The apprehension of serious consequences from this rup- King 
ture, and the necessity of procuring a supply, induced submits. 
Edward to declare that he was willing that the charge should 
drop. The triumph of the Primate was complete, for he now 
desired that, " whereas he had been publicly defamed through 
the realm, he might be arraigned in open parliament before 
his peers ; " but the King adjourned the matter to the next 
parliament, and then he ordered all the proceedings against 
him to be annulled and vacated. In truth, the Ex-chan- 
cellor's crime consisted in expostulating with the King about 
his profuseness, and in persuading him to make peace with 

He lived seven years afterwards, universally honoured and His death 
beloved ; and at his death, after founding and endowing a ^"*^ '^^'^' 
college at his native place, he left all his estate to his ser- 
vants and domestics. He is said to have been " a man of a 
mild and gentle nature, more inclinable to pardon the guilty 
than to punish them with severity, and very charitable to 
the poor." f 

Bourchier, during his short Chancellorship, was entirely 

* 1 St. Tr. 65. They further insisted that no Peer who had been employed 
in the great offices of the Crown should, in respect of his office, be called before 
any other court of justice, and that in such a case he ought not to be arraigned 
at the prosecution of the King, nor lose his temporalities, lands, tenements, 
goods, or chattels, nor be arrested, imprisoned, or outlawed, nor plead nor re- 
ceive judgment, except in full parliament and before his peers, although they 
admitted that a peer in receipt of the King's monies ought to account in the 
Exchequer, and also that a Peer if he pleased might plead before another court, 
but without prejudice to the rights of the peerage, as far as regarded others or 
himself, on future occasions. This early case of privilege by no means settled 
the law on the subject, for it is only in cases of treason and felony that a Peer is 
entitled to be tried by his peers, and this immunity is restricted to Peers noble by 
blood, so that the prelates are triable in all cases by a jury. See 1 St. Tr. 57, 

t See 1 Pari. Hist. 101. 


CHAP, occupied with the King's political business, particularly in the 
^'^' management of his diplomacy, the duties of foreign secre- 

Conduct of ^^U ^^ state, which were transacted by the Chancellor, being 
Lord Chan- at tliis time very onerous. He transferred the Great Seal 
Bourchier. almost always into the custody of the Master of the Rolls or 
the King's Chamberlain, who sealed writs, and ordinarily sat 
in the Court of Chancery, although, on great occasions, the 
Lord Chancellor himself, notwithstanding his inexperience, 
attended in person, and decided according to his own notions 
of law and equity. 
King him- The King sometimes took the Seal into his own keep- 
the Seal ^o' without meaning to make any change in the office of 
Chancellor. On the 7th of August in this year, Bourchier 
having experienced no loss of favour, and not meaning to 
resign his oflSce, under an order he received to that effect, 
sent the Seal to the palace by Ralph Lord Stafford and 
Philip de Weston. The King kept it in his own possession 
till the next day, and having sealed some grants with it, he 
returned it to the Chancellor.* 
Complaints If there had been complaints of ecclesiastical Chancellors, 
Lord tbis experiment of conferring the office on an illiterate lay- 

Chancellor man, who neglected its duties, caused unprecedented dis- 

Bourchier. .. -, ...p pit 

satisfaction ; and there was an agitation in favour of the plan 
for restraining the prerogative of the Crown in the appoint- 
ment of its officers, which had distracted the weak reigns of 
Henry III. and Edward II. 
Attempts The matter was taken up by the legislature, and the Com- 

ment to mons, by petition to the King, prayed (tantamount to pass- 
regulate ing a bill) " that the Chancellor, together with the other great 
pointment officcrs, might be chosen in open parliament, and that, at the 
cdior^"" ^^"^^ *"^^' *^^^ should be openly sworn to obey the laws of 
the land and Magna Charta." 

The ferment in the public mind was so great, and such 
was the necessity for soothing the Commons with a view to 
a supply, that the King did not venture to put a direct veto 
upon this proposal, and he yielded thus much, " that if any 
such office, by the death or other failure of the incumbent, 

Rot. Cl. 15 Ed. 3. m. 34. 


become void, the choice to remain solely with the King, he CHAP.*" 
taking therein the assent of his Council, but that every such 

officer shall be sworn at the next parliament, according to the ^^n. 1341^ 
petition ; and that every parliament following, the King shall 
resume into his hands all such offices, so as the said officers 
shall be left liable to answer all objections."* 

The Commons expressed themselves satisfied with this statute for 
concession, and the Prelates and Barons approving of the P^'''*'aicai 

' 1 1 o resumption 

arrangement for the periodical resumption of offices, with a of office of 
view to facilitate charges against those who had filled them, ^^^^^ *"' 
the three estates made a request to the King, that the pe- 
tition and answer might be reduced into the form of a 
statute. This being done, the statute was read aloud in the 
King's presence, and he publicly assented to it, having se- 
cretly entered a protest against it. 

His officers who were present were then called upon to Oath to 
swear to observe the statute ; and to render the oath more observe the 
binding, it was required to be taken on the cross of Canter- 
bury, then in attendance on the Archbishop. Several took 
the oath without hesitation ; but when it came to the turn of 
Lord Chancellor Bourchier he refused it, as contrary to his ' 
former oath of allegiance and to the laws of the realm. Never- 
theless, he exemplified the statute under the Great Seal, and 
delivered it to the Lords and Commons, f This was only to Edward's 
delude them ; for no sooner was parliament dissolved than, peifidious 
by his advice, the King attempted to revoke the concession the statute. 
by a proceeding more extraordinary than that by which he 
had submitted to it. An order in council was made abro- 
gating the obnoxious statute, on the ground that the King 
by force had suffiired it to pass into law ; and special writs 
were directed to all the peers and to all sheriffs of England, 
declaring it to be null and void, and ordering proclamation to 
be made to that effect. The preamble of these writs (no 
doubt the composition of the gallant Lord Chancellor) must 
be allowed to be very simple and plain-spoken : " Whereas ~ 
some time since, in our parliament at "Westminster, there was 
a certain petition made contrary to the laws and customs of 

Rot. Pari. 15 Ed. .3. See also stat. 15 Ed. 3. II. 1. cc. 3 & 4, 
t 1 Pari. Hist. 104. 

VOL. I. R 




A.I). 1341. 

the King 
and Ex- 
John de 

Eno-land, and not only very prejudicial but reproachful also 
to our royal dignity, which, if we had not permitted to be 
drawn into a statute, the said parliament had been without 
success, and dissolved in discord, and so our wars with France 
and Scotland had very likely (which God forbid) been in 
ruin; and we, to avoid such dangers, permitting protest- 
ations of revoking those things, when we could conveniently, 
that had been so extorted from us against our will, yet per- 
mitted them to be sealed with our seal at that time, and 
afterwards, by the advice and assent of certain earls, barons, 
and other wise men " (meaning the privy council), " for lawful 
causes, because we never consented to the making of the 
statute, but as it then behoved us, we dissembled in the 
premises, we have declared it null, and that it ought not to 
have the name and force of a statute, we willing, &c." 

The Ex-chancellor John Stratford showed great zeal on the 
opposite side, and considering that an oath had been taken on 
his cross of Canterbury to observe the statute, he summoned 
a provincial council for the purpose of hurling excommuni- 
cation against all who should dare to infringe it. 

Lord Chancellor Bourchier then sent him a writ of prohi- 
bition under the Great Seal in the King's name, in these 
words : 

" We understand you have summoned a provincial council to 
meet at London on the morrow of St. Luke next coming, in which 
you intend to excite the bishops of your province against us, and 
to ordain and declare some things prejudicial to us about confirm- 
ing the said pretended statute, and for the enervation, depression, 
and diminution of our royal jurisdiction, rights, and prerogatives 
for the preservation whereof we are bound by oath ; and that you 
intend to promulge grievous censures concerning these things ; 
we, willing to prevent so great mischief, do strictly forbid that in 
that council you dare to propound, or any way attempt, or cause to 
be attempted, any thing in derogation or diminution of our royal 
dignity, power, or rights, or of the laws and customs of our king- 
dom, or in confirmation of the pretended statute, or otherwise in 
contumely of our name and honour, or to the grievance or disad- 
vantage of our counsellors or servants : and know ye, that if ye do 
these things, we will prosecute you as our enemy and violator of 
our rights with as much severity as lawfully we may." 


A violent crisis seemed now at hand, and men speculated CHAP. 

diflPerently upon the probable triumph of the mitre or the |__ 

crown ; but Edward dexterously avoided the danger by sacri- ^^ ,,. 1341. 

ficins: the Chancellor whose unpopularity and imprudence ^}"S re- 

. . . .fY,\t , . . solves to sa- 

had involved him in such difficulties, and by appomtmg a crifice the 

successor who must unite the suffrages of the whole kingdom c^ianceiior 

c" to public 

in his favour. discontent. 

On the 28th of October, 1341, Bourchier was dismissed Dismissal 
from the office of Chancellor, and on the following day, to the "j^jgr""'^" 
great joy of the people, it was conferred on a man who had 
been regularly bred to the bar, who had already filled 
judicial offices with great credit, and who enjoyed the highest 
reputation for integrity as well as for learning and ability.* 
This excellent appointment operated instantly to allay the 
storm, t All discontents were appeased ; the Archbishop's 
power was gone, and the obnoxious statute was no more 
thought of till two years afterwards, when it was in due 
form repealed by the parliament, then in good humour from 
the admirable conduct of the new Chancellor. J 

John de Stratford died soon after. He must have had Death of 
extraordinary talents and tact to raise himself from low de- celloVjohn 
gree first to be the favourite and friend, and then the rival de strat- 
for sway, of his heroic sovereign. 

We need not wonder that the elevation of Bourchier Dlsadvan- 
had been so unfortunate, notwithstanding his prior reputa- Lord 
tion. Most of his predecessors had been regularly trained in Chancellor 
the civil and canon law, and had risen in the gradual pro- 
gress of official advancement, while he was taken from camps 
in which he had spent his life to be placed in the marble 
chair in Chancery, and on the woolsack in the House of 
Lords. In this assembly likewise he was under a great dis- 
advantage, as he sat there without being, like the Prelates 
who had preceded him, a member of the House, and being 
merely permitted to put the question as prolocutor, so that 

* Rot. Cl. 16 Ed. 3. m. 19. 

f " Simul alba nautis 

Stella refulsit, 
Defluit saxis agitatus humor." 

I Cott. Abr. 38, 39. 

R 2 


CHAP, the office Nvhich he filled was shorn of its dignity and in- 

Boureiiier's Being restored to his proper sphere he soon recovered and 
subsequent increased his reputation. He was with Edward the Black 
Prince in the heat of the battle of Cressy, and was afterwards 
one of the ambassadors to treat with France for a peace. As a 
reward for his services he was summoned as a Peer to parlia- 
ment, and his family thus ennobled was long very flourishing, 
and became allied to the Crown. He died of the plague in 
the year 1349, leaving as his heir and successor in the peer- 
age, John his son, by his wife Margaret, daughter and heir 
of Sir Thomas de Preyers. 

He obtained from Edward III., in 1330, a grant of free 
warren in his twenty-one lordships in Essex, in 1336, a 
licence to impark his woods at Halstead, and in 1341, while 
he was Chancellor, a warrant to convert his house there into 
a battlemented castle. 
Oct. 29. Sir Robert Parnynge, who now held the Great Seal, was 


Sir Robert the first regularly bred common lawyer who was ever ap- 
Paknynge, pointed to the ofiice of Chancellor in England. I do not 

Chancellor. ^ i i 

find any account of his parentage or early education. He 
was probably of obscure origin, owing his rise to his talents 
and his industry. Having distinguished himself greatly for 
his proficiency in the study of the common law as a member 
of the inns of court, and as an utter barrister, he took the 
A. p. 1335. degree of the coif in the 8th of Edward III., and was soon 

His legal T^' 5 o 

studies. made a Kings Serjeant* "For his profound and excellent 
knowledge of the laws," he was, in Trinity term, 14 Ed. 3., 
created Chief Justice of England. On the 15th of De- 
cember following he was made Lord Treasurer of England, 
and he remained in that office till he was constituted Lord 
^ 1341. Chancellor.f 

Chan"ell '^^^ equitable jurisdiction of Chancery had been greatly 

he con. ' extended, and to the duties of his own Court the new Chan- 
sludy'the ^^^^^^ sedulously devoted himself. But he thought, as did. 
common Lord Eldon and tlie most celebrated of his successors, that the 
best qualification for an Equity Judge is not the mere drudgery 

* Orig. Jur. p. 43. f 4 Inst. 79. 



of drawing bills and answers, but a scientific knowledge of the 
common law ; and he further thought it essential that his 
knowledge of the common law should be steadily kept up by 
him Avhen Chancellor. " This man," says Lord Coke, " know- 
ing that he that knew not the common law, could never well 
judge in Equity (which is a just correction of law in some 
cases), did usually sit in the Court of Common Pleas (which 
court is the lock and key of the Common Law), and heard 
matters in law there debated, and many times would argue 
himself as in the Report, 17 Ed. 3., it appears."* 

It was only once, and for a very short time, that the 
Great Seal was out of his own custody while he was Chan- 
cellor. On the 16th of May, 1342, it was delivered to two 
great Barons, Henry de Lancaster, Earl of Derby, and 
William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton, not, as may well 
be supposed, for any judicial purpose, but to give effect to a 
proceeding whicli the Chancellor probably condemned and 
resisted. The Close Roll, 16 Ed. 3., states, that "imme- 
diately after the Earls above named had obtained possession 
of the Seal, they caused divers letters of pardon, * sectce pads 
regis,^ for homicide to be sealed, and ordered the same 
charters to be inrolled in Chancery without the payment of 
any fee, and afterwards the King re-delivered the Seal to the 

On the 4th of October, 1342, when the King was on board 
the George, at Sandwich, bound for Brittany, Lord Chan- 
cellor Parnynge delivered the Great Seal into his Majesty's 
hands, and another seal was delivered to him to be used in 
England during the King's absence, f On the 4th of March 
following, the King being returned, delivered to the Chan- 
cellor the Great Seal which he had taken with him into 
Brittany, and at the same time received back the seal which 
had been used in the interval. % 

There was only one parliament held while Parnynge was 
Chancellor, in which he presided with dignity, although the 
inconvenience was still felt of the Speaker not being a member 
of the House of Peers. The Commons, not from any dissa- 



Use of the 
Great Seal. 


April 23. 



pray that 


may be a 


* 4 Inst. 79. 

t Rot. CI. 16 Ed. 3. m. 32. 
R 3 

t Ibid. 




A.D. 1343, 

tisfaction with him, but rather, I presume, with a view that 
he might be raised to the peerage, petitioned the King " that 
the Chancellor may be a peer of the realm, and that no 
stranger be appointed thereunto, and that he attend not to 
any other office." Edward, much nettled, chose to consider 
this a wanton interference with his prerogative, and returned 
for answer : " Le Roi poet faire ses ministres come lui plaira, 
et come lui et ses ancestres ont fait en tut temps passez."* 

However, with the exception of this little breeze, there 
was great tranquillity during the session, and the Chancellor, 
by order of the House, having examined before them some of 
the King's officers respecting the war and the negotiation with 
France, the three estates concurred in advising the King to 
adhere to the truce which had been concluded with Philip, 
and to try to convert it into a permanent peace, though, if 
this should be unattainable, they would maintain his quarrel 
with all their power, f 

Parnynge's last appearance in public was in the august 
ceremony of the King creating his eldest son Prince of Wales 
in full parliament, investing him with a coronet, a gold ring, 
and a silver rod. 

It was now generally expected that he himself would be 
made a peer; but on the 26th of August, 1343, he suddenly 
Chancellor died Avhilc enjoying the full favour of his Prince and the 
entire confidence of his fellow-subjects. 

I cannot find any trace of his decisions while Chancellor; 
but we know that he is to be honoured as the first person 
who held the office with the requisite qualifications for the 
proper discharge of its important duties, and he must have 
laid the foundation-stone of that temple to justice, afterwards 
reared in such fair proportions by an Ellesmere, a Notting- 
ham, and a Hardwicke. 

The Great Seal was now for a short time (according to 
modern phraseology) ''in commission," that is to say, with- 
out the appointment of a Chancellor, it was intrusted to the 
Master of the Rolls and two others, jointly, for the despatch 

death of 


* 1 Pari. Hist. 105. 
t 1 Pari. Hist. 106. 

Rol. P. vol. ii. 140.'' 


cf all business connected with it*, and they held it till CHAP. 


Michaelmas-day following. On that day the Earl of "Warwick, 

by the King's command, sealed five charters of pardon with ^^ 1343 
it, and it was then delivered by the King to Egbert de Robert de 
Sadyngtgn as Chancellor, f ton, Chan- 

He was descended from a family of great eminence in the f^^^^or. 
law, the members of which had been successively Justices in ^^.^j.^ 
Eyre to Henry III., Edward I., and Edward 11. I do not 
find any account of his early career, except that he studied at 
the inns of court, and was regularly bred to the bar. He 
was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer 20th of March, 
11 Edward III., Vice-treasurer of England 25th of June, 
13 Edward III., and Lord Treasurer 2d of May, 14 Ed- 
ward III. 

He seems to have turned out a very indifferent equity Bad equity 
judge, and to have disappointed public expectation. Lord "" ^' 
Coke, eager to praise Chancellors taken from the common 
law, while he celebrates the merits of Parnynge and Knyvet, 
the contemporaries of Lord Chancellor Sadyngton, has not a 
word to say in his praise ; and he performed so indifferently 
as to reconcile the nation to the old practice of making eccle- 
siastical Chancellors. 

He presided at a parliament which met on the 7th of A parlm- 
June, 1344, and in the presence of the King and the Prince "^"** 
of Wales, declared the cause of this summons to be "con- 
cerning the late truce with France, and the breach of it by 
the French King, of which he gave seven particular in- 
stances ; and he desired the three estates of the realm to 
consider of those things, and that they would give him such 
advice and assistance as was necessary for the saving of his 
and their own rights and honours.":}: They answered, by 

* The entry of this commission on the Close Roll is curious, as almost the 
only one not in Latin. " Le Roi a ses chers Clercs Maistre de Tliorcsby, Johan 
de St. Paul, ct Thomas de Brayton, salutz. Come Mons. Robert Parnyng 
votre Chanceller soit a Dieu, mandez nous assurantz de vos sens et loialtez ; 
nous mandons que vous receivez notre Grant Seal en la presence de notre con- 
seil a Londres, et facez ceo que a I'office du dit Seal appeint come gardeins 
dicel tanquo nous eut corns autremont ordeinez. Done kouz notre sccre seal a 
West, le xxvj. jour d'Augst, I'an de notre regue d'Engleterre disseptisme et de 
France quartrieine." 17 Ed. 3. m. 24. 

t Rot. CI. 17 Ed. 3. m. 20. J 1 Pari. Hist. 109. 

B 4 




July 30. 



Return to 
tical Chan- 

the mouth of the Chancellor, that they " prayed him to make 
a speedy end of the war, either by battle or a proper peace, if 
such might be had ; and that when he had embarked to cross 
the seas he should not, for the letters or command of the 
Pope, or any other, lay aside his voyage until he had made 
an end one way or another." 

While Sadyngton was Chancellor, the King several times 
took the Great Seal from him for the purpose of sealing a 
charter of pardon (which seems to have been considered as 
the direct act of the Sovereign), and then restored it to him. 

When the King was sailing on his expedition to France, 
Sadyngton delivered the Great Seal to him at Sandwich, and 
received it back on Edward's return to England. The entry 
on the record of this ceremony is curious, as showing that 
the Chancellor now regularly sat in his court in West- 
minster Hall, surrounded by the Masters in Chancery as his 

Sadyngton was soon after obliged to give up the Great 
Seal altogether, having been found inefficient both in parlia- 
ment and in the court of chancery, and the complaints against 
him becoming so loud that the King was afraid the Commons 
might renew their efforts to wrest from the Crown the ap- 
pointment to the office of Chancellor. But a job was done 
for the Ex-chancellor, who had exerted himself to please his 
party. Chief Baron Stenford being induced to resign, Sa- 
dyngton was reinstated as head of the Court of Exchequer, 
where he continued to preside till his death.f 

The last experiment of a legal Chancellor had succeeded 
so indifferently that the King resolved, for his next choice, to 
return to the Church. There had been murmurs from the 
prelates, who considered the office of Chancellor as belonging 
to their order ; and it was perhaps thought that the causes 
of summoning a parliament, and the topics for a liberal supply 

* " Quod quidem sigillum idem Dominus Rex a Roberto de Sadyngton 
Cancellario suo super passagio suo versus dictas partes Flandriaj prius recessit 
eidemque Cancellario in quadam bursa inclusuin in Magna Aula Regis apud 
Westuionasterium in loco ubi idem Cancellarius communiter sedet inter Clericos 
Cancellaria> pro officio suo exercendo in prccsentia eorundem clericorum libera- 
vit." Hot. CI. 19 Ed. 3. p, 2. 

t Or. Jur. 47. 


would come with more effect from the holy lips of a mitred CHAP. 

occupant of the woolsack than from a profane lawyer, ' 

known to have practised as a retained advocate in West- ^d. 1345. 
minster Hall. 

On the 26th of October, 1345, in the room called "the John de 
Cage Chamber," in the palace at Westminster, the King jj^^^ ^^ 
delivered the Great Seal to John de Offord, Dean of Lincoln, 
Lincoln, to be held by him as Chancellor, and, having taken 
the oaths, on the following day he sealed writs and letters 
patent with it in the Court of Chancery in Westminster 

He was of noble extraction, being a younger son of Robert 
Earl of Suffolk. He was early dedicated to the church, and, 
as usual with those who hoped to rise in it, applying himself 
diligently to the study of the civil and canon law, he took the 
degree of Doctor utroque jure. From family interest, as well 
as personal merit, he soon got preferment, and being Dean of 
Lincoln, while still a young man he had a promise of the 
next vacant bishopric. 

He held the office of Chancellor, with great credit for five 
years, and would probably have been continued in it much 
longer but for his untimely death. 

At the parliament held in the beginning of the year 1347 Battle of 
he had the satisfaction of announcing the victory of Cressy, ^'"'^^^y- 
and of obtaining supplies larger than ever before voted, to 
enable the King to push on the siege of Calais.f 

The Commons, finding no fault with him as an equity Complaints 
judge, made an effort to reduce the fees payable upon writs '"en^ "*' 
out of Chancer}^, which were represented to be contrary to against 
the words of Magna Charta, " Nulli vendemus justitiam ; " but chancery. 
these constituted a branch of the royal revenue, which the 
King would not suffer to be touched, and he returned for . 
answer, " Unto the poor it shall be given /or God's sake, and 
it is reasonable that those who can afford to pay should pay, 
as they have been accustomed." | 

Offord remained in great favour with the King, and in 
September, 1348, while Chancellor, he was pi'omoted to the 

* Rot. Cl. m. 10. t 1 J'arL Hist. 111. 

X Rot. Pari. 21 Ed. 3. 

A.D. 1348. 


CHAP, sec of Canterbury. He had both the royal commendation 
* and the Papal provision for his elevation ; but he died before 
his consecration, and in all proceedings during the latter part 
of his time, he is designated " Archbishop of Canterbury 
elect, and Chancellor." * 

Lord Chancellor OfFord seems to have had the Great Seal 
always in his own keeping, unless when he parted with it for 
some temporary purpose. On the 28th of October, 1348, he 
delivered it to the Master of the Rolls to take to the King 
at Sandwich, then about to sail for the Continent. As soon 
as the King received it, he ordered certain commissions to be 
sealed with it, and then gave it to Andrew de OfFord to carry 
to his brother the Chancellor f, who did not afterwards part 
with it. 

He had got possession of the temporalities of his see, 
and was making great preparations for his inauguration, when 

One of the most curious of these is a writ which he sent in the King's 
name to the sheriffs of London, commanding them to make proclamation to 
different classes of suitors how respectively they were to obtain justice, and is 
supposed to show that the distinction between common law and equity was 
then fully established, and that the latter was not exclusively administered by 
the Chancellor, but by him or the Keeper of the Privy Seal, subject to the 
control of the King in Council. " Rex Vicecomit. London, salutem. Quia 
circa diversa negotia nos et statum regni nostri Angl. concernantia sumus in- 
dies multipliciter occupati, volumus quod quaelibet negotia tarn communem 
legem regni nostri Angl. quam gratiam nostram specialem concernantia penes 
nosmetipsos hab' prosequend' eadem negotia, videlicet negotia ad commu- 
nem legem penes venerab' virum elect' Cantuar' confirmat' Cancellarium nos- 
trum per ipsum expediend. et alia negotia de gratia nostra concedenda penes 
eundem Cancellarium seu dilectum clericum nostrum Custodem sigilli nostri 
privati prosequantur. Ita quod ipsi vel unus eorum petitiones, negotiorum 
quJE per eos nobis inconsultis expediri non poterunt, una cum advisamentis suis 
inde ad nos transmittant vel transmittal, absque alia prosecutione penes nos 
inde faciend' ut his inspectis ulterius praefato Cancellario, seu Custod inde 
significamus vtlle nostrum, et quod nullus alius hujusmodi negotia penes nos- 
metipsos de cffitero prosequantur, vobis praecipimus quod statim visis prassentibus 
praemissa omnia et singula in civitate prasdlcta in locis ubi expediri videritis 
publice proclamari faciatis in forma prasdicta et hoc nullatenus omittatis. 
Teste Rege apud Langley, 13 die Januar. Anno regni 22 Ed. 3. Claus. 
p. 2. m. 2. in dorso per ipsum Regem." Where it is said that common law 
business was to be prosecuted before the Chancellor, I presume this can only 
mean that application should be made for original writs out of Chancery. Or 
may "matters concerning the common law" mean disputes between subject and 
subject to be decided judicially by the Chancellor, and "matters concerning our 
special grace cognisable before us " mean grants and matters of favour depending 
on the pleasure of tlie Crown ? 

t Tlie learned and accurate Hardy represents Andrew de Offord to have 
been a Keeper of the Great Seal ; but, with great deference, he was not intrusted 
to use it, and was merely a messenger to convey it to London. Hardy's Clian- 
cdhrs, 78. Rot. CI. 22* Ed. 3. m. 8. 


he was suddenly struck with a disease of which he died on CHAP. 


the 26th of August, 1348. 

He was more a statesman than a lawyer or a divine ; but Death of 
he left behind him a considerable reputation for assiduity Chancellor 
and discretion in the discharge of his official duties. 

On his death, the Great Seal remained in the custody of John de 
the Master of the Rolls and three others for about a month, chancellor, 
while the King deliberated about a successor, and things June is. 
having gone on so smoothly under a clerical Chancellor, he 
at last appointed to the office John de Thoresby, Bishop 
of St. David's*, who held it for seven years. 

This man, very eminent in his own time, had studied at 
Oxford, where he not only became a deep divine, but very 
knowing in the civil and canon law. While still young, he His writ- 
wrote many tracts both in Latin and in English, now be- ^^^' 
ginning to be cultivated by men of learning. His most 
popular work was "A Commentary on the Lord's Prayer, 
the Decalogue, and the Creed ; " but none of them were con- 
sidered to be of sufficient value to be preserved and printed. 
He early took orders, and was made a master in Chancery. 
On the 21st of February, 15 Ed. IIL, he was appointed Master 
of the Rolls. He rose into high favour with the King, and, 
showing an aptitude for state affiiirs, was intrusted with the 
custody of the Privy Seal, and sworn a member of council. f 
He was elected Bishop of St. David's in September, 1347, and 
was translated to Worcester in November, 1349. 

Although considered the most learned man of his time, he 
was very deficient as an orator, and while he held the Great 
Seal, as often as parliament met the causes of the summons 
were declared by the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, sup- 
ported by the King's Chamberlain or some other courtier. 

The most memorable proceeding in parliament while he statute of 
presided there, was the passing of the famous Statute of 1''*^^*""^ 
Treasons. :|: For the first time in any European monarchy, 
the law gave a definition of the acts against the state which 

* Rot. CI. 22 Ed. 3. m. 8. 

f In the Rolls, in which he is mentioned ahout this time, he is sometimes 
styled " Magister," and sometimes " Dominus," but the one title seems to have 
been considered quite as high as the other. 

X 25 Ed. 3. c. 2. 


CHAP, should amount to lese-majesty and subject the offender to 
^^^* the high penalties which must be enacted against those who 
aim at the life of the Sovereign, or who attempt by violence 
to bring about a revolution in the established government of 
the country. This statute, which did more for the liberties 
of England than Magna Charta itself, continues in force to 
the present day. It has been considerably extended by 
judicial construction beyond its original terms. Where the 
King's life is not directly aimed at, no act of a public nature, 
short of levying war against the King in his realm, being 
expressly declared to be treason, the judges have been driven 
to decide that any revolutionary movement or plot is con- 
structively a compassing of the King's death. It would 
have been better if the deficiency had been supplied by the 
legislature ; but it would be too late now to resort to a strict 
interpretation of the statute, although the judges of the pre- 
sent day would hardly hold with some of their predecessors, 
that an insurrection to destroy all dissenting meeting-houses, 
or all inclosures, or all brothels, would be a compassing of the 
death of our Lady the Queen. 

Lord Chancellor Thoresby, if he did not bring forward, 
must have acquiesced in the passing of this memorable re- 
form of the law, for which Ave owe some respect to his 
memory ; for he has had successors who not only originated 
no good measure, but have zealously supported every legal 

While Thoresby was Chancellor, the Commons renewed 
their attempt to reduce the fees payable on writs out of 
Chancery, the King returning to their petition this soft 
and evasive answer : " It pleases the King, that the Chan- 
cellor shall be as moderate as he can touching fees on writs, 
having regard to the condition of the persons who purchase 
Attack in The Commons then made an attack on the equitable juris- 
on equita- dictiou of the Council and the Chancellor, but in such ge- 
bie juris- ncral terms that their petition could not be negatived. Citing 

diction of AT /-ii 1 

Chancellor. Magna Charta, that " no man shall be prejudged of his 

A.... 1351. freehold or franchises save by the law of the land," they 

prayed that no one might be put to answer for such matters 


but by due process at the common law, and that any thing chap. 
to the contrary should be held null and void. The answer 
was, "it pleases our Lord the King that the petition be ^ j, jg^j 
granted." * 

He appears to have interfered very little with the judicial 
duties of the office, for during almost the whole of his time the 
Great Seal was in the hands of Keepers, either of several 
jointly, or of one under the seals of two others, in whose 
presence alone it could t)e used. The necessity for the Chan- 
cellor's attendance in his diocese is several times the reason 
assigned in the Close Roll for the King giving him leave of 
absence from London and the appointment of Keepers till 
his return. 

In November, 1356, Thoresby being promoted to the Thoresby 
Archiepiscopal see of York, resigned the Great Seal. We bemgmade 
have many instances of Archbishops of Canterbury holding bishop of 
the office of Chancellor, as they had only to cross the Thames T""^^' "*- 

^ J J signs the 

in their state barge from Lambeth to Westminster Hall ; but Great Seal, 
the duties of the Northern metropolitan were generally con- 
sidered incompatible with a continued residence in London, 
although Wolsey, and a few others, unscrupulously sacrificed 
them to gain their ambitious ends. 

Thoresby died on the 6th of November, 1373, leaving be- His death, 
hind him a great reputation for piety and charity as well as 
learning. While he M'-as Archbishop of York, the precedency 
of the two archbishops which hitherto had been contested 
was settled, and the title of " Primate of all England," since 
borne by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was invented. 

On Archbishop Thoresby's resignation, the Great Seal was a.d. is56. 
delivered to William de Edington, Bishop of Winchester, ^^^i;'-^**^ 
as Chancellor, and he held it above six years. ton, Ciian- 

This individual, highly distinguished in his own time though ^^ '^^' 
so little known in ours, took his name from the place of his 
birth, Edington, in Wiltshire, where he afterwards founded the 
priory of " Bons Hommes." He studied at Oxford, and there 
acquired great reputation for his skill in law and divinity. 

* " II plest a nre. Seigr le Roi, q. la petition soit ottroie." Rot. Pari. 
Q5 Ed, 3. " Ottroyer" or " Octroyer " was the proper French word to 
designate a royal grant. Hence the " Octroi "or municipal tax granted by 
the King. 




Peace of 

May 8. 

Statute for 
use of En- 
glish lan- 

He was warmly patronised by Adam de Orleton, Bishop 
of Winchester, who presented him to the living of Cheriton, 
in Hampshire, and introduced him at Court. Gaining the 
goodwill of Edward III., he was appointed to the see of 
Winchester on the death of his patron, and was the first of 
four prelates, who, being all Chancellors, successively held it 
for near 150 years.* 

While Edington remained Chancellor, he himself did all 
the duties of the oflSce without the assistance of any Keeper 
or Vice-chancellor. According to the accustomed form, it 
was twice surrendered up by him to the King on his going 
beyond seas, and on his Majesty's return exchanged for the 
seal used during his absence. 

In his time England was at the height of military glory, 
the Black Prince having gained the battle of Poictiers, and 
John King of France and David King of Scots being 
fellow prisoners in London. Nevertheless he had to set the 
Great Seal to the treaty of Bretigni in 1360, by which Ed- 
ward, after all his victories, renounced his claim to the Crown 
of France, in consideration of being allowed to hold certain 
provinces in that kingdom in full sovereignty. 

There was now an interval of repose for domestic improve- 
ment, and in 1362 the Chancellor carried through parliament 
the famous statute, whereby it was enacted that all pleadings 
and judgments in the Courts of Westminster should for the 
future be in English f, whereas they had been in French 
ever since the Conquest ; and that all schoolmasters should 
teach their scholars to construe in English, and not in French 
as they had hitherto been accustomed. Although the French 
language no longer enjoyed any legal sanction, it had such a 
hold of legal practitioners, that it continued to be voluntarily 
used by them down to the middle of the eighteenth century. 
Their reports, and treatises, and abridgments are in French, 
and if we would find any thing in Chief Baron Comyn's 
Digest composed in the reign of George II. about " High- 

* Edington, Wm. of Wickham, Cardinal Beaufort, and Waynflete. 
t 36 Ed. 3. c. 15. 


ways," " Tithes," or " Husband and Wife," we must look to CHAR 
the titles Chemin," Dismes," and " Baron & Feme." * ^^^- 

Edington might have been raised to the primacy if he had ^^(^^ses the 
pleased, but he refused the preferment, saying, " That in- primacy. 
deed the rack of Canterbury was higher, hut the manger of 
Winchester was larger.''^ 

When Lord Treasurer, in 1350, he had incurred great 
odium by debasing the coin; but he seems to have passed 
through the office of Chancellor without reproach. He con- 
cuiTed in passing several very salutary statutes for correcting 
the oppressive abuses of purveyance, whereby it was enacted, 
that " if any man that feeleth himself aggrieved contrary to 
any thing contained in these statutes will come into the 
Chancery, and thereof make his complaint, he shall there 
have remedy." The process, no doubt, was by petition, on 
which the Chancellor, in a summary manner, inquired and 
gave judgment. 

He resigned the Great Seal in February 1363, and died at Resigna- 
Winchester on the 8th of October, 1366. He acquired great Lo"/^ 

The law, having spoken French in her infancy, had great difficulty in 
changing her dialect. It is curious that acts of parliament long continued to 
be framed in French, and that French is still employed by the different branches 
of the legislature in their intercourse with each other. Not only is the royal 
assent given to bills by the words " La Reigne le voet," but when either House 
passes a bill there is an indorsement written upon it, " Soit baile aux Seigneurs," 
or " aux Communes ; " and at the beginning of every parliament the Lords make 
an entry in their Journals, in French, of the appointment of the Receivers and 
Triers of petitions, not only for England, but for Gascony. E. g. : Extract from 
Lords' Journal, 24th August, 1841 : 

" Les Recevours des Petitions de Gascoigne et des autres terres et pays de 
par la mer et des isles. 

" Le Baron Abinger, Chief Baron de I'Exchequer de la Reyne. 
" Messire James Parke, Chevalier. 
" Messire John Edmund Dowdeswell, Ecuyer. 
" Et ceux qui veulent delivre leur Petitions les baillent dedans six jours 
prochelnment ensuivant. 

" Les Triours des Petitions de Gascoigne et des autres terres et pays de par 
la mer et des isles. 

" Le Due de Somerset. 
" Le Marquis d' Anglesey. 
" Le Count de Tankerville. 
" Le Viscount Torrington. 
" Le Baron Campbell. 
" Tout eux ensemble, ou quatre des seigneurs avant-ditz, appellant aut eux 
les Serjeants de la Reyne, quant sera besoigne, tiendront leur place en la chambre 
du Chambellan. 

' Recevours et Triours des Petitions de la Grande Bretagne et d'Ireland," 
were appointed the same day. 



CHAP, reputation for piety by the monastic institution which he 
^^^- founded in his native place; but perhaps his best claim to 
the gratitude of posterity Avas^ his patronage of William of 
Wickham, the architect of Windsor Gastle, his successor 
in the see of Winchester, twice Lord Chancellor, and 
founder of Winchester School and New College, Oxford. 
Feb. 19. The next Chancellor was Simon de Langham, Bishop of 

1363. Ely.* I cannot find out the origin of this aspiring and 

Langham, uuamiable man. He first appears as a monk in the Abbey of 
from being Westminster; but under his cowl he concealed unbounded 
a monk. ambition and very considerable talents. He is one of the 
few instances of the regular clergy attaining to great eminence 
in England. He was always rising in the world. From a 
great reputation for piety he was eagerly resorted to as a Con- 
fessor, and he acquired much influence over his penitents, 
which he turned skilfully to his own account. He could 
adapt his manners to all classes and characters^ and the monk 
His rise. who recommended himself to some by fasting and penance 
gained the favour of Edward III. by his courtly manners, 
and the aptitude he displayed for civil business. Though 
generally somewhat stern, and rather unpopular with those 
who depended upon him, he courted his superiors so assidu- 
ously and so successfully, that he was successively Treasurer 
of Wells, Archdeacon of Taunton, Prior and Abbot of West- 
minster, Bishop of Ely, and Treasurer of England. He had 
been elected Bishop of London ; but Ely falling vacant before 
his consecration, he preferred it as being richer, though in- 
ferior in rank. 
Translated Being now Chancellor he was, in 1366, translated to the 
bury?"'^*^" see of Canterbury, uniting in his own person the two offices 
of highest civil and ecclesiastical dignity. But if we may 
credit a waggish distich which was then penned upon him, 
this translation caused equal joy in one quarter and con- 
sternation in another : 

" Laetantur coeli, quia Simon transit ab Ely, 
Cujus in adventum flent in Kent millia centum." 

Among those with whom he quarrelled at Canterbury was 

Rot. CI, 37 Ed. 3. m. 39. 


the famous John Wickliffe, then a student at the College there chap. 


erected by Islip his predecessor. This ardent youth being 
unjustly expelled, and finding no redress for the wrong he ^ jggg 
suffered, turned his mind to clerical usurpation and oppression. Quarrels 
and prepared the way for that reformation in religion which lifl-g. 
blessed an after age. 

