CAESAR, Sir Julius (1558-1636), of Mitcham, Surr.; the Inner Temple, London; the Rolls House, Chancery Lane, London; Doctors' Commons, London; The Strand, Westminster; later of Humberton Street, Hackney, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



aft. 4 July 1607

Family and Education

b. 8 Feb. 1558,1 1st. s. of Cesare Adelmare, physician to Queen Mary, of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London and Tottenham, Mdx., formerly of Treviso in the Venetian Republic, and Margery, da. of George Perient of ?Shropshire.2 educ. privately (? household of William Cecil†, 1st Lord Burghley); Magdalen Hall, Oxf. 1575, BA 1575, MA 1578; Clement’s Inn 1577; I. Temple 1580, called 1591; LLB and LLD Paris 1581, incorp. DCL Oxf. 1584. m. (1) 26 Feb. 1582, Dorcas (d. 16 June 1595), da. of Sir Richard Martin, master of the Mint and wid. of Richard Lusher (d. 18 Feb. 1581) of the M. Temple, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) 10 Apr. 1596, Alice (d. 23 May 1614), da. of Christopher Green of Manchester and wid. of John Dent (d. 9 Dec. 1595), Salter of London and Mitcham, Surr., 3s.; (3) 19 Apr. 1615, Anne (bur. 30 Aug. 1637), da. of (Sir) Henry Woodhouse† of Hickling and Waxham, Norf., wid. of Henry Hogan (d.1592) of E. Bradenham, Norf. and William Hungate, s.p. suc. fa. 1569; kntd. 20 May 1603.3 d. 10 Apr. 1636. sig. Jul. Caesar.

Offices Held

Advocate, Parlement of Paris 1581;4 commissary, St. Katharine’s hosp. London 1581-96, master 1596-d.;5 dep. judge of the High Ct. of Admlty. by 1583-4, acting judge 1584-5 (sole), 1585-6 (jt.), 1586-7 (sole), judge 1587-1606; counsel, Civil Law causes, London 1583; commissary to the bp. of London in Essex, Herts. and Mdx. 1583-5;6 master in Chancery, extraordinary 1584-8, ordinary 1588-?by 1592;7 member, Doctors’ Commons 1586-1607 (in commons), 1607-d. (not in commons);8 bencher, I. Temple 1591-d., treas. 1593-5;9 master of Requests, extraordinary 1591-6, ordinary 1596-1606; master of the Rolls 1614-d.10

Commr. piracy 1581, 1602,11 Low Country causes 1588,12 to discover Jesuits and counterfeiters 1593,13 recusancy 1593; member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1596-at least 1633;14 commr. adjudicate prize disputes 1598,15 Danish causes 1600,16 examine rebels 1601,17 French causes 1603,18 compound with farmers of woods to provide fuel for king’s Household 1606, sale of assart lands 1606, royal leases 1606;19 chan. Exch. 1606-14;20 PC 1607-d.;21 commr. to let out Crown lands 1608,22 enclosures and depopulations 1608, repay loans made to Crown by London merchants 1608,23 take the accts. of Sir Thomas Ridgeway, treas.-at-wars for Ire. 1608,24 finish the accts. of Sir Robert Vernon, late victualler of the Berwick garrison 1608,25 compound for lands recovered from the sea 1608,26 defective titles 1608-at least 1613, 1625,27 suits 1609,28 exacted fees 1610,29 discover and examine Jesuits 1610,30 concealed lands 1611;31 trustee, lands of the late earl of Dunbar 1611-13;32 commr. Treasury 1612-14, 1618-20,33 to negotiate mar. treaty with Elector Palatine 1612,34 enfranchise copyholders 1612,35 divorce of countess of Essex 1613,36 sale of royal castles and houses 1613,37 examine Sir Henry Spiller* 1615,38 try earl and countess of Essex 1616, sell Cautionary Towns 1616,39 consider suits pending 1618,40 regulate tobacco trade 1620,41 exercise judicial functions of the ld. chan. 1621,42 examine earl of Southampton 1621,43 sell Crown lands 1625, trade 1625, improve Crown revenue 1626, maintain peace at sea bet. the king and his allies 1626, try four Frenchmen accused of conspiracy 1627, office of exchanger 1627, hear appeals in prize cases 1628, examine alleged seizure of French goods by Capt. David Kirke 1630,44 causes in Chancery 1631, execute poor laws 1631-2.45

Freeman, London 1583, Poole, Dorset 1591, Southampton, Hants 1593;46 j.p. Mdx. 1592, Surr. 1596-d., Mdx. by 1601, Lincs. (Kesteven) by 1608-?d., Herts. by 1614-d. (custos rot. by 1614-19), Westminster 1619-d.;47 commr. piracy, Dorset 1601-at least 1605, S. Wales 1602, Norf. 1602-at least 1604, Cumb. and Dur. 1603, Devon 1603, Southampton 1603, Cornw. 1604-at least 1606, Suff. 1604, Northumb. 1604,48 London, Mdx., Essex, Kent, Sur. 1606-at least 1619,49 gaol delivery, London 1601-at least 1619,50 oyer and terminer, London 1601-at least 1620,51 Mdx. 1601-at least 1620,52 the Verge 1604-27,53 assurances, London 1602-6,54 sewers, London 1606-at least 1618, Mdx. 1619, Surr. 1632, Westminster 1634,55 determine the limits of the Tower 1608,56 subsidy, Mdx. 1608, 1621-2, 1624, London 1608, 1622, 1624, Lincs. (Kesteven) 1608,57 new buildings, London 1608;58 high steward, Maldon, Essex 1610-36;59 commr. annoyances, Mdx. 1613;60 master, Queen Elizabeth’s Coll., Greenwich, Kent 1614-d.;61 commr. survey, L. Inn Fields 1618,62 swans, Herts., Essex, Mdx. 1619,63 Forced Loan, Mdx. 1626-7, London, Surr., and Herts. 1627.64

Freeman, Goldsmiths’ Co. 1583;65 member, Mineral and Battery Works Co. 1583, asst. 1584-6, gov. (jt.) 1593;66 member, French Co. 1612;67 commr. govt. of Virg. 1624.68


Described by John Chamberlain as a man of ‘much confidence in his own sufficiency’,69 Caesar was the eldest son of a noted Italian physician who was naturalized in 1558. He probably received his early education in the household of William Cecil†, Lord Burghley. Conversant with both Latin and Greek, he trained as a civil lawyer, both in London and Paris, entering royal service in 1581. Assisted by his patrons, the Cecils, and their allies the Howards, he prospered under Elizabeth. In the mid-1580s he became the senior judge of the High Court of Admiralty, and in 1596 was made a master of Requests in ordinary. His treatise on the Court of Requests, written that same year in response to an attack on its jurisdiction, was published in 1597 and dedicated to Burghley.70 As master of St. Katherine’s hospital, a remunerative position which he held from 1596 until his death 40 years later, Caesar controlled a royal peculiar adjoining the Tower of London consisting of a chapel, hospital and several riverside properties and wharves. During his youth, Caesar held strong Protestant convictions, which he rediscovered in the 1620s.71

By 1603 Caesar had been head of the Admiralty Court for almost 19 years and was eager for further preferment. As a civilian, the highest legal office open to him was the mastership of the Rolls which, next to the lord keepership, was the most senior judicial position in Chancery. During the final years of Elizabeth’s reign the mastership was, in effect, vacant, since it was held by the lord keeper, Thomas Egerton I†, an unsatisfactory state of affairs which caused many suitors to complain. From at least September 1600 Caesar lobbied his patrons, (Sir) Robert Cecil† and Charles Howard†, 1st earl of Nottingham for the post, but Egerton refused to relinquish it as it afforded him a valuable source of patronage. Following James’s accession, Caesar hoped that Egerton would at last be dislodged to make way for him, as Cecil enjoyed high favour with the new monarch. However, although Egerton was indeed removed from the mastership in May 1603 he was replaced by one of James’s Scottish advisers, Edward Bruce, Lord Kinloss. This was a bitter blow, but to make matters worse Caesar was subsequently obliged to obtain a regrant of his mastership of St. Katherine’s Hospital at a cost of £661.72 His only consolation was to be granted a knighthood at the coronation.

After failing to secure the Rolls, Caesar became increasingly disenchanted with his duties in the Admiralty. Indeed, following an altercation with the Spanish ambassador in July 1605, he asked to be translated ‘from this troublesome office of Admiralty to a quieter’. Where possible, Caesar delegated his responsibilities, so that by 1604-5 approximately half of all the court’s business was handled by deputies. He now devoted more and more time to his duties as a master of Requests, of which he was the most senior.73 These not only brought him into regular contact with the new king, but also permitted him to serve directly under his patron, Cecil, who was exercising the duties of the lord privy seal. Nevertheless, Caesar’s frustration at missing the Rolls may have been so deep-seated that he contemplated abandoning his legal career, for in January 1605 it was rumoured that he was being considered for appointment as ambassador to Spain following the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.74 In the event, the vacancy was filled by Sir Charles Cornwallis*, and it was not until George Home, earl of Dunbar, resigned as chancellor of the Exchequer in April 1606 that the opportunity for further advancement arose. Caesar evidently hoped that Dunbar’s resignation would occasion a reshuffle of senior officeholders, and that he would consequently be offered a position more suited to his legal skills than the chancellorship. Indeed, for some while he ‘doubted how I should be disposed of, whither to the Court or the Chancery, or to the Exchequer’. The last of these possibilities he ‘wished least’ and therefore ‘endeavoured not to fit myself for it’. However, the anticipated reshuffle never occurred. Consequently, after being promised a cash payment of £1,000 and receiving an assurance that the office would be worth £200 a year, Caesar was reluctantly persuaded by Cecil, now 1st earl of Salisbury, and lord treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†) to assume the chancellorship and to resign both his judgeship and the mastership of Requests.75 This arrangement undoubtedly suited Salisbury very well, for as James’s first minister he fully expected to succeed the aged Dorset as lord treasurer. By placing Caesar in the second-most senior office in the Exchequer, Salisbury ensured that he would have a willing lieutenant to hand whenever he obtained the white staff for himself.

