In June, 1576, he was admitted to Gray's Inn, being destined for the profession of law; but shortly afterwards was attached to the French embassy of Sir Amyas Paulet. His father died in 1579, leaving him small provision. He thereupon returned to England to continue his legal studies and was admitted barrister 27 June, 1582. Two years later he was elected to Parliament for the Borough of Melcome Regis.
In the following year he penned his "Letter of Advice to Queen Elizabeth", a document of considerable interest to Catholics, as expressing Bacon's views upon their treatment. Mary Stuart was yet alive, and there were plots and rumours of plots against the queen. There were many adherents of the old faith; and conformity might be secured either by severe measures or by insidious ones. The young member had Catholics for the queen's enemies. It was impossible, he thought, to satisfy them, dangerous to irritate by too great severity. He recommended changes in the Oath of Supremacy and even went so far as to urge a circumspect toleration of the sectaries because their teaching led to an issue "which your most excellent Majesty is to wish and desire" viz., the diminutions, and weakening of Papists.
His political life and advancement, notwithstanding his intrigue and incessant suit for office, were slow; his extraordinary ambition doomed for years to infruition. He had the misfortune to incur the queen's displeasure by opposing a grant of subsidies in such form as to infringe upon the privileges of the Commons. The patronage he found in Essex led to a friendship as remarkable as its end was dramatic and disastrous. Until 1607, when James I had reigned nearly four years, he had advanced no further in office than to be given the reversion of the post of Registrar of the Star Chamber. But in 1607, he became Solicitor-General. Then, until his fall, he advanced rapidly. The Attorney-Generalship was given to him in 1613. He became successively a member of the Privy Council (1616), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (1617), Lord Chancellor (1618).
He was raised to the peerage with the title of Baron Verulam (1618) and made Viscount St. Albans (1621). Suddenly he fell. He was accused, as Chancellor, of taking bribes. To this charge he pleaded guilty, was deprived, and declared incapable of holding any office, place, or employment in the State. He was excluded from both Parliament and Court, fined 40,000 pounds, and sentenced to imprisonment in the Tower during the king's pleasure. In time, all his sentence was remitted.
His death occurred five years later on his way to dine at Highgate, he alighted from his carriage purchased, killed, and stuffed a hen with snow in order to observe the retarding effects of cold upon putrefaction. He caught a chill which set up bronchitis. A week later he died in the house of the Earl of Arundel; and was buried, according to his wish, at St. Alban's in the church or St. Michael.