Diary of the times of Charles II/Volume 1/Sir Henry Capel to Mr. Sidney, February 7

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2661549Diary of the times of Charles II — Sir Henry Capel to Mr. Sidney, February 7Henry Sidney


February 7th.


I received the kind favour of yours with great

satisfaction, as nothing that comes from you shall ever find other from me.

I have now sent you the estimates of the four first rates of ships, calculated by as able an hand as any in the Navy.

Sir, before this comes to your hands, I doubt not but your news-letter may have told you of my having resigned my place in the Council, and consequently my employment in the same. It is possible I may be under the hard censure of many, but, to obtain a favourable construction from the Prince, I honestly ask your assistance. Be pleased to assure his Highness of my loyalty on all occasions to serve the King; but, since the practice in affairs has been contrary to the measures declared, when first I had the honour to sit there, and that the dark hopes of a Parliament sitting makes men under my circumstances to lend little support to the Government. I thought it most modesty with those fellow Commissioners who came in together, humbly to beg leave to retire. In short, I preserve the same principles as when last we parted, and 'tis neither honour nor profit can make me desert them.

To be in a station where exercised, they prove ill-timed, and if forborne, a reproach to my honour and conscience suits not with my temper. Pardon this long scribble from him who truly is

Yours for ever,

Hen. Capel.

  1. Henry Capel was the second son of Arthur, first Lord Capel, who was beheaded by the Republicans after the siege of Colchester, and brother of Arthur, first Earl of Essex. "On the accession of Charles II., the zeal he had manifested in support of the Crown, and the services of his family in the Royal cause, entitled him to the favour of the restored Sovereign. He was honoured with the Order of the Bath, appointed a Privy Councillor, and in 1679 placed at the head of the Admiralty, at the same time that his brother, the Earl of Essex, was raised to the office of the tfrst Lord of the Treasury. He was a distinguished Speaker in the House of Commons, and a zealous supporter no less of the rights of the people than of the just prerogatives of the Crown." He seconded the motion of Lord Russel, for the Bill to exclude the Duke of York from the throne.
    "The unfortunate fate of his brother, the Earl of Essex, did not damp his courage, for he continued to oppose the arbitrary measures of the two last sovereigns of the Stuart race, till the revolution opened a new era more consonant to his character and principles. He was one of the most zealous adherents of the Prince of Orange, and his attachment to him was rewarded with the office of a Privy Councillor, a seat at the Board of Treasury, and in 1692 with the honours of a Peerage, with the title of Baron Capel of Tewkesbury." In 1695 he was made Lord Deputy of Ireland, where, according to the Duke of Shrewsbury, "he was liked and beloved by all parties."—Coxe's Shrewsbury Correspondence, p. 58. Lord Dartmouth gives a very different character of him. He says, "Lord Capel was a very weak, formal, conceited man; had no other merit than being a violent party man, which he knew so well that he had no thought but for promoting what he called the Whig interest, in a country where there was no distinction but that of Protestant and Papist;" and adds, "I arrived at Dublin the night he died. If Lord Capel ever aimed at being popular, he succeeded very ill, for the whole town seemed mad with joy. He made a very ridiculous disposition of the Government of Ireland, a little before his death; which the Parliament which was then assembled would not submit to, but ordered the Lord Chancellor to take the administration till the King's pleasure was known."—Note to Burnet's History, iv. 278.
    Against this apparently prejudiced view of Lord Capel's character it is fair to set the words of an Address from the Irish Commons.
    "We must ever acknowledge to your Majesty the great benefit we do and our posterity shall receive by those inestimable laws given us by your Majesty in this Session of Parliament, held under your Majesty's Deputy and our excellent Governor, Lord Capel; whereby not only our religious and legal rights are confirmed to us, but this your Majesty's kingdom of Ireland is firmly secured to the Imperial Crown of England." He died at Dublin Castle, on the 26th of May, in 1696.