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THE LIFE AND DEATH
ILLUSTRIOUS ROBERT, EARL OF ESSEX, &c.
Containing, at large, the wars he managed, and the commands he had in Holland, the Palatinate, and in England: together with some wonderful observations of himself, and his predecessors, and many most remarkable passages, from his infancy, unto the day of his death.
By Robert Codrington, Master of Arts.
London, Printed by F. Leach, for L. Chapman, Anno Dom: 1646.
The author, Mr. Codrington, was born of an antient and genteel family in Gloucestershire, elected Demy of Magdalen College in Oxford, the twenty-ninth of July, 1619, about seventeen years old, and took the Master's degree in 1626. After that, he travelled into several foreign lands; and, at his return, lived a gentleman's life, first in Norfolk, where he married; and finished his life at London, by the plague, in the year 1665, having published many pieces of different taste in his life-time, and left several manuscripts prepared for the press. As for the history before us, it is true, that he plainly declares himself a parliamenteer; yet, so far as it goes, it is the least exceptionable, and the most comprehensive, of any writings on the same subject, in those times: for, besides the character of his hero, the Earl of Essex, he gives us the general opinion, and the ground of the first part of the civil war; seems to relate the natural facts without aggravation, and always speaks of the King's majesty with respect, ascribing the ill conduct of his affairs, and bad success, to the wickedness and heat of his counsels; and heartily wishing a good and lasting reconciliation and peace between the King and his parliament.
BEFORE we do begin with the discourse of the life and death of this
illustrious earl, it will not be impertinent to speak one word of the renowned earl, his father, who, as he rendered himself admirable, by the many great and glorious actions which he performed both by land and sea; so I may call it his master-piece, that he did beget so brave a son, and I may call it his son's master-piece, that he did lively resemble so
brave a father, in the height and perfection of his virtues, which he did express in his love unto his country, and in his atchievements for the honour and safety of it; and this shall ennoble both their names unto all posterity.
To give you a parallel of these two worthies, is a task almost as impossible as impertinent; for if you will excuse in them the priority of time, we may, in the course of their lives and honours, make a parallel, as soon, betwixt two beams of the sun, who are the same in heat, in glory, and in influence, and who do differ in nothing but in number only; we will therefore save that art and labour, and, as succinctly as we can, we will address ourselves to the great task we have undertaken. This most noble earl was born in London, in the year of our Lord 1592, and almost in the evening of the reign of Queen Elisabeth, who, for his excellent endowments, did countenance his father living, and did lament him, being dead. His mother had the happiness to be espoused to three of the most gallant personages which that age did know. Her first husband was Sir Philip Sidney, whose virtues are too high for the praises of other men to reach them, and too modest to desire them; his pen and his sword have rendered him famous enough; he died by the one, and by the other he will ever live. This is the happiness of art, that although the sword doth atchieve the honour, yet the arts do record it, and no pen hath made it better known than his own. Her second husband was the renowned father of this most noble earl, who died beloved, and honoured, as well by his foes, as by his friends, and whose loss even heaven might lament, did not heaven enjoy him. Her third husband was the Earl of Clanrickard, a gallant gentleman, who exceeded the wildness of his native country, by his second education, and who exceeded his education by the happiness of his wedlock; and though, peradventure, some vain men do account it but as two threads put together, he did make it his band, by the advantage of which, he did so twist himself into the English virtues, that nothing remained in him as spun from Ireland, as Ireland now doth stand.
To omit the presages, and the unfaithful kisses of the promising madams who rocked his cradle, I will not say, that in that moving wicker [like another Hercules] he strangled in each hand the two in yading dragons of transcending prerogative and superstition: this was the business of his life to come; a business which did grow up with his youth in hope, and which, in the event, did crown his age with glory.
Though the laurels, that crown the brows of conquerors, are the thickest and the heaviest, yet, I believe, the wreaths that court the brows of art are the greenest; we conquer, in our age, our foes in the field, but we overcome our greatest foe, which is ignorance, in our youth; to conquer which, he received hereditary courage from his father, who not only overcame, but triumphed over it, and did accept the formality of two degrees, and, with great reputation, performed the exercises belonging to them in the university of Cambridge.
