Digby, Lord George

, an English nobleman of great parts, was son of the preceding, and born at Madrid, in October, 1612. In 1626 he was entered of Magdalencollege, in Oxford, where he lived in great familiarity with the well-known Peter Heylin, and gave manifest proofs of those great endowments for which he was afterwards so distinguished. In 1636 he was created M. A. there, just after Charles 1. had left Oxford; where he had been spendidly entertained by the university, and particularly at St. John’s college, by Dr. Laud, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury. In the beginning of the long parliament he was disaffected to the court, and appointed one of the committee to prepare a charge against the earl of Strafford, in 1640 but afterwards would not consent to the bill, “not only,” as he said, “because he was unsatisfied in the matter of law, but for that he was more unsatisfied in the matter of fact*.” From that time he


At this time a circumstance occurred of a singular nature. A paper of great consequence to the trial was missing in the close committee of the house of commons; and by the earl of Strafford’s auswer it was supposed that he had seen it, and that it had been conveyed to him by some one of the committee. Mr. Whitelock, who was in the chair, and who had the charge and custody of all the papers, was suspected move than any other person

| became a declared enemy to the parliament, and shewed his dislike of their proceedings in a warm speech against them, which he made at the passing' of the bill of attainder against the said earl, in April 1641. This speech was condemned to be burnt, and himself in June following, expelled the house of commons. In Jan. 1642, he went on a message from his majesty to Kingston-upon-Thames, to certain gentlemen there, with a coach and six horses. This they improved into a warlike appearance; and accordingly he was accused of high treason in parliament, upon pretence of his levying war at Kingston-upon-Thames. Clarendon mentions “this severe prosecution of a young nobleman of admirable parts and eminent hopes, in so implacable a manner, as a most pertinent instance of the tyranny and injustice of those times.” Finding what umbrage he had given to the parliament, and how odious they had made him to the people, he obtained leave, and a licence from his majesty, to transport himself into Holland; whence he wrote several letters to his friends, and one to the queen, which was carried by a perfidious confidant to the parliament, and opened. In a secret expedition afterwards to the king, he was taken by one of the parliament’s ships, and carried to Hull; but being in such a disguise that not his nearest relation could have known him, he brought himself off very dextrously by his artful management of | the governor, sir John Hotham.*

The story is thus told He pretended to be a Frenchman, the language of which country he spoke excellently; and he appealed to be so sea-sick, that he kept himsult in the hole of the bark, till it arrived at the landing-place: and in that time he disposed of such papers as were not fit to be perused. When he came on shore, he so well counterfeited sickness and want of health, that he obtained leave to be sent, under a guard, to some obscure corner, for repose. In this confinement he began seriously to reflect on the desperateness of his condition. He did not think it possible for him to continue long concealed; and, if he should be discovered, he knew that he was so odious, above all other men, to the parliament, that his life would be in the greatest danger. At the same time, he was sensible that sir John Hotham, the governor of Hull, was his enemy, and that he was a man of a covetous, rough, and unfeeling disposition. Nevertheless, he resolved to discover himself to him. Accordingly, lord Digby, in broken English, which might well have become any Frenchman, found means to make one of his guard understand, tbat he desired to apeak privately with the governor; and that he would reveal some secrets f the king’s and queen’s to him, that would highly advance the public service. Upon being introduced to sir John Hotham, and taken to a private part of the room, he asked in English, “Whether he knew him?” The other, surprized at the question, told him “No.” “Then,” said lord Bigby, “I shall try whether I know sir John Hotham, and whether he be in truth the same man of honour I have always taken him to be.” Upon this he informed the governor who he was, and that he hoped he was too much of a gentleman to deliver him up a sacrifice t/i those who were his implacable enemies. Sir John Hotham was so struck with lord Digby’s greatness of mind, and with, the compliment paid to him<elf, that, contrary to what might have been expected, both from his own nature, and the most powerful motives of interest and ambition, he told his lordship, that since he had placed such a confidence in him, he would not deceive hi* trust; and wished him to consider in what way, and under what pretence, he should be set at liberty. At length it was agreed that the Frenchman should be openly sent te York, as going upon a political business, with an assurance that he would return to Hull. In the conversations which at this time lord Digby had with the governor, he used every argument to persuade him to engage in the king’s service; and it was upon some encouragement of that kind, that an expedition which his majesty shortly after made to Beverley, was founded. T forward the design, our enterprizing nobleman returned to Hull in his old disguise: but all his efforts to prevail upon sir John Hotham to surrender the town were in vain. Sir John’s son, and the principal officers, were devoted to the parliament; and new supplies of men were sent into the place; so that the governor either wanted the courage or the power to execute what be desired.

In 1643 he was made one of the secretaries of state to the king, and high steward of the university of Oxford, in the room of William lord Say. In the latter end of 1645 he went into Ireland, and exposed himself to great hazards of his life, for the service of the king; from thence he passed over to Jersey, where the prince of Wales was, and after that into France, in order to transact some important matters with the queen and cardinal Mazarin. Upon the death of the king, he was exempted from pardon by the parliament, and obliged to live in exile till the restoration of Charles II. when he was restored to all he had lost, and made knight of the garter. He became very active in public affairs, spoke frequently in | parliament, and distinguished himself by his enmity to Clarendon while chancellor. He died at Chelsea, March 20, 1676, after succeeding his father as earl of Bristol. Many of his speeches and letters are still extant, to he found in our historical collections and he wrote “Elvira,” a comedy, &c. There are also letters of his cousin sir Kenelm Digby, against popery, mentioned in our account of sir Kenelm yet afterwards he became a papist himself; which inconsistencies in his character have been neatly depicted by lord Orford. “He was,” says he, “a singular person, whose life was one contradiction. He wrote against popery, and embraced it; he was a zealous opposer of the court, and a sacrifice for it; was conscientiously converted in the midst of his prosecution of lord Strafford, and was most unconscientiously a prosecutor of lord Clarendon. With great parts he always hurt himself and his friends; with romantic bravery, he was always an unsuccessful commander. He spoke for the test act, though a Roman catholic, and addicted himself to astrology on the birth-day of true philosophy.1
1 Biog. Biit. —Ath. Ox. vol. Tl Park’s Orford, vol. Ilf,