Caesar was formally sworn in as chancellor on 3 July 1606, and rapidly conducted an investigation of the royal finances. Alarmed by his findings, he advised Dorset to inform the king speedily ‘of the ill state, as I took it, of his receipt, and the inconveniences thereof, if present remedy were not given thereunto’. However, Dorset proved reluctant to act, and consequently, at a meeting with Dorset and Salisbury, held in February 1607, Caesar complained of the lord treasurer’s methods and forgetfulness. He feared that Dorset’s silence ‘might do the king great prejudice’ and cause awkward questions to be raised in Parliament about the royal finances, ‘into which harvest some have already thrust their sickles’.76 However, Dorset’s only response was to retreat to his Sussex estates, leaving Caesar to cope with the clamour of unpaid creditors and royal officials.77 Caesar was infuriated, and towards the end of 1606 he privately noted that he hoped the king, ‘our most wise, sacred and religious Pharoah’, would replace Dorset with ‘some religiously wise, irreproveably honest, uncorrupt, stout and chasteminded Joseph’.78

Caesar’s concern that Parliament would inevitably take a close interest in the king’s finances was entirely justified, but Caesar himself was not initially a Member of the Commons. Although returned to the last four Elizabethan Parliaments on the Howard interest, he had not secured a seat in 1604. However, early in July 1607 one of the burgess-ships for the city of Westminster fell vacant on the ennoblement of Sir Thomas Knyvett and Caesar was finally returned. The election may have proved little more than a formality, as Salisbury was the borough’s high steward. At around the time of his election - on 5 July - Caesar was appointed to the Privy Council. As chancellor of the Exchequer, he had not been automatically entitled to membership,79 but now that he would be sitting in the Commons it made sense to strengthen the slender team of councillors there. However, Caesar was unable to take his seat for another two-and-a-half years as the failure of the Union meant that the king proved reluctant to reconvene Parliament after it was prorogued on 4 July 1607.

At the beginning of 1608 Caesar learned that his eldest son, Julius, had been killed in a street brawl in Padua; three months later, dropsy claimed the life of his first-born child, Dorcas. Though undoubtedly saddened by these personal losses, Caesar is unlikely to have been as distressed by the death of lord treasurer Dorset on 19 April. Indeed, he was delighted that, after a brief interlude in which he himself conducted the routine business of the Exchequer, the king finally made Salisbury lord treasurer. Caesar saw in Salisbury the Joseph who would restore to health the royal finances, and to mark the beginning of the expected era of financial reform he kept a journal in which he recorded the daily activities of the new lord treasurer. Completed on 23 July, Caesar subsequently presented the diary to Salisbury, a sycophantic gesture which underlined the continuing client-patron relationship between the two men.80

Caesar’s faith in Salisbury’s ability to reverse the declining fortunes of the royal finances was as touching as it was misplaced. Despite strenuous efforts, Salisbury proved unable to prevent the king’s debts from mushrooming. Caesar was appalled, and after reviewing the royal finances in August 1609 he commented: ‘God be merciful to us’.81 Salisbury was equally dismayed at his failure to arrest the decline, and concluded that the only solution was to broker a financial settlement with Parliament, which accordingly reconvened in February 1610. Since his peerage kept him in the Upper House, Salisbury naturally looked to Caesar to help persuade the Commons to loosen their purse-strings. In this difficult task the chancellor could expect assistance from several other Members, including the solicitor-general, Sir Francis Bacon, and Caesar’s fellow Exchequer official and Member for Westminster, Sir Walter Cope.

No sooner had Caesar taken his seat than his difficulties began. At a conference between both Houses on 15 Feb., Salisbury announced that James would be willing to abolish several feudal incidents, most notably purveyance, in return for the payment of his debts and an increase in his annual income. As this offer was to be the main business of the session, Salisbury expected the Commons to let him know shortly whether it was prepared to enter into detailed negotiations. However, the following day those Members who were charged with relaying the contents of the lord treasurer’s speech to the Commons requested more time to prepare their report, which was therefore not delivered until the 17th. As the report took up most of the morning, and the next day was a Sunday, the House did not finally consider Salisbury’s proposals until the 19th, and then the debate proved so inconclusive that it had to be resumed the following afternoon. The slowness of these proceedings was, perhaps, unavoidable, but to Salisbury and the king the Commons’ behaviour looked suspiciously like the sort of foot-dragging which had characterized the debates surrounding the Union. Caesar undoubtedly shared their view, and midway through the debate on the afternoon of 20 Feb. he ‘spake in some earnest sort as if the king were not pleased with the delay, telling the committees in angry manner how great the king’s wants were, as if we regarded them not so as we should’. The immediate cause of Caesar’s anger, however, was not the Commons’ unhurried response to Salisbury’s offer but a suggestion made by the lawyer Thomas Wentworth. This was that, since the king was the author of his own financial difficulties, Parliament should either petition him to live of his own or pass a law requiring him to do so, as it had done under Richard II and Henry IV, for ‘to what purpose is it for us to draw a silver stream out of the country into the royal cistern if it shall daily run out thence by private cocks?’ Caesar must have realized deep down that it was extremely likely that any money voted by Parliament would indeed be mis-spent, but he was incensed at Wentworth’s comparison of the king with Richard II and Henry IV. The laws to which Wentworth had referred ‘were not fit for these times’, he declared, ‘for the first was made in the time of a dissolute and profuse prince who had no respect of his estate and was therefore deprived of his Crown and kingdom; and the other was an usurper, and therefore was willing to give contentment to his subjects with show of good laws’. However, he refused to be drawn into any discussion concerning the extent to which James was responsible for his own financial difficulties, and instead concentrated on the urgency of the situation. James’s charges, he announced, amounted to £1,400 a day, excluding the interest payable on his debts. Any Member who desired further details was invited to speak to him in private. He then declared that the king required a lump sum of £600,000 to settle his debts and an annual payment of £200,000 to prevent him from slipping into insolvency in future. These figures were new to the Commons as Salisbury had previously failed to signify the scale of the king’s demands, and therefore many Members assumed, probably correctly, that Caesar was speaking with the lord treasurer’s permission.82

Although the Commons now knew the size of sums demanded, it was still unsure what James was prepared to surrender in return. In particular, Members were unwilling to proceed until they learned whether James intended to allow them to discuss abolishing wardship. The following day, therefore, Caesar was dispatched to the Lords to request a conference. At this meeting, which took place on 24 Feb., Caesar was given the awkward task of speaking for the Commons. He began by asking the Lords, or rather Salisbury, to provide more details, for until now the king’s demands had been couched in general terms. In reply, Salisbury confirmed what Caesar had already told the Commons, that James demanded £600,000 by way of supply and £200,000 in annual support. Caesar then explained that the Commons could not answer immediately as they did not yet know what the king was prepared to surrender and because the sums demanded were so ‘transcendent’ and ‘the precedents very rare in that kind’. At this, Salisbury declared that the king was willing to surrender ten sources of income by way of ‘retribution’, including purveyance, but on the question of wardship he remained silent.83 Following this stilted exchange, Caesar, having discharged his duty as the Commons’ representative, spoke as Salisbury’s lieutenant. He explained that the royal debt now stood at £300,000, that James’s ordinary annual income was £46,000 less than his annual expenditure, and that the Navy was so decayed that the realm was ‘not in safety’. Accordingly, he urged his colleagues not to ‘suffer the king to be unprovided’.84

The outline of the proposed bargain was now in place, and was debated by the Commons on 28 February. However, many Members remained disappointed that Salisbury had not offered to abolish wardship and were unwilling to proceed any further unless they were permitted to widen the negotiations. This was not at all what the king wished to hear, and therefore Caesar, who only eight days earlier had chastised the House for failing to act swiftly, now attempted to postpone further discussion of the proposed Contract, acting as a teller in a division held for that purpose. However, he proved unsuccessful, and in the ensuing debate Sir Henry Montagu suggested that James should be told that, so far as supply was concerned, ‘we will think of it in due time’. Caesar was irritated by this motion, and urged the House to ‘give a plain, open, English answer that we purpose to give somewhat’. In the event, the Commons did not follow Montagu’s suggestion, as other Members, such as Sir William Maurice and Sir John Mallory, advised the House to signal that it was willing to give in principle. However, the next day the Lords were told that there would be no consideration of annual support until Members had heard from them regarding wardship. This message, which included a request for a further conference, is unlikely to have pleased Caesar, who was not only required to assist in its drafting but helped convey it to the Upper House. 85