Langham was installed in his office of Chancellor with 
extraordinary pomp and magnificence. Being appointed on 
Sunday, 1 9th February, the record says that on Tuesday next 
following, taking the Great Seal with him to Westminster, 
" et in sede marmorea, ubi Cancellarii sedere sunt assueti, 
sedens, &c., literas patentes, &c., consignari fecit." * 

All the parliaments called in his time were opened by an Custom of 
oration from him. We may give as a specimen his perform- ^ '^e^";^^^'"' 
ance on the 4th of December, 1364. He set the example, parliament 
long followed on such occasions by ecclesiastical Chancellors f, ^ursefrom 
of beginning with a text from the Holy Scriptures as a theme, text in 
He now self ctea the saying of the Eoyal Prophet " Faith- ^"'P'"""^- 
ful judgment doth adorn the King's seat; " whence he took 
occasion to extol the great valour of the King, his master, 
and the many victories which, by God's assistance, he had 
gained in his youth ; not forgetting the constant and dutiful 
goodwill and ready concurrence of the King's loyal subjects 
towards the furtherance of those his important undertakings : 
" For all which, as the King did now by him return them 
his hearty thanks, so he let them know that for his part he 
was resolved to seek the common peace and tranquillity of all 
his people, especially by enforcing a due observance of all 
good and wholesome laws, and amending such of them as 
should be thought defective ; as also by establishing new ones 
as necessity should require." 

Notwithstanding these smooth words, there were heavy 
complaints against the Chancellor for increasing the fines in 

Rot. CI. ;37 Ed. 3. m. 39. See Dugd. Or. Jur. 37. He adds that the 
marble chair remained to his day, being fixed in the wall over against the 
middle of the marble table. 

f " VVlien a bishop was Lord Chancellor he took a text of Scripture, which 
he repeated in Latin, and discoursed upon the same. But when a judge was 
Lord Chancellor, he took no text, but in manner of an oration sliowed summa- 
rily the causes of tiie parliament." 4 Inst. 8. 






A.D. 1367. 
He retires 
to Avi- 
gnon, and 
aspires to 
the Pope- 

His death. 

Chancery payable to the King, and the Commons prayed that 
these fines should not be higher than they were in the time of 
the King's father, or at the King's first coronation. It would 
appear that the new practice was agreeable as well as profit- 
able to the King, who was determined to continue it by 
returning this answer : " The King wills that fines be 
reasonable to the ease and quiet of his people." 

In the beginning of 1367 Langham's ambition was further 
gratified, as he was made a Cardinal by Pope Urban V. ; and 
there being nothing further in England which he could covet, 
he aspired to the triple crown itself. It was probably with 
this view, that he soon after resigned the office of Chancellor, 
and went to Avignon to intrigue among the Cardinals. There 
he lived eight years in great credit and splendour. In 1371 
he came to London as a legate from the Pope to negotiate a 
peace between France and England. But while speculating 
at Avignon about a vacancy in the papacy, all his ambitious 
schemes were for ever terminated by an attack of palsy, of 
which he immediately died. He is celebrated more for his 
liberality to the abbey and monks of Westminster, than for 
his just administration of the law, or any improvements in 





The successor of Langham was a man whose memory is still 
regarded with high respect by the English nation, the famous 
William of Wickham. 

This distinguished man, who was twice Lord Chancellor, 


Sept. 17. 

was born in the year 1324, at the village in Hampshire from William 
which he took his name, of poor but honest parents, being ^jj ^^ 
the son of John Long and Sibyl his wife.* He probably His ori-rln. 
never would have been known to the world had he not, when 
almost quite a child, attracted the notice of Nicholas Uvedale, 
Lord of the Manor of Wickham, and governor of Winchester, 
who put him to school in that city. He is Mkewise said to Education, 
have been sent to study at Oxford ; but there is great reason 
to doubt whether he ever was at any university, and his 
splendid foundations for the education of youth probably 
proceeded less from gratitude, than from a desire to rescue 
others from the disadvantages under which he had himself 
laboured, for he never possessed scholastic learning, and he 

* It has been lately asserted that Wickham, or Wykeham, was his family 
name, because it is said to have belonged to several relations born elsewhere ; 
but all the earliest accounts of him concur in the statement I have adopted. 
For example : 

" Qua capit australes comitatu Hamptona Britannos, 
Wichamia est vicus, nee nisi parvus ager. 
Vixit Johannes illic cognomine Longus, 

Cui fuit in casti parte Sibylla thori. 
Hanc habuit patriam Gulielmus et hosce parentes 

Wichamus. augurio nee tamen absque bono ; 
Namque loci ut iiomen, sic vim matrisque patrisque 

Haud dubie in vitam transtulit ille suam, 

Longus cnim ut lonyo duraret tempore, caute 

Et hene prospiceret cuncta, Sthylla dedit." 

Ortus et Vita Gul. de Wicham. 
8 2 


CHAP, owed his advancement to the native fervour of his genius and 
^^'' the energy which enabled him to surmount all diflSculties. 
While still a youth, he became private secretary to his 
patron, and was lodged in a high turret in Winchester 
Castle, of which Uvedale was Constable. Here he imbibed 
that enthusiastic admiration of Gothic architecture which was 
the foundation of his fortune. Ere long there was no ca- 
thedral, ancient church, baronial hall, or Norman castle many 
miles round that he had not visited and studied ; and he set to 
work to consider scientifically how such stately structures 
were erected, and to figure in his imagination others grander 
and of finer proportions. He was first noticed by Edington, 
the Bishop of Winchester, then Lord Chancellor, little 
thinking that he was himself to be Bishop of AVlnchester and 
Lord Chancellor. But from him he had only fair words and 
good cheer. 
Introduced tlvcdalc afterwards happened to mention to the King the 
to Ed. III. remarkable young man he had for his secretary, and Edward, 
ever ready to avail himself of efficient service and to en- 
courage merit in every department, desired that he might be 
presented to him. He was accordingly brought to Court, 
and instantly made a most favourable impression by his 
modest and insinuating manners, and his great knowledge of 
the subject to which he had devoted himself. First he was 
made " Clerk of all the King's works in his manors of 
Henle and Yelhampsted*," and then " Surveyor of the 
King's works in the castle and park of Windsor."! 
Builds Edward, after his great victories, now meditated the 

Cj^Uc.*"^ erection of a palace where, according to the taste of the age, . 
he might entertain the flower of European chivalry of which 
he was the acknowledged head, affording his brother knights 
a full opportunity to display their prowess in the tournament, 
and to lead the dance with their lady-loves in the brilliant 
hall at night. Windsor, the destined site, had been occa- 
sionally the residence of our sovereigns since the Conquest ; 
but what was then called "the Castle," consisted of a few 

* Patent, dated 10th May, 1356. f Patent, 30th Oct. 1.356. 


irregular buildings, with pepper-boxes at the corners of CHAP. 

Wickham furnished the designs for the new Castle such 
nearly as we now behold it suitable to its noble position, 
and for simplicity and grandeur superior to any royal re- 
sidence in the world. He showed corresponding vigour in 
carrying the plan into execution. By a stretch of pre- 
rogative every county in England was obliged to send a con- 
tingent of masons and other workmen, and in a surprisingly 
short period the structure was completed. 

The King, to celebrate the event, founded the illustrious ^.d. 1349. 
order of the Garter, which now adds to the patronage of the the Garter. 
Prime Minister, and furnishes the object of highest ambition 
to our greatest nobles. 

It is said that the architect gave deep offence to his royal Inscription 
master by placing on one of the gates the inscription, " This 
made JVichem," which was construed into an arrogant appro- 
priation to himself of all the glory of the edifice. But he 
insisted that the words were to be read as a translation of 
"Wichamum fecit hoc*" not of "Hoc fecit Wichamus," 
that according to the usual idiom of the English language, 
"Wichem" was here the accusative case, instead of the 
nominative and that he only wished posterity to know that 
his superintendence of the work had gained him the royal 
favour, and thus had raised him from low degree to exalted 
fortune. Edward was appeased, and ever afterwards delighted 
to honour him. 

Except the common law, the only road to wealth and Wickham 
power open to a non-combatant in those days was the church, o^jg^s ^ 
It was now too late for William to begin the study of 
Bracton, Fleta, and the Year Books, and to try to obtain 
practice in Westminster Hall ; but he was prevailed upon to 
take orders, and ecclesiastical preferments were showered 
upon him. It has been supposed that he had early taken 
deacon's orders, because in 1352 he was styled " clericus" or 
clerk, but this designation was given to men in civil employ- 

This use of " facere," to make a man, rather strengthens the presumption 
tliat he did not study at Oxford. 

S 3 


CHAP, mcnts*, although not in the church ; and hitherto he had no 
^^* ecclesiastical function or benefice. On the 5th of December, 
1361, he was admitted to the order of "acolyte;'''' he was 
ordained subdeacon on the 12th of March, 1362, and priest 
on the 12th of June following. He was now inducted into 
tlie rectory of Palham in Norfolk, he was presented to a 
prebend in the cathedral at Lichfield, and he received the 
King's grant of the deanery of the royal free chapel or col- 
legiate church of St. Martin's-le- Grand, London, with other 

His prefer- pluralities. His secular preferment likewise still proceeded, 
as he was appointed "chief warden and surveyor of the 
King's castles of Old and New Windsor, and sundry others, 
with the parks belonging to them," for which he had, besides 
many fees and perquisites, an assignment of 205. a day out of 
the Exchequer. 

Engages jje now likewise entered the field of politics; on the 11th 

of May, 1364, he was made Keeper of the Privy Seal, and 
soon after he is styled " secretary to the King," performing 
the functions of the officer afterwards designated " Principal 
Secretary of State." In May, 1365, he was commissioned 
along with others to treat of the ransom of David II. King 
of Scotland, taken prisoner at Neville's Cross, and the pro- 
longing of the truce with the Scots. 

His in- Under the bull of Pope Urban V. against pluralities, he 

was reluctantly compelled to make a return of his ecclesias- 
tical benefices, in which he calls himself " Sir William of 
Wykeham, clerk. Archdeacon of Lincoln, and secretary of 
our lord the illustrious King of England, and keeper of his 
Privy Seal," and in which he reduces the total produce to 
873/. 6s. 8d 

He did not attend much to his spiritual duties, but he 
showed great dexterity in civil business, and a natural apti- 
tude for every situation in which he was placed, ^ so that he 

* Thus in the contemporary poem of the " Wife of Bath's Prologue " by 

" My fifthe husbande, God his soule blesse 
Which that I toke for love and no richesse, 
He sometime was a Clkuk of Oxenforde, 
And had left scole and went at home at borde." 

Of course the clerk had not taken orders, or he could not have entered into this 
matrimonial alliance. 



escaped the envy that might have been expected to attend his CHAP. 
elevation, and was a general favourite. Conscious how much 

he owed to his delicate attention to the feelings of others, 
when he had from the Heralds a grant of arms, he took for 
his motto, "Manners makyth man."* 

At last, on the death of Ex-chancellor Edington, Bishop Made 
of Winchester, in 1366, at the earnest recommendation of the ^vln^hes- 
King, he was elected by the prior and convent to succeed ter. 
him in that see. This promotion in his native county must 
have been particularly gratifying to him, and as he was only 
in his forty-second year, we may hope that his parents were 
still alive, and walked from the village of Wickham to Win- 
chester to see him enthroned. 

The resignation of the Great Seal by Archbishop Langham Sept. 1367. 
in pursuit of the triple crown, threw the King into consider- thrCreat 
able perplexity, there being neither lawyer nor churchman Seal. 
whom he considered perfectly well qualified for the office of 
Chancellor. He yielded to personal inclination and appointed 
to it his favourite, William of Wickham, whose installation 
he graced by delivering to him a new Great Seal, with the 
lilies engraved upon it, in consequence of a resolution of 
parliament that he should resume the title of King of 
France, t 

This appointment, in spite of William's abilities and popu- Impro- 
larity, must have been generally condemned, and shows that th^*^*^. 
while the King was all-powerful from the success of his pointment. 
arms abroad, he disregarded public opinion in the acts of his 
domestic government. The jurisdiction of the Court of 
Chancery had been greatly extended during the last forty 
years, and Parnynge while presiding there must have given 
something like system to its practice. The result soon 
showed that no one who was an entire stranger to leo;al 
pursuits and habits, could decently discharge the duties even 

* We must not infer defective education from the seeming ungrammatical 
structure of this motto, for our ancestors, like the Greeks, put a singular verb to 
a plural neuter substantive, as Purchass 

" Little corn, bui cragges and stones 
Maheth pilgrims weary bones." 

t Rot. CI. 43 Ed. .'3. m. 18. 

8 4 


CHAP of an equity judge, discretionary as they were then deemed 
^^'- lobe.* 
jjjg^ The Chancellor no doubt invited those who practised in 
Wickham his court to sumptuous banquets at his palace in Southwark ; 
p"tg" t'"' made himself very agreeable in society ; availed himself 
judge. discreetly of the talents and experience of those around him ; 

and, that he might not give unnecessary trouble to himself 
nor offence to others, affirmed in all cases brought before him 
on appeal; but the suitors complained bitterly of his delays 
and inefficiency, and, as their wrongs gradually excited the 
Complaints Sympathy of the public, at last parliament interfered. In 
?r'ar1ia-'" ^^^1' ''^^^^^ William had been Chancellor four years, the 
ment. Earls, Barons, and Commons of England," (the Lords 

spiritual, as might have been expected, not joining in the 
vote,) petitioned the King, " that thenceforth none but lay- 
men should be appointed Chancellor or other great officer 
or governor of the realm, for the state had been too long 
governed by churchmen queux ne sont mye justiciahles en 
touz cas^ f 
A.D. 1371, The altered posture of the King's affairs rendered it im- 
moved " possible for him to stand out against the wishes of parlia- 
from office, ment and the people. All the efforts of his younger son to 
gain the crown of Castile had failed; and the treaty of 
Bretigni being broken, new expeditions against France were 
to be undertaken, and fresh supplies were indispensable. Ac- 
cordingly, on the 24th of March, the Great Seal was taken 
from William of Wickham, and two days after, it was delivered 
to the man universally considered the best qualified to perform 
Sir Robert the duties belonging to it, Sir Robert Thorpe, who had 
Chancellor. ^^ regularly bred to the bar, and for some time had, with 

* His promotion to be a judge was ascribed to his skill as an architect. 
" Windesora fuit pagus celeberrimus, illic 
Rex statuit castri moenia magna sui, 
Wicamus huic operi praeponitur : inde probatum est 

Ingenio quantum polluit, arte, fide. 
Ergo fit Edwardo charus Custosque Sigilli 

Non ita post multos incipit esse dies." Ort. et Fit. Gul. de IVick. 
The analogous case would be, if Mr. Barry, as a recompence for his excellent 
plan for the new houses of parliament, were now to be made Lord Chancellor. 
Wickhtfe, in revenge for being questioned by Wickham as a heretic, complained 
that promotion fell " only on kitchen clerks and men wise in huiUUnq castles." 
t Rot. Pari. 45 Ed. 3. 


great applause, filled the office of Chief Justice of the Com- CHAP, 
mon Pleas. 

He was of obscure origin, and took his name from Thorpe, His birth 
in Norfolk, the place of his birth. He was bred at Pem- and educa- 
broke Hall, Cambridge, then lately founded, of which he 
became the second master. He laid the foundation of the 
divinity schools at Cambridge, with the chapel over them, 
which were afterwards completed by his brother Sir William. 

Instead of going into orders, he transferred himself to the 
inns of court, and became a very diligent student of the com- 
mon law. We do not exactly know when he began to prac- 
tise at the bar, but as early as 1330 we find him employed as 
a Justice Itinerant.* In 1344 he was appointed a King's His pro- 
Serjeant, and he was summoned with the judges to attend in J""*^)^^^ *" 
the House of Lords. For ten years he continued at the 
head of the bar in Westminster Hall, taking precedence of 
the Attorney and Solicitor General, and having the chief 
practice in all the courts. On the 27th of June, 30 Ed. III., 
he was raised to the office of Chief Justice of the Common 
Pleas, which he held with the highest character for learning, 
industry, and integrity, till, to gratify the Commons Avho had 
petitioned tliat none but a layman should be Chancellor, and 
to soothe the growing discontents of the people, the Great a.d. 1371. 
Seal was delivered to him. 

His elevation was universally hailed Avith joy, and even Popularity 
William of Wickham, his predecessor, gracefully assisted not cei|^^'^"" 
only at the ceremony of his being sworn in before the King, 
but at his public installation in Westminster Hall.f Thorpe, 
as Chancellor, fully equalled public expectation, and intro- 
duced some very useful reforms into the Court of Chancery ; 
but, unfortunately, when he had held the office little more 
than a year, he fell into a mortal distemper, and he died on His death, 
the 29th of June, 1372. 

Rot. CI. 4 Ed. 3. m. ?,2. 

f " In Magna Aula Westmonasterii ubi Piacea Cancellaria; liabetur prajsen- 
tibiis prajfato Episcopo Wyntoniensi Clericos Cancellari.p dictam bursam ape- 
rire," &;c. Rot. CI. 45 Ed. 3. m. 35. There is a curious entry on tlie 28th 
of March, intimating that on that day the late Chancellor, in the presence of 
Chancellor Tlior|)e, surrendered up to the King two other Great Seals and two 
Privy .Soals lately in use, which the King had placed in the IJishop's custody, 
and which were then delivered to the Lord Treasurer Ibid. 




A.D. 1372. 
His learn- 
ing and _ 

Sir John 
Julv 5. 

There Is not preserved any report of his equitable de- 
cisions, and no parliament met during the short time he held 
the office of Chancellor ; but from his addresses to the Lords 
and Commons, while Chief Justice during the Chancellorship 
of Bishop Thoresby, he seems to have been eloquent, and 
Lord Coke pronounces him " a man of singular judgment in 
the laws of this realm," and dwells with great complacency 
on his elevation to the woolsack, evidently much sympathising 
with " the complaint of the Lords and Commons, that the 
realme had bin of long time governed by men of the Church 
in disherison of the Crown." * It is to be deeply deplored 
that of a virtuous magistrate, like Thorpe, such slender 
memorials remain, as it is so much more agreeable to relate 
what is honourable than what is disgraceful to human nature 
to praise rather than to condemn; but I find from my 
laborious researches, that while a Chancellor is going on in 
the equal and satisfactory discharge of his duty, little notice 
is taken of him, and that he is only made prominent by 
biographers and historians when he takes bribes, perverts the 
law, violates the constitution, oppresses the innocent, and 
brings ruin on his country : 

" The evil that men do lives after them ; 
The good is oft interr'd with their bones." 

Thorpe, approaching his end, while he lay in the palace of 
the Bishop of Sarum, in Fleet Street, " languens in extremis, 
videns se circa ea qua? ad officium Cancellarii pertinent, 
ulterius laborare non posse prout moris est," says the Close 
Roll, enclosed the Great Seal in a bag under his own 
private seal and that of Chief Justice Knyvet. There it was 
found when he expired, and the following day it was delivered 
by his servants to Sir William Latymer the Chamberlain, Sir 
Richard le Scrope the Treasurer, and Sir Nicholas de Carew, 
Keeper of the Privy Purse, who carried it to the King at 
Westminster, and on the 5th of July following he sent it by 
his son, John of Gaunt, then styled " King of Castile and 
Leon, and Duke of Lancaster," to Chief Justice Knyvet, 
as Chancellor, with power to administer the oaths to him 
a ceremony which was performed with great solemnity in the 
King's Chapehf 

4 Inst, " Chancery." 

t Hot. CI. 46 Ed. 3. m. 20. 


Sir John Knyvet seems to have been the first important CHAP, 
member of his family. Camden, speaking of it in a sub- 

sequent generation, calls it "an ancient house ever since ad. 1372, 
Sir John Knyvet was Lord Chancellor under Edward III." His origin. 
In 1357 he was called to the degree of Serjeant-at-law; he 
was soon after appointed a Justice of the Common Pleas, 
and he so continued till 1357, when he was advanced to the 
Chief Justiceship of the King's Bench, which he held with 
high credit. 

Lord Coke calls him " a man famous in his profession," An excel- 
and during four years and a half he presided in the Court of ^"* " ^^" 
Chancery to the general contentment of the people. Lord 
Coke, speaking of him and his predecessor, says with honest 
pride : "In perusing the rolls of parliament in the times of 
these Lord Chancellors, we find no complaint at all of any 
proceeding before them. But soon after, when a Chancellor 
was no professor of the law, we find a grievous complaint by 
the whole body of the realm, and a petition that the most 
wise and able men within the realm might be chosen Chan- 
cellors, and that the King seek to redress the enormities of 
the Chancery."* 

In November, after Knyvet's appointment, a parliament A parlia- 
was held at Westminster, but for some reason not explained ^*' 
to us the Chancellor did not preside at the opening of it, and 
by the King's command the causes of the summons were 
declared by Sir^ Henry Bryan, one of the King's council.f 
No business of importance was transacted except the grant 
of a supply, and this being done, the Lords and Commons 
met the King in the White Chamber, when the Chancellor 
declared to the King, " how kind the parliament had been 
to him in granting him such a supply," and " the King very 
humbly thanked them for their great aid." The petitions of 
the Commons were then read and answered according to 
custom. A proceeding then occurred, which shows that the 
House of Commons had not yet with any certainty taken its 
place in the constitution with defined powers and privileges. 
The Knights of shires had leave to depart, and writs for their 

4 Inst. 78. t 1 Pari. Hist. 136. 

A.D, 1373. 


CHAP, "w.oges and expenses were made out for them by the Chan- 
'^^^^ ccUor's order ; but he commanded the citizens and burgesses 
to stay, and they, being again assembled before the Prince, 
Prelates, and Lords, granted for the safe conveying of their 
ships and goods, 2s. on every tun of wine imported or exported 
out of the kingdom, and 6d. in the pound on all their goods 
and merchandise for one year.* 

Another parliament was summoned to meet at West- 
minster in November, 1373. It is amusing to observe the 
required qualifications of the members to be returned to the 
House of Commons by the new-fangled writs which the 
Chancellor framed. The sheriff of every county was ordered 
** to cause to be chosen two dubbed knights, or the most 
honest, worthy, and discreet esquires of that county, the most 
expert in feats of arms, and no others, and of every city two 
citizens, and of every borough two burgesses, discreet and 
sufficient, and such as had the greatest skill in shipping and 
merchandising." f There was no express exclusion of lawyers 
any more than of non-combatant country gentlemen, but no 
individual of either class could well be brought within either 
category in the writ. 
Chancel- The Lords and Commons being assembled in the Painted 

orsspeec . Qi^^n^i^ei.^ Lord Chancellor Knyvet, in the presence of the 
King, declared the causes of the summons. Being a layman, 
he did not take a text of Scripture as the theme of his dis- 
course, but he spoke with great eloquence of the negotiations 
with France, of the military exploits of the King's son, 
" King of Castile and Leon," and of the duty of refresh- 
ing and comforting with force and aid the lords and others 
who had ventured their lives and fortunes to defend the 
nation from their enemies. " Wherefore the Kingr charged 
and besought them, considering the dangers that might 
happen to the kingdom for these causes, that they would 
speedily consult on the matter, and give the King such advice 
as might be for the safety of him, the nation, and them- 
selves." :}: 

Rot. Pari. 46 Ed. 3. f l Pari. Hist. 137. 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 138. 


The required supply was granted, a favourable answer was CHAP, 
returned to the petitions of the Commons, and all separated 

in good humour. 

But a very different scene was presented at the next parlia- ^ . 1376. 
ment, which met in April, 1376, and was long known among The''Good 
the people by the name of " the Good Parliament." m.-nt." 

The King's fair fortune had begun to fail, and, no longer 
surrounded by the splendour of victory, those who had for- 
merly cheerfully yielded to his wishes and liberally supplied 
his wants, now sharply criticised the measures of his govern- 
ment, blamed his ministers, and for every grant of money 
wrung from him some new concession. Much scandal had Alice 
likewise been excited by the ascendancy of Alice Pierce, the ^^^^ ' 
King's mistress, who, though said to be of great wit as well 
as beauty, had been so indiscreet as openly to interfere in the 
disposal of all offices civil and ecclesiastical, and even to 
appear and sit in the courts of justice, and publicly to favour 
those suitors who had bribed her for her support. On one 
occasion, at a tournament in Cheapside, to the great con- 
sternation of the citizens of London, she came among them 
on a white palfrey, in splendid attire, as " lady of the sun, and 
sovereign of the day." 

The Chancellor escaping personally any suspicion of being Chancel- 
influenced by her, was well aware of the deep discontent which Jo'^the^^r^ 
now universally prevailed. J[evertheless, he opened the ses- liament. 
sion in a speech framed as if nothing were to be expected 
but submission and gratitude. In declaring the causes of 
the summons, he said, " the first and principal was to advise 
about the good government and peace of the realm ; for the 
defence and safety of the King, as well by sea as land ; to 
take order for the maintenance of the war with France and 
elsewhere ; and how and in what manner it might be done 
for the best profit, quickest despatch, and greatest honour of 
the King and kingdom." He then expressly told them, that 
Avhat the King had hitherto done was always with their 
advice and assistance, for which his Majesty entirely thanked 
them, and desired that they would diligently consult about 
these matters, the Prelates and Lords by themselves, and 


CHAP, the Commons by themselves, and give in their answers as 


soon as they conveniently could. 

Vote of The Commons, in answer to the Chancellor's harangue, 

" want of after they had voted a supply, not contented, in the modern 
donee." courtly stylc, to praise all the ministerial measures of the 
session, enumerated the plentiful aids which the King had 
obtained from his people, and asserted their firm conviction, 
that if the royal revenue had been faithfully administered, 
there could have been no necessity for laying additional 
burdens on the nation. They intimated a want of con- 
fidence in the King's present ministers ; they impeached 
several of his favourites of extortion, of selling illegal grants, 
and raising loans for their own profit ; and they requested 
that ten or twelve new members might be added to the 
Prosecu- It was admitted that the conduct of the Chancellor was 

"VViiliam of wlthout rcproach ; but a charge was brought against an Ex- 
Wickham. chancellor, William of Wickham, who, labouring under a 
strong suspicion of being protected by Alice Pierce, was 
accused of several misdemeanours in his office of Chancellor. 
Contrary to the claim of privilege so lately asserted, he 
was handed over to common-law process, and, without being 
heard, was condemned to forfeit his temporalities, and to 
keep himself at the distance of twenty miles from the King's 

Knyvet, the Chancellor, attempted in vain to allay the 
storm. Lord Neville, Lord Latimer, and several other of his 
colleagues were dismissed, and the Commons insisted on an 
ordinance, or act, being passed " forbidding women to pursue 
causes and actions in the King's Courts, by way of main- 
tenance, for hire and reward, and particularly Alice Pierce, 
under the penalty of forfeiting all that she can forfeit, and of 
being banished out of the realm." This ordinance, to which 
the Chancellor Intimated the royal assent, runs in the King's 
name, and, considering the relation which subsisted between 
him and the object of it, must be considered a very curious 
specimen of the legislation of the age. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 140. 



During all these storms, Knyvet continued in his high office, 
but his health was so severely injured by his application to 
business that he was obliged to retire, carrying with him the 
respect of all classes of the community. He resigned the 
Great Seal into the King's hands on the 11th of January, 
1377, and died soon after.* 

As he and his predecessor, taken from the common-law 
courts, had given such satisfaction, we may wonder that the 
Great Seal should ever have been delivered to men of any 
other class; yet the next regularly bred lawyer appointed 
Chancellor was Sir Thomas More, in the middle of the reign 
of Henry YIII., an interval of above 150 years. 

England had been advancing with unexampled celerity in 
wealth and refinement, but a long period of adversity was at 
hand. All the glories of the third Edward's long reign had 
passed away, and it was concluding in misfortune and sorrow. 
" The sable warrior was fled ; " the foreign conquests which 
had so much gratified the national pride were lost ; and deep 
discontents and misery prevailed at home. Alice Pierce, the 
King's mistress, as soon as " the Good Parliament " was dis- 
solved, again had the chief disposal of places and preferment, 
and through her interest a clerical Chancellor was now an- 
nounced, to the great disgust of the public. This was Adam 
DE Houghton, Bishop of St. David's. f 

One feels little disappointment in not being able to trace 
the origin or education of this individual, although he acci- 
dentally filled the office of Chancellor during two reigns, for 
he was neither eminent for his virtues nor his vices, and he 
must have been promoted for his mediocrity, to exclude 
abler men whose superiority might have created jealousy 
and alarm. 

He was educated at Oxford, where he took the degree of 
doctor of laws. By Papal mandate he Avas placed in the 
see of St. David in 1361, and the purchased patronage of 
Alice Pierce is the only solution of the mystery, that he who 
for sixteen years had been a Welsh bishop suddenly became 
Lord Chancellor of England. 


A.D. 1377. 
tion and 
death of 


Adam ue 
Jan. 11. 

* Rot. CI. 50 Ed. 3. m. 7. 

t Rot. CI. 51 Ed. 3. m. 7. 




A.D. 1377. 
A parlia- 

Death of 
Edw. III. 

His do- 

A parliament was held at Westminster on the 27 th of 
January, 1377, which was opened by Lord Chancellor Hough- 
ton with a speech from this text, " Ye suffer fools gladly, 
seeing that you yourselves are wise." The application of his 
subject was, " that they, being wise, desired to hear him who 
was the contrairy." From thence he took occasion to argue, that 
God loved the King and the realm ; the King because "quos 
diligit castigat ; " '' Uxor tua sicut vitis abundans in late- 
ribus" " ut videas Jilios Jiliorum,^^ which the King now had 
the pleasure to see. That God loved the realm, he proved 
from the recovery of so renowned a prince, the said recovery 
happening in the fiftieth year of his reign.* 

The Commons now made another attempt to abolish fines 
to the King on writs out of Chancery, as a sale of justice 
contrary to Magna Charta ; but the answer was, " Let it be 
in this case in the discretion of the Chancellor for the time 
being, as it has been hitherto used."t 

The Chancellor soon after went abroad on an embassy to 
France, and Burstall, the Master of the Rolls, and two others, 
were constituted Keepers of the Great Seal till his return..]: 
While the Chancellor was still abroad, Edward expired on 
the 21st of June, 1377, in the sixty-fifth year of his age, and 
the fifty-first of his reign. 

Hume observes, that " the domestic government of this 
prince is really more admirable than his foreign victories," 
and he certainly deserves to be celebrated for his vigorous 
and impartial administration of justice. While he wisely 
adhered to the laws and system of tribunals framed by his 
grandfather, he conferred an unspeakable benefit on the 
suitors by making the Chancery and the King's Bench sta- 
tionary at Westminster, instead of following the person of 
the Sovereign " wheresoever in England," as they had before 
practically done, and are still by fiction of law supposed to 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 142. f Rot. Par. 51 Ed. 3. 

X Rot. CI. 51 Ed. 3. m. 7. 

The officers of the Chancery lived or lodged together in an inn or hospitium, 
wliich, when the King resided at Westminster was near the palace, and from 
very early times the marble table at the upper end of the great hall of the palace 
was appropriated for the sealing of writs and letters patent. When the King 
travelled, he was followed by the Chancellor, masters, clerks, and records. On 
these occasions it was usual to require a strong horse, able to carry the rolls, 



do, and his appointment of Chancellors, upon the whole, CHAP. 

did great credit to his good intentions and his discernment. '__ 

The jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery was now es- jurisdic- 

lablished in all matters where its own officers were con- l!," ^ 

/.., 1 .. .i Court of 

cerned*, on petitions of right, where an injury was alleged Chancery, 
to be done to a subject by the King or his officers f, in 
relieving against judgments of the courts of lawf, and gene- 
rally in cases of fraud, accident, and trust. 

from some religious house bound to furnish the animal, and at the towns where 
the King stopped during his progress an hospitium was assigned to the Chan- 
cery. In the 20 Ed. 1. the Abbot of Kingswood paid forty shillings to buy a 
liorse to carry the rolls of Chancery, but the money, by order of the Chancellor, 
was paid over to William le Marchant, of Dover, in part discharge of certain 
debts due to him from the King.' In 3 Ed. 2. the Abbot of Beaulieu was 
commanded to provide a strong pack horse, to carry the rolls of Chancery to 
Stamford, where the parliament was about to assemble, the King stating in the 
mandate that he was in great need of such an animal. ^ 

18 Ed. 3. ii. 154. The Clerks in Chancery petition the King and Council, 
that whereas the Chancellor and Keepers of the Great Seal for the time being 
ought to have the cognisance of all pleas of trespass done by the said Clerks or 
their servants, in cities, towns, or elsewhere where the Chancery is ; yet not- 
withstanding the sheriffs of London had attached Gilbert de Chishiill, one of 
the clerks of the said Chancery, at the suit of Thomas de Theslingbury, a draper, 
upon a bill of trespass, whereupon Gilbert brought a supersedeas of privilege to 
tht sheriffs, but which they would not allow, and drove him to find sureties. 
The clerks therefore pray remedy and maintenance of their liberties. 

This petition was answered with the assent of the parliament. The claim was 
allowed, and writs were ordered to be sent to the mayor of London to attach the 
sheriffs and others, who were parties and maintainers of the quarrel, to appear 
before the King in Chancery at a day certain, to answer as well to the contempt 
of the process as to the breach of the liberty and damage of the party. 

t 'I'homas de Berkelei petitions the King that he may have a writ to the 
Abbey of St. Austin, Bristol, to have deliverance of his monuments, &c., which 
were arrested by Richard Lovel and others of the King's officers. 

Let a writ be issued out of Chancery to those who have arrested the things 
mentioned in the petition, and let them certify in Chancery the cause of the 
arrest, and upon their certificate let right be done. Temp. Ed. 3. ii. 385. 

|: Margaret de Jonehill complains of a judgment in the Court of Common 

Let this petition be referred to the Chancery, and let the Chancellor 
cause to be summoned before him the counsel of Madame to appear in Chan- 
cery on a certain day, and also the king's Serjeants and some of the justices, and 
if nothing be shown or said which may reasonably disturb the judgment, or if 
the counsel of Madame do not choose to appear, then let a writ issue to the 
justices where the plea was depending before judgment, to proceed according to 
the law and usages of the land. 21 & 22 Ed. 3. ii. 206. 

' " Memorandum quod decimo octavo die mensis Januarii, quadraginta 
solidi, quos Abbas de Kingcswode liberavit in Cancellaria in subvencionem 
cujusdam equi emendi ad portandum rotulos Cancellaria*, liberati fuerunt per 
pncceptum Cancellaril, per manus Domini Johannis de Langeton, Willielmo le 
Marcliaunt de Dovorr', in partem solucionis debitorum in quibus Rex ei tene- 
tur." Rot. Claus. 21 Ed. 1. m. 11. a. 

" Par. Writs, 1 1, part i. p. 20. No. 2, 3. 

VOL. T. T 




of the 
lors of 
Edw. III. 

Origin of 

Justices of 

The qualifications of the Chancellor now became of great 
importance to the due administration of justice, not only 
from the increase of his separate jurisdiction, but from the 
practice for the common-law judges, when any question of 
difficulty arose before them in their several courts, to take 
the advice of Parliament upon it before giving judgment. 
In a case which occurred in the King's Bench, in the 39th of 
Edward III., Thorpe, the Chief Justice, says, " Go to the 
Parliament, and as they will have us do we will, and other- 
wise not." The following year Thorpe himself, accompanied 
by Sir Hugh Green, a brother judge, went to the House of 
Lords, where there were assembled twenty-four bishops, earls, 
and barons, and asked them, as they had lately passed a statute 
of jeofails, what they intended thereby. Such questions, which 
were frequent in this reign, must have been answered by the 

In the forty-second year of this reign, while William of 
Wickham was Chancellor, occurred the first instance of a 
parliamentary impeachment. Criminal jurisdiction had been 
before exercised by the Lords, but not on the prosecution of 
the Commons. Sir John Lee was now impeached by the 
Lower House for malpractices while steward of the household, 
and the punishment not extending to life or member, the 
Chancellor, though a priest, was not disqualified from pre- 
siding. Before the close of the reign the Commons preferred 
impeachments against many delinquents for political and 
other offences, and the practice of impeachment, according to 
the present forms of proceeding, was fully established. 

In this reign the Chancellor acquired that most important 
and delicate function of appointing Justices of the Peace, 
a magistracy peculiar to the British Isles, the judges having 
a most extensive criminal jurisdiction, being generally with- 

Geoffrey de Lacer complains of a judgment at law. 

Let the petition be referred to the Chancery, and there let the evidence 
which the said Geoffrey says he hath to manifest the loss of the aforesaid com- 
modities be received, and that justice was not done him in his suit for recovery 
of losses in these parts, and therefore let speedy remedy be ordained him accord- 
ing to the law used in such cases. Temp. Ed. 3. ii. 437. 

Y. B. 39 Ed. 3. Y. B. 40 Ed. 3. If the Lords were still liable to be so 
interrogated, they would not unfrequently be puzzled, and the revival of the 
practice might be a check to hasty legislation. 


out legal education, and serving without any remuneration chap. 
except the power and consequence which they derive from ' 

their office. 

The Chancellors in the latter part of this reign, following 
the example of the distinguished philobiblist De Bury, prided 
themselves on their attainments in literature, and their pro- 
tection of literary men, and they must have had a powerful 
influence in directing the pursuits and developing the genius 
of Chaucer and Gower. They encouraged the use of the 
English language, not only by the statute against the use of 
French in the courts of law, but by their own example on 
the most public occasions. In the 36 Edward III. we find 
the earliest record of the use of English in any parliamentary 
proceeding. The roll of that year is found in French, as 
usual, but it expressly states that the causes of summoning 
parliament were declared " en Englois.''^* The precedent 
then set by Lord Chancellor Edington was followed in the 
two succeeding years by Lord Chancellor Langhamf, and 
from this time viva voce proceedings in parliament were ge- 
nerally in English, with the exception of giving the royal 
assent to bills, although the entry of some of these pro- 
ceedings in the reign of Queen Victoria is still in Norman 
French. % 

* Rot. Pari. 36 Ed. 3. 

t Rot. Pari. 37 Ed. 3. 38 Ed. 3. f Ante, p. 255. 

T 2 




CHAP. Richard was a boy, only eleven years old, when, on the 
death of his grandfather, he was proclaimed King. The 
June 22. Keepers of the Great Seal, who had been appointed during 
i'^'''^- the absence of the Chancellor abroad, nevertheless surren- 

dered it into the royal stripling's own hand when he was 
seated on the throne, and surrounded by his nobility and 
great officers of state. The Duke of Lancaster, acting as 

Regent, although formally no Regent or Protector had been 
appointed, then took it from him, and handed it to Nicholas 
Bonde, a knight of the King's chamber, for safe custody. 
De De Houghton, the Bishop of St. David's, returned to England 

cont^nueT ^^ ^ ^^^ ^^7^ after, and on his arrival at Westminster the 
Chancellor. King, by his uncle's direction, delivered the Great Seal to 
him, and he again took the oath of office as Chancellor.* 
There was no intention of continuing him in the office beyofid 
the time when a satisfactory arrangement could be made for 
the appointment of a successor. 
Ills speech Richard being crowned on the 4th of August, writs were 
issued for the calling of a parliament to meet fifteen days 
after the feast of St. Michael. On the appointed day, the 
cause of summons was declared by the Chancellor in a speech 
founded on the text, " Rex tuus venit tibV^ The language 
introduced at the Conquest was still used on most public oc- 
casions, and he thus began : " Seigneurs et Sires, ces paroles 
que j'ay dit, sont tant a dire en Franceys, Vostre Roy vient a 
toj/"f He then divided the subject into three parts, showing 
the causes of joy for the King's accession, with his usual 
quaintness. But he raised a great laugh by an unlucky 

* Rot. Cl. 1 Ric. 2. m. 46. f l^o^s of Pari. iii. 3. 

to parlia- 


quotation from scripture observing that " a wzaw's heart CHAP, 
leaps for joy when he hears good tidings, like Elizabeth, 
the mother of John the Baptist : Et exultavit infans in 
utero ejus.^^* 

This harangue does not seem to have given perfect satis- 
faction ; for the next day Sir Richard Scrope, steward of the 
King's household, who was rapidly rising into favour, made 
another speech on behalf of the king, asking the Commons 
" to advise him which way his and the kingdom's enemies 
might be resisted, and how the expences of such resistance 
were to be borne with the greatest ease to the people, and 
profit and honour to the kingdom ?" 

