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Honour and politics in early Stuart England: the case of Beaumont v. Hastings.

In December 1607 Sir Thomas Beaumont of Stoughton in Leicestershire brought a suit in Star Chamber against a former servant, John Coleman, and a neighbouring gentleman, Sir Henry Hastings of Braunston. He alleged that Coleman, aided and abetted by Hastings, had written down and spread around the county a series of defamatory statements about the sexual misconduct of Beaumont's wife and children, including the suggestion that Lady Beaumont had committed adultery with Coleman.(1) Although this became something of a cause celebre in Leicestershire, the basic themes of the case were similar to many others brought before Star Chamber. Sexual insults and challenges to personal honour were amongst the most common ingredients of contemporary litigation.

These topics have, of course, been investigated at some length by social historians drawing on the thousands of defamation cases presented before the local church courts. Martin Ingram, Jim Sharpe and Laura Gowing have done much to advance our understanding of popular notions of honour and constructions of gender.(2) Political historians, however, have been slower to appreciate their significance. Traditionally they have tended to separate the personal from the political and treat the latter in isolation. But this is changing with some of the more innovative work on early modern political culture. A range of historians working on women and politics - including Patricia Crawford, Barbara Harris and Rachel Weil - have demonstrated that the boundaries between "public" and "private" were permeable and contested. The influence which women customarily exercised within the household could carry important political implications, whilst they often took on significant roles in the disposal of patronage, the exercise of local authority and political and religious debate.(3) Similarly, studies of libellous verses by Alistair Bellany and Tom Cogswell have highlighted the links between the personal and the political, with allegations of sexual corruption serving to undermine the legitimacy of those exercising authority.(4) These insights suggest the need for political historians to integrate issues relating to sexual behaviour into their account of early modern political culture. One of the aims of this article is to demonstrate - through a detailed investigation of the Beaumont v. Hastings case - how this might be done.

Principally, however, this study is concerned with the other main ingredient of the case: notions of honour. Honour has been described by a modern anthropologist as providing "a nexus between the ideals of a society and their reproduction in the individual through his aspiration to personify them".(5) In the early modern period it could be taken to encompass everything from sexual reputation amongst the rural peasantry to ranking and precedence in the House of Lords. All had in common that they reflected the ways in which individuals were evaluated in the eyes of the societies to which they felt they belonged. Honour can be said to mediate between the aspirations of the individual and the judgement of society. It therefore provides a means of exploring the values and norms of a society, and also the ways in which individuals compete to sustain or increase their status and power within that society.

The most influential discussion of honour and politics in early modern England has been Mervyn James's Past and Present Supplement, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, 1485-1642. James's work is wide-ranging and allusive, and not easily summarized; but, broadly speaking, he has mapped out a pattern of change amongst the elite whereby a concept of honour associated with chivalry and lineage came to be overlaid by a concept linked to humanism, Protestantism and obedience to the crown. The virtues of wilfulness, steadfastness and assertiveness gave way to wisdom, temperance and godliness, as the ideal role for a gentleman changed from Christian knight to godly magistrate. Elsewhere James has described this as part of the shift from "lineage" to "civil" society, from a society structured around the affinities of great landed families to one based on association between the heads of patriarchal, nuclear families.(6) Changes in the concept of honour can be seen as occupying a central position in the nexus of values and assumptions within which the gentry made sense of and structured their experience; and any attempt to understand their political culture needs to take account of it. However, this presents a problem because political historians have been prone to conceive of honour in a sense which is misleadingly narrow and restricted.

Some of the difficulty lies in treating honour as a single concept changing over time, which is one of the ways in which James's work can be read. This risks obscuring the variety of different concepts which could coexist at any given moment. To take an example, James's discussion of the shift in the notion of honour in the late sixteenth century downgrades the importance attached to lineage, arguing that "the honour due to blood" was now seen "as the result of a powerful and obsessive social convention, rather than inherent in the natural order of things".(7) This is a legitimate reading of the humanist texts on which his discussion is largely based; however, it overlooks the wide range of heraldic and antiquarian writing which argued as forcefully as ever that true nobility was inextricably bound up with ancient lineage, both as a result of divine sanction and the innate desire of young noblemen to imitate the virtues of their ancestors.(8) The resonance of these ideas amongst the gentry as a whole was illustrated in their well-documented preoccupation with displaying their genealogy and heraldry - in increasingly elaborate coats of arms, in the window-glasses and decoration of their houses and on the funeral monuments which often provided their most enduring memorials.(9) Even a gentleman such as Sir Francis Hastings - the classic Puritan magistrate whom James cites as an example of someone pushing against the claims of lineage - decorated his house in Somerset with an elaborate cycle of heraldic glass illustrating the connections of his lineage, and presented himself, in certain contexts, as concerned above all to maintain the "honour" and "ancient credite" of the "whole house" of Hastings.(10) For many contemporaries blood and lineage remained fundamental to their understanding of honour, and this view could coexist with an emphasis on virtue and service to the crown. What this suggests, then, is the simultaneous existence of a variety of concepts, or discourses, of honour in early modern England.

This notion is strengthened when one takes account of the links between the "public" and the "private". James's account of honour focuses largely on its "public" aspects. He draws much of his evidence from educational treatises and conduct books or from the behaviour of individuals engaged in confrontations with the state. Of necessity this can only provide a partial view. As social historians and anthropologists have demonstrated, an individual's reputation within a society is the result of a complex amalgam of judgements and evaluations. These might relate to office and recognition by the ruler, but equally they can depend on such matters as hospitality, personal display, family integrity and sexual reputation. The "public" and the "private" are, and were, constantly intertwined, particularly in the early modern period when the family was routinely perceived as a microcosm of the commonwealth.(11) This broadens considerably the range of topics appropriate to a discussion of honour and politics, and again points up the need to look at how sexual metaphors and conventions, and issues relating to gender, helped to shape political culture.


Star Chamber cases, like that between Beaumont and Hastings, provide one of the most effective means of exploring concepts of honour amongst the elite. The court dealt not only with libel and defamation, but also with matters such as misconduct in office, duelling and the use of violence, all of which were central to the gentry's sense of honour.(12) As with other court records, where a really detailed set of evidence survives - with interrogatories and depositions as well as bill and answer - there is the opportunity to examine how a particular episode was perceived from a range of viewpoints and, through this, assess values and attitudes. However, this material needs to be approached with care.

As Natalie Davis and Laura Gowing have demonstrated, the statements made in early modern courts cannot simply be taken at face value: they are best approached as forms of story-telling. Just as narrative is used in everyday life to render experience comprehensible to others and to convey selective interpretations of behaviour, so it became an integral part of court proceedings, as those involved shaped the events in a case into their particular version and struggled to make this stick. To succeed in this, of course, stories had to be both plausible and acceptable. Much depended on the ways in which behaviour was represented. To be plausible it had to be shown as conforming broadly to patterns which were familiar from the stock of social knowledge through which contemporaries made sense of individual conduct; to be acceptable it had to be located amongst types of conduct which were considered "legitimate". In other words, there was an imperative on participants to represent their actions in ways which fitted in with contemporary values and assumptions. One has to make allowances for this, but at the same time it means that close attention to the stories told in early modern courts can reveal much about what these values and assumptions were.(13)

In Star Chamber cases the story-telling process involved not only plaintiff, defendant and witnesses, but also attornies, court clerks and other officials. The initial bill and answer were based on the detail and evidence provided by plaintiff and defendant, but were usually drawn up by attornies sensitive to the rhetoric and forms of justification likely to secure a favourable verdict. Thus, the court's well-documented concern with cases involving the use of force produced a plethora of bills alleging "riot", "assembly", "unlawful entry" and "assault".(14) Depositions, which appear to bring us closest to the original voices of the witnesses in a case, were also to a considerable extent shaped by others. Sometimes these were submitted in written form; but usually they were made orally and written down by a clerk. This introduced a series of adjustments and alterations, most of them designed to produce statements which accorded with the perspective of the court. Answers which had presumably been given in the first person were usually transposed into third-person speech; and often a clerk would simply repeat the terms of an interrogatory rather than giving the defendant's own words. The resulting texts were a combination of story and answer. Witnesses sought to recount a version of events from their perspective, whilst the court pressed for a response to particular interrogatories.(15)

For the present study the most significant implication of these processes was to limit the types of honour discussed in most Star Chamber cases. Unlike the local church courts, where the majority of litigants were members of the middling sort and, increasingly after 1600 (at least in defamation cases), women, Star Chamber litigation was largely a male and gentry preserve.(16) Of course, women and those below the gentry frequently appeared as witnesses. In the Beaumont v. Hastings case, of forty-one deponents nine were women and a further seventeen men below gentry rank, mainly household servants. However, their voices were generally filtered through processes controlled by litigants, lawyers and court officials, with interrogatories, in particular, imposing obvious constraints on the language used and the subjects discussed. As a result the concepts of honour revealed in Star Chamber relate mainly to male honour and honour amongst the elite; and in this respect the Beaumont v. Hastings case is fairly typical.