It is most certain, that illustrious and extraordinary personages have oftentimes extraordinary illuminations of the events, both good and bad, which shall befal them; of this we can give you remarkable instances
in this family. When Sir Walter Devereux was created Viscount of Hereford, and Earl of Essex, about the twelfth year of the reign of Queen Elisabeth, because he was descended, by his mother's side, from the antient and honourable family of the Bouchiers, it was the deliberate pleasure of the queen and state to increase his honours, by the knowledge of the fulness of his merit, and to make him governor of Ireland; and this place being preferred unto him [for, indeed, he was a gentleman of incomparable endowments] he did manage the affairs of that kingdom with great honour and judgment; and, by a secret power of attraction, which is natural and inherent to that family, he gained the approbation and applause of all men, and did much advance the affairs of England in the kingdom, of Ireland; but the ambition and policy of the Earl of Leicester, who would have no man more eminent than himself, did so prevail at court, that, upon no cause at all, but that he was as good as great, he must be dishonoured from his dignity, and the government of that kingdom conferred on Sir Henry Sidney, a deserving gentleman, indeed, and the more meritorious, because he was the father of Sir Philip. This indignity did stick such an impression on this noble earl, who had now only a charge of some empty regiments of horse and foot, that his melancholy brought a fever on him; and the sooner, because his friend was the author of this injury, for the Earl of Leicester did pretend to no man greater affection than to himself. After some days, his sickness did confine him to his chamber, and afterwards to his bed. His dying words were remarkable; he desired that his son, who was not then above ten years of age, might refrain from the court, and not trust his ear with the flatteries, nor his eye with the splendor of it; and, above all things, that he should be mindful of the six and thirtieth year of his age, beyond which, neither he, nor but few of his forefathers, lived. His instructed son did obey his father's will, and for many years did lead a contented and a retired life in Anglesey, until [I know not by what spell] the Earl of Leicester did work him into the fatal circle, and betrayed him to destruction. Being condemned to the block, he remembered his father's prediction, which now he could not avoid and which is, indeed, most wonderful, on the very same hour, and [as it is believed] on the very same minute, that he was beheaded, his son, who at that time was a student in Eaton college, did suddenly, and distractedly, leap out of his bed, where he was fast asleep, and, to the amazement of all, he cried out, that his father was killed, his father was dead; and not many hours after, the sad news was brought, which so early in the morning, and so strangely, he presaged.
His father being dead, this young earl was now looked on with more than ordinary observance; and the rather, because it was generally reported, that his father had too severe a tryal, and that his life was made a sacrifice, to satisfy the ambition of some great personages, high in favour at the court. Sure it is that there appeared something of injustice in his death, for otherwise, why should Sir Walter Raleigh, and others, who were condemned as accessary to it, so publickly afterwards, and in print, disclaim it.
Queen Elisabeth being deceased, King James was no sooner established in the possession of the crown of England, but he restored to this
young earl his father's titles and estate, and his eldest son (the mirror of his age, and the western world) Prince Henry was pleased to be very conversant and familiar with him, being near unto him in age, but more near in affection, than in years. Betwixt whom and this earl, there happened a remarkable passage, which I conceive, in this place, not improper to insert.
Prince Henry, and this young earl, delighting themselves one morning, with the exercise and the pleasure of the tennis-court, after that a set or two were played, there did arise some difference upon a mistake: from banding of the ball, the prince, being raised into a choler, did begin to bandy words, and was so transported with his passion, that he told the Earl of Essex, that he was the son of a traytor. The Earl of Essex was then in the flourish of his youth, and full of fire and courage, and being not able to contain himself, he did strike the prince, with his racket, on the head, and that so shrewdly, that [as it is said] some drops of blood did trickle down. The news of this was presently brought to the king's ear, who having examined the business, and fully understood the manner, and the occasion of it, did dismiss the earl, without any great check, and (being a true peace-maker) he told his son, that he, who did strike him then, would be sure, with more violent blows, to strike his enemy in times to come.
This being in this manner reconciled, the report of this young earl did arise every day higher and greater. His recreations were riding of the great horse, running at the ring, and the exercise of arms. His other hours were taken up in study, and in perusal of books, that yielded most profit, not most delight, and from these he would always arise better, than when he sat down unto them; his delights were hunting of the hare, or buck, and he would seldom fail to be amongst the foremost, at the fall of the stag, or when the falcon on his wing was stooing to his prey. He, from his infancy, was well affected to religion, and to the reformation of the church; and this he received by inheritance from his father, for when the bishops (that felt the smart of it) had cried out against that lashing pamphlet, called, Martin-Mar-Prelate, and there was a prohibition published, that no man should presume to carry it about him, upon pain of punishment, and the queen herself did speak as much, when the earl was present: why then, said the earl, what will become of me? And, pulling the book out of his pocket, he did shew it to the queen. I have heard grave men, and of great judgment, say, that he was the less inclined to Dr. Whitgift, a reverend divine, and his tutor also, because he was a bishop. But the ambition and pride of the prelates, and the clergy, were not then arrived to their utmost period; the suppressing of them must remain to be the work of my lord, his son, whom the parliament of England shall find to be their happy instrument, ordained for so great an end, by a greater power.
The Earl of Essex being confirmed in his father's honours and pos sessions, that a perfect reconcilement might be made in all things, a marriage was contracted and concluded in the year 1606, betwixt him and the lady Frances Howard, daughter to the Right Honourable the Earl of Suffolk. She was a lady as transcendent in her spirit as her beauty: they were much about one age when they were married, the