The Commons having, for the first time, chosen a Speaker, Procced- 
set about reforming the abuses of the state in good earnest. Commons. 
and tried to provide for the proper conduct of the govern- 
ment during the King's minority. They obtained the banish- 
ment of Alice Pierce, and the removal of the late King's 
evil councillors. They then proposed, " that, till the King 
was of age, the Chancellor, High Treasurer, Chief Jus- 
tice of one bench, and the other the Chief Baron of the 
Exchequer, and other officers, might be made by parliament." 
This the Lords modified to their own aggrandisement by an 
amendment, " that while the King was under age, the 
Cpuncillors, Chancellor, Steward of the Household, and 
Chamberlain, should be chosen by the Upper House, and 
that the King should make the other officers with the assent 
of his Council." The Commons acquiesced in this arrange- 
ment, f 

At the parliament which met in the Abbey of Gloucester Parlia- 
on the 20th of October, 1378, the young King being seated 
on the throne, attended by his three uncles, Lancastei', Cam- 
bridge, and Buckingham, the Lord Chancellor de Hough- 
ton, in a long speech, explained to the Lords and Commons 
the causes of their being summoned, entering with some pro- 
lixity into the subsisting relations of England with France 
and Scotland. But he gave no satisfaction ; and Sir Bichard 
le Scrope the next morning again addressed the two Houses 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 158. f Ibid. 162. 

T 3 

mcnt at 




A.D. 1378. 

Sir Rich- 
ard LE 



Death of 

Rise of 
Richard le 

on the same topics, and by way of urging a supply, pointed 
out the enormous expence which the crown incurred in keep- 
ing up garrisons in Brest, Cherbourg, Calais, Bourdeaux, 
and Bayonne. While the parliament sat, which was only a 
few days, Sir Richard le Scrope seems to have taken the 
entire lead, and by his good management the desired subsidy 
was voted.* 

On the 28th of October, as a reward for his services, he 
was actually made Lord Chancellor on the resignation of the 
Bishop of St. David's, who seems to have been much hurt at 
the disrespectful treatment he had experienced, f The Ex- 
chancellor retired to his see, and there peaceably ended his 
days at a distance from the strife which marked this unhappy 
reign. He survived till April 1389. 

Richard le Scrope, the new Chancellor, was the third 
son of Sir Henry le Scrope, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, 
and Chief Baron of the Exchequer in the reign of Edward II. 
and Edward III., and was born in the year 1328. Instead 
of being trained in the university, the inns of court, and 
Westminster Hall, he was a soldier from his early youth, 
and served during the whole course of the late wars in 
France. He was at the battle of Cressy in 1346, and serving 
under Lord Percy, he was knighted on the field for his gal- 
lantry in the battle of Durham, fought the same year, where 
the Scots were signally defeated. In the following year he 
served at the siege of Calais, where he was obliged to main- 
tain his right to his crest a crab issuing from a ducal coronet. 
He was in the memorable sea-fight off Winchelsea in August, 
1350, when Edward III. and the Black Prince defeated a 
greatly superior fleet under Don Carlos de la Cerda. He 
was with Edward III. at the rescue of Berwick in 1356. In 
October, 1359, he served under John of Gaunt in the army 
which invaded France, and in the April following approached 
close to the walls of Paris, where he was engaged against the 
family of Grosvenor in another heraldic dispute about his 
right to certain bearings in his shield. In the parliament 

The Close Roll contains a very minute account of this transfer of the Great 
Seal in the house of the Abbot of Gloucester. 2 R. 2. m. 25. 
t 1 Pari. Hist. 163. 


which met in 1364, he was elected representative for the CHAP. 

county of York. In 1366, he accompanied the Duke of 

Lancaster into Spain, and the following year was in the 
decisive battle of Najarre in that country, where the Black 
Prince commanded in person. 

On the renewal of the war with France, in 1369, he again 
went to France with the Duke of Lancaster, and continued 
in that country till near the conclusion of the reign of Ed- 
ward IIL In 1371 he was appointed Treasurer of the 
King's Exchequer. On the accession of Richard II. he was 
promoted to be Steward of the King's household, and it was 
in this capacity that he was employed to address the two 
Houses, and that he so much distinguished himself in the last 
two parliaments. Although with little book-learning, he had 
so much natural talent, and had seen so much of the world, 
and had such a quick insight into character, that he was 
reckoned a consummate practical statesman, as well as a dis- 
tinguished military commander ; and his appointment to the 
office of Chancellor, if it astonished, did not much offend, 
the public. 

The Close Roll tells us that the following day he held a Seal Made a 
in the church of St. Mary le Crypt at Gloucester, and I read ^^'^' 
no more of his judicial exploits.* That he might more 
effectually assist the government in the House of Lords, he 
was raised to the peerage by the title of Baron Scrope of 
Bolton, in the county of York. Here he had a large do- 
main, and, under a licence from the Crown, he erected a 
strong castle, which stood several sieges, and was afterwards 
more illustrated by being one of the prisons of Mary Queen 
of Scots. 

In the parliament which met at Westminster on the 14th a parlia- 
of January, 1379, he very ably expounded the causes of the ^"*- 
summons, was much applauded for his eloquence, and ob- 
tained a large supply for the King. The Commons prayed 
that there might not be another parliament till a year after 
that time, and that the Chancellor, the Ti'easurer, Keeper of 
the Privy Seal, Chief Chamberlain, and Steward of the 

Rot. Cl. 2 Ric. 2. m. 25. 
T 4 


CHAP, household might not be changed in the meanwhile.* At 
the same time they made a complaint of the interference of 

the Court of Chancery and of the Council with the course of 
the common law. The answer was, " that parties should be 
sent to the proper court to answer according to due course of 
law ; provided always, that where the King and his Council 
should be credibly informed that by maintenance, oppression, 
and other outrages, the common law could not have due 
course, the Council in such case might send for the party 
against whom the complaint is made, and put him to answer 
for the misprison, f 
Removal Wc are not informed of the particulars of the intrigue 

Scro^'e'^and which, on the 2d of July, 1379, put an end to the first Chan- 
appoint- cellorship of Lord Scrope ; and we only know, from the 
'smos'pE Close Roll, that on that day he surrendered the Great Seal, 
SuPBURY and that on the 4th of July the King delivered it to Simon de 
ceiior, ' Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, who, having taken 
A.D. 1379. the oaths, was the day following installed as Chancellor in 

Westminster Hall. | 

His origin Simon dc Sudbury assumed that name from the town in 

tbn.^*^"'^' Suffolk where he happened to be born. Yet was he of noble 

extraction, being the son of Nigel Theobald, of a baronial 

family whose founder had come over with the Conqueror. 

Having been carefully educated in England, he was sent 

by his father beyond sea to study the civil law, of which he 

became a Doctor after disputations in several Continental 

universities. Such was his fame as a wrangler, that he was 

admitted of the Council to Innocent VI. and Auditor of the 

Made Rota in the court of Rome. On the recommendation of the 

^/canTe'r"'' Pop^j lie had great promotion when he returned home to his 

bury, own country, being made Chancellor of Sarum, then Bishop 

of London, and, in 1375, translated to the see of Canterbury. 

Lord He called forth some censure by accepting the Great Seal ; 

Ciiancellor. f^^.^ though there were many precedents of a Chancellor 

becoming Archbishop of Canterbury, it was not thought 

consistent with the dignity of the church that an Archbishop 

of Canterbury should become Chancellor. It would have been 

* 1 Pari. Hist 169, 170. f Rot. Pari. 2 Ric. 2. 

X Rot. CI. 3 Ric, 2. m. 22. 


well if he had confined himself to the discharge of his eccle- CHAP, 
siastical duties, as, by engaging in politics, he was brought to 

an untimely and violent end. 

He opened the parliament, which met at Northampton, at He pro- 
the feast of All Saints, 1380, and, after much difficulty and ^lll\^^^ 
management, prevailed upon the Commons to grant the fatal a.d. isso. 
"capitation tax," which was to be "three groats of every 
person of the kingdom, male or female, of the age of fifteen, 
of what state or condition soever." This was denounced 
as "a new and strange subsidy," and Hollingshead writes, 
that " great grudging and many a bitter curse followed on 
the levying of this money, and that much mischief rose thereof, 
as after did appear." If the insult had not been offered by 
the tax-gatherer to the daughter of Wat Tyler, some other 
accidental spark would probably have thrown the whole 
country into a flame. 

The Chancellor, being the author of the abhorred tax, in 
the rebellion which it excited, he was the first victim. John 
Ball, the famous seditious preacher, inveighed bitterly against 
him by name ; and, in reference to his aristocratic birth, the 
often-quoted lines were made which, Hume says, "in spite 
of prejudice, we cannot but regard with some degree of ap- 

" When Adam delv'd and Eve span, 
Where was then the gentleman?" 

The army, or rather mob, 100,000 strong, under Tyler Wat Ty- 
and Straw, having taken post at Blackheath, and threatening If'^ ^^^^^^' 
general destruction more especially to lawyers*, and all 

* Walsingham, in his interesting relation of Wat Tyler's rebellion, savs : 

" Voluit namque ad alia commissionem pro se et suis obtinuisse, ad decollanduin 
omnes juridicos et universos qui vel in lege docti fuere vel cum jure ratione 
officii communicavere. Mente nempe conceperat, doctis in lege necatis, universa 
juxta communis plebis scitum de cajtero ordinari, et nullam omnino legem fore 
futuram vel si futura foret, esse pro suorum arbitrio statuenda." Walsiyighnm, 
p. 361. So in Cade's rebellion. Temp. Hen. 6. ; 

" Dick. The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. 

Cade. Nay, that I mean to do." (And proceeds to give his reasons.) 

Shuk. Second Part Tien. VI, a. iv. s. 2. 
In the riots of 1780, a similar spirit was displayed, and siege was laid to the 
inns of court, with the intention of exterminating the whole race of lawyers, that 
" the skin of an innocent lamb might no longer be converted into an indictment." 
I have heard Judge liurrough relate that siege being laid to the Temple, 
he and many other lawyers armed themselves, and lieaded by a sergeant of the 
Guards took post in Inner Temple Lane; there they stood valiantly till a pannel 


CHAP, who were supposed to have been instrumental in imposing 
^^^' the tax, or who resisted the demands for its repeal, the 
Chancellor Chancellor took refuge in the Tower of London. They 
seized in pursued him thither, attacked this fortress, and it being 
feebly defended, they soon stormed it. They instantly 
seized him, and dragged him to Tower Hill, with the de- 
clared inteption of executing him there as a traitor. 
Beheaded, In this extremity he displayed great courage and con- 
issl^""^' stancy, and addressing the multitude, reminded them of his 
sacred character, and tried to rouse them to some sense of 
justice and humanity.* All these appeals were ineffectual ; 
after many blows his head was struck off, and his dead body 
was treated with barbarous indignity. 
Miracles But it was believed that miracles were worked to punish 

by the de- j^j murderers, and to show that he had been received in 

ceased ' 

Chancellor, heaven as a Saint. It is gravely related, that the executioner 
who had committed the horrid sacrilege went mad, and was 
struck with blindness ; that a man, blind for many years, on 
praying to be cured for his sake, was immediately restored to 
sight ; and (as we may well believe) that a woman who had 
been long in difficult labour, having prayed for his interces- 
sion, was the same day delivered of three fine boys, all 
received into the church by baptism, f The same historian, 
who was his contemporary, and speaks from personal know- 
ledge, gives him the character of being " very eloquent, 
and incomparably wise above all the great men of the 
William The rebellion having been quelled by the gallantry of Sir 

NAY,"chaa- William AValworth and the presence of mind and address of 
ceiior, the youthful King, which raised a disappointed expectation 

A. D. 1381* 

of the gate was forced in from Fleet Street ; they then became rather nervous, 
but the sergeant having hallooed out, " Take care no gentleman fires from be- 
hind !" they all burst into a loud laugh ; whereupon the mob, fearing there was a 
stratagem, suddenly made off, and the Temple was saved. 

* " Quid est charissimi filii, quid est quod proponitis facere? Quod est pec- 
catum meum quod in vos commisi, propter quod me vultis occidere? Caven- 
dum est ne me interfecto, qui pastor, praelatus et archiepiscopus vester sum, 
vetiiat super vos indignatio justi vindicis, vel certe pro tali facto, tota supponatur 
Anglia interdicto." Wals. 262. 

t " Mulier qusedam quae impregnata fuerat et parere nullo mode poterat, 
postulato ejus auxilio, eodem die delibcrata est de tribus puerulis, qui omnes 
baptizati sunt." p. 263, 



of his qualifications for government, the Great Seal was 
given into the temporary custody, first, of Richard Earl of 
Arundel, and then of Hugh de Segrave " till the King could 
conveniently provide a Chancellor."* On the 10th of Au- 
gust, Segrave restored the Seal to the King, who imme- 
diately delivered it with the title of Chancellor to William 
CouRTENAY, Bishop of London. 

The office of Chancellor appears, in this age, to have been 
an object of ambition to men of the most illustrious descent. 
William was a younger son of Hugh Courtenay, Earl of 
Devon, having in his veins the blood of French kings and of 
Emperors of the East, as well as of the Plantagenets. f 
While yet a youth, he had made great proficiency In the 
civil and canon law, and taking orders, he rose rapidly in the 
church from personal merit and family Interest. 

After holding almost innumerable prebends and livings, he 
was made Bishop of Hereford, and then translated to London. 
He was very popular with the Londoners, who stood by him 
in a dispute with John of Gaunt, and could hardly be re- 
strained by him from pulling down the Duke's house. He 
was made a Cardinal, and he succeeded De Sudbury as 
Archbishop of Canterbury as well as Lord Chancellor. 

He sat in Chancery himself, without the assistance of the 
Master of the Rolls, or any other Keeper ; but he appears to 
have excited great dissatisfaction as a judge, and the cry 
against delays and corruption in his court soon became very 
loud and general. 

A parliament met in September, and it was opened by the 
Chancellor in a speech from this text, " Rex convenire fecit 
concilium."! He declared the chief cause of the summons to 
be to punish the authors of the late horrible tumults, and to 
do away with the charters of liberty and manumission which 
the King had been forced to grant to bond-tenants and vil- 


A.D. 1381. 

His illus- 
trious de- 

with John 
of Gaunt. 

His beha- 
viour as 

on address 
of Com- 

* Rot. CI. 5 Ric. 2. m. 25. 

t His mother, Margaret de Bohun, was a grand-daughter of Edward I. 

I In the Parliament Roll the Chancellor is said to have made un bone collacion 
en Enyleys. Rot. Pari. 5 Ric. 2. Although the formal written proceedings 
in parliament were, and are still, in Frencli, I conceive that from the time when 
representatives from cities and boroughs were admitted, a liberty must have 
been allowed to speak in English, and the use of the French in debate must 
have been gradually laid aside. 




A.v. 1381. 

Lord le 

Death of 

with Lord 
le Scrope, 
who is dis- 

lalns under the Great Seal of England.* But the parliament 
immediately proceeded to inquire into the abuses in the 
government of the country, and the Commons petitioned 
for the appointment of a new Chancellor and other judges. 
In consequence of these proceedings, Archbishop Courtenay 
was removed from the office of Chancellor, and Lord le Scrope, 
who had been leader of the opposition, was placed in it the 
second time. The Ex-chancellor devoted the rest of his days 
to his ecclesiastical duties. He held a celebrated synod at 
London, in which the doctrines of Wickliffe were solemnly 
condemned. A little before his death he obtained a grant by 
a papal bull of the sixtieth part of the income of all the clergy 
within his province ; but the Bishop of Lincoln refusing to 
pay, and appealing to the Pope, the Archbishop died while 
the matter was depending, July 31. 1396. 

Durino; this last transfer of the Great Seal the King had 
it a short time in his own possession, and himself sealed 
a commission by which he appointed John de Holland, his 
brother by the mother's side, John de Montague, Steward 
of his household, and Simon de Burle, his Chamberlain, to 
proceed to Germany, there to receive the Lady Ann, the sister 
of the Emperor, as his future Queen, and to conduct her to 
his presence. This might be excusable, as matter personally 
relating to himself, but he at the same time sealed several other 
commissions and important charters with his own hand, which 
gave him a taste for acting without any responsible adviser, 
and contrary to the opinion expressed by his ministers. 

The Commons now made another effort to abolish all fines 
on writs out of Chancery, as contrary to the Great Charter ; 
but the King answered, " that such fines had always been 
received in Chancery as well since as before the Great Charter, 
by all his noble progenitors. Kings of England." f 

As soon as parliament was dissolved, the King quarrelled 
with Lord le Scrope, the new Chancellor, who resisted the 
gross job of conferring upon some worthless favourites the 
lands which, on the death of the Earl of March, had fallen to 

* It appears by the Close Roll that the Great Seal had been a short time in 
the King's own keeping, and I presume these charters were then sealed with his 
own hand. 

t Rot. Par. 5 Ric. 2. 


the Crown. Richard became incensed at his behaviour, and chap. 
at the instigation of the disappointed parties, sent messenger 
after messenger to demand the Great Seal from him ; but he 
refused to deliver it except to the King himself. At length 
the King got possession of it on the 11th of July, and gave a.d. isss. 
it into the keeping of Hugh de Segrave and others, to be 
used by them for the sealing of writs and charters till a new 
Chancellor should be found.* 

On the 20th of September, Robert de Braybroke was Robert de 
made Chancellor. He was of a noble family, the Braybrokes, ^"^r- 
of Braybroke Castle, in the county of Northampton. Having Chancellor 
studied at Cambridge, and becoming a licentiate in laws, he 
entered the church, was made canon of Lichfield, and in 
1381 was consecrated Bishop of London. At this time he 
was high in favour with John of Gaunt, who was the means 
of his being made Chancellor from the capacity for political 
intrigue which he was supposed to have displayed. He was 
not created in the usual manner by the King delivering the 
Seal to him, but by writ, addressed to those who had it in 
their keeping, f 

During his short tenure of office, two parliaments were Parlia- 
called and opened by speeches from the Chancellor ; but they "^"*' 
were chiefly occupied with measures to put down the heresy 
of WicklifFe, and no civil business of any importance was Wickiiffe. 
transacted at them. :[: 

This Chancellor is celebrated for having resorted to a The Chan- 
pious fraud for what he considered the good of the church. *'?l'^'^'!. 

^ pious fraud 

In the parliament held in the 5 Richard IL, he introduced toputdown 
a bill authorising the Lord Chancellor to issue commissions ^^""^^y* 
to sheriifs to arrest and imprison such as should be certified 
into Chancery to be heretics. This was approved of by the 

* Rot. Cl. 6 Ric. 2. m. 24. 

f " De par le Roy. 

" Treschers et foialx, nous avons ordinez et volons que le Reverent Pere en 
Dieu, et notre trescher Cosin, levesque de Londres, serra notre Chanceller 
Denglitere, pur le grand affiance que nous avons en luy. Si vous mandons et 
cliargeons que veues cestcs, vouz facez delivrer a luy notre Grand Seal esteant 
ore en votre garde, over le trouble de son cherge et toutes autres a ly appurtie- 
nantz come a notre Chanceller. Et cette lettre vous ent serra garrant. Donnez, 
&c." Rot. Cl. 6 R. 2. 

I 1 Pari. Hist. 176. 


CHAP. Lords, but thrown out by the Commons. Nevertheless the 
XVI .... 
* Chancellor at the end of the session caused it to be inscribed 

on the parliament roll, and it was vigorously acted upon to 

the great vexation of the subject. When parliament again 

met, the Commons in a fury passed a bill to which the Lords 

agreed, declaring the former act to be null. " But in the 

parliamentary proclamation of the acts passed in anno 6 

Richard II., the said act of 6 Richard IL, whereby the said 

supposed act of 5 Richard II. was declared to be null, is 

omitted, and afterwards the said supposed act of 5 Richard II. 

was continually printed, and the said act of 6 Richard II. 

hath, by the craft of the prelates, been ever from time to time 

kept from the print." * 

Robert de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the favourite of Richard 

IL, being raised to the title of Duke of Ireland, was now 

engrossing all power into his own hands, and he resolved to 

intrust the Great Seal to a layman who, if from his education 

unfit for its judicial duties, was eminent for talents, address, 

and suppleness qualities sometimes as much considered in 

filling up the oflSce of Chancellor. 

Michael On the 13th of March, 1383, the Great Seal was taken from 

p^^^'^ Robert de Braybroke, and given to Michael de la Pole. 

Chancellor, The Close Roll says, that the Bishop earnestly desired to be 

A.n. 1383, relieved from the office of Chancellor f ; but there can be no 

doubt that he parted with it very unwillingly, and thought 

himself very ill used in being deprived of it. He lived more 

than twenty years afterwards, but never had more than this 

taste of political power. He died in 1404, having seen the 

family of Lancaster seated on the throne. 

Michael de la Pole was the son of Sir William de la Pole, 

a merchant, and Mayor of Kingston-upon-HuU. :j: He had 

Lord Coke's Reports, part xii. 58. 4 Inst. 51. The sham act is still to be 
found in the Statute Book as 5 Ilic. 2. stat. 2. c. 5. Lord Coke adds, that by 
colour of the supposed act certain persons that held that images were not to be 
worshipped were holden in strong prison until they, to redeem their vexation, 
miserably yielded to take an oath, and did swear to worship images, which was 
against the moral and eternal law of Almighty God." 

t " Desiderans cum magna instantia de officio Cancellarii exonerari. " Rot. 
CI. 6 Ric. 2. 

\ Tlie founder of this illustrious family was the Chancellor's father, who, 
when Edward III. was lying at Antwerp very destitute of money, lent him 
lOOO/. in gold, in recompense whereof (26th Sept. 13 Ed. 3.) he was constituted 



served Edward III. both as a civilian and a soldier, and had chap. 
acquired the friendship of that monarch. In the growing 
troubles of the present reign his support was coveted by both ^^ jggg 
parties, and he was esteemed the person of greatest experience 
and capacity among those who were attached to the Duke of 
Ireland. He was sworn in Chancellor on the 13th of March, 

He did not at first resort to the expedient of handing over His con- 
the Seal to a legal Keeper to act as his judicial deputy ; and ^^^l^ 
as he is said to have performed well in the Court of Chancery, i 

he must have been like some of the military Chancellors in 
our AVest India Islands, who, by discretion, natural good 
sense, taking hints from the clerks in court, and giving' no 
reasons for their decrees f, have very creditably performed the 
duties of their office. 

On the 1st of November in the same year, he made his in pariia- 
first appearance on the woolsack, when he had to open par- 
liament by an oration in the presence of the King and both 
Houses. I He began with great modesty, excusing his own 
unfitness for the place he held, and declaring that he was 
forced to accept it, though he had pleaded his incapacity. He 
then presented a very able exposition of the King's wars with 
Scotland and with France, and pressed for a subsidy, Avhich 
was readily granted. 

second Baron of the Excliequer, and advanced to the degree of a banneret, with 
an allowance, for the better support of that dignity, payable out of the customs 
at Hull. He died, 40 Ed. 3., seised of large estates, which descended to the 
Chancellor. Dugdale. 

* Rot. CI. 6 Ric, 2. m. 12. 

f According to the advice of Lord Mansfield to a military man going to sit 
as Chancellor of Jamaica: " Your decision may be right, but your reasons 
must be wrong." 

I 1 Pari. Hist. 176. 

I give a specimen from the rolls of parliament of this modest oration: 
" Mons. Michel de la Pole, Chivaler, Chanceller d'Engleterre, par commande- 
ment nre. Sr. le Roi avoit les paroles de la pronunciation des causes de la 
somonce de cest present parlimint, y dist. Vous Mess. Prelatz et Seignrs. 
Temporalx, et vous mes compaignons les chivalers et autres de la nol)le Coe. 
d'Engleterre cy presentz, deinez entendre, Q,e combn. q. je ne sole digne, mes 
insufficient de sen do tout autre Cre., toutes voies pleust a nre. Sr. le Roi nal- 
gairs de moy creer son Chanceller, et sur ce ore moy ad commandcz, q'orc en 
vos honorables presences je vous soie de par luy exposer les causes de la somonce 
de son present Parlement. Et partant purra clerement apparoir q. si haute 
busoigne come ce est de pier si chargeante matire devant tantes et tielles si 
nobles et sages persones q. vous estez, je ue ferroie mye par presumption ou sur 
guiderie de moy mesmes, einz soulement par deux enchesons resonable. L'une 




A.D. 1384. 

made an 
A.D. 1386. 

in the 
House of 
Lords be- 
tween the 
and the 
Bishop of 

While this parliament sat, an unjust charge was brought 
against him of taking a bribe. He was acquitted, and John 
Cavendish, his accuser, was fined 1000 marks for defamation. 

At the parliament held in November in the following year, 
he was considerably bolder, and he ventured to give good advice 
to the two chambers, telling them, " there were four ways 
or means which would greatly speed their consultations. 
First, to be early in the house ; next, to repel all melancholy 
passions; the third, to begin always on the most needful 
inquiries, and to proceed without mixture of any orders ; and, 
lastly, to avoid all maintaining and partaking." * 

The Commons made a complaint to the King for commis- 
sions issued by the Chancellor, but they could not obtain a 
more favourable answer than that " those who felt themselves 
aggrieved should show their special grievance to the Chan- 
cellor who would provide a remedy." f 

On the 6th of August, 1386, he was created Earl of Suf- 
folk, the first instance of a Lord Chancellor, while in office, 
being raised to this rank in the peerage. He had, at the same 
time, a grant of 1000 marks a year from the public revenue 
to support his new dignity. 

A parliament M^as held soon after. We have an account 
from Speed, of a debate which took place in the House of 
Lords at the opening of the session, the earliest which 
I find reported, and giving us a lively picture of the elo- 
quence and manners of the age. The Bishop of Norwich, 
the famous " Fighting Prelate," had led an army into Flan- 
ders : being obliged to return with discomfiture, he had been 

est q. longemeiit et eoement. ad este accustumee deinz mesme le Roialrae q. 
les Chancellers d'Angleterre devant moy si ont fait chescun en son temps pro- 
nunciation de par le Roy de semblables parlimentz devaunt ore tenuz; et ne 
vorroie, si pleust a Dieu q. en mon temps defaute de mon dit office, si avaunt 
come je le purroie meintenlr en tout bien et honour. La seconde cause est 
purquoy je assume de present si grant charge sur moy devant touz les autres 
sages cy presentez ; gar le Roy nre. Sr. lige ycy present m" ad commandez de 
1 faire, a qi me faut a fyn force en ce et en touz autres ses commandementz q. 
purroient tournir au pfit. de lui et de son roialme obeire. Et issint ne ferroie 
c^te chargeante busoigne en aucun manere, sinon constreint par reson de mon 
office, et commandement de mon Sr, lige come dist est." Roll Pari. 7 Ric 2. 
vol. ill. 149. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 180. " Mahiienance and champerty," the corruption of 
those days, when " rail-road shares " were unknown, 
t 1 Pari. Hist. 185. 


charged with breach of the conditions on which a sum of money CHAP, 
was granted to him, and the temporalities of his see were se- 
questered. A motion was now made by Thomas de Arun- 
del, Bishop of Ely, then rising into notice, and afterwards 
five times Lord Chancellor, that the temporalities should be 
restored to him, which he said " would be a small matter for 
the King." This was warmly opposed by the new Earl of 
Suffolk, Lord Chancellor, who rose up, and thus addressed 
the Bishop of Ely, " What is that, my Lord, w^hich you 
ask of the King ? Seems it to you a small matter for him to 
part with that Bishop's temporalities, when they yield to his 
coffers above 1000/. a year ? Little need hath the King of such 
councillors, or such friends as advise him to acts so greatly 
to his disadvantage." To which the Bishop of Ely replied, 
" What says your lordship, my Loi'd Michael ? Know that 
I ask not from the King what is his own, but that which he, 
drawn thereunto by you, or such as you are, withholds from 
other men, upon none of the justest titles, which, as I 
think, will never do him any good. As for yourself, if the 
King's advantage be the thing you drive at, why did you 
so greedily accept of 1000 marks a year at the time he 
created you Earl of Suffolk?" " The Chancellor," adds our 
authority, " was hit so home by this round retort, that he 
offered no farther to cross the restitution of the Bishop's 

This year the Earl of Suffolk went abroad upon an em- a.d. isse. 
bassy, and the Great Seal was given into the custody of 
John de Waltham, Master of the Rolls f, celebrated for his 
invention of the writ of subpoena, on which the equitable 
jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery has been supposed to 
be founded. The faction of the favourite, De Vere, had now 
become very odious, and there were loud complaints among 
the people against misgovernment. What was more formid- 
able, there was a strong combination among the Barons, who 
were resolved upon a change. The King's necessities, how- a parlia- 
ever, required the summoning of a new parliament. The two "'^"** 

* Speed in Ann. 1386. t Ro*- CI. 9 Ric. 2. m. 12. 

VOL. I. U 


CHAP. Houses met on the first of October, 1386.* The session was 
opened as usual by a speech from the Lord Chancellor, in 
A.D. 1386. which he said that the principal cause of calling them together 
at that time was " to acquaint them that it had been deter- 
mined the King should cross the seas in person with an army 
royal, and that they were to debate in what manner and how 
Proceed- it was to be done." But the Commons, instead of intimating 
the^Chrn- ^^7 intention of granting a supply, expressed in the royal 
cellor. presence their resolution to impeach the Lord Chancellor for 

divers crimes and misdemeanours. We are informed that 
the Bang thereupon retired, lest he might seem to coun- 
tenance their proceedings. He went to his palace at Eltham, 
where he spent his time in vain amusements, while transac- 
tions were going on which before long led to his dethronement. 
Both Houses, with joint consent, thought proper to send 
this message to him : " That the Chancellor and Treasurer 
ought to be removed from their offices, because those men 
were not for the advantage of himself and kingdom." Adding, 
" that they had matters to treat of relating to the Lord 
Michael de la Pole, which could not be safely done while he 
remained in the office of Chancellor." The King admonished 
them to proceed forthwith to the business for which they 
were summoned, and told them " that he would not for them, 
or at their instance, remove the meanest scullion in his kitchen." 
The Lords and Commons were not to be so daunted, and 
they returned their joint answer to the King, " That they 
neither could, nor by any means would, proceed in any busi- 
ness of parliament, or despatch so much as the least article of 
it, till the King should come and show himself among them, 
and remove the said Michael de la Pole from his office." 
Remonstrances and refusals of redress being some time con- 
tinued, the King threatened to call in the advice of the King 
of France, to whom he would sooner submit than truckle to 
his own subjects. In their address in answer, the two Houses 
said, " We have an ancient constitution, and it was not many 
ages experimented f (it grieves us that we must mention it), 
that if the King, through any evil counsel, or weak obstinacy, 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 185. 

f Referring to the deposition of Edward II. 


or contempt of his people, or out of a perverse and froward CHAP. 
wilfulness, or by any other irregular courses, shall alienate ' 

himself from his people, and refuse to govern by the laws ^.d. 1386. 
and statutes of the realm, but will throw himself headlong 
into wild designs, and stubbornly exercise his own singular 
arbitrary will, from that time it shall be lawful for his 
people, by their full and free assent and consent, to depose 
that King from his throne, and in his stead to establish some 
other of the royal race upon the same."* 

Richard was obliged to yield ; and laying aside his passion. The Earl 
he promised that after three days he would come to the par- "^jj^^^g^ 
liament, and with mature advice willingly acquiesce in their from the 
petitions. Accordingly he came at the time appointed, and chancellor 
consented to an entire change of ministers. The Earl of Oct. 24. 

I 386 

Suffolk was removed, and his enemy Thomas de Arundel, ^jj^jj^g 
Bishop of Ely, made Chancellor in his stead. Arundel 

Not contented with his dismissal, the Commons prayed ^pp^" ^ 
that all manner of charters and letters made in the time of 
the late Chancellor, contrary to law, be annulled and repealed 
in the present parliament, to which the answer was, " Le 
Roi le voet par advys de son conseil."t 

They then proceeded to impeach him ; but his official in- Impeach- 
tegrit}'- was established by the frivolous nature of the offences Ex.chan- 
which his enemies, in the present plenitude of their power, ceiior. 
thought proper to object against him. J 

This is the first instance of the impeachment of a 
Chancellor, and it created great interest from the elevated 
rank and distinguished personal character of the accused. 
The bill of impeachment was divided into seven heads, 
charging the Earl, while Chancellor, with having enriched 
himself by defrauding the Crown, and with having put the 
Great Seal to illegal charters and pardons. He had intrusted 
his defence to his brother-in-law. Lord le Scrope, likewise an 
Ex-chancellor : but the Lords observed that it would be more 
to his honour if he should conduct it himself. He thereupon His de- 
went through the different charges in order, contending that '^"*'^' 

1 Pari. Hist. 186. f Rot. Par. 10 Ric. 2. 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 189. 

V 2 


CHAP, those which were fit ground of impeachment were unfounded 
' in fact, and that the others did not amount to any legal 
offence. " As to his deserts he would be silent, but hoped that 
what he had suffered for the King would not be forgotten." 
Here Scrope was allowed to interpose. " The individual 
now accused of misconduct as Chancellor," he remarked, 
" had served in war thirty years as a knight banneret with- 
out disgrace or reproof, had thrice been a captive in the hands 
of the enemy, and had been Governor of Calais, Admiral of 
the fleet, and oftentimes Ambassador from the King to foreign 
states, in all which capacities he had conducted himself 
with the purest honour as well as with the highest ability." 

The managers for the Commons were heard in reply, and 
chiefly dwelt upon the charge, that, being Chancellor, and 
obliged by his oath to consult the King's profit, he had pur- 
chased lands from the King below their true value. He 
proved that he had made no purchase from the Crown while 
he was Chancellor, and that all the bargains referred to had 
been concluded before he was raised to that office. Never- 
theless he was found guilty of having defrauded the Crown, 
and adjudged to forfeit several large sums of money, and to 
be imprisoned during the King's pleasure. He was accord- 
ingly committed to the custody of the Lord High Constable, 
and sent close prisoner to Windsor Castle, where he remained 
till this parliament was dissolved, when he was taken into 
favour, and was able ao-ain to make head against his enemies. 
This prosecution is memorable as it confirmed to the 
Commons their new claim of impeaching the ministers of the 
Crown, and showed how the power might be abused to the 
purposes of faction. 
Death of De la Pole, the Ex-chancellor, was actively engaged in the 

o/suffolk. struggle which soon arose from the attempt to subject Richard, 
like Henry III, and Edward II., to a council of Barons, 
armed with the powers of royalty. Upon the defeat of the 
party who resisted these proceedings he was obliged to go 
into exile. He was kindly received by the King of France, 
A.D. 1388. but died soon after of a broken heart, said to have been pro- 
duced less by his private misfortunes than by the calamities 
he saw impending over his country. That he was fit for the 


office of Chancellor, which had been held by Parnynge and CHAP. 
Knyvet, it is impossible to assert ; but he seems to have filled 

it with unspotted integrity, and he certainly displayed high j^j^ j.,,g_ 
qualities as a statesman as well as a soldier. His descendants racter. 
were nearly allied to the throne, and several of them are 
among the most distinguished chai'acters in English history. 

The new Chancellor, Thomas Arundel, was of illustrious Thomas 
descent, being the son of Robert Earl of Arundel and Warren. chaiTcellor. 
He very early displayed great talents, and he had a respect- His family, 
able share of the learning of the times. Taking orders, he Education, 
was made Archdeacon of Taunton when scarce twenty -two 
years of age, and it was not long before he entered parliament 
as a prelate, where we have seen he was the antagonist of 
De la Pole the Chancellor, with whom he had a long-con- 
tinued rivalry. Supported by Gloucester, the King's uncle, 
he was now completely in the ascendant ; for the two houses 
were willingly ruled by him, and the King could make no 
resistance. He used his power with no moderation ; for, not 
contented with crushing his predecessor, he attempted per- 
manently to make himself master of the King and the kingdom. 
An Act was passed, to which the royal assent Avas nominally 
given, appointing a council of fourteen persons, to whom the 
sovereign power Avas transferred for a twelvemonth, and 
the King was in reality dethroned. The Chancellor was the 
first named in this commission. 

But althouo;h Richard had taken an oath never to infrlnece Miscon- 
it, at the end of the session he publicly entered a protest that Richard 1 1, 
the prerogatives of the Crown, notwithstanding his late con- 
cession, should still be deemed entire and unimpaired. The 
Commissioners, disregarding this declaration, took posses- 
sion of the government, but they Avere not long allowed 
to exercise their authority without disturbance. Richard 
Avas sensible of the contempt into Avhich he had fallen, and, 
instigated by the Earl of Suffolk, Avhom he restored to liberty, 
he made a bold effort to recover his authority. He assembled 
Tressilian, the Chief Justice of England, and the other 
Judges, at Nottingham, and obtained an opinion from them 
that those who procured the late commission, or advised the 
King to consent to it, Averc punishable with death, and that 

u 3 





Civil war. 

A parlia- 

A,D. 1389. 

those who should persevere in maintaining it were guilty of 
treason ; and that the House of Commons cannot, without the 
King's consent, impeach any of his Ministers or Judges. 

Gloucester and the Chancellor flew to arms as soon as they 
heard of this consultation, and met Richard near Highgate 
with a force which he and his adherents could not resist. They 
accused the Earl of Suffolk, the Duke of Ireland, Sir Robert 
Tressilian, and others who impugned the commission, as public 
and dangerous enemies to the state. 

A new parliament was called in February, 1388*, which 
was opened by a speech from the Bishop of Ely, the Chan- 
cellor, inveighing against the opposite faction. An appeal of 
treason, consisting of many articles, was preferred against the 
discomfited leaders of it, and, as a matter of course, they 
were found guilty. Tressilian, the Chief Justice, being dis- 
covered in an apothecary's shop in Palace Yard, where he 
had some time lain concealed, was hanged at Tyburn, and 
his fate seems to have excited little compassion, for he had 
shown himself ready to mete out like injustice to others, and 
he had extra-judicially pronounced opinions which, if acted 
upon, would have been for ever fatal to public liberty. 

It seemed as if those now in power never could be deprived 
of it. Thomas of Arundel, the Chancellor, had been made 
Archbishop of York, and he no doubt expected to hold the 
Great Seal without interruption for many years. But in the 
beginning of May, 1389, Richard unexpectedly and peaceably 
recovered his authority, and all those who had been concerned 
in the late plots against him were dismissed from their employ- 
ments. This change seems to have been brought about merely 
by a reaction in public opinion, and a dislike in the English 
nation to power remaining long in the same hands. 

Richard, on this occasion, conducted himself with great 
moderation, and he confirmed by proclamation the general 
pardon which the parliament had passed for all offences. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 196. 1 St. Tr. 89. 