At this conference, held later that day, Caesar once again acted as the Commons’ spokesman.86 Five days later, on 6 Mar., he was dispatched to the Lords to request another conference on wardship and the other feudal tenures, but the king remained unwilling to permit the Commons to discuss this subject. James’s indecision meant that, for the time being at least, Caesar was left with little to do in the Commons, although on 8 Mar. he announced that James was willing to permit it to interrogate Sir Stephen Proctor, and four days later he carried up to the Lords eight bills which had completed their passage through the Lower House.87 It was not until 13 Mar. that James at last agreed to allow the Commons to consider the abolition of feudal tenures as part of the Great Contract, and consequently Caesar was able to resume his earlier role in the negotiations. When Members discussed the abolition of feudal aids on 23 Mar., Caesar notified them of the amount raised in connection with the recent knighting of Prince Henry. As a result the Commons resolved that in future it would offer the king £25,000 every time he was entitled to levy a feudal aid. Three days later, Caesar was dispatched to the Lords to request a conference to consider this suggestion and also the House’s offer of £100, 000 p.a. in exchange for the abolition of feudal tenures.88

While the king and Salisbury pondered these offers, Caesar’s energies were directed elsewhere. On 27 Mar. he communicated to the king the House’s thanks regarding the recent Proclamation issued ordering the suppression of Dr. John Cowell’s legal dictionary, the Interpreter. The following day the House instructed him to obtain a copy of the grant relating to the imposition laid on Newcastle coal, which was complained of as a grievance.89 When the Commons resumed business after the Easter break, however, Caesar was left idle until 26 Apr., when he was again sent to the Lords to seek a conference on wardship. At the meeting later that day, Salisbury announced, to the dismay of the Commons, that the offer to compound for wardship alone was unacceptable. The next day Caesar was appointed to a committee to ‘consider of the report, and assign a reporter’.90 The House, through Caesar, now sought a further joint conference to explain why it wanted to proceed with wardship alone. Caesar himself can hardly have favoured his colleagues’ desire to limit the negotiations, but at this second conference, held on 4 May, it fell to him to explain that Members had not known how ‘so great and huge a sum’ as the £200,000 demanded annually by Salisbury could be raised.91 Salisbury was understandably displeased at this response, and for the time being negotiations ground to a halt. However, the government still hoped for a grant of subsidies, and on 8 May Caesar and several other Members were dispatched to the Upper House, where they were asked to vote supply worth around £200,000.92

Now that negotiations over the Great Contract were suspended, the Commons turned its attention to the king’s levying of impositions. James, however, was unprepared to reduce his income or allow his prerogative rights to be subjected to close scrutiny, and on 11 May the Commons was told to drop the subject as it had already been determined by the judgment in Bate’s Case (1606), which ‘could not be undone but by [writ of ] error’. Frustrated, several Members demanded to know how this message had been obtained as James was then out of town. The Speaker, Sir Edward Phelips, objected to this question but was forced to consult Caesar and two other government ministers who sat near the chair, and replied that he had received it ‘from the body of the Council’. This news triggered an angry reaction from the House, which now contemplated refusing to entertain any further messages unless they came directly from James himself. The king interpreted this to mean that Members were no longer willing to receive any messages from the Speaker, even those which emanated from him personally, and on 14 May he demanded clarification. Sir Robert Harley accordingly composed an answer, which was greeted ‘with a great and general liking’ by everyone except Caesar and the other government spokesmen, who offered their own alternatives. The House refused to hear them, however, but ‘cried vehemently and continually with a loud and long cry, "No, No, Sir Robert Harley’s, Sir Robert Harley’s", etc. and "To the question, to the question"’. A breakthrough was not achieved until 19 May, when Caesar and Henry Marten reported that James would not permit any discussion of impositions until a satisfactory resolution had been reached. Since it had been James’s refusal to allow impositions to be debated which had occasioned this quarrel, his apparent decision to allow discussion of these duties in exchange for a settlement paved the way for a resolution of the dispute. Noticing the transformed mood in the chamber, Caesar commented ‘that from God we could not have had a sweeter passage’. The House responded warmly to the message now proffered by Sir Walter Cope, which was communicated to James by Caesar, accompanied by his fellow privy councillors in the Commons. On 21 May Caesar reported that James was satisfied, and wished to address the Commons that afternoon at Whitehall ‘as a loving father to dear children’.93

The subsequent meeting proved profoundly disappointing to most Members. Instead of granting them free rein, James forbade any discussion of his legal right to impose, although he would permit consideration of any other matter relating to impositions. The next day a despondent House considered James’s response. Thomas Wentworth, for example, complained that James’s insistence that he was legally entitled to impose meant that the subject’s lands and goods lay at the mercy of the prince. Caesar, however, tried to persuade his colleagues to draw comfort from James’s words, and asserted that ‘there was never any thought in His Majesty, nor any of his counsel, that he might impose upon land’. Only goods imported or exported would be subject to impositions, he reassured them, as none of the king’s counsel had defended as lawful the impost of 12d. per chaldron of coal which had recently been complained of as a grievance. Consequently, Caesar urged his colleagues not to appoint a committee, not to usurp the role of the judges by disputing what the law said, and to ‘move nothing against the speech’. Few in the chamber were impressed by such arguments, however, and the following day the House, sitting as a grand committee, resolved to notify the king by petition that Members had always been permitted to debate any matter which concerned themselves. The drafting of this document was entrusted to a sub-committee whose members, somewhat mischievously, included the government’s chief spokesmen. Naturally, Caesar and his colleagues had no intention of helping to draft any such document, and hurriedly left the chamber.94 In the event, the petition, which was made ready the next morning (23 May), proved more helpful than Caesar and his fellow government spokesmen anticipated. It stated that if permission were granted to debate impositions, Members would find it easier to pass ‘cheerfully ... on to Your Majesty’s business, from which this stop hath by diversion so long withheld us’. This was a barely coded way of saying that if the king allowed impositions to be debated, consideration would again be given to the Great Contract, which had been set aside three weeks earlier. Caesar was now dispatched to sound out James, returning on 24 May to announce that the king would receive the petition later that morning.95

James was delighted that the Commons was now willing to reconsider the Great Contract, and when Caesar and the other Commons’ representatives arrived at Greenwich he admitted them to his Withdrawing Chamber for dinner, a mark of favour never accorded by Elizabeth to a deputation from the Lower House. After an ‘extraordinary entertainment’, James deplored the recent ‘mistakings amongst us’, and to prevent these in future he invited groups of ten or 12 Members to consult him informally from time to time. The next morning this offer was relayed to the Commons by Caesar, who also suggested that ‘some gentlemen’ of the House be appointed to identify a source of income to replace impositions in the event that James agreed to their abolition.96 The Commons declined to do this, but it correctly interpreted Caesar’s suggestion as a signal that it was now permitted to consider every aspect of impositions, for the next day, the 26 May, a search of the records began to ascertain their legality. At the same time, Salisbury, addressing representatives from both Houses, offered a revised bargain to settle the royal finances. The king would now surrender wardship and various other sources of income in return for £240,000 p.a. Salisbury suggested holding a further conference to thrash out the details, and asked the Commons to authorize its representative to negotiate on its behalf. His demand for a ‘free conference’ was echoed in the Commons by Caesar on 26 May, but as most Members were wary of allowing their representatives to conclude any agreement without their knowledge it was decided that the proposed conference should be confined to predetermined heads.97

At the same time that Caesar gave the Commons the green light to debate the legality of impositions, he also encouraged the House to seek redress regarding the lax enforcement of the penal laws. In doing so he took his cue from the king, for although James had previously shown considerable leniency towards recusants, for which he had been widely criticized, he had instructed Parliament on 21 Mar. to see that the penal laws were strictly enforced. On 25 May, during a debate on the alarming growth in the number of recusants, Caesar claimed that many young men were converted to Rome while in gaol, where they were seduced into popery by their fellow prisoners. He added that men and women alike were lured to the masses that were held in the houses of foreign ambassadors, and recommended that those who attended such gatherings should be severely punished. The following day he formed part of the small deputation sent to discover when a petition to execute the laws against recusants and priests might be presented. Caesar helped to present this petition on 28 May,98 which, together with a similar one drawn up by the Lords, persuaded James to publish a Proclamation on 2 June ‘for the due execution of all former laws against recusants’.

