Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/27

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Abbot
Abbot
13

was overwhelming; at the funeral in Westminster Abbey he preached the sermon, and his words were almost choked by his tears and ‘exceeding passion, showing the inward sorrow of his heart.’ But, in spite of her brother’s sad death, Abbot endeavoured to push on the negotiations for the marriage of the princess. On 27 Dec. 1612, he ceremonially affianced her and the elector at Whitehall. On 29 Jan. 1612–3, he gave, in honour of the approaching union, a banquet at Lambeth to the German prince’s followers, which the elector ‘took so kindly that when they were ready to sit down, himself came, though he were never invited or expected.’ The entertainment was worthy of ‘the giver and receiver,’ and the elector soon returned the courtesy. ‘He feasted all the council at Essex House, where, in regard of the entertainment he found with the archchbishop, he showed him more kindness and caresses than to all the rest put together.’ About a fortnight later (12 Feb.) Abbot married the elector and the princess ‘in all points according to the Book of Common Prayer,’ and one of his political aims was thus, he imagined, attained. But James I did not seem to be so well satisfied with the event as Abbot could have wished. In April his daughter and son-in-law left England, and the elector wrote to the archbishop from Canterbury that the king, who had resented his request for the release of Lord Grey, a political prisoner and supporter of Arabella Stuart, ‘did not use him like a son, but rather like a youngling or childish youth not to be regarded’ (Winwood, Memorials, iii. 454). The elector’s friendship for Abbot was, however, unimpaired. Before his departure he presented him with a piece of plate of the value of 1,000ɭ., although he made no presents to any other of his English friends, except a very small one to the lord chancellor Ellesmere.

In general home politics, Abbot found it difficult to steer a course that should not jeopardise either his loyalty or his honesty, and the difficulty grew in intensity with every year. He was willing, with characteristic generosity, to make some material sacrifices for his sovereign in his financial difficulties; when the parliament of 1614 refused James the subsidies of which he stood greatly in need, Abbot wrote to the bishops begging them to testify ‘their duty unto their sovereign’ by some free-will offering. He urged every bishop to ‘send unto the king the best piece of plate which he had, and if his majesty should be pleased to accept of this,’ he promised to move the civilians and others of the ‘abler sort of clergy according to their proportions to do the like,’ but he was anxious that ‘no poor man should be grated on’ (Goodman, Court of James I, ed. Brewer, ii. 157). Abbot himself forwarded to James a basin and ewer that sold for 140ɭ. But in 1615, when the king had still large debts that pressed for payment, Abbot was one of those councillors who strongly urged an appeal to parliament, though he did not discountenance what we should hold to be an exertion of undue influence on the constituencies (Spedding, Bacon, v. 205). Abbot was not, however, courtier enough to retain at any time the full confidence of the king. In 1613 he twice came into open collision with him. In the first place, a dispute arose as to the will of Thomas Sutton, who had bequeathed all his fortune to the foundation of the Charterhouse at Smithfield, and James I attempted to divert the money to his own uses. But Abbot would not sanction the proposed malversation, which he attributed to the judges, and James had to yield to the archbishop’s representations. A more serious quarrel in the same year was occasioned by Abbot’s disregard of the king’s wishes in the matter of the divorce petitioned for by the Countess of Essex, once Lady Frances Howard. The lady insisted on the nullity of her marriage with the Earl of Essex. It was known that she was of profligate temperament, and was, at the same time as she was petitioning against Essex, arranging for her remarriage to the Earl of Somerset, the king’s favourite. Her petition was referred to a commission, consisting of Abbot as president, with five bishops and six civil lawyers. The king was strongly in the countess’s favour, and urged Abbot to grant her suit. But Abbot took an opposite view. The countess was a niece of the Earl of Northampton, his bitterest enemy in the council chamber, and he was not therefore prejudiced in her favour. There was very scanty evidence to prove her charges against her husband, and she made admissions in cross-examination which practically invalidated all her testimony. Abbot knew the Earl of Essex to be ‘a religious nobleman,’ and tried hard to protect him from what he looked upon as the immoral persecution of his wife and her friends. The king’s personal intervention could not change his opinion. Some days before the final hearing of the case, he begged to be rid of the business. He was staying with the king at Windsor, and he ‘fell down on his knees twice or thrice to entreat his majesty that he might be dispensed with from being on the commission, which he would esteem a greater favour than all that he had received from him in being raised from a private position, and in so short a time, to the highest dignity.’ But