Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 21.djvu/52

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

is clear; for we find him in the following Michaelmas term trying cases as usual at Westminster, and it is very improbable that in the interval he had been suspended. It appears, indeed, from ‘Parl. Roll,’ iii. 578 a, that on 19 June he was still ‘hors de courte,’ and was not expected to return for some time, for his colleagues were authorised to proceed with certain legal business in his absence. But this seems merely to indicate that he was detained in the north longer than had been anticipated. On the whole the balance of probability seems to incline distinctly against the hitherto received account of his conduct in the case of Scrope, and in favour of Capgrave's explicit statement that he took part in the trial. With the story of his committing Prince Henry to prison, and of that prince's magnanimous behaviour towards him on his accession to the throne, it fares still worse. For the committal there is no evidence; the latter part of the story is demonstrably untrue. The committal to gaol for contempt of the heir-apparent to the crown would have been an event of such dramatic interest as could not fail, if it occurred, to have been recorded by some contemporary writer, and duly noted as a precedent by the lawyers. In fact, however, no contemporary authority, lay or legal, knows anything of such an occurrence, the earliest account of it being found in Sir Thomas Elyot's ‘Governour’ (1531), a work designed for the instruction and edification of princes, and in particular of Henry VIII, of no historical pretensions, but abounding in anecdotes drawn from various sources, introduced as illustrations of ethical or political maxims. (An exhaustive discussion of the question will be found in a paper by Mr. F. Solly Flood, Q.C., in the Royal Historical Society's Transactions, new ser. iii. pt. i.) From Elyot's ‘Governour’ the story passed into Hall's ‘Chronicle’ with the material additions, (1) that the contempt in question consisted in the prince's striking the chief justice a blow on the face with his fist, (2) that the king, so far from resenting Gascoigne's conduct, dismissed the prince from the privy council, and banished him the court (Hall, Henry V, ad init.) Both Elyot and Hall agree that the occasion of the prince's action was the arraignment of one of his servants before the chief justice, but Elyot represents the prince as at first merely protesting, and, when protest proved unavailing, endeavouring to rescue the prisoner. He says nothing of the assault, nor, though he states that the king approved of Gascoigne's conduct, does he hint that he endorsed it by adding any punishment of his own. Shakespeare, who drew on both accounts, identifies the servant with Bardolph (Henry IV, pt. ii. act i. sc. 2. Page: ‘Sir, here comes the nobleman that committed the prince for striking him about Bardolph’). The later scene (act v. sc. 2), where the new king calls upon the chief justice to show cause why he should not hate him, and after hearing his defence bids him ‘still bear the balance and the sword,’ is not only unfounded in, but is inconsistent with, historical fact. Gascoigne was indeed summoned as lord chief justice to the first parliament of Henry V, notwithstanding that his patent had determined by the death of the late king; but he had already either resigned or been removed from office when that parliament met on 15 May 1413, as the patent of his successor, Sir William Hankford, is dated the 29th of the preceding March (Foss, Lives of the Judges, iv. 169). His salary was paid down to 7 July, and by royal warrant dated 24 Nov. 1414 he received a grant of four bucks and does annually from the forest of Pontefract for the term of his life (Devon, Issues of the Exchequer, p. 322; Tyler, Life of Hen. V, i. 379). It therefore seems probable that Henry's first intention was to continue him in his office, but that at his own request his patent was not renewed. His will, dated ‘Friday after St. Lucy's day’ (i.e. 15 Dec.) 1419, was proved in the prerogative court of Yorkshire on the 23rd of the same month. Fuller (Worthies) gives Sunday 17 Dec. 1412 as the date of his death. If we suppose that, though wrong about the year, he was right about the day of the week, then, as 17 Dec. 1419 happens to have been a Sunday, we may conclude that he died on that day. He was buried in the parish church of Harewood, Yorkshire, under a monument representing him in his robes and hood, his head resting on a double cushion supported by angels, a lion couchant at his feet. Foss remarks that he is the first English judge of whom we have any personal anecdotes. How little credit can be attached to these has already been shown; their character, however, evinces the profound respect in which Gascoigne was held by the people. He was clearly regarded as the ideal of a just judge, possessed with a high sense of the dignity of his office, and absolutely indifferent in the discharge of his duty to his personal interest and even safety.

Gascoigne married, first, Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Mowbray of Kirklington, Yorkshire; secondly, Joan, daughter of Sir William Pickering, and relict of Sir Ralph Greystock, baron of the exchequer. By his first wife he had one son, William, who married Jane, daughter of Sir Henry Wyman. Their son, Sir William Gascoigne, served with