Following the short Whitsun break, the Commons returned to the Great Contract. On 1 June Caesar, referring to the debate on 26 May, asked his colleagues which heads they wished to consider at the conference requested by Salisbury.99 Over the next ten days, however, Caesar faded into the background as the Commons debated whether the country could afford to pay £240,000 each year by way of support. He re-emerged on 11 June, when he read aloud the Oath of Allegiance that all officeholders were required to take and was dispatched to the Lords with three bills which had passed the Commons.100 That same day, Salisbury acknowledged Members’ concerns about committing their constituents to the payment of permanent annual taxation, and suggested that they consult their constituents during the summer recess. When they returned to Westminster, he supposed, they would be able to conclude the bargain over support, at which time the king would consider their grievances. In the meantime, he advised the Commons to concentrate on voting supply. Many Members, however, resented the implication that redress of grievances was dependent on satisfying the king’s demand for support, and on 13 June it became clear that the House would not consider supply until it had first received a reply to its petition of grievances. Once again, it fell to Caesar to try to retrieve the situation. He announced that he had been ‘commanded by His Majesty to signify unto them that he was willing to receive their grievances presently’, and declared formally that James was prepared to allow the legality of impositions to be discussed. In return, however, Caesar expected the House to vote two subsidies and four fifteenths immediately, ‘whereby His Majesty might be the better encouraged to extend his grace and favour towards us’. Indeed, a vote that day might well result in the issue of a general pardon ‘larger than we did expect’ rather than the dissolution which many feared. However, most Members were unwilling to be hurried, if only because it was now well past dinner, and therefore further discussion was deferred until the following morning.101 When the House reassembled the next day Caesar announced a further concession: James now promised to answer satisfactorily all the Commons’ grievances before the summer recess, when he would also declare his minimum terms.102 However, the House continued to resist the demand for an immediate vote of subsidies, and turned instead to its grievances, and in particular impositions.

Caesar took no part in the mammoth debate on impositions, which began on 23 June and ended on 3 July, or in the inquiry which preceded it, although he was in the chamber for much of that period. On 16 June he endeavoured to resolve a quarrel between Sir John Leveson and Sir Francis Hastings. Two days later he was dispatched to the Lords to discover the lowest price the king would accept for the surrender of wardship and the other feudal tenures, as the message he had delivered to the Commons on 14 June had strongly implied that James would be prepared to settle for less than £240,000 p.a. On 20 June Caesar was handed several packets of documents which had been left anonymously at the door and instructed to deliver them to Salisbury. Three days later, he and two other close associates of the lord treasurer, Sir Walter Cope and Edward Forsett, were named to the committee for the bill to establish Britain’s Bourse at Durham House, a measure introduced in the Upper House by Salisbury.103

After the Commons had finished debating impositions it appointed a committee to draft a petition detailing its grievances, to which Caesar himself was named (3 July). At the committee, which met that afternoon, Caesar repeated that compensation would be needed if impositions were abolished, but as many wondered how to raise the annual support which James demanded his advice not surprisingly went unheeded.104 On 6 July Caesar was sent to discover when the petition, which was now ready, should be presented. James received it the next day from a deputation which included Caesar and his fellow privy councillors.105 The petition dealt with only the House’s most pressing grievances. There were many other complaints, but these were kept on file so that bills could be framed to deal with them if time permitted. One such grievance concerned the excessive fees incurred by sheriffs in passing their accounts at the Exchequer. As chancellor of the Exchequer, Caesar promised that fees would be kept at the level specified in a note which he presented to the House on 10 July. He was subsequently appointed to a small committee to consider the matter further. At the same time he brought a message from the king regarding another grievance omitted from the petition, the begging of an offender’s lands and goods before he had been convicted. James, he announced, detested suits of that nature, and promised to grant no more in future.106

Now that the Commons had presented its grievances, Caesar returned to supply. On 11 July he reminded the House that it had been sitting for six months, and that as the plague season had now arrived time was running out to vote subsidies. His speech had the effect of galvanizing the House into belated action, although many Members were reluctant to offer more than a token sum since James had not yet responded to their grievances. Caesar was clearly disappointed, and drew attention to the declining yield of the subsidy in the hope of inducing a more generous response, but as the Commons remained unprepared to offer more than a single subsidy Caesar attempted to obtain a grant of fifteenths as well. Following a division in which Caesar, who told for the yeas, carried the vote by 15 votes, the House thereby agreed to provide one fifteenth, worth just £29,000. However, this small triumph was soured when Caesar, seeking to obtain a second fifteenth, was narrowly defeated in a further division.107

Although the Commons had now agreed to vote subsidies, the matter of annual support remained. On 26 June James had agreed to drop his price from £240,000 to £220,000, but the Commons regarded this sum as still too high, and on 13 July it resolved to offer just £180,000. The next day Caesar attempted to persuade it to increase its bid by revealing ‘certain demands’ made by the officers of the Greencloth, who stood to lose out if purveyance were abolished and required compensation accordingly, but the Commons stuck to its guns, and on 16 July it formally offered £180,000.108 Salisbury responded on the 17th by announcing that James would compromise and accept £200,000. Caesar praised this as ‘a divine, a sacred offer’, and urged his colleagues to accept it or suffer the condemnation of future generations. The following day he was sent to the Lords to signify that the Commons agreed to the revised price and to request a further conference to discuss how to raise the money.109 He subsequently helped prepare for this conference, which was held on the 19th, and for another, which the House sought on the 21st.110

Throughout the session Caesar had so concentrated on pursuing the king’s financial needs that he paid little attention to legislative business. However, as a privy councillor he was named on 21 Mar. to consider the woods preservation bill, which the king had commended the previous day. It was also as a councillor that he was appointed, on 14 July, to consider the bill proposed by his fellow government spokesman Sir Walter Cope to prevent the introduction of further impositions without Parliament’s consent.111 Only a handful of committee nominations regarding private legislation came Caesar’s way. These concerned Britain’s Bourse (already mentioned), the impoverished Nottinghamshire gentleman (Sir) John Byron† (21 May), a castle belonging to the earl of Oxford (22 June), the erection of a free school in Essex by Thomas Sutton (29 June) and the farm of Damersham (4 July).112 Caesar was also named to a few non-legislative committees. These concerned the establishing of the religious views of Sir John Davies* (18 May), the grievances of the House (26 June), and William Uvedale, who claimed that he could prove that arrested Catholic priests had been released in return for money (5 July). On 4 July Caesar was named to attend the joint conference on justice in the north.113

Following the prorogation, Caesar wrote a paper on the Great Contract. Almost certainly intended for Salisbury, and bearing the date 17 Aug. 1610, it took the form of an imaginary dialogue. In it Caesar expressed a very different view from the one he had uttered in the Commons only a month earlier, when he had exhorted Members to accept the king’s price of £200,000 or else be cursed by posterity. Here he argued that the proposed level of support would ultimately prove insufficient. Inflation would inevitably eat away at the value of a fixed sum, whereas the king might increase his annual income if he maintained his prerogative rights intact. Once the king had surrendered his prerogative rights, which were worth £115,000 p.a., he would be left with a profit of just £85,000, and when the interest payable on James’s debts was subtracted the residue would amount to a mere £25,000. If James later fell into debt, it was extremely unlikely that Parliament would come to his aid again, as the Contract was intended to avoid the need for further peacetime grants of subsidies and fifteenths. Moreover, if the bargain regarding annual support was unsatisfactory the amount of supply voted was derisory. James had demanded £600,000 to settle his debts, to which the Commons had responded by voting one subsidy and one fifteenth. This grant was worth around £110,000, but as the king’s debts had risen since the Parliament began by precisely this amount James was no better off than he had been in January. In Caesar’s view, the Commons’ refusal to grant more left the king with little choice but to retrench his finances, and he accordingly identified savings which would both eliminate the annual deficit and pay off the entire debt. These included the extraordinary suggestion that the king should dramatically reduce his purchase of ordnance and gunpowder, for as Fortescue had stated in the fifteenth century, if the Commons refused to contribute towards the costs of defence the king could hardly be expected to meet them himself. The remaining sum could be raised by selling long term leases of Crown property, enforcing fines for depopulation, reclaiming land from the sea and adding escheated estates to the royal demesne. Although Caesar exaggerated the amount that could be saved by debt reduction and thought that James was now cured of his propensity to over-spend, his belief that prerogative revenues could be greatly expanded was to be borne out during the Personal Rule of the 1630s. Caesar’s principal objection to the Contract, however, was that it was essentially dishonourable, for ‘there is nothing more disagreeable to the honour of a king than to sell the ancient prerogatives of his Crown for any money’. It would also alter the relationship between the king and his subjects, as the sovereign’s influence over the daily affairs of his people, which inevitable arose from feudal revenue-raising, would be so diminished as to engender ‘a general contempt of the king’, who would be seen as impotent and irrelevant. Indeed, Caesar feared that the Contract was ‘a ready passage to a democracy which is the deadliest enemy of a monarchy’.114

How far Caesar really held the views expressed within his paper is unclear. In later years he would tell the Council that the only way to solve the king’s financial problems was through Parliament, yet here he laid out an alternative solution. It may be, then, that Caesar’s purpose in writing was not to undermine the Contract but to act as devil’s advocate, forcing Salisbury to reconsider the project he had set in motion. How far he succeeded in doing so is unclear, but there is no evidence that Caesar’s paper undermined the determination of James or Salisbury to pursue the Contract when Parliament reconvened in mid-October.115 The reluctance to deal further came instead from the Commons. On 31 Oct. Caesar summoned Members to Whitehall, where James rebuked them for their dilatoriness and demanded to know whether they intended to proceed. However, the Commons remained evasive. Duncombe, for instance, argued on 2 Nov. that no answer could be given until Members had examined the response to their grievances. Caesar, on the other hand, urged his colleagues to deal plainly with the king, whose financial needs were pressing. If they wished to terminate the negotiations they should say so, but they ought not to find new causes for delay. The next day he pointed out that James’s debts had increased rather than diminished since the negotiations had begun. He also observed that the Contract remained incomplete, as the agreement reached on 17 July had only extended to annual support; the issue of supply had not yet been properly addressed, as the subsidies previously voted had only been sufficient to cover the increase in the king’s debt since the Parliament began. James required both support and supply, ‘for if we relieve the one and leave the debts he is undone; if we pay the debts and not relieve his supply, the debt must again increase’. He accordingly urged the House to offer further supply, although he did not yet require Members to specify a precise sum. By 6 Nov. the king had still not received an answer, however, and therefore James sent the Commons a final message. He declared that he required £200,000 in support and £500,000 by way of supply in addition to the £110,000 already voted. The following day an appalled Commons resolved to terminate the negotiations, even though Caesar pointed out that Salisbury stood to gain nothing from the bargain, for as master of the Wards he would inevitably lose his job. A message was accordingly drafted on 9 Nov., in which the House declared that it could not proceed with the Contract ‘according to this Your Majesty’s declaration’. At the request of several Members, this wording was then altered to read ‘according to this Your Majesty’s last declaration delivered by our Speaker’. Caesar and the king’s law officers, among others, protested at this revised wording, as they feared it ‘might touch the king as if he had changed the bargain’.116

