Tree of Common Wealth:


A Treatise by


Edmonde Dudlay, Esq.




Sometime Speaker of the House of Commons; President of the Privy Council of Henry VII.; and one of that King’s Commissioners for receiving the forfeitures of penal statutes.


Written by him


While a prisoner in the Tower, in the years 1509 and 1510,

and under sentence of death for

high treason.




Now first printed from a copy of his manuscript

for the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross





Printed by Charles Simms & Co.







An old and tattered manuscript having come into the possession of a few antiquarian friends, they have thought it right to preserve and perpetuate, by the press, what might otherwise soon perish.  As the number printed is limited, they have placed a copy in each of the great libraries,―the British Museum;  the University Libraries of Oxford, Cambridge, and Trinity College Dublin; the Advocates’ Library Edinburgh, and Chetham’s Library Manchester (to which they have presented the original manuscript); and also in the Free Libraries of Manchester, Liverpool, Salford, Bolton and Warrington.  By these means they hope to have rescued from “the fell tooth of Time and the devouring worm,” a singular literary production of {iv} an eventful period, written by a royal favourite under sentence of death, who paid the penalty of his extortions and exactions by losing his head for an imaginary crime.  This small contribution to the literature of the Tudor period is respectfully offered to the student and lover of hisotry by


The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross






IT is very doubtful whether the whole range of British history could furnish a parallel in extraordinary vicissitudes of fortune to the lives of three generations of a single family, which rose and fell with the Tudors; and three members of which, in direct succession, ―father, son, and grandson, ―became the favourites of every one of the five monarchs of that house; attaining to high rank, dignities, wealth and power, only to perish ignominiously on the scaffold, or, still more disgracefully, by retributive poison.

            A brief glance at the chief events in the lives of Edmund Dudley, the writer of the Treatise now first printed, and the powerful minister of Henry VII.; of his son John, successively the favourite of Henry VIII. and Edward VI.l and of his grandson Robert, who, after ingratiating himself with Mary and her consort Philip, became the great favourite of Elizabeth,―will suggest a picture of some of the evils of royal avarice and favouritism on the one hand, and of insatiable ambition, prostituted power, grinding oppression and reckless cruelty on the other, as vivid and real as anything to be found in our national history.

            The father of Edmund Dudley, observes Dr. Cooke Taylor in his “Romantic Biography of the age of Elizabeth,” is described by one party as a carpenter; by another as a nobleman; while a third, acting as umpire, proposes to reconcile both theories by making him a noble timber merchant. However the dispute may be decided, the jest, founded on the first theory, is too good to be lost.  It was said of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, that “he was the son of a duke [Northumberland], the brother of a king [Lord Guildford Dudley, husband to Lady Jane Grey], the grandson of an esquire [Edmund Dudley], and the great-grandson of a carpenter; that the carpenter was the only honest man of the family, and the only one who died in his bed.”  On the other hand, had Edmund Dudley been of such mean descent, he would doubtless have been mentioned by Perkin {vi} Warbeck in his Proclamation against Henry VII., accusing him of raising men of low birth above the ancient families of the kingdom, and have been joined in the same category with Sir Richard Empson, Bishop Fox and Sir Reginald Bray.  Most of the chroniclers speak of Dudley as of noble family. * Another presumption in favour of Dudley’s gentle birth may be found in his marriage, before the great rise in his fortunes, with Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Edward third Viscount L’Isle, and heiress to the ancient barony of that name.  If Stowe’s dates are to be relied on, Edmund Dudley, a barrister, filled the subordinate office of under-sheriff of London for more than six years, from 1496-7 to 1502-3; when he sold his office, went to court, and rose so rapidly in the royal favour that in January 1504 he was chosen Speaker of the House of Commons, and soon afterward the King’s President of the Council, and joint Commissioner with Sir Richard Empson {vii} for the forfeitures under penal statutes; and during the last five years of the reign their oppressive exactions and extortions aroused so fierce and general an indignation, that one of the first acts of Henry VIII. was to direct the apprehension of Empson and Dudley, and the latter, after an imprisonment in the Tower of nearly sixteen months, during which he wrote his “Tree of Commonwealth,” was beheaded on Tower Hill on the 17th of August, 1510; his large estates and hoards of treasure being confiscated.

