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and that which comes nearest to the times in question, is to be found in the records published by Sir Harris Nicolas.
“ They appear to have been summoned (he says) whenever affairs of greater moment occurred than the ‘Continual Council' thought proper to determine, but were not of such a nature or such a degree of importance as to render it advisable to bring them before Parliament.” The Peers spiritual and temporal were considered as belonging to the Great Council of course; “Lords of the Great Council" appears to have been one of their titles. And it is probable that in ordinary cases it was composed (according to Mr. Hallam's conjecture; “Middle Ages” vol. iii. p. 213.) of these alone, in conjunction with the members of the “Continual” Council. But it is certain that on some special occasions many commoners were joined with them ; specially selected from various qualities, professions, and localities, according to the nature of the question in debate. Thus, in the second year of Henry the Fourth, on the 20th of July, 1401, letters were addressed to the “ Continual Council,” commanding them (pour certaines chargeantes matires touchantes nous et notre roiaume) to summon all the Prelates, Earls, and Barons of the realm, and from four to eight of the most sufficient and discreet Knights of each County, to attend a Council at Westminster on the Feast of the Assumption next ensuing. And a second letter was addressed to them on the following day commanding that a certain number of Esquires should be likewise summoned to attend this Council. The object was to have their advice with regard to the war with France ; and it appears from a list annexed that the Council was attended by about 150 Knights and Esquires, besides the Lords spiritual and temporal. (See Proceedings and Ordinances of the P. C. vol. i. p. 155., and Rymer viii. 213.)
Again, a minute of Council dated the 7th of March, 1442–3, (21 Hen. 6.) directs that there be “made letters under privy seal to all the King's freemen, and also to the King's Great Council, to be with the King in his Great Council at Westminster at the 15th of Pasque, all excusations ceasing, for the good of his realm, lordships, and snbjects.” (Proceedings and Ordinances, v. p. 237.) The occasion of this was also a French war.
I have selected these two instances as containing the most distinct mention that I can find of the summoning of persons who were not members of the King's Council by rank or office, and of their character and quality. In other cases they are less distinctly mentioned as “et plusieurs autres,” or “et aliorum ad illud convocatorum." In others, and indeed in the majority, there are no traces
only Grand Council that hath been in my remembrance was that at York, at the coming in of the Scots." — Hale's Jurisdiction of the House of Lords, chap. 2. $ 3.
of the presence of any persons besides the Lords and the members of the Continual Council. The questions on which they were summoned to advise and deliberate were not always questions of peace and war. Sometimes it was a question of raising money; as in the first year of Henry the Fourth, when in order to avoid the necessity of calling a Parliament and taxing the Commons, it was agreed that the Peers themselves should grant the King an aid, and that letters of Privy Seal should be sent to all the Abbots for the same purpose. (See Vol. I. p. 102.) And again in the third year of Henry the Fifth, when the Lords temporal, who had undertaken in a previous Parliament to do the King service in his wars upon certain terms of payment, consented to allow him a longer day for the payment, considering that the supplies granted by Parliament for the purpose could not be levied soon enough. (II. p. 150.) In the seventh year of Henry the Sixth, a Great Council was summoned to advise upon a proposal that the King should be crowned in France, and also upon the means of supplying a deficiency in the revenue. In his ninth year a Great Council was summoned to advise upon the expediency of calling a Parliament. (IV. p. 67.) In the next year the question of the salary of the Lieutenant of England was referred to a Great Council. (IV. p. 105.) In his twelfth year, a proposal having been made for peace with Scotland by marriage of the King with one of the Scottish King's daughters, and the Continual Council having considered the proposition, but not liking to give advice on a matter of such weight, referred it to the King's uncles; who in their turn “ doubting greatly to take upon them sole so great a charge,” requested that a “Great Council” might be called to deliberate upon it. (IV. p. 191.) The minutes of the Council which was called in consequence (IV. 210-213.) and which met soon after the siege of Orleans and the beginning of the English reverses in France, make no mention of this subject; but of a dispute between the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, and a question as to the ways and means of raising 40 or 50,0001. for carrying on the war, according to a proposition of the Duke of Bedford. In the sixteenth year of Edward the Fourth, Sir John Paston informs his correspondent (vol. ii. p. 205.) that " yesterday began the Great Council; to which all the estates of the land shall come but if it be for great and reasonable excuses. And I suppose the chief cause of this assembly is to commune what is best to do now upon the great change by the death of the Duke of Burgoyne and for the keeping of Calais and the marches, and for the preservation of the amities taken late as well with France as now with the members of Flanders."
It is clear therefore that the reference to a “Great Council” of such questions as formed the subject of deliberation on the three occasions to which my conjecture refers was quite according to
precedent. It would appear moreover from the minutes that the proceedings always began with a speech by the Chancellor, setting forth the questions upon which they were called to deliberate and advise. So that in all but the name and the account of laws passed (which were in fact passed by the Parliament that met just before or just after), Bacon's narrative niay be a correct report of the proceeding in each case.