Caesar played little part in the remainder of the session. On 16 Nov. he handed the serjeant-at-arms a list of the names of 30 Members whom the king wished to see privately that afternoon at Whitehall. This last-ditch attempt to salvage something from the wreckage of the Great Contract provoked unrest, however, as Members were dismayed by the irregular manner of the summons, which had worrying implications for their privilege. When the serjeant revealed from whom he had received the list, Caesar was forced to explain, on 21 Nov., that he had acted upon a note he had himself received from the king requiring him to summon the 30 Members ‘as private men’.117 On the final day of the session Caesar, for the sake of order, urged the House to await the arrival of the Speaker before allowing the opening prayers to be read, but his impatient colleagues refused.118

Following the prorogation the king, angry that the Contract had been rejected, contemplated dissolving the Parliament. Caesar, however, in a paper drafted on 29 Dec., hoped that the assembly might eventually be recalled, ‘because the company present have most experience and have already debated the things’. If James was nevertheless determined to dissolve Parliament, he added, it should be done without offering any justification as this would ‘breedeth contempt in the inferior towards the superior’. Such contempt had already been shown at the private conference between James and the 30 Members on 16 Nov., and indeed ‘generally in the whole proceedings of the Parliament’. James was also advised not to announce another Parliament, as this would imply a dislike of the Members of the assembly he was dissolving, ‘who are held amongst the common people the best patriots that ever were’. Caesar’s advice was taken, for in the Proclamation announcing the dissolution issued two days later James gave no reasons for his decision.119

Caesar emerged with honour from the parliamentary sessions of 1610, for despite deep misgivings about the wisdom of pursuing the Great Contract he had done his utmost to sell it to the Commons. His patron, Salisbury, was undoubtedly grateful, and when in mid-January 1611 Lord Kinloss died the lord treasurer secured for Caesar the next reversion to the mastership of the Rolls, which now descended to Sir Edward Phelips, who had himself been granted a reversion in 1608.120 Shortly thereafter, in June 1611, Caesar purchased a seat in the lord treasurer’s native Hertfordshire from Salisbury’s elder brother, Thomas Cecil†, 1st earl of Exeter.121 That December, however, Salisbury fell ill, whereupon Caesar took over the day-to-day running of the Exchequer.122 This arrangement continued until shortly after Salisbury’s death on 24 May 1612.

Salisbury’s death occasioned a detailed examination of the royal finances by the Privy Council, which naturally turned for guidance to Caesar. On 31 May the chancellor laid before it a paper of advice, in which he announced that the king’s debts amounted to almost £500,000, and that the shortfall between annual income and annual expenditure stood at around £160,000. He was hopeful, but not certain, that the shortfall might be addressed by introducing economies or new projects, but he was sure that elimination of the debt ‘must be done by aid of Parliament’, and this meant that the Council should start to plan accordingly. Consequently, he advised that care would be needed to ensure the election of suitable knights and burgesses. He added that the Council ought to decide what to demand of the Commons and whether to offer any ‘retribution’ in return. Consideration should also be given to ‘the complaints of the last session, and how to satisfy them’. Finally, he advised using ‘in our consultation ... the advice of some besides ourselves, who are like to be principal members of that House’, an idea which may have been prompted by the offer made by Sir Henry Neville I* in July 1611 to manage a future Parliament for the king.123 However, James was reluctant to convene another Parliament, preferring instead to seek a solution to his financial difficulties in a marriage for Prince Henry, which he expected to yield a handsome dowry.

Caesar was named to the Treasury commission on 16 June 1612. The only commissioner appointed to the quorum,124 over the next 18 months he and his colleagues failed to raise income and lower spending sufficiently to avert the prospect of another Parliament. The chances of a Parliament instead hinged on the outcome of the marriage negotiations with France. In January 1614 James learned that the French had agreed to match Princess Christine, sister to Louis XIII, with the now heir-apparent, Prince Charles. Caesar was one of only four members of the Privy Council who favoured the proposed marriage, perhaps because he had developed strong attachments to France during his youth, when he studied Civil and Canon Law in Paris.125 The sudden outbreak of disorder in France, however, meant that the king had to abandon his hope of an immediate dowry and instead summon a Parliament.126 Caesar was naturally expected to play a part in this new assembly, and was elected senior knight of the shire for Middlesex. However, the role of steering the government’s main business through the Commons fell to the newly appointed secretary of state, Sir Ralph Winwood, who had never before served in Parliament, rather than the eminently better qualified Caesar.

If Caesar resented being accorded only a secondary role in the Commons, he disguised the fact. On the first day of the session he and Winwood escorted the Speaker, Ranulph Crewe, to the chair. Two days later, both men presented Crewe to the king.127 On 12 Apr. Caesar seconded Winwood’s demand for supply by underlining the parlous condition of the royal finances, which had left the country’s defences in a ruinous state, and himself besieged by hordes of unpaid creditors whose desperation made them ‘ready to pull off his gown’. Even if subsidies were voted immediately, he declared, it would be many months before money came in. As in 1610, he offered to disclose the details of the king’s debts to any Member who asked to see him privately. Two days later, on 14 Apr., Caesar accompanied Winwood to the Lords to signify that the Commons would confer with the Upper House that morning to discuss the Palatine marriage bill. He was subsequently named to the conference.128 However, thereafter Caesar largely withdrew from active involvement in the Commons, playing no further recorded part in proceedings until 20 May, when he was required to bring to the committee appointed to consider a bill regarding the passing of accounts by escheators a note of the fees payable to the officers of the Exchequer.129 Consequently, he neither supported Winwood during the ill-tempered debate on supply on 5 May, nor lifted a finger to defend his fellow privy councillor, Sir Thomas Parry, who was sequestered from the House on the 9th. His silence apparently lends support to the view that he was so jealous of Winwood that he proved disloyal to the very government of which he was a member.130 Certainly, there is no evidence of illness. On the contrary, he attended on 8 May the consecration of the chapel he had recently built in the Strand to commemorate his former patrons, the Cecils, and on 12 May he drew up a note on the state of the king’s debts.131 However, it may be that he kept away from the Commons for personal reasons, for on 23 May his wife of 18 years died.

Whatever the reason for his absence, by the end of May Caesar had resumed his former level of activity in the Commons. On 31 May he offered to stay process against anyone prosecuted for failing to pay off an old debt to the Crown after it was complained that a grace bill on the subject, intended to prevent such prosecutions, had not yet completed its passage.132 Three days later he spoke for the king after James threatened to dissolve Parliament unless Members immediately considered supply. He pointed out that a sudden dissolution was not inevitable, as it could be averted if the king’s financial demands were addressed. These, he declared, were entirely reasonable, for since the last Parliament James had implemented financial reforms: the annual deficit had been reduced by half, and spending in one area had been reduced from £30,000 to £8,000. Members should not be distracted by impositions, for as the law stood the king was entitled to raise them, and he repeated the fiction, favoured by Salisbury, that James had merely inherited these duties.133 The Commons, however, remained unmoved, and on 6 June Sir Edwin Sandys, in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a dissolution, offered a proposition ‘by which he thought to reconcile both the extremes, to preserve the liberty of the subject and satisfy the king’. Caesar responded by asking Sandys to pass this scheme to the king immediately. The following day he tried to persuade the House that it was perfectly possible to maintain its opposition to impositions while still voting supply, for as he correctly pointed out, in 1610 the Commons had voted one subsidy and one fifteenth after it had concluded that impositions were unlawful.134 However, his advice went unheeded and the Parliament was dissolved.