            Three children survived him; the eldest of whom, John, was but eight years old at his father’s death.  His dazzling career commenced with his being the parasite of parasites, for he was successively the favourite of the royal favourites, Charles Brandon Duke of Sussex, Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas (afterwards Lord) Cromwell; succeeding the last in the favour of Henry VIII., who made him Viscount L’Isle, K.G. and Lord High Admiral of England; and nominated him one of the sixteen executors to administer the government during the minority of Edward VI.  In that minor’s reign he got the Earldom of Warwick by his services to the Protector Somerset, whom, however, he subsequently displaced and brought to the block; while Dudley rose in rapid succession to be Lord Steward of the Household, Earl Marshal of England, Lord Warden of the Marches, and Duke of Northumberland.  His rapacity equalling his ambition, he obtained large estates in six English counties.  He strengthened his power and influence by the marriages of his children, and prevailed on the young King, by will, to disinherit his sisters Mary and Elizabeth, and transfer the succession to Lady Jane Grey, granddaughter to Mary Duchess of Suffolk and sister to Henry VIII.  The nine days’ reign of that victim of his ambition was followed by his own execution, and that of herself and her husband―his fourth son Lord Guildford Dudley, ―and of the condemnation to death, imprisonment for eight months, and attainder of his three surviving sons, Ambrose, Robert and Henry.  They were, however, restored in blood three years afterwards.  Ambrose became “the good Earl of Warwick;” Henry was killed in the Spanish service in the Netherlands; and we have now to glance at the fortunes of the third son.

            Robert Dudley was knighted while a mere boy, for some graceful jousting or other exercises.  As one of the six ordinary gentlemen of the bed-chamber to Edward VI. he was his father’s perpetual spy on the young King’s actions, and served in apprenticeship in court intrigue and duplicity.  His first considerable appointment was Master of the Ordnance under Philip and Mary; but, preferring the court to the army, he ingratiated himself with {viii} both sovereigns by professing to be a zealous Catholic, and especially with the doting Mary by always riding post when bringing messages to her from her consort.  How far this subtle nature recommended him to Philip may be inferred from the King employing him during Mary’s last illness, in seeking for him the hand of the next heir to the crown, the Princess Elizabeth.  Dudley, however, pleaded his own cause, and with such success that immediately on her accession Elizabeth created him Master of the Horse, and the following year K.G. and one of her Privy Council.  It was commonly said that the only impediment to his marriage with the Queen was his own wife, the ill-starred Amy Robsart, who was soon murdered, so far as can be known, by his directions, and certainly by his own officers and servants.  He became Lord Robert Dudley, then Earl of Leicester, was for a time Lieutenant and Captain-General, and also Governor-General in the Netherlands, Lieutenant-General and Commander-in-Chief in England in the memorable Armada time; and before his death in that year (1588) the patent of his Lieutenant-Governorship of England and Ireland under the Queen―a sort of viceroyalty of both kingdoms―had been drawn; though, owing to Burghley’s influence, not signed.  His fate was regarded as a retribution; dying by the hands of his second wife, as her first husband and his first wife had been murdered by his procurement.  So perished the last of these royal favourites,* fifteen years before the last of the Tudors.

            The story of Empson and Dudley’s extortionate exactions and oppressions has been told by various chroniclers and historians; and the reader who would thoroughly comprehend the subject is referred to the Annals of Stowe, Holinshed, Baker, Polydore Vergil; Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s “Life of Henry VIII.,” Howell’s “State Trials,” &c.; and for a more general and succint account, in modern language, to Hume.  So much of the facts as throw light on the conduct and character not only of the two extortioners, but also of their royal master, we prefer to give in the words of the older writers.

            In the history of the reign of Henry VII. written by the great Lord Bacon, it is clearly shown that the King’s love of money, strong even in his earlier life, became in his age an eager greed of gold.  His levies and exactions on his subjects are distinctly censured in the Proclamation of Perkin Warbeck in 1496; as “making merchandise of the blood, estates and for-{ix}tunes of the peers and subjects, by feigned wars and dishonorable peace, only to enrich his coffers;” naming amongst his instruments of extortion even then, Bishop Fox (for levying exactions on the rich laity) “by subtile exactions and pilling of the people . . . . . . by dismes [tenths], taxes, tallages [tolls], benevolences, and under unlawful impositions and grievous exactions.”  A subsidy of £120,000 for the alleged purpose of opposing Warbeck’s insurrection, drove the Cornish men to rise in rebellion under two leaders; one of whom, Michael Joseph, a blacksmith or farrier, of Bodmin, is the individual referred to in Dudley’s Treatise, p. 53.  At length there was peace at home and abroad; and then, says Bacon, Nature “bagan to take place in the King, carrying as with a strong tide his affections and thoughts unto the gathering and heaping of treasure.”


