Memorials of the Tower of London

De Ros, William Lennox






AS it would be impossible to give a more simple and graphic account of Lord Capel's escape and unfortunate recapture than we find in the pages of Clarendon, his narrative shall be here transcribed without alteration or comment.

"The Lord Capel, shortly after he was brought prisoner to the Tower from Windsor Castle, had by a wonderful adventure, having a cord and all things necessary conveyed to him, let himself down out of the window of his chamber in the night, over the wall of the Tower, and had been directed through what part of the ditch he might be best able to wade. Whether he found the right place, or whether there was no safer place, he found the water and the mud so deep that, if he had not been by the head taller than other men, he must have perished, since the water came up to his chin. The way was so long to the other side, and the fatigue of drawing himself out of so much mud so intolerable, that his spirits were near spent, and he was once ready to call out for help, as thinking it better to be carried back again to the prison, than to be found in such a place, from whence he could not extricate himself, and where he was ready to expire.



" But it pleased God that he got at last to the other side, where his friends expected him, and carried him to a chamber in the Temple, where he remained two or three nights secure from any discovery, notwithstanding the diligence that could not but be used to recover a man they designed to use no better. After two or three days a friend whom he trusted much, and who deserved to be trusted, conceiving that he might be more secure in a place to which there was less resort, and where there were so many harboured who were every day sought after, had provided a lodging for him in a private house in Lambeth Marsh; and calling upon him in an evening, when it was dark, to go thither, they chose rather to take any boat they found ready at the Temple Stairs, than to trust one of that people with the secret; and it was so late that there was one only boat left there. In that the Lord Capel (as well disguised as he thought necessary) and his friend put themselves, and bid the waterman to row them to Lambeth. Whether, in their passage thither, the other gentleman called him 'my Lord,' as was confidently reported, or whether the waterman had any jealousy by observing what he thought was a disguise, when they were landed, the wicked waterman undiscerned followed them, till he saw into what house they went; and then went to an officer and demanded, ' What he would give him to bring him to the place where the Lord Capel lay ?' And the officer promising to give him ten pounds, he led him presently to the house, where that excellent person was seized upon, and the next day carried to the Tower.

" When the Petition that his wife had delivered to


the Parliament was read, many gentlemen spoke on his behalf, and mentioned the great virtues which were in him; and 'That he had never deceived them, or pretended to be of their party; but always resolutely declared himself for the King;' and Cromwell, who had known him very well, spoke so much good of him, and professed to have so much kindness and respect for him, that all men thought he was now safe, when he concluded, 'That his affection to the public so much weighed down his private friendship, that he could not but tell them that the question was now, whether they would preserve the most bitter and most implacable enemy they had; that he knew the Lord Capel very well, and knew that he would be the last man in England that would forsake the Royal interest; that he had great courage, industry, and generosity; that he had many friends who would always adhere to him; and that as long as he lived, whatsoever condition he was in, he would be a thorn in their sides; and therefore, for the good of the Commonwealth, he should give his vote against the Petition.' Ireton's hatred was immortal: he spake of him, and against him, as of a man of whom he was heartily afraid. Very many were swayed by the argument that had been urged against Duke Hamilton, 'That God was not pleased that he should escape, because He had put him into their hands again, when he was at liberty.' And so, after a long debate, though there was not a man who had not a value for him, and very few who had a particular malice or prejudice towards him, the question being put, the negative was more by three or four voices: so that, of the


four Lords, three were without the mercy of that unmerciful people. There being no other Petition presented, Ireton told them, 'There had been great endeavours and solicitation used to save all those Lords; but that there was a commoner, another condemned person, for whom no man had spoke a word, nor had he himself so much as petioned them; and therefore he desired that Sir John Owen might be preserved by the mere motive and goodness of the House itself;' which found little opposition; whether they were satiated with blood, or that they were willing, by this instance, that the nobility should see that a commoner should be preferred before them."