Following the dissolution the Treasury commission was wound up, and in September Sir Edward Phelips died, allowing Caesar to realize his longstanding ambition of becoming master of the Rolls. However, a panel of judges was appointed to assist him execute his duties, for despite having previous experience of working in Chancery it was feared that he was insufficiently acquainted with the Common Law. This was embarrassing, but worse was to come, for by transferring to the Rolls Caesar was moved to a position lower down the Council table than his successor as chancellor, Sir Fulke Greville*.135 Furthermore, although Caesar was initially hopeful that his new position would yield him a profit of about £2,350 in the first year alone, it actually produced only £2,200 during that time, and thereafter the value of his office seems to have declined.136

Like most of his colleagues on the Council, Caesar opposed William Hakewill’s* scheme of January 1615 to sell the king’s pardon, describing it as ‘not fit at this time’.137 Hakewill’s proposal would confirm the impression that James would call no more parliaments, whereas Caesar saw no means to solve the king’s financial difficulties without them, as he told his fellow councillors on 24 September.138 In April 1615 Caesar remarried, taking as his third wife the twice-widowed Anne Hungate, niece of the attorney-general, Sir Francis Bacon.139 Kinship with Bacon, however, scarcely proved beneficial, for in June 1616 Bacon, frustrated in his ambition of becoming lord keeper by the refusal of Ellesmere to relinquish the lord chancellorship, cast his eye instead on the Rolls. Assisted by his patron, the rising royal favourite Sir George Villiers, Bacon pressed Caesar to return to the Exchequer if Greville would surrender the chancellorship and accept a barony.140 However, Caesar clung to office, and must have been relieved when Bacon finally became lord keeper in March 1617. Following the fall of lord treasurer Suffolk in July 1618, Caesar again served as a treasury commissioner. A judge at Suffolk’s trial in November 1619, he concurred with the chief justice of Common Pleas, Sir Henry Hobart*, that the defendant should be fined £30,000.141

By 1620 the royal debt had risen to £900,000, and the Council was ordered to investigate how it might be reduced. As part of this exercise Caesar submitted a paper on 24 Jan. in which he concluded that, since the king could not subsist on his own, he must summon a Parliament.142 However, James steadfastly avoided doing so until November, when he reluctantly issued the necessary orders. Once again Caesar stood for the senior Middlesex county seat. Rejected by the voters on 7 Dec., he subsequently obtained the senior burgess-ship at Maldon, where he had been high steward since 1610 and in whose affairs he had taken a close interest. Caesar’s decision to stand was perhaps surprising, for in 1614 Sir James Whitelocke had questioned whether a master of the Rolls was entitled to sit in the Commons,143 and in 1585 a previous master, Sir Gilbert Gerard, had been forced to surrender his seat on being summoned to the Lords as a legal assistant. However, Caesar was doubtless aware that two of Gerard’s predecessors, Thomas Cromwell and Sir William Cordell, had both sat in the Commons.144 In the event, the Commons did not raise the matter of Caesar’s eligibility.

The opening of the 1621 Parliament coincided with the final part of Hilary law term. As master of the Rolls, Caesar had judicial responsibilities which must have kept him from the Commons at least some of the time, but he nevertheless managed to put in a modest appearance before term ended on 11 February. On 30 Jan. he helped administer the oath to his fellow Members, and on 5 Feb., the first full day of business, he heard Sir James Perrot demand to know how Members could discuss voting subsidies without also debating foreign policy. Caesar replied that it was unnecessary to ask for clarification as James had already granted them liberty to speak freely provided they spoke ‘dutifully and not to his dishonour’. However, he agreed with Perrot that consideration of supply and grievances should proceed in tandem, adding that as the invasion of the Upper Palatinate had created a consensus in favour of subsidies, it only remained to decide when money should be voted. Caesar himself favoured haste, ‘for if not speedy, will do no good’, and reassured Members that ‘the king hath more desire to reform grievances than we to supply him’. Four days later, on the 9th, Caesar declared that despite worries that many Members had not taken the oath he would not help to administer it again because he had no commission to do so. Caesar also attended the sub-committee for religion on 7 Feb., but this meeting took place in the afternoon, when the law courts were not sitting.145

In the two weeks following the end of the law term, Caesar contributed regularly to both morning and afternoon debates. When the House returned to the question of free speech on 12 Feb., he argued that the matter was effectively resolved, as the relevant petition drafted in committee had been generally disliked. If the House wished to proceed further he advised that it should investigate existing statutes, and if these were found to be inadequate he proposed that they should establish a committee to draft a bill. His suggestion was warmly received, and later that morning a committee was appointed.146 Two days later, on the 14th, he advised those colleagues concerned at the level of fees paid by those using the law courts to discover how far this problem stemmed from the creation of new offices. The following afternoon he returned to supply, arguing that the Commons should include within their grant two fifteenths, as two subsidies alone would be ‘too little for the present use’. The next day, the 16th, Caesar attended the grand committee for trade and suggested that the clothiers and staplers should be called in. On the 17th, during a debate on the jurisdictional dispute between Chancery and the Court of Wards, Caesar offered to act as honest broker, although his office scarcely made him impartial.147 Two days later, he announced that although no man was more opposed to the monopoly for licensing inns than himself, he did not wish the matter to be condemned as a grievance before the parties involved had been heard. The alehouse monopolist Sir Francis Michell formed the subject of another intervention, this time on 23 February. Many Members wanted Michell to be punished severely for his offences, but Caesar persuaded them to soften their line after informing them that Michell’s father was ‘a very reverend and religious gentleman’. Finally, on 26 Feb., Caesar expressed irritation at the amount of time spent on determining the validity of the Westminster election.148

Caesar played scarcely any recorded part in Commons’ business thereafter until the June adjournment. This silence must have owed something to his judicial responsibilities, as Easter term ran from 18 Apr. until 14 May. Nevertheless, he notably failed to defend the embattled Bacon, by now lord chancellor, which suggests that he had not yet forgiven Bacon’s earlier attempt to dislodge him from the Rolls. None of the charges directed against the lord chancellor affected Caesar directly, and though it was initially suspected that he may have had a hand in the irregular manner in which the fees payable by the Crown to the masters in Chancery had been authorized, he was exonerated by his old friend Sir Edward Coke on 27 April.149 The only occasion on which Caesar is known to have commented on the investigation into Bacon was on 19 Mar., when he advised the House to consult the Lords before deciding how many of their own Members to appoint to the commission of investigation. Apart from this brief intervention, Caesar made only one other recorded speech in March. His intervention concerned his son-in-law, Sir Henry Savile*, who had been unable to stand in the Yorkshire county election for lack of support. Caesar claimed that Savile had been wronged by Sir Thomas Savile (16 March). Caesar made no recorded speeches thereafter until 29 May, when he reported the words of the lord treasurer (Sir Henry Montagu*) at the joint conference that morning. Two days later he asked the House to give a first reading to a bill to confirm the conveyance of a manor in Hertfordshire involving Caesar’s eldest son, Sir Charles*. His colleagues obliged, but in return he was instructed to inform the masters in Chancery that the House condemned the privy seal authorizing their fees and required them to cease sitting as judges. The Caesar bill failed to proceed any further before the adjournment of 4 June.150

Following the fall of Bacon, Caesar was named to the commission for exercising the judicial powers of the lord chancellor, which was wound up on 1 July 1621. Shortly thereafter it was rumoured that he would be retiring for reasons of age and incapacity to make way for Buckingham’s client, (Sir) Robert Heath*. However, despite the offer of a barony, Caesar refused to do so, allegedly telling James that ‘he might as well take his life or his land as his office’, nor would he exchange places with Sir Lionel Cranfield*, the master of the Wards, as Buckingham proposed.151 His refusal to quit was a source of frustration, and not just to Buckingham and his ambitious clients, for since taking over the Rolls he had been condemned for his ‘want of law’.152

Parliament resumed sitting in November, but as it was near the end of the Michaelmas law term Caesar proved reluctant to set aside his legal business to attend. However, on 25 Nov., five days into the sitting, he was instructed by secretary of state Sir George Calvert to make an appearance, and ‘so to continue every day as long as this House sits, notwithstanding your term business, which may well give way to His Majesty’s service in the Parliament rather than be a hindrance there’.153 He seems to have complied with this instruction, for during the subsidy debate of 27 Nov. he urged his colleagues ‘not to make a question of giving’, but instead to appoint a committee to decide the sum to be voted. The following day he urged that the single subsidy agreed upon should be paid next February rather than in August, for if money was not forthcoming until the summer the troops for whom it was intended would be disbanded. When Sir George Chaworth objected that the gap could be bridged by taking up money from the City, Caesar replied that ‘we have not credit to borrow’.154

Caesar continued to attend the Commons following the end of the law term. On 30 Nov. he sought to delay discussion of the imposition on malt until after the petition of religion had passed and the king’s law officers and the officers of the Greencloth had been heard. Claiming to condemn impositions ‘as much as any’, he argued that the Brewers who paid the duty had entered into a ‘voluntary and free composition’. That same day he intervened after Thomas Fanshawe I argued that the bill to prevent the export of wool and fuller’s earth was defective because no court was appointed to enforce it. Caesar assured his colleagues that, so far as England and Wales were concerned, this was not the case, ‘for that which is done upon the sea must be tried by the Admiralty Court’, although the bill did indeed fail to specify where offenders who exported from Ireland were to be tried.155 On 7 Dec. he moved that copies of the king’s letter of 3 Dec. rebuking the Commons for debating the marriage of his son as well as copies of the House’s reply of 6 Dec. should not be handed to any non-Member, a suggestion which Noye wished had been made sooner as the damage had already been done.156 Five days later, on 12 Dec., after the king ordered a recalcitrant House to continue with its legislative business, Caesar urged his colleagues not to ‘hinder the carrying down of bills which we have so desired’. Among the measures which had not yet completed their Commons’ passage was the land bill concerning Caesar’s son, which had been committed to Caesar and others on 1 December. His final recorded intervention came on 13 Dec., when he suggested that Lepton and Goldsmith, who had threatened to file a suit in Star Chamber against Sir Edward Coke, should be charged separately.157