“And as kings do more easily find instruments for their will and humour, than for their service and honour, he had gotten for his purpose, or beyond his purpose, two instruments, Empson and Dudley, whom the people esteemed as his horse-leeches and shearers, bold men and careless of fame, and that took toll of their master’s grist.*  Dudley was of a good family, eloquent, and one that could put hateful business into a good language.  But Empson, that was the son of a sieve-maker, triumphed always upon the deed done, putting off all other respects whatsoever.  These two persons, being lawyers in science, and privy councillors in authority, as the corruption of the best things is the worst, turned law and justice into wormwood and rapine.  For first, their manner was to cause divers subjects to be indicted of sundry crimes, and so far forth to proceed in form of law; but when the bills were found, then presently to commit them:  and nevertheless not to produce them in any reasonable time to their answer, but to suffer them to languish long in prison, and by sundry {x} artificial devices and terrors, to extort from them great fines and ransoms, which they termed compositions and mitigations.  Neither did they, toward the end, observe so much as the half-face of justice, in proceeding by indictment; but sent forth their precepts to attach men and convent them before themselves, and some others, at their private houses,* in a court of commission; and there used to shuffle up a summary proceeding by examination, without trial of jury; assuming to themselves there to deal both in pleas of the crown and in controversies civil.  Then did they also use to inthral and charge the subjects’ lands with tenure in capite, by finding false offices, and thereby to work upon them for wardships, liveries, premier seisin, and alienations, being the fruits of those tenures; refusing, upon divers pretexts and delays, to admit men to traverse those false offices, according to the law.  Nay, the king’s wards, after they had accomplished their full age, could not be suffered to have livery of their lands, without paying excessive fines, far exceeding all reasonable rates.  They did also vex men with information of intrusion, upon scarce colourable titles.  When men were outlawed in personal actions, they would not permit them to purchase their charters of pardon, except they paid great and intolerable sums; standing upon the strict point of law, which upon outlawries giveth forfeiture of goods; nay, contrary to all law and colour, they maintained the king ought to have the half of men’s lands and rents, during the space of full two years, for a pain in case of outlawry.  They would also raffle with jurors, and enforce them to find as they would direct, and if they did not, convent [summon] them, imprison them, and fine them.  These and many other courses, fitter to be buried than repeated, they had of preyig upon the people; both like tame hawks for their master, and like wild hawks for themselves; insomuch as they grew  to great riches and substance.  But their principal working was upon penal laws, wherein they spared none, great nor small; nor considered whether the law was possible or impossible, in use or obsolete; but raked over all old and new statutes, though many of them were made with intention rather of terror than of rigour; having ever a rabble of promoters, quest-mongers, and leading jurors at their command, so as they could have any thing found, either for fact or valuation.. . . . . . .  To shew further the king’s extreme diligence, I do remember to have {xi} seen long since a book of accompt of Empsons’, that had the king’s hand to almost every leaf, by way of signing, and was in some places postilled in the margin with the king’s hand likewise, where was this remembrance:―


‘Item, received of such a one five marks, for a pardon to be procured; and if the pardon do not pass, the money to be repaid; except the party be some other ways satisfied.’


And over against this Memorandum, of the king’s own hand―


‘Otherwise satisfied.’


Which I do the rather mention, because it shows in the king a nearness, but yet with a kind of justness.  So these little sands and grains of gold and silver, as it seemeth, helped not a little to make up the great heap and bank. . . . . . .   This year (January 1504) being the 19th of his reign, the king called his parliament:  wherein a man may easily guess how absolute the king took himself to be with his parliament, when Dudley, that was so hateful, was made Speaker of the House of Commons. . . . . . .  There was granted by that parliament a subsidy, both from the temporality and the clergy.  And yet nevertheless, ere the year expired, there went out commissions for a general benevolence, though there were no wars, no fears.  The same year the city grew 5,000 marks [£2,666 13s. 4d.] for confirmation of their liberties; a ting fitter for the beginnings of kings’ reigns than the latter ends.  Neither was it a small matter that the mints gained more upon the late statute, by the re-coingage of groats and half-groats, now twelvepences and sixpences.  As for Empson and Dudley’s mills, they did grind more than ever; so that it was a strange thing to see what golden showers poured down upon the king’s treasury at once: ―The last payments of the marriage-money from Spain; the subsidy; the benevolence; the re-coinage; the redemption of the city’s libertiesl; the casualties. . . . . . .  Certainly avarice doth ever find in itself matter of ambition.” Bacon, noticing the king’s illness in the 22nd year of his reign (1506-7) observes that “he did now more seriously think of the world to come and of making himself a saint . . . . . . for this year he gave greater alms than accustomed, and discharged all prisoners about the city, that lay for fees or debts under 40s. . . . . . .  And hearing also of the bitter cries of his people against the oppressions of Dudley and Empson, and their complices, partly by devout persons about them, and partly by public sermons, the preachers doing their duty* therein, he was touched with great remorse for the same.  Nevertheless Empson and Dudley, though {xii} they could not but hear of these scruples of the king’s conscience, yet, as if the king’s soul and his money were in several offices, that the one was not to intermeddle with the other, went on with as great rage as ever.” ―After enumerating various heavy exactions of the king’s “leeches,” Bacon adds―“It is no marvel, if the faults were so light and the rates so heavy, that the king’s treasure of store, that he left at his death, most of it in secret places, under his own key and keeping, at Richmond, amounted, as by tradition it is reported to have done, unto the sum of near £1,800,000 sterling, a huge mass of money even for these times.* . . . . . .  To crown the last year of his reign the king granted a general pardon.  He did also declare in his will, that his mind was that restitution should be made of those sums which had been unjustly taken by his officers. . . . . . .  Of nature, assuredly he coveted to accumulate treasure, and was a little poor in admiring riches. . . . . . .  Empson and Dudley, being persons that had no reputation with him otherwise than by the servile following of his bent, did not give way only, as did Cardinal Morton and Sir Reginald Bray, but shape him way to those extremities, for which himself was touched with remorse at his death, and which his successor renounced and sought to purge.”