William of Wickham, Bishop of Winchester, after a chap. 

. . XVII 

retirement from office of eighteen years, was again made 

Chancellor, as a person likely to be generally acceptable. ]\jay 4. 

After his resignation of the Great Seal in 1371, he had is89. 

, , , . ,^ , . . , , , . , William of 

employed himseli in repairing the twelve castles, or manorial wickham 
residences, belonging to him as Bishop, on which he spent ^*'" 
20,000 marks; in rebuilding the cathedral at Winchester ; jjis history 
and in reforming abuses in the monasteries and religious between his 
houses within his diocese, particularly the ancient hospital of cellorsbips. 
St. Cross, founded by the famous Bishop Henry de Blois, 
brother of King Stephen.* Having been appointed by "the 
Good Parliament," which met in 1376, one of the council 
established to superintend the conduct of public affairs, he 
had the misfortune to incur the displeasure of the Duke of 
Lancaster, who then wished to engross all power into his own 
hands. By his contrivance, eight informations were filed 
against the Bishop in the beginning of the next Michaelmas 
term, charging him with various acts of pecuniary defalcation, 
oppression, and perversion of the law while he was Keeper of 
the Privy Seal and Lord Chancellor. The cause was tried 
before a partial commission of Bishops, Peers, and Privy 
Councillors, and although convicted only on one charge, 
which amounted at most to an irregularity, he was heavily 
fined, an order was issued for sequestering the revenues of 
his bishopric, and he was forbidden to come within twenty 
miles of the Court. When, on the petition of the Commons 
the general pardon was issued by the King in consideration of 
its being the year of his jubilee, the Bishop of Winchester 

Under a regulation then made, every traveller who visits the hospital is now 
presented with a cup of ale and a small loaf, ut gustavi. 

V 4 




A parlia- 
A.D. 1390. 

The Chan- 
cellor lays 
down his 
office in 
and is re- 

alone was exempted from its benefit. His enemies contrived 
to throw an imputation upon him that he was patronised by 
Alice Pierce, and that he instigated her to withstand the 
parliament. In spite of this scandal, his brethren of the 
clergy now assembled in convocation, manfully took up his 
cause, and his temporalities were restored to him on condition 
of his fitting out three ships of war for the defence of the 
kingdom. The mulct was remitted on the accession of 
Richard II. ; but the prosecution subjected him to a loss of 
10,000 marks. 

During the minority of Richard the Ex-chancellor had not 
interfered with politics, except that after the suppression of 
Wat Tyler's rebellion he was one of the seventeen persons 
appointed by the Commons to confer with them on the con- 
dition of the kingdom, and that in 1386 he was one of the 
fourteen appointed by the parliament, at the instigation of the 
King's uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, to be a council to 
the King for one year, and to exercise all the powers of 
government. In this capacity he conducted himself with so 
much mildness and moderation, that when Richard recovered 
his authority he still wished to have him near his person. 

His restoration to the office of Chancellor under the pre- 
sent circumstances was generally approved of; for If his 
judicial qualifications for it were slender, the people were 
pleased to see it once more filled by a man of moderate 
opinions and unsullied integrity. 

In January, 1390, a parliament met, which he opened with 
a speech, " declaring the King to be of full age, and that he 
intended to govern his people in peace and quiet, and to do 
justice and right to all men." * 

The Chancellor then, to gain popularity, went through a 
ceremony prescribed by a repealed statute of Edward III. ; 
he surrendered the Great Seal to the King before both houses 
of parliament; the Bishop of St. David's, the Lord Treasurer, 
at the same time delivered up the keys of the Exchequer ; 
and they prayed that they might be discharged, "complaining 
of the great labour and costs to which they were continually 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 216. 


put in their said offices, and praying that other good and suf- CHAP, 
ficient persons might be appointed in their stead." After this '__ 

resignation, it was openly proclaimed in full parliament, " that 
if any person could justly complain of any illegal action, or 
any thing done amiss by them in their several offices, he should 
come forth and he should be heard, for they now stood upon 
their deliverance." Both the Lords and Commons answered 
" that they knew nothing amiss against them, and that they 
had behaved themselves well in their respective offices." 
Whereupon the King re-instated the Bishop of Winchester in 
the office of Chancellor, and re-delivered to him the Great 
Seal, and the Bishop of St. David's in the office of Treasurer, 
and re-delivered to him the keys of the Treasury. 

Nevertheless the Commons showed suspicion and jealousy 
of the future proceedings of the Chancellor, for they prayed 
the King " that neither the Chancellor nor the King's Coun- 
cil, after the parliament is ended, may make any ordinance 
against the common law nor the ancient customs of the land, 
nor against the statutes heretofore passed in the present 
parliament, and that no judgment rendered be annulled with- 
out due process of law." An evasive answer being given, the 
Commons returned to the attack, and prayed " that if the 
Chancellor should compel the King's lieges to appear before 
him to answer any thing that may be recovered at common 
law, he shall be liable to a penalty of 100/.; " but the answer 
still was " The King willeth, as his progenitors have done, 
saving his regality." * 

William of Wickham remained Chancellor, the second Resigna- 
time, till the 27th of September, 1391, when he was sue- wiiiili c 
ceeded by Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of York, who had Wickiiam 
been his immediate predecessor. f This change took place ^"- '391. 
without any convulsion, and seems to have been the result of 
an amicable compromise between the contending parties. 
The Duke of Gloucester was restored to his place in the 
council, and, for a short time, there was a prospect of public 

Here we must take leave of Lord Chancellor Wickham. 

* Rot. Par. 13 Ric. 2. f Rot. CI. 15 Ric. 2. m. 34. 





His retire- 
ment from 
public life. 

His death. 

His merits. 


Thomas de 

From this date he seems to have interfered little in 
public affairs. He was in some danger in 1397, when the 
Duke of Gloucester was put to death, and several of his 
associates were attainted for their former resistance to the 
royal authority ; but, at the intercession of the Commons, it 
was declared by the King, from the throne, that the Bishop 
of Winchester had not been implicated in what his fellow- 
commissioners had then done. He was present in the parlia- 
ment held the 30th of September, 1399, when Richard was 
deposed, and in the first parliament of Henry IV., sum- 
moned a few days after ; but this was the last which he 
attended. He now devoted himself to his episcopal duties, 
and the superintendence of his two noble foundations at 
Winchester and Oxford, which have contributed so much to 
the cause of sound education in England, and have rendered 
his name so illustrious.* 

He expired on the 27th of September, 1404, in the eighty- 
first year of his age, having presided over the see of Win- 
chester above thirty- eight years. 

None of his decisions as Chancellor have come down to us, 
but he left a greater name to posterity than many of his suc- 
cessors of much higher juridical authority. We are to ad- 
mire in him not only his unrivalled skill in one of the fine 
arts, but his extraordinary aptitude for all civil business, his 
equal and benevolent temper, his enlightened munificence, and 
his devoted love of learning. f 

We are now in the tranquil period of Richard's reign, in 
which he was permitted to give free scope to his love of indo- 
lence, low pleasures, and frivolous company. Thomas de 
Arundel's second Chancellorship lasted about five years, 
Avithout being marked by any striking events till the close of 

* The bull of Pope Urbanus VI. for founding Winchester school, was granted 
1st June, 1378. The building of the college at Oxford, which he called " St. 
Mary College of Winchester, at Oxford," afterwards " New College," was begun 
in 1380 and finished in 1386; the papal bull confirming its statutes is dated 
19th July, 1398. I have a great kindness for the memory of William of Wick- 
ham, when I think of his having produced such Wickhamists as my friends 
Baron Rolfe and Professor Empson. 

" Hactenus ire libet, tu major laudibus istis 
Suscipc conatus, Wicame Dive, meos." 

t See Hist. Descrip. Gul. Wick. Life by Lowth. 



it. Parties continued pretty equally balanced, and what lias 
since been called b, juste milieu government prevailed. 

During this time the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery 
was greatly extended, and the famous writ of subpoena came 
into use as invented or improved by John de Waltham, who 
was Master of the Rolls, and several times intrusted with the 
custody of the Great Seal as deputy to the Chancellor, though 
he never held it in his own right.* 

* Blackstone is entirely mistaken in asserting that John de Waltham was 
Chancellor to Richard II.', and as he never was Chancellor, nor held the Great 
Seal as Keeper in his own right, he does not properly come into the list of those 
whose lives I have undertaken to write. Yet, as his name is so distinguished 
in the history of the equitable jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery, the reader 
may be desirous of being informed of what is known concerning him. 

His birth and place of education have not been traced. He was an eccle- 
siastic who devoted himself to the study of the civil and canon law, in which he 
made great proficiency. He was early introduced as a clerk in Chancery, and 
soon rose to be a Master. Rendering himself useful to Lord Chancellor Cour- 
tenay, he was by his interest appointed one of the Receivers of Petitions for 
England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, in the parliament which met in 
5 Ric. 2., and in the same year was created Master of the Rolls.^ The fol- 
lowing year, under Lord Chancellor Scrope, he was a Keeper of the Great Seal 
along with Hugh de Segrave, the Treasurer of England, and William de Digh- 
ton, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and he was a joint Keeper of the Great SeaP 
likewise, under the two succeeding Chancellors. But in April, 1386, he was 
appointed sole Keeper of the Great Seal under Lord Chancellor de la Pole *, 
and again in September, 1394, under Lord Chancellor Arundel.* He was after- 
wards consecrated Bishop of Salisbury, and finally was made Lord Treasurer of 

But the great disgrace or glory imputed to him, was the invention of the writ 
of suBPCENA in Chancery, and some have represented him by the sale of his new 
writ, and his extension of the jurisdiction of the Chancellor, in derogation of the 
common law, to merit the denunciation, 

" Vendidit hie auro patriam, dominumque potentem 
Imposuit, fixit leges pretio atque refixit ; " 
while others would inscribe his name among those 

" Inventas qui vitam excoluere per artes, 
Quique sui memores alios fecere merendo." 

In censuring and extolling him there has been much exaggeration. While 
obscurity veils the honour due to the first happy discoverers of the latitat and 
quo minus, the indignant complaint of the Commons " that the subpoena in 
Chancery had never been known before the time of Sir John de Waltham," has 
fixed upon him the responsibility of being the author of this writ. In reality, 
he first framed it in its present form, when a clerk in Chancery, in the latter 
end of the reign of Edward III. ; but the invention consisted in merely adding 
to the old clause Quibusdam certis de causis, the words " Et hoc sub poena cen- 
tum librarum nullatenus omittas';" and I am at a loss to conceive how such 


' Bl. Com. iii. 52. 

* Rot. Pat. 5 Ric. 2. m. 22 
' Rot. CI. G Ric. 2. m. 12. 

* Rot. CI. 9 Ric. 2. m. 5. 
" 14 Ric. 2. Or. Jur. 54. 

' See Rot. Pat. 38 Ed. 3. p. i. m. 1 5 

Rot. Pari. 3 Hen. 5. m. 2. 
Rot. CI. 9 Ric. 2. 

'' Rot. CI. IS Ric. 2. m. 31. 

Rot. Claus. 20 Ed. 3. p. ii. m. 4. d. 

History of 
John de 

His inven- 
tion of 
writ of 





ings ill par- 
against tlie 
Court of 

goes with 
King to 

These Innovations were highly unpopular, and vigorous 
attempts were made to check them ; but nothing more could 
be effected in this reign than passing stat. 17 Rich. 2. c. 6., 
entitled, " Upon an untrue suggestion in the Chancery, 
Damages may be awarded," whereby, after reciting " that 
forasmuch as people be compelled to come before the King's 
counsel or in the Chancery by writs grounded on untrue sug- 
gestions," it is enacted, " that the Chancellor for the time 
being, presently after that such suggestions be duly found and 
proved untrue, shall have power to ordain and award damages, 
according to his discretion, to him which is so troubled 
unduly, as aforesaid." 

This remedy, which was referred to the discretion of the 
Chancellor himself, whose jurisdiction was to be controlled, 
proved, as might have been expected, wholly ineffectual, but 
it was used as a parliamentary recognition of his jurisdiction, 
and a pretence for refusing to establish any other check 
to it. 

In the month of September, 1394, the Chancellor attended 
the King into Ireland, when the Great Seal was committed 
to the custody of John de Waltham, who had now risen to 
the dignity of Bishop of Salisbury and Treasurer of England ; 
but when he likewise went to Ireland, it was handed over to 
John Searle, who had succeeded him as Master of the Rolls. 
It was thrice again in the keeping of the same person before 
the next revolution of the government, on occasions when the 
Chancellor, now translated to the see of Canterbury, was too 
much occupied with his other avocations to attend to his 
judicial duties.* 

The Duke of Gloucester, to whose party Arundel had 
attached himself, was making a struggle to grasp the whole 
power of the state, and, according to Froissart, aimed at the 

His death. 

importance was attached to it, or how it was supposed to have brought about so 
complete a revolution in equitable proceedings ; for the penalty never was 
enforced, and if the party failed to appear, his default was treated (according to 
the practice prevailing to our own time) as a contempt of court, and made the 
foundation of compulsory process. 

John de Waltham continued to hold the office of Lord Treasurer till his death 
in September, 1395. By the command of Richard II. he was buried in the 
chapel royal of Westminster Abbey, among the Kings of England. 

Rot. CI. 19 Ric, 2. m 12. 20 Ric. 2. m. 28. 


crown Itself, although Richard had declared in parliament chap. 
that, in case of his decease without issue, the house of March, 

descended from the Duke of Clarence, the second son of 
Edward III., were his true heirs. 

Richard for a short time showed some energy in defence of Removal 
his rights. Arundel, the Chancellor, was removed from his nov.'^"23 ^ ' 
office, and replaced by Edmund Staffokd, Bishop of Exeter, i396. 
who had sided with Gloucester's enemies, and Gloucester Emnd 
Dimselt was arrested and sent over to Calais as a state pri- Chancellor, 
soner. The Dukes of Lancaster and York, the King's other 
uncles, concurred in these measures, and all who had opposed 
them were now at the mercy of the ruling faction. 

As usual on such occasions, a parliament was called to 
register decrees of vengeance, and acted with the expected 
vigour and unanimity. Some objection might safely be made 
to a particular measure which did not excite the passions of 
men as it passed through either House ; but a regular par- 
liamentary opposition was unknown, and no division ever took 
place on a bill of attainder or forfeiture, for this plain reason, 
that the names of the minority would have been immediately 
introduced into the bill, and they would forthwith have found 
themselves entering through the Traitor's Gate into the Tower, 
shortly to tread the scaffold on Tower Hill, if not assassinated 
before the day fixed for their execution. 

Lord Chancellor Stafford opened the session with a speech Chancel- 
from the words of Ezekiel, "Rex unus erit omnibus." He o^fo'S^ 
prepared men for a little wholesome severity, by saying, parliament. 
" That laws ought to be executed, appears by the common 
example of a good father who uses to strike as well as stroke 
his child ; for the better execution of them, the King has 
appointed new judges and officers through the realm."* 

The first step of tlie Commons was to impeach the Ex- Ex-chan- 
chancellor Arundel, for treason, in respect of what he had Arundel 
done when Bishop of Ely, in procuring the Commission in the impeached 
tenth year of the King's reign. Knowing that defence was victed. 
useless, and that being a churchman his life was safe, he con- 
fessed the charge. Upon this, the King and the Lords tem- 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 221. 


CHAP, poral, and (strange to say) the Prelates, by a lay commoner 
who held their proxy, " adjudged and declared the said 

article which the Archbishop had confessed to be treason, and 
that it touched the King himself; for which they also ad- 
judged and declared him a traitor, and it was awarded that he 
should be banished out of the kingdom, have his temporalities 
seized, and forfeit all his lands and goods to the King." 
However, he had six weeks allowed him to pass by the port 
of Dover into France.* 

The Earl of Arundel, his brother, to the same charge 
pleaded the pardon granted by act of parliament as well as by 
proclamation ; but the plea was overruled, and he was con- 
victed and executed. 
Family of The new Chancellor, the Bishop of Exeter, who presided 
ford&** ^^^^ these atrocities, was of illustrious descent, being of the 
family of the Staffords, which from the Conquest till the 
reign of Henry VIII. flourished at the head of the English 
nobility. He was a younger brother of the present Earl. The 
men of obscure origin, however great their talents, generally 
worked their way slowly up to the high ecclesiastical dig- 
nities, which were often bestowed on youths of high birth, 
almost before they were of canonical age to take orders. 
Edmund Stafford was consecrated Bishop of Exeter, pos- 
sessing little theological learning, and was now made Lord 
Chancellor without any knowledge of the law. But he was 
a daring and reckless politician. 

It is to be hoped that he did not counsel the murder of the 
Duke of Gloucester at Calais, although Hume rather justifies 
this coup d^etat, on the ground that a person of such influence 
could not have been safely brought to trial in England f, but 
the Chancellor openly sanctioned the banishment of Henry 
of Bolingbroke and the Duke of Norfolk, together with the 
other hasty and tyrannical measures which were precipitating 
the fate of the unhappy Richard. 
A.D. 1399, On the death of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the 
King, with the concurrence of the Chancellor, seized all the 
possessions and jurisdictions of this powerful family as for- 

* 1 St. Tr. 123. t Vol. iii. 32. 



felted to the Crown, although the sentence against Henry of chap. 

Bolingbroke had only been banishment for ten years, and 

it had been expressly stipulated that he should be entitled by ^ d, 1399. 
his attorney to enter into possession of any succession that 
might fall to him in the mean time. This act of injustice 
made Henry desperate, and led to his invasion of England 
and his claim of the crown. 

Edmund Stafford, the Chancellor, did not accompany Henry of 
Richard in his ill-judged expedition to Ireland, and he seems ^^'^"^' 
to have remained in possession of the Great Seal in London claims the 
till after Henry had landed at Ravenspurg, had been joined "^- 
by the Duke of York at St. Alban's, had taken Bristol, 
had put to death the Earl of Wiltshire and others of the 
King's ministers whom he found there, had got possession 
of Richard's person on his return from Ireland, and was de 
facto the master of the kingdom. 

As might be expected, the records at the conclusion of this John 
reign are very defective, and historians and antiquaries have chancellor 
been much puzzled respecting the manner in which the office 
of Chancellor was then disposed of. There is no entry to be 
found of any transfer of the Great Seal under Richard from 
the time when Stafford, Bishop of Exeter, was first sworn 
in ; but from Privy Seal bills still extant, it is certain that 
before Richard's formal deposition, and the elevation of Henry 
to the throne, Thomas de Arundel, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, and John Searle, who had been made Master of the 
Rolls in 1394, were successively invested with the office of 

The transfer of the Seal to Arundel must have been be- 
tween the 15th of July and the 23d of August, the former 
being the last date of the Privy Seal bills addressed to the 
Bishop of Exeter, and the other the earliest date of those ad- 
dressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury ; and on the like 
evidence Searle's appointment must have been between the 
3d and 5th of September. 

The learned and acute Mr. Duffus Hardy conjectures that 
Richard had recalled the Archbishop from banishment, and 
again made him Chancellor*; but, with the greatest respect 

* Hardy's Chancellors, 46. 




A.D. 1399. 
nies Henry. 

for this high authority, I think it certain that the change was 
made, though in Richard's name, yet without his privity, and 
by those who were about to dethrone him. 

When Bolingbroke and the Duke of Norfolk were banished, 
it was prescribed that they should have no intercourse with 
Archbishop Arundel, then in exile, and considered a very 
dangerous man ; but as soon as Bolingbroke had renounced 
all thoughts of reconciliation with Richard, he entered into a 
close alliance with the Archbishop, and they jointly planned 
the invasion of England durino; Richard's absence in Ireland. 
The Archbishop, with his nephew the young Earl of Arundel, 
embarked with Henry at Nantes,' landed with him in York- 
shire, advised and supported him in all his proceedings, and 
actually placed the crown upon his head. From the time 
when Richard surrendered himself to the Earl of Northum- 
berland at Conway, which was on the 18th of August, he 
was a prisoner, and having been forced to issue writs for the 
calling of a parliament to depose him, he was carried to 
London, and kept in close custody in the Tower. We may 
conjecture that an order was extorted at the same time for 
delivering the Seal to the Archbishop, and that by him the 
writs were sealed. 

It seems at first sight more difficult to account for 
Arundel's parting with the office so suddenly ; for Searle was 
certainly Chancellor by the 5th of September, and Richard's 
reign nominally continued till the 30th of the same month, 
when parliament met, and his deposition was pronounced. 
Searle was in the interest of Henry, and was continued by 
him in office. 

The probability is, that the Archbishop, who cast all the 
parts In the drama of the revolution, intending that he himself, 
as metropolitan and first in precedence in the realm, should 
lead Henry to the vacant throne in Westminster Hall, and 
crown him in Westminster Abbey, conceived that it would 
have a better effect if he should appear only in his sacred 
character, and the civil office of Chancellor should for the 
time be filled by another. He, therefore, may have handed it 
over to Searle, his creature, in the belief that he should be 
able to resume it at pleasure. 



I do not find Searle's name mentioned as takin? any active CHAP, 
part in the parliamentary proceedings on this change of ^ 

dynasty, and he was probably only permitted to sit on the a.d. 1399. 
woolsack in the House of Lords, and to put the question as 

On Michaelmas-day, the Archbishop accompanied Henry Deposition 
to the Tower, Richard, while a prisoner there, having said ^ j Richard 
that, " he was willing to resign as he had promised, but that 
he desired to have some discourse with his cousin the Duke of 
Lancaster and the Archbishop of Canterbury before he ful- 
filled such his promise." The record of the deposition on the 
Parliament Roll relates that " the King, having had discourse 
with the said Duke and Archbishop, exhibiting a merry 
countenance as appeared to those that stood round about, 
holding the schedule of renunciation in his hand, very wil- 
lingly read the same and subscribed it, and absolved all his 
subjects from their allegiance to him." When this instru- 
ment, supposed to have been so freely and cheerfully executed, 
was read in parliament next day, " it was demanded by the 
Chancellor of the estates and people then present, to wit, 
first, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom, by reason of 
the dignity and prerogative of his metropolitan church it be- 
longs in this behalf to have the first voice amono;st the rest of 
the prelates and nobles of the realm, whether for their interest, 
and the utility of the kingdom, they would he willing to admit 
such renunciation and cession ? " This being carried with great 
applause, the Archbishop thought it would be well to have 
another string to his bow, lest hereafter the free agency of the 
act of resignation should be doubted by some suspicious per- 
sons, and he caused articles to be exhibited against Richard 
for misgovernment, and a solemn sentence of deposition to be 
pronounced against him.* 

The throne thus being declared vacant, Henry of Boling- 
broke, who had taken his seat at the head of the temporal 
lords, rose and made his memorable claim, *' in the name of 
Fader, Son, and Holy Ghost," having humbly fortified him- 

* 1 St. Tr. 135. 1 Pari. Hist. 242. 
VOL. I. X 




A.D. 1399. 
raised to 
the throne. 

New par- 

speech for 
Richard by 
Bishop of 

self with the sign of the cross on his forehead and on his 

The states, with the whole people, having consented that the 
said Duke should reign over them, the Archbishop, taking him 
by the right hand, led him to the royal chair of state, which 
had been placed at the upper end of the hall ; and when 
the new King, kneeling down before it, had prayed a little 
while, the Archbishop caused him to sit in the royal seat, and 
delivered an oration from the text, Vir dominahitur populo, 
" A man shall reign over my people," 1 Sam. ix. 17. ; in which 
he pointed out the evils of the rule of children, and the abuses 
of the late reign, and the blessings to be expected from the 
mature wisdom of him who was now to wield the sceptre ; 
concluding with these words " And so, in the stead of a 
child wantoning in foolish stubborn humours, a man shall 
reign and such a man, that it shall be said of him, A king 
shall reign in wisdom^ and he shall execute judgment and do 
justice in the earth'''* 

On the 6th of October following, a new parliament met 
under writs of summons issued under Henry's Great Seal, to 
ratify these proceedings. 

Lord Chancellor Searle was still silent, and the session was. 
opened by a speech from the Archbishop, who took for his 
text these words out of Maccabees, " Incumbit nobis ordinare 
pro regno^'' propounding the constitutional doctrine, " that 
a King is not to rule by his own will or humour, but to be 
governed by the honourable, discreet, and sage men of the 
realm." f 

His motion for confirming what had been done in the depo- 
sition of Richard and the elevation of Henry, was passed with 
the dissentient voice of one, who strenuously resisted it, and 
earned the bright testimony " that he was the only honest 
man in this parliament, scorning life and fortune in respect to 
his Sovereign's right and his own allegiance." The noble 
speech of the Bishop of Carlisle on this occasion, as given by 
Sir John Hayward, greatly exceeds, not only in boldness, 
but in lucid arrangement, close reasoning, and touching elo- 

1 Pari. Hist. 249. 

f Ibid. 285. 


quence, any thing that could be expected from that age.* chap. 
The oration was listened to : but as soon as the orator had 

concluded it, he was attached of high treason, and sent pri- ^.d. 1399. 
soner to the Abbey of St. Alban's. Though his life was safe, 
he was deprived of his bishopric. The Pope, as a testimony 
to his integrity, made him titular Bishop of Samos. 

The Archbishop then moved that the King should be 
prayed to create his eldest son Prince of Wales, Duke of 
Cornwall, and Earl of Chester, which was carried unani- 
mously ; and thereupon the King, sitting in his royal seat in 
full parliament, put a coronet on the head of Prince Henry, 
and a ring of gold on his finger, and gave him a golden rod in 
his hand, and kissed him.f 

The Archbishop had next to manage a very delicate matter Fate of 
" the disposal of Richard's person in order to his keeping I^"=^'^'''^- 
in safe custody, for the King would have his life saved." 
Twenty-two spiritual and thirty-six lay lords being all who 
were present, were severally asked their opinion, and they all 
assented to the resolution, " that he should be put under a 
safe and secret guard, and that no person who had been 
familiar with him should be about his person, and that it 
should be done in the most secret manner that could be 
devised." J 

We must not enter into the controversy how the unhappy 
Richard came to his end, whether by violence or famine ; 
and before passing on to the Chancellors of his successor, we 
can only make a few observations on the equitable jurisdiction 
of the Court of Chancery during his reign. 

The practice of referring matters by parliament to the Equitable 
Chancellor stiU occasionally prevailed. Thus in 15 Rich. II. Sf '''" 
two petitions were addressed to the King and the Peers, and Court of 
the answer to each was the same, " that the petition be sent jn'rei^'n^f 
to the Chancery, the Chancellor to hear both parties, Kichardll. 
and further let there be done by authority of parliament that 
which right and reason and good faith and good conscience 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 274. See a beautiful abstract of it at the conclusion of 
Hume's History of Ric. 2. vol. iii. 43., and sec Shak. Ric. 2. act iv. scene 1. 
t 1 Pari. Hi'st. 273. J Ibid. 274. Rot. Pari. vol. iii. 297. 

X 2 




Masters in 

But the circuity of a petition to parliament or to the 
Council was now seldom resorted to. I have shown the 
opinion to be unfounded, that the equitable jurisdiction of the 
Court of Chancery was not of earlier date ; but there can be 
no doubt that, about this time, it was very much extended. 
The petitions of the Commons in the 13th of E-ichard II., 
" that the Chancellor might make no order against the com- 
mon law, and that no one should appear before the Chancellor 
where recovery was given by the common law," carry in them 
an admission that a power of judicature did reside in the 
Chancellor, so long as he did not determine against the com- 
mon law, nor interpose where the common law furnished a 
remedy. The King's answer, " that it should continue as the 
usage had been heretofore," clearly demonstrates that such an 
authority, restrained within due bounds, was recognised by 
the constitution of the country. 

The use of the writ of subpoena to compel an appearance 
by the defendant, gave new vigour to the process of the 
Court, and the necessity for previously filing a written state- 
ment of the grievance alleged to require relief in equity, intro- 
duced the formal proceeding by " Bill and Answer," instead 
of a mere loose petition to be heard in a summary way, ore 
tenus. In fact, the practice of addressing bills directly to the 
Chancellor had become quite common, and many of them are 
still extant. 

The greatest Indignation broke forth in this reign against 
the Masters in Chancery, who were considered overgrown 
and oppressive sinecurists. In 5 R. 11. a complaint was ex- 
hibited against them in parliament, " that they were over fatt 
both in boddie and purse, and over well furred in their bene- 
fices, and put the Kinge to veiry great cost more than 
needed *," yet nothing effectual was done to reform them. 

The execution of Tressilian, and the punishment of the 
other common-law judges under Lord Chancellor Arundel, 
was attended with much violence, but had a powerful influence 
in creating a respect for parliamentary privilege, which they 
had attempted utterly to subvert. 

Harg. Law Tracts, 314. 


Upon the whole, down to the accession of the House of CHAP. 
...... . . XVII 

Lancaster, our juridical institutions, including the Court of ' 

Chancery, had gone on with a steady improvement, but they 
remained nearly stationary from this time till the union of the 
Roses in the reign of Henry VII.* 

* See Cooper on Public Records, ii. pp. 359, 360. 377. 

X :i 




CHAP. John Seakle, who had nomlnallv been Chancellor to 
XVIII . . 
Richard II., and presided on the woolsack as a tool of Arch- 

Sept. 30. bishop Arundel, was for a short time continued in the office 
1399. i,y i\^Q jigy^ Sovereign. 

Sea RLE, Little is known respecting his origin or prior history. He 

nominally jg supposed to havc been a mere clerk in the Chancery- 
brought forward for a temporary purpose to play the part of 
Chancellor. Having strutted and fretted his hour upon the 
stage, he was heard of no more. It proved convenient for 
the Staifords, the Beauforts, and the Arundels, that he should 
be thus suddenly elevated and depressed. 
A parlia- Henry began his reign by summoning a parliament to 

A.D. 1401. meet at Westminster on the 21st of January, 1401. On 
that day the knights and burgesses were called into the Court 
of Chancery in Westminster Hall before the Chancellor, and 
by the King's authority he put off the meeting of the parliament 
Chancellor till the morrow.* The Lords and Commons then met the 
to address King in the Painted Chamber, but on account of incapacity 
^e two fQj. public speaking the Chancellor was silent, and the speech 
explaining the causes of calling parliament, was, by the 
King's command, delivered by Sir William Thyrning, Chief 
Justice of the King's Bench. 
Resigns. On the 9th of March following Lord Chancellor Searle sur- 

rendered the Great Seal to the King in full parliament, and 
his Majesty immediately delivered it to Edmund Staffi)rd, 
Bishop of Exeter, who had held it towards the end of the 
preceding reign, and had been a special favourite of Richard, 
but had joined in the vote for deposing him. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 285. 


"We are left entirely Ignorant as to the fate of Ex-chan- CHAP 


cellor Searle. Had he been a prelate we should have traced 

him in the chronicles of his diocese, but. we have no means of jjj^ qJj_ 
discovering the retreat of a layman, unconnected with any scurity. 
considerable family, and of no personal eminence. He was 
probably fed in the buttery of some of the great barons 
whom he had served, hardly distinguished while he lived or 
when he died from their other idle retainers. He may enjoy 
the celebrity of being the most inconsiderable man who ever 
held the office of Chancellor in England.* 

Edmund Stafford, restored to the office of Chancellor, Edmund 
now found his situation very irksome, and very diiferent StaflTord 

' . restored. 

from what it had been under the feeble Richard. Henry 
looked with jealousy and distrust even on those who had 
helped him to the crown, and confined all whom he employed 
strictly to their official duties. The Chancellor's disgust was 
increased by an attack which the Commons now made on 
the jurisdiction of his Court. They complained by petition 
to the King of the new writ of subpoena, and prayed " that 
people might be only treated according to the right laws of 
the land anciently used : " but the King's answer tended to 
confirm the jurisdiction complained of : " Such writs ought 
not to issue except in necessary cases, and then by the dis- 
cretion of the Chancellor or King's Council for the time 

A considerable improvement, however, was effected in the issues of 
mode of proceeding when issues were joined upon contro- f^ct ansmg 
verted facts in the Court of Chancery. The custom seems Chancery 
to have been for the Chancellor himself to try them, calling [ a^Court 
in common-law judges to his assistance; but the Commons of common 
now prayed " that because great mischiefs happen in the 
Court of Chancery by the discussion of all pleas in matters 
traversed in the said Court, and by the judges of the two 
benches being taken out of their Courts to assist in the dis- 
cussion of such matters, to the great delay of the law and to 

* His name appears in the new House of Lords among the Chancellors, but 
it has baffled the research of the most learned antiquaries to discover his armo- 
rial bearings. Doubts are entertained even whether his name was " Searle" or 
" Searle." 

X 4 



CHAP, the damage of the people, the King would ordain that tra- 
^^^^'' verses in the Court of Chancery be sent and returned either 

into the King's Bench or Common Pleas, and there discussed 
and determined according to law." The King's answer was, 
" The Chancellor, by virtue of his office, may grant the same, 
and let it be, as it has been before these times, at the dis- 
cretion of the Chancellor for the time being." * Ever since, 
when an issue of fact is joined on the common-law side of 
the Court, the Chancellor hands it over to be tried in the 
Court of King's Bench, and controverted facts in equity 
proceedings he directs to be tried by a jury in any of the 
common-law Courts at his discretion. 
The Chan- Stafford held the Great Seal only till the end of February, 
Iwns '^' ^^^^- ^^ ^^^^ ^^'^^P* of ^ts power had lost its attraction 
Feb. 1403. for him, and he, who differed very little from the warlike 
baron his elder brother, had no inclination to sit day by day 
as a judge in the Court of Chancery, for which he felt him- 
self so unfit, under the vigilant superintendence of the un- 
mannerly Commons. He therefore willingly resigned the 
Great Seal into the King's hands, and retired to his diocese 
to exercise baronial hospitality, and to enjoy hunting and 
the other sports of the field, in the vain hope that some 
revolution in politics would again enable him to mix in the 
His retreat factious Strife which still more delighted him. But he con- 
eat 1. ^ijjyg(] ^Q languish in tranquillity, and before the war of the 
Roses began, which would so much have suited his taste, 
he was gathered to his fathers. 
March 10. Upon this vacancy the Great Seal was given to the King's 
CARmNAL half-brother, Henry Beaufort f, who was four times Lord 
Beaufort, Chancellor, who was created a Cardinal, and who made a dis- 
tinguished figure as a statesman during three reigns. 
His origin He was the second son of John of Gaunt, by his mistress 
caree^r!"^ ^ Catherine Swinford, afterwards his wife, and with the other 
issue of this connection, he had been legitimated by act of par- 
liament in the 20th of Richard II., under the condition of not 
being entitled to succeed to the Crown. He studied both at 
Oxford, at Cambridge, and at Aix la Chapelle. Taking 

Rot. Par. 2 Hen. 4. f Privy Seal Bills, 4 Hen. 4. 


orders, he rose rapidly in the church, and while still a young CHAP, 
man, he was, in 1397, made Bishop of Lincoln by his royal 

cousin. He gained great celebrity by assisting at the Council ^^, 1404. 
of Constance, and by making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. 
When he first obtained the Great Seal he still remained 
Bishop of Lincoln. 

The following year he was translated to Winchester, where 
he succeeded the famous William of Wickham, and he con- 
tinued till his death to hold this see, then considered the best 
in England to accumulate wealth, which was through life his 
ruling passion, great as was his love of power. 

During this reign, the King was his own minister, and His con- 
neither the present nor any of his other Chancellors had much Chancellor 
influence in the affairs of government. They were in the 
habit of delivering a speech at the opening of every parlia- 
ment ; but it was rather considered the speech of the Bang, 
which could not be censured without disloyalty. 

Three parliaments met in Henry Beaufort's first Chancel- Attempt of 
lorship, at which nothing very memorable was effected ; but Commons 
at the last of them an attempt was made by the Commons to seize 
(probably at the instigation of the King), which, if it had sue- property, 
ceeded, would have greatly altered both the ecclesiastical and 
civil history of the country. All who are friendly to a well- 
endowed church ought to exclaim, * Thank God we have had a 
House of Lords." The Chancellor, in a speech from the text, 
" Rex vocavit seniores terrae," having pressed most urgently 
for supplies, the Commons came in a body, and the King being 
on the throne proposed, " That without burthening his people, 
he might supply his occasions by seizing on the revenues of the 
clergy ; that the clergy possessed a third part of the riches of 
the realm, which evidently made them negligent in their duty; 
and that the lessening of their excessive incomes would be a 
double advantage both to the church and the state." 

Archbishop Arundel, being now free from the trammels of 
office, said to the King, who seems to have been addressed as 
the president of the assembly, " That though the ecclesiastics 
served him not in person, it could not be inferred that they 
were unserviceable ; that the stripping the clergy of their 
estates would put a stop to their prayers night and day for the 




" Lack- 

welfare of the state ; and there was no expecting God's pro- 
tection of the kingdom if the prayers of the church were so 
little valued." The Speaker of the Commons standing at the 
bar, smiled, and said openly, " that he thought the prayers of 
the church a very slender supply." To which the Archbishop 
answered, with some emotion, " that if the prayers of the church 
were so slighted, it would be found difficult to deprive them 
of their estates without exposing the kingdom to great danger ; 
and so long as he were Archbishop of Canterbury, he would 
oppose the injustice to the utmost in his power." Then sud- 
denly falling on his knees before the King, " he strongly 
pressed him in point of conscience, and endeavoured to make 
him sensible that of all the crimes a Prince could commit, 
none was so heinous as an invasion of the church's patrimony." 
The King, seeing the impression made upon the Peers, de- 
clared " that he had made a firm resolution to support the 
church with all his power, and hoped by God's assistance to 
leave her in a better state than he found her." The Arch- 
bishop, construing this as a peremptory veto on the proposal 
of the Commons, turned to them and made them a most in- 
sulting speech, telling them their demand was built wholly on 
irreligion and avarice ; " and verily," added he, " I will sooner 
have my head cut off than that the church should be de- 
prived of the least right pertaining to it." Such a scene is 
very inconsistent with our notions of parliamentary decorum. 
The Commons not convinced, on their return to their 
own chamber passed a bill to carry their scheme into effect ; 
but the solicitations of the Archbishop and the other Pre- 
lates were so powerful with the Lords that they threw 
it out.* 

The recklessness of the Commons may have arisen from 
their not having had a single lawyer amog them. Lord 
Chancellor Beaufort, in framing the writs of summons, ille- 
gally inserted a prohibition, " that no apprentice or other man 
of the law should be elected," grounded on a most uncon- 
stitutional ordinance of the Lords in the 46th of Edward 
III., to which the Commons had never assented, and which 

* 1 Pari. Hist, 294. 


had not been acted upon. In return for such a slight, our CHAP, 


law books and historians have branded this parliament with 
the name of " parliamentum indoctum," or " the lack-learning 
parliament ;" and Sir Edward Coke observes with some 
spleen, that " there never was a good law made thereat : " 
adding that as these writs were against law, lawyers ever 
since (for the great and good service of the com- 
monwealth) have been eligible.* 

At the end of two years Henry Beaufort appears to have Feb. 27. 
lost his royal brother's favour, for he was removed from his ^^g^^^jj^j^j 
office, and he did not recover it during the remainder of this Beaufort " 



He was now succeeded by an ecclesiastic, Thomas Long- Thomas 
LEY, who then having high church preferment, was likewise nh**^^!]^' 
Keeper of the Privy Seal, was soon raised to the See of 
Durham f, was afterwards made a Cardinal |, and had 
the fortune to be Chancellor under three successive Sove- 

This minion of fortune was of obscure origin, being the 
son of a yeoman, who lived at Longley, in the county of 
York. We first hear of him as chaplain in the family of 
John of Gaunt, who, by a will made in 1388, appointed him 
his executor. In the course of three years he became canon 
of York, and he soon rose rapidly in the church. He then 
recommended himself to Cardinal Beaufort, by whose interest 
he was made Keeper of the Privy Seal. 

