Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Brooke, George

BROOKE, GEORGE (1568–1603), conspirator, the fourth and youngest son of William Brooke, lord Cobham, by Frances, daughter of Sir John Newton, was born at Cobham, Kent, on 17 April 1568. He matriculated at King's College, Cambridge, in 1580, and took his M.A. degree in 1586. He obtained a prebend in the church of York, and was later promised the mastership of the hospital of St. Cross, near Winchester, by Queen Elizabeth. The queen, however, died before the vacancy was filled up, and James gave it instead to an agent of his own, James Hudson. This caused Brooke to become disaffected. He and Sir Griffin Markham persuaded themselves that if they could get possession of the royal person they would have it in their power to remove the present members of the council, compel the king to tolerate the Roman catholics, and secure for themselves the chief employments of the state. As part of their arrangements Brooke was to have been lord treasurer. From this scheme sprang the ‘Bye’ plot, also known as the ‘treason of the priests.’ To Brooke's connection with the Bye may be ultimately traced the discovery of a second plot, known as the ‘Main,’ in which Sir Walter Raleigh and Lord Cobham [see Brooke, Henry (d. 1619)] were implicated. Brooke being the brother of Cobham, Cecil suspected that Cobham and Raleigh might be concerned in the first treason, and by acting at once vigorously he discovered the second plot. Brooke was arrested and sent to the Tower July 1603; he was arraigned on the 15th. He pleaded not guilty, though his confessions had gradually laid bare the whole details of the plots. Brooke appears to have hoped to the last to obtain a pardon by means of Cecil, who had married his sister. Mrs. Thompson, in the appendix to her ‘Life of Raleigh,’ gives a letter from Brooke to Cecil, in which the former inquires ‘what he might expect after so many promises received, and so much conformity and accepted service performed by him to Cecil.’ What these services were is entirely uncertain, but Tytler has endeavoured to build out of this a theory that Cecil himself employed Brooke to arrange the plot, and draw the minister's political opponents into the net, in order that he might be rid of them. This is to the last degree improbable, because Raleigh and Cobham were not concerned in the Bye plot, and were not executed. Brooke, in fact, alone of the lay conspirators suffered on the scaffold in the castle yard at Winchester 5 Dec. 1603. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas, lord Borough, and by her had a son, William, and two daughters. Although his children were restored in blood, his son was not allowed to succeed to the title. Brooke was the author of two poems, which are preserved in the Ashmole MSS.

[Dodd's Church History of England, ed. Tierney, vol. iv.; Cooper's Athenæ Cantab. ii. 359; Wood's Fasti, ed. Bliss, i. 192; Tytler's Life of Raleigh, Appendix F; Mrs. Thompson's Life of Raleigh; Gardiner's History of England, vol. i.]

B. C. S.