            Henry VII. died at Richmond during the night of 21st April 1509, and on the 23rd, Henry VIII. went thence to the Tower, where he assembled his privy council.  The narrative from this date we continue in the words of the chief historian of the reign, Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury:


            “He not only confirmed the pardon his father gave, a little before his death, for all offences save murder, felony and treason (to which general abolitions do not properly reach), but, for further performance of his father’s last will, caused a proclamation to be made that if any man could prove himself to be then wrongfully deprived of his goods by occasion of a certain commission for forfeitures, he should have, upon due complaint, condign satisfaction.  Whereupon so many petitions were presently exhibited against Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley Esq. (employed lately for taking the benefit of penal statutes) that it was thought fit to call them before the council (April 25),” &c.


            Empson, in reply to the charges, defended himself with considerable {xiii} spirit and ingenuity; complaining that the young King, who should be his supreme judge, abandoned him to his enemies, without other cause than that he had obeyed the King’s father’s commands, and upheld the regal authority.  Ought he to have disobeyed his King and broken his country’s laws; the penal statutes, decreed in open parliament, being yet unrepealed?  Were breakers of the laws only to escape punishment, and sustainers of the laws only to be punished?  If he must die, his desire was, that his indictment might be entered on no record, nor divulged to foreign nations, whom it might encourage to invasion.  In reply, Empson was told that he should find at last that he was punished for passing the bounds of his commission from the late King, and, in a law severe enough to the common and poorer sort of people, to have yet exacted on them justly.

            Lord Herbert observes that after their committal to te Tower (April 25) “new and strange crimes were found and objected against them, as appears in their indictments upon record, wherein they are accused of conspiracy against the King and State.” The reason for this course seems obvious.  Not only could Empson and Dudley have pleaded to any indictment for exaction, extortion or oppression, that the recent proclamation of pardon, was an acquittance as to any crime save felony, murder and treason; but, if this difficulty could have been surmounted, their conviction and punishment for their real offences would be almost a direct censure of the late King, whose responsibility for the acts of his instruments no special pleading could ignore.  Hence the fabricated charges, on which they were tried, condemned and finally executed, for high treason, one of the three capital crimes specially excepted from the royal pardon of Henry VIII.

            From the Second Appendix to the Third Report of the Deputy Keeper {xiv} of the Public Records (p. 226) we learn the exact nature of the indictments against Dudley and Empson.  Edmund Dudley, late of London, Esq., was tried and convicted of constructive treason, at Guildhall, London, on (Wednesday) the 18th July 1509 (1st Henry VIII.).*  The indictment set forth “that he on the 22nd of April 1509, in the parish of St. Swithin, by letters to divers of the King’s lieges [named] had brought to London a great multitude and power of people, arrayed in manner of war, against the allegiance of the said Edmund.  The jury found him guilty; and they also found, that at the time of his committing the said treasons, he was possessed of lands and tenements to the amount of 500 marks [£336 6s. 8d.] and upwards, beyond reprises; and that he had goods and chattels to the amount of £5,000 and upwards.  Judgement was given and entered according to the usual form in cases of high treason.

            Sir Richard Empson Knight, late of Edneston co. Northampton, was indicted, tried and convicted of the like offence, at Northampton on the 1st October 1509.§  The jury found him guilty; and also that he was seised of the manors of Edneston, &c., of the yearly value of £20., and of various lands; and of goods and chattels to the amount of £100.  Judgement as usual in cases of high treason.  In both cases the prisoner was remanded to the Tower.  Lord Herbert thus closes this sad story: ―


            Empson and Dudley lying now in prison, condemned and attainted by parliament,** the importunate clamours of the people prevailing with the king in this year’s {xv} progress [1510], he not only restored divers mulcts, but for further satisfaction to the commonality (by a special writ) commanded to have their heads struck off, August 18;* doing therein, as thought by many, more like a good king than a good master.”


            A Few words are necessary as to the fact of Edmund Dudley writing this treatise in the Tower.  Dr. Cooke Taylor, in his “Romantic Biography,” has the following observations on the subject: ―


            “It is not generally known that Edmund Dudley hoped to save his life by literary exertions.  He wrote, while in prison, a book called ‘The Tree of Commonwealth,’ and transmitted it to the king.  It is doubtful whether it ever reached its destination; but to use Bishop Bonner’s jest, ‘this tree of knowledge did not become a tree of life,’ and Henry, as a purchase money of his subjects’ love, paid down the heads of Empson and Dudley on the scaffold at Tower Hill.”


            Amongst the learned men of the time of Henry VII., Holinshed names “Edmund Dudley, born of noble parentage, studied the laws of this land, and profited highly in knowledge of the same.  He wrote a book intituled, ‘Arbor rei publicæ,’ ‘The Tree of the Common Wealth.’”

