The Diary of Thomas Burton: 3 January 1656-7

Pages 297-298

Diary of Thomas Burton Esq: Volume 1, July 1653 - April 1657. Originally published by H Colburn, London, 1828.

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Saturday, January 3, 1656–7.

This House was this day adjourned, in respect of Mr. Speaker's indisposition of body. I dined with Colonel Fothergill.

A great Committee sat in the Painted Chamber upon Mr. Scot's petition, wherein he craved to be divorced from a bad wife, and that her children might not inherit his lands, being begotten in adultery.

The Committee were a long time in debate before they entered upon the merit of the case, whether a Committee of Parliament could sit, the House being adjourned.

The Master of the Rolls, Colonel Carter, and Mr. Bodurda, questioned it.

Mr. Bond and Mr. Robinson said that they frequently sat in the Long Parliament, though Parliament were adjourned.

Mr. Bodurda said, he never sat in the Long Parliament, but he had sometimes a desire to look into Journals of Parliament, and found that, in all adjournments of the House, there was always a particular saving to Committees.

This debate held a long time, and it was urged that the actions of the Long Parliament were not, in all things, to be imitated. They were very regular, in all things, in the beginning; but afterwards, and towards the latter end, necessity prompted them, in regard of the wars, &c. often to walk out of the road.

Divers other things were moved pro and con; but it was thought best to lay aside disputing upon the jurisdiction, and proceed to the matter.

The parties being called, the Lady Scot appeared not; and thereupon, the Committee were proceeding to judgment, in regard she was ordered expressly to give her answer that day.

Major-General Kelsey, and Mr. Godfrey, who had the chair, very much pressed that they would proceed to proof of the petition.

In the meantime a messenger came in and told the Committee that the lady was in the Court of Wards. She was called in, and her husband. She was heard by her counsel, Mr. Finch, who seemed implicitly to question the jurisdiction, reserved himself for matter of law till afterwards, and desired time to bring in an answer in writing, and further that Mr. Scot might allow her alimony, to vindicate her reputation, in her defence to the matters in the petition, which seemed to rip up the whole course of her life. It would be very chargeable to her to bring witnesses from all parts, and he, by law, ought to bear the charge, (it being allowed in all courts of justice), in regard it is likely to be the last time her husband shall be troubled with her, if the matters be proved as they are set forth in the petition. If she can vindicate herself, it ought to be his rejoicing as well as her's, and he will not grudge the charges.

Mr. Judico Sedgwick, one of the counsel for the husband, desired time to prove the petition, and agreed that, by the law, his client ought to give her alimony for her defence in this charge; and her counsel press it, that the Committee would demand the quantum of Mr. Scot. He was going to speak, (something, I believe, but simply,) but the Committee were not satisfied that they had any power to demand such a question, nor would they trouble themselves with the matter of alimony, nor report it to the House, but go to the matter; not doubting but the husband would freely give her something towards the defence of this suit.

The Committee went no further, but gave till this day sennight to the petitioner, to prove his petition, and then to hear counsel on both sides, and debate the whole matter. If one may judge of colours, she has a very bold face, but seemeth old. She was in black, and a long patch upon her forehead.