Arden, Edward

was descended of a most ancient and honourable family, seated at Parkhall, in Warwickshire. He was born‘ in 1532, and his father dying when he was an infant of two years old, he became, before he inherited the estate of the family, the ward of sir George Throkmorton, of Coughton, whose daughter Mary he afterwards married. In all probability, it was his engagement with this family, and being bred in it, that made him so firm a papist as he was. However, succeeding his grandfather, Thomas Arden, esq. in 1562, in the familyestate, he married Mary (Throkmorton), and settled in the country, his religion impeding his preferment, and his temper inclining him to a retired life. His being a near neighbour to the great earl of Leicester, occasioned his having some altercations with him, who affected to rule all things in that county, and some persons, though of good families, and possessed of considerable estates, thought it no discredit to wear that nobleman’s livery, which Mr. Arden disdained. In the course of this fatal quarrel, excessive insolence on one side produced some warm expressions on the other; insomuch that Mr. Arden | npenly taxed the earl with his conversing criminally with the countess of Essex in that earl’s lite-time; and also inveighed against his pride, as a thing more inexcusable in a nobleman newly created. These taunts having exasperated that minister, he projected, or at least forwarded, his destruction. Mr. Arden had married one of his daughters to John Somerville, esq. a young gentleman of an old family and good fortune, in the same county, but who was a man of a hot rash temper, and by many thought a little insane. He was drawn in a strange manner to plot (if it may be so called) against the queen’s life; and thus the treason is alleged to have been transacted. In the Whitsun-holidays, 1583, he with his wife was at Mr. Arden’s, where Hugh Hall, his father-in-law’s priest, persuaded him that queen Elizabeth being an incorrigible heretic, and growing daily from bad to worse, it would be doing God and his country good service to take her life away. When the holidays were over, he returned to his own house with his wife, where he grew melancholy and irresolute. Upon this his wife wrote to Hall, her father’s priest, to come and strengthen his purpose. Hall excused his coming, but wrote at large, to encourage Somerville to prosecute what he had undertaken. This letter induced Somerville to set out for London, but he proceeded no farther than Warwick, where, drawing his sword and wounding some protestaats, he was instantly seized. While he was going to Warwick, his wife went over to her father’s, and shewed him and her mother Hall’s treasonable letter, which her father threw into the fire; so that only the hearsay of this letter could be alleged against him and his wife, by Hall who wrote it, who was tried and condemned with them. On Somerville’s apprehension, he said somewhat of his father and mother-in-law, and immediately orders were sent into Warwickshire for their being seized and imprisoned. October 30, 1583, Mr. Somerville was committed to the Tower for high-treason. November 4, Hall, the priest, was committed also; and on the seventh of the same month, Mr. Arden. On the sixteenth, Mary the wife of Mr. Arden, Margaret their daughter, wife to Mr. Somerville, and Elizabeth, the sister of Mr. Somerville, were committed. On the twenty-third Mr. Arden was racked in the Tower, and the next day Hugh Hall the priest was tortured likewise. By these methods some kind of evidence being brought out, on the | sixteenth of December Edward Arden, esq. and Mary his wife, John Somerville, esq. and Hugh Hall the priest, were tried and convicted of high-treason at Guildhall, London; chiefly on Hall’s confession, who yet received sentence with the rest. On the nineteenth of December, Mr. Arden and his son-in-law, Somerville, were removed from the Tower to Newgate, for a night’s time only. In this space Somerville was strangled by his own hands, as it was given out; but, as the world believed, by such as desired to remove him silently. The next day, being December 20, 1583, Edward Arden was executed at Smithfield with the general pity of all spectators. He died with the same high spirit he had shewn throughout his life. After professing his innocence, he owned himself a papist, and one who died for his religion, and want of flexibility, though under colour of conspiring against the state. He strenuously insisted, that Somerville was murdered, to prevent his shaming his prosecutors; and having thus extenuated things to such as heard him, he patiently submitted to an ignominious death. His execution was according to the rigour of the law, his head being set (as Somerville’s also was) upon London-bridge, and his quarters upon the city gates; but the body of his son-in-law was interred in Moornelds. Mrs. Arden was pardoned; but the queen gave the estate which fell to her, by her and her husband’s attainder, to Mr. Darcy. Hugh Hall, the priest, likewise was pardoned; but Leicester, doubting his secrecy, would have engaged chancellor Hatton to send him abroad; which he refusing, new rumours, little to that proud earl’s honour, flew about. Holinshed, Stowe, and other writers, treat Mr. Arden as a traitor fairly convicted; but Camden. was too honest to write thus, and it may be probable, that he died for being a firm Englishman, rather than a bad subject. His son and heir Robert Arden, esq. being bred in one of the inns of court, proved a very wise and fortunate person: insomuch that by various suits he wrung from Edward Darcy, esq. the grantee, most of his father’s estates, and by marrying Elizabeth, daughter of Reginald Corbet, esq. one of the justices of the king’s bench, he restored the credit and splendour of this ancient family, and was so happy as to see Henry Arden, esq. his eldest son, knighted by king James, and married to Dorothy the daughter of Basil Fielding of Kewnham, esq. whose son became earl of Denbigh. | On this account, the last editor of the Biographia Britannica remarks, that the conduct of lord Burleigh in Mr. Arden’s fate is somewhat equivocal. If that great man. was convinced of Mr. Arden’s innocence, it was totally unworthy of his character to charge him with having been a traitor. It is more ’honourable, therefore, to lord Burleigh’s reputation, and more agreeable to probability, to suppose that he believed Mr. Arden to be guilty, at least in a certain degree, of evil designs against the queen. Indeed, Arden was so bigoted a papist, that it is not unlikely but that by some imprudent words, if not by actions, he might furnish a pretence for the accusations brought against him. We can scarcely otherwise imagine how it would have been possible for the government to have proceeded to such extremities. We do not mean, by these remarks, to vindicate the severity with which this unfortunate gentleman was treated; and are sensible that, during queen Elizabeth’s reign, there was solid foundation for the jealousy and dread which were entertained of the Roman catholics. 1


Biog. Britannica.