            But it is to “honest John Stowe” that we owe the clearest and most explicit statement respecting this work.  He says―


            “This Edmund Dudley, in the time of his imprisonment in the Tower, compiled one notable book, which he intituled ‘The Tree of Common Wealth,’ dedicated unto King Henry VIII.  A copy whereof, fair written (reserving the original to myself), I gave unto the honorable Lord Robert, Earl of Leicester, about the year 1562.  At whose request and earnest persuasion I then first collected my Summary of the chronicles of England.”


            What became of the original MS. after Stowe’s death, we have been unable to learn.  It is in the highest degree probable that the MS. copy from which the treatise of Edmund Dudley is now first printed, is the same that was presented by Stowe to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  It bears evidence on nearly every page that it is a transcript made from another {xvi} MS. written in a hand which even a practised scribe found so much difficulty in decyphering, that he has left many blanks to be supplied; a few only of which have been filled up by another hand, the same that has put catch-words or short marginal titles to various heads or divisions of the treatise.  If this really were the Earl of Leicester’s copy, it may be supposed that it would not be much valued by his widow, who soon after his death married his equerry.  In less than forty years after that event it was in other hands.  At the foot of its last written page (83) is the autograph, in a good hand and in reddish-black ink; “Will: Walked nowe owes [owns] mee. 1627;” and in the fly-leaf at the beginning, in the same hand, a play on the name―”Will and Walke aright.  Will: Walker.”  In a much more modern hand lower down the page: “This Treatise was wrote by Edmund Dudley, Father of the Duke of Northumberland, in the year of our Lord 1509.”  Inside the end vellum cover is a statement of paper 2s., binding 1s., strings 4d., and ruling 9d.; total 4s. 1d.  Below it another, in which paper 1s. and ruling 4d. makes the amount only 2s. 8d.  Then the two accounts are added together, making “in all 6s. 9d.”  Outside the front cover has been written (now nearly illegible) “Tree of Common Wealth,   By Edmonde Dudlay, Father of the Duke of Northumberland;” and down the back, in imitation of printing, the erroneous title of “Leicester’s Commonwealth.”  This was the title of a book popularly though wrongly ascribed to Parsons the Jesuit; imputing a long catalogue of crimes to Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; and it may have led some to suppose the two books the same.

            As to the Treatise itself, if commenced before his trial, its production would be btween April 25, 1509, and August 17, 1510; if not begun till after his conviction and sentence (which seems most likely) then it was compiled between July 18, 1509, and August 17, 1510, a period of barely thirteen months.  It was evidently written in the hope that Henry VIII. would read it, and would be thereby induced to pardon the writer.  It is in various places directly addressed to the King (p. 4 et seq.); and there is a prayer for his prosperity (p. 8) that he may be piteous and merciful, liberal and plenteous, and that “in the stead of the appetite of fleshly desire, he may be clean to his own spouse and Queen, which is the first order of chastity.”  There is a curious reference to the will of Henry VII. (p. 3), and a still more singular allusion to the King’s avarice as his own fault (p. 7).  Then the writer proceeds to unfold his allegory, in which the Commonwealth of England, ―that is the common or public weal, good or {xvii} happiness of te nation, ―is represented as a great and mighty tree, with it its various roots and fruits.  The mighty Tree of Commonwealth, growing in the Realm of England, has five Roots―all rooted in, and growly solely or chiefly out of, the King himself.  The chief or tap root is the Love of God; the other four are named 1. Justice; 2. Truth, or Fidelity; 3. Concord, or Unity; and 4. Peace.  The tree bears five different FRUITS, one springing from each of these roots, and numbered to correspond with its parent root.  The chief fruit, from the tap root, is the Honour of God; it may be eaten by all, without sauce, or paring, or taking out of the core.  The other four fruits are 1. Honorable Dignity, destined only for the King and those to whome he gives it; 2. Worldly Prosperity, for the chivalry, or nobles and knights; 3. Profitable Tranquillity, for the commonalty; and 4. Good Example, for the clergy.  But the PARINGS of each of the four fruits must be removed; and these parings are 1. Compassion, or Pity; 2. True Defence; 3. Timely Exercise; and 4. Increase of Virtue and Cunning (or Knowledge).  Their four perilous CORES must also be removed, and these are 1. Unreasonable Elation, or Pride; 2. Vain Delectation; 3. Lewd Enterprise; and 4. Subtle Glory, or Glorification.  Even after this preparation the four fruits cannot be safely used without the “payned sauce” of the Dread of God, a liquor or juice issuing from the tap root.  But the principal fruit (Honour of God) not only does not need its core or paring removed, or this sauce to make it fit for use.  It will of its own virtue convert the poisonous and pestilential cores of the four other fruits, into things good; as the Core (1) Unreasonable Elation into Very or True Elation; the Core (2) Vain Delectation into True Exaltation; the Core (3) Lewd Enterprise into Noble Enterprise; and the Core (4) Vain Glory into Perfect Glory.  The treatise closes with setting forth the praises and honours from man and the blessed rewards from God, for each order of men in the realm, if they rightly use the fruit assigned to them, with its core and parings, ―beginning with 1. Commoners; 2. Chivarly; 3. Clergy; and 4. The King.