Perkyn Werbecks his Proclamation published in the time of his Rebellion in the beginning of the
Reign of H. 7.1
RICHARD by the grace of God King of England and of France, Lord of Ireland, Prince of Wales, to all those that these our present letters shall see hear or read, and to every of them, greeting : and whereas we in our tender age escaped by God's might out of the tower of London, and were secretly conveyed over the sea into other divers countries, there remaining certain years as unknown; in the which season it happened one Henry, son to Edmund Tydder, Earl of Richmond created, son to Owen Tydder, of low birth, in the country of Wales, to come from France and entered into this our realm ; and by subtle false means to obtain the crown of the same unto us of right appertaining; which Henry is our extreme and mortal enemy as soon as he had knowledge of our being one live, imagined, compassed and wrought all the subtle ways and means he could devise to our final destruction, insomuch as he hath not only falsely surmised us to be a feigned person, giving us nicknames so abusing your minds, but also to defer and put us from our entry into this our realm, hath offered large sums of money to corrupt the princes in every land and country and that we have been retained with and made importune labour to certain of our servants about our person some of them to murder our person, us [sic] and other to forsake and leave our righteous quarrel, and to depart from our service, as by Sir Robert Clifford and others was verified and openly proved, and to bring his cursed and malicious intent aforesaid to his purpose he hath subtilly and by crafty means levied outrageous and importable sums of moneys upon
| Ilarl. MSS. 283. fo. 123. b. “ The original of this, in an old written hand, is in the hands of Sir Robert Cotton; 18 August, 1616." Note in the hand of the trunscriber.
the whole body of our realm, to the great hurt and impoverishing of the same : all which subtle and corrupt labours by him made to our great jeopardy and peril, we have by God's might graciously escaped and overpassed, as well by land as by sea, and be now with the right high and mighty prince our dearest cousin the King of Scots, which without any gift or other thing by him desyred or demanded to the prejudice or hurt of us our crown or realm, hath full lovingly and kindly retained us, by whose aid and supportation we in proper person be now by God's grace entered into this our realm of England, where we shall shew ourselves openly unto you, also confounding our foresaid enemy in all his false sayings and also every man of reason and discretion may well understand that him needed not to have made the foresaid costages and importune labour if we had been such a feigned person as he untruly surmiseth, ascertaining you how the mind and intent of the foresaid noble prince our dearest cousin is, if that he may find or see our subjects and natural liege people according to right and the duty of their allegiance resort lovingly unto us with such power as by their puissance shall move, [sic, nowe?] be able of likelyhood to distress and subdue our enemies, he is fully set and determined to return home again quietly with his people into his own land, without doing or suffering to be done any hurt or prejudice unto our realm, or to the inhabitants of the same.
Also our great enemy to fortify his false quarrel hath caused divers nobles of this our realm whom he had suspect and stood in dread of, to be cruelly murdered, as our cousin the Lord Fitzwater, Sir William Stanley, Sir Robert Chamberlaine, Sir Symon Mounteford, Sir Robert Radclyfe, William Daubeney, Humphrey Stafford, and many other, besides such as have dearly bought their lives, some of which nobles are now in the sanctuary: also he hath long kept and yet keepeth in prison our right entirely well beloved cousin Edward son and heir to our uncle Duke of Clarence and others, withholding from them their rightful inheritance to the intent they ne should be of might and power to aid and assist us at our need, after the duty of their leigeance. He hath also married by compulsion certain of our sisters and also the sister of our foresaid cousin the Earl of Warwick and divers other ladies of the blood royal unto certain his kinsmen and friends of simple and low degree, and putting apart all well disposed nobles he hath none in favour and trust about his person but Bishop Foxe, Smith, Bray, Lovell, Oliver King, Sir Charles Somerset, David Owen, Rysley, Sir John Trobulvill, Tyler, Robert Lytton, Gylford, Chamley, Emson, James Hobert, John Cutte, Garthe, Hansey, Wyot, and such others caitiffs and villains of simple birth, which by subtle ina ventions and pilling of the people have been the principal finders, occasioners, and counsellors of the misrule and mischief now reigning in England.
Also we be credibly informed that our said enemy not regarding the wealth and prosperity of this land, but only the safeguard and surety of his person, hath sent into divers places out of our realm the foresaid nobles, and caused to be conveyed from thence to other places the treasure of this our realm, purposing to depart after in proper person with many other estates of the land being now at his rule and disposition, and if he should be so suffered to depart as God defend it should be to the greatest hurt jeopardy and peril of the whole realm that could be thought or imagined. Wherefore we desire and pray you and nevertheless charge you and every of you as ye intend the surety of yourself and the commonweal of our land, your native ground, to put you in your most effectual devoirs with all diligence to the uttermost of your powers, to stop and let his passage out of this our realm, ascertaining you that what person or persons shall fortune to take or distress him shall have for his or their true acquittal in that behalf after their estate and degrees, so as the most low and simplest of degree that shall happen to take or distress him, shall have for his labour one thousand pounds in money, and houses and lands to the yearly value of one hundred marks to him and his heirs for ever. We remembering these premises with the great and execrable offences daily committed and done by our foresaid great enemy and his adherents in breaking the liberty and franchises of our mother holy Church to the high displeasure of Almighty God, besides the manifold treasons, abominable murders, manslaughters, robberies, extortions, the daily pilling of the people by dismes tasks tallages benevolences and other unlawful impositions and grievous exactions, with many other heinous offences to the likely destruction and desolation of the whole realm as God defend, shall put ourself effectually in our devoir, not as a step-dame but as the very true mother of the child, languishing or standing in peril to redress and subdue the foresaid mischief and misrule and to punish the occasioners and haunters thereof after their deserts in example of others. We shall also by God's grace and the help and assistance of the great lords of our blood with the counsel of other sad persons of approved policy prudence and experience dreading God and having tender zeal and affection to indifferent ministration of justice and the public weal of the land, peruse and call to remembrance the good laws and customs heretofore made by our noble progenitors kings of England and see them put in due and lawful execution according to the effect and true meaning they were first made or ordained for, so that by virtue thereof as well the disinheriting of rightful heirs as the injuries and wrongs in anywise committed and done unto the subjects of our realm, both spiritual and temporal, shall be duly redressed according to right law and good conscience and we shall see that the commodities of our realm be