The story told in Beaumont's bill and interrogatories was of a disgruntled former servant conspiring with a malicious local gentleman to defame him and his family. It began on Monday 10 August 1607 when Beaumont dismissed John Coleman from his service after a quarrel in which it emerged that he had boasted to fellow servants of having cuckolded his master. Coleman immediately headed for Braunston, some five miles away, where he called on Sir Henry Hastings. Sir Henry was out hunting with another gentleman, George Catesby, but on his return he interviewed Coleman, who recounted a more elaborate version of his earlier boast. He implied that "carnall copulacon" had taken place when he was alone with his former mistress, Lady Katherine, under pretence of his relieving her of the stomach-swelling and fits known as "the mother", and also that he had been "over familiar" with Beaumont's daughters. Catesby later recalled that he was horrified at these claims and advised Hastings that Coleman was a "hollow harted fellowe" who should be "whipt home to his master's house". By this means he "should declare himself a noble gentleman and make Sir Thomas Beaumont, that was his adversary before, his kynde frend". Hastings, however, refused to do this. As Coleman had clearly known beforehand, and as Cateshy implied, he regarded Beaumont as a bitter enemy. So he got Coleman to write his story down and promised to take him into his service. He also secured an undertaking that at the next quarter sessions, where Beaumont sat as a J.P., Coleman would publish "all the infamous matter before menconed" and thereby make his former master "ashamed to sitt upon the bench".(17)

Having been presented with the opportunity for revenge, however, Hastings was loath to wait for the Michaelmas quarter sessions; so, according to Beaumont, he set a trap. A week later the leading local gentry and their ladies met in Leicester Forest with the earl of Huntingdon to enjoy some sport and celebrate his coming of age. Sir Henry primed Coleman to snub his former master in front of the gathering in the hope that Sir Thomas would retaliate, in which case Hastings's servants and retainers could apprehend him for causing an affray. Coleman was said to have duly played his part, "very proudly, facing and braving [Beaumont] dyvers tymes . . . with his hatt upon his head", and Sir Henry himself talked loudly about aspersions cast on him and his daughters by Coleman. Beaumont, however, was not to be provoked and turned the tables by appealing to higher authority in the form of two of Huntingdon's deputy lieutenants, who attempted to arrest Coleman for conduct liable to cause a breach of the peace. Sir Henry then retaliated by appealing to the earl to have Beaumont bound over. But neither side succeeded and the meeting broke up with no clear advantage.(18)

Hastings and Coleman, then, sought to continue their campaign by other means. Sir Henry was alleged to have shown Coleman's writings to various individuals, including his father, a senior member of the county bench; and Coleman was said to have tried to entrap Lady Beaumont into an admission of guilt by offering to leave the shire if she would write a letter on his behalf. Sir Thomas responded by securing a warrant from the sheriff to arrest Coleman at Hastings's house, but when the bailiff tried to execute this Sir Henry drove him off with threats of violence. One of Sir Thomas's servants then tried to settle the matter by challenging Coleman to a duel, but this was dismissed by Coleman as a crude attempt to have him murdered. The quarrel was showing every sign of escalating into a full-scale confrontation, perhaps involving bloodshed, when Hastings suddenly withdrew his support from Coleman and forced him to flee the county.(19)

This was too late, however, to appease Beaumont. Sir Henry's countenancing of Coleman gave him the ideal opportunity to strike back, and in December 1607 he commenced his Star Chamber suit. Hastings, Coleman and one of Hastings's servants were accused of libel for having "published, divulged and shewed" Coleman's allegations "to dyvers and sundry persons of great worth and estimacon, to the end and purpose to bringe your said subject into infamie, slander and disgrace". Commissioners were appointed from amongst the shire gentry and depositions were taken during the latter part of 1608 and the early months of 1609. Beaumont's case hinged on whether he could demonstrate that Hastings had actively encouraged Coleman to set down his allegations in writing and then conspired with him to publish these around the shire. Later evidence, and the fact that only Coleman was recorded as being punished, suggests that in this he was unsuccessful.(20) Nevertheless, as we shall see, he was still able to inflict considerable damage on his opponent and, in the process, vindicate himself against the worst of Coleman's charges.

The account given above was very much Sir Thomas's version of events. Some of it was corroborated by Hastings's friend George Catesby, and also by Coleman, who by the end of 1607 had been more or less abandoned by Sir Henry and seems to have decided to make a clean breast of things. Not surprisingly, however, Hastings had a rather different story. Not only did he resist any suggestion that he had encouraged Coleman or helped to publish his writings, but he also sought to set events in a longer perspective and demonstrate that his actions had been provoked by affronts to his honour and a campaign of persecution waged against him by Beaumont and others.

This had first become apparent, according to Sir Henry, in August 1605 when he was assessed to pay a parliamentary subsidy. Although there was nothing untoward in this, since he had recently gained full possession of his Braunston estate, Hastings interpreted it as an act of malice. On his own account, he told the assessors that "he knew them to be his enemyes and would doe him any hurte they would" and complained to his father, Walter Hastings, esq., who used his influence as a subsidy commissioner to have Sir Henry's name removed from the roll. However, one of the local yeomen, whose assessment had been raised to compensate, took offence and appealed to Beaumont who, with an alacrity which Hastings deemed very suspicious, summoned another meeting and persuaded the commissioners to stand by their original assessment. In Beaumont's testimony this episode was presented as an instance of Sir Henry's willingness to ride roughshod over legal procedures and bully those who crossed him; but for Hastings, it was a clear example of persecution by a commissioner abusing his office.(21)

Sir Thomas's role in this respect emerged more clearly in two incidents at the Leicester quarter sessions of Michaelmas 1606. In the first Hastings was bound over to keep the peace after assaulting and wounding two of his Braunston neighbours. What he could not stomach about this was the way in which, after the sessions, Coleman, acting as Beaumont's clerk, came to demand a fee for his recognizance, "in as base a manner as he could, as if . . . [he] had been a very mean man".(22) His discomfiture was increased when, under the terms of the new statute passed in 1606, he was indicted for recusancy. Although a long-standing Catholic, Hastings had never before been subjected to the full rigour of the law.(23) The presentment itself he regarded as a vindictive act on the part of the local churchwardens; but to make matters worse, once indicted he was forced to take the oath of supremacy, as if his loyalty to the king were in question. This, he alleged, was at the direct instigation of Beaumont and his allies, and when this humiliation was repeated at the following sessions he claimed that he was driven to expostulate in open court that "hee cared not for the worst that they could doe and that hee . . . would complayne to the kinge of them bycause he could not have justice at there hands in the matter aforesaid".(24) The insistence with which Hastings harped on the themes of malice and conspiracy suggests an outlook verging on paranoia; however, there was evidently some substance to his charges. He and his father did have enemies and they were being persecuted. Within Braunston they were involved in a series of disputes over depopulation in which their opponents were the same middle-ranking villagers who, Sir Henry alleged, were acting against him as subsidy assessors and churchwardens.(25) There was also a feud at county level in which Beaumont and Walter Hastings were principal antagonists.

This was the long-standing struggle between the Grey and Hastings families, which had flared up in 1604 when Lord Grey had attempted to deprive the fifth earl of Huntingdon of the offices of lord lieutenant and custos rotulorum. The feud divided the shire's governing elite of fifteen or so families into opposing factions. On one side was the young fifth earl, supported by his great-uncle Walter Hastings, and his kinsmen Sir Henry Hastings of the Abbey and Sir Henry Harrington, as well as the deputy lieutenants, Sir Thomas and William Cave, and senior justices, such as Sir Thomas Compton. On the other were Lord Grey and his son Sir John, with their main adherents Sir Thomas Beaumont, Beaumont's son-in-law Sir Wolstan Dixie, and his close friend Sir George Belgrave. The struggle, which continued until the deaths of Lord Grey and Beaumont in 1614, was fought out mainly over local administration and appointments to office.(26) But there was also a religious dimension, which became particularly apparent in the summer of 1607 when Huntingdon succeeded to his offices on coming of age and promptly installed Walter Hastings on the bench of justices. This was controversial because Walter had long been suspected of Catholic sympathies and his wife had been convicted for recusancy at the same quarter sessions as her son. For Huntingdon religion mattered less than the fact that Walter was his most trusted adviser and his promotion would reinforce family solidarity and the Hastingses' influence in the shire.(27) But his opponents saw things very differently. The Greys and Beaumont had established a local reputation as leading promoters of the Puritan cause, ready to stand up in defence of the preaching ministers threatened with deprivation in 1604 and harry Catholics in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot. Beaumont's treatment of Sir Henry at quarter sessions was consistent with the enthusiastic support that he had given as an M.P. to the new recusancy statute of 1606 designed to flush out church papists. It was predictable, therefore, that when he heard of Walter's preferment he immediately protested loudly that "he knew that could not be by lawe, his wyfe being a recusant, and that he knew it to be against the mynd of the parliament, and if he lyved to the next session it should be amended".(28) How far Beaumont's initial animosity towards Sir Henry and his father was inspired by hostility to Catholics is unclear. But there is no doubt that the religious issue provided him with considerable leverage against them; and at the same time gave them good reason to feel persecuted.

Alongside this it should also be recognized that complaints of persecution offered a rather effective defence. The privy councillors sitting in Star Chamber were very sensitive to the rivalries amongst local gentry and the vindictiveness that they could display, particularly when these involved abuse of the office of J.P.(29) Hastings's story had the merit of not only explaining the provocation which had caused him to act as he did, but also of suggesting that the whole suit against him was an attempt to destroy his "reputacon and creditt".(30) However, this should not be taken to imply that his version of events was mere legal rhetoric. His account contained some statements which might be thought to be counter-productive, going rather beyond the sort of evidence the court was likely to consider favourably. It was hardly politic, for example, to claim that the Braunston subsidy assessors were his enemies for what could be regarded as simply doing their duty, or to own up to publicly accusing Beaumont of high-handed conduct on the bench. Yet in each instance Sir Henry represented his actions as legitimate.(31) This brings us to the most intriguing aspect of this case, the way in which the narratives of the main participants and their supporters can be used to uncover attitudes to honour amongst the gentry.


The language of honour was an important element in the rhetoric employed by the leading participants throughout the proceedings, with frequent references to "reputacon and creditt", or the "stayne or blemishe" of dishonour. But this honour was described in differing ways. In Sir Thomas's account, a central theme was the types of honour associated with Christian humanism and public service. He placed considerable emphasis on education as the hallmark of a gentleman and a qualification for public office. One of the sparks in the quarrel leading to Coleman's dismissal was said to have been the servant's claim that he was as good a gentleman as his master because "his father had bestowd as much charge in . . . educacon"; and when Beaumont called on various local gentry to provide character references for him, they dwelt at length on the learning displayed in his household and the care he lavished on his children's education which, it was said, had "earned a good opinion of all the best sort in the country".(32)

Another aspect of honour highlighted in Sir Thomas's statements was service in office. The bill of complaint outlined his years of service as a J.P. and subsidy commissioner under Elizabeth and James, describing his efforts "to do unto your majesty and the country therein the best and faythfullest service; and have carryed himself in the said service uprightly and with that integritie as that his actions have not ministred any just matter of exception". This was again picked up by his character witnesses, several of them fellow J.P.s, who sought to vindicate him against any charge of "ill carriage, injustice, oppression or hard dealinge in his place as a justice of the peace".(33) It was, of course, an important part of Beaumont's case that he was an honest office-holder who had been unjustly vilified; but this rhetoric also conveyed a sense of the credit which could accrue from "service" to "your majesty and the country".