            Incidentally the writer, from his great experience of such things, lays bare the prevalent vices and mal-practices of the time, of the various classes and orders of men, ―nobles, privy councillors, judges, the king’s officers and commissioners, lawyers, landowners, farmers, husbandmen, merchants, manufacturers, handicraftsmen, artificers and labourers; the prelates, the clerical corporations and bodies, the rectors, vicars and inferior clergy, &c.  Some of his pictures of the habits, manners and customs of certain classes are exceedingly graphic.

            {xviii} The paper on which the Treatise is written is a rather coarse kind of yellow laid foolscap, having three different water marks; one a corwn supported by two columns, at the base of which is a label with capital letters, resembling F. DEFENSOR.  A second is like a jug or pot without handle, surmounted by a crown, and across its body a label with the capitals M.C.  The third is a label on feet, resting on a sort of cusped ornament, and within the label capitals resembling EDMELEBE.  These may perhaps identify the make and date of the paper.

            The leaves have been so much frayed at the upper, outer corners of the book, that for the first six pages the ends of a few lines of the recto and the beginnings of a few on the verso side, are destroyed.  These lacunæ have been denoted in the print by dotted lines, and whenever any word not actually in the MS. is suggested as wanting, it is placed within brackets.  The orthography and marks of abbreviation have been carefully retained, and the only liberties taken have been with the punctuation, and then only where it seemed necessary to make an obscure passage more clear.







            The first twenty-four pages of this Treatise had been printed before it was found that another copy of it existed in the British Museum, Harl. MSS. No. 2204.  That MS. (a small folio, pp. 176, having about 21 lines in a page), from the handwriting, &c., appears to be much later than ours, probably temp. Charles I.  From its having the same blanks left for undeciphered words, it may be conjectured to be the copy of a copy, perhaps of the very MS. from which the present volume is printed.  The print has been collated with the Harleian MS., which supplies the blanks in the first six pages cause by the fraying of the top corners of our S. and gives other variations, as noted below.  From p. 24 to the end, the results of this collation are embodied in the printed text: ―


Page Line                     Harl. MS. reads                       Page Line                     Harl. Ms. reads

1.         3.         late councillor to the king                                            ner of an vnlearned body

1.         4.         at the compiling hereof                                                           will write a rude remembrance

1.         6.         ffirst yeare of King Henrie the viiith   3.         9.         happie is he that hath and wiselie 2.   10.        I most blinde and ignoraunte                                        can kepe such a frende, and

in all manner of sciences                                              consider him first,

and cunning, after the man-                                        to the


3.         10.        of all the inhabitantes                          7.         16.        Kinge should have

3.         11.        I understand that my said                   8.         last       For that as

                        Sou’aigne Lorde in plaine                    10.        16.        in the kinge one thinge

                        proofe that he beginneth                     11.        20.        besides the danger

3.         29.        settle in Christ’s church                       11.        28.        greate need

4.         3.         service or any other cause                   12.        3.         disturbed and letted

4.         4.         vertuosness and conninge able                        12.        12.        punishe and suppresse

                        to rule theire church, shall                   14.        30.        craftes men of the realme bu

                        doe therein more harme                      15.        9.         This roote is much

4.         5.         and vtterlie to be eschewed                17.        15.        in all his lawfull

4.         6.         anie man that will labour                    17.        25.        almes “to poore folkes and

                        therefore                                                                     specialle within their dio-

4.         15.        deformed person                                                         ces and cures”(in both MSS.

4.         27.        noble act                                                                      and accidentally omit-

4.         last       opposed                                                                       ted in the print)

5.         2.         you that your lettre                             17.        29.        or Treasor . . . if they appro-

5.         3.         consider you well that your                                        priat

                        request                                                            20.        22.        lending your wares

5.         5.         or to unite                                           21.        30.        many other

5.         10.        great discouragement                          22.        10.        people in this realme

6.         1.         AND YET OF YOUR                           22.        21.        shalbe in such

6.         2.         waighty causes                                                24.        26.        love and knowledge

6.         3.         and allsoe to followe                          

7.         11.        worthe” ―(crossed through

                           with the pen)




***Any information respecting another MS. copy of this Treatise, or any communication for the Brotherhood, may be addressed to Mr. Harland, 7, Repton Street, Upper Brook Street, Manchester.





[140 copies printed, (including ten on large paper,)  for Private Presentation only.]






