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upon the party himself, that he is generally concluded guilty of whatsoever he is charged; which is commonly more than the worst man ever deserved. And it is worthy the observation, that, as no innocent man who made his defence ever suffered in those times by judgment of parliament; so many guilty persons, and against whom the spirit of the time went as high, by the wise managing their defence, have been freed from their accusers, not only without censure, but without reproach; as the bishop of Lincoln, then lord keeper, sir H. Marten, and sir H. Spiller; men, in their several degrees, as little beholden to the charity of that time, as any men since. Whereas scarce a man, who, with industry and skill, laboured to keep himself from being accused, or by power to stop or divert the course of proceeding, scaped without some signal mark of infamy or prejudice. And the reason is clear; for besides that, after the first storm, there is some compassion naturally attends men like to be in misery; and besides the latitude of judging in those places, whereby there is room for kindness and affection, and collateral considerations to interpose; the truth is, those accusations (to which this man contributes his malice, that his wit, all men what they please, and most upon hearsay, with a kind of uncharitable delight of making the charge as heavy as may be) are commonly stuffed with many odious generals, that the proofs seldom make good : and then a man is no sooner found less guilty than he is expected, but he is concluded more innocent than he is; and it is thought but a just reparation for the reproach that he deserved not, to free him from the censure he deserved. So that, very probably, those two noble persons had been happy, if they had stoutly submitted to the proceedings were designed against them; and, without question, it had been of sovereign use to the king, if, in those peaceable times, parliaments had been taught to know their own bounds, by being suffered to proceed as far as they could go; by which the extent of their power would quickly have been manifested: from whence no inconvenience of moment could have proceeded; the house of commons never then pretending to the least part of judicature, or exceeding the known verge of their own privileges; the house of peers observing the rules of law and equity in their judgments, and proceeding deliberately upon clear testimony and evidence of matter of fact; and the king retaining the sole power of pardoning, and receiving the whole profit of all penalties and judgments; and indeed having so great an influence upon the body of the peerage, that it was never known that any person of honour was severely censured in that house, (before this present parliament,) who was not either immediately prosecuted by the court, or in evident disfavour there; in which, it may be, (as it usually falls out,) some doors were opened, at which inconveniences to the crown have got in, that were not then enough weighed and considered.
But the course of exempting men from prosecution, by dissolving of parliaments, made the power of parliaments much more formidable, as conceived to be without limit; since the sovereign power seemed to be compelled (as unable otherwise to set bounds to their proceedings) to that rough
cure, and to determine their being, because it could not determine their jurisdiction. Whereas, if they had been frequently summoned, and seasonably dissolved, after their wisdom in applying medicines and cures, as well as their industry in discovering diseases, had been discerned, they would easily have been applied to the uses for which they were first instituted; and been of no less esteem with the crown, than of veneration with the people. And so I shall conclude this digression, which I conceived not unseasonable for this place, nor upon this occasion, and return to the time when that brisk resolution was taken of totally declining those conventions; all men being inhibited (as I said before) by proclamation at the dissolution of the parliament in the fourth year, so much as to mention or speak as if a parliament should be called.
And here it will give much light to that which follows, if we take a view of the state of the court and of the council at that time, by which, as in a mirror, we may best see the face of that time, and the affections and temper of the people in general.
And for the better taking this prospect, we will take a survey of the person of that great man, the duke of Buckingham, (who was so barbarously murdered at this time,) whose influence had been unfortunate in the public affairs, and whose death produced a change in all the counsels. The duke was indeed a very extraordinary person; and never any man, in any age, nor, I believe, in any country or nation, rose, in so short a time, to so much greatness of honour, fame, and fortune, upon no other advantage or recommendation, than of the
beauty and gracefulness and becomingness of his person. And I have not the least purpose of undervaluing his good parts and qualities, (of which there will be occasion shortly to give some testimony,) when I say, that his first introduction into favour was purely from the handsomeness of his person.
He was the younger son of sir George Villiers, of Brookesby, in the county of Leicester; a family of an ancient extraction, even from the time of the conquest, and transported then with the conqueror out of Normandy, where the family hath still re. mained, and still continues with lustre. After sir George's first marriage, in which he had two or three sons, and some daughters, who shared an ample inheritance from him ; by a second marriage, with a young lady of the family of the Beaumonts, he had this gentleman, and two other sons and a daughter, who all came afterwards to be raised to great titles and dignities. George, the eldest son of this second bed, was, after the death of his father, by the singular affection and care of his mother, who enjoyed a good jointure in the account of that age, well brought up; and, for the improvement of his education, and giving an orpament to his hopeful person, he was by her sent into France ; where he spent two or three years in attaining the language, and in learning the exercises of riding and dancing ; in the last of which he excelled most men, and returned into England by the time he was twenty-one years old.
King James reigned at that time; and though he was a prince of more learning and knowledge than any other of that age, and really delighted
more in books, and in the conversation of learned men; yet, of all wise men living, he was the most delighted and taken with handsome persons, and with fine clothes. He began to be weary of his favourite, the earl of Somerset, who was the only favourite that kept that post so long, without any public reproach from the people : and, by the instigation and wickedness of his wife, he became, at least, privy to a horrible murder, that exposed him to the utmost severity of the law, (the poisoning of sir Thomas Overbury,) upon which both he and his wife were condemned to die, after a trial by their peers; and many persons of quality were executed for the same.
Whilst this was in agitation, and before the utmost discovery was made, Mr. Villiers appeared in court, and drew the king's eyes upon him. There were enough in the court enough angry and incensed against Somerset, for being what themselves desired to be, and especially for being a Scotsman, and ascending, in so short a time, from being a page, to the height he was then at, to contribute all they could to promote the one, that they might throw out the other : which being easily brought to pass, by the proceeding of the law upon his crime aforesaid, the other found very little difficulty in rendering himself gracious to the king, whose nature and disposition was very flowing in affection towards persons so adorned. Insomuch that, in few days after his first appearance in court, he was made cupbearer to the king; by which he was naturally to be much in his presence, and so admitted to that conversation and discourse, with which that prince always abounded at his meals.