1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Felton, John

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FELTON, JOHN (c. 1595–1628), assassin of the 1st duke of Buckingham, was a member of an old Suffolk family established at Playford. The date of his birth and the name of his father are unknown, but his mother was Eleanor, daughter of William Wright, mayor of Durham. He entered the army, and served as lieutenant in the expedition to Cadiz commanded by Sir Edward Cecil in 1625. His career seems to have been ill-starred and unfortunate from the beginning. His left hand was early disabled by a wound, and a morose temper rendered him unpopular and prevented his advancement. Every application made to Buckingham for his promotion was refused, on account of an enmity, according to Sir Simonds D’Ewes, which existed between Felton and Sir Henry Hungate, a favourite of Buckingham. To his personal application that he could not live without a captaincy Buckingham replied harshly “that he might hang.” Whether he took part in the expedition to Rhé in 1627 is uncertain, but there is no doubt that he continued to be refused promotion, and that even his scanty pay earned during the Cadiz adventure was not received. Exasperated by his ill-treatment, his discontent sharpened by poverty, and his hatred of Buckingham intensified by a study of the Commons “Remonstrances” of the previous June, and by a work published by Eglesham, the physician of James I., in which Buckingham was accused of poisoning the king, Felton determined to effect his assassination. He bought a tenpenny knife on Tower Hill, and on his way through Fleet Street he left his name in a church to be prayed for as “a man much discontented in mind.” He arrived at Portsmouth at 9 o’clock in the morning of the 23rd of August 1628, and immediately proceeded to No. 10 High Street, where Buckingham was lodged. Here mingling with the crowd of applicants and unnoticed he stabbed the duke, who immediately fell dead. Though escape would have been easy he confessed the deed and was seized and conveyed to the Tower, his journey thither, such was the unpopularity of the duke, being accompanied by cries of “God bless thee” from the people. Charles and Laud desired he should be racked, but the illegal torture was prevented by the judges. He was tried before the king’s bench on the 27th of November, pleaded guilty, and was hanged the next day, his body being exposed in chains subsequently at Portsmouth.