Notebook

Desperate to regain royal favour, Lenthall had sent £3,000 as a gift to the new King. The money was banked, but resulted in no encouraging signs from the Crown. Lenthall now offered himself as a witness against Scott, claiming to have heard his treasonous words, even though he had been forced to concede that from the Speaker’s chair he had not been able to see who spoke them. As a reward for his useful testimony Lenthall was granted an audience with Charles II. But, to the delight of the many who held the former Speaker in contempt, on being presented to the King, Lenthall misjudged his courtly bow, lost his balance, and toppled over onto his back.

Lenthall retired from public life after this, retreating to his two Oxfordshire estates: Besselsleigh Manor and Burford Priory. There, with plenty of time to look back on his life, he became racked with guilt over his shortcomings, especially his words that had damned Scott. Lenthall died in November 1662, insisting that he was such a miserable, flawed human being that there should be no great memorial to him, such as might have been expected of one who had achieved great political office. Instead, he ordered that a simple slab would serve, and he had two Latin words carved on it: Vermis sum – “I am a worm”.

Charles Spencer, “Killers of the King”. 

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