The picture given in the above extract by Lord Clarendon, conveys a dreadful impression of the dark and gloomy hypocrisy of Cromwell's character, and the unrelenting malice with which, by means of every wile and subtlety, he pursued those persons whom he believed to have been devoted to the unhappy monarch whom he had brought to the scaffold.

The description which follows of the execution of Lord Capel, and the cool and brave composure with which he addressed the bystanders before he met his doom, shows that his virtue and spirit had not been overrated by the friend who has so eloquently praised him, or by the enemy who, with a guile so infernal, contrived to represent his great qualities as so many additional arguments for bringing him to destruction.

" The Lord Capel was then called, who walked through Westminster Hall, saluting such of his friends and


acquaintance as he saw there, with a very serene countenance, accompanied with his friend Dr. Morley, who had been with him from the time of his sentence; but at the foot of the scaffold, the soldiers stopping the Doctor, his Lordship took his leave of him, and, embracing him, thanked him, and said he should go no farther, having some apprehension that he might receive some affront by that rude people after his death; the Chaplains who attended the other two Lords being men of the time, and the Doctor being well known to be most contrary.

"As soon as his Lordship had ascended the scaffold, he looked very vigorously about, and asked, 'Whether the other Lords had spoken to the people with their hats on?' and being told that 'they were bare,' he gave his hat to his servant, and then, with a clear and a strong voice, he said, ' That he was brought thither to dye for doing that which he could not repent of: that he had been born and bred under the government of a King whom he was bound in conscience to obey, under laws to which he had been always obedient, and in the bosom of a church which he thought the best in the world: that he had never violated his faith to either of those, and was now condemned to dye against all the laws of the land, to which sentence he did submit'

"He enlarged himself in commending 'The great virtue and piety of the King, whom they had put to death, who was so just and merciful a Prince, and prayed to God to forgive the nation that innocent blood.'

"Then he recommended to them the present King, who, he told them, was their true and their lawful sovereign,


and was worthy to be so: that he had the honour to have been some years near his person, and therefore he could not but know him well; and assured them, ' That he was a Prince of great understanding, of an excellent nature, of great courage, an entire lover of justice, and of exemplary piety: that he was not to be shaken inhis religion, and had all those princely virtues which could make a nation happy;' and therefore advised them 'To submit to his Government, as the only means to preserve themselves, their posterity, and the Protestant religion.' And having, with great vehemence, recommended it to them, after some prayers very devoutly pronounced upon his knees, he submitted himself, with an unparalleled Christian courage, to the fatal stroke, which deprived the nation of the noblest champion it had."

Here follows one of those beautifully drawn characters in which Clarendon is so eminently successful.

" The Lord Capel was a man in whom the malice of his enemies could discover very few faults, and whom his friends could not wish better accomplished; whom Cromwell's own character well described, and'who indeed would never have been contented to have lived under that Government. His memory all men loved and reverenced, though few followed his example. He had always lived in a state of great plenty and general estimation, having a very noble fortune of his own by descent, and a fair addition to it by his marriage with an excellent wife, a lady of very worthy extraction, of great virtue and beauty, by whom he had a numerous issue of both sexes, in which


he took great joy and comfort; so that no man was more happy in all his domestic affairs, and he was so much the more happy in that he thought himself most blessed in them.

"And yet the King's honour was no sooner violated, and his just power invaded, than he threw all those blessings behind him; and having no other obligations to the Crown than those which his own honour and conscience suggested to him, he frankly engaged his person and his fortune from the beginning of the troubles, as many others did, in all actions and enterprises of the greatest hazard and danger; and continued to the end, without ever making one false step, as few others did; though he had once, by the iniquity of a faction that then prevailed, an indignity put upon him that might have excused him for some remission of his former warmth. But it made no other impression upon him, than to be quiet and contented whilst they would let him alone, and with the same cheerfulness to obey the first summons when he was called out, which was quickly after. In a word, he was a man, that whoever shall, after him, deserve best of the English nation, he can never think himself undervalued, when he shall hear, that his courage, virtue, and fidelity, is laid in the balance with, and compared to, that of the Lord Capel."