Longley 's first Chancellorship lasted little more than a year. Feb. 15. 
During that time he presided at a parliament called by the ^^^^' 
King, chiefly for the purpose of introducing the Salic law jntroducV'' 
into England, whereby, although the Crown had come to the Salic law 
house of Plantagenet through a female, it was to descend only }^j "^' 
to males, witb a view of superseding the claim of the 
descendants of the daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, 
one of whom, according to the doctrine of legitimacy, was 
now entitled to occupy the throne. The Chancellor, to prepare 
the minds of the members of both Houses of Parliament for 

* 1 Bl. Com. 177. 4 Inst. 48. Some writers say that the prohibition was 
contained in letters written by the King himself to the Sheriffs. 

t May, 1406. t By Pope John XXIIL in 1411. 




ings in 
the Court 
of Chan- 

A.D. 1406. 

this measure, opened the session with a very learned and con- 
ciliatory speech from the text, " Multorum consilia requirun- 
tur in magnis," and he compared the King to Ahashiierus, 
Qui interrogavit sapientes et illorum cauta faciebat consilia. 

An act was accordingly passed in due form for entailing 
the Crown on the present King and the heirs male of his body, 
tacitly excluding females ; but this act' was so much disliked 
by the nation, who during the wars for fifty years arising out 
of the claim of Edward III. to the Crown of France, had 
fought for the contrary doctrine, and who dreaded future 
civil wars from any change in the law of succession, that it 
was almost immediately after repealed, and the Crown was 
settled upon the King and his descendants according to the 
ancient rules of inheritance.* 

The House of Commons took the opportunity to enquire 
diligently into all abuses, particularly in the administration of 
justice, and complained of the encroachments and delays in 
the Court of Chancery, which was denounced as a great public 
grievance. There had been heavy complaints of abuses both 
with respect to the Great and Privy Seal, and " it was 
agreed by the King and parliament, that for the preservation 
of the laws of the kingdom the Chancellor and the Keeper of 
the Privy Seal should not allow any warrant, grant by 
patent, judgment, or any other thing to pass under the seals 
in their custody, which by law and right ought not to pass, 
and that they should not unduly delay such as ought to 

The Commons then presented articles to the King, " That 
worthy councillors and officers be appointed, and not to be 
removed without good proof of their ill-management. That 
two certain days in the week be appointed for all suitors to 
present their petitions to the King. That none of the Coun- 
cil hold pleas of matters determinable at common law, and 
tliat all the King's great officers of every Court shall maintain 
the common law." There is added an article which seems to 
us a strange mode of preserving the independence and purity 
of the judges : " That no judicial officer in any of the Courts 

1 Pari. Hist. 298. 

t Rot. Pari. vol. iii. p. 586. 


enjoy any office but at will." This was probably aimed at CHAP, 
the sale of these offices, whereby it was thought, by reason of 
a supposed vested right in the purchaser, they were placed 
beyond the control of parliament. The King, who on ac- 
count of the infirmity of his title, was obliged to court popu- 
larity, not only agreed to all these articles himself, but after 
a stout resistance from the Upper House, prevailed on the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, and all the Lords spiritual and 
temporal, to swear to observe them, " whereby they became 
statutes binding in law and conscience."* 

Archbishop Arundel's compliance was quickened by the Archbishop 
prospect of recovering the Great Seal, and in the beginning ^^j""g^ ^^ 
of 1407, he became Chancellor the fourth time, f office of 

The first proceeding before him was the trial of Wil- jan."3o. * 
liam Thorpe, a priest, for heresy, of which we have a very 1407. 
interesting report by the defendant himself. He says : 
" Being brought before Thomas Arundel, Archebyshope of 
Canterbury and Chancellor of Ingland, when that I came to 
hym he stoode in a great chamber and moche people aboute 
hym ; and when that he sawe me he went faste into a closett, 
bydding all secular men that followed hym to go forth from 
hym." There is then a long account of the heresies imputed 
to the defendant, with his answers, filling many pages, in which 
he gives himself greatly the advantage over his judge. At last, 
allusion being made to the Archbishop's banishment, his Grace 
said, "I shall assay e if I can make thee as sorrowfull, as it was 
tolde me thou waste gladde, of my laste going out of Ingland; 
by Seynt Thomas I shall tourne thy joye into sorrowe." The 
narrative continues " And I sayde, ' There can no body proue 
lawfully that I ioyed ever of the manner of your goynge out 
of this land. But, Sir, to say the sothe, I was joyfull when ye 
were gone.' The Archebishoppe said to me, ' Be this thinge 
well known to the, that God (as I wot well) hath called me 
agayne, and brought me into this lande for to destroye the, 
and the false secte that thou arte of, as, by God, I shall per- 
sue you so narroulye that I shall not leave a steppe of you 
in thys lande.' And I said to the Archebishoppe, * Sir, the 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 290. f Rot. CI. 8. Hen. 4. m. 23. 




March 10. 


Great Seal 
in custody 
of Master 
of Rolls. 

the two 

holy prophete Jeremy saide to the false prophete Anany, 
* IFhan the worde that is the prophecye of a prophete is knowen 
or fulfilled, than it shall he knowen that the Lorde sente the 
prophete in treuthP And the Archebishoppe, as if he hadde 
not been pleased with my sayinge, turned him awaye ward 
hyther and thyther, and sayde, ' By God, I shall sette upon 
thy shynnes a pair of perlis, that thou shalt be gladde to 
chaunge thy voice.' " * This keen encounter ended in Thorpe 
being " led forth and brought into a foul unhonest prison," 
where he is supposed to have died ; for he was no more 
heard of. f 

The Chancellor now remained in high favour with the 
King for three years. On one occasion during this period. 
His Majesty bestowed his bounty upon him in a manner that 
at first caused him much alarm. The Great Seal was abruptly 
demanded from him; the King kept it only a few hours, 
while he caused a charter to be sealed granting the lordship 
of Queenbury to the Chancellor for life, and immediately 
after the Seal was restored to him. \ 

However, it was taken from him in good earnest on the 
21st of December, 1409 , when he must have had some 
serious difference with the King concerning the business to be 
brought forward at the parliament then about to assemble. 
Henry kept it in his own hands till the 19th of January fol- 
lowing, during which time several charters, letters patent, 
and writs were sealed by himself. It was then delivered to 
John Wakering, Master of the Eolls, as Keeper, for the 
despatch of judicial business. I 

In the mean time the parliament met, and, there being no 
Chancellor, the session was opened by a speech from Ex- 
chancellor Henry Beaufort, the King's brother, from the text 
" Decet nos implere omnem justitiam," in which he reminded 
the parliament of Aristotle's answer to Alexander when asked 
the best mode of defending a city "that the strongest walls 
were the hearty goodwill of his subjects ; " but gave them a 

* It appears also by the report of Lord Cobham's trial, that his Grace was 
much given to swearing, even when acting judicially in a capital case. His 
favourite oath on that occasion was, " By our Lady." 2 St. Tr. 219. 

t 2 St. Tr. 175. :f Rot. CI. 10 Hen. 4. m. 18. 

Rot. CI. 1 1 Hen. 4. m. 8. || Rot. CI. 1 1 Hen. 4. m. 8. 


strong hint that a supply was expected, by reminding them chap. 
that benevolence was due from subjects to a Sovereign as well -^"^^J^- 
as reverence.* 

The Commons now eagerly pressed their expedient of Church in 
seizing the property of the church, which they estimated at ^"S^'"- 
485,000 marks a year, and which they proposed to divide 
among 15 earls, 1500 knights, 6000 esquires, and 100 hos- 
pitals, besides 20,000Z. a year which the King might take for 
his own use ; and they insisted that the clerical functions 
would be better performed than at present by 15,000 parish 
priests paid at the rate of 7 marks a piece of yearly stipend. 

The King was violently suspected of secretly favouring 
this project ; but finding that it could not be carried, he threw 
all the blame upon the poor Lollards, and, to satisfy the 
church, ordered a Lollard to be burnt while the parliament 
was still sitting. f 

We have now a lay Chancellor, but not a lawyer, another Sir Thomas 
half-brother of the King, Sir Thomas Beaufort, who Beaufort, 

'-' aiterwards 

could not have been very fit for the office, but who reached Duke of 
the highest dignity in the peerage of any man who ever held rh*^*^% 
the Great Seal. He was bred a soldier, and in the reign of Jan. si. 
Richard 11. had gained considerable credit by opposing his ^^^' 
bad counsels. He was created successively Earl of Dorset 
and Duke of Exeter. 

He continued Chancellor two years, during which time he His history 
must often have sat in the marble chair at the marble table : ^"'^/^o'^- 

. duct as 

but he seems to have been much engaged in political business. Chancellor, 
and he had the assistance of Sir John Wakering, the Master 
of the Rolls. On one occasion he declared that he was so 
much occupied with other business, that he had no time to 
attend to the duties of his office {Quod circa alia negotia 
adeo occupatus erat ut sigillationi vacare non posset). Political 
Chancellors have not always been so plain-spoken. 

After his surrender of the Great Seal, he remained in- His sub- 
active for the remainder of this reign : but he afterwards ^^i"^"* 

o ' career and 


* 1 Pari. Hist. 312. 

f 1 Pari. Hist. 308. This was the beginning of burning heretics in England, 
a practice which became more common till after the violent struggle excited by 
the Reformation had subsided. 




AD. 1412. 

the fifth 

Illness of 
Henry IV. 

of Chan- 
cellors of 
Henry IV. 

made a most distinguished figure in the wars of Henry V., 
and upon the untimely death of that Sovereign he was con- 
stituted guardian of the person of his infant successor, then 
crowned King of France as well as of England. Although 
he comes in the list of Chancellors, he had little to do with 
the duties of the office or the profession of the law, and I 
should not be justified in narrating his campaigns or entering 
more circumstantially into his history. He died at Greenwich 
in 1425, without issue, leaving his immense wealth to his 
royal ward. 

We have no certain explanation of the reason why he ceased 
to be Chancellor any more than why he was first appointed. 
Henry, though now only forty-five years of age, had fallen 
into a mortal distemper, and felt serious compunction for the 
manner in which he had acquired the Crown, as well as for 
some of his acts in the exercise of his royal authority. Per- 
haps, as his strength declined, he wished to have a spiritual 
*' keeper of his conscience" who had been his chief councillor 
and accomplice, and who might be expected to be a lenient 
and absolving confessor. 

On the 5th of January, 1412, the Great Seal was trans- 
ferred to the aged Archbishop Arundel*, who became Chan- 
cellor for the fifth time. While Henry languished under his 
malady, nothing memorable occurred. He had long expected 
death, and in one of his fits was supposed to be dead. At 
last, on the 20th of March, 1413, he expired, in the Jerusa- 
lem Chamber, at Westminster, having been taught to believe 
that he had made a full atonement for all his transgressions, 
by vowing that, if he recovered, he would lead an army to the 
East and reconquer the Holy Land, and that his death under 
these circumstances was tantamount to a fulfilment of his 


He had appointed all his Chancellors merely from political 
convenience, without any regard to their fitness for the judi- 
cial duties of the office, and our jurisprudence is under no 
obligation to them. They showed great vigour, however, in 
enforcing the due administration of justice. While Cardinal 

* Rot. Cl. 13 Hen. 4. m. 1. 


Beaufort was Chancellor, the Archbishop of York had been chap. 

.... XVIII 
guilty of an overt act of high treason, by joining in open 

rebellion and levying war against the King. Being taken conviction 
prisoner, he claimed to be set at liberty on account of his and execu- 
sacerdotal character, but the government ordered him to be archbishop, 
brought to trial. Sir William Gascoigne, Chief Justice of 
the King's Bench, who had courage to commit the Prince of 
Wales to prison for a contempt, was afraid to try an arch- 
bishop. Thereupon, a commission passed the Great Seal for 
his trial before another judge. Sir William Falthorpe, and he 
was convicted and executed, to the great horror of all church- 
men and many of the laity, although clerical exemptions and 
privileges were now regarded with much less respect than 
at any prior ara.* 

The Chancellors at this time successfully resisted an attempt 
by the Commons to participate in the appellate jurisdiction of 
parliament, and obliged them to be contented with a resolu- 
tion that their consent was necessary to all legislative acts.f 

* As civilisation advanced, it was desirable that the power and exclusive 
privileges of the clergy should be curtailed ; but their ascendancy during the 
darker ages had been highly beneficial to the community. Not only were they 
the sole depositaries of learning, but they were often the protectors of the 
people against the tyranny of the King and the nobles. The enlightened re- 
formers at Runnymede therefore made it the first article of Magna Charta, 
" quod Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, et habeat omnia jura sua integra, et liber- 
tates suas illesas." 

f See HaWs Jurisd. House of Lords. There is a curious entry in the Parlia- 
ment Roll, showing the hours when the two Houses now met for the despatch 
of business. At the parliament which assembled in ] 406, after the choice of 
the speaker had been confirmed, " Et sur ceo le Chanceller d'Engleterre dona 
en charge de par le Roi as ditz Communes, q. pur I'esploit du dit parlement ils 
soient assemblez en lour maison accoustemez deinz I'Abbeie de Westm' chescun 
jour durant le parlement a iept del clocke ; et semblable charge il dona as 
seignrs. du parlement, qu'ils de lour partie pur mesme I'esploit se assemblent 
en lour lieu accustume a noef del clocke." Roll. Par. iii. 568. 

VOL. I. 






March 21. 
of Hen. V. 

Great Seal 
taken from 
and re- 
stored to 

We now come to a reign for military exploits, one of the 
most brilliant in our annals, but by no means distinguished 
for juridical improvement, although during the course of it 
the office of Chancellor was filled by very eminent men. 

Henry V. being proclaimed King, to the great joy of the 
people, the first act of his reign was to take the Great Seal 
from Archbishop Arundel, and deliver it to his uncle Henry 
Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, the Cardinal, who now 
entered on his second Chancellorship. The young King was 
not actuated by any desire to change his father's ministers. 
Contrary to the expectations of his dissolute companions, and 
of the nation generally, his plan was to continue in their offices 
all who had faithfully served the Crown.* Perhaps he was 
induced to make an exception in the case of the Archbishop, 
on account of the active part which this Prelate had taken in 
the dethronement of Bichard II. Henry expressed the 
deepest sorrow for the fate of that unhappy Prince, did justice 
to his good qualities, performed his funeral obsequies with 
pomp and solemnity, and cherished all those who had dis- 
tinguished themselves by their loyalty and attachment to 
him. The Archbishop, while in exile, and on his return to 
England, had devised and prosecuted the plans which led 
Richard to his grave, and he might now be an object of 
personal dislike to the new King, who did not go so far as to 
resign his Crown to the true heir, but affected much to favour 
the doctrine of legitimacy. 

* We might have expected to see the Great Seal now delivered to Sir John 
FalstaflT, that he might play the part of " Chancellor," as he had done that of 

" King ; " but instead of tliis, the stern order was given : 

" Go, carry Sir John FalstafF to the Fleet : 
Take all his company along with him." 


We must now take final leave of Ex-chancellor Arundel. CHAP. 
Relieved from official duties, he occupied himself in carrying 

on a violent prosecution against the Lollards, whom the King Subsequent 
was rather disposed to screen, and he presided on the trial career of 
and condemnation of Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, their ceiior 
leader, who had incurred the peculiar hatred of the clergy, Arundel, 
by actively supporting the proposal to encroach on the ^,^.^^l d 
revenues of the church. This intriguing Prelate and Chan- Cobham to 
cellor does not fill so great a space in the eye of history as ^ ""^^ ' 
might have been expected, from the important part he acted 
in the revolutions of his age ; but such was his reputation for 
ability with his contemporaries, that when impeached for 
high treason in 1397, the Commons having finished their 
case, as he began to answer for himself. Sir John Busby, 
the Speaker, entreated the King that this might not be 
allowed him, ' lest he might, by his subtlety and great wit, 
bring persons over to believe him innocent," so that he was 
forced to remain silent.* Of his judicial character no author 
makes mention. He died in January, 1413. 

Cardinal Beaufort, two days after his appointment, sealed March 23. 
writs for a new parliament to meet at Easter; and when the jigg^ej 
time came, opened the session with a s[)eech from the text, attempt t)f 
"Ante omne actum consilium stabilire." f The Commons mosto" 
made an attempt to reform the Ecclesiastical Courts and size the 
other abuses, but exhausted themselves in attacks on the the church, 
Lollards. These were renewed in a parliament which met 
the following year, when laws were passed, at the suggestion A.n. uii. 
of the Chancellor and other Prelates, against reading Wick- 
liffe's translation of the Bible, and against other such enor- 
mities. I But the church was alarmed by the Commons again 
urgently pressing that the revenues of the clergy should be 
applied to the purposes of the State, and passing a bill which, 
says Hall, " made the fat abbots to sweat, the proud priors to 
frown, the poor monks to curse, the silly nuns to weep, and 
indeed all to fear that Babel would fall down." 

It is said by some historians, that it was to divert this 

* 1 St. Tr. 226. f 1 Pari. Hist. 319. 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 324. 

T 2 


CHAP, storm from the church, that Chicheley, the new Archbishop of 
^ Canterbury, strongly advised the King to claim the crown 

j^j of France, and to lead an army across the seas in support of 

claims liig pretended right. Certainly there is extant a long and 

France, Very extraordinary speecli of his, addressed to the King in the 
House of Lords, making out the title of Edward III., not- 
withstanding the Salic law, and insisting that whatever title 
that Sovereign had was now vested in his present Majesty. 
He thus concluded, " Consider the just title you have to this 
Crown, devolved on you by Queen Isabella your great-grand- 
mother, sister and heir to three successive kings of France, 
who died without children, and take up noble arms to assist 
so just a cause. Advance your standard into France, and 
with assured hopes of victory march to conquer those do- 
minions which are your own by inheritance. There is no 
true Englishman but is ready to devote his life and fortune 
to so glorious a service of his King. And in full persuasion 
of the justness of the war, we the clergy have given such a 
sum of money to maintain it as was never granted to any of 
your predecessors, and will join all our prayers for the success 
of your arms." His Grace found it convenient to forget not 
only the objections to the claim of Edward III., but the 
awkward fact, that supposing this monarch to have been en- 
titled to the crown of France, if the succession to it was 
not regulated by the Salic law, the true heir was the Earl of 
March, descended from his second son the Duke of Clarence, 
and not Henry V. descended from his third son, the Duke of 
Lancaster ; and if the parliament of England could cliange 
the descent of the English crown, transferring it to a younger 
branch of the royal family, it could have no such power 
over the crown of another country, which could not be con- 
sidered, like the Isle of Man, as appurtenant to the crown of 
England.* But the Primate was warmly supported by the 
Ex-chancellor Thomas Beaufort, then Earl of Dorset, after- 
Avards Duke of Exeter, and his arguments prevailed with the 

After the revolution of 16S8, William III. and our conKtitutional kings 
ot the House of Hanover called themselves kings of France, and bore the lilies 
in their shield till the year 1801 ; but to make out their title would have re 
quired the eloquence of the Archbishop. 


King and the royal brothers, who, being young and thirsting CHAP. 

for glory, were impatient to signalise their courage against ' 

the old enemies of their native land. The same gallant 
spirit diffusing itself through the minds of the other nobles, 
they all declared for a war with France. The Ecclesiastical 
Revenues Bill was allowed to drop, and as soon as a supply 
was voted, the parliament was prorogued. The successive 
ecclesiastical Chancellors who presided in the House of Lords 
from this time till the quarrel with Rome in the reign of 
Henry VIII., contrived to prevent the subject being again 
brought forward in parliament. 

But the clamours against the abuses of the Court of Chan- 
cery could not be silenced. Cardinal Beaufort was now ex- 
tending its jurisdiction in a maimer that greatly alarmed the 
common lawyers, and caused the most lively remonstrances 
from the House of Commons. As soon as the King returned a.d. i415. 
to England, after his glorious campaign, commenced by the i^^>^ speech 
capture of Harfleur, and ^^rowned by the battle of Agin- attheopen- 
court, a parliament was called, and the Chancellor, in his Uament, 
speech with which the session was opened, tried to divert 
attention from all domestic grievances, by a glowing descrip- 
tion of the martial glory the nation had won. He strongly 
urged them to be content with nothing less than the conquest 
of France, endeavouring to demonstrate " that a thing well 
begun, and continued with diligence, must have a prosperous 
event, according to the saying, Dimidium facti qui bene coepit 
habeV * 

There were, of course, warm congratulations on account of Petition 
the splendid success of the royal arms; but the first real ^(fu"fof^ 
business was a petition from the Commons to the King (the Chancery, 
usual mode of legislating in that age) against the I'ccent en- 
croachment of Courts of Equity, praying that no causes 
should be drawn thither which might be determined in the 
Courts of common law. The petition is curious, as containing 
a full exposition of the opinion of the great body of the nation 
upon the subject of equitable jurisdiction, f 

1 Pari. Hist. 331. 

j" " Also the Commons pray, that inasmuch as many persons of your king- 
dom feel themselves greatly aggrieved in this, that your writs, called writs of 

Y 3 


CIIAP. The royal veto was put upon the measure, the response 
" being, " Le Roy s'avisera." * The chief grievance now com- 


negatived, subpoena and certiorari, are made and sued out of your Chancery and Exche- 
quer for matters determinable by your common law, which never were granted 
or used before the time of the late King Richard ; when John Waltham, here- 
tofore Bishop of Salisbury, of his craft, invented, made, and commenced such 
innovations against the form of the common law of your realm, as well as to the 
great loss and hinderance of the profits which ought to arise to you, Sovereign 
Lord, in your courts, as in the fees and profits of your seals, fines, issues, and 
amerciaments, and divers other profits, coming to your other Courts, in causes 
in which the matters might be sued and determined by the common law, be- 
cause no profit arises to you from such writs, except only Qd. for the seal : And 
whereas, by reason that your Justices of either Bench, when they ought to 
attend in their places, to enter pleas and to take inquests for the deliverance of 
your people, are occupied upon examinations upon such writs, to the great 
vexation, loss, and costs of your liege subjects, who are long time delayed in the 
sealing of their writs, sued in your Chancery, by reason of the great occupation 
upon the said examinations, which things are not profitable to you, most Sovereign 
Lord, nor to your liege subjects, on which examinations there is great clamour 
and noise by divers persons not aware of the law, without any record thereupon 
entered in your said places: And in which pleas they cannot make fine but by 
examination and oath of the parties, according to the form of the civil law, and 
the law of Holy Church, in subversion of your common law : And in causes 
which the said parties cannot be convicted by their examination there, they are 
sent to find sureties for your peace, which they are not able to find in their 
counties without coming to your said courts ; or otherwise they are encouraged 
to treat and agree with their adversaries who sue such writs, or otherwise to 
abide elsewhere, in ward or on bail, until they shall so do : That it please our 
most Sovereign Lord to ordain, in tliis present parliament, that every person 
who shall sue such writs shall put all the cause and matter of his suit in the 
said writs, and that all such writs, in the Courts out of which they shall issue, 
shall be enrolled in the said Courts, and made patent, and shall remain for the 
defendants therein, without being returned in the said Courts. And in cases 
in which any one shall feel himself aggrieved or vexed by such manner of writs, 
for any matter determinable by the common law, then the person so aggrieved 
or vexed shall have an action of debt for 4()Z. against him, wherefore he sued the 
said writs, upon which writ the cause of the action by how much he was vexed 
by such writ, of the matter which was determinable by the common law. And 
in cases which appear to the court in such writ for which the debt is sued and 
the matter contained in such writ was determinable by the common law, whicii 
they maintained in pursuance of such writ, shall be condemned towards such 
person, being so vexed, in the said sum of 40/. And moreover to ordain by 
autliority of the said parliament, that in writs called informations, which are 
issued out of your Exchequer, the names of those on whose suggestion or inform- 
ation such writs issued shall be sent in the said writs. And that all such writs 
so issuing at your suit, or at the suit of the party, shall be enrolled and made 
patent, and shall remain for the defendant therein, without being returned into 
your Exchequer, and in like manner to declare concerning writs called subpoena 
and certiorari. And in cases which after those who are made to come into your 
Exchequer, by force of such writs, may be sufficiently excused, acquitted, or 
discharged, of the suggestions and matters on them so surmised, upon such 
writs, then they shall have an action of debt for 40/. against the said suggestors 
and informers, declaring against them upon the said writs the cause of their 
action, by so much as the said suggestions or informations are of record not 
proved true. And if it may appear by the record to the Court on such writs, 

* Rot. Pari. 3. Hen. 5. 


plained of was afterwards remedied in practice, by the plaintiff CHAP, 
being obliged to put upon the file of the Court a bill specify- 

ing his cause of suit before the subpoena issued. 

In the following year, the Commons renewed the complaint a.d. i416. ' 
against arbitrary proceedings contrary to the course of the ^^^f,^ P^- 

o ^ 1 o J ^ ^ ^ ceedings of 

common law, although the Chancellor had tried to tranquillise Commons 
them by an opening speech from the text, " Operam detis ut ^^^^^^^^^^f 
quieti sitis." * There had, as we have seen, been an early Chancery, 
practice of presenting petitions to parliament complaining of 
private grievances. After the separation of the two Houses, 
these were reserved for the consideration of the Lords, and 
were first submitted to the triers of petitions, who were ap- 
pointed at the commencement of every session. Such of 
them as disclosed matters only fit for the ordinary tribunals 
of the country, were in regular manner referred to those 
tribunals, and some were not improperly allotted to the Chan- 
cellor, or the Privy Council. But this course was resorted 
to chiefly by suitors who knew they had no chance of success 
in the Courts of common law ; and, as an expedient for 
securing themselves a hearing before those by whom the rules 
of the common law were disregarded, they presented peti- 
tions to parliament, and themselves indorsed upon them a 
supposed reference to the Council or the Chancellor, 
which was considered as giving the Council or Chancellor 
jurisdiction, although the subject-matter was properly cog- 
nisable at common law. 

The House of Commons now prayed the King " that if 
any man shall indorse his bill or petition with these Avords 
bi/ authority of parliament, let this bill or petition he sent to the 
Council of the King, or to the Chancellor of England, to exe- 

they shall be sued for the debt which the plaintiffs in the said writs were ac- 
quitted, excused, or discharged, of the matters and suggestions having been by 
them surmised, that then the said informers and suggestors shall be condemned 
to the prosecutor of the said writs of debt in the said sum of 40/. And fur- 
thermore that as well the pain contained in such writs, as all the process there- 
upon, shall be void and holden for nothing. And if any such writs, called sub- 
poena and certiorari, and informations shall be sued out of your said Courts, 
against this ordinance, in time to come, that the said writs, and all the proceed- 
ings depending thereupon, shall be wholly void and holden for nothing."' 
* 1 Pari. Hist. 33:,. 

Rot. Pari. 3 Hen. 5. part ii. vol. iv. p. 84. 
y 4 




money to 
tbe King, 
taking the 
Crown in 

cute and determine what is contained therein, by which the said 
bill or petition be not by the Commons of the parliament 
inquired into, affirmed, or assented unto, (which no one 


PARLIAMENT,) let him be sent to answer for disobeying the 
laws of the kingdom of England." 

The King's answer still was, " Le Roy s'avisera *," which 
I can only account for from the parenthetical claim of privi- 
lege set up by the Commons, that they were to join in hear- 
ing and disposing of petitions to parliament respecting the 
administration of justice, and that, without their concurrence, 
the Lords could neither themselves determine the matter nor 
refer it to another tribunal. The simple condemnation and 
prohibition of the unauthorised practice of individuals so in- 
dorsing their petitions without the sanction of either House, 
could not have been refused ; but a great jealousy has always 
been manifested of an encroachment by the Commons on the 
judicial powers of the Upper House. 

The Chancellor had now a very delicate matter to ne- 
gotiate ; and he had to encounter a very formidable struggle 
between his avarice and his love of power. The King was 
reduced to the greatest necessity for money to carry on the 
war with France. Tenths and fifteenths were voted to him, 
but a long time was required to collect them ; and cash to 
pay the mutinous troops was indispensable. A sum was 
raised upon the personal responsibility of the Dukes of 
Clarence, Bedford, and Gloucester, who made themselves 
liable if the King should die ; but this was quite insufficient 
for the present exigency, and there was no hope except in the 
Lord Chancellor. He had amassed immense riches from the 
profits of his see and of his office ; but he refused to make 
any gift, and even to lend on the security with which others 
had been satisfied. At last the King offered to pawn to him 
the Crown itself. Thereupon, taking the pledge into his 
custody, the Chancellor advanced a very large loan, and the 
war was vigorously prosecuted. 

* Rol. Par. 4 Hen. 5. 


At the last parliament over which' Cardinal Beaufort pre- CHAP, 
sided during the present reign, an act was passed with his 

concurrence, and probably with the great applause of the ^.d. i4i7. 
English nation, who for many centuries hated, and despised. Act against 
and oppressed their Irish fellow subjects, " That none of 
the Irish nation should be elected an Archbishop, Bishop, 
Abbot, or Prior ; and that whoever promoted such to those 
ecclesiastical preferments, or brought any such Irish rebels 
to parliaments, councils, or other assemblies among the 
English, should have all their temporal estates seized into 
the King's hands till they have paid the fines due for such 

On the last day of the session, the King, sitting on his 
throne in full parliament, created Thomas Beaufort, who 
was Earl of Dorset and Ex-chancellor, Duke of Exeter, with a 
pension of lOOOZ. a year. The Lords, with a proper respect 
for Ex-chancellors, so much approved of the King's liberality, 
that they said no objection could be made, but only that it 
was too little, and not proportionable to the merits and ser- 
vices of that noble person.* 

Cardinal Beaufort, in this Chancellorship, never parted Judicial 
with the custody of the Great Seal, except from the 5th of ^^rdinai 
September to the 12th of October, 1416, during w^hich time Beaufort, 
he was absent with the King in France, and the Great Seal 
was intrusted by him to the keeping of Simon Gaunstede, 
Master of the Rolls, to be re-delivered to him on his return. f 
We have slender means of knowing how he performed his 
judicial duties ; but we may, from his general disposition, not 
imcharitably believe that he was assiduous in business, and 
encouraged suitors that he might multiply fees. He re- 
sembled the fallen angel, whose 

" looks and thoug-hts 

Were always downward bent, admiring more 
The riches of Heaven's pavement, trodden gold, 
Than aught divine or holy." 

His avarice, however, was now to receive a heavy and Great Seal 
unexpected blow. From the hard bargain he made when he car*d"nar" 
advanced money for the public service, or his importunity to Beaufort. 

* Pari. Rol. 4 & 5 Hen. 5. 1 Pari. Hist. 335. 
f Rot. CI. 4 Hen. 5. m. 13. 




tliu second 
July 23. 

A parlia- 

A.D. 1421. 
Treaty of 

be repaid, he disgusted the King. The Close Roll, 5 Hen. V., 
records, that, "On the 23d of July, 1417, Henry Beaufort, 
Bishop of Winchester, delivered up the Great Seal of gold to 
the King, on which day it was given to Thomas Longley, 
Bishop of Durham, who became Chancellor the second 
time*," but no writer gives us the particulars of the intrigue 
which brought about this change. 

The Ex- chancellor now visited the Council of Basil, and 
contrived to get himself named by Pope Martin Y. Cardinal 
and Apostolic Legate in England and Ireland ; but, upon the 
remonstrance of Archbishop Chicheley, the King forbade him 
to accept these dignities, and he was not gratified with wear- 
ing the red hat till after he had finally resigned the Great 
Seal in the succeeding reign. 

A parliament was soon after called, which was opened by 
the new Chancellor with a speech from the text, Com- 
fortamini et viriliter agite et gloriosi eritis.] The most re- 
markable transaction during this parliament, throwing par- 
ticular discredit on the Chancellor, was the order by the 
Lords that Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham, should be 
burnt under the sentence passed against him as a heretic. 
He was the first English peer who ever suffered death for 
religion. \ 

About the same time the Ex-chancellor Beaufort, Bishop 
of Winchester, managed to get a private bill of his smuggled 
through both Houses, that a security given to him for a 
loan on the customs of Southampton, should be confirmed by 

Nothing memorable connected with the office of Chan- 
cellor occurred till 1421, when Henry's victories having led 
to the treaty of Troyes, by which he was to marry the Prin- 
cess Catherine, and was declared regent of France and heir to 
that kingdom, he called a parliament to ratify the treaty. || 
This parliament was opened by a speech from the King's own 
mouth, the first instance I have found of the Sovereign 
himself declaring the causes of summoning his great council. 
Henry represented to them the state of affairs, " what con- 

* Rot. Cl. 5 Hen. 5. m. 15. 
t Ibid. 337. 


t 1 Pari. Hist. 335. 
II Ibid. 339. 


quests he had made in France, and what supplies were ne- CHAP, 
cessary to continue the war; assuring them that the Dau- ' 

phin and his party, who maintained some cities and pro- ^^ j,. I42i. 
vinces, being subdued, that kingdom might be entirely united 
to the English crown." 

The Lord Chancellor, by order of the King, read the 
articles of the treaty of Troyes, which had been sworn to by 
the two Kings of England and France, and ratified also by the 
three estates of France ; whereupon both Houses of Parliament 
avowed that they approved and accepted it as most conducive 
to the good of both nations, and of all Christendom ; and 
every one promised for himself, his heirs, and successors, 
that they would inviolably observe it.* It is marvellous 
that such men as Longley and the spiritual Peers, whose 
blood was not heated by being personally engaged in the 
conflict, should have sanctioned a treaty which nothing 
but the power of the sword could carry into execution, and 
which, if it had taken effect, must have proved equally per- 
nicious to England and to France. 

At this parliament the Commons made another unsuccessful 
attempt to put an entire stop to the writ of subpoena 
in Chancery, as well as to Privy Seals bringing matters of 
private right before the Council ; but they had a limited and 
temporary triumph by carrying an act to endure until the 
next parliament, " that the exception how that the partie 
hath sufficient remedy at the common law, shall discharge 
any matter in Chancery." f The act was never renewed, so 
that the concurrent jurisdiction of the Courts of equity 
and Courts of common law in partition, dower, account, and 
many such matters, has continued. 

Henry, leaving the government in the hands of his brother Death of 

the Duke of Bedford, and of the Chancellor, returned to ^^'^^^7' 

, . A"g- si- 

France, espoused Catherine, got possession of Paris, 1422. 

had his infant son proclaimed heir of both kingdoms, and 

died at Vincennes in the thirty-fourth year of his age. 

His last parliament had been held in his absence, the 

Chancellor opening the session with a formal speech. After 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 339. f Rol. Pari. 9 Hen. 5. 


CHAT, voting a supply, the chief business was regulating the coinage, 

which had fallen into great disorder from the short-sighted 

Dec. 1. fraud of adulteration, first begun in the reign of Edward III. ; 

^421. and it was enacted, " that the Chancellor of England should 

deliver to those who would have them good and just weights 

of the noble, half noble, and farthing of gold, to prevent the 

people being abused by such as were counterfeit." * 

Adminis- During this reign the equity jurisdiction of the Chancellor 

justice ** ^^'^^ ^ actively enforced, that some have ascribed its origin 

during his to the chancellorship of Cardinal Beaufort. He first exercised 

'^^'^"' a control over the marriage of infants, and along with uses 

and trusts he took cognisance of many miscellaneous matters, 

which would now be referred to courts of common law either 

civil or criminal.! 

It may be remarked, that at this period of our history 
there was an unusual ferment in men's minds, and the Com- 
mons showed a strong spirit of innovation both in church and 
state, so that there seemed a great probability that important 
changes would be introduced with respect to the maintenance 
of the clergy and the administration of justice; but the 
absorbing foreign war in which the country was engaged 
preserved all our institutions untouched by legislation during 
the whole reign of Henry V. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 340. f See 2 Cooper on Records, 361. 





Henry VI. was, at his father's death, an infant of nine 
months old. The Duke of Gloucester, his uncle, having been 
named Regent of England by the late King, was at first 
allowed to assume the government under that title. At the 
end of a month a council was held at Windsor, at which the 
baby monarch in his nurse's arms was present, and was sup- 
posed to preside. Longley, Lord Chancellor to the late 
King, put the Great Seal into the royal lap, and placed upon 
it the hands of the child, who was too young even to be 
amused with it as a toy. The Regent then, in the King's 
name, delivered it to Simon Gaunstede, the Master of the 
Rolls, for the despatch of necessary business.* 

But the Regent soon found that he could not exercise his 
authority without the sanction of the legislature, and a com- 
mission passed the Great Seal for a new parliament to be 
held before him. 

The session was opened, by his command, with a speech 
from Cbicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury. Business being 
begun, it is stated in the Parliamentary History, that the 
two bishops of Durham and London, the former having been 
Chancellor of England in the late reign, and the other 
Chancellor of the Duchy of Normandy, who had both 
delivered up the several seals of their offices, prayed to be 
discharged by act of parliament, and that the same might be 
enrolled, which was granted. It was then also enacted, 
that the King's style and titles should be changed, and that 


Sept. I. 






Great Seal 

to infant 


Nov. 1422. 
A parlia- 

* " Pra;fatus Dominus Rex nunc sigillum illud per manus praefati Ducis 
pradicto Simoni liberavit custodiendum," &c. Rot. CI. 1 Hen. 6. m. 15. This 
was the precedent chiefly relied upon for the fictitious use of the Great Seal 
during the insanity of George IIL 


CHAP, upon all his seals should be engraven, " Henricus Rex Franciae 

et Angliae, et Dominus Hiberniae." At the request of the 

^ ^ j4< Commons, the Duke of Gloucester declared that the King 

Longley }iad appointed the Bishop of Durham to be his Chancellor, 

ChanceUor. which appointment was confirmed by parliament.* 

In reality, the whole administration was arranged by the 

Lords and Commons, who had been gradually extending their 

influence during the reig-ns of the Lancastrian Princes. Dis- 

regarding the will of the late King, they declined altogether 

the name of " Regent " for England. They appointed the 

Duke of Bedford " Protector " of that kingdom, a title which 

Duke cf they thought implied less authority ; they invested the Duke 

Protestor' ^^ Gloucester with the same dignity during the absence of 

his elder brother with a council of nine, by whose advice 

he must act ; and the guardianship of the person of the infant 

King was given to the two Ex-chancellors, the Bishop of 

Winchester and the Duke of Exeter, with whom it was 

thought he must be safe, as, from the stain on their birth, 

they themselves could never aspire to the crown, f 

Proceed- In this parliament, a vigorous eifort was made to limit the 

liainent^'^'^" jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. The Commons pre- 

against the gentcd a petition to the King, which, if agreed to, would very 

Chancery, effectually havc preserved the supremacy of the common law, 

but would have deprived the country of many benefits derived 

from equitable interference. They proposed, that to prevent 

persons being called upon to answer in Chancery for any 

matter for which there is remedy provided by the common 

law, no one should be allowed to sue any process before the 

Chancellor till the complainant had sent a bill, containing 

all the matter of his plaint or grievance, to be approved of 

by two judges of the King's Bench, or Common Pleas, and 

they should have certified that for such matter he could not 

have any action or remedy by the common law. But the 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 345. Rol. Pari. Hen. 6. vol. xv. 170. 

f In Nov. 1422, a new Great Seal was made, because the King's style in the 
inscription on the former seals was not suited to the reigning monarch. The 
order in council recited, that " great peril might ensue to the King if the said 
seals were not immediately altered," and required the keepers of all the King's 
seals to cause them to be altered forthwith. Rot. Pari. 1 Hen. 6. 


answer returned in the King's name, by the advice of the CHAP. 
Council of Regency, was, " Let the statute on this subject, 
made in the 17th year of the reign of King Richard II., be ^j, ^433 
observed and put in due execution," * which was, in fact, a 
veto, and left the Chancellor without control to determine the 
limits of his own jurisdiction. 

