The death of a Lord Treasurer

I was perusing the newsletters written by George Garrard to the earl of Strafford when I came across an account of the death of the Lord Treasurer Richard Weston, earl of Portland (d. 1635).  It sounds like it was terribly painful:

Friday Morning about three of the Clock the Lord Treasurer died; and he said over Night to many of his Friends, that he should do so about that Hour.  He died in great Pain, entring his Bed not above one Hour before his Death, crying out vehemently upon a Pain in his Kidneys, and most of that Hour tumbling and rowling up and down: At length he fetched three great Groans and expired.  At Night he was opened by Watson the Surgeon, his Heart two Inches fat about, a fat Heart, his Liver and Lungs good, his Sweet-bread naught, his Spleen good, but his Kidneys clogged with Stone, in one of them a Stone four Inches about, in the other a Stone like the Cork that stops a Bottle; the Bottom of his Stomach very foul, black, raw, being corroded with some malignant Humours.

Talk about a rough way to go.  From a similar letter, I also learned that Prynne, after having his ears cropped, had them sown back on.  The amazing part is that it worked!  I’m not sure about when he had them cut clean off, though.  The seventeenth century was kind of gross.  Then there was this item; I thought it was rather cold:

The little Treasurer Sir Thomas Edmondes hath lately buried his only Son, in whom he was most unfortunate, therefore no great Loss to him.  For, of all young Men that ever I heard of, he was the most given to Drunkenness, no Counsel, no Advice able to recall him from that filthy beastly Sin.  Also Mr. Comptroller Sir Henry Vane’s eldest son hath left his Father, his Mother, his Country, and that Fortune which his Father would have left him here, and is for Conscience sake gone into New-England, there to lead the felt of his Days, being about twenty Years of Age.  He had abstained two Years from taking the Sacrament in England, because he could get no body to administer it to him standing.  He was bred up at Leyden, and I hear that Sir Nathaniel Rich and Mr. Pymme have done him much hurt in their Persuasions this Way.  God forgive them for it, if they  be guilty.

This last one is interesting for other, obvious reasons.  I got these from the first volume of Strafford’s Letters and Dispatches edited by Knowler, published in the eighteenth century.  I also wanted to mention for anyone unaware, as I discovered recently, that the Strafford papers held at Sheffield City Library have been microfilmed and Julia Merritt has edited a guide to the said microfilm.  I wonder if they are somewhere digitally available.  Nonetheless, a very useful set of papers to be made widely available.  I just ordered up about 10 reels from UC Irvine.  Why Irvine had them and none of the other UCs (like UCLA or Berkeley) is a bit strange, but I guess I’m just happy that one of them did.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  I might have spent more time discussing the various issues raised by these selections (early modern punishment, mutiliation, cosmetic surgery, puritanism, etc.) but it’s been a rough few weeks and will continue to be so.  They caught my attention, so I thought others might be interested as well.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The death of a Lord Treasurer

  1. Christopher Thompson

    The Wentworth Papers are available on 24 spools of microfilm, so I hope that you have access to them all. The Institute of Historical Research in London has a complete set if you are not able to see them all in the U.S.A. Other accounts of Portland’s death can be found in the C 115 series in the National Archives at Kew.

  2. gilbertmabbott

    Thanks, Chris! I believe they are all here. I am just amazed at how much has been microfilmed. I can sit in Santa Barbara and read the Clarke Papers. How great is that?

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