151: Guilty of High Treason

The master, our mistress and their friends went at the wine with a will.

What a day they’d had!

Linkin and I ate morsels of pie while their words flew back and forth. 

We could not take all in, but I will set down what we learnt to the best of my remembrance. 

Essex’s high good humour.  His fine attire – a black satin suit and a velvet gown.

My Earl seemed sad, but not dismayed.  A suit of dark stuff, and a cloth gown with long sleeves to keep his paws hid. 

Essex arrkst if they might challenge any of the Peers that would sit in judgement on them.  As common men can, when they’re brought to trial.

The answer was No.  Because Peers are honorable.

Then that fool Lord Grey was called.  Essex laughed and nudged my Earl.

What a spectacle Lord Grey later made!  When Essex spake of his enemies and Lord Grey’s assalt on my Earl, he leapt up to defend hisself.  There were sharp words betwixt him and my Earl.

Another fool among the Peers also took exceptions with something Essex sayt, but was not permit to dispute with him.

The best spectacle came when the Cook pressed Essex to say why he claimed the State was sold to Spain.

The Cook:  Sir Edward Coke, Attorney-General.

Essex replied that he’d come to defend hisself, not accuse others.  But he’d heard from a Councillor that Sir Rabbit sayt the Infanta of Spain had the best claim to the crown.

How ’mazed all were when Sir Rabbit [Sir Robert Cecil] sprang forth from behind a wall-hanging where he’d been hid.

He begged leave to speak.  After praise of hisself and unkindness to Essex, he demanded that this Councillor be named.

Essex sayt Lord Southampton could name him, too.  Though they were not sure if it were proper to do so.

Sir Rabbit told my Earl to remember the friendship that was once between them, and name the Councillor.  “Else,” sayt he, “I will know you to be as impudent a traitor as he that stands there with you.”  (Or so our mistress believed she heared him say.)

An impudent traitor: the Earl of Essex .

My Earl whispered with Essex.

Sir Rabbit objected to their talking together, saying they done too much of that alreadie.

Then my Earl named Essex’s uncle, Sir Willem Noles [William Knollys].

He, being sent for, told of a book which sayt the Infanta’s claim was best.  Sir Rabbit had offered to show him this book, but had not spake those words.

His answer did harm to none, and may have done my Earl some good.  Or so our mistress hoped.

But who could believe my Earl’s defense?  Viz.

Our meetings at Drury House could not be accounted treason because they led to nowt.  (Scabface, who went to Whitehall, would have been grieved to hear that.)

He went to Essex House because his friend was like to be murdered.

He had 10 or 12 of his followers with him – no more than usual.

He was not armed, save for his sword and dagger.

He hadn’t heard anyone make threats against the gentlemen sent by the Queen. (Onix did.)

He accompanied Essex into the citie to protect him from his private enemies.

He’d not heard the Proclamation of Treason – he was in another street.

He’d sought to stop the shooting from Essex House.  He’d urged surrender.  (A thing Essex sayt was true.)

After the Peers gave their verdick, the Earls were arrkst if they had anything to say before judgement was passed upon them.

Traitors’ Gate, Tower of London.

Essex, bold to the last, would not plead for his life, but affirmed his innocencie of the charges laid against him.

My Earl sayt his ignorance of the law made him incur the danger of it, but he’d served Her Majestie well and spent most of his money in her service.  He trusted in her mercie.

The master’s sweetheart sayt she could have wept when the sentence was pronounced.  As many did.

She pitied my Earl.  He having such pretty blue eyes, and being guilty of nowt but love and loyalty for his friend.

“But could he have been so ignorant of the law?” arrkst our mistress.  “Or deaf and blind to so much of what passed that day?”

I might have told them my Earl was as deaf and blind as I am, but – being loyal – I forbore.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorThe guilty verdict and death sentences were inevitable.

At trial, the old arguments were trotted out.  The prosecution’s case was that Essex sought to depose the Queen and take the throne himself.  Essex countered that his life was threatened and he sought an audience with the Queen.

The Earl of Southampton was tried as Essex’s chief aide.  He’d been one of the plotters at Drury House, he was present when the Queen’s officials were detained, and he’d entered the city and returned to Essex House afterwards.

The trial sounds as dramatic as anything the spectators would have seen on stage.  Two glamorous young Earls as defendants, two of England’s best legal brains prosecuting, a jury member arguing with a defendant…  

Sir Robert Cecil’s sudden appearance from behind the arras must have startled (or excited) everybody. 

Lord Chief Justice Popham.

There were 8 judges to provide legal advice to the peers.  Lord Chief Justice Popham also gave evidence because he was one of the officials who’d been held in Essex House.

The jury consisted of 25 peers: 9 earls, 1 viscount, and 15 barons.  Most were enemies or friends of Essex.  In the tiny sphere of the aristocracy a completely neutral jury would have been impossible, but Lord Grey was an odd choice.

Essex’s brother-in-law, Lord Rich, was also a juror.  How well disposed he still was to Essex is anybody’s guess.

The French ambassador, or someone who signed a malicious letter in his name, was particularly rude about the jury of peers, saying they returned their verdict well-addled, having been smoking, and stuffing themselves with delicacies and beer.

Another letter writer, John Chamberlain, thought both Earls spoke well, but Southampton was too submissive.  

Southampton’s defense strikes me as typical of someone trying to extricate himself from a dire situation without landing anybody else in it.  Didn’t do much, saw and heard even less.

Tricks wasn’t convinced, but…

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