Lord Chancellor Longley opened another parliament in Lord 
October, 1423, with a speech from the text, " Deum timete, lor'sTpeech 
Regem honorificate," showing that peculiar honour ought to on opening 
be rendered to the present King, notwithstanding his tender 
years, since now this realm had attained their wish, which 
was that the King of England might also be King of France, 
and that the love due to the father was due to the son, for 
omnis quidiligit eum qui genuit diligit eiim qui genitus est.\ 

The petition or bill against the Court of Chancery, which 
had for some time been nearly annual, was now dropped ; and 
nothing more memorable was transacted at this parliament 
than passing an act, " to secure those persons who had only 
the late King's jewels in pawn, and that the Bishop of Win- 
chester, who had lent the King 20,000 marks on the crown, 
should have letters patent to receive the said sum out of the 
customs." X 

The great struggle for power between Humphry, Duke of a.d. 1424. 
Gloucester, the Protector, and the Bishop of Winchester, his P!^^"\^^ 
uncle, which produced such calamities, and which ended so Duke of 
fatally to both, was now begun, and the Bishop, from his gnd^Car-^*^ 
superior shrewdness and vigour, was gaining the ascendant, dinal Beau- 
although his rival, as Protector, claimed to exercise all the 
prerogatives of the crown. 

Beaufort by intriguing with the Council, contrived to re- Longley 
sume the office of Chancellor, which added both to his wealth ^'^p'''J"^ **/" 

Great Seal. 

and his authority. On the 6th of July, 1424, the Great Seal cardinal 
was delivered to him for the third time. Beaufort 

the third 

Rol. Pari. 1 Hen. 6. f 1 Pari. Hist. 347. % Ibid. .'548. *^'"^- 

The Close Roll states with much gravity that the Bishop of Durham 
surrendered the Great Seal into the hands of the King (not then two years old), 
and that the King delivered it to the Bishop of Winchester " cujus sacramentum 
de officio Cancellarii bene et fideliter faciendo praefatus Dominus Rex recepit." 
We are told that the Bishop then took it with him to his hospitium of St. Mary 
Overey, in Southwark, and on the following Monday sat for the despatch of 


CHAP. Longley, who was then forced to resign it, retired to the 
duties of his diocese, which he fulfilled very reputably till 

Death and ^^^"^ > when he died. He was buried in that beautiful struc- 
character ture at the wcst end of Durham Cathedral, called the Galilee, 
chancellor ^^ *^^ restoration of which he had expended a large sum of 
Longley. money. As an ecclesiastic, he is said to have possessed a love 
of learning, which he testified by princely donations of books 
to both the universities, and by legacies to establish public 
libraries in Durham, Leicester, and Manchester ; but he 
never gave much proof of ability for civil affairs, and his pro- 
motion, like that of many others, was probably owing to his 
mediocrity and his pliancy. 
April, The Bishop of Winchester, as Chancellor, opened a new 

parliament in the spring of the following year, under very 
extraordinary circumstances. With a view probably of 
throwing into the shade the lustre of the oflfice of Protector, 
he on this occasion produced the King himself, a child of three 
Henry VI., years old, as ruler of the realm. On the day of meeting, the 
arms,"operis ^^yal infant was carried on a great horse from the Tower of 
parliament. Londou through the city to Westminster. Having taken 
some pap at the palace, he was from thence conducted to the 
House of Lords, and sat on his mother's knee on the throne. 
" It was a strange sight," says Speed, " and the first time it 
ever was seen in England, an infant sitting in his mother's 
lap, and before it could tell what English meant, to exercise 
the place of sovereign direction in open parliament." 
Lord 'j'l^g Chancellor took for his text, " Gloria, honor, et pax, 

Lnancellor . . , ' 

Beaufort's omni operanti bonum." He slyly threw out various sarcasms on 
speech. ^ns opponents in the Council, under pretence of inculcating the 
duty of the people to obey those who are set over them, 
although not good in themselves. " But a real good coun- 
cillor" (meaning himself) " he conipai'ed to an elephant for 
three properties ; the one in that he wanted a gall, the second 
that he was inflexible and could not bow, and the third that 
he was of a most sound and perfect memory."* 

business " in dome capitulari Fratrum Predicatorum infra Ludgate Londoniae." 
Rot. CI. 2 Hen. 6. m. 2. 
* 1 Pari. Hist. 351. 


The following day the King was again placed on the CHAP, 
throne, when the Commons presented Sir Thomas Nanton as 

their elected Speaker, who, as usual, disqualified himself. ^ ^ 1425^ 
But the Chancellor, in the King's name, would not allow of 
his objections, confirmed the choice of the Commons, and 
granted to them all their ancient privileges. 

At this parliament an act was passed throwing upon the Chancellor 
Chancellor a duty very aliene to his judicial functions. The iifnces ^r 
exportation of butter and cheese being generally prohibited, exportation 
"for the encouragement of husbandry the Chancellor of and cheese. 
England was empowered, at his discretion, to grant licences 
to such persons as should desire to vend the said articles in 
foreign parts, as well as at the great staple at Calais."* 
While it was acted upon, it must have considerably increased 
the fees and emoluments of the office, and must have been 
highly agreeable to the present Chancellor. 

The rivalry between him and the Protector now became 
dangerous to the public tranquillity, and each mustering his 
adherents and dependents, a civil war was apprehended. The 
former had added to his power and insolence by obtaining for 
himself the appointment of legate to the Pope in England, 
and on many occasions he asserted his superiority to the Pro- 
tector, who, though vested with that high title, he contended 
had no authority beyond others of the Council. The Pro- 
tector, on the contrary, affected royal pomp, assumed much 
on his prospect of succeeding to the crown, and insisted 
that, during the minority of his nephew, he was entitled 
to exercise all the royal prerogatives under the control of 

The citizens of London were of the party of the Protector. Oct. 1425. 
To overawe them, the Chancellor strengthened the garrison ?^'"*j "^ 

I _ o London 

of the Tower, which had been intrusted to a creature of his caused by 
own. The Protector was refused admission into this fortress, and Pr ^^ 
and the gates of the city were shut against the Chancellor, tector. 
The next morning, the retainers of the Chancellor attempted 
to force the gate at London Bridge. The citizens flew to 
arms, and bloodshed was with difficulty averted by the Arch- 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 353. 
VOL. I. Z 




lor's letter 
to Duke of 

A,D. 1426. 

" Parlia- 
ment of 

bishop of Canterbury and the Prince of Portugal, who, it is 
said, were obliged to travel eight times in one day between 
Lambeth and the City of London to act as peace-makers. By 
their interposition, the rival parties were prevailed upon to 
suspend their feuds till the arrival of the Duke of Bedford, 
the Regent of France, who was coming over in the hope of 
establishing a reconciliation between them. There is extant 
a letter then written by the Chancellor to the Duke, for the 
purpose of unfairly gaining his favour : 

" I recommend me unto you with all my heart ; and as you de- 
sire the welfare of the King our Sovereign Lord, and of his realms 
of England and France, and your own health and ours also, so 
haste you hither ; for, by my troth, if you tarry, we shall put this 
land in a jeopardy with a field such a brother you have here. 
God make him a good man. For your wisdom knoweth that the 
profit of France standeth in the welfare of England. Written in 
great haste on Allhallow even, by your true servant to my lives 
end. Hen. Winton." 

Bedford hastened over from Paris, and called an assembly 
of the chief nobility at St. Alban's ; but the time was spent 
in hot contests between the hostile factions, and nothing was 
concluded. The assembly was adjourned to Northampton, 
but to as little purpose ; till at last the resolution was formed 
to refer the whole matter to a full parliament, to meet at 
Leicester on the 18th of February.* 

Much care was taken to prevent tumults between the 
great trains of the Protector and the Chancellor, by strictly 
prohibiting any person whatever to come thither with swords, 
or any other warlike weapon. The order was literally obeyed ; 
but the Lords and their attendants came armed with hats or 
great clubs on their shoulders, from which this meeting got 
the name of " The Parliament of Bats." 

These weapons, as soon as they were observed, were for- 
bidden also ; and the Lords and Commons, being peaceably 
seated in the great hall of the Castle of Leicester, the young 
King, now in his fifth year, was placed upon the throne. " His 
Majesty, from a little previous drilling, having graciously 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 354. 


returned the salute of the Lords and Commons, was deco- chap. 
rously quiet, and the Lord Chancellor declared the cause of ' 

the summons in a very short manner."* It had been pro- ^d, 1426. 
bably stipulated that, on this occasion, he should abstain from 
all party and personal reflections. His text was, " Sic facite 
ut salvi sitis ; " and without any particular allusion to the 
existing differences, he recommended the protection of the 
church, the giving of good counsel, and the granting of 
needful subsidies. 

But as soon as a speaker had been chosen, and business Innpeach- 
had begun, articles were regularly exhibited by the Pro- chancellor, 
tector against the Chancellor, which were answered with 
recrimination. We may take as a specimen the manner in 
which a charge of the crime of assassination was bandied 
between them. Article II. : 

" That the Chancellor laid wait for the Protector by placing 
armed men at the end of London Bridge, and in the windows of 
the chambers and cellars in Southwark, to have killed him if he 
had passed that way." 


" True, indeed, it is, that he did provide a certain number of 
armed men, and set them at the foot of London Bridge and 
other places, without any intention to do any bodily harm to the 
Duke of Gloucester, but merely for his own safety and defence, 
being informed by several creditable persons that the Duke had 
proposed bodily harm to him, and gathered together a company of 
citizens for that end."f 

The Commons having expressed their " much dislike " to chancellor 

the dissensions between these great men, and moved for their ^^^ ^'^' 

" ^ _ ^ tector re- 

reconcilement, the farther examination of the charges and conciled. 

answers was devolved by the two Houses upon a select com- 
mittee of peers and bishops, both parties having agreed, by 
formal instruments, to submit to what should be awarded. 
The Duke of Bedford, who presided in the court of arbitra- 
tion, reported in open parliament " that the Chancellor was 
innocent of the charge alleged against him, of having pro- 
cured a person to murder the late King when he was Prince, 

1 Pari. Hist. 3.55. t Ibid. 357. 

Z 2 




Great Seal, 

A.D, 1426. 

His sub- 

ahd having advised the Prince to depose Henry IV., his 
ftither; but pronounced judgment, that in respect of the 
incivilities that had passed between them, he should, in a 
submissive manner, ask pardon of the Duke of Gloucester; 
that the Duke of Gloucester should freely forgive him ; and, 
in token of a thorough reconciliation, each should take the 
other by the hand, so that they should be firm friends for 
the future." They accordingly shook hands, and parted with 
all outward signs of perfect love and concord, " which 
yielded a mighty satisfaction to all people, both of the clergy 
and laity ; " and, by the advice of the Council, a magnificent 
feast was given, in the name of the King, in honour of this 
supposed reconciliation. 

It is not stated by historians that it was part of this 
arrangement that Beaufort should give up his office of Chan- 
cellor, the better to preserve the equilibrium between him 
and his rival ; but it may be fairly presumed that he would 
not have voluntarily parted with such a source of power and 
of profit. However this may be, we find him immediately 
petitioning parliament to be discharged of the Great Seal, 
which, by common consent, was granted.* He delivered it 
to the Duke of Bedford, who himself sealed some letters 
patent with it in the presence of the King's Council, but 
soon went through the form of putting it into the hands of 
the infant King, and, on the 18th of March, it was given, 
in full parliament, to JoHN Kempe, Bishop of London, as 
Lord Chancellor, t 

Beaufort never resumed the Great Seal, and we can only 
give a slight sketch of his subsequent history. On his re- 
signation he went abroad, and was declared Cardinal priest 
of St. Eusebius. Then he was first regularly raised to the 
purple ; although we have occasionally called him Cardinal, 
the title by which he is best known. At the same time 
he was appointed by the Pope Captain-General of the Cru- 
saders, destined to oppose the Hussites, in Bohemia. On 

* " Tlie Bishop of Winton, for sundry causes, prayed to be discharged from 
the office of the Great Seal, and he was consequently discliarged." Rot. Pari. 
4 Hen. 6, Rot. CI. 4 Hen, 6. m. 8. 

t Rot, CI. 4 Hen. 6. m. 8, 



his return to England, he obtained leave to raise an army of CHAP. 
500 lancers and 5000 archers for the expedition ; but for a ' 

bribe of 1000 marks, he consented that the men whom he had 
raised for the crusade should be led against the King's enemies 
in France. 

He was constantly on the watch for an opportunity to 
regain his political influence, and in 1429, he succeeded in 
humbling Gloucester, by having the young king crowned, 
and inducing the parliament to declai'e on the occasion that 
the office of Protector was at an end. Gloucester was thus 
reduced to his rank as a peer, and the Cardinal from this time 
to his death bore chief sway. 

In 1431, he again went abroad, and at Rouen he assisted sits on trial 
at the trial of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, and joined ( "^^'^ ^ 

' . -, Orleans. 

in the sentence that she should be burnt alive for heresy and 
witchcraft. He was the only Englishman who was concerned 
in this atrocity, and our neighbours the French, when they 
so eagerly impute it to us as a national disgrace, should re- 
member that the Bishop of Beauvais and all her other judges 
Avere Frenchmen ; and that she was brought to trial under an 
arret of the parliament of Paris. 

The Duke of Gloucester, though no longer Protector, was Fresh 
still formidable, and from time to time seemed on the point of ^"^^'^Duke 
recovering his authority. He accused the Cardinal of having of Glouees- 
incurred the penalties of a prEemunire, by accepting papal 
bulls, of having amassed immense wealth by dishonest 
means, of having usurped the functions of sovereignty by 
appointing embassies and releasing prisoners of his own au- 
thority, and of estranging all but his own creatures from 
the person of the young King. The Cardinal caused an accusa- 
tion to be brought against the Duke's wife, to whom he was 
much attached, that she was guilty of witchcraft, by melting, 
in a magical manner, before a slow fire, a waxen figure of the 
King, with the intention of making the King's force and 
vigour waste away by like insensible degrees. The Duchess 
, was condemned to do public penance, and to suffer perpetual 
imprisonment. But this proceeding was ascribed solely to 
the malice of the Duke's enemies, and the people increased 
their esteem and affection towards a Prince who was thus 

z 3 




Feb. 1447. 
Murder of 
Duke of 

Death of 

His cha- 

exposed without protection to such mortal injuries. The 
manifestation of these sentiments made the Cardinal sensible 
that it was necessary to destroy a man whose popularity might 
soon become dangerous, and from whose resentment every 
thing was to be apprehended, if he should ever be in a situ- 
ation to gratify it. 

To effect this purpose, a parliament was called to assemble, 
not at London, which was supposed to be too well affected 
to the Duke, but at Bury St. Edmund's, where it was sup- 
posed he would be helpless. As soon as he appeared, he Avas 
thrown into prison on a charge of treason. He was soon after 
found dead in his bed ; and though it was pretended that his 
death was natural, no one doubted that he had fallen a victim 
to the vengeance of his arch-enemy. 

The Cardinal himself died six weeks after the murder of 
his nephew, which, it is said, gave him more rerilorse in his 
last moments than could naturally have been expected to be 
felt by a man hardened, during the course of a long life of vio- 
lence, in falsehood and in religious hypocrisy. His death-bed 
is described in harrowing terms by our great dramatic bard : 

" Lord Cardinal, if thou think'st on Heaven's bliss, 
Hold up thy hand, make signal of thy hope ! 
He dies and makes no sign." 

And the agony of his despair is, if possible, made more dread- 
ful by the lofty conception and successful execution of the 
scene in the masterpiece of Reynolds. 

But volumes have been written to prove that his life was 
innocent and his end pious, by arguments which may carry 
conviction to the mind of those who believe that Richard III. 
was a remarkably straight and handsome man, with a very 
tender heart. The Cardinal's enormous wealth was applied, 
according to his will, in founding oratories for priests- to pray 
for his soul, and these may account for the attempts which 
have been made to vindicate his memory.* 

* Cardinal Beaufort is not only a favourite with ignorant chroniclers, but 
with the enlightened Dr. Lingard, who says that we owe to the imagination 
of Shakspeare the fiction of his dying agonies. But it is well known that 
Shakspeare, in his historical plays, most strictly followed history or tradition, 
and embodied the belief of his time. Dr. ] lingard himself quotes a passage from 
Hall, stating " that the Cardinal lamented on his death-bed that money could 



not piirchase life, and that death should cut him off when he hoped, now his CHAP. 

nephew Gloucester was gone, to procure the purple tiara," which the historian XX. 

tries to discredit, merely on the ground of improbability, because the Cardinal _^^_^___ 

was so old and infirm, and had his funeral rehearsed while he was yet alive. 

Dr. Lingard even denies his avarice, because he did not receive interest on liis 

loans to the crown, and only looked to be benefited by the forfeiture of the 

pledges which he took by way of security, and being paid back in gold coin the 

sums he seems to have advanced in silver. He thus demanded " that paement be 

maad in golde of the coigne of England of just weighte, elles I not to be bounde 

to delyver ayene the seide weddes (pledges), though the seide paiement were 

offered to be maad in silver." A usurer stipulating for ten per cent, interest 

would not show a more intense love of money. Acts of Coun. iv. 234. 248. 

Ling. v. 124. 

z 4 






March 16. 



origin of 




His rise. 

His con- 
duct as 

We have had a succession of Chancellors of high birth, some 
of them nearly allied to the Crown. Cardinal Beaufort's suc- 
cessor was one of that other class who have won their way in 
this country to high distinction from an obscure origin. He 
was born in Kent, of parents in a very low condition of life *, 
and educated as a poor scholar at Merton College, in Oxford. 
Here, amidst all the evils of penury, he applied himself with ' 
ardour to study, and made particular proficiency in the civil 
and canon law. In due time he took the degree of Doctor in 
both faculties, after disputations which attracted the notice of 
the, whole university, and were talked of all over England. 

After practising for some time as an advocate in the eccle- 
siastical courts, on account of his high reputation as a jurist 
he was made Dean of the Arches and vicar-general to the 
Archbishop of Canterbury. Rising rapidly in the church, he 
was consecrated Bishop of Rochester; from whence he was 
translated to Chichester, and thence to London, the see he 
filled when he was appointed Lord Chancellor ; finally, he was 
promoted to the Archbishopric of York, and a cardinal's hat 
was bestowed upon him. 

Soon after his high civil appointment, he was called upon to 
take a decisive part in checking the arrogance of the Duke 
of Gloucester, who having for a time got rid of Cardinal 
Beaufort, avowed his purpose to rule in an arbitrary manner, 
although the Duke of Bedford had not yet returned to 
France, exclaiming, " Let my brother govern as him lusteth, 

* I have since ascertained that at the time of his birth his father and mother 
were living in the parish of St. Gregory, in Wye, where he founded a college of 
secular priests, to attend divine service and instruct youth in grammar and other 
learning. Note to 3d Edition. 


whiles he is in this land ; after his going over into France, I cHAP. 
woll govern as me seemeth good." The Chancellor and the XX i. 
other members of the Council made a representation on the 
subject to the Duke of Bedford, and both brothers being 
present, the Chancellor delivered an address, stating " that 
the young Prince was the rightful King of England, and 
entitled to the obedience of all his subjects, of whatever rank 
they might be ; that, young as he was, he yet possessed by 
law all the authority which would belong to him at a more 
mature age ; that as, during his infancy, he could not exercise 
such authority, it was vested in the Lords spiritual and tem- 
poral assembled in parliament, or in the great council, and at 
other times in the Lords appointed -to form " the continual 
council^'' and that this Council, representing the King's person, 
had a right to exercise the powers of government, " with- 
outen that any one person may or ought to ascribe to himself the 
said rule and government.'''' * 

Kempe's first chancellorship lasted six years. During this 
time several parliaments were held, which he opened with 
suitable speeches, except that held in January, 1431, when, on 
account of his sickness, the Duke of Gloucester sitting in the 
chair of state in the Painted Chamber, commanded William 
Linewood, Doctor of Laws, to explain the cause of the 
summons f, which was done with infinite divisions and sub- 
divisions ; but the only important business transacted at these 
parliaments, was passing the famous statute which regulates 
county elections, and enacts that no freeholder shall vote who 
cannot spend from his freehold at least 405. a year \, all 

Rot. Par. V. 409. 411. Acts of Coun. iii. 231. 242. 

t There is a curious entry of this in the Parliament Roll, showing a great 
anxiety to preserve the Chancellor's right to address the two Houses on the 
opening of parliament. After stating the meeting of Lords and Commons 
under the Duke of Gloucester, Custos Angliae, it proceeds, '' Pro eo quod Ve- 
nerabilis Pater Johannes Archiepiscopus Ebor. Cancellarius Anglie, cui ratione 
officii sui secundum consuetudineni laudahilem in Regno Anglie antiquitus usitatam 
pertinuit cnusum summonitionis parliamenti predicti pronunciare et declarare, tali et 
tanta detenebatur infirmitate quod circa declarationem et pronunciationem 
predictas adtunc intendere non valebat, Reverendus vir Magister Willielmus 
Lynwoode, Legum Doctor, causam summonitionis ejusdem parliamenti de man- 
dato prefati custodis egregie declaravit." Vol. iv. 367. So in 31 & 32 Hen. 6., 
Bishop of Lincoln stated causes of summons. " Johanne Arch. Cant. Cancellario 
Angliaj tunc absentc." Roll. v. 227. 

\ 10 Hen. 6. 


CHAP, freeholders having before voted for knights of the shire, as 


they still may for coroners. 

Resigna- ^ change in the office of Chancellor now took place, the 

tion of reasons for which have not been explained to us, and all we 
Kempe. know of it we learn from the Close Roll, which records 

March 4. " That the Lord Cardinal, Archbishop Kempe, on the 25th of 

1432. February, 1432, delivered up to the King the gold and silver 

FORD " Seals, and the Duke of Gloucester immediately took them and 
Chancellor, kept them till the 4th of March, on which day he gave them back 
to the King, and they were deHvered by his Majesty to John 
Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells, who took the oath of office, 
and used the silver seal for the despatch of business."* 
His birth The new Chancellor was of illustrious descent, being the 

tion. " son of the Earl of Stafford by the Lady Anne Plantagenet, 
daughter and heir of Thomas of Woodstock, sixth son of 
Edward III., and he was equally distinguished for his learn- 
ing and industry. Having with great reputation taken the 
degree of Doctor of Civil Law at Oxford, he practised for 
some time as an advocate in Doctors Commons, and rose 
into considerable business, when Chicheley, Archbishop of 
Canterbury, elevated him to be Dean of the Arches, and ob- 
tained for him the deanery of St. Martin, and a prebend in 
Lincoln Cathedral. He then became a favourite of Henry V., 
who made him successively Dean of Wells, Prebendary of 
Sarura, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Treasurer of England. 
He attached himself to the party of Cardinal Beaufort, by 
whose interest, in 1425, he was appointed Bishop of Bath 
and Wells. 
His long He filled the office of Chancellor till 1450, a longer period 

ance in than any one since the Conquest had continuously held the 
office. Qreat Seal. 

From the 22d of April to the 23d of May, 1433, he was 
absent on an embassy to Calais, and the silver Seal was in 
the custody of John French, Master of the Rolls, for the 
sealing of writs and the despatch of necessary business, but 
it was restored to the Chancellor on his return without any 
re-appointment, or new oath of office, the Master of the Rolls, 

Rot. Cl. 10 Hen, 6. m. 8. 


as upon similar occasions, being merely considered as his CHAP, 
deputy. ' 

In 1436, an act was passed with the concurrence of the ^^t to re- 
Chancellor, to check the wanton filing of bills in Chancery in strain ex- 


disturbance of common law process. The Commons, after risdiction 
reciting the prevailing grievance, prayed " that every person assumed by 
from this time forward vexed in Chancery for matter deter- chancery. ' 
minable by the common law, have action against him that so 
vexed him, and recover his damages." The King answered, 
" that no writ of subpoena be granted hereafter till security 
be found to satisfy the party so vexed and grieved for his 
damages and expenses, if it so be that the matter may not be 
made good which is contained in the bill." * 

We find few subsequent complaints against Lord Chancellor 
Stafford, and he seems to have diligently and quietly applied 
himself to the duties of office, not aiming at political as- 
cendancy himself, and bending submissively to the varying 
pressure of the times. In opening parliaments, and urging 
supplies, he had no victories to announce ; but he had to tell 
of the raising of the siege of Orleans by the sorceress Joan of 
Arc, and of successive disasters rapidly succeeding each other, 
till after the defection of the Duke of Burgundy, and the 
death of the Duke of Bedford, the English were driven 
from Paris; Guienne and Normandy were lost, and there a.d. 1449. 
was not left to the English a remnant of the conquests of 
Henry V. in France. 

The Parliament Roll and the contemporary chroniclers Lord 
give us a very slender account of this Chancellor's harangues .^^^'^^1''^ 
in parliament : but from the specimen we have of them, they style of 
seem to have been very dull and quaint. His maiden ex- ^ <"l"ence. 
hibition was on the 12th of March, 1432, when the infant 
King being on the throne, he took for his text, " Deum timete, 
Regem honorificatc : " on which words he remarked two 
points : 1 . A general Counsel to Princes, that they might 
learn knowledge : 2. A Commandment to subjects to learn 
to obey and honour the Prince. Which points he learnedly 
enlarged upon, and endeavoured to prove by many quotations, 

* From the petition and answer was framed stat. 15 Hen. 6. c. 4. 


CHAP, examples, and similitudes, that the King and realm of England 
might easily attain to the height of peace and prosperity, if 

A.D. 1432. 

true fear of God and honour to the Prince were in the 
hearts of the subjects.* 

He had a more delicate task to perform the following day. 
The Duke of Gloucester rose in his place and declared, for 
the contentment of the Commons, who, he was informed, 
had expressed some uneasiness on the subject, that although 
he was Chief President of the Council, yet he would act 
nothing without the consent of the majority of them. This 
declaration was communicated to the Commons by the Chan- 
cellor when they produced John Russell as their Speaker for 
the King's approbation ; and it so much pleased them, that 
they immediately granted tonnage and poundage, with a new 
subsidy on wools, f 
May, 1433. The Chancellor's text the following year was Suscipiant 
monies pacem populo et colles justiciam. " This subject he 
divided," we are told, " into three parts, according to the three 
estates of the realm ; by mountains, he understood bishops, 
lords, and magistrates ; by the lesser hills, he meant knights, 
esquires, and merchants ; by the people, he meant husbandmen, 
artificers, and labourers. To which three estates, he en- 
deavoured to prove, by many examples and authorities, that 
a triple political virtue ought to belong ; to the first unity 
peace, and concord, without dissimulations ; to the second 
equity, consideration, and upright justice, without partiality ; 
to the third a due obedience to the King, his laws and 
magistrates, without grudging." % 

During the same session, he seems gracefully to have 
expressed to the Duke of Bedford the confidence which 
all felt in his gallantry and honour, notwithstanding the 
reverses of the English arms in France. The Duke having 
said "that he had come over to clear himself from some 
slanders which were cast upon him, as that he had been 
the occasion of the late great losses by his default and 
negligence, and offered to take his trial for the same," the 
Chancellor, by the King's command, declared, " That his 

1 Pari. Hist. 365. f Ibid. 366. \ Ibid. 368. 


Majesty took him for his true and faithful subject and most CHAP, 
dear uncle, and that for his coming at that time gave him ' 

most hearty thanks." This was followed up by a compliment ^ n. 1435. 
from the other house, communicated in a way rather dif- 
ferent from our present forms. The Commons came before 
the King and Lords, and by their Speaker praised the Duke 
of Bedford for his warlike behaviour and notable deeds done 
in France, and particularly for his conduct in the battle of 

In 1435, the Kino; sitting; in his chair in the Painted 
Chamber, the Chancellor delivered a most violent invective 
against the defection of the Duke of Burgundy, his text being 
" Soliciti sitis servare unitatem spiritus in vinculo pacis." 
This performance is plain, forcible, and eloquent. But he pro- 
bably piqued himself much more on his speech the next year 
from the words Corona Regni in manu Dei: 

" On which he demonstrated that three sorts of men are crowned, 
viz. all Christians in their baptism, in token whereof they are 
anointed ; all clerks in their orders, in token whereof they are 
shaven ; and all kings in their coronation, who in token thereof 
wear a crown of gold set about with flowers and precious stones. 
The erecting and standing of the flowers in the upper part of the 
crown denoteth the King's pre-eminency over his subjects, which 
ought to be garnished with four cardinal virtues, that is to say, 
in the fore part ought to be wisdom, adorned with three precious 
stones, viz. memory of things past, circumspection of things pre- 
sent, and prudence in things to come. On the right hand ought 
to be fortitude accompanied with courage in attempting, pa- 
tience in suffering, and perseverance in well meaning. On the 
left side ought to be justice distributing her arms three ways, to 
the best, mean, and lowest. On the hinder part ought to be tem- 
perance, with her trinity, viz. restraint of sensuality in fear, silence 
in speech, and mortification in will ; all which proceeding from 
God fully proved that the crown of the King was in the hand 
of God." t 

In 1439, the Chancellor, being a friend to free trade, passed Repeal of 
an act lessening his duties and his emoluments, " that cheese chancellor 
and butter might be exported to foreign parts without the to license 
Chancellor's licence." atum. ' 

* 1 Pari. Hist 369. f Ibid. .S74. 





treaty with 

tion of 
Eton Col- 

on dis- 
secret arti- 
cle in 
treaty with 

After an interval of some years, in which we have no 
account of any parliamentary proceeding, in February, 1445, 
the parliament met which was to sanction the King's marriage 
with Margaret of Anjou, daughter of the titular King of 
Sicily and Jerusalem, and the Chancellor put forth all his 
strength in painting the felicity of this happy union, selecting 
for his text, " Justitia et Pax osculatse sunt."* 

But a great difficulty arose respecting the peace with 
France, which had been negotiated at the same time with 
the marriage, and the conditions of which were so humbling 
to England. An act had been passed in the late King's time 
forbidding any treaty with the Dauphin of France, now 
Charles VIL, without the assent of the three estates of both 
realms, and the Chancellor was afraid that the peace being 
unpopular, he might be impeached for an infraction of this 
statute. To evade the danger, in the presence of the King 
and the whole parliament, Stafford made a protestation 
*' That the peace about to be made with France was merely 
of the King's own motion and will, and that he was not 
instigated thereto by any one whatsoever." This protest was 
enrolled, and thereupon the statute referred to was repealed, 
and it was declared, " that no person whatsoever should be 
impeached at any time to come for giving counsel to bring 
about this peace with France."! 

It should be stated to the honour of the Chancellor, who 
cordially seconded the liberal intentions of the King, that in 
this parliament he proposed and carried an act to confirm the 
foundation of Eton College, where 

" Grateful Science still adores 
Her Henry's holy shade." 

By concealing an article in the treaty with France, that 
the province of Maine, which was still in the possession of 
the English, should be delivered up, ministers contrived to 
obtain a vote of thanks from both Houses for concluding the 
treaty; and for some time the Chancellor's tenure of office 
seemed more secure than ever. But after the murder of 
Gloucester and the death of Cardinal Beaufort, when the 

1 Pari. Hist. .378. 

t Ibid. 379. 



stipulated cession of Maine was made known, and France 
insisted on the strict performance of the treaty, there was a 
general burst of indignation throughout the country, and the 
greatest impatience was testified to bring to punishment the 
Duke of Suffolk, the Queen's favourite who had negotiated 
the treaty, together with the Lord Chancellor, and all who 
were concerned in it. 

The assembling of a parliament was delayed as long as 
possible. The Queen, who had gained a complete ascendant 
over her husband, apprehensive of danger to Suffolk, long 
prevented the writs from issuing, and, under pretence of the 
plague, contrived to have the opening of the session several 
times adjourned. 

At length both Houses met in the beginning of the year 
1450. Lord Chancellor Stafford, who had been lately made 
Archbishop of Canterbury, appeared on the woolsack, and 
tried to brave the storm, but soon found himself obliged to 
yield to it. Although he was the organ of announcing se- 
veral prorogations, he was not permitted to deliver the usual 
address explaining the reasons for summoning parliament; 
and the two Houses seem to have insisted, before beginning 
any business, that he should be dismissed from his office. 

On the 31st of January, 1450, the day that parliament met 
pursuant to the last adjournment, " the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury was discharged from the office of Chancellor, and John 
Kempe, Cardinal and Archbishop of York, was put in his 
place." * I conjecture that, to appease the two Houses, this 
transfer actually took place in their presence. From the 
entry in the Close Roll, it appears that there were three seals 
delivered to the new Chancellor, all which, it is said, he took 
with him to his country house at Charing Cross, f 

Ex-chancellor Stafford was not further molested. He 
retired from politics, and died at Maidstone, in Kent, on the 
6th of July, 1452. He was par negotiis neque supra, one of 
those sensible, moderate, plodding, safe men, who are often 
much relished by the leaders of political parties, as they can 
fill an office not discreditably, without any danger of gaining 


A par- 

A.D. 1450. 



His death 
and cha- 

1 Pari, Hist. 38G. 

t Rot. CI. 28 Hen. 6. m. 7. 


CHAP, too much eclat, and with a certainty of continued sub- 



Cardiiiai Cardinal Kempe succeeded him likewise as Archbishop of 

Kempe Canterbury, and continued Chancellor till he died in the 

Oiancellor. office on the 2d of March, 1454. Any knowledge of the 

law he had acquired when he before held the Great Seal had 

utterly evaporated during his eighteen years' retirement from 

the office, and he must no doubt have now been very unfit 

for its judicial duties ; but civil war was at hand, and the 

interests of justice were little regarded in the struggles of the 

diiferent factions who were preparing for hostilities. 

Banish- He had first to preside on the impeachment of the Duke of 

^"* ^'V^ Suffolk, who, declaring " that he was as innocent as the 

death or , ', , ' 

Duke of child still in the mother's womb," instead of claiming to be 
" " tried by his peers threw himself without reserve on the will 
of his sovereign. Chancellor. " Sir, since you do not put 
yourself on your peerage for trial, the King will not hold 5 ou 
either guilty or innocent of the treasons with which you have 
been charged, but as one to whose control you have volun- 
tarily submitted (not as a Judge advised by the Lords) : 
he commands you to quit this land before the 1st of May, 
and forbids you ever to set your foot during the five next 
years on his dominions either in this kingdom or beyond the 
sea."* It is well known how the unfortunate SuflTolk, who 
the cunning man in calculating his nativity had prophesied 
was to die by " Water," had his head struck off by " Walter" 
Whitmore, as he was crossing the sea under this illegal 
sentence, t 

A.n. 1450. Then broke out Jack Cade's rebellion, which was specially 

Jack Cade's . ' sr j 

rebellion, aimed against the Chancellor and all concerned with the 
profession of the law. The measures at first taken to sup- 
press it were most inefficient, and the King and his court were 
obliged to seek protection in Kenilworth Castle, London 
opening its gates to the insurgents. The Chancellor took 
the chief management of affairs, and the rebels having re- 
ceived a repulse, he succeeded in dispersing them by offering 

* Rot. Par. vol. v. 182. f Shaks, Part II. Hen. VI. act iv. so. 1. 


a general pardon and setting a price on Cade's head, which chap. 
was earned by Iden of Kent. * 

Many supposed that Cade had been set on to try the dis- ^ j,. 1450. 
position of the people towards the right heir to the crown. 
He pretended to be a son of Mortimer, who had married the 
daughter of the Duke of Clarence, elder brother of John of 
Gaunt ; and in this belief thousands flocked to his standard. 
The Duke of York, the real heir through a daughter of Mor- 
timer, at last openly set up his claim for which there was 
now a very favourable opportunity from the intellectual 
weakness of the King; from the extreme unpopularity of 
the Queen, whose private character was open to great sus- 
picion, and who was considered a devoted partisan of France ; 
from the loss of the foreign possessions which had so much 
flattered the pride of the English nation ; from the death 
and discomfiture of the ablest supporters of the reigning dy- 
nasty ; from the energy and popularity of the pretender him- 
self; and from the courage, the talents, and the resources 
of his numerous adherents. 

The claims of the rival houses being debated in the Temple War of the 
Gardens, the red and the white roses there plucked became the ^^"ses, 
opposing emblems f, and men took different sides according to 
their judgment, their prejudice, or their interest. 

When the next parliament met at Reading in the spring of 
1453, it was found that the Duke of York had a powerful party 
in both Houses, although many who preferred his title were 
very reluctant to take active measures to support it, on ac- 
count of the mild virtues of the reigning Sovereign. The 
Chancellor, being unable to attend, the session was opened by 
a speech from the Bishop of Lincoln, who contented himself 
with declaring " the cause of summoning the parliament to 
be chiefly for the good government of the realm and safe 

* Shakes. Part 11. Hen. VI. 

f " Plantogenet. Let him that is a true born gentleman 

And stands upon the honour of his birth, 
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth, 
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me. 

" Somerset. Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer, 
But dare maintain the party of the truth. 
Pluck a red rose from ofFtliis thorn with me." 

VOL. I. A A 




A.D. 1453. 

Death and 
of Lord 

defence of the saine; to which end he bid the Commons 
choose their Speaker and present him at the bar."* The 
Speaker chosen was Thomas Thorpe, Chief Baron of the 
Exchequer, whose imprisonment gave rise to the famous case 
of parliamentary privilege, in which the judges declared that 
such questions did not belong to them to consider. On the 
22d of July the Chancellor prorogued the parliament to the 
7th of November, to meet at Reading, and it was farther 
prorogued to the 11th of February following, to meet at 

Before this day arrived, public affairs had fallen into 
a state of the greatest confusion. The King had been 
attacked by an illness which affected his mind and made 
him unfit for business, and his ministers seem to have been 
wholly at a loss what course they should adopt. The 
Duke of York did not yet venture formally to claim the 
crown ; but he contrived to get almost all the power of 
the executive government into his own hands. A commis- 
sion under the Great Seal was produced, appointing him to 
hold the parliament in the King's absence. Thorpe the 
Speaker being of the opposite party, and being imprisoned for 
damages recovered against him by the Duke of York, the 
Commons were prevailed upon to choose another Speaker, 
and the Chancellor announced to them the royal approbation 
of the choice. 

This was the last act of Lord Chancellor Kempe ; while 
still in possession of his office he suddenly sickened, and died 
on the 22d of jVIarch, 1454. He had showed himself always 
ready to go with the ruling power, and recently, even to join 
the Yorkists if necessary, a disposition which may account 
for the continued stream of promotion which flowed upon 
him through life. Besides being twice Lord Chancellor, he 
had held three bishoprics and two archbishoprics. He was 
first created cardinal by the title of aS'^. Albinus, which after- 
wards, when he came to be Archbishop of Canterbury, he 
changed by the authority of the Pope for that of St. Rufinus. 

