Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House, Volume 20, 1608. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1968.
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The year 1608 was not a particularly eventful one in the reign of James I; at least nothing would seem to have prevented the King from indulging in hunting and hawking, sometimes to the point of utter physical exhaustion, even when state business of importance was awaiting his consideration. Where the chase and matters arising from it were concerned, James invariably found the time and energy to deal with them, and to complain, reward or expostulate according to the circumstances. That the father of Richard Blake should have found certain of the King's hawks that had been lost, was sufficient reason for James to recommend that the son should be awarded a Fellowship at Peterhouse College in Cambridge. On the other hand the suspicions, justifiably entertained, that the abundance of venison on the London market in December that year was due to the skilful poaching of royal hinds and does, drove the King to distraction, the more so as the dexterous use of nets and other "engines" had also made a clean sweep of all the partridges in his preserves and elsewhere. There ensued peremptory demands that the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Suffolk, should stop the holocaust, and a reminder to the Earl of Salisbury that he too should show a little more active interest in the matter.
When James was not riding with the hounds near Windsor or hawking at Theobalds, and was able to devote more attention to the affairs of his realm, there were two perennial problems that involved him personally and played on his susceptibilities as King and man. One was the shadow of insolvency that constantly overhung the royal treasury. Four years of liberality and extravagance, so different from the tight-fisted regime of Queen Elizabeth, had placed the King in very grave difficulties. The shifts to which he was reduced in warding off financial asphyxiation were hardly creditable to his status or reputation. He was forced to exercise discretion in the payment of pensions which he had so freely lavished on favourites and courtiers, for, as Sir Thomas Lake, Clerk of the Signet, so euphemistically described this partial moratorium, James was "not ignorant that his cistern affords not always water for every mouth that is dry." Another method which recommended itself to the impoverished King was to lay impositions on imports and exports, and this he entrusted to the Earl of Salisbury whom he appointed Lord Treasurer in May, 1608. The Earl took advantage of a decision in the Court of Exchequer, legalising such impositions without prior consent by Parliament, to issue a new book of rates which he estimated or hoped would bring in as much as £70,000, in addition to the usual tonnage and poundage. But by the end of November, the King's debts had swollen to almost £230,000 with only some £11,000 to meet them. Sobered by these figures, James listened meekly to the admonitions of the Lord Treasurer that his gifts and favours should be slashed right and left, and promised to be "less adventurous in his bounty." But the agonising problem of finding enough money to carry on the government and meet the daily exigencies of the Royal Household still remained. The Privy Council could think of no better interim solution than to summon before them twelve of the wealthiest citizens of London and ask them for a substantial loan. Knowing from past experience how recalcitrant and uncooperative Londoners could be on these occasions, the Privy Council wasted little time on patriotic appeals but gave an open hint that, failing a loan, James might consider himself freed from the obligation of paying the debts incurred by Queen Elizabeth, bequeathed by her to him, and which had not been entirely discharged. They sugared the pill, however, with an offer of one whole year's revenue from customs and imposts, "to which we must confess," they informed the King, "we found a more cheerful answer than we expected, first because we made them capable of the good uses for which this money was borrowed, whereof they expressed an honest joy, and because the scandal of ill payment, the fear of often borrowing and apprehension of unnecessary expense would be by this course prevented." For the time being the crisis had been met, and the year ended with James held in leash by the Earl of Salisbury and "resolved of some restraint and choice in his gifts for some short time until his great debts be satisfied."
The other matter in which the King displayed much sensitivity was the reception and status of Scotsmen in England. In 1606 the English Parliament had favoured the repeal of legislation passed in either country to repel hostile attacks from its neighbour. But any proposal for the naturalisation of Scotsmen south of the border and for freedom of trade between England and Scotland was opposed. The union of the two countries was a personal one, and the age-long mutual antagonism of Scots and English was not to evaporate overnight, especially when the King made no secret of his preference for Scottish favourites. His English subjects retaliated in devious ways. "His Majesty," wrote Sir Thomas Lake to the Earl of Salisbury, "sees how apt men are to pick occasions of offence against Scotsmen and to publish things to their disadvantage, though untrue." The King used every opportunity to undermine the notion that the Scots were aliens, and was not above trying to circumvent English law to achieve his object. On one occasion he preferred his countrymen to be regarded as bastards (at least when they were dead) than as aliens. The Earl of Salisbury was quick to appreciate James's feelings on this score, and won his gratitude for his display of sympathy and good will. Moved to indignation by Sir Walter Raleigh's criticism of the Earl, James wrote to him: "Yon unhappy man is the first and last that ever I heard complain of you, since ye had this office, and God is my judge I daily hear the contrary by Scottish men. If any shall do, you may be sure I never shall conceal them or spare their punishment; only I wish an English man rather to commit that error than a Scottish man."