A third facet of honour referred to in connection with Sir Thomas was a reputation for godliness.(34) This emerges in a rather muted form because it was not directly relevant to the main issues, but it is visible none the less. Coleman showed an awareness of its implications when, in a letter which was transcribed as part of the evidence, he threatened "to murder [Beaumont's] reputation" by revealing the hypocrisy of his "greate showe of his devoted religion". A more neutral aspect can also be discerned in the character reference by his friend Sir George Belgrave, which stressed the credit Sir Thomas had gained amongst the gentry for his "religious, vertuous and most gracefull" guidance of his family.(35) The stories of Beaumont and his friends, then, highlighted some of the elements of honour which Mervyn James sees as novel in the sixteenth century: good education, godliness and service as a magistrate.

This fitted well with what we know of Sir Thomas's role in local politics. Although the scion of a leading Leicestershire family, he was a younger son who had forced his way into the front rank of local gentry largely by his own efforts. He had built up his wealth, partly through marriage, but also by energetic exploitation of his estates. In some quarters this had saddled him with an unsavoury reputation as an encloser.(36) But he had managed to compensate by presenting himself as the archetype of the conscientious "public man". Not only was he a staunch Calvinist and a diligent and hard-working justice, but on occasion, notably during the Commons debates on the Great Contract, he showed himself to be a forthright exponent of the subject's liberties.(37) Moreover, in his public speaking, he had developed the elaborate rhetorical style and extensive use of legal, biblical and classical allusion which contemporaries took to be the hallmark of a suitably learned member of the governing class.(38) This seems to have earned him the honour of delivering the jury charge at quarter sessions, and also helped secure the supreme local accolade of election as knight of the shire in 1604.(39) He could, then, legitimately aspire to "reputacon and creditt" within the honour code promoted by Christian humanists and Protestants; indeed, his local status largely depended on it.

For Hastings this was obviously much more difficult. He could hardly hope to secure a reputation for godliness, except in the rather limited circles of his fellow Catholics, and even here he was compromised. In 1623 his son Edmund, on entering the English College at Rome, was to describe him as a schismatic and time-server, alarmed by the persecution of the times, in contrast to his mother, who remained a faithful Catholic.(40) This hinted at the difficulties which church papists must have faced in vindicating their honour within the Catholic community and perhaps even within their own families. Sir Henry was also more or less disqualified from holding office under the crown, which closed off another avenue for advancing his credit. All this was reflected in the ways in which he discussed honour. He showed a more pronounced concern than Beaumont with lineage. On several occasions he referred to the affronts offered by Beaumont and others as attacks on "my house", by which he seems to have meant not only his father and himself, but also the Hastings clan as a whole. And in keeping with this he showed every expectation that the fifth earl would come to his aid against Sir Thomas.(41) This is not to imply that lineage did not matter to Beaumont. On other occasions he showed a marked concern with "good birth" and family pedigree.(42) Nevertheless the fact that in this context Hastings stressed his lineage, whereas Beaumont did not, is significant.

So too is the emphasis Sir Henry placed on loyalty to the king. Of course, it went largely without saying that Beaumont also saw such loyalty as an essential aspect of honour, but in the circumstances, particularly given his obvious Protestant zeal, he seems to have felt less need to trumpet the fact. For Hastings, however, loyalty was a prominent theme. His friend Edward Needham, the clerk of the peace, described how, when summoned before quarter sessions, he was careful to make it clear that his "not receaving the communion was not out of any contempt of his majesties lawes, but was forborne for some trouble he then founde in his owne minde". And once indicted, Hastings himself described how he had promised to go to church and receive communion in the future "to shewe his aledgeance to his majesties proceedings and to gyve satisfaction to his countrye publiquely". This was rejected, and to his intense chagrin he was forced to take the oath of allegiance; however, in his account of the Easter sessions, as we have seen, he was still harping on his loyalty and threatening to appeal to the king. Hastings's stance doubtless had something to do with the immediate suspicions arising out of the Gunpowder Plot. However, it was also characteristic of Catholic gentry more generally, who often sought to compensate for the doubts raised by their religion with particularly vigorous affirmations of loyalty to the monarch.(43)

Thus it should be apparent that the two main participants in this case laid stress on different concepts of honour, in part according to their differing circumstances. The contrast becomes still more apparent if we look at the ways in which their conduct of the quarrel was described. We have already seen that Hastings presented the whole affair as part of a malicious conspiracy directed against himself and his father. This was not due solely to the circumstances or requirements of his case; it also owed something to broader assumptions about honour and shame which Mervyn James and Lawrence Stone have seen as characteristic of early Tudor "lineage society", Keith Brown has identified in early modern Scotland and modern anthropologists have observed in Mediterranean societies structured around tight-knit family groups. These linked together a concern for the collective honour of one's lineage with a stress on wilfulness and assertiveness. The man of honour was seen as someone constantly on his mettle, responding to potential challenges to his reputation, or to that of his family, if necessary with the sanction of violence.(44)

Several aspects of this approach can be discerned in descriptions of Hastings's conduct. Not surprisingly, the most colourful of these were in the stories told by his opponents. It hardly helped Hastings's case that he was supposed to have threatened Beaumont's servants that "they should loose either their legges or armes before they went", or that he was said to have declared that "if it were not for feare of the lawes he would have the hart's blood of some of the justices of Leicestershire".(45) Hastings himself vigorously denied offering any such violent threats and made it clear that he respected the constraints imposed by the law; significantly, however, he did not renounce his right to take revenge. His constant harping on the malice and enmity of those who had crossed him made any retaliation on his part appear well justified; and his friend Needham described him as declaring that "if he could not be revenged on the said complainant but by publishing of those defamatory matters he would never be revenged whilst he lyved . . .". This implied, of course, that although certain methods of taking revenge were not legitimate, revenge itself was.(46) What was striking here was not so much the desire to exact revenge - one presumes that most gentry continued to harbour such feelings towards their enemies - but the readiness to declare it. As we shall see, this sort of conduct was coming to be regarded as out of place in some gentry circles; but it was an integral part of an honour code which stressed the need to respond to affronts with direct personal action.

Also significant were the circumstances in which Hastings was described as making threats. The most robust and direct of these were the ones he was alleged to have made against social inferiors, like the threat to "sett wildfyre" on the "tayle" of a sheriff's bailiff who came to arrest Coleman at his house.(47) Hastings, of course, denied having said this; but that he was not averse to using force against those of lower social status was indicated by his indictment for wounding the Braunston villagers. When it came to dealing with a fellow gentleman, however, he was much more circumspect. Even in statements by hostile witnesses there was no suggestion that he directly threatened Beaumont. Instead he was presented as needling and defying him with allegations of corruption and implied challenges to his honour.(48) A similar approach was described by Hastings himself when he recalled a warning that he had issued for Sir Thomas's servants to carry back to their master. He had heard, he said, that Beaumont had been suggesting:

that I ame in my owne howse a man verbissimus, full of words and brayings, and when I come abroade I dare performe nothinge but talk. If your master did use such speeches of me he was but a knave for he had no cause to saye so for he never made any tryall of me in that kynde . . . if he will brave his tryckes under board, I will have an eye unto him above board.(49)

One notes the veiled and qualified nature of the challenge; violence was implied rather than directly threatened, and then only if it was clear that Sir Thomas had delivered the first insult. All this was carefully calculated. Hastings was well aware that honour was only truly challenged in a direct confrontation between social equals, in which case the challenge could not be ignored and might result in a duel. Equally, to be seen to offer the initial provocation would put Hastings in the wrong, given the countervailing stress which, as we shall see, was placed on restraint and moderation. Sir Henry had to tread carefully: much more effective, therefore, to offer an ambiguous affront. If Beaumont responded, Sir Henry could disown any challenge and leave his adversary appearing touchy, quarrelsome and therefore ridiculous. On the other hand, if he ignored it he would be dishonoured by allowing Hastings to get away with his slight.(50)

All this was in keeping with Hastings's strategy in pursuing the quarrel. One of the keys to this was a widely shared sense of the potency of litigation. In some societies failure to respond vigorously to an affront, and readiness to shield behind the law and the authority of the king, have been interpreted as signs of weakness and cowardice. However, as Jim Sharpe has pointed out, this was generally not the case in early Stuart England. A lawsuit was regarded as an acceptable alternative to violence in defence of one's good name.(51) In this respect the role of Star Chamber was particularly significant, because it was uniquely fitted to adjudicate matters of gentry honour. Not only were the crimes it dealt with frequently concerned with "the defence of honour and honesty", but its judges were the foremost statesmen of the realm, the king's own privy councillors; and on occasion the king himself, the very "fountaine of honour", presided.(52) Moreover, the procedures it used regularly drew in a local audience. Interrogatories to witnesses were often administered locally, by senior gentry; and the sentence could involve the guilty party making a public apology for his offence at assizes, which Sir Henry Winston, a Gloucestershire litigant, described in February 1601/2 as "open disgrace in my country".(53) Thus Star Chamber litigation could offer the gentry a means of inflicting shame and humiliation on their enemies and, at the same time, of vindicating their own honour. As such it provided an ideal means of channelling their aggressive and competitive instincts. This is apparent in Catesby's description of Hastings's comments when it became clear that he was to be tried in Star Chamber. He was said to have boasted that:

he would overthrow . . . and shame the said Sir Thomas and his grievances; and that Sir Henry had as good friends as the said Sir Thomas Beaumont had, and allsoe had a thousand pounds to spend in the said suite as well as the said Sir Thomas Beaumont, and that he dyd not care for anything that the said Sir Thomas Beaumont would doe against him.(54)

Awareness of all this ensured that during the sixteenth century Star Chamber litigation became integral to the strategy for conducting gentry quarrels, almost a part of the fabric of local politics. Instead of seeking to humiliate an opponent by perpetrating some act of physical violence against him, many gentry now set out to provoke the opponent into himself acting violently, so as to give grounds for a suit in Star Chamber. This approach was used to good effect in disputes in Elizabethan Norfolk between Edmund Flowerdew and Sir Arthur Heveningham, and between Sir Nicholas Bacon and Sir Thomas Lovell.(55) So conscious were contemporaries of the immediacy of Star Chamber jurisdiction that during a brawl in Gloucestershire in 1602, as one of the disputants lay on the ground his assailant was heard to say, "I know he will have me in the Star Chamber for this".(56) These considerations would appear to have guided Hastings's initial strategy against Sir Thomas Beaumont. His priming of Coleman to snub Beaumont in Leicester Forest, and the aspersions he cast on his courage and integrity, were surely intended to provoke him into a rash assault which would give grounds for a Star Chamber suit. Failing this, he must have hoped that Beaumont would lose control sufficiently to offend his father and the earl of Huntingdon, both of whom had every reason to dislike him. In the event neither of these things happened, and through a considerable effort of self-control, and by exploiting the ambiguities of the early Stuart honour code, Beaumont was able to turn the tables.