In November 1622 Caesar was instructed to assist lord keeper Williams and (Sir) John Suckling* in treating with the creditors of the fallen Bacon. By then, perhaps, the rift between himself and Bacon had healed, for in 1625 the former lord chancellor not only appointed Caesar one of the supervisors of his will but described him as ‘my good friend and near ally’.158 Following the summons of another Parliament in 1624, Caesar once again sought a seat. He was accordingly nominated for St. Ives by the duchy of Cornwall and wrote on his own behalf to Maldon, which had returned him to the previous Parliament.159 However, neither constituency would accept him, and consequently he was prevented from steering through the Commons a bill which would have enabled the master of the Rolls to lease out various properties in Chancery Lane and Fetter Lane. Committed on 22 Mar., this measure was opposed by various local residents who claimed an interest, and as a result it proceeded no further.160 Caesar tried to obtain a Commons seat again in 1625, but his request to the bailiffs of Maldon was politely declined.161 He did not renew his approach in 1626 and 1628, but instead apparently attended the Lords as a legal assistant.162

Although his Commons’ career was now over, Caesar was something of an elder statesman as he was now the longest-serving member of the Privy Council apart from the earls of Suffolk and Pembroke. Consequently, in October 1625 the new king, Charles I, turned to him for advice on conciliar practice and procedure. On 13 Sept. 1626 Caesar attended the crucial Council meeting at which it was decided to raise the Forced Loan, but his notes of the discussions have been mistaken by his most recent biographer as a paper of advice drawn up for the king.163 Caesar himself served as a Loan commissioner for Middesex, and in August 1628 he and the chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Edward Barrett*) were made jointly responsible for prize goods. He also contributed £200 towards a loan made by members of the nobility and Council to the king in November 1628, and was repaid two months later.164 However, his active life was drawing to a close, and on 18 Nov. 1629 he attended his last Council meeting, although he helped approve the Book of Orders in 1631.165 The following month he made his final entry in the commonplace book he had begun more than half a century earlier. This extraordinary volume, which extends to more than 600 folios, is written mainly in Latin and interspersed with passages in Greek and English. The aphorisms of classical authors pepper its pages, as do biblical allusions and Caesar’s own homespun wisdom, such as the following homily on pride:

He that can neither like Aristotle in logic and philosophy nor Tully in rhetoric and eloquence will from these steps likely enough presume by like pride to mount higher to the misliking of great matters; that is, either in religion to have a dissentious head, or else in the commonwealth to have a factious heart: as I once knew a student in Cambridge, who for a singularity began first to dissent in the schools from Aristotle, and soon after became a perverse Arian against Christ and all true religion ...166

Caesar spent his final years at the Rolls and at his house in Hackney. A sense of impending death, occasioned by the demise of his old friend and near contemporary Sir Edward Coke, caused him to pen a brief autobiographical memoir in 1634, which now survives only as a copy and in extract form.167 The same eye to posterity may explain why he sat for a last portrait in February or March 1634 at the age of 76. The resultant half-length line engraving, by Renold Elstracke, depicts Caesar in his legal robes and holding a walking stick.168

Caesar drew up his will on 27 Feb. 1636, in which he asked to be buried in the family vault in the parish church of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate. He further instructed that his body was to be interred ‘whole and unopened’ and, if possible, on the evening of his death. He made no mention of his widely scattered lands, as he had settled them beforehand. However, he instructed that his extensive library, including 42 titles in Italian on subjects as diverse as agriculture and architecture, was to be divided between his eldest two surviving sons. Provision was also made for a total of £95 in charitable bequests, a significant sum which accords well with Caesar’s reputation for great generosity. He died on 10 Apr. 1636, and was buried eight days later at St. Helen’s.169 A plain marble monument, costing £110 and built by Nicholas Stone, was erected by his widow. It bears an inscription in the form of an enrolled deed.170 Caesar was succeeded by his third but eldest surviving son, Sir Charles, who had already followed him into Parliament. A full-length portrait of Caesar, in oils and painted in 1597 by an unknown artist, hangs at Rousham House, in Oxfordshire.171

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Andrew Thrush


E.N. Montague and W.A. Turner, ‘Residence of Sir Julius Caesar Adelmare in Mitcham’, Surr. Arch. Colls. lxvii. 85-93.