*  In a very rare book “, Είκων-βιβλκή, sive Icon Libellorum; or a Critical Hisotry of Pamphlets, &c., (Lond. 1715,) by a Gentleman of te Inns of Court,” (i.e. Myles Davies, an indigent Welsh clergyman),the edition in the British Museum number 7 vols.; there is, incidental to a notice of Dr. John Colet, Dean of St. Paul’s, the following passage:“About the time that the worthy Dr. Colet was made Dean of St. Paul’s by Henry VII., (viz:  Anno 1504,) there was handed about a political pamphlet, of a juridical dress, styled Arbor Reipublicæ, &c., supposed to be still extant in the Cottonian Library.  It was said to be writ by Edmund Dudley, nephew to Lord Dudley, of Dudley Castle in Staffordshire;  who, from being a Counsellor-at-law in Gray’s Inn, was chose by Henry VII.. to be one of his Privy Council, in the very first year of his reign, Anno 1486, being then but twenty-four years of age.” ―[There are various errors in this statement.  “The Tree of Commonwealth” could not have been handed about in 1504l there is no such MS. in the Cottonian collection; and it is not likely, and is utterly at variance with Stowe’s account, that Henry VII. made Dudley a Privy Councillor in 1486.  But there may be some facts in this statement, ―that Dudley was twenty-four in 1486; consequently born about 1462, and in his forty-ninth year when executed; that he was of Gray’s Inn; that he was a nephew of Lord Dudley, of Dudley Castle, county Stafford.  This last is, however, very doubtful; for at that period the family name of the lords of Dudley Castle was Sutton.]

  This lady, as the widow of Edmund Dudley, married Arthur Plantagenet, a natural son of Edward IV., who was created Viscount L’Isle, 26th April 1533, with remainder to his heirs maile by this inheritress of the title; but he died s.p.m. in 1541; and then the eldest son and heir of Edmund Dudley and this Elizabeth, was created Viscount L’Isle 12th March 1542, with remainder to his heirs male.  On his attainder and execution in 1533, his honours were forfeited; but his eldest son and heir, Ambrose, afterwards “the good Earl of Warwick,” was created Baron L’Isle in 1561.

  Not thirteen years before [1509, i.e. about 1496-7] he was by labour of friends brought into the office of Under-Sheriffwick of London, where he continued with favour of the citizens, by the space of six years or more; after which season he sold his office and drew him to the king’s court, where shortly after he grew in such favour, that he chosen Speaker of the Parliament in the 19th year of Henry VII. [January 1504] and soon after the King’s President [of the council]; by reason of which office he had such authority that the chief lords of England were glad to be in his favour, and were fain to sue to him for many urgent causes; whereupon the lords, and all men as they durst, had him in disdain, which was his overthrow in the end. ― (Stowe.)

* Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, died in 1589 without issue and the title became extinct.

* It appears from various contemporary writers that both were members of the privy council, Dudley for a time its president.  Some call them “Masters and Surveyors of the King’s Forfeits;” but the more correct title would be “Commissioners for receiving the forfeitures under Penal Statutes,” under which royal commission they set up a sort of court, acting as judges.

  Empson suddenly rose from poverty (as being the son of a sieve-maker in Towcester) unto inestimable authority and riches.—(Stowe.)

  Lawyers.  In an alphabetical list of barristers in the reign of Henry VII., in Fosse’s “Judges of England,” (vol. v. p. 20,) are the names of “R. Empson” and “E. Dudley.”  Sir Richard Baker says they were also Barons of the Exchequer; but this is an error, (probably a mistranslation of Polydore Vergil, who styled them “Judices Fiscales,”) otherwise they would have been marked “B.E.” in Fosse’s list, and separate memoirs would have been given of them as Judges.  At a call of sergeants in 1503, it is stated that “Westley, the second, and Bolling, the third baron of the Exchequer, and Master Empson, and many of the seniors were present.”  Amongst those summoned to this call was Edmund Dudley, but he had a writ, exonerating him, on the ground (it has been suggested) that being then Speaker of the House of Common he was exempt.  Fosse adds that he more probably owed his release from the expensive honour to the personal favour of the king.

* One of the indictments originally framed against Empson (but afterwards abandoned for the more convenient one laying high treason) charged that many persons were summoned before him at his private house in St. Bride’s parish, ward of Farringdon Without, and were thence committed, as from a regular court of justice, to the Fleet, the Tower, and other prisons, and there detained till they had paid heavy fines. ― (Holinshed.)  Some years after Empson’s execution Henry VIII. gave this house to his favourite Wolsey, in the beginning of his rise.

“Promoters” was the term then in use for what we should now call informers.  Stowe and others relate that on Empson and Dudley being committed to the Tower, a number of these promoters were apprehended, imprisoned, set in the pillory, &c., Empson and Dudley kept a “false jury fast to their girdles,” on whom they could always rely for the verdict.  Holinshed says “these two ravening wolves had a guard of false, perjured persons appertaining to them, which were impannelled in every quest.”  Learned men in the law, when they were required of their advice [by the victims of these extortioners] would say, “To agree is the best counsel that I can give you.”  On the 6th of June 1509, three of the “ringleaders of false inquests,” were led about the city on horseback, riding backward and with papers on their heads (probably declaring their offense) set on the pillory on Cornhill, and thence taken to Newgate, “where they died for very shame;” or more likely of their injuries from missiles striking them in the pillory.