It is quite possible that, had he been pushed too far, Sir Thomas would have been prepared to fight with Hastings. "Giving the lie" to a fellow gentleman often resulted in honour being satisfied by means of a duel; and three years later Beaumont's close friend Sir John Grey travelled to Flushing to fight with Sir Henry's namesake, Sir Henry Hastings of the Abbey, after what would appear to have been a direct exchange of insults.(57) The circumstances in this case, however, never quite seemed to require such a response, and Beaumont apparently felt that more was to be gained by displaying coolness and restraint and by appealing to higher authority. In spite of Hastings's obvious anxiety to portray him as vengeful and malicious, he was able to cite only one instance of Sir Thomas uttering a threat of violence, when he had drawn his sword on Coleman as he was leaving his house and sworn "he would kill the villayne". And even this appears rather differently in the claim by Sir Thomas's servants that what he had really said was "were he not bounde to see the peace kept, he would runne his rapier through him".(58) The self-righteous eschewal of violence, because he was a justice of the peace, was as significant as the threat itself. This is not to suggest that Beaumont did not harbour motives of revenge towards his enemies. He certainly did; but he was careful to avoid saying so in front of others.

This was one of the most interesting features of his conduct. In part, it seems to have stemmed from his recognition, like Hastings's, that honour had to be defended within a framework of respect for the law and higher authority. However, particularly in the Leicester Forest meeting, he also sought to avoid any hint of the touchiness and wilfulness which Sir Henry seems to have considered the hallmark of a man of honour. This suggests that his conduct was further shaped by the precepts of the classical moralists and their humanist interpreters, who played an important part in shaping the attitudes of university-trained gentry in this period. The qualities of moderation, sobriety and self-restraint displayed by Beaumont when put under pressure were precisely those extolled by Sir Thomas Elyot in The Book Named the Governor and a whole genre of conduct literature drawing on the tikes of Seneca and Plutarch.(59) There is every indication that Beaumont would have been familiar with this material. He had been an undergraduate at Christ's College, Cambridge in the 1580s and his speeches indicate a wide reading in biblical and humanist texts; his elder brother, Francis, who lived at Stoughton - not to be confused with the playwright - was a literary scholar of some distinction; and his friend and Warwickshire neighhour Sir John Newdigate was one of those gentry who steeped himself in humanist literature in an effort to fashion himself into the archetype of the learned magistrate.(60) Here, then, we would seem to have an unusually clear example of an individual absorbing the implications of humanist learning and translating it into his political conduct.

Moreover, there are indications that this was the approach favoured by his fellow gentry. One of the more intriguing aspects of the whole episode was the response of Walter Hastings and the earl of Huntingdon. Sir Henry tried hard to draw each of them into the conflict, and elsewhere in 1607 Huntingdon was seeking to undermine Beaumont and his friends; but in this instance each did his best to wind the quarrel down. When approached in Leicester Forest the earl was said to have advised Sir Henry to send Coleman back to his former master; and when Walter was shown Coleman's allegations in writing he appears to have advised against his son publicizing them.(61) These responses would seem to indicate that they felt that Sir Henry had placed himself in the wrong. Part of the reason for this, as we shall see, was probably that in countenancing Coleman, Hastings was felt to be threatening patriarchal authority amongst the gentry. However, another element seems to have been the sense that Beaumont had secured the moral advantage over Sir Henry. Whatever the wrongs done to him, his threats of revenge were seen as out of place, the actions not of a steadfast man of honour - as Hastings himself doubtless saw them - but of someone who was unreliable and socially disruptive. Sir Thomas's strategy of restraint and self-control in the face of provocation was the one his fellow gentry approved of.(62)

All this is testimony to the way in which, at a local level, emphasis on restraint, moderation and sobriety were coming to be seen as part of the essence of honourable behaviour. However, it also suggests that pride and wilfulness could still be regarded as appropriate in certain contexts. Some of the responses attributed to Sir Henry were not very different from the widely reported outburst by Sir John Grey in 1610, that "neither him-selfe, his friends, servants nor doggs should be under the command of Mr Walter Hastings". On this occasion Grey's stance was apparently supported by a sizeable faction amongst the local gentry, including Beaumont.(63) Sir Henry must have hoped that his conduct would elicit similar support. The fact that he miscalculated does not negate the evidence that the concepts of honour he was espousing still had a place within gentry political culture.


There was, however, another dimension to honour revealed in the case. This was a gentleman's ability to uphold patriarchal authority within his family. Political historians have paid little attention to this aspect of gentry honour, largely because of the tendency to assume a distinction between the "public" and the "private". However, as has been suggested, during the early modern period these categories were in fact closely intertwined. Drawing force from the Aristotelian notion that the household was the primary unit of human association, analogies were constantly being drawn between the family and the state, with the king's authority routinely being compared to that of a father within the family and the ordering of households being seen as a model for the ordering of villages, counties and ultimately the whole nation. Activities which took place within the household were seen as fit subjects for public scrutiny; men were held to account for the conduct of wives, children and servants; and their public status and reputation was seen as resting in part on their performance of household duties, such as providing hospitality or leading family worship.(64) The earl of Huntingdon was expressing a commonplace when he advised his son c. 1614 that "publique governments . . . in the Commonwealth" were to be compared with "private government . . . belonging to thy house": "nothing resembles the pollitique more then this, for as a bodie is the microcosme of a commonwealth, soe is this private of the publique".(65) All this had important consequences for those, like Beaumont, who aspired to magisterial office. It implied that one of the best ways in which they could demonstrate their fitness to serve was by presiding over a well-ordered family and household. Again Huntingdon illustrated the view, this time in a set of household regulations. "My house", he declared, "doth nearest resemble the government in publicke office which men of my rancke are very often called unto . . . if I faile in the lesser, then the which ther can be no greater dishoner, it followeth of necessi-tie I shall never be capable of the greater".(60) This was also a view which was subscribed to by other gentry involved in the case, not least Sir George Belgrave, who coupled together the two spheres of activity in his character reference for his old friend. Sir Thomas, he said, was a "gentleman of worthie partes, as well in his wise and religious government of his familie and vertuous bringing up of his children as in his upright carriag of himself publickely in execution of justice".(67)

Similar notions were also current among a wider, rather vaguely defined local audience. This much is evident from a series of lampooning verses directed against leading members of the local bench which are known to have been circulating in Leicestershire shortly before this. Within these one of the most prominent themes was gender inversion, a world turned upside-down in which feeble, henpecked magistrates fell under the sway of wives and servants and became incapable of administering justice. Sir Thomas's elder brother Sir Henry Beaumont was lampooned in this way; so too was Sir William Turpin, a deputy lieutenant, into whose family Beaumont's eldest son had recently married:

Turpin Sir Bill, sitts in his chaire still Whiles his wife the buswife doth play It is sayd she rules all, but that's but a tale For Born rules them both they say.(68)

At various levels, then, Beaumont's honour and reputation were seen to rest on his ability to govern his wife, children and servants.

Hastings recognized this, and it became the basis of his ultimate strategy for avenging himself on Sir Thomas. As we have seen, his attempts to provoke him into self-defeating violence were unsuccessful; and he had little hope of making headway on the local bench or at the royal court, where Beaumont was protected by the influence of the Greys.(69) But he could hope to exploit the moral shortcomings of Sir Thomas's family. He was said to be taking an interest in these even before Coleman arrived on his doorstep, picking up gossip which suggested that Lady Dixie, Beaumont's second daughter, was too free with her favours towards her butler.(70) This was as nothing, however, compared with the allegations made by Coleman, involving wholesale debauchery not only by servants and children, but also by Sir Thomas's wife and his brother Francis. What better evidence could there be that Beaumont was unfit to govern?

The first stage was to ensure that Coleman's allegations reached a wider audience. Whether or not Hastings took an active part in publicizing them, as Beaumont alleged, they quickly spread. Entertainment value alone ensured this. Within a few weeks, they were "rumoured" in the market towns of Leicester, Ashby, Bosworth and Lutterworth, as well as further afield in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire; and they were not confined to "knights, ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen", but spread to "verie many also of the meaner sort".(71) From Hastings's point of view, however, malicious gossip by itself was not enough. To be really effective, it was of the essence that an affront to Beaumont's honour be made in public, before his peers who could witness the failure to offer an adequate response. Hence his approval when Coleman proposed "to call . . . [Beaumont] cuckold openlie at the benche". There could be no better setting for humiliating Sir Thomas than quarter sessions, the principal public stage on which local governors secured and maintained a reputation before their fellow gentry and "countrymen".(72) And this had the added appeal that it had been the scene of Sir Henry's own worst humiliations at Beaumont's hands. Thus everything seemed set to inflict the maximum possible damage to Sir Thomas's reputation, in circumstances, moreover, in which Hastings could reasonably expect to escape most of the blame. Why, then, did he fail to see the scheme through?

