A PEPYSIAN GARLAND - online book

Black-letter Broadside Ballads Of The years 1595-1639

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The downfall of a corrupted conscience
Pepys, i, 142, B.L., two woodcuts, four columns.
Sir Francis Michell—Justice of the Peace of Middlesex and commis­sioner for enforcing monopolies—is a pathetic figure. On October 20, 1618, he was appointed, along with Sir Giles Mompesson (the Sir Giles Overreach of Massinger's New Way to Pay Old Debts), on a commission charged with enforcing a monopoly of gold and silver thread. In this capacity for two years he exercised his powers corruptly and harshly. He was knighted in December, 1620. In the following February, however, he was committed for contempt to the Tower by the House of Commons. Examined by the Commons on March 6, 1621, he was tried, on April 26, at the bar of the House of Lords, where the chief accusation was that he had erected an office, kept a court, and exacted bonds, and that he had taken money in a suit to compound the same. On May 4 he was sentenced by the Lord Chief Justice to degradation from knighthood, fined £1000, debarred from holding office in the future, and ordered to be imprisoned during the King's pleasure. On June 30, 1621, Michell petitioned for release "from the rest of his censure, being old and sickly," and the petition was granted {Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, 1619-23, p. 269). A sentence similar to Michell's had been passed on Mompesson, who was exceptionally unpopular because of his patent on inns and alehouses; but he escaped to the Continent.
In his Chronicle of England Sir Richard Baker simply remarks that Michell was "made to ride with his Face to the Horse's Tail through the City of London" The ballad, which has remained unknown to Michell's biographers, is a far more valuable and picturesque account of the public degradation inflicted on him by the Earl Marshal's Commissioners at the King's Bench, Westminster Hall, on June 20, 1621. Equally unknown is the splendid "good-night" preserved in Bodley's Library (MS. Tanner 306, fols. 247-248^ under the title of "A lamentable newe Ballade ex­pressing the Complaynte of Sr Fraunces Michell, Knighte, Dwellinge in Pickt hatche, lateley Justice of Peace. To a scuruey tune." It begins:
You Justices & men of myghte, You Constables that walke by nyghte, And all you officers more lowe, But marke my sudden overthrowe.
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