Brooke, Henry, eighth Lord Cobham d. 1619, conspirator, was the son of William, seventh Lord Cobham, by Frances, daughter of Sir John Newton. His father, descended through the female line from the ancient lords of Cobham, was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, and held the offices of lord warden of the Cinque Ports, constable of the Tower, and lord chamberlain of the queen's household. He was also lord-lieutenant of the county of Kent and knight of the Garter. He twice entertained Elizabeth at Cobham Hall on her progress through Kent (17 July 1559 and 4 Sept. 1573), and was employed in diplomatic missions abroad in 1559 and (with Sir Francis Walsingham in the Netherlands) in 1579. In 1572 he was temporarily confined in the Tower on suspicion of being concerned in the plot to marry Mary Stuart to the Duke of Norfolk. He was buried at Cobham on 5 April 1597. A daughter (Elizabeth) married Sir Robert Cecil. Henry, who was M.P. for Kent (1588-9) and for Hedon (1592-3), succeeded his father in the barony, and secured much of his influence. He was the intimate friend of his brother-in-law Sir Robert Cecil, and therefore the enemy of Essex. Early in 1597 he defeated Essex in a contest for the post of warden of the Cinque Ports, vacant by his father's death. He was made a knight of the Garter in 1599, and entertained the queen at his London house in 1600. One of the objects of Essex's plot of February 1600-1 was the removal of Lord Cobham from court, and when arrested Essex made serious charges against Cobham's political honesty, but he finally acknowledged them to be untrue. The death of Queen Elizabeth saw the end of Cobham's prosperity. In July 1603, while Cecil and the council were engaged in tracking out Watson's well-known plot in behalf of the catholics, suspicion fell on Cobham, whose brother, George Brooke [qv.], was one of Watson's chief assistants. Sir Walter Raleigh, who was known to have been long on terms of great intimacy with Cobham, was entrusted with the task of obtaining information against him, and vague evidence was forthcoming to show that Cobham had been in negotiation with Aremberg, the ambassador of the Spanish archduke, to place Arabella Stuart on the throne, and to kill the king and his cubs. The alleged plot is usually known as Cobham's or the Main Plot, while Watson's conspiracy goes by the name of the Bye Plot. Cobham was arrested early in July, but the evidence that affected him appeared to the government to implicate Raleigh, who followed Cobham to the Tower within a few days. Cobham thereupon declared in a series of confessions that Raleigh had instigated him to communicate with Aremberg, and that pensions had been promised both of them by Spain. At Raleigh's trial, held at Winchester (17 Nov. 1603), these depositions formed the basis of the accusation. Raleigh begged to be confronted by Cobham in person, but the request was refused, and finally the prosecution produced a very recent letter from Cobham, in which he stated that since he had been in prison Raleigh had entreated him by letter to clear him of the charge; but all that he could do as an honest man was to inform their lordships anew that Raleigh was the original cause of his ruin. On the other hand, Raleigh produced a note just received by him from Cobham, in which the writer asserted his friend's complete innocence. But the judges were convinced of Raleigh's guilt, although Cobham's evidence, even if admitted to be trustworthy, failed to support any distinct charge of treason. On 18 Nov. Cobham himself was tried and convicted; his defence was, as might be expected, cowardly and undignified. A warrant was issued for his execution at Winchester on 10 Dec. (Egerton Papers, Camd. Soc. 382), and he, together with Lord Grey and Sir Griffin Markham, was led to the scaffold. Cobham behaved boldly on this occasion, but reiterated his assertion of Raleigh's guilt. James I had, however, no intention of having the full penalty inflicted, and Cobham was taken back to the Tower alive. There, like Raleigh, he remained till 1617, when he was allowed to pay a visit to Bath, on the ground of failing health. He was to return to the Tower in the autumn, and while on his way thither he was seized with paralysis at Odiham. He lingered in a semi-conscious state for more than a year, and died on 24 Jan. 1618-19. The story runs that he died in the utmost destitution, but it appears that the king allowed him 100l. a year, and 8l. a week for diet, and that these payments were regularly made up to the date of his death. He certainly lay unburied for some time; but that was probably because the crown refused to pay his funeral expenses, which his relatives were anxious that it should incur. Osborne states in his Traditionall Memorialls (Court of James I, 1811, i. 156), on the authority of William, earl of Pembroke, that Cobham died in a roome, ascended by a ladder, at a poore woman's house in the Minories, formerly his landeresse, rather of hunger than any more naturall disease. Sir Anthony Weldon, who describes Cobham as a fool, tells the same story in his Court of King James, 1651.
Cobham married after 1597 the widow of Henry, twelfth earl of Kildare, and daughter of the Earl of Nottingham. She abandoned her second husband after his disgrace, and, although very rich, would not, says Weldon, give him the crumbs that fell from her table. She acted for a few years as governess to the Princess Elizabeth. The crown apparently allowed her to occupy Cobham Hall, and the king visited her there in 1622. Cobham had no children, and his next heir was William, son of his brother George. William was restored in blood in 1610, but not allowed to assume his uncle's title. Charles I, however, in 1645, conferred the barony on a royalist supporter, Sir John Brooke, grandson of George, sixth Lord Cobham, and second cousin of Henry, the eighth lord. Sir John died without issue in 1651.
Gardiner's Hist. of England, i. 116-39, iii. 154-5
Winwood's Letters, i. 17, ii. 8, 11
Letters of Sir R. Cecil (Camd. Soc.)
Stow's Annals, sub 1603
Hasted's Kent, i. 493
Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, i. 354, iii. 413
Nichols's Progresses of James I, vol. i. passim, iii. 769-70
Spedding's Bacon, ii. and iii.
Dugdale's Baronage, ii. 202
State Trials, ii. 1-70
Cal. State Papers, 1600-19.
Contributor: S. L. [Sidney Lee]