To answer this we need to turn to a sub-plot in the case, the power struggle which was described as taking place within the Beaumont household between master and servant. This was a struggle which Sir Thomas showed every indication of losing. Coleman had built up a position of considerable trust and influence during his three years of service in the household. As his master's clerk and scribe he was privy to all his official business. He was also in high favour with Lady Katherine. Although everyone strenuously denied that she had committed adultery with him - and Coleman himself later confessed to having lied about this - there was such trust and familiarity between them that no one seems to have thought it untoward when he was summoned to deal with the stomach-swelling and fits which accompanied "the mother". By his account, this involved clambering on top of her whilst she was in bed and massaging her breast and stomach, an incident which he could later gloss as the preliminaries to "carnall copulacon". In addition to this, one of his first actions on being dismissed was to write to Lady Katherine for money and a letter of recommendation to the service of one of her relatives. This was later interpreted as an attempt to entrap her, but it also suggests a servant who was accustomed to appealing to his mistress, even in the face of her husband's displeasure. Coleman also admitted to being "much in love" with Sir Thomas's youngest daughter, the eighteen-year-old Isobel; and he had formed close contacts with several other senior servants within the Beaumonts' extended family.(73)

The network of alliances and contacts that Coleman had built up was perhaps not untypical of a trusted servant with education, nerve and, no doubt, a certain amount of personal charm. But the influence which went with this had the potential to be profoundly damaging to patriarchal authority. Beaumont would appear to have been particularly vulnerable in this respect. He was trying to maintain two households simultaneously, at Stoughton in Leicestershire and Bedworth in Warwickshire; he was absent for long periods attending to official business and his duties as an M.P.; the presence in the house of his bachelor elder brother seems to have aroused salacious comment; and his recently married eldest son, Henry, apparently lacked the force of personality to exert authority in his father's stead. In Coleman's account the Beaumont household was some way from being the image of virtue and decorum portrayed by his friend Belgrave, or indeed in the funeral monument set up by Beaumont's eldest daughter in Stoughton church. (Plate.) This became particularly apparent a few months before Coleman's departure, when he and Isobel joined forces to compose a series of lewd verses lampooning Isobel's elder brother Henry. In spite of their appalling literary quality, these constituted a cruel and effective satire on his shortness of stature, lack of virility and - rather inconsistently - his exploits amongst "the whores in London".(74) The verses were apparently well publicized: servants within Beaumont's household admitted to hearing and repeating them; Coleman passed a copy of them on to Mr Anthony, clerk to Henry Berkeley, esq., Sir Thomas's brother-in-law; and they eventually came into the hands of Sir Henry Hastings.(75) For his son and heir to be mocked in this way was bad enough; but what made this episode particularly damaging for Beaumont was his inability to suppress the verses. Typical of the genre of mocking rhymes and sexual lampoons which were common in the early seventeenth century, such verses were severely dealt with by those in authority. As Martin Ingram and Adam Fox have pointed out, unlike the "rough music" or skimmington, which had similar associations, they were seen as profoundly disruptive to hierarchy and patriarchal order.(76) So Sir Thomas's failure to do anything about them, or even show some awareness of their existence, inevitably raised doubts about his ability to uphold authority.

Such doubts were compounded by Coleman's allegations of cuckoldry, and once these were public knowledge the whole affair became a matter of urgent concern for Beaumont's fellow gentry. If he was unable to keep order within his household this would set an example which could undermine them all. Moreover allegations of adultery between mistress and manservant raised one of their perennial domestic nightmares, because this was almost impossible to guard against and could completely destroy the balance of hierarchical household relations.(77) In these circumstances Beaumont's fellow gentry would appear to have faced a choice: either they could disown Sir Thomas and pour scorn and contempt on him for his weakness - which was the approach embodied in various popular shaming rituals directed against cuckolded husbands(78) - or they could close ranks and stand by him.

Beaumont's most effective defence was to refute the allegations as publicly as possible. No doubt the principal means of doing this - although it has left little trace in the sources - was through discussion with friends and fellow gentry in the weeks following Coleman's departure. This process, however, was reinforced in a much more visible way by the proceedings arising out of the Star Chamber suit early in 1609. In this respect Beaumont's case was probably aimed as much at vindicating his reputation in Leicestershire as at winning a conviction in London. The interrogation of witnesses took place at two meetings before justices and senior gentry tacked on to the end of quarter sessions. An impressive array of local governors, gentry and their wives were summoned to testify, along with a host of lesser participants.(79) Some were simply required to provide character references for Sir Thomas and members of his family. Others were interrogated on specific points arising out of the case, which often bore little relation to securing a conviction for libel and had much more to do with demonstrating that Lady Beaumont had not in fact committed adultery or that proper order had prevailed in Sir Thomas's households.(80) The answers to interrogatories were supposed to remain secret, but those present must inevitably have talked to each other, and, to judge by their depositions, what they said would generally have been to Beaumont's advantage. Of course, there was an element of risk attached to embarking on these processes. Local hearings inevitably revived the earlier rumours. But Beaumont presumably felt it was a risk worth taking, because he could control the outcome more easily than by simply relying on the alternative avenue for vindicating his reputation: the verdict of local gossip.

This is one of the most interesting aspects of the case. Because honour depends on one's evaluation in the eyes of others, it necessarily gives rise to what have been termed "courts of reputation" in which it is adjudged and upheld. These courts existed in a formal sense in the Court of Chivalry or indeed the Court of Star Chamber.(81) This case reveals the extent to which there also existed various networks at a local level which performed this role informally. There was the network of local office-holders, organized around quarter sessions, on which Beaumont drew for references to establish his credit; there was the broader body of local gentry, extending over county boundaries, who were shown discussing the case when out hunting or travelling to market; there was a network of women, the wives of gentry and others, who, as we shall see, were particularly concerned with sexual reputation; and there was a wider body of opinion, extending into the ranks of the middling sort and beyond, who were shown to be taking an interest in the affair, and also in the lampoons against county leaders.(82) Each of these networks operated in a similar way: through gossip. Anthropologists have demonstrated that gossip is one of the principal means by which societies assert their common values. By talking about and laughing at behaviour which is considered inappropriate, by evaluating individuals in terms of competition for status, and by continually sifting experience and passing judgement, they perpetuate the assumptions and ideals which give societies a sense of identity.(83) Several of these processes can be seen in the Beaumont v. Hastings case.

Some of the most positive evidence for this came from the wives of leading gentry, testimony to their pivotal role within the gossip networks by which honour was assessed and upheld. Their principal concern was with the sexual reputation of Lady Beaumont. Thus when the formidable Lady Compton, mother of George Villiers (later duke of Buckingham) and wife of a senior justice, broached the subject with Hastings, by her account she quickly made it clear that she regarded Coleman as "a lewde and wicked fellow for causinge anie such scandalous reports of the complainant's wife, brother and children, whom she believed in her conscience to be much wronged therby". This apparently produced the significant response from Sir Henry that whether the reports "were true or not . . . he did not know". Similarly her daughter Lady Fielding, the wife of a north Warwickshire justice, made clear her disbelief of these "slanderous, infamous reports", and remarked that she had heard that Hastings "did much dislike of such slanderous reports".(84) Sir Henry was evidently feeling under some pressure to disown Coleman's allegations, particularly as both women were friends of Huntingdon and his wife.(85) The pressure increased with the reaction of his male colleagues, who tended to focus on the disloyalty of Coleman. As we have seen, George Catesby urged Sir Henry to dismiss such an untrustworthy servant and bury his differences with Beaumont. Hastings initially chose to ignore this advice, but it became more difficult as he encountered a similar response from other acquaintances, most decisively the earl of Huntingdon, who was said to have advised him to send Coleman back to his master as a "most villainous, slanderinge, knave".(86) Faced by this closing of the ranks to defend patriarchal authority and order, Hastings backed down and sent Coleman packing.

It is also relevant when assessing local reactions that 1607 was the year of the Midland Rising, a large-scale agrarian disturbance which took place in May and June in parts of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. This involved numerous acts of defiance against the authority of local gentry, including pulling down enclosures, circulating defamatory rhymes and destroying a gibbet erected in Leicester market by Huntingdon. The preacher at the Northamptonshire assizes in June described it as an attempt by the rioters to "levell all states as they levelled banks and ditches". And when another set of verses lampooning the justices surfaced in Northamptonshire, this prompted enquiries by the assize judges and the suggestion that such rhymes threatened to bring local governors into "hatred and contempt amongst the common people".(87) Although there is no mention of the Midland Rising in the various texts produced in the Beaumont v. Hastings case, the Leicestershire gentry must still have been very conscious of the disruption it had caused. This could only serve to emphasize the importance of being seen to uphold hierarchy and patriarchal authority, and thus reinforce any tendency to rally behind Beaumont and his wife.


What then does this case reveal about contemporary concepts of honour? If one follows the approach suggested at the start and examines the case in terms of different sorts of story-telling, each shaped by values and beliefs, it becomes possible to identify a series of discourses relating to honour. The statements of the women reflect a concern with female honour, here, typically, defined in terms of a reputation for sexual honesty and chastity.(88) But, for reasons which have been discussed, the voices of women, and also of men from the lower orders, are relatively muted. For the most part these discourses are about male and gentry honour. There is a discourse which has been associated with classic "honour and shame" societies, stressing the importance of blood and lineage, and legitimizing a code of conduct based on pride, wilfulness and competitive assertiveness. Alongside this was another, associated with civic humanism and Protestantism, and emphasizing wisdom, learning, godliness and restraint. And overlapping these, there were discourses stressing loyalty to the monarch, service to the commonwealth and obedience to the law. Each was available to be glossed in different ways and appropriated for different purposes, according to context and circumstance. Sir Thomas Beaumont, the office-holder and Calvinist, tended to construct himself as the epitome of the godly magistrate and man of virtue; whilst Sir Henry Hastings, denied access to such a construction by his Catholicism, emphasized instead his lineage and his loyalty to the crown. Neither, however, was set in this particular mode: Hastings could also present himself as the staunch upholder of the law and Beaumont as proud and touchy enough to uphold his honour by drawing his sword. This versatility was perhaps most apparent in a further discourse revealed by this case: the cluster of beliefs which connected honour with the ability to uphold patriarchal authority within the family. Thus Beaumont's friends could use the links between family and commonwealth to validate his claim to be a good governor, whilst Hastings could exploit precisely the same ideas to undermine this claim.

