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EARL OF BRISTOL,
Was father of the celebrated lord Digby, and by no means inconsiderable himself, though checked by the circumstances of the times from making so great a figure in various lights, as fortune and his own talents seemed to promise. Marked for a season as a favourite by king James, he was eclipsed by the predominant lustre of the duke of Buckingham, and traversed by the same impetuosity in his Spanish negotiations, to which his grave and stately temper had adapted him. Being attacked by that overbearing man, he repelled and worsted
and shone greatly among the discontented in parliament: but the violences of that assembly soon disgusted his solemn disposition ; for he that was not supple enough for a court, was by far too haughty for popularity”. He would have been a suitable minister for Austrian phlegm, or a proper patriot in a diet, which
[Whatever was at the bottom of his actions, says Lloyd, there was resolution and nobleness at the top. That his spirit was great abroad, was his honour; but that it was too great at home, was his unhappiness. Obs. p. 608.]
would have been content to proceed by remonstrance and memorial: a mercurial favourite, and a military senate, overset him3.
In his youth he was a poet, and wrote
“ Verses on the Death of Sir Henry Unton, of Wadley, Berks.”
- Other Poems;" one of which, an air for three voices, was set by H. Lawes, and published in his Ayres and Dialogues. Lond. 1653, fol.
“A Tract, wherein is set down those Motives and Ties of Religion, Oaths, Laws, Loyalty, and Gratitude, which obliged him to adhere unto the King in the late unhappy Wars in England.”
“ A Tract, wherein he vindicates his Honour and Innocency from having in any kind deserved that injurious and merciless Censure of being excepted from Pardon or Mercy either in Life or Fortunes."
These two pieces have the general title of his Apology.
“ An Appendix to the first Tract,” and printed together with both pieces ; and
“Two of his Speeches at Caen, 1647:" thin folio. Reprinted 1656, 4to.
3 Vide Clarendon, and Anthony Wood, vol. ii. p. 163.
« Answer to the Declaration of the House of Commons, February 11, 1647, against making any more Addresses to the King.” Caen, 1648, Ato.
“ An Addition to the above." MS.
“Translation of Peter du Moulin's Book, intituled, A Defence of the Catholic Faith, contained in the Book of King James against the Answer of N. Coeffeteau, &c." Lond. 1610.
The dedication to the king is in the name of J. Sandford, his chaplain.
[John, first earl of Bristol, the youngest son of sir George Digby, knight, was entered a commoner of Magdalen college, Oxford, in 1595. The year following he composed the short copy of elegiacal verses which are printed at page 54. Upon quitting the university he travelled into France and Italy, whence he returned very accomplished; and in 1605 was admitted a gentleman of the privy-chamber, and one of his majesty's carvers. He soon after received the honour of knighthood, and in 1611 was sent embassador to Spain. In 1616 he was preferred to the post of vicechamberlain of the household, and sworn of the privycouncil. In 1618 he was raised to the dignity of the peerage, by the title of baron Digby of Sherbourne in Dorsetshire. In succeeding years he was the able ne
gotiator of forty-three several embassies 4 to the archduke Albert, the emperor Ferdinand, the duke of Bavaria, and Philip the fourth, king of Spain. In consideration of his merits, as well as to give greater credit to his negotiations, he was created earl of Bristol in 1622. Being censured by the duke of Buckingham, on his return from the Spanish court in 1624, he was for a short time sent to the Tower ; but after an examination by a committee of lords, there is no evidence that any thing material was the result of this inquiry. After the accession of Charles the first, the tide of resentment ran strong against lord Bristol ; who obserying the king was entirely governed by Buckingham, he resolved no longer to keep any measures with the court. In consequence of this, the king, by a stretch of prerogative, gave orders that the customary writ for his parliamentary attendance should not be sent to him, and on the first of May 1626 he was charged with high-treason and other offences. Lord Bristol recriminated, by preparing articles of impeachment against the duke; but the king resolving to protect his minion, dissolved the parliament. The earl now sided with
4 He did ken the embassador-craft, says Fuller, as well as any in his age: his several services to foreign princes being recited in his patent as the main motives of the honours conferred upon him. But his managing the matchless match with Spain, was his master-piece, wherein a great number of statetraverses were used on both sides. His contest with the duke of Buckingham is fresh in many men's memories: but this lord fearing the duke's power, as the duke this lord's policy, it at last became a drawn battle between them. Worth, of Warw. p. !24.