A compromise was eventually reached on this issue of status, when by a judgment delivered in the Court of Exchequer it was made evident that the King's subjects born in Scotland after his accession to the English throne, should be considered as the natural subjects of the King of England. As regards freedom of trade, however, the English were more obstructionist. Fearing that the Scots might be tempted to undersell them on the foreign market, it was made an indictable offence with summary penalties for any Scottish trader to transport English cloth abroad from England, or to sell English goods lawfully purchased in England or Scotland to any foreigner who might conceivably convey them abroad. Considering that such goods were now admitted into Scotland, ostensibly for the good of the Scots, without paying custom duties as before, the English merchants would appear to have extracted the best possible economic advantages from the union. Certainly the Scots complained that they were in a less advantageous position than prior to 1603, for to all intents and purposes freedom of trade was being deliberately denied them.
James was determined that, as far as it was consistent with his Protestant faith and regal dignity, no action by England should be construed as a violation of the articles of the Treaty of Peace signed by the English and Spanish Governments in 1604. It would have been inadvisable to decide otherwise, for the security of the English people was no longer at stake. The naval power of Spain had not recovered from the disaster of the Armada, and, in any case, the Spanish authorities were too hard pressed to obtain enough mariners to man their West and East Indian fleets, to think of sparing men and materials for naval adventures off the English coast. Spain's territorial armies too were so exhausted by the protracted struggle with the United Provinces, that their commanders were more eager to procure terms of a peace or truce with the Dutch than to continue the war, despite some recent victories.
At Madrid Philip III of Spain, like James, saw no advantage in an aggressive policy calculated to foment English suspicions of Spain, and although he delegated the conduct of foreign affairs to the allpowerful favourite and minister, the Duke of Lerma, the Spanish King's inclination was always for the prolongation of the peace with England. Nevertheless it was an uneasy peace. The Treaty of 1604 had left some questions unanswered, and the only possible method for the two governments to probe one another's minds regarding them was to test their respective intentions to implement the Treaty's articles. This was the task set for the English Ambassador in Madrid, Sir Charles Cornwallis, who, since 1605, had pitted himself against the evasive and maddeningly courteous behaviour of the Spaniards, and had finally given vent to his exasperation and frustration in a despatch to the Earl of Salisbury, in which he had commented; "This nation, taking away theyr cerymonyous punctualyties, which rather are the properties of fopes than men, ys the most removed from all parts of true honor of any other cyvile people under heavens." (fn. 1)
Madrid had agreed in the Treaty that English merchants could trade without hindrance in metropolitan Spain and some of her dependencies like the Canary Islands. The concession had been reluctantly given, and behind it lay the deeper apprehension that the English would not be deflected by the paper conditions of a diplomatic agreement from adventuring further afield, even into the forbidden pastures of the Indies trade. It was bad enough that the Dutch had forcibly breached the monopoly of that trade held by Spain and Portugal; to permit the English to emulate the Dutch example would be tantamount to its eventual surrender to the two Protestant powers. The fears were genuine and the argument cogent, for no Spaniard could have been expected at that time to foresee that Dutch and English, united as they were against Spanish domination in Europe, would shortly turn their guns on one another to win mercantile supremacy in the East Indies. And Spanish anxieties were hardly reduced by Sir Charles Cornwallis's blunt warning to Philip III himself that "a nation so much accustomed to the seas and inclined to navigation is not in a day to be restrayned." (fn. 2)
The Spaniards, however, were prepared to spend considerably more than a day to restrain the English. Little could be effected against well-equipped and large Dutch fleets spoiling for a fight around the Celebes or Malacca, but individual English vessels straying, however inadvertently, from the legitimate paths of commerce, could be dealt with. Soon Cornwallis had his hands full with the appeals of English mariners imprisoned and condemned to the galleys, and the complaints of English traders and factors arbitrarily subjected to confiscation of goods or the imposition of unfair dues. For some he was able to obtain release or restitution, but his difficulties were aggravated when the Spanish Inquisition decided to take a hand in the persecution of English merchants, not because they allegedly contravened the laws of Spain, but on the grounds that they became too argumentative or proselytizing in the defence of Protestantism, or intolerably offensive in their comments on Catholicism. In Cornwallis's opinion interference by the Inquisition was a greater menace to English trade than any other. "In myn own opinion," he wrote to the Privy Council, "amongst others this is not the least of the dangers wherunto are subject the merchants of our cuntries that trafique hither, for yf the article (of the Peace Treaty) be to be understood that upon scandall supposed they may imprison and then press the partyes with question of theyr consciences, and upon that ground proceed with them according to theyr own rules, I see not with what safety any of his Maties subjects can eyther come or make any abode in this kingdome, wher ther wyll never want parsons malitious to accuse, covetous hands to laye hould upon matter of profitt, nor cruell partye to execute against us whatsoever theyr bloody lawes wyll give them colour to" (fn. 3).