As has been emphasized, this last aspect of honour suggests that in early Stuart England the boundaries between the "public" and the "private" were extraordinarily permeable. Again and again in this case we are reminded that the personal and the political were intertwined. Much the same point also emerges from examining other Star Chamber cases which involved sexual insults against magistrates. The basic theme of many of these insults was that lechery, incontinence, whoremongering and being cuckolded made an individual unfit to govern. And the sharpness with which judges and privy councillors reacted to them implies that they were seen as a genuinely threatening challenge to authority.(89)

All this is not, however, to argue that contemporaries made no distinction between "public" and "private" in such cases. Another look at the language and responses of those involved suggests that in practice these concepts were rather slippery. At the level of rhetoric they were often fused together through the emphasis on the household as a microcosm of the commonwealth; but when it came to practical application distinctions could be more clearly drawn. Thus in the Beaumont v. Hastings case, not all the participants appear to have accepted that evidence of Sir Thomas's inability to control his wife would undermine his claims to govern. When Hastings put this point to his friend George Catesby, the latter replied that "he thought the cause would bring no disgrace to the said Sir Thomas Beaumont being only his wife's fault and not himselfe" and "if it were true then would the said Sir Thomas Beaumont putt away his wief, and so he should receive good by being ridd of an ill wife and no hurte".(90) This readiness to separate a husband from the faults of his wife and family may well have been quite widespread in practice. So, for example, whilst there are cases of magistrates being dismissed from office for their own sexual misdemeanours - like the Thetford burgess who was said to have "lately lived incontinently and thereby become infamous in the public notice of the world to the great disreputation of the corporation and to the scandal and disgrace of other burgesses there"(91) - it is hard to find an instance of anyone being removed for his wife's adultery.(92) All this is perhaps not surprising; but it seems worth stressing none the less, because some recent writing on early modern women might be taken to suggest that the integration of family and state was so complete that a distinction between "public" and "private" did not really exist.(93) This would be misleading. Huntingdon's advice to his son reminds us that these categories did have meaning for contemporaries, even though in many respects, as I have sought to illustrate, the boundaries between them were shifting and open to contest and negotiation.

A detailed study of text and context of the sort attempted here serves to illustrate how complex and nuanced concepts of honour were in early Stuart England. It would be misleading to privilege one particular concept as dominant and thereby marginalize others. However, it is as well to recognize the limitations of this sort of investigation. It can show the subtlety of overlapping beliefs at any given moment, but it cannot adequately describe change over time.(94) This is where the approach adopted by Mervyn James remains invaluable. Even if concepts of honour were not straightforwardly transformed by a shift from an old "lineage" discourse to a new "civil" one, nevertheless it is apparent that they were altering in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Social change, new educational ideas, Protestant Reformation, growing concern about patriarchal authority and increase in the range of central government were all reshaping concepts of honour in ways which are still only partially understood. In the meantime James's seminal work remains the essential starting-point for any study of honour and politics in the period.

I am most grateful to Ann Hughes and Peter Lake for their advice and guidance in writing this article. Laura Gowing has been very helpful in discussing narrative in court cases, and Tom Cogswell on all matters relating to Leicestershire. Earlier versions were read at the Tudor and Stuart seminar at the Institute of Historical Research in London and at the Early Modern Social History seminar in Oxford; I am particularly grateful to Conrad Russell, Martin Ingram and Clive Holmes for their comments on these occasions. I also wish to thank the British Academy and the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, for providing grants to fund my research.

1 Public Record Office, London (hereafter P.R.O.), STAC 8/55/26, Beaumont v. Hastings, 1608.

2 M. Ingram, Church Courts, Sex and Marriage in England, 1570-1640 (Cambridge, 1987); J. A. Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England: The Church Courts at York (Borthwick Papers, lviii, York, 1980); L. Gowing, "Gender and the Language of Insult in Early Modern London", History Workshop, no. 35 (Spring 1993), pp. 1-21; L. Gowing, "Language, Power and the Law: Women's Slander Litigation in Early Modern London", in J. Kermode and G. Walker (eds.), Women, Crime and the Courts in Early Modern England (London, 1994), pp. 26-47.

3 P. Crawford, "Public Duty, Conscience and Women in Early Modern England", in J. Morrill, P. Slack and D. Woolf (eds.), Public Duty and Private Conscience in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 1993), pp. 57-76; B. J. Harris, "Women and Politics in Early Tudor England", Hist. Jl, xxxiii (1990), pp. 259-81; R. Weil, "The Politics of Legitimacy: Women and the Warming-Pan Scandal", in L. G. Schwoerer (ed.), The Revolution of 1688-1689 (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 65-82.

4 A. Bellany, "'Raylinge Rymes and Vaunting Verse': Libellous Politics in Early Stuart England, 1603-1628", in K. Sharpe and P. G. Lake (eds.), Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 285-310; T. Cogswell, "Underground Verse and the Transformation of Early Stuart Political Culture", in S. D. Amussen and M. Kishlansky (eds.), Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern England (Manchester, 1995), pp. 277-300.

5 J. Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", in J. G. Peristiany (ed.), Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society (London, 1965), p. 22. See also J. Pitt-Rivers, "Honor", in D. L. Sills (ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 18 vols. (New York, 1968-79), vi, pp. 503-10.

6 M. E. James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, 1485-1642 (Past and Present Suppl. iii, Oxford, 1978); M. E. James, Family, Lineage and Civil Society (Oxford, 1974); M. E. James, "The Concept of Order and the Northern Rising, 1569", Past and Present, no. 60 (Aug. 1973), pp. 49-83.

7 James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, p. 63.

8 See, for example, the ideas put forward by Sir Thomas Shirley in "The Catholic Armorist", parts of which exist in manuscript in The Queen's College, Oxford, MSS. 141, 142 and 143, and in P.R.O., SP 9/9; also his "History of the Shirley Family", British Library, London (hereafter Brit. Lib.), Harleian MS. 4928. I am grateful to Tom Cogswell for introducing me to "The Catholic Armorist". These themes are also apparent in the works produced by Shirley's antiquarian colleagues in the Midlands: William Burton, The Description of Leicestershire (London, 1622, S.T.C. 4179); William Dugdale, The Antiquities of Warwickshire (London, 1656), dedication "To my Honoured Friends the Gentry of Warwickshire"; Thomas Habington, A Survey of Worcestershire, ed. J. Amphlett, 2 vols. (Worcs. Hist. Soc., Oxford, 1893-9).

9 F. Heal and C. Holmes, The Gentry in England and Wales, 1500-1700 (Basingstoke, 1994), pp. 20-37; L. Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558-1642 (Oxford, 1965), pp. 23-5; P. Styles, "Sir Simon Clarke", Birmingham Archaeol. Soc. Trans., lxvi (1945-6), pp. 6-34; N. Llewellyn, "Claims to Status through Visual Codes: Heraldry on Post-Reformation Funeral Monuments", in S. Anglo (ed.), Chivalry in the Renaissance (Woodbridge, 1990), pp. 145-60.

10 James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, p. 16 n. 73; A. J. Jewers, "Heraldry in the Manor House of North Cadbury, with the Heraldry and Monuments in the Church", Proc. Somersetshire Archaeol. and Natural Hist. Soc., xxxvi (1890), pt 2, pp. 137-67; The Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, 1574-1609, ed. C. Cross (Somerset Rec. Soc., lxix, Yeovil, 1969), pp. 50-2.

11 J. K. Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community (Oxford, 1964), ch. 10; Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", pp. 19-77; F. Heal, "Hospitality and Honor in Early Modern England", Food and Foodways, i (1987), pp. 321-50; Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England; S. D. Amussen, An Ordered Society (Oxford, 1988), ch. 2.

12 W. Hudson, "A Treatise of the Court of Star Chamber", in Collectanea Juridica: Consisting of Tracts Relative to the Law and Constitution, ed. F. Hargrave, 2 vols. (London, 1791-2), ii, pp. 52-115.

13 I am very grateful to Laura Gowing for guidance on this subject. The best discussion of narrative in early modern court cases is contained in "The Narratives of Litigation", ch. 5 of her thesis, "Women, Sex and Honour: The London Church Courts, 1572-1640" (Univ. of London Ph.D. thesis, 1993), pp. 172-207. See also N. Z. Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, 1987); and for narrative in modern court cases, W. L. Bennett and M. S. Feldman, Reconstructing Reality in the Courtroom (London, 1981) and B. S. Jackson, "Narrative Theories and Legal Discourse", in C. Nash (ed.), Narrative in Culture: The Uses of Storytelling in the Sciences, Philosophy and Literature (London, 1990), pp. 23-50.

14 T. G. Barnes, "Due Process and Slow Process in the Late Elizabethan - Early Stuart Star Chamber", Amer. Jl Legal Hist., vi (1962), pp. 227-9; T. G. Barnes, "The Archives and Archival Problems of the Elizabethan and Early Stuart Star Chamber", in F. Ranger (ed.), Prisca munimenta (London, 1973), pp. 134-6; Hudson, "Treatise of the Court of Star Chamber", pp. 82-8; E. Skelton, "The Court of Star Chamber in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth" (Univ. of London M.A. thesis, 1930), pp. 119-40.

15 These matters are discussed in relation to the London church courts in Gowing, "Women, Sex and Honour", pp. 184-90. For an example of the much less common form of deposition written out by the witness himself, see P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Sir George Belgrave's deposition".

16 Gowing, "Women, Sex and Honour", pp. 8-14; Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England, pp. 26-8; T. G. Barnes, "Star Chamber Litigants and their Counsel, 1596-1641", in J. H. Baker (ed.), Legal Records and the Historian (London, 1978), pp. 9-10.

17 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Six Thomas Beaumont's bill of complaint", "Beaumont's interrogatories for Coleman", "John Coleman's deposition", "George Catesby's deposition on behalf of Beaumont", "Thomas Thorpe's deposition". There is no consistent folio or membrane numbering. I therefore refer to the headings of documents throughout.

18 Ibid., "Beaumont's interrogatories for Coleman", "Coleman's deposition", "Belgrave's deposition", "John Gardener's deposition", "Beaumont's interrogatories for Hastings".