  • 1. C142/171/75.
  • 2. Vis. Herts. (Harl. Soc. xxii), 133, 156.
  • 3. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 109.
  • 4. L.M. Hill, Bench and Bureaucracy: The Public Career of Sir Julius Caesar, 7.
  • 5. C. Jamison, Hist. of Royal Hosp. of St. Katharine by the Tower, 82.
  • 6. Hill, Bench, 12-14, 16.
  • 7. C33/67, f. 613; 33/77, f. 4. He vacated the ordinary mastership sometime bet. c.June 1589 and May 1592: cf. SP12/724/91; R. Robinson, ‘Briefe Collection of the Queenes ... Courtes of Recordes’ ed. R.L. Rickard Cam. Misc. xx (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lxxxiii), 11. (We are grateful to John Sainty for these refs.).
  • 8. PRO 30/26/8, ff. 37v, 162; B.P. Levack, Civil Lawyers in Eng. 216.
  • 9. CITR, i. 372, 392, 398, 408.
  • 10. Hill, Bench, 25, 69; E403/1703, unfol., payment of 10 July 1606 (we are grateful to John Sainty for this ref.).
  • 11. Hill, Bench, 9, 272; T. Rymer, Foedera, vii. pt. 2, p. 14.
  • 12. HMC Hatfield, iv. 53.
  • 13. Rymer, vii. pt. 1, p. 117.
  • 14. Recusant Docs. from Ellesmere Mss ed. A.G. Petti (Cath. Rec. Soc. lx), 58-9; R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 347.
  • 15. C231/1, f. 61v.
  • 16. Rymer, vii. pt. 1, p. 210.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 13.
  • 18. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, p. 23.
  • 19. Lansd. 151, ff. 183v, 193v, 227.
  • 20. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. Soc. spec. ser. xviii), 39.
  • 21. Add. 11406, f. 199.
  • 22. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 432.
  • 23. C193/6/154-5.
  • 24. HMC Hatfield, xx. 131.
  • 25. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 424.
  • 26. CD 1621, vii. 352.
  • 27. Ibid. 352-4; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 32.
  • 28. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 22.
  • 29. G. Aylmer, King’s Servants, 186-7.
  • 30. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, p. 169.
  • 31. Lansd. 151, f. 217.
  • 32. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 67, 189.
  • 33. E214/1215; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 560.
  • 34. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, pp. 184-6.
  • 35. C181/2, f. 171v.
  • 36. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 469.
  • 37. CRES 40/18, f. 12.
  • 38. APC, 1629-30, p. 265.
  • 39. Rymer, vii. pt. 2, pp. 209-10.
  • 40. CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 534.
  • 41. CD 1621, vii. 456.
  • 42. Hill, Bench, 205.
  • 43. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 385.
  • 44. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, pp. 59, 74; pt. 2, p. 109; pt. 3, p. 79; CSP Dom. 1626, p. 481; 1627-8, pp. 54, 359; 1628-9, p. 407.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1629-31, pp. 474, 551; PC2/42, f. 54.
  • 46. Hill, Bench, 12; Dorset RO, DC/PL/B/1/1/1, f. 35; HMC 11th Rep. III, 21.
  • 47. C231/1, f. 13v; C66/1549, 1988; SP16/405; C193/13/1; C181/2, f. 331; HMC Hatfield, xxii. 86.
  • 48. C181/1, ff. 6, 12v, 21, 38v, 61v, 76v, 82v, 83v, 88v, 114, 129v.
  • 49. C181/2, ff. 12, 339.
  • 50. C181/1, f. 11v; 181/2, f. 344.
  • 51. C181/1, f. 11; 181/2, f. 351.
  • 52. C181/1, f. 13v; 181/2, f. 352.
  • 53. C181/1, f. 93v; 181/3, ff. 198v, 217.
  • 54. C181/1, f. 24; 181/2, f. 6.
  • 55. C181/1, f. 17v, 342v; 181/2, f. 347; 181/4, ff. 126, 191.
  • 56. C181/2, f. 70.
  • 57. SP14/13/1; C212/22/21, 23; Chamberlain Letters, ii. 395.
  • 58. CSP Dom. 1603-10, pp. 415, 418.
  • 59. W.J. Petchey, A Prospect of Maldon, 256.
  • 60. C181/2, f. 199.
  • 61. Hill, Bench, 203.
  • 62. Rymer, vii. pt. 3, p. 83.
  • 63. C181/2, f. 340v.
  • 64. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 435; Rymer, viii. pt. 2, pp. 142, 144.
  • 65. Hill, Bench, 12.
  • 66. BL, Loan 16 (i), ff.132, 135, 137.
  • 67. Select Charters of Trading Cos. ed. T.C. Carr (Selden Soc. xxviii), 64.
  • 68. Hill, Bench, 229.
  • 69. Chamberlain Letters, i. 556.
  • 70. L.M. Hill, Ancient State, Authoritie and Procs. of Ct. of Requests, pp. ix, xii, xiii, xliv, xlv.
  • 71. Hill, Bench, 240.
  • 72. Ibid. 238; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 32.
  • 73. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 296; Hill, Bench, 82-3, 87. Caesar became the senior master of Requests in May 1600: Cox, 292.
  • 74. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 46.
  • 75. Hill, Bench, 120.
  • 76. Ibid. 131, citing Kansas Univ. ms Q12/16.
  • 77. E. Lodge, Life of Sir Julius Caesar, 25-7.
  • 78. L.M. Hill, ‘Sir Julius Caesar’s Jnl.’, BIHR, xlv. 312.
  • 79. The Elizabethan Chancellor, Sir Walter Mildmay†, waited seven years before being admitted to the Council.
  • 80. Hill, ‘Caesar’s Jnl.’, 312-13.
  • 81. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 116.
  • 82. Parl. Debates, 1610 ed. S.R. Gardiner, 12; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 358-9.
  • 83. CJ, i. 398a; Parl. Debates, 1610, pp. 12-14; Procs. 1610, ii. 34.
  • 84. CJ, i. 401b. The Clerk recorded in error that ‘ordinary receipts £46,000 less than receipts’.
  • 85. CJ, i. 403a-b.
  • 86. Procs. 1610, ii. 39-40.
  • 87. CJ, i. 408a, 409b.
  • 88. ‘Paulet, 1610’, ff. 3, 4v; CJ, i. 414b.
  • 89. CJ, i. 415b, 416a.
  • 90. Ibid. 421b.
  • 91. Ibid. 424a; Procs. 1610, ii. 77, 80.
  • 92. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 9r-v.
  • 93. CJ, i. 427b, 428a, 429b, 430a; Procs. 1610, ii. 84, 90-1, 96-100, 368-9.
  • 94. CJ, i. 430b; Procs. 1610, ii. 107-10, 112.
  • 95. CJ, i. 431b-2a; ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 13v.
  • 96. CJ, i. 432b, 433a; Procs. 1610, ii. 114-16.
  • 97. CJ, i. 434a.
  • 98. Ibid. 433a-b.
  • 99. Ibid. 434b.
  • 100. Ibid. 436a-b.
  • 101. Parl. Debates, 1610, p. 56; Procs. 1610, ii. 142-3; CJ, i. 438a-b; T. Birch, Ct. and Times of Jas. I, i. 114-17.
  • 102. Procs. 1610, ii. 143-4; CJ, i. 438b.
  • 103. ‘Paulet 1610’, f. 16v; CJ, i. 442b, 443a.
  • 104. CJ, i. 445a; Procs. 1610, ii. 250.
  • 105. CJ, i. 446a, 447a.
  • 106. Ibid. 447b, 448a; Procs. 1610, ii. 382-3.
  • 107. CJ, i. 448a-b.
  • 108. Ibid. 449a-b; Procs. 1610, ii. 277.
  • 109. CJ, i. 451a.
  • 110. Ibid. 451b, 452a-3a. He was sent to request this 2nd meeting: Procs. 1610, ii. 292; CJ, i. 453b.
  • 111. CJ, i. 413b, 449b.
  • 112. Ibid. 430a, 442b, 444b, 445b.
  • 113. Ibid. 429b, 443b, 445b, 446b.
  • 114. Parl. Debates, 1610, pp. 163-79.
  • 115. Hill, Bench, 173-7; R. Lockyer, Early Stuarts (2nd edn.), 124; E.N. Lindquist, ‘The Great Contract: Parl. and Royal Finance in the Reign of Jas. I’ (Harvard Ph.D. thesis, 1984), p. 338.
  • 116. Procs. 1610, ii. 308, 316-17, 322, 393, 398.
  • 117. Ibid. ii. 337; Parl. Debates, 1610, p. 140.
  • 118. Procs. 1610, ii. 347.
  • 119. Ibid. ii. 348n; Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, 257-8. For the meeting between James and the 30 Members, see Winwood’s Memorials ed. E. Sawyer, iii. 235.
  • 120. Cox, 293; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 292.
  • 121. Lodge, 32; VCH Herts. iii. 274. Hill, Bench, 186, incorrectly states that he bought it from Sir Leonard Hyde.
  • 122. P. Croft, ‘The Catholic Gentry, the Earl of Salisbury and the Bts. of 1611’, Conformity and Orthodoxy in the English Church ed. P. Lake and M. Questier, 267.
  • 123. ‘Jnl. of Sir Roger Wilbraham’ ed. H. S. Scott Cam. Misc. X (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. iv), 107; Lansd. 165, ff. 211-12 (dated 1 June 1612).
  • 124. Chamberlain Letters, i. 358.
  • 125. Narrative of Spanish Marriage Treaty ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. ci), 112. The other three were Zouche, Fentoun and Lennox. Moir’s description of him as a part of the ‘Protestant faction’ on the Council is incorrect: T.L. Moir, Addled Parl. 25.
  • 126. A. Thrush, ‘The French Marriage and the Origins of the 1614 Parl.’, The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parl. ed. S. Clucas and R. Davies, 25-32.
  • 127. CJ, i. 455b; LJ, ii. 688b.
  • 128. CJ, i. 462a, 465a.
  • 129. Ibid. 490b.
  • 130. For this claim, see Moir, 59, 75, 92, 94, 167.
  • 131. Lansd. 165, f. 257.
  • 132. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 398.
  • 133. Ibid. 416, 422. For Salisbury’s deceptive claims about impositions, and the argument that they were actually novel, see P. Croft, ‘Fresh Light on Bate’s Case’, HJ, xxx. 524-6.
  • 134. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 431, 439.
  • 135. J.H. Baker, Legal Profession and Common Law, 223, n. 25; Chamberlain Letters, i. 556.
  • 136. Hill, Bench, 198, 207.
  • 137. HEHL, EL445.
  • 138. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, v. 199.
  • 139. Hill, Bench, 242.
  • 140. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 9; Hill, Bench, 215.
  • 141. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 86.
  • 142. Add. 34324, ff. 109, 115.
  • 143. CJ, i. 460a.
  • 144. For a more detailed discussion, see SURVEY.
  • 145. CJ, i. 509b-10a; CD 1621, ii. 22, 39-40, 46.
  • 146. CJ, i. 517b.
  • 147. CD 1621, ii. 88, 9; v. 504; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 44-5.
  • 148. CD 1621, iv. 94; vi. 253; CJ, i. 529a.
  • 149. CJ, i. 594a. For the friendship between Caesar and Coke, see Add. 12506, ff. 450, 460, 464; Add. 11406, f. 107.
  • 150. CJ, i. 557a, 631a-b, 632b; CD 1621, ii. 245; iv. 395; iii. 366.
  • 151. Chamberlain Letters, ii. 388, 392, 399; HMC De L’Isle and Dudley, v. 424-5; Fortescue Pprs. ed. S.R. Gardiner (Cam. Soc. n.s. i), 172.
  • 152. Diary of Sir Richard Hutton 1614-39 ed. W.R Prest (Selden Soc. suppl. ser. ix), 10; CSP Dom. 1623-5, pp. 207-8.
  • 153. Hill, Bench, 223, citing Add. 34324, f. 163.
  • 154. CJ, i. 649a; CD 1621, iii. 467, 470; vi. 209.
  • 155. CJ, i. 652b, 653b; CD 1621, ii. 479-80; vi. 216; Nicholas, ii. 257.
  • 156. CJ, i. 659b. For the king’s letter and the Commons’ response, see Nicholas, ii. 277-8, 289-93.
  • 157. CJ, i. 654a, 661b; CD 1621, ii. 416.
  • 158. Letters and Life of Francis Bacon, vii. 394, 545.
  • 159. DCO, ‘Prince Chas. in Spain’, f. 33v; Essex RO, D/B3/3/392/67.
  • 160. CJ, i. 744b, 756a; ‘Holland 1624’, i. f. 82v.
  • 161. Add. 12496, f. 106.
  • 162. Soc. Antiq., ms 26.
  • 163. Hill, Bench, 232-4. cf. R. Cust, ‘Chas. I, the Privy Council and the Forced Loan’, JBS, xxiv. 218.
  • 164. E403/2747, f. 165.
  • 165. APC, 1628-9, pp. 90, 178; Hill, Bench, 237.
  • 166. Add. 6038, f. 133.
  • 167. Add. 4160, ff. 18-23. This point has been overlooked by Hill, whose deductions about the memoir’s contents are therefore suspect: Hill, Bench, 238.
  • 168. Reproduced in Lodge, and Montague and Turner, 86. The inscription gives the date 1633 (1634 new style) and states that Caesar was 76. The portrait must date from sometime between 8 Feb. (Caesar’s birthday) and 25 Mar. (the start of the new year). Elstracke is not usually thought to have been active after 1625: Oxford DNB.
  • 169. Lodge, 34-5; Hill, Bench, 253-5; C54/2995/4; Ct. of Jas. I ed. G. Goodman, i. 71. For the inscription, see Montague and Turner, 85.
  • 170. W.L. Spiers, ‘Note-Bk. of Nicholas Stone’, Walpole Soc. vii. 74, 105.
  • 171. Dictionary of Brit. Portraiture ed. R. Ormond and M. Rogers, i. 19.