* 1 Par). Hist. 391. 


A barbarous line has been handed down to us describing his chap. 
ecclesiastical preferments 

" Bis primas, ter prases, et bis cardinale functus." 

Amidst the difficulties which arose in carrying on the a.d. 1454. 
government on the Chancellor's death, a committee of the ne^sf^' 
Lords was appointed to go to the King lying sick at Windsor, 
to learn his pleasure touching two articles ; the first, to know 
who should be Archbishop of Canterbury, and who Chancellor 
of England in the place of John Kempe, by whose death they 
lay in the King's disposal*; the second, to know whether 
certain Lords there named to be of the Privy Council were 
agreeable to him or not. On the 25th of March, the said 
committee reported to the whole House " that they had been 
to wait upon the King at Windsor, and after three several 
repairs thither, and earnest solicitations to speak with the 
King, they could by no means have answer, or token of 
answer, being only told the King was sick." Two days after- 
wards the Lords appointed the Duke of York Protector of 
the realm, so long as the same shall please the King. The 
Duke, still hesitating about the assertion of his own right, 
with a view to the pains of treason to which he might 
afterwards be subjected, obtained a declaration of the House, 
" that he took upon him the said office by the particular ap- 
pointment of the Lords, and not of his own seeking or desire." 
Letters patent, to Avhich the Duke must himself have affixed 
the Great Seal, were read in the House, appointing him Pro- 
tector during the King's pleasure, or until such time as 
Edward the Prince, then an infant a few months old, should 

* The entry in the Parliament Roll affords a curious specimen of the English 
language in the middle of the fifteenth century. 

" Mt-morand' that on the xxiii day of Marche, forasmuche as God hath called 
to his mercy and shewed his will upon Maister John Kempe, late Cardinall 
Archebishop of Caunterbury, and Chaunceler of Englond, whoos soule God 
assoile, and by whoos deth th' oflRce of Chaunceler of Englond stondeth now 
voide, the which office, of force and necessite for the ease of the people and 
processe of the lawe, must be occupied; it was advised, ordeigned, assented, 
and thurroughly agreed by the Duke of York, the Kinges lieutenaunt in this 
present parlement, and all the Lordes spiritualx and temporal x assembled in the 
parlement chambre at Westr., that certain Lordes, that is to seie, &c., siioulde 
ride to Wyndesore to the Kynges high presence, to shewe and declare to his 
Highnesse the seid materes," &c. The instructions are then set out, and there 
is a long account of the whole transaction. v. 244. 

A A 2 



CHAP, come to the age of discretion. The Duke, in full parliament, 
then swore faithfully to perform the duties of his high 
The Earl His first judicial appointment must have caused consider- 

Buuv ap" ^ble astonishment in Westminster Hall. The Close Roll of 
pointed this year informs us, that "on the 2d of April the King's 
by the three Great Seals, one of gold and two of silver, were brought 
v"Ji.^'^ into parliament; and the Duke of York, Lieutenant of the 
kingdom, delivered them to Richard Neville, Earl of 
Salisbury, as Chancellor." f 

He was the most powerful Peer who has ever been 
Chancellor of England; and if military prowess were the 
great requisite for the office, none could be better qualified 
to fill it. He was one of the chiefs of the family of Neville, 
'' which," says Hume, " was perhaps at this time the most 
potent, both from their opulent possessions, and from the 
characters of the men, that has ever appeared in England." 
This Earl of Salisbury was the son of the Earl of West- 
moreland, and inherited by his wife, daughter and heir of 
Montacute Earl of Salisbury, killed before Orleans, the 
estates and title of that great house. In the 1 ith of Hen. VI. 
he was made warden both of the east and west marches, 
and gained great distinction in rej^ressing incursions of the 
Scotch. He then served with gallantry in France, having 
under his own pennant 7 knights, 49 men at arms, and 
1046 archers. He early espoused the interest of Richard 
Duke of York. Havino; contributed his assistance to make 
him Protector, he was now rewarded with the office of Lord 
Chancellor, and seemed in the possession of permanent power 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 393. Historians have been much at a loss to account for 
Richard's reluctance to throw off his allegiance, even when his party had all 
the power of the state in their hands. The reason may be, that while the King 
was childless he would not run the risk of civil war, as he hoped that his family 
would succeed to the throne without any dispute, on failure of the line of 
Henry IV. The war of the Roses may perhaps be ascribed to the birth of the 
Prince of Wales, which was considered so auspicious. There can be no doubt 
that had it not been for the birth of another Prince of Wales, the son of 
James II., William and Mary would have waited to claim the crown by right 
of blood. 

f Another account states, that on the second of April the coffer containing 
the Seals was brought into the parliament chamber, placed on the bench where 
tlie Duke of York sat as Lieutenant, and after an interval opened by the Earl of 
Salisbury himself, wlio took possession of them, and assumed the office of Chan- 
cellor. Ilymer, t. ii. p. 344. 


and felicity, though actually destined to finish his career by CHAP, 
the hands of the common executioner, his head being 
stuck upon a pole erected over one of the gates of the city of peh. 2. 
York. 1461. 

He retained the office exactly one year. During this time a- 1455. 
the King so far recovered from his distemper as to be able to covery/ 
carry the appearance of exercising the royal prerogative ; and 
the Duke of York, not haviiio; boldlv seized the Crown as his 
right, Margaret, in her husband's name, resumed the royal 
authority, annulled the protectorship, released the Duke of 
Somerset, the principal leader of the Lancastrians, from the 
Tower, and committed the administration into the hands of 
that nobleman. The Duke of York, and his Chancellor, saw 
that if they submitted to this revolution, they would soon be 
brought to trial for treason. They flew to arms, and em- 
ployed themselves in levying forces in the counties where 
they were most potent. 

On the 7th of March, 1455, Thomas Bourchier, Arch- Cardinal 
bishop of Canterbury, was made Lord Chancellor by the ^^'^^"'*^'' 
Queen's new government. There is an entry in the Close Chancellor 
Roll of the surrender of the Seals*; but, in reality, the same nj^^^ 
seals were not used by the different Chancellors of the oppos- March 7. 
ing parties, and it was objected to the Earl of Salisbury that 
the true Great Seal had never been in his custody. 

The new Chancellor holds a distinguished place in English Great 
history, having been Archbishop of Canterbury under five To Edward 
successive reiscns, and having; exercised a considerable influ- ^^^- 
ence upon the events of his time. He was of high lineage, 
being a descendant of Lord Chancellor Bourchier, and son of 
William Bourchier, Count of Eu in Normandy, by Anne, 
daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, sixth son of Edward III., 
and relict of Edmund Earl of Stafford. He early discovered His good 
that love of letters for which he was noted through life, and 
which induced him to take an active part in introducing the 
art of printing into England. In 1434, while he was still a 
young man, he was elected Chancellor of the University of 
Oxford, where he had been educated. He filled successively 

Rot. CI. S3 Hen. 6. m. 9. 
A A 3 


CHAP, the sees of "Worcester and Ely. In April, 1454, on the 
death of Cardinal Kempe, he was promoted to the Arch- 
llis rise. bishopric of Canterbury ; and in December following he 
received the red hat from Rome, being created Cardinal- 
priest of St. Cyriacus in Thermis. 
Battle of Soon after his appointment as Chancellor was fought the 

Ma^s''?"^' S^'^^^ battle at St. Alban's, in which his predecessor had a 
1455. leading command, and in which the Yorkists were superior, 

having, without any material loss on their part, slain 5000 of 
their enemies. Among these were the Duke of Somerset and 
several other of the most distinguished Lancastrian leaders, 
so that Margaret's party seemed almost annihilated. 

The Duke of York still thought it the most politic course 
to exercise power in the name of the King, who had been 
taken prisoner, and for whom all outward respect was tes- 
tified. As a proof of moderation, the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury was allowed to retain the office of Chancellor, and a 
July, 1455. parliament, which met in July at Westminster, was opened 
by a speech from him. There was some mistrust, however, 
as to what he might say if left to himself to declare the 
causes of the summons, and his speech was settled at a con- 
ference between the two parties. It is related that "the 
Chancellor caused certain articles to be read before the 
Houses containing the causes of the summons, which were 
divided as follows to take order for the expenses of the 
King's household; for the due payment of the garrison at 
Calais; for keeping the seas against any invasion of the 
French ; to guard against the Scots, who had besieged Ber- 
wick; to procure a perfect accord and unity among the 
Lords," &c.* 

The Earl of Salisbury, the late Chancellor, was present at 
this parliament, and produced a charter of pardon, under the 
Great Seal, to himself and his confederates for having taken 
arms and fought at St. Alban's, and all other acts which 
could be construed into treason. This charter was confirmed 
by both Houses, but was found a very feeble protection when 
the opposite party regained their superiority. 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 395. 


On the 31st of July the Archbishop of Canterbury, as CHAP. 
Chancellor, in the King's presence and in bis name, pro- '__ 

rogued the parliament to the 12th of November. a.d. 1455. 

In the interval he seems to have been entirely gained over I'uke of 
by the Yorkists ; for, when the parliament again met, he con- tector. 
curred with them in measures for utterly subverting the royal 
authority. A deputation from the Commons prayed the Lords 
that a Protector might be again appointed. The Lords con- 
sequently held a consultation, when it was resolved that the 
Duke of York was the most worthy for the office, and a 
request was made to him by the whole House, that he would 
assume the protectorship. The Duke excused himself, and 
desired time to consider of it. The deputation from the 
Commons expressed some impatience; to which the Lord 
Chancellor answered, that the King, with the assent of the 
Lords, had requested the Duke of York to be Protector. 
At the proper moment the Duke relented, but he accepted 
the office with the like protestation as on a former occasion 
that it had been forced upon him by the King and the two 

This farce must have been somewhat disgusting to the 
people, who probably would have been better pleased had the 
right heir boldly seated himself on the throne under the title 
of Richard IIL The Queen watched her opportunity ; and, 
thinking that the Yorkists had incurred unpopularity, 
availed herself of the Duke's absence from London, produced 
her husband before the House of Lords, and made him declare 
his intention of resuming the government, and putting an end 
to the Protectorship. The manoeuvre, being unexpected, was 
not resisted by the opposite party, and the House of Lords, 
who had unanimously appointed the Protector, unanimously 
assented to the immediate termination of his authority. 
Bourchier the Chancellor rejoined his old friends, and a writ Chancellor 
under the Great Seal was addressed to Richard Duke of ^Tsu,^? 
York, in the King's name, superseding him as Protector, and sede Duke 
at the same time the King, by proclamation, committed the 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 398, 

A A 4 

of York. 




Seal taken 
from Arch- 

Oct. 11. 



Bishop of 
ter, Chan- 

whole estate and governance of the realm to the Lords of his 
council meaning the Lancastrian leaders with whom the 
Chancellor co-operated. The King's son was now created 
i*rince of Wales, with a splendid provision for his main- 
tenance during his minority. 

The Parliament was prorogued by Archbishop Bourchier, 
which seems to have been the last act which he did as Chan- 
cellor.* He rather affected neutrality in the struggle that 
was going forward, and he was always desirous of preserving 
peace between the contending parties. Maintaining his alle- 
giance to the King, he refused to enter into the plots that 
were laid for the destruction of the Yorkists. The Great 
Seal was therefore now taken from him, and transferred to 
William Watnflete f, Bishop of Winchester, a most 
determined and uncompromising Lancastrian. 

The Record states that the Court being at Coventry, in 
the Priory there, on the 11th of October, the Lord Chan- 
cellor Bourchier, in the presence of the Duke of York, who, 
with the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, had been invited 
to attend, and of many Lords spiritual and temporal, produced 
to the King in his chamber the three royal seals which had 
been intrusted to him, two of gold and one of silver, in three 
leather bags under his own seal, and caused them to be 
opened; that the King received them from his hands, and 
immediately delivered them to the Bishop of Winchester, 
whom he declared Chancellor, and that Waynflete, after 
taking the oath of office and setting the silver seal to a 
pardon to the late Chancellor for all offences which could be 
alleged against him, ordered the seals to be replaced, and the 
bags to be sealed with his own signet by a clerk in Chancery, 
and was thus fully installed in his new dignity. | 

Waynflete was the son of Richard Patten , a gentleman of 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 399. 

f Dugdale calls him Wickham ; but this is a mistake, as he certainly always 
went by the name of Waynflete, although he may be considered as spiritually a 
son of William of Wickham. Rot. CI. 35 Hen. 6. m. 10. 

I Rot. CI. 35 Hen. 6- m. 10. 

His father was sometimes called Bardon. At this time the surnames of 
families were very imcertain 


respectable family residing at Waynflete, in Lincolnshire, ^^^f' 
His biographers are at great pains to refute an imputation 

upon him that he was a foundling, and relate with much His origin, 
exultation that not only was his father " worshipfuUy de- 
scended," but that his mother, Margery Brenton, was the 
daughter of a renowned military leader, who for his gallantry 
in the French wars had been made governor of Caen. Young 
Patten was educated in the noble seminaries established by 
William of Wickham, first at Winchester, and then at 
Oxford, and acquired very great reputation for his proficiency 
in classical learning. 

He was ordained priest at an early age, and according to a 
very usual custom, even with those of good birth, he then 
exchanged his family name for that of the place where he 
was born. In 1429 he was made head master of Winchester 
school. Here he acquired high fame as a teacher, and in con- 
sequence gained the favour of Cardinal Beaufort, then bishop 
of the diocese, who introduced him to the King. " Holy a.d. 1441. 
Henry " was now employed in founding his illustrious es- provost of 
tablishment for education at Eton, and prevailed on Waynflete J^*^"- 
to consent to be named in the charter one of the original 
Fellows for three years ; he Avas promoted to the office of 
Provost, and he not only superintended the studies of the place 
with unwearied industry, but largely contributed to the ex- 
pense of the buildings from his private means. 

On the death of Cardinal Beaufort, by the unanimous 
election of the Chapter and the royal consent, he was ap- 
pointed Bishop of Winchester. In compliance with the 
fashion of the times he protested often, and with tears, against 
the appointment, till he was found about sunset in the church 
of St. Mary, when he consented, saying, he would no 
longer resist the divine will. He repeated often that verse 
of the Magnificat, " Qui potens est fecit pro me magna ; et 
sanctum nomen ejus ;" * which also he added to his arms as 
his motto. 

He showed great energy in assisting in the suppression of His con- 
Jack Cade's rebellion. He had a persoiiul conference with ^^[th"ja^.k 

* St. Luke, i. 49. 




The Chan- 
cellor sup- 
ports the 

His judicial 

Cade, and advised the publication of the general pardon, which 
drew off many of his followers. 

The war of the Roses beginning, he took a most decided 
part in favour of the Lancastrians. The two armies being 
first arrayed against each other on Blackheath, the King sent 
Waynflete to the Duke of York to inquire the cause of the 
commotion ; and the Lancastrians being indifferently pre- 
pared, a temporary reconciliation was brought about by his 

He was selected to baptize the young Prince, who, to the 
great joy of the Lancastrian party, was born on St. Edward's 
day, 1453 ; and he so won the King's heart, by framing 
statutes for Eton and King's College, Cambridge, that his 
Majesty added a clause with his own hand, ordaining that 
both colleges should yearly, within twelve days preceding the 
Feast of the Nativity, for ever after Waynflete's decease, 
celebrate solemn obsequies for his soul, " with commendations 
and a morrow mass ; " a distinction not conferred on any other 
person besides Henry V. and Queen Katherine, the father 
and mother of the founder ; and Queen Margaret, his own 
wife, for whom yearly obits are decreed, with one quarterly 
for the founder himself. 

The prudence of the Bishop was now to be " made eminent, 
in warilie wielding the weight of his office " * of Lord Chan- 
cellor. For its judicial duties he must have been very unfit : 
and as he had not the assistance of a Vice-chancellor, the 
defective administration of justice must have given great cause 
of complaint ; but in such troublous times, these considera- 
tions were little attended to. His first act was to bring to 
trial, on a charge for publishing Lollardism, Peacock, Bishop 
of Chichester, inclined to Yorkism, if not to heterodoxy, 
who was sentenced to sit in his pontificals, and to sec his books 
delivered to the flames in St. Paul's churchyard, and then to 
retire to an abbey on a pension. 

While the Yorkists renewed their efforts to shake the 
Lancastrian power, and the two parties continued to display 
mutual animosity, the peaceful King found consolation in his 

Hollinsh. vol. ii. p. 628. 



Chancellor. He sometimes, it is related, would bid the other ^^vf 

Lords attend the council, but detain him to be the companion 

of his private devotion ; to offer up with him in his closet 
prayers for the common weal.* However, the Chancellor, 
in reality, exerted himself to the utmost to depress the 
Yorkists, although he was sometimes obliged to dissemble, and 
to make the King assume a tone of moderation, and almost 
of neutrality.! 

By the mediation of Archbishop Bourchier, a seeming March 24. 
reconciliation was brought about, and a formal treaty con- Apparent 
eluded, consisting of eight articles, to which the new Chan- pacifica- 
cellor, with no very sincere intentions, affixed the Great 
Seal. In order to notify this accord to the whole people, a 
solemn procession to St. Paul's was appointed, where the 
Duke of York led Queen Margaret, and the chiefs of the 
opposite parties marched hand in hand. Chancellor Wayn- 
flete, I presume, had for his partner Ex-chancellor the Earl 
of Salisbury. The less that real cordiality prevailed, the more 
were the exterior demonstrations of amity redoubled on both 
sides. X 

Had the intention of the leaders been ever so amicable. Hostilities 

they would have found it impossible to restrain the animosity '"^^"""^ 

of their followers ; and a trifling quarrel between one of the 

royal retinue and a retainer of the Earl of Warwick, the son 

of the Earl of Salisbury, and soon famous under the title of 

" the King-maker," renewed the flames of civil war. The Battle of 

battle of Blore Heath was fought, in which the Earl of Salis- Heath 

bury acquired the most brilliant renown for his generalship ; 

but this was soon followed by a heavy disaster to the 

Yorkists, arising from the sudden desertion of a body of 

veterans the night before an expected engagement, so that 

they were obliged to disperse ; and the leaders flying beyond 

sea, for a time abandoned the kingdom to their enemies. 

The Queen, under the advice of the Chancellor, took this A parlia- 

* " Sepius ob eximiam sanctimoniain in penetrale regiiim adhibitus, cacte- 
roque senatu super arduis regni negoliis consilium inituro, Quin ahite (inquit 
Princeps) Ego interim et Cancellarius mens pro salute rcipuhlicm vota Deo nuncu- 
pabimus." Budden, p 86. 

t Chandler's Life of Waynflete, c. iv. v. J 1 Pari. Hist. 40ir 




A.D. 1460. 

Battle of 

July 10, 

Great Seal. 

opportunity of holding a parliament to attaint the Duke of 
York and his adherents. Both Houses met at Coventry on 
tlie 20th of November, 1459. No temporal Peers were sum- 
moned, except staunch supporters of the House of Lancaster. 
On the day of meeting, the King, sitting in his chair of state 
in the Chapter House belonging to the Priory of our Lady 
of Coventry, the Lords and Commons being present, it is said 
that " William, Bishop of Winchester, then Chancellor, made 
a notable declaration why this parliament was called." But 
we have no account either of his text or his topics ; and we 
are only told that he willed the Commons to choose their 
Speaker, and present him the next day to the King.* 

The desired attainders were quickly passed ; the members 
of both Houses were sworn to support the measures taken to 
extinguish the Yorkists ; and the Chancellor, in the presence 
of the King and of the three estates, and by his Majesty's 
command, after giving thanks to the whole body, dissolved the 

But in a short time the Yorkists again made head ; and the 
youthful Earl of March, afterwards Edward IV., gained the 
battle of Northampton, in which above 10,000 of the Queen's 
forces were slain. The King was again taken prisoner, and a 
Yorkist parliament was held at Westminster. 

Preparatory to this, the Great Seal was demanded in the 
King's name from Bishop Waynflete, and he resigned it on 
the 7th of July, 1460, having held it three years and nine 
months.^ He took the precaution of carrying away with 
him a pardon, under the Great Seal, which he might plead if 
afterwards questioned for any part of his conduct. He like- 
wise induced the King to write an autograph letter to the 
Pope, to defend him from the calumnies now propagated 
against him. 

1 Pari. Hist. 401 . f Ibid. 463. 

t Rot. CI. 38 Hen. 6. m. 5. 

This curious epistle is of considerable length, and I shall content myself 
with extracting one sentence as a specimen. " Animo nobis est, vehementer et 
cordi, clarissimo viro fortasse per emulos tracto in infamiam, nostro testimonio 
quantum in nobis est omnem adimere culpam, huic presertim quem plurimum 
carum habemus Reverendo in Christo patri Willelmo Winton Episcopo ; cujus 
cum o])era et obsequiis, in rcgni negotiis gerendis non parum usi sumus, in 
nichilo tamen cum excessisse testamur quo juste denigrari possit aut debeat 


William, Bishop of Sidon, a monk of the order of St. CHAP. 

X X T 

Austin, had acted for him as his suffragan while he was 

Chancellor, but he now returned to the personal dischar-ge of jjj^ subse- 
his episcopal duties, and occupied himself for the rest of his quent ca- 
days in founding Magdalen College, Oxford, that splendid 
monument of his munificence. 

Although always at heart an affectionate partisan of the Submits to 
House of Lancaster, when Edward IV. had been firmly ^'^^^'.^ ' 

' A.D. 14(0. 

established on the throne, he submitted to the new dynasty ; 
but he was allowed frequently to visit his ancient master, who, 
while a prisoner in the Tower, being indulged in the freedom 
of his devotions, hardly regretted the splendour of royalty. 
During Henry's short restoration, Waynflete assisted in re- 
crowning him ; but after he and his son had been murdered, 
and Edward was restored and re-crowned, the Ex-chancellor 
again submitted, swore allegiance to the young Prince, who a.d. 1472. 
Iiad been born in the sanctuary at Westminster, and accepted 
the office of Prelate to the Order of the Garter. 

He was famed for the hospitable reception he gave to Entertains 
Richard III. in his new College. This Sovereign, who seems ni^a['ji,e 
not to have been by any means unpopular while on the College 
throne, having intimated an intention of visiting the imi- ^'^^^ *" ^ 
versify of Oxford, Waynflete invited him to lodge at Mag- 
dalen, and went thither to entertain him. On his approach 
from Windsor on the 24th of July, 1483, he was honourably 
received, and conducted in procession into the newly erected 
College by the founder, the president, and scholars, and there 
passed the night witli his retinue, consisting of many prelates, 
nobles, and officers of state.* 

Next day two solemn disputations were held by the King's 
order in the College hall, the first in moral philosophy, the 

tanti fama Prelati, quam hactenus omnium ore constat intemeratam extitlsse." 
MS. C. C. C. Cambridge, Budden, p. 80. 

* It puzzles us much to understand how not only the King and his court, 
but the King and both Houses of Parliament, were anciently accommodated 
when assembled in a small town ; but it ajipears that a great many truckle beds 
were spread out in any apartment, and with a share of one of these a luxurious 
baron was contented, the less refined not aspiring above straw in a barn. Both 
Charles I. and Cromwell slept in the same bed with their officers. By Wayn- 
flete's statutes for Magdalen College, each chamber on the first floor in ordinary 
times was to contain two trujkle beds. 


CHAP. Other in divinity, the disputants receiving from the King a 
' " buck, and a present in money. He bestowed likewise on the 
president and scholars two bucks, with five marcs for wine. 
Such good will was created by his condescension and gene- 
rosity, that the entry in the college register made under the 
superintendence of Waynflete, ends with " Vivat- Rex in 
His death The Ex- chanccllor lived to see the union of the Red and 
and cha- "w^hitc Rosc, and died on the 11th of August, I486.* 

racter. ' . 

His character and conduct are not liable to any consider- 
able reproach, and his love of learning must ever make his 
memory respected in England, f 

* It is remarked as a curious fact that three prelates in succession held the 
bishopric of Winchester for 119 years, the time between the consecration of 
William of Wickham and the death of Waynflete. 

f Budden's Life of Waynflete. Chandler's Life of Waynflete. 




When the Great Seal was taken from Waynflete In 1460, CHAP, 
from the 7th to the 27th of July it was in the custody of 
Archbishoii Bourchier, but only till it could be intrusted to ^ ^ 14^0. 
one in whom the Yorkists could place entire confidence. Great Seal 
This prelate had lately much favoured the Yorkists, but still of Arch- 
they recollected his former vacillation. bishop 

On the 25th of July a new Chancellor was installed, about ^ 

' ^ ' (jEORGE 

whose fidelity and zeal no doubt could be entertained ; Neville, 
George Neville, Bishop of Exeter, the son of the Earl of Exeter, "^ 
Salisbury, and brother of the Earl of Warwick.* He had Chancellor 
studied at Baliol College, Oxford, and taking orders, had 1460' 
such rapid preferment, that he was consecrated a bishop 
before he was twenty-five, and he was made Lord Chancellor 
before he had completed his thirtieth year. 

The parliament met on the 7 th of October. We are told a pariia- 
that, in the presence of the King sitting in his chair of state, "^^"*' 
in the Painted Chamber at Westminster, and of the Lords 
and Commons, George Bishop of Exeter, then Chancellor of 
England, made a notable declaration, taking for his theme, 
" Congregate populum et sanctificate ecclesiam." But we are 
not informed how he prepared the two Houses for the solemn 
claim to the crown now to be made by his leader, to which 
he was undoubtedly privy, f 

The Duke of York, on his return from Ireland, having Duj^g ^f 
entered the House of Lords, he advanced towards the throne, ^o'-k 
and being asked by Archbishop Bourchier whether he had crown, 
yet paid his respects to the King, he replied " he knew none to 

* Rot. CI. 38 Hen. 6. m. 7. | 1 Pari. Hist. 404. 




Right to 
> crown 
argued at 
bar of 

for Duke 
of York 
after death 
of King 

whom he owed that title." Then, addressing the Peers from 
the step under the throne, he asserted his right to sit there, 
giving a long deduction of his pedigree, and exhorting them 
to return into the right path by doing justice to the lineal 
successor. It might have been expected that he would have 
concluded the ceremony by taking his seat on the throne, 
which stood empty behind him ; but he immediately left the 
House, and the Peers took the matter into consideration with 
as much tranquillity as if it had been a claim to a dormant 
barony. They resolved that the Duke's title to the crown 
should be argued by counsel at the bar, and they ordered that 
notice should be given to the King that he likewise might be 
heard. The King recommended that the Judges, the King's 
Serjeants, and the Attorney General should be called in and 
consulted. They were summoned, and attended accordingly ; 
but the question being propounded to them, they well con- 
sidering the danger in meddling with this high affair, utterly 
refused to be concerned in it. 

Nevertheless counsel were heard at the bar for the Duke ; 
the matter was debated several successive days, and an order 
Avas made that every Peer might freely and indifferently 
speak his mind without dread of impeachment. Objections 
to the claim were started by several Lords, founded on former 
entails of the crown by parliament, and on the oaths of fealty 
sworn to the House of Lancaster ; while answers were given 
derived from the indefeasibility of hereditary right, and the 
violence by which the House of Lancaster had obtained and 
kept possession of the crown.* 

The Chancellor, by order of the House, pronounced judg- 
ment, " that Richard Plantagenet had made out his claim, 
and that his title was certain and indefeasible ; but that in 
consideration that Henry had enjoyed the crown without 
dispute or controversy during the course of thirty-eight years, 
he should continue to possess the title and dignity during the 
remainder of his life ; that the administration of the govern- 
ment, meanwhile, should remain with Richard, and that he 
should be acknowledo;ed the true and lawful heir of the 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 405. 


monarchy." This sentence was, by order of the House, CHAP, 
communicated to the King by the Chancellor, who explained 

to him the Duke's pedigree and title ; and thereupon the 
King acquiesced in the sentence. All this was confirmed by 
the full consent of parliament, and an act was published 
declaring- the Duke of York to be right heir on a demise of 
the crown.* 

But Margaret refused to be a party to this treaty, and was Battle of 
again at the head of a formidable army. The battle of ^g^^'^^^^''^' 
Wakefield was fought, in which Richard Plantagenet fell, i46o. 
without ever having been seated on that throne to which he R^jJ^grd 
was entitled by his birth, and which had repeatedly seemed Plantage- 
within his reach. Here bravely fighting by the side of his ^f y^,^ ^ 
leader was taken prisoner, overpowered by numbers, the Ex- 
chancellor, the Earl of Salisbury. He was immediately Execution 
tried by martial law and beheaded. His head remained ghajj^'ji 
stuck over one of the gates of York till it was replaced by the Earl of 
that of a Lancastrian leader after the battle of Mortimer's ^eb. 2^^' 

Cross. 1461. 

For the dignity of the Great Seal I ought to give some 
account of the illustrious progeny of Lord Chancellor Salis- 
bury. His sons were Richard Earl of Warwick, " the King- His chil- 
maker," John Marquis of Montagu, Sir Thomas, a great 
military leader, and George, the Bishop, made Chancellor in 
his father's lifetime. His daugliters were, Joan, married to 

* The entry of this proceeding on the Parliament Roll is very curious. 

" Mernorand' that on the xvl day of Octobr', the ixth daye of this present 
parlement, the counseill of the right high and mighty Prynce Richard Due 
of York brought into the parlement chambre a wryting conteignyng the clayme 
and title of the right that the said Due pretended unto the corones of Englond 
and of Fraunce, and lordship of Irelond, and the same wryting delyvered to the 
Right Reverent Fader in God, George Bishop of Excestre, Chanceller of 
Englond, desiryng hym that the same wryting might be opened to the Lordes 
spiritualx and temporal x assembled in this present parlement, and that the seid 
Due myght have brief and expedient answere therof : Whereupon the seid 
Chauneeller opened and shewed the seid desire to the Lords spiritualx and 
temporalx, askyng the question of theym, whither they wold the seid writyng 
shuld be openly radde before theym or noo. To the which question it was 
answered and agreed by all the seid Lords : Inasmuch as every persone high 
and lowe suying to this high court of parlement, of right must be herd, and liis 
desire and petition understaude, that tlie seid writyng shuld be radde and herd, 
not to be answered without the Kyng's commaundment, for so moche as the 
matter is so high and of soo grete wyght and poyse. Which writyng there 
than was radde the tenour whereof foloweth in these wordes," &c. 

Then follow all the proceedings down to the King's confirmation of the 

VOL. T. B B 





Feb. 17. 
Sir John 
was ever 
in Eng- 

to have 
been only 
in partibus. 

the Earl of Arundel ; Cicily, to Henry Beauchamp Earl of 
Warwick; Alice, to Henry Lord Fitzhugh of Ravenfroth; 
Eleanor, to Thomas Stanley, the first Earl of Derby of that 
name ; and Katherine, to John de ' Vere Earl of Oxford, 
and afterwards to Lord Hastings, chamberlain to King 
Edward IV. 

There is no entry in the Records respecting the Great Seal 
from the 25th of July, 1460, when George Neville was 
created Chancellor nominally to Henry YL, but really under 
the house of York, till the 10th of March, 1461, when he 
took the oaths to the new King, and, according to Dugdale, 
he continued Chancellor all the while; but it is impossible 
that he should have been allowed to exercise the duties of the 
office during the whole of this stormy interval, as for a 
portion of it Margaret and the Lancastrians were in pos- 
session of the metropolis, and had a complete ascendancy 
over the kingdom, although it does not appear by the Rolls 
or any contemporary writer that any other Chancellor was 

If the celebrated Sir John Fortescue, author of the admi- 
rable treatise "De Laudibus Legum Angliae," ever was 
de facto Chancellor of England, and in the exercise of the 
duties of the office, it must have been now, after the second 
battle of St. Alban's, and at the very conclusion of the reign 
of Henry YI. 

Fortescue is generally by his biographers mentioned as 
having been Chancellor to this Sovereign. In the introduc- 
tion to his great work, after describing the imprisonment of 
Henry YL, and the exile of Prince Edward his son, he 
says, " Miles quidam grandjevus, pr^dicti Regis Anglic 
Cancellarius, qui etiam sub hac clade exulabat, principem 
sic affiitur;" and throughout the dialogue he always de- 
nominates himself " Cancellarius." 

I suspect that he only had the titular office of Chancellor 
in partibus when he accompanied the young Prince his pupil 
as an exile to foreign climes, and that he never exercised 
the duties of the office in England^; but under these cir- 

* Spelman, in his list of Chief Justices, under head Jo. Forteseu, writes, 
" Notior in ore omnium nomine Cancellarii quam Justiciarii, diu taraen functus 


cumstances I am called upon to offer a sketch of his history, CHAP, 
and it is dehghtful, amidst intriguing Churchmen and warlike * 

Barons who held the Great Seal in this age, to present to 
the reader a lawyer, not only of deep professional learning, 
but cultivated by the study of classical antiquity, and not 
only of brilliant talents, but the ardent and enlightened lover 
of liberty, to whose explanation and praises of our free 
constitution we are in no small degree indebted for the re- 
sistance to oppressive rule which has distinguished the people 
of England. 

Sir John Fortescue was of an ancient and distinguished His family, 
family, being descended in the direct male line from Richard 
Fortescue, who came over with the Conqueror. The family 
was seated first at Winston, and then at Wear Giifard in 
Devonshire, which still belongs to them.* He was educated 
at Exeter College, Oxford, and called to the bar at Lincoln's 
Inn. Unfortunately there is no further memorial of his 
early career, and we are not informed of the course of study 
by which he acquired so much professional and general know- 
ledge, and reached such eminence. 

In 1441 he was called to the degree of the coif, and was His rise at 
made a King's Serjeant, and the year following he was raised * ^ 
to the office of Chief Justice of the King's Bench, the duties Chief Jus- 
of which he discharged with extraordinary ability. In the 
struggle for the Crown he steadily adhered to the House of 
Lancaster while any hope seemed to remain for that cause, 
being of opinion that Richard II. was properly dethroned for 
his misgovernment ; that parliament then having the power 
to confer the crown upon another branch of the royal family, 
hereditary right was superseded by the will of the nation, 

est hoc munere ; illo vix aliquando. Constitui enim videtur Cancellarius, iion 
nisi a victo et exulante apud Scotos Rcge, Hen. 6., nee referri igitur in archiva 
regia ejus institutio, sed cognosci maxime e libelli sui ipsius inscriptione." 
Glossarium Justiciarius. And under Spelman's Series Cancellariorum, he says, 
" Jo. Fortescue Justiciarius Banci Regii exulante Hen. 6. in Scotia videtur 
ejus constitui Cancellarius eoque usus titulo ; sed nulla de eo mcntio in Rott. 
patentibus. Quidam vero contendunt cum non fuisse Cancellarium Regis sed 
filii ejus primogeniti ; contrarium vero manifeste patet lib. suo de L. L. Ang. 
in introductione, ubi sic de se ait, Quidcm Miles granda;vus," &c. 

* I have been favoured with a sight of the pedigree by Earl Fortescue, and 
it is perfect in all its links. 

B B 2 




Chief Jus- 
tice fights 
in battle of 


by act of 

Goes into 

>.D. 1463. 

*' De Lau- 

and that the parliamentary title of the House of Lancaster 
was to be preferred to the legitimist claim of the House of 

Although advanced In years, and long clothed with the 
ermine, he seems, according to the fashion of the age, to have 
accompanied his party in their headlong campaigns, and to 
have mixed in the moody fight. By the side of Morton, 
afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor, 
he displayed undaunted valour at Towton, where a great part 
of his associates were put to the sword, and the crown was 
fixed on the brow of Edward IV. Still he refused to send 
In his adhesion to the new Sovereign, and having vainly tried 
to strike another blow in the county of Durham, he was 
attainted for treason by act of parliament with other Lancas- 
trian leaders. 

After the fatal adventures which reduced the Queen and 
her son to the society of robbers in a forest, he accompanied 
the exiled family Into Scotland, where It is said by some that 
the title of Chancellor was conferred upon him. While there 
he wrote a treatise to support, on principles of constitutional 
law, the claim of the House of Lancaster to the crown. Ed- 
ward being firmly seated on the throne, and King Henry a 
prisoner in the Tower, he embarked with Margaret and 
her son for Holland, and continued several years In exile 
with them. Intrusted with the education of the young Prince. 
He conceived that he was pursuing a judicious course for 
securing the future happiness of the English nation in forming 
the character of the heir-apparent to the throne, and ac- 
quainting him with the duties of a patriot king a task 
which in later times even Hampden did not look upon as 
derogatory to his talents or Incompatible with his indepen- 

With this view Fortescue now employed himself In the 
composition of his book " De Laudibus," for the Instruction 
of his royal pupil, in which he fully explains the principles 
of the English constitution and English jurisprudence, and 

* Preface to Amos's translation of the " De Laudibus." 



points out the amendments to be introduced into them by 
the Prince on recovering the throne.* 

He afterwards accompanied the Queen back to England, 
but the cause of the House of Lancaster appearing at last 
utterly desperate, and parliament and the nation having re- 
cognised the title of the new dynasty, he expressed his wil- 
lingness to submit himself to the reigning monarch. 

Edward, with some malice, required that as a condition 
of his pardon he must write another treatise upon the dis- 
puted question of the succession, in support of the claim of 
the House of York against the House of Lancaster. The old 
lawyer complied, showing that he could support either side 
with equal ability ; and afterwards, in a new petition, assured 
the King " that he had so clearly disproved all the arguments 
that had been made against his right and title, that now there 
remained no colour or show of reason to the hurt thereof, and 
that the same stood the more clear and open on occasion of 
the writings hitherto made against them."f 

The pardon was then agreed to, and expedited in due form. 
As he had been attainted by act of parliament, it was neces- 
sary that the attainder should be reversed by the same autho- 
rity. He accordingly presented a petition for his restoration 
in blood, to which the Commons, the Lords, and the King 
assented, and which, according to the forms then prevailing, 
thus became a statute. | 


Submits to 
Edw. IV. 

Writes in 
favour of 
title of 
House of 

He is par- 

* So minute is he in liis law reforms, that he even recommends new orna- 
ments for the robes of the judges. Ch. .51. 

t Rot. Pari. vi. 26. 69. He tried to ride off on a point of fact. In his first 
work he maintained that Philippa, daughter of Lionel Duke of Clarence, 
through whom the House of York claimed, had never been acknowledged by 
her father ; in the second, that her legitimacy had been cleared up beyond all 
controversy. See Ling. v. 217. n. 

:|: By the favour of Earl Fortescue, his lineal representative, an exemplifica- 
tion of it under tlie Great Seal of Edward IV. now lies before me, and I 
copy it for the curious in historical antiquities. 

