The Case of Dr. Lopez

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The unhappy story of Dr. Lopez, physician to Queen Elizabeth's household, who was executed for treason and attempted murder, has already been before the Society on two occasions. The first was on 27th April, 1908, when Major Martin Hume in a detailed examination of the case showed, I think conclusively, that Lopez was not guilty of the charges brought against him. The second was on 2 ist November, 1926, when the late Lucien Wolf, in the course of his paper on the Jews in Elizabethan England, added some interesting and enlightening particulars about Lopez's private life and family connections.

It may seem otiose and even impertinent to raise the matter for a third time ; and I do so the more diffidently since I have few, if any, new facts to add. There is, however, one direction in which I hope to be able to carry my predecessors' investiga? tion a stage further. Major Hume and (in so far as he touched on the case directly) Wolf were primarily concerned to show that the particular charges brought against Lopez were ill-founded and false. In this they were successful ; and it is now generally conceded that Dr. Lopez was wrongly condemned. But that is not to say that he was a wholly innocent man. On the contrary?and I think that my predecessors would have supported me in this?his whole course of conduct, his silences, his evasions, and his occasional lies under interrogation, all demonstrate clearly that he had something discreditable on his conscience, something that he wished to conceal. But what was it ? Can we at this distance of time not only demolish the false case against Lopez but also reconstruct the true one?

I think that we can : not exactly nor in its full detail, but at least in the main outline. But any such attempt is, of course, full of hazards and difficulties, not least in the matter of presentation. Although there are certain outside sources, the main bulk of our information about the Lopez case comes from the official documents of the time?Bacon's narrative, Waad's report to the Privy Council, and certain other letters and documents among the State Papers. But all this was the material on which the Government's case against Lopez was based?the evidence, if you like, on which he was condemned. A double task therefore faces the investigator : first, to prove that this evidence cannot bear the interpretation which the Government put upon it ; secondly, to find another interpretation which it can bear. That is what I have tried to do ; but the process, naturally enough, has been long and intricate and the conclusions at almost every stage debatable. If I were to go through the whole story to-night, with all the facts and theories, all the arguments and counter-arguments, I should detain you for a very long time.


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