BACON, Sir Francis

An injunction signed by Sir Francis Bacon, "Fr. B. C.S", as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and granted in the Court of Chancery in the case of Henry Rosewell vs. William Every. n.p. 18 March, 14 James I [i.e.1617]

[London] n.p.. 18 March, 14 James I [i.e.1617].

One vellum sheet (210x332mm), twenty-one lines in Latin written in black ink in small gothic court hand. The capital "J" and the "b" of the first word "Jacobus" are decorated with elaborate strapwork. At the bottom right corner is the round wax seal of the Court of Chancery in amber wax pendant. On the verso is the endorsement "Per dominum custodem magni sigilli Anglia" below which, in a fine cursive hand, is Bacon's signature "Fr. B", followed by the initials "C.S." (Custos sigilli) denoting his office as Keeper of the Seal. Above this is written, in a later hand, "Stapleton". Housed in a later red morocco box lettered in gilt on the front. On the inside of the lid of the box is the label of the great collectors, Donald and Mary Hyde.
This document is among the earliest to be signed by Bacon as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal: he had been appointed only eleven days previously, succeeding Lord Ellesmere on 7th March 1617, after four years as King James's Attorney General. As Keeper of the Seal, Bacon also became, de facto, the Lord Chancellor although, in common with usual practice, several months passed before his appointment was formalised: he was raised to the peerage (as Baron Veralum) and appointed Lord Chancellor in January 1618. The Lord Chancellor sat alone as head of the Chancery Division with twelve Masters of the Court under him. The most senior of these was the Master of the Rolls. Bacon's Master of the Rolls was Sir Julius Caesar (who was related to Bacon by marriage) whose name appears at the end of this document. Sir Julius would have heard this case but a decision made by a Master of the Court was not binding or valid "until [it] had been presented to and approved by the Lord Keeper or Lord Chancellor". Bacon's stylish signature and the attachment of his seal on this beautifully preserved document mark that approval. Bacon was Lord Chancellor for only four years and so documents signed by him in this office are exceptionally scarce.
The names of the two litigants, Henry Rosewell and William Every are set out in the first and second lines of the document. The inscription "Stapleton" on the verso is the name of the manor in Somerset over which they were in dispute. Stapleton had been owned by the Rosewell family since Henry's grandfather William, Solicitor-General to Queen Elizabeth I, had purchased it, with other estates following the dissolution of the monasteries. Henry's father (also William) mortgaged Stapleton to a William Every to whose son the manor was sold by Henry's mother Ann when she was widowed. Henry, who trained as a lawyer but seems never to have practised, sought to reclaim Stapleton and embarked on a long-running dispute with the Every family. At one point (prior to the current document) he ended up in prison for what appears to be contempt of court. A year after the present document was approved by Bacon, the case was heard by him (now formally the Lord Chancellor) in the Court of Chancery (Rosewell v. Every, Ch. Ord., Lib. 1618a). The litigation ended in 1622 with Henry finally giving up his claim. A few years later, his name reappears as one of the initial grantees of the Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company although there is no evidence that he ever settled in the colony. Perhaps he had been scarred by his experience of trying to take land that didn't belong to him. Henry Rosewell was clearly a colourful character and his rackety claim against William Every must have given much amusement (and, of course, money) to the legal profession who were no doubt delighted to be pleading before the very greatest lawyer in the land.

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