Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 11.djvu/252

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Coke
Coke
246


being a sound protestant. In Prynne's tract, entitled ' Rome's Masterpiece ' (1643), it is stated that ' Secretary Coke was a most bitter hater of the j esuits, from whom he intercepted access to the king ; he entertained many according to their deserts, he diligently inquired into their factions. . . Hereupon being made odious to the patrons of the conspiracy, he was endangered to be discharged from his office ; it was laboured for three years, and at last obtained' (p. 17). The real causes of Coke's fall were rather more complicated. In June 1638 the king appointed a committee for Scotch affairs, of which Coke was a member, and in which he was considered to belong rather to the peace than the war party (Strafford Papers, ii. 181-6). At the conclusion of the first Scotch war, and in consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the peace, ' it being necessary that so infamous a matter should not be covered with absolute oblivion, it fell to Secretary Coke's turn (for whom nobody cared), who was then near fourscore years of age, to be made the sacrifice' (Clarendon, Rebellion, ii. 54). Clarendon says that it was pretended that Coke 'had omitted the writing what he ought to have done, and inserted somewhat he ought not to have done.' Dr. Gardiner assigns three causes : that he was growing too old for his work, accounted a puritan, and suspected of drawing a pension from the Dutch government (History of England, ix. 87). Even his old friend Strafford opposed his removal, solely from hatred of his successor. The Earl of Northumberland describes with some scorn the dismissal of the ' Old Noddy' (Sydney Papers, ii. 631). Coke himself wrote to his son that he found ' both a gracious countenance and profession that no offence is taken against me, and so much expression of good opinion and good will towards me both in court and city that I could never withdraw myself with a more favourable aspect' (Melbourne Papers). He retired to Derbyshire, where he had acquired in 1628 the property of Melbourne, and resided there until the war forced him in January 1643 to remove to Tottenham. The Long parliament summoned him from his retirement to answer complaints made of commitments in 1628 (Diurnal Occurrences, 1 Nov. 1641), but with this exception he escaped unquestioned. He seems to have sympathised with the cause of the parliament, for in a letter to Essex asking for protection, dated 20 Sept. 1642, he wrote : ' My heart is faithful and my prayers assiduous for the prosperity of the parliament, wherein consisteth the welfare of this church and state' (Melbourne Papers). Moreover, his eldest son, Sir John Coke (knighted 16 July 1636), who represented Derbyshire, took the popular side, though his younger son, Thomas, who sat for Leicester, was a cavalier. Sir John Coke the elder survived removal from Melbourne little more than eighteen months, dying at Tottenham on 8 Sept. 1644.

Clarendon, who has left but a brief and disparaging notice of Coke, asserts that his most eminent infirmity was covetousness (Rebellion, i. 142). In spite of this it does not appear that Coke stooped to unworthy means of raising a fortune. As an official he was honest and capable, and his private character was blameless. The servility which stains his public career was inseparable from the theory of absolutism which he professed.

[Sir John Coke's papers at Melbourne Hall ; Briggs's Hist.of Melbourne ; Calendar of Domestic State Papers ; Strafford Letters ; Clarendon's Hist, of the Eebellion ; Lloyd's State Worthies ; Gardiner's Hist, of England.]

C. H. F.

COKE, ROGER (fl. 1696), political writer, third son of Henry Coke of Thorington, Suffolk (fifth son of Sir Edward Coke), by his wife Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir Richard Lovelace of Kingsdown, Kent, was born some time after 1626. He was educated at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he 'became well vers'd in several parts of learning.' He did not take a degree. He is described as of Thorington on 17 April 1672. By his wife, Frances, he had a daughter, Mary, baptised at Mileham, Norfolk, on 6 Feb. 1649. Coke is now only remembered by 'A Detection of the Court and State of England during the four last Reigns and the Interregnum, consisting of private memoirs, &c. . . . Also an Appendix discovering the present State of the Nation,' 2 vols. London, 1694, 8vo, a work written in an easy gossiping style and abounding in curious anecdote. It attained a second edition in 1696. A fourth edition, ' continued ... to the death of Queen Anne,' 3 vols. London, 1719, 8vo, was issued after the author's death. To this edition (i. xiii) the anonymous editor has added a few lines of introduction which, although incorrect in some particulars, give what is probably the only known account of Coke's latter days. ' Tho', in his day, he had good speculative notions in trade, he was not so successful in the practice of it, which, with some other incidences, brought him into distresses, and the best support he had, was an hundred pounds annuity out of the grand estate of the family, which, if I mistake not, was settled upon him by his nephew, not long after he came into the possession of it ; so that he liv'd for some years within the rules of the Fleet, and died . . . about the seventy-seventh year of his age.' Coke's