Spain might be worried about the vulnerability of her overseas trade, but what she feared more, perhaps, was the expansion of a permanent alien influence in the form of colonialisation. In 1607, the English had planted their first settlement in Virginia, and the agitation of the Spaniards, because of its proximity to Florida and the Spanish New World colonies, was most palpable throughout the following year. An extraordinary session of the Council of the Indies was called in July, 1608, to discuss the situation and devise countermeasures, and Cornwallis, getting wind of it, wrote to the Earl of Salisbury: "Those intended restraints are, in my weake judgment of no smale consideration. For yf theyr purpose be to cutt theyr cloth with the Popes sheeres, his Maties subjects shall shortly be also forbidden theyr commerce in Barbary, those countryes having been by him shared and devyded between Spaine and Portingall no less authentically than those others of theyr new found world." (fn. 4)
As the months passed rumours gathered that the Spaniards would take effective action to liquidate the colony in Virginia. Soldiers brought from Italy to take part in an expedition against the Moroccan port of El Arish were to be switched to an assault on Virginia. "Sir Anthony," Cornwallis informed the Privy Council, "finding not his first projected inventions of strength sufficient to draw money out of so dry a purse, hath, as I am informed, made much discourse of the (English) King's intentions of planting in Virginia, and given many reasons of the evyll consequences lykely to follow yt, yf by this state yt be not prevented." (fn. 5) The Spanish Government needed no reminder by an English adventurer like Sir Anthony Shirley to fully comprehend the dangers radiating from a successful colonialisation of Virginia, but nothing was done by Spain to make sure that the handful of settlers failed to survive the first few years of disease and dissension.
By dint of perseverance Cornwallis was able to report at last a victory over the Inquisition. In his view, the latter had too liberally interpreted the article in the Treaty of 1604 which defined the scandal or religious offence that made Englishmen in Spain liable to imprisonment, and had used it to make life unbearable for English merchants generally. He obtained their consent that a private defence of Protestantism was not a scandal, and that only an attempt at proselytization came within that category. After a further perusal of the article in question, both parties likewise concurred that, as it stood, it plainly guaranteed immunity to all classes of English merchants from being harassed on matters of religion and conscience. Cornwallis's triumph was complete, but his despatch reporting it suggests only too clearly that the fault did not lie entirely with the Spaniards. "Your Lordships wyll easyly conceave how necessary yt was in this playne and overt manner to tread his Maties subjects out of this quagmire, which hath alredy gotten hould of so many of them, and would no doubt of many more yf in this sort yt had not been searched and made sound at the bottome. From henceforth my hope ys that, behaving themselves with such modestie as ys fytting for them in a strange cuntry and so different from theyr own, they shall goe with securyty and be freed from those contynuall feares that before possessed them." (fn. 6)
Cornwallis had fought well and deserved the highest commendation from the Privy Council. But before many months had passed, he was to feel the insidious, all-pervading power of the Inquisition. Nevil Davis, a much too outspoken English merchant in Seville, who corresponded regularly with the Ambassador, was given two days to leave the country. An appeal by Cornwallis that his resident's permit should be restored to Davis was turned down flatly, and he concluded to his own satisfaction that it was the invisible hand of the Inquisition that had operated the eviction. He found himself deprived of an invaluable source of information and judged, correctly, that Davis's fate would warn off any merchant desirous of filling his place as correspondent.
In the redress of actual or alleged injustices to his countrymen, Cornwallis, despite acidulous criticism by at least one member of his staff, displayed both care and resolution, and was rewarded with more success than many other English ambassadors in Europe. However, he was not so happy or successful in his presentation of the anxieties of his own Government about Spanish motives, nor in his clarification of English policies that patently disturbed the Spaniards. One reason may have been his occasional lapse of tact when face to face with the Duke of Lerma, who was the very embodiment of decorum and sobriety in his relations with foreign representatives.