" Edwardus dei gra. Rex Anglie, Francie, et Dominus Hibnie Omibz ad 
quos psentes Ire prvint, saltm. Inspeximz quandam petioem in parliamento nro 
apud Westm. sexto die Octobr. Anno regni nri duodecimo sumonito et tento 
et p. diusas progacoes vsqz ad et in sextum diem Octobr. Anno regni nri 
tciodecimo continuato et tunc tento nob. in eodem parliamento dco sexto die 
Octobr. dco Anno regni nri triodecimo p. Johem Fortescu Militem exhibi- 
tam in hec vba : To the kyng oure soureyne lord, In the moost humble wise 
sheweth vnto yo'' most noble grace, your humble subget and true liegeman, 
John Fortescue, knyght, which is and eid. shalbe duryng his lyf yo' true and 

B B 3 

fication of 
reversal of 
the at- 
tainder of 



CHAP, He retired to Ebrington, in Gloucestershire, an estate 

which he had purchased before his exile, and which now 
Retires to gi^cs the title of viscount to his descendants. 


feithfull subget and liegeman, soureigne lord by the gee of God. Howe be 
it the same John is not of power, ne hauoir to doo your highnes so goode suice 
as his hert and wille wold doo, for so moche as in your parlement holden at 
Westm. the iiijth day of Novembr, the first yere of your moost noble reigno, 
it was ordeyned, demed, and declared by auctorite of the same parlement, that 
the seid John, by the name of John Fortescu, knyght, among other psones 
shuld stond and be conuicted and attaynted of high treason, and forfeit to you, 
soureyn lord and your heires, all the castelles, manes, lordshippes, londes, 
tentes, rentes, suices, fees, advousons, hereditamentes, and possessions, with 
their appurtenances, which he had of estate of inheritance, or any other to his 
vse had the xxx day of Decembr next afore the first yere of your moost noble 
reigne, or into which he or any other psone or psones, feoffes to the vse or 
behofe of the same John, had the same xxx day lawfull cause of entre within 
Englond, Irelond, Wales, or Cales, or the marches thereof, as more at large is 
conteyned within the same acte or actes, pleas it your highnes, forasmoch as 
your seid suppliaunt is as repentaunt and sorowfull as any creature may be, of 
all that which he hath doon and comitted to the displeasure of your highnes, 
contrie to his duetie and leigeaunce, and is and pseuantly shalbe to you, 
soueigne lord, true, feithfull, and humble subget and liegeman, in wllle, worde, 
and dede, of your moost habundant grce, by thaduis and assent of the lordes 
spiel! and temporell, and the coens in this your psent parlement assembled, 
and by auctorite of the same, to enacte, ordeyne, and stablish that the seid acte 
and all actes of atteyndre or forfeiture made ayenst the same John and his feof- 
fes, to the vse of the same John, in your seid parlement holden at Westm. the 
seid iiijth day of Novembr as ayenst them and euery of them, by what name or 
names the same John be named or called in the same acte or actes, of, in, or by 
reason of the pmisses, be vtterly voide and of noon ePecte ne force : And that the 
same John nor his heires in no wise be purdiced or hurte by the same acte or 
actes made ayenst the same John : And that by thie same auctorite your seid sup- 
pliaunt and his heires have possede, joy, and inherite all man' of possessions and 
hereditamentes in like man"" and fourme, and in as ample and large wise as the 
seid John shuld haue done if the same acte or actes neu"" had be made ayenst the 
same John : And that the seid John and his heires haue, hold, joy, and inherit 
all castelles, manes, lordshippes, londes, tentes, rentes, suices, fees, advousons, and 
all otiier hereditaments and possessions, with their appurtenances, which come or 
ought to haue come to yo"' handes by reason of the same acte or actes made 
ayenst the same John and feoffes to his vse : And vnto theym and euy of theym 
to entre, and theym to haue, joy, and possede in like man^ fourme, and con- 
dicion, as the same John shuld have had or doon if the same acte or actes neu'' 
had been made ayenst the seid John and his seid feoffes, to his vse, withoute 
suying theym or any of theym oute of your handes by peticion, lyne, or other- 
wise, by the course of your lawes. And that all Ires pattentes made by your 
highnes to the seid John, or to any psone or psones of any of the pmisses be 
voide and of noon effecte, sauing to euy persone such title, right, and lawfull 
entre as they or any of theym had at the tyme of the seid acte or actes made 
ayenst the same John, or any tyme sith other then by means and vtue of oure 
Ires patentes made sith the iiijth day of March, the first yere of your reigne, or 
any tyme sith : And that no psone or psones be empeched nor hurt of or for 
takyng of any issues or pfittes, nor of any offenses doon in or of any of the 
pmisses afore the iijth of the moneth of Aprill, the xiij yere of your reigne, or 
at any tyme sith the seid iiijth day of IMarcJie by the seid John or any feoffes 
to his vse by wey of accion or otherwise. Provided alway, that no psone nor 
psones, atteynted, nor their heires, take, haue, or enjoy any avauntage by this 
psent acte, but oonly the seid John and his heires in the pn-ises. And also the 



Here he quietly spent the remainder of his days, and here 
he died, leaving a great and venerable name to his posterity 
and his country. 

He was buried in the parish church at Ebrington, where a 
monument, with the following inscription, was erected to his 
memory : 

" In felicem et immortalera memoriara 

Clarissimi viri Dili Johannis P'ortiscuti militis grandaevi, 

Angliae Judicis primarii et processu temporis sub Henrico VI. 

Rege et Edwardo principi summi Cancellarii Consiliarii Regis 

Prudentissiini, Legum Angliae peritissimi, necnon earundem 

Hyperaspistis fortissimi, qui corporis exuvias lastam 

Resurrectionem expectantes liic deposuit." 

In 1677 this monument was repaired by Robert Fortescue, 
Esq., the then representative of the family, who added to it 
these quaint verses ; 

" Angligenas intra cancellos Juris et Equi 

Qui tenuit, cineres jam tenet urna viri. 
Lux viva ille fuit patrite, lux splendida legis. 

Forte bonis Scutum, sontibus et scutica. 
Clarus erat titulis, clarus majoribus, arte 

Clarus, virtute ast clarior emicuit. 
Jam micat in tenebris, veluti carbunculus orbis, 

Nam virtus radios non dare tanta nequit. 
Vivit adhuc Fortescutus laudatus in a;vum 

Vivet et In legum laudibus ille suis. "* 





feofFes to the use of the seid John, oonly for and in the pmisses which the same 
feoft'es had to the vse of the seid John, the seid xxx day or any tyme sitb. And 
your seid suppliaunt shall pray to God for the pseruacion of your raoost roiall 
astate, consideryng soueigne lord that your seid suppliaunt louyth so and teii- 
drith the goode of your moost noble estate, that he late by large and clere 
writyng delyued vnto your highness hath so declared all the maf' which were 
writen in Scotland and elles where ayen your right or title, which writynges 
haue in any wise comen vnto his knowledge, or that he at any tyme hath be 
pryue vnto theym : And also hath so clerely disproued all the argumentes that haue 
be made ayen the same right and title, that nowe there reniayneth no colour or mat' 
of argument to the hurt or infayme of the same right and title by reason of any such 
writyng. but the same right and title stonden nowe the more clere and open by that 
any such writynges haue be made ayen hem. Inspeximus eciam quendam assensum 
cidem peticoi p coitates regni nri Angl. in dco parliamento existen scm. et 
in dca peticoe specificat. in hue verba a cest bille les coenz sont essenxuz. 
Inspeximus insup. quandam responsionem eidem peticoi p nos de acusamento 
et ^assessu dnoq. spualiu. et temporaliu. in dco parliamento similit. existen. 
ac Coitates pdce necnon auctoritate eiusdem parliamenti ftam et indorso eius- 
dem peticois insertam in hec verba soix fait come il est desire. Nos autem 
tenores peticois assensus et responsionis predie. ad requisicoem pfate Johis 
duximus exemplificand. p psentes. In cuius rei testimoniu. has Iras nras fieri 
fecimus patentes. Teste me ipo apud Westm. quartodecimo die Februaij 
Anno regni nri quarto decimo. Gunthokt. 

T-, - f JoiIEM GUNTHOIIP, "I ^.. 

Ex" p. -{ n- . T J- Cticos. 

' (_ Ihomam Jvo. J 

* I insert the following re-lease of the manor of Ebrington as a curious spe- 

B B 4 





His cele- 
on parlia- 


As a common-law judge he is highly extolled by Lord 
Coke, and he seems to have been one of the most learned and 
upright men who ever sat in the Court of King's Bench. 

He laid the foundation of parliamentary privilege, to which 
our liberties are mainly to be ascribed. He had the sagacity 
to see, that if questions concerning the privileges of parliament 
were to be determined by the common-law judges appointed 
and removable by the Crown, these privileges must soon be 
extinguished, and pure despotism must be established. He 
perceived that the Houses of parliament alone were com- 
petent to decide upon their own privileges, and that this 
power must be conceded to them, even in analogy to the 
practice of the Court of Chancery and other inferior tribunals. 
Accordingly, in Thorpe^s case, he expressed an opinion which, 
from the end of the reign of King Henry VI. till the com- 
mencement of the reign of Queen Victoria, was received with 
profound deference and veneration. 

Thorpe, a Baron of the Exchequer, and Speaker of the 

cimen of conveyancing, and of the English language in the reign of Henry VI, 
See 145 I 
Re-lease of To alle men to whom this wrytyng shal come, Robt. Corbet, knyght, sende 
Manor of gi^etyng in oure Lord. For asmuch as I have solde to Sir John Fortescu, 
Ebrington. I'nyght, in fee symple, the reuersion of the Manour of Ebryghton, in the Counte 
of Gloucestre, with the apptenaunces, to be had after the decesse of Joyes, late 
the Wif of John Grevyle, Esquier, for Cli pounds, to be payed to me in certayn 
fourme betwene vs, accorded by reason of which sale I have by my dede enrolled 
and subscribed with myne owne hande, graunted the same reuersion to the said 
Sir John, and other named with hym, to his vse in fee by vertu of which the said 
Joyes hath attourncd to the said Sir John ; and also I have delyuered to the 
same Sir John alle the evydences whiche euer come to myne handes concernyng 
the said Manour ; I wol and desire as welle the foresaid Joyes the abbot of 
Wynchecombe, and alle other personnes in whos handes the said Sir John or his 
heyres can wete or aspye any of the forsaid evydences to be kepte, to delyuer 
the same evydences to ham, for the right and title of the reuersion of the said 
Manour is now clerely, trewly, and lawefully in the said Sir John, his cofeoftees 
and theyre heyres, and from me and myne heyres for euer moore, and the said 
Manour, nor the reuersion therof, was neuer tayled to me, nor none of myne 
Auncestres, but alway in vs hathe he possessed in fee symple, as far as euer I 
coude knowe, by any evydence or by any manner, sayyng by my trouthe. Wher- 
fore I charge Robt. my sone and myne heyre, his issue, and alle thos that shal be 
myne heyres herafter, vppon my blessyng, that they neuer vexe, implede, ne greve 
the forsaid Sir John, his said cofeoffees, theyre heyres, nor assignees, for the for- 
said Manour ; and if they do, knowyng this my prohibicion, I wote wel they shal 
haue the curse of God, for theyre wronge and owr trouthe, and also they shal 
haue my curse, Witnysyng this my wrytyng vnder my scale, and subscribed with 
myne owne hande, Wreten the v day of decembr, the yere of the reigne of 
Kyng Herry \i^ after the conqueste xxxv*'. 

(L. S.) Sir RoBERD Corbet, Knyth. 



House of Commons, being a Lancastrian, had seized some CHAP. 

harness and military accoutrements which belonged to the '_ 

Duke of York, who brought an action of trespass against 
him in the Court of Exchequer to recover their value. The 
plaintiff had a verdict, with large damages, for which the 
defendant, during a recess of parliament, was arrested and 
imprisoned in the Fleet. When parliament re-assembled, the 
Commons were without a Speaker ; and the question arose 
whether Thorpe, as a member of the Lower House and 
Speaker, was not now entitled to be discharged ? 

The Commons had a conference on the subject with the 
Lords, who called in the Judges, and asked their opinion. 
" The said Lords, spiritual and temporal, not intending to 
impeach or hurt the liberties and privileges of them that 
were coming for the commerce of this land to this present 
parliament, but legally after the course of law to administer 
justice, and to have knowledge what the law will weigh in 
that behalf, opened and declared to the Justices the premises, 
and asked of them whether the said Thomas Thorpe ought to 
be delivered from prison by, for, and in virtue of the privilege 
of parliament or no ? " " To the whole question," says the 
report, " the Chief Justice Fortescue, in the name of all the 
Justices, after sad communication and mature deliberation 
had amongst them, answered and said : that they ought not 
to answer to that question ; for it hath not been used afore- 
time that the Justices should in anywise determine the privi- 
lege of this high court of parliament ; for it is so high and 
so mighty in its nature, that it may make law ; and that that 
is law, it may make no law ; and the determination and 
knowledge of that privilege belongeth to the Lords of the 
parliament and not to the Justices." * 

In consequence of this decision the two Houses of parlia- 
ment were for many ages allowed to be the exclusive judges 
of their own privileges ; liberty of speech and freedom of 
inquiry were vindicated by them ; the prerogatives of the 
Crown were restrained and defined ; and England was saved 
from sharing the fate of the monarchies on the Continent of 

* Thorpe's Case, 31 Hen. 6. a, d, 1452. 1:5 Rep. 63. 1 Hatsell, 29, 
Lord Campbell's Speeches, 22.5. 





His lite- 
rary merits. 

His cha- 

His de- 

Europe, In which popular assemblies were crushed by the un- 
resisted encroachments of the executive government. 

What acquaintance Fortescue had with equity we have no 
means of knowing ; but it is clear that he was not a mere 
technical lawyer, and that he was familiar with the general 
principles of jurisprudence. 

As a writer, his style is not inelegant, though not free from 
the barbarisms of the schools; and he displays sentiments 
upon liberty and good government which are very remark- 
able, considering the fierce and lawless period when he 
flourished. His principal treatise has been celebrated, not 
only by lawyers, but such writers as Sir Walter Raleigh, and 
not only by Englishmen, but by foreign nations. " We 
cannot," says Chancellor Kent, in commenting upon it, " but 
pause and admire a system of jurisprudence which in so un- 
cultivated a period of society contained such singular and 
Invaluable provisions in favour of life, liberty, and property, 
as those to which Fortescue referred. They were unpre- 
cedented in all Greek and Roman antiquity, and being pre- 
served In some tolerable degree of freshness and vigour amidst 
the profound ignorance and licentious spirit of the feudal ages, 
they justly entitle the common law to a share of that constant 
and usual eulogy which the English lawyers have always libe- 
rally bestowed upon their municipal institutions." * 

Notwithstanding his tardy submission to the House of 
York, he is to be praised for his consistency as a politician. 
Unlike the Earl of Warwick and others, who were constantly 
changing sides according to Interest or caprice, he steadily 
adhered to the House of Lancaster till it had no true repre- 
sentative, and the national will had been strongly expressed 
In favour of the legitimate heir. We must, indeed, regret the 
tyranny of Edward, who would not generously pardon him 
on account of his fidelity to his former master ; but his com- 
pliance with the arbitrary condition Imposed upon him should 
be treated with lenity by those who have never been exposed 
to such perils. 

Lord Coke rejoiced that his descendants were flourishing in 
the reign of Queen Elizabeth ; and I, rejoicing that they still 

* Kent's Commentaries. 


flourish in the reign of Queen Victoria, may be permitted to CHAP, 
express a confident hope that they will ever continue, as now, ^^^' 
to support those liberal principles which, in the time of the 
Plantagenets, were so powerfully inculcated by their illils- 
trious ancestor. 

We must here take a short review of the law under End of the 
Henry VI. ; for although after languishing ten years as a l^'^"^ "^ 
prisoner in the Tower, he was again, for a short time, placed 
as a puppet on the throne, we may consider that his reign 
really closed when, upon the military disasters of his party, 
his queen and son went into exile, all his supporters were 
either slain or submitted, and a rival sovereign was proclaimed 
and recognised. 

After the marriage of the King's mother, Catherine of Law 
France, with a Welsh gentleman, Owen ap Tudor, whereby ^^^"0 ^ 
the royal family was supposed to be much disparaged, a Dowager 
statute was passed* enacting, that to marry a Queen Dowager wfthout the 
without the licence of the King, should be an offence punish- consent of 
able by forfeiture of lands and goods. Some doubted whether ing S-' 
this statute had the full force of law, because the prelates, ""^^sn- 
asserting a doctrine still cherished by some of their successors, 
that " it belongs to the Church alone to regulate all matters 
respecting marriage," assented to it " only as far forth as the 
same swerved not from the laAv of God and of the Church, 
and so as the same imported no deadly sin ; " but Lord Coke 
clearly holds it to be an act of parliament f, and it continues 
law to the present day.| 

The only other statute of permanent importance, passed 
under Henry VI., was that for regulating the qualification of 
the electors of knights of the shire. 

The Chancellors of this reign, particularly Cardinal Beau- Equitable 
fort, the Earl of Salisbury, Archbishop Bourchier, and Bishop if'chan-''" 
Waynflete, were men of great note, and had much influence eery during 
upon the historical events of their age. Under them, assisted Hl?" VI. 
by Jolm Frank, Master of the Rolls, the Court of Chancery 

AD. 1418, 6 Hen. G. f 4 Inst. 34. 

:f A vain attempt was made (as was supposed by tlie clergy) to do away with 
it by cutting off and stealing the membrane of the parliament roll on which it 
was inscribed. See 5 Ling. 105. 

8 Hen. 6. c. 7. 




Rude state 
of Equity. 

grew into new consideration. The doctrine of uses was 
now established, and it was determined that they might be 
enforced without going to parliament. So low down as 
the 7th of Henry VI., this kind of property was so little re- 
garded, that we find it stated by one of the judges as " a thing 
not allowed by law, and entirely void, if a man make a feoff- 
ment with a proviso that he himself should take the profits * ; " 
but in the 37th year of the same reign, in the time of Lord 
Chancellor Waynflete, a feoffor " to such uses as he should 
direct," having sold the land and directed the feoffees to 
convey to the purchaser, it was agreed by all the judges in 
the Exchequer, when consulted upon the subject, that the 
intention of the feoffor being declared in writing, the feoffees 
were bound to fulfil it ; and they intimated an opinion, that 
where a testator devised that his feoffees should make an estate 
for life to one, remainder to another, the remainder-man 
should have a remedy in Chancery, to compel a conveyance 
to himself, even during the continuance of the life interest.f 
Very soon after, the distinction between the legal and 
equitable estate was fully settled on the principles, and in the 
language which ever since have been applied to it4 

On other points. Equity remained rather in a rude plight. 
For example, in a subsequent case which came before Lord 
Chancellor Waynflete, the plaintiff having given a bond in 
payment of certain debts which he had purchased, filed his 
bill to be relieved from it, on the ground that there was no 
consideration for the bond, as he could not maintain an action 
to recover the debts in his own name. This case being ad- 
journed into the Exchequer Chamber, the Judges, instead of 
suggesting that an action might be brought for the benefit of 
the purchaser, in the name of the original creditor, held, that 
the bond was without consideration, and advised a decree 
tliat it should be cancelled, which the Chancellor pronounced. 
An action was, nevertheless, brought upon the bond in the 
Common Pleas, which prevailed, that Court holding that 
the only power the Chancellor had of enforcing his decrees, 
was by inflicting imprisonment on the contumacious party, who 

* Y. B. 7 Hen. 6. 436. 
t See Y. B. 4 Ed. 4. 3. 

t Bro. Ab. Garde, 5. 


might still prosecute his legal right in a court of law, notwith- CHAP, 
standing the determination in Chancery, that the bond was 
unconscionable.* To remedy this defect, injunctions were 
speedily introduced, raising a warfare between the two sides 
of Westminster Hall, which was not allayed till after the 
famous battle between Lord Coke and Lord Ellesmere, in the 
reign of James I. Bills were now filed for perpetuation of 
testimony, the examination being taken by commissioners, and 
certified into Chancery. Possession was quieted by the au- 
thority of the Court, and its jurisdiction was greatly extended 
for the purpose of afibrding relief against fraud, deceit, and 

* Y, B, 36 Hen, 6. 13. 






March 5. 






Nov. 1461. 
A parlia- 

lor's speech 
on opening 

Edward IV. having been proclaimed king on the 5th of 
March, 1461, on the 10th of the same month George Neville, 
Bishop of Exeter, was declared Chancellor.* He had been 
an active leader in the tumultuary proceedings which took 
place in the metropolis during the late crisis. Without call- 
ing a parliament, first by a great public meeting in St. John's 
Fields, and then by an assemblage of bishops, peers, and other 
persons of distinction at Baynard's Castle, he had contrived 
to give a semblance of national consent to the change of 

The new King, after the decisive battle of Towton, in 
which 36,000 Englishmen were computed to have fallen, but 
which firmly established his throne, having leisure to hold a 
parliament, it met at Westminster in November, and was 
opened in a notable oration by Lord Chancellor Neville, who 
took for his theme " Bonas facite vias ; " but we are not in- 
formed whether he exhorted them to make provision for the 
repair of the highways, greatly ncjlected during the civ'' war, 
or to find out ways and means to restore the dilapidated 
finances of the country, or what other topics he dwelt upon. 
After a Speaker had been chosen by ;he Commons, "who 
addressed the King, commending him for his extraordi- 
nary courage and conduct against his enemies, the 
Chancellor read a long declaration of the King's title to the 
crown, to which was added a recapitulation of the tyran- 

Feed. xi. 473. A difficulty arose about having a Great Seal to deliver to 
him. At the commencement of a new reign, the Great Seal of the preceding 
Sovereign is used for a time, but tliat of Henry VJ. was not forthcoming, and 
he had been declared an usurper. A new Great Seal, with the effigies of Ed- 
ward IV., was speedily manufactured, though in a rude fashion. 1 Hale's 
Pleas of the Crown, 177. 


nous reign of Henry IV., and his heinous murdering of CHAP. 
Kichard 11. * XX in. 

The required acts of attainder and restitution being passed 
against Lancastrians and in favour of Yorkists, the King, 
according to modern fashion, closed the session with a 
gracious speech, dehvered by himself from the throne.f 
After his Majesty had ended his speech, the record tells us 
that " the Lord Chancellor stood up and declared, that since 
the whole business of this parhament was not yet concluded, 
and the approaching festival of Christmas would obstruct it, 
he therefore, by the King's command, prorogued the parlia- 
ment to the 6th of May next ensuing. At the same time 
he told them of certain proclamations which the King had 
issued against badges, liveries, robberies, and murders, and 
which " the Bishops, Lords, and Commons promised to 

Neville was made Archbishop of York, and continued to Acts 
hold the office of Chancellor till the 8th of June, 1467 ; but ^f^^^^^ 
I do not find any transaction of much consequence in which pTiTeT^ 
he was afterwards engaged. The parliaments called were ^^^'' 
chiefly employed in reforming the extravagant fashion pre- 
vailing among the people of adorning their feet by wearing 
pikes to their shoes, so long as to encumber them in their 
walking, unless tied up to the knee with chains of gold, 
silver, or silk. There was a loud outcry against these enor- 
mities, and this appears to have operated as a diversion in 
favour of the Court of Chancery, which now enjoyed a long 
respite from parliamentary attack. Several statutes were 
passed, regulating the length of pikes of shoes, under very 
severe penalties; but the fame of reformers is generally 
short-lived, and I cannot affirm that the Lord Chancellor 
gained any distinction by bringing forward or supporting 
these measures. 

In 1463 the pleasing and novel task was assigned to Lord 

* 1 Pari. Hist. 41 9." 

t A little specimen of the language and style may be interesting. " James 
Stranways and ye that be comyn for the common of this my lond, for the true 
hertes and tender consideracions that ye have had unto the coronne of this 
reame, the which from us have been long time withholde." 1 Pari. Hist. 419. 

t 1 Pari. Hist. 422. 





abroad on 
an embassy. 





with the 


from office 
of Chan- 
A.D. 1467. 

Chancellor Neville, of announcing to the Commons that, from 
the flourishing state of the royal revenue, the King released 
to them parcel of the grant of a former session. 

For several months in the autumn of this year he was 
abroad, on an embassy to remonstrate against the countenance 
given to Lancastrians at foreign courts ; and during his ab- 
sence the Great Seal was in the custody of Kirkham, the 
Master of the Rolls.* 

On the 10th of April, 1464, the Chancellor being about to 
leave London for Newcastle on public business, the Great 
Seal was again intrusted to the Master of the Rolls, who was 
directed by writ of privy seal to keep it till the 14th of May, 
and on that day to deliver it to Richard Fryston and William 
Moreland, to be conveyed to the Chancellor. They accord- 
ingly delivered it back to the Chancellor at York, on his re- 
turn to London. 

Things went on very smoothly for several years, till the 
quarrel of Edward IV. with the house of Neville, arising out 
of his marriage with the fair widow, the Lady Elizabeth Grey, 
while the Earl of Warwick, by his authority, was employed 
in negotiating an alliance between him and the Lady Bona of 
Savoy. The rupture was soon widened by the new Queen, 
Avho, regarding the Nevilles as her mortal enemies, was eager 
to depress them, and to aggrandise her own kindred. 

In consequence, George Neville was dismissed from the 
office of Lord Chancellor. On the 8th of June, 1467, the 
King abruptly demanded the Great Seal from him, and gave 
it to John de Audley to carry to the palace. The next day 
it was delivered to the Master of the Rolls, without any 
Chancellor over him, but with a declaration, " that he was 
not to use it excej)t in the presence of the Earl of Essex, 
Lord Hastings, Sir John Fagge, and Sir John Scotte, or of 
one of them ; and after each day's sealing, it was to be put 
into a bag, which was to be sealed with those who were pre- 
sent at the sealing, and the Master of the Rolls was every day, 
before night, to deliver tlie seal so enclo'sed to one of the 

Kot. CI. 4 Ed. 4. 


persons above mentioned, and to receive it again the next chap. 

morning, to be used in the manner here recited.* 

The ruling party had not determined who should be the 

new Chancellor when Neville was dismissed, and an interval of 

ten days elapsed before the choice was made employed no 

doubt in intrigues among the Queen's friends, from whom he 

was to be selected. At last, on the 20th of June, it was June 20. 

announced that Kobert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and J^fj^^^^ 

Wells, was appointed Chancellor, and the Great Seal was Stilling- 

1 T J i !- 4. TON, Chan- 

aelivered to nim.j cellor. 

But before entering on his history, we must take a final 
leave of Ex-chancellor Neville. He now harboured the deep- Subsequent 
est resentment against Edward, and entered into all the cabals ^^^^l "^ 

^ _ Ex-chan- 

of his brother the " King-maker," who was secretly leagued cellor 
with Queen Margaret and the Lancastrians, and wished to ^^' ^' 
unmake the king he had made. 

Both brothers, however, attempted to conceal their wishes 
and designs, and at times pretended great devotion for the 
reigning Sovereign. In 1469, Edward, in a progress passing 
through York, was invited by the Archbishop, his Ex-chan- 
cellor, to a great feast at the archiepiscopal palace. He 
accepted the invitation ; but as he sat at table he perceived 
symptoms which suddenly induced him to suspect that the 
Archbishop's retainers intended to seize his person, or to 
murder him. He abruptly left the entertainment, called for 
his guards, and retreated. 

When in the following year the civil war was openly re- a.d. 1470. 
newed, and the Earl of Warwick, by one of the most sudden 
revolutions in history, was complete master of the kingdom, 
it is said that Edward was for a time in the custody of the 
Archbishop, who, however, used him with great respect, not 
restraining him from the diversions of hunting and walking 
abroad, by which means Edward made his escape, and soon 
after recovered his crown. Upon the counter-revolution, the a.d. 1471. 

* Rot. CI. 7 Ed." 4. m. 12. It had not been unusual to impose such 
restrictions on persons holding the seal without being Chancellor, but the Chan- 
cellor always had the unlimited use of it, upon his responsibility to the King 
and to Parliament. 

t Rot. CI. 7 Ed. 4. m. 12. 






A.D. 1472. 

His death. 

of Robert 

His origin. 

A.D. 1467. 
His speech 
at proroga- 
tion of par- 

Archbishop was surprised in his palace at Whitehall, and sent 
to the Tower ; but on account of his sacred character was 
soon after set at liberty, although he had been repeatedly 
guilty of high treason, by imagining the King's death, and 
levying war against him in his realm. Being detected in new 
plots, about a year after his enlargement, the King again 
caused him to be arrested on a charge of high treason, seized 
his plate, money, and furniture, to the value of 20,000/., 
and sent him over to Calais, then often used as a state prison. 
There he was kept in strict confinement till the year 1476, 
when on the score of his declining health he was liberated, 
and he died soon after. During the seven years he held the 
Great Seal, I do not find any charge against him of partiality 
or corruption ; and his sudden changes in politics, and the vio- 
lence with which he acted against his opponents, must be con- 
sidered rather as characteristic of the age in which he lived, 
than bringing any great reproach upon his personal character. 

Robert Stillington, his successor, had the rare merit 
of being always true to the party which he originally es- 
poused. He appears to have been of humble origin, but he 
gained a great name at Oxford, where with much applause 
he took the degree of Doctor of Laws. He was a zealous 
legitimist, and on the succession of Edward IV. he was a 
special favourite with that Prince, Avho successively made 
him Archdeacon of Taunton, Bishop of Bath and Wells, 
Keeper of the Privy Seal, and finally Lord Chancellor. He 
held this office for six years, Avith the exception of the few 
months when Edward was obliged to fly the kingdom, and 
the sceptre was again put into the feeble hand of Henry VI. 

He had been appointed during a session of Parliament. 
This was brought to a close on the 5th of July, when it is 
stated, that having in the presence of the King, Lords, and 
Commons, first answered certain petitions from the lower 
House, he thanked them in the King's name for the Statute 
of Resumption which they had passed, told them that 
the King had provided for Calais, and had taken care for 
Ireland and Wales, [and assured them that his Majesty 
desired there might be a due execution of the laws in all his 


dominions. After which, in the King's name, he prorogued chap. 
the parliament.* 


At the opening of the following session, in May, 1468, Lord ^j, 1453 
Chancellor Stillington, departing from the custom of deli- ^^^ speech 
vering a quaint discourse from a text of Scripture, with next ses- 
infinite divisions and subdivisions, delivered a very eloquent 
and statesmanlike speech, which made a deep impression, if 
we may judge from the liberal supplies which were voted. 
After some observations in praise of the government of 
England by Kings, Lords, and Commons, 

" He put them in mind in what poor estate the King found the 
crown ; despoiled of the due inheritance ; wasted in its treasures ; 
the laws wrecked ; and the whole by the usurpation in a manner 
subverted. Add to this the loss of the crown of France ; the 
Duchies of Normandy, Gascoigny, and Guienne, the ancient patri- 
mony of the crown of England, lost also ; and further he found it 
involved in a war with Denmark, Spain, Scotland, Brittany, and 
other parts, and even with their old enemy of France. Then, de- 
scending, he told them that the King had appeased all tumults 
within the realm, and planted such inward peace that law and jus- 
tice might be extended. That the King had made peace with 
Scotland ; that the Lord Wenters was negotiating a league with 
Spain and Denmark, so as to open a free commerce with those 
countries. But what was still the greatest, he had allied himself 
to the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany, two most powerful princes 
in such sort as they had given the King the strongest assurance of 
acting vigorously against France for the recovering of that king- 
dom and other the King's patrimonies ; of which, since they made 
little doubt, the King thought fit not to omit such an opportunity, 
and such a one as never happened before. And that his Majesty 
might see this kingdom as glorious as any of his predecessors did, 
he was ready to adventure his own person in so just a cause. 
Lastly, he told them that the King had called this parliament to 
make them acquainted with these matters, and to desire their 
advice and assistance."! 

The announcement of a French war was a certain mode of 
opening the purse-strings of the nation ; a large subsidy of 
two tenths and two fifteenths was immediately granted, and 
a renewal of tlie glories of Cressy, Poictiers, and Agincourt 
was confidently anticipated. 

* 1 Pari. Hist, 426. f ^^'^^- 427. 

c c 2 





by Earl of 

Sept 1470, 
Henry VI. 

" The hun- 
dred days." 

But these visions were soon dispelled by the landing of the 
Earl of Warwick, now the leader of the Lancastrians, with 
the avowed object of rescuing Henry from the Tower, where 
he himself had imprisoned him, and replacing him on the 
throne from which he had pulled him down as an usurper. 
" The scene which ensues," says Hume, " resembles more the 
fiction of a poem or romance than an event in true history." 
It may be compared to nothing more aptly than the return 
of Napoleon from Elba. In eleven days from Warwick's 
landing at Dartmouth, without fighting a battle, Henry was 
again set at liberty and proclaimed king, and Edward was 
flying in disguise to find a refuge beyond the seas. 

The Lord Chancellor Stillington certainly did not submit 
to the new government ; but I cannot find whether he fol- 
lowed Edward into exile, or where he resided during " the 
hundred days." Most of the leading Yorkists fled to the 
Continent, or took to sanctuary, like the Queen who, shut 
up in Westminster Abbey, while assailed by the cries of the 
Lancastrians, was delivered of her son, afterwards Edward V., 
murdered by his inhuman uncle. Stillington probably relied 
for safety on his sacred character, and retired to his see. 

A new Chancellor must have been appointed, as a par- 
liament was called and the government was regularly con- 
ducted in Henry's name, this being now styled "the 49th 
year " of his reign ; but there is no trace of the name of any 
one who was intrusted with the Great Seal till after the 
restoration of Edward IV. 

It is chiefly on the public records that we ought to rely for 
the events of those times, and as soon as Edward was again on 
the throne, the records of all the transactions which had taken 
place during his exile were vacated and destroyed. " There 
18 no part of English history since the Conquest so uncertain, 
so little authentic or consistent, as that of the wars between 
the two Roses ; and it is remarkable that this profound dark- 
ness falls upon us just on the eve of the restoration of letters, 
and when the art of printing was already known in Europe. 
All that we can distinguish with certainty through the deep 
cloud which covers that period, is a scene of horror and blood- 


shed, savage manners, arbitrary executions, and treacherous, CHAP, 
dishonourable conduct in all parties."* 

Thus we shall never know who was the Chancellor that Doubtful 

stated the causes for calling, in the name of Henry VI., the ^|' ^*,^ 

1-1 . ^ T*.T Chancellor 

parliament which met at Westminster on the 26th of Novem- onrestora- 
ber, 1470, when Edward TV. was declared a traitor and V^" *^ ttt 

' ^ Henry VL 

usurper of the Crown, all his lands and goods were con- 
fiscated, all the statutes made by him were repealed, 
all his principal adherents were attainted, and sentence of 
death was passed on the accomplished Tiptoft, Earl of Wor- 
cester, though, struck with the first rays of true science, he 
had been zealous by his exhortation and example to pro- 
pagate the love of polite learning among his unpolished coun- 
trymen, f The strong probability is, that George Neville, 
King-maker Warwick's brother, at this time had the Great 
Seal restored to him, and took the oaths as Chancellor to 
King Henry VI. 

But Edward soon returned to recover his lost authority, a.d. 1471. 
and to wreak vengeance on his enemies ; the battles of Barnet iv"^^J_ 
and Tewkesbury were fought ; the Earl of Warwick fell ; stored. 
Edward the Prince of Wales was assassinated ; and the un- 
happy Henry, "after life's fitful fever slept well," whether Death of 
relieved from his sufferings by the pitying hand of nature, or ^^'^ 
by the " weeping sword " of the inhuman Gloucester. 

When King Edward had gone through the ceremony of Stlllington 
being re-crowned, we find Stillington in possession of the (fhancellor 
Seal as Chancellor. There is no entry in the records of its 
being again delivered to him, and he was probably considered 
as holding it under his original appointment. 

A parliament was soon afterwards called, which was opened 
and prorogued by a speech from the Chancellor, but at which 
nothing memorable occurred. The late parliament held in 
the name of Henry VI. was not then even recognised so far 
as that its acts were repealed, and the course was adopted as 
preferable of obliterating all rolls recording its proceedings. 
Had things so remained, it would have been difficult for 

* Hume. t 1 Pari. Hist. 428. 

c c 3 , 


CHAP. "TCw into new consideration. The doctrine of uses was 
^^''* now established, and it was determined that they might be 
enforced without going to parliament. So low down as 
the 7th of Henry VI., this kind of property was so little re- 
garded, that we find it stated by one of the judges as " a thing 
not allowed by law, and entirely void, if a man make a feoff- 
ment with a proviso that he himself should take the profits * ; " 
but in the 37th year of the same reign, in the time of Lord 
Chancellor Waynflete, a feoffor " to such uses as he should 
direct," having sold the land and directed the feoffees to 
convey to the purchaser, it was agreed by all the judges in 
the Exchequer, when consulted upon the subject, that the 
intention of the feoffor being declared in writing, the feofiees 
were bound to fulfil it ; and they intimated an opinion, that 
where a testator devised that his feoffees should make an estate 
for life to one, remainder to another, the remainder-man 
should have a remedy in Chancery, to compel a conveyance 
to himself, even during the continuance of the life interest, f 
Very soon after, the distinction between the legal and 
equitable estate was fully settled on the principles, and in the 
language which ever since have been applied to it.:}: 
Rude state On Other points. Equity remained rather in a rude plight. 
q" y- Pqj, example, in a subsequent case which came before Lord 
Chancellor Waynflete, the plaintiff having given a bond in 
payment of certain debts which he had purchased, filed his 
bill to be relieved from it, on the ground that there was no 
consideration for the bond, as he could not maintain an action 
to recover the debts in his own name. This case being ad- 
journed into the Exchequer Chamber, the Judges, instead of 
suggesting that an action might be brought for the benefit of 
the purchaser, in the name of the original creditor, held, that 
the bond was without consideration, and advised a decree 
that it should be cancelled, which the Chancellor pronounced. 
An action was, nevertheless, brought upon the bond in the 
Common Pleas, which prevailed, that Court holding that 
the only power the Chancellor had of enforcing his decrees, 
was by inflicting imprisonment on the contumacious party, who 

* Y. B. 7 Hen. 6. 436. -j- Bro. Ab. Garde, 5. 

X See Y. B. 4 Ed. 4. 3. 


might still prosecute his legal right in a court of law, notwlth- chap. 
standing the determination in Chancery, that the bond was 
unconscionable.* To remedy this defect, injunctions were 
speedily introduced, raising a warfare between the two sides 
of Westminster Hall, which was not allayed till after the 
famous battle between Lord Coke and Lord EUesmere, in the 
reign of James I. Bills were now filed for perpetuation of 
testimony, the examination being taken by commissioners, and 
certified into Chancery. Possession was quieted by the au- 
thority of the Court, and its jurisdiction was greatly extended 
for the purpose of affording relief against fraud, deceit, and 

Y. B. 36 Hen. 6. 13. 





His rise. 

His incom- 

He is dis- 

He had risen by merit from obscurity. He studied at 
Cambridge, where he gained high distinction for his pro- 
ficiency in literature, law, and divinity. While still a young 
man he was elected head of his house and Chancellor of that 
University. In 1457 he was made Bishop of Durham, while 
Henry VI. was nominally King, but under the influence of 
the Yorkists, to whom he continued steadily attached. It 
seems strange to us that an individual, who for sixteen years 
had been occupied in superintending a remote diocese, should 
in his old age be selected to fill the office of Lord Chancellor, 
now become one of great importance in the administration of 
justice ; but there were, no doubt, political reasons for the 
appointment, and the interests of the suitors were not much 
regarded. It is possible that the Bishop might have been 
thought capable of silencing a noisy opponent in parliament, 
or that he was of that moderate, decent, unalarming character, 
which so often leads to promotion. 

His appointment turned out a great failure. He was 
equally inefficient in the Court of Chancery and in parlia- 
ment. Except that he did not take bribes, he had every bad 
quality of a judge, and heavy complaints arose from his va- 
cillation and del