Shaker_coverKing James forces his innocent Lord Chancellor  to resign in order to save his homosexual partner Buckingham

Francis was not at all surprised with the message to come to the King a few days before the resumption of the House of Lords. In fact, he had intended to speak with James about his planned defence. While he had still not seen the charges yet, he knew very well that he had never been influenced by gifts. He was quite confident that no one could find a single verdict that could justify a reversal. That meant the Lords could not convict him of bribery or corruption, of that he was sure; gifts received before a case had been closed were a different matter. Here, he had to admit, he had been lax in some cases. He did not know how many. For this, he judged himself even more harshly that others would do, for the very appearance of possible corruption, while not a crime, was in his opinion unacceptable for a High Court judge. The fact that other judges did the same, and that no cases had occurred since his reform of the court two years previously, was no excuse for him. He had a different standard.
Francis was admitted to the King’s study to find the Earl of Buckingham standing there already. James invited them both to sit comfortably at a small table with tea and biscuits.
“I hope you are feeling better,” said the King. Francis had not been well recently due to the pressures of the charges against him.
“A little,” said Francis, “but I am not in top form. These charges have taken their toll on my health. It is ironic that the very system I have tried for years to reform is now being used against me. Perhaps something good will come out of this after all. I do not fear the charges, Your Majesty. My conscience is clear. As far as being influenced by gifts is concerned I am as innocent as any born on St. Innocent’s day.”
“But you do admit to receiving gifts in some cases before the final verdict was given?”
“I have no doubt this has occurred at times, especially in the first year of my service when I was working on the backlog. It is impossible for a judge to avoid completely. I admit my errors here. Even the appearance of potential corruption should, of course, be avoided at all costs.”
“Francis, I have reviewed the situation with my advisers, and tend to agree with your appraisal. However, the matter is more complicated. Both the Commons and the Lords are very upset and looking for a sacrifice. Some have their eyes very firmly planted on my dear Earl of Buckingham,” he said as he glanced affectionately at the Favourite. “Some on yourself. I am being told that I must permit either my oracle or the Favourite of my affection to sink in my service.”
Francis’ heart sank as he realised what was happening. He was going to be sacrificed; the very thing he had warned the Favourite about. “What are you suggesting?” asked Francis.
“That you drop your defence and confess to the charge of corruption. That you place yourself at the mercy of the Lords and let them take whatever action they find appropriate.”
Francis felt a terrible bitterness in his throat. His name would be forever tainted. “There is little mercy to be expected from such a multitude if I am not permitted to present a defence.”
“You have my word that I will mitigate any punishment. I will not permit any physical harm. Any fine will be covered. Any time in the Tower but a short visit.”
Buckingham entered the conversation for the first time, “I have recommended to the King that you should receive a good pension, £2000 for sure, possibly £3000, and that you should receive a full pardon.”
“And I have agreed to the Earl’s request,” added James.
“In addition,” said Buckingham, “if you have any problems with your debts, I will be there to help.”
“And you will keep your titles,” added the King. “You will be pardoned eventually and your name restored.”
Francis considered the likely action by the Lords. Even without a defence, it must be clear that he had done nothing worse than any other judge in the realm. What could they possibly do? But then, such an unproven Court had no experience or rules. It could do almost anything; it was unpredictable. He appealed to the King, “The taking of the seal would be more than enough punishment, considering the fact that no crime has been committed. Could Your Majesty suggest such to the Lords on my behalf?”
“I do not wish to intervene with the Lords in their very first case. Interference might even have the opposite effect.”
“I see,” said Francis, as he felt abandoned for the second time in his life. His thoughts returned to the first time in the early days of his parliamentary career, when Elizabeth cut off his allowance and left him dangling because of his speech on the triple subsidy intended to ease the burden on the poor. All the energy drained out of his body. So this was to be the crowning moment of his life’s devotion to the state and his monarch; thrown to the wolves!