Saturday, April 18, 2009

Liber Famelicus of Sir James Whitelocke

Sir James Whitelocke
Judge of the Court of King's Bench

Justice James Whitelocke 1570-1632 (also spelled Whitelock and Whitlock) rose slowly through the ranks, becoming Justice of the Court of King's Bench in 1624. He was an antiquarian and scholar. On April 18, 1609, Whitelocke began writing his family history, Liber Famelicus, which records that start date (quote below). What interests me is James' testimony about his older brother, Captain Edmund Whitelocke, which has been re-used in subsequent histories of that era. Edmund was a traveler to the Contininent, a bon vivant and spendthrift, and a noted multi-linguist. He became bosom buddies with Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland. Because of that association, Edmund Whitelocke was caught up in the Essex Rebellion events of 1601 and was jailed for a time. A few years later he got implicated in the Gunpowder Plot. He was released to his late-life patron, the Earl of Northumberland. Justice Whitelocke's Liber Famelicus relates also the obscure episode of a "great quarrel" between Northumberland and Sir Francis Vere (d. Aug. 28, 1609). One can read about this quarrel in great detail in The Fighting Veres by Clements Robert Markham (p. 333 and forward). What follows is Justice James' introduction, and his remembrance of his brother Edmund, also written on or about April 18, 1609 (the passage appears at the beginning of the dated manuscript). RSB

"THIS book I began to write in, the 18 April 1609, anno 7 Jacobi regni sui Angliae, et Scotiae. In it I entend to set downe memorialls for my posterity of thinges most properly concerning myself and my familye. Oculis in solem, alls in coelum. Motto de cognisance.
Vive diu Whitlocke, tuis sic utere fatis
Ut referent sensus alba nee atra tuos."

EDMUND, my eldest brother, was broughte up at school under Mr. Richard Mulcaster, in the famous school of the Marchantaylors in London, and from thence was sent to Cambridge to Ohristes colledge, whear having been well grownded in the liberall sciences, and mutche farthered in his knoledge of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues, in whiche he was well instructed in the grammer school, he left the universitye and came to Lincolnes In to study the common law, whear, having spent his time among to good cumpanions, he betoke himself to travail into foreyne kingdoms, by study and experience to redeem his mispent time ; and to that purpose toke shipping from London about Whitsuntide 1587, and having bestowed mutche time in forein universities of Rostock, "Witenberg, Prage, Rome, and other places in Italy, Paris, and other universities in Fraunce, and having traversed over almost all countries in Christendom, he fell into the good liking of mounsieur Desguieres, governor of Provance in Fraunce, and by him was put into the charge of a band of footmen, and in that service remayned captayne of that band at Massiles and Grenoble so long as those wars continued, and afterward came to visit his frends in England, after his absence out of the realm for the space of almost a dozen yeares, without heering of him whether he wear alive or not, and being out of hope ever to see him.

After his retorn into England, by reason of his experience in foreyne affayres, his knoledge in the tongs, and pleasant behaviour, and great liber tye of his wit in his conversation, according to the Frenche fashion, he grew into great goodliking of many Englishe noblemen and gentlemen, but especially of Roger erl of Rutland withe whome he lived and conversed a good while, and by his acquayntance withe him fell into an infortunate mischance, for, on the 8 of February 1601, Elizabeth, when the braine-sick meeting was of the noblemen withe the erl of Essex at Essex House, the earl of Rutland, that had maryed the daughter of the countesse of Essex by her first husband sir Philip Sydney, being sent for by the earl to cum to him, met capteyne Whitelock in the street, and toke him along withe him to Essex House, and so from thence into the towne in the foolislie mutiny e, and for his being in that companye, althoughe he retorned not back to Essex House, nor made resistance withe the rest, yet he was had in sutche suspition, by reason that he was knowen to be pragmaticall and martiall, as that he was clapt up in Newgate, then sent to the Marshalsea, and from thence broughte to the King's Benche bar, to have been arraigned of highe treason, of whiche he was endited, but being broughte in to the court of King's Benche was" sent back againe, and afterward by privie seal, directed to justice Gawdye, was among others committed to free custody, he to me, and others to thear frends, and so continued untill he was quite discharged, whiche was shortly after.

This miserye, thoughe it had been bothe dangerous to his life and verye damageable to himself, and to me above all his frends, yet was not it an expiation of all his calamities : for, after king James came to the crowne, in the Parliament time, when the powder treason sholde have been executed, it was his ill hap to dine togeather withe the erl of Northumberland and Persey, the principall agent in that treason, the day before it sholde have been executed, and by reason thearof grew into great suspition withe the counsell, and by them was first sent to the Tower, after to the Fleet, but, after long imprisonment, was delivered, nothing appeering by any examinations that he was acquaynted withe the businesse. After his deliverance out of prison he lived with most dependancye upon the earl of Northumberland,* and had licence to resort unto him in the Tower, after his imprisonment thear upon the censure in the Starchamber, and so passed his time in mirtheand good companye untill he dyed, whiche was of a surfeit, by distemper of the weather, about Bartholmew tide 1608. He was then at Newhall in Essex, withe the erl of Sussex, and fell into suche a distemper of body by the unseasonableness of the weather, being extream hot, and by his overcarelessnesse in the ordering of himself, that he was taken withe an extraordinarye loosenesse of bodye, whiche weakened him verye mutche, and upon it was let blud, and not long after went away quietly as in a slumber. He was honorably buryed by the earl of Sussex in the chappell of his ancetors, and was attended to the buryall by the earl himself. He was well grownded in lerning, bothe philosophye and all other humanitye, and well seen in the tounges, bothe lerned and ordinarie, as the Frenche, Italian, Dutche, Spanishe, but especially in the Frenche, whiche he acted so naturally as he was taken for a Frencheman whear he was not knowen. He was exceeding pleasant in his conceit, and so good a companion that he was mutche esteemed of for that by divers great men. He was extream prodigall and wastefull in his expence, verye valiant, as was reported by those that knew his demeanor in forein country es, and by that he did heer at home ; for, in the great quarrell between the earl of Northumberland and sir Frauncis Vere, he caryed the challenge from the erl to sir Frauncis into his owne lodging, and ther delivered it unto him, and having afterward herd of sum shamefull speeches given against him by the knight, meeting sir Frauncis in his coatche on morning, cumming from Wilton, whear the king lay, unto Salisbury, lie stayed his coatche, and came to the side of it, and provoked sir Frauncis to fighte withe him, but he answeared he was not provided for sutche a businesse. Thearupon the capteyne drew out his sword, and offered it to sir Frauncis, and tolde him he wolde furnishe him, and toke another from his boy, but the sage knight put him of, and was content to part rather withe a disgracefull word then a blow, but thes being herd of at the court, warrants wear sent out for him by the counsell, so that he was fayne for a good while to hide himself; and this was in Michaelmas term 1 Jacobi, when by reason of the siknesse the term was kept at Winchester. "

The above text was obtained (and I've cleaned up some of the transcription errors) from:

Read a little about Justice Whitelocke here:


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