19 Ibid., "Beaumont's interrogatories for Coleman", "Francis Hollingworth's deposition", "Sir Henry Hastings's deposition", "Thomas Richardson's deposition".

20 Ibid., "Beaumont's bill of complaint" and passim. In 1612 Beaumont was said to be still nursing a grievance against John Bale, esq. for not providing evidence which would have condemned Hastings: Bodleian Library, Oxford, Carte MS. 78, fos. 310, 325. For the fine of [pounds]500 levied on John Coleman in Easter Term 1609, which indicates that he was convicted, see "Fines in Star Chamber, 1596-1641", comp. T. G. Barnes (1971), unpaginated typescript available in the Round Room at the P.R.O.

21 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's answer", "Hastings's interrogatories", "Hastings's deposition", "Thomas Foster's deposition", "William Gregorie's deposition", "Beaumont's bill of complaint".

22 Ibid., "Belgrave's deposition", "John Bale's deposition", "Catesby's deposition on behalf of Beaumont", "Hastings's interrogatories".

23 John Gerard, Autobiography of an Elizabethan, trans. P. Caraman (London, 1951), p. 193. It is indicative of the atmosphere in the Midlands following the Gunpowder Plot that, after escaping persecution throughout Elizabeth's reign and surviving an attempt to indict them in 1604, Sir Henry Hastings, his wife and his mother were all indicted at Michaelmas 1606 and convicted in January 1606/7: P.R.O., SP 14/16/71; STAC 8/55/26, "Beaumont's bill of complaint", "Foster's deposition"; W. Page et al. (eds.), The Victoria History of the County of Leicester, 5 vols. (London, 1907-64), ii, p. 58.

24 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's interrogatories", "Hastings's deposition", "Edward Needham's deposition", "Fabian Andrews's deposition", "Hastings's answer".

25 L. Fox and P. Russell, Leicester Forest (Leicester, 1948), pp. 89-97; P.R.O., STAC 8/16/13; STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's interrogatories".

26 For details of this feud, see R. P. Cust, "Honour, Rhetoric and Political Culture: The Earl of Huntingdon and his Enemies", in Amussen and Kishlansky (eds.), Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern England, pp. 84-111; R. P. Cust, "Purveyance and Politics in Jacobean Leicestershire", in P. Fleming and A. J. Gross (eds.), Regionalism and Revision: English Provincial Society, 1250-1650 (London, forthcoming).

27 For Walter Hastings's religion, see C. Cross, The Puritan Earl (London, 1966), p. 35. The fifth earl had different views on religion from his great-uncles the third earl of Huntingdon and Sir Francis and Sir Edward Hastings. They were the leading promoters of the Puritan cause in Elizabethan Leicestershire, sponsoring a vigorous preaching ministry and seeking to suppress Catholics at every opportunity. The fifth earl, like his grandfather the fourth earl, can best be described as a Calvinist conformist: that is to say, whilst he subscribed to Calvinist doctrine, he did not display the zeal in following through its implications which characterized Puritans; for example, he displayed a relatively tolerant attitude to those Catholics who were his kinsmen and neighbours, although this was to change in the differing circumstances of the 1620s. For a fuller discussion of these issues, see Cust, "Honour, Rhetoric and Political Culture"; Cross, Puritan Earl, ch. 4; Letters of Sir Francis Hastings, ed. Cross, pp. xiii-xxxiii; and an important forthcoming study of Leicestershire politics, c. 1610-42, by Thomas Cogswell.

28 Brit. Lib., Add. MS. 8978, fos. 109-10; Brit. Lib., microfilm of the Hatfield House MSS., 103/100, 214/54; The Parliamentary Diary of Robert Bowyet, 1606-1607, ed. D. H. Willson (Minneapolis, 1931), p. 22; Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 78, fo. 325".

29 J. Hawarde, Les Reportes del Cases in Camera Stellata, 1593 to 1609, ed. W. P. Baildon (London, 1894), pp. 159-60, 186-7; Skelton, "Court of Star Chamber in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth", pp. 150-62.

30 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's answer".

31 Ibid., "Hastings's deposition".

32 Ibid., "Beaumont's interrogatories for Coleman", "Belgrave's deposition", "Bale's deposition", "Thomas Vauter's deposition". This was again a theme Beaumont emphasized in 1612, when he challenged John Bale's appointment to the county bench on the grounds that "having neither bein of anie universitie or Innes of Court he was unlearned, and therefor unworthie the place of justice": Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 78, fo. [309.sup.r].

33 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Beaumont's bill of complaint", "Edward Turville's deposition", "John Chippingdale's deposition", "Six Henry Hastings of the Abbey's deposition".

34 On the importance of such a reputation for securing honour and status in local society, see R. P. Cust and P. G. Lake, "Sir Richard Grosvenor and the Rhetoric of Magistracy", Bull. Inst. Hist. Research, cxxx (1981), pp. 40-53; A. Fletcher, "Honour, Reputation and Local Officeholding in Elizabethan and Early Stuart England", in A. Fletcher and J. Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 1985), p. 104.

35 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's deposition", "Belgrave's deposition"; see also ibid., "Vauter's deposition".

36 J. Nichols, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, 4 vols. (London, 1795-1815), ii, pp. 852, 858; G. F. Farnham, Leicestershire Medieval Village Notes, 6 vols. (Leicester, 1929-33), iv, p. 160; P.R.O., Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, PROB 11/125/34 Rudd; R. S. Smith, "Huntington Beaumont, Adventurer in Coal Mines", Renaissance and Modern Studies, i (1957), pp. 115-17; J. Thompson, A History of Leicester (Leicester, 1849), p. 300.

37 Brit. Lib., Add. MS. 8978, fos. 109-10; P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Needham's deposition", "Chippingdale's deposition", "Turville's deposition"; Proceedings in Parliament, 1610, ed. E. R. Foster, 2 vols. (New Haven, 1966), ii, pp. 317-19.

38 For evidence of Beaumont's style, see his speech on the Great Contract, another speech on supply in 1610 and the description of his speech at Leicester assizes against John Bale, esq. in March 1611/12: Parliamentary Debates in 1610, ed. S. R. Gardiner (Camden Sot., old set., lxxxi, London, 1862), pp. 142-3; Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 78, fos. 308-9. For local reactions to a J.P. who employed a similar rhetorical style, see Cust and Lake, "Sir Richard Grosvenor and the Rhetoric of Magistracy", passim.

39 For reference to his delivery of the jury charge, see n. 68 below; for his election as knight of the shire, see Nichols, History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, i, p. 456.

40 The Responsa Scholarurn of the English College, Rome, ed. A. Kenny, 2 vols. (Catholic Rec. Soc., liv-lv, London, 1962-3), ii, p. 372.

41 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's deposition". The sense of belonging to a lineage was particularly strong amongst members of the Hastings family: Cust, "Honour, Rhetoric and Political Culture". The contemporary historian of Leicestershire William Burton also emphasized the link with the main branch of the family in his description of Braunston: Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford, D 649/4/3, "Braunston".

42 Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 78, fo. 308; Nichols, History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, iii, pp. 735-6, 744.

43 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Needham's deposition for Hastings", "Hastings's deposition"; D. MacCulloch, "Catholic and Puritan in Elizabethan Suffolk", Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, lxxii (1981), p. 256; A. Dures, English Catholicism, 1558-1642 (London, 1983), pp. 35-6.

44 James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, pp. 1-58; L. Stone, The Family, Sex and Marriage in England, 1500-1800 (London, 1979), ch. 3; K. M. Brown, Bloodfeud in Scotland, 1573-1625 (Edinburgh, 1986), chs. 1-2; Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage, chs. 8, 10; Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", pp. 21-77. It has, however, been pointed out that in the more law-based Mediterranean societies, aggressive assertiveness was liable to be regarded as socially disruptive; there, reputation was more likely to derive from self-restraint and from conduct which fostered neighbourly interaction: M. Herzfeld, "Honour and Shame: A Comparative Analysis of Moral Systems", Man, xv (1980), pp. 339-51.

45 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "John Baker's deposition", "Belgrave's deposition".

46 Ibid., "Hastings's deposition", "Needham's deposition".

47 Ibid., "Hollingworth's deposition".

48 As an example of Hastings's approach, Belgrave stated that at a dinner after the Leicester Forest meeting Hastings had told him that Beaumont "was so full of quirkes and quillettes as that he swore a great oath that he would keep himself out of his fingers, although the complainant for malice and spleene did many tymes wrest the law and pervert justice to serve his owne turne. . .": ibid., "Belgrave's deposition". This rather neatly combined defiance of Sir Thomas with a reiteration of the charges of corruption in office which was one of the bases of Hastings's case. It was not, of course, said directly to Beaumont, but, since Belgrave was a close friend, Sir Henry could presume that a report would get back to him. Meanwhile, he could insult him by proxy. Cf. Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", p. 31.

49 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's deposition".

50 On the effectiveness of the ambiguous affront, see Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", pp. 27-8.

51 Ibid., pp. 28-31; Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England, pp. 23-4.

52 William Hudson compared the court's prestige to that of the Roman Senate: Hudson, "Treatise of the Court of Star Chamber", pp. 17-25.

53 Historical Manuscripts Commission (hereafter H.M.C.), Calendar of the Manuscripts . . . Preserved at Hatfield House, 24 vols. (London, 1883-1976), xii, p. 46.

54 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Catesby's deposition".

55 A. Hassell Smith, County and Court (Oxford, 1974), pp. 181-200. The same strategy can also be discerned in the Talbot/Stanhope feud in the east Midlands in the 1590s and in Sir Thomas Hoby's quarrels with various Catholic gentry in Jacobean Yorkshire: W. MacCaffrey, "Talbot and Stanhope: An Episode in Elizabethan Politics", Bull. Inst. Hist. Res., xxxiii (1960), pp. 73-85; G. C. F. Forster, "Faction and County Government in Early Smart Yorkshire", Northern History, xi (1975), pp. 70-86.