* At this unreasonable and extortionate doing, noble men grudged, mean men kicked, poor men lamented, preachers openly at Paul’s Cross and other places, exclaimed, rebuked and detested. ― (Holinshed).

The proclamation which Henry published (see Rymer’s Fd, xiii. 107), for the ease of his conscience, as he pretended, inviting all that could prove they had suffered from him any wrong or oppression, contrary to the course of laws, to bring in their complaints, was rather an insult upon the sufferers than the means for redressing their grievances.  This invitation was something like the challenge of champion Dymock at a coronation and as likely to be adopted.  Empson and Dudley were masters of the kingdom; everybody trembled before {xii.} them; and nobody durst dispute their pleasure, even in the most illegal points, subversive of the constitution of the kingdoms.  Such were their letters to the Sheriffs of counties, particularly Lancashire, requiring them to return two persons named therein to be knights of the shire, without suffering the county to proceed to an election. ―(Carte.)

* Silver was, during this reign, at 37s. 6d. a pound, which makes Henry’s treasur near three millions of our present money.  Besides, many commodities have become above thrice as dear by the increase of gold and silver in Europe.  And what is a circumstance of still greater weight, all other states were then very poor in comparison to what they are at present.  These circumstances make Henry’s treasure appear very great; and may lead us to conceive the oppressions of his government (Hume.)

Lord Herbert, Stowe, Polydore Vergil, and other chroniclers give Empson’s speech before the council in extenso.  According to Holinshed, Dudley also addressed the council.  He says―”Being brought before the council, as they were grave and wise personages, and both of them learned and skilfull in the laws of the realm; so had they utterance very ready whereby to deliver the conceits of their minds with singular dexterity, specially in a case of importance; insomuch that when the said parties were convented before the assembly of the lords [of the council], they alleged for themselves right constantly (in their own defences, much good and sufficient matter; of whom Empson (being the elder in years) had these words:” ―After giving Empson’s speech, Holinshed adds―that the greater number of the council, (having themselves felt the smart lately before,) “had conceived such malice towards the men, that they thought it reason, that such as had been dealers therein, were worthy to lose their heads in like sort as they had caused others to lose their money.  Hereupon their accusers were maintained and many odd matters narrowly sought out against them, as by two several indictments framed against Sir Richard Empson (the copies of whereof I have seen) it may well appear.”  Holinshed cites these to show “how glad men were to find some colour of sufficient matter to bring the said Sir Richard Empson and Master Edmund Dudley within the danger of the laws.”

* This date is doubtless correct.  Stowe and others state that the trial was on the 17th July; Howell that it was on the 16th.

This being the day after the death of Henry VII. the high treason charged would be against the king regnant, Henry VIII.  Several chroniclers lay the date of the alleged treason in March, during the lifetime of Henry VII., but the indictment is the best authority.

Dudley at the time of his fall had in possession of lands and fees, with offices, to the yearly value of £800, and in ready coin £20,000, over many more riches, as jewels, plate, and rich stuff of household, the which was shortly gathered [i.e. in seven years]. ―(Stowe.)

He was adjuged to be drawn, hanged and quartered; and was then committed to the Tower again, where he lay long after. ―(Stowe.)  Notwithstanding this sentence of hanging, &c., both Empson and Dudley were beheaded.

§ Carte says, Wednesday October 3.

Stowe says that Dudley lay so long in the Tower after conviction and sentence, that the fame went that the queen had purcased his pardon; but it was not so. ―It is probable that Dudley’s wife, the Lady L’Isle, had importuned the gentle Katharine on his behalf; but, says Holinshed, “the king in his progress heard every day more and more complaints of Empson and Dudley, set forth and advanced no doubt by the drift of their deadly enemies.” So all hopes of pardon were dissipated.

** The attainder by parliament appears to be an error.  Hargreave, an early Editor of Howell’s State Trials, says that the statute supposed to be an act of attainder, was really an act to relieve certain persons, in trust for whom Empson and Dudley were seised of various estates; and to prevent their attainders [by conviction of high treason] form hurting innocent persons.

* Lord Herbert appears in error, as to the date; Holinshed, Stowe and Baker agree in stating it to be the 17th August and not the 18th. ―Stowe says that “the king sent commandment to the constable of the Tower, charging him that they should shortly after be put to execution.  Whereupon the Sheriffs of London were sent for and commanded by a special writ to see the said execution performed and done.  And they upon that went to the Tower and received them on the 17th August, and from thence brought them to the scaffold on Tower Hill, where their heads were stricken off; which being done the bodies of them, as of Empson was buried in the White Friars Church, and the other of Dudley in the Black Friars Church.” ―(Stowe.)




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