This day in London history: on 7 January 1618, Sir Francis Bacon was appointed Lord Chancellor, a post he held for just over three years. One of the intriguing aspects of Bacon’s life is the wife he never had: he was an unsuccessful suitor of Lady Elizabeth Hatton. Lady Elizabeth was an interesting character, and is the source of one of the theories behind the name of Bleeding Heart Yard.
The man who was successful in winning Elizabeth’s heart and hand in marriage – possibly to his regret, as she did not take his name and the two of them the couple lived in separate houses for much of their married life – was Edward Coke.
Coke was also a rival of Bacon when it came to public offices: he beat Bacon out in 1594 when he was given the position of Attorney General, and again in 1596 when he became Master of the Rolls. Bacon, who also lost on out the job of Solicitor General in 1595, was made a Queen’s Counsel in 1596.
While Bacon had blotted his copybook somewhat with Queen Elizabeth I by being a favourite of Essex, who lost favour with Elizabeth and was executed, he did start to gain favour. He fared a bit better, however, with Elizabeth’s successor, James I, who gave him the job of Lord Chancellor, but then, following accusations of corruption, Bacon lost his job, was fined, and served a brief sentence in the Tower.
Bacon was born in the Strand (or just Strand, if you prefer), which really was once a strand. The name was first recorded in 1002 as strondway and later as Stronde and la Stranda. It comes from the Old English word ‘strand’, or shore, and referred to the bank of the Thames which, at the time, was much wider.
There is a Bacon’s Lane in Highgate, on the site of the house where Bacon died, a martyr to his scientific curiosity. Way ahead of his time in terms of the principles of refrigeration, he tried stuffing a fowl with snow to see if it would preserve the meat. He caught cold, which developed into pneumonia, from which he died.
Would Sir Francis be pleased to know, one wonders, that a line of skis is named after him?