56 Skelton, "Court of Star Chamber in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth", pp. 139-40.

57 Stone, Crisis of the Aristocracy, pp. 242-50; Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 78, fo. [363.sup.r]; H.M.C., Report on the Manuscripts of Lord De L'Isle and Dudley, 6 vols. (London, 1925-66), iv (London, 1942), pp. 200, 204-5. Simonds D'Ewes's comment in his diary that "my honour, credit, reputation and all lay at the stake if I answered it not", indicated the pressure to fight when an open challenge was delivered: The Diary of Sir Simonds D'Ewes (1622-1624), ed. E. Bourcier (Publications de la Sorbonne, Litteratures, v, Paris, 1975), p. 169. It was, however, sometimes feasible to sidestep a challenge by appealing to higher authority on the grounds that order was threatened: for an example, see Fletcher, "Honour, Reputation and Local Officeholding", p. 101.

58 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Hastings's interrogatories", "Thomas Baker's deposition".

59 James, English Politics and the Concept of Honour, p. 66; M. Todd, "Seneca and the Protestant Mind", Archiv fur Reformationsgeschichte, lxxiv (1983), pp. 182-99; D. A. Russell, Plutarch (London, 1973), ch. 9; P. Collinson, Godly People (London, 1983), pp. 138-41, 510-16. Circumstances comparable to those faced by Sir Thomas were addressed by Sir Richard Grosvenor of Eaton Hall, Cheshire, a staunch Calvinist with a similar educational background and experience in local politics: Eaton Hall, MS. 2/22, p. 48. He advised his son to display clemency and forgiveness where possible, but if confrontation could not be avoided, violence and intemperance must be eschewed: "know that in a power off revenge conferring of curteseys confounds ingrattitude and the greatest victory is that which is gott by clemmency. Constantine laughed att those who stoned his statues and Theodosius pardoned those who dragged his, whereas itt is proper to base spirritts to seke to glutt themselves in revenge and to delight in the miseryes of theire neighboures".

60 Alumni Cantabrigienses, ed. J. and J. A. Venn, pt 1, From the Earliest Times to 1751, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1922-7), i, p. 120; Nichols, History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester, iii, p. 734; V. M. Larminie, The Godly Magistrate: The Private Philosophy and Public Life of Sir John Newdigate, 1571-1610 (Dugdale Soc., Occasional Papers, xxviii, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1982), pp. 1-34. For evidence of the friendship between the Beaumonts and the Newdigates, see Warwickshire Record Office, Warwick, Newdigate of Arbury MS. B 175; Lady A. E. Newdigate-Newdegate, Gossip from a Muniment Room (London, 1897), pp. 107-11.

61 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Beaumont's interrogatories for Hastings", "Hastings's deposition".

62 In his directions to his son, composed c.1614, the earl of Huntingdon advised that he should "forgive and forgett the wronges done him by his enemies": Huntington Library, San Marino, California, Hastings MSS., box 15, no. 8, fo. 14.

63 Bodleian Lib., Carte MS. 77, fos. [518.supp.r], 519(r) (quotation from fo. 518(r)).

64 S. Amussen, "Gender, Family and Social Order, 1560-1725", in Fletcher and Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, pp. 196-217; P. Collinson, The Birthpangs of Protestant England (Basingstoke, 1988), pp. 60-2; Heal, "Hospitality and Honour in Early Modern England", pp. 321-50; J. Goldberg, "Fatherly Authority: The Politics of Stuart Family Images", in M. W. Ferguson, M. Quilligan and N.J. Vickers (eds.), Reporiting the Renaissance: The Discourse of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe (Chicago, 1986), pp. 3-32; Heal and Holmes, Gentry in England and Wales, p. 367.

65 Huntington Lib., Hastings MSS., HA Personal, box 15, no. 8, fo. [19.sup.r].

66 Huntington Lib., Hastings MSS., HA Personal, box 14, no. 18.

67 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Belgrave's deposition".

68 Brit. Lib., Harleian MS. 6383, fos. [71.sup.v]-[3.sup.r]. I am grateful to Tom Cogswell for this reference. ("Born" is possibly a reference to John Bonner, Sir William's leading servant: P.R.O., Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, PROB 11/130/106 Weldon.) In the same verses, Sir Thomas Beaumont himself was lampooned rather more obscurely in a way which linked covetousness, lechery and sensitivity to his position as a magistrate:

Sir Thomas in the ruff will take it in snuff If at sessions he gives not the charge. He is inwardly covetous, outwardly lecherous And rowes well in a western barge.

For evidence that these verses were well known locally, see P.R.O., STAC 8/205/20, "Sir John Lambe's bill".

69 On the Greys' influence at court, see Cust, "Purveyance and Politics in Jacobean Leicestershire".

70 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Coleman's deposition".

71 Ibid., "Francis Beaumont's deposition", "Vauter's deposition".

72 Ibid., "Coleman's deposition"; Heal and Holmes, Gentry in England and Wales, pp. 170-1. For comments on the humiliation involved in an affront at quarter sessions, "in the face and public view of the countrye", see the bill presented by Sir Henry Hastings of the Abbey in another case: P.R.O., STAC 8/178/2. On public humiliation, see Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", pp. 25-7.

73 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Coleman's deposition", "Beaumont's interrogatories for Coleman", "Lady Beaumont's deposition", "Elizabeth Hinde's deposition".

74 Ibid., "Coleman's deposition", "Belgrave's deposition". The verses ran:

Poor Bess Turpin I pytty thy case as farr as I can For marrying of no boddy in stead of a man For when he was at the biggest of his growing and best of himself He was but the moyetie of a man and a lecherous elf.

Aske but the whores in London and they will tell all For whose sake he lyes fast bounde in the scrivenor's stall But this you will confesse and so will his mother That if you make no body cuckold you may lye with another.

75 Ibid., "William Marston's deposition", "Coleman's deposition".

76 M. Ingram, "Ridings, Rough Music and Mocking Rhymes in Early Modern England", in B. Reay (ed.), Popular Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (London, 1985), pp. 166-92; A. Fox, "Ballads, Libels and Popular Ridicule in Jacobean England", Past and Present, no. 145 (Nov. 1994), pp. 54-5, 72-3, 81-2.

77 Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England, p. 20; Gowing, "Women, Sex and Honour", pp. 142-3.

78 D. Underdown, "The Taming of the Scold: The Enforcement of Patriarchal Authority in Early Modern England", in Fletcher and Stevenson (eds.), Order and Disorder in Early Modern England, pp. 128-9.

79 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Depositions taken 10 Jan. 6 Jas.", "Deposition by Sir Thomas Compton, 24 Mar. 6 Jas.". The commissioners included the J.P.s Sir John Grey, Sir Basil Brooke and Sir William Smith, as well as one of the most senior local Catholic gentry, George Shirley, esq. Those called to testify included Sir Henry Hastings of the Abbey, Sir Thomas Compton, Sir Wolstan Dixie, John Chippingdale, D.D. and Edward Turville, esq., all J.P.s.

80 Ibid., "Elizabeth Hinde's deposition", "Eleanor Beaumont's deposition", "Fabian Andrews's deposition".

81 Pitt-Rivers, "Honour and Social Status", p. 27; Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage, pp. 316-20; G. D. Squibb, The High Court of Chivalry (Oxford, 1959).

82 Local courts of reputation might sometimes convene in a more formal sense, like the "gentlemen of honour" - in this case the deputy lieutenants and forty other "gentlemen of goodworth" - who were assembled by the earl of Huntingdon at the Angel Inn, Leicester in 1622 to compose a quarrel between Sir William Herrick and Francis Danvers, esq.: Bodleian Lib., Eng. Hist. MS. C.476, fos. 31-50. I am grateful to Tom Cogswell for this reference.

83 M. Gluckman, "Gossip and Scandal", Current Anthropology, iv (1963), pp. 307-16; Campbell, Honour, Family and Patronage, pp. 312-15; Sharpe, Defamation and Sexual Slander in Early Modern England, pp. 19-21.

84 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Lady Compton's deposition", "Lady Fielding's deposition". It is perhaps an indication of the way in which women were more attuned to local gossip that Lady Compton knew all about Coleman's allegations, whereas her husband, Sir Thomas, professed ignorance: ibid., "Sir Thomas Compton's deposition".

85 J. Knowles, "WS MS", Times Lit. Suppl., 29 Apr.-5 May 1988, pp. 472, 485.

86 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Needham's deposition", "Bale's deposition", "Beaumont's interrogatories for Hastings".

87 R. B. Manning, Village Revolts (Oxford, 1988), pp. 229-52; R. Wilkinson, A Sermon Preached at Northampton (London, 1607, S.T.C. 25662), sig. [F2.sup.v]; P.R.O., STAC 8/205/20, "Sir John Lambe's bill".

88 Gowing, "Gender and the Language of Insult", pp. 3-19.

89 These cases are discussed more fully in R. P. Cust, "Honour and Sexual Insult in Early Stuart Politics", available in the microfilm collection Proceedings of the American Historical Association, One Hundred and Eighth Annual Meeting, Jan. 1994 (Ann Arbor, 1994).

90 P.R.O., STAC 8/55/26, "Catesby's deposition".

91 The quotation is from Amussen, "Gender, Family and Social Order", p. 205. A Stratford-upon-Avon alderman was dismissed for a similar reason in 1625: A. L. Hughes, "Religion and Society in Stratford-upon-Avon, 1619-1638", Midland History, xix (1994), p. 68.

92 I am grateful to Clive Holmes for emphasizing this point to me.

93 See, for example, comments by Harris, "Women and Politics in Early Tudor England", p. 268 and by D. Willen, "Women in the Public Sphere in Early Modern England: The Case of the Urban Working Poor", Sixteenth Century Jl, xix (1988), pp. 559-61, 575. For an exploration of some of the meanings of "public" and "private" in this period, see L. Pollack," 'Living on the Stage of the World': The Concept of Privacy among the Elite of Early Modern England", in A. Wilson (ed.), Rethinking Social History: English Society, 1570-1920, and its Interpretation (Manchester, 1993), pp. 78-96.

94 This point has been made by R. Samuel, "Reading the Signs: II. Fact-Grubbers and Mind-Readers", History Workshop, no. 33 (Spring 1992), pp. 231-4.

Richard Cust University of Birmingham
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