To joke at the expense of Catholics in a rigorously Catholic country, where the authorities, actively supported by the Inquisition, were on the alert for the least breath of criticism of their religion, was foolish in the extreme. But that is precisely what Cornwallis did. Upon presenting his nephew, Robert Southwell, to the Duke of Lerma, he followed up the customary ceremonious introduction by adding, "that were not my nephew of the Roman Relygeon, I durst recommend him for an honest man." For the hypersensitive Duke, the words contained only one possible interpretation—that no Roman Catholic could be an honest man. At a later meeting with the English Ambassador, the Duke told him bluntly that his feelings had been outraged by his remark. Cornwallis thought it prudent to inform the Privy Council of what had happened, and to represent the whole incident as an example of the congenital inability of foreigners to understand English humour. "I assure your Lordships," he wrote, "I could not choose but laugh and so thought yt allso best for his more full satisfaction, telling him that I should sooner have conjectured anything to have been the cause than those words, which, by his favor, he could not understand to be spoken in other sort than in meryment. I protested yf he had at that instant beheld my countenance, he might more clearly have understood to have been only spoken in mirth." Whether he was convinced or not, the Duke of Lerma recovered his innate courtesy, and remarked that it was to be regretted that religious differences between Spain and England made closer relations impracticable. (fn. 7)
The news of an impending (and later officially concluded) defensive league between England and the United Provinces at the height of the peace negotiations at the Hague, certainly increased the strain and tempo of Cornwallis's diplomatic activities in Madrid. He noted that "it had entred very farre into theyr (the Spaniards') brests", and he found himself saddled by his Government with the task of doctoring the wound with all the verbal emollients at his command. At first he was able to reduce the inflammation somewhat by denying most vehemently that the league was a violation of the Anglo-Spanish Treaty of 1604, and that, in fact, James I had accepted it as a means of expediting the peace talks whose successful termination the Spaniards themselves so ardently desired. Pleased with this argument, to which the Constable of Spain could only retort with feeble expostulations, Cornwallis then proceeded to show how irreproachably and logically the King of England had acted towards Spain. As long as the Dutch had been accounted rebels by Philip III, he had discountenanced any idea of a league with them. But the recognition of their independence had automatically invested the Dutch with the right to conclude alliances, and James had done no more than act within the compass of that imprescriptible right of all free nations. The Constable of Spain, who seems to have felt helpless when confronted with this apparently unassailable argument, could have pointed out, of course, that whereas the Archdukes of Flanders may have recognised the independence of the United Provinces, up to that moment the King of Spain definitely had not done so. Cornwallis may not have given him enough time to put in this objection, for he went on to insinuate as the real reason for the Anglo-Dutch rapprochement, that it was a precautionary move by James to secure the safety of his dominions in case Spain failed to honour the terms of the Treaty of 1604. A perfectly justifiable measure, insisted the English Ambassador, with Spain indeed very much in mind, since, "he that wyll fysh alone in the sea must hang out his lanterne, and that such as wyll play underhand themselves cannot with justice or equyty requyre that others play all above bord." (fn. 8)
When next Cornwallis was summoned to discuss the whole complex of Anglo-Spanish relations, he had to deal with a more redoubtable and intractable personage than the Constable of Spain. Without wasting any time, the Duke of Lerma made a violent attack on the Earl of Salisbury, "charging your Lordship," wrote Cornwallis, "to be the greatest friend and supporter of that (Dutch) people, and the most especially adverse to the good of this (Spanish) Crowne." Cornwallis riposted that the report was malicious, and went to the extraordinary length of offering to show Lerma certain letters from the Earl of Salisbury, "wherein upon your honor and soule (as I remember) you protest to hould no prejudicate nor evyll affected mind to this state, but rather a disposition to the good of yt in anything that may conforme with the service of your own Soveraine and cuntry." He then embarked on a long disquisition on the Earl of Salisbury's difficulties and struggles with people at home who were reluctant to descry in him a heightened sense of justice, how his integrity had finally vindicated itself, and how the Earl was now "the most honoured and generall beloved subject of that kingdom." The Duke of Lerma was singularly unimpressed. What was more, his reply was disconcertingly curt. Cornwallis, he advised, "should performe a good office to you (Salisbury) as well in regard of your honor as of your soule and safety, to perswade and advyse you to become of better affection to those that meane so well to your King, and not to oppose yourselfe against a Prince so mighty." (fn. 9)
There was a visible thaw in the Duke of Lerma's frigid manner when Cornwallis turned to the subject of the Anglo-Dutch league. He reiterated the arguments that he had employed with the Constable of Spain, and then struck a historic note which, he might have calculated, would dispel whatever suspicions the Duke still harboured. "I sayd that so wyse a Prince (James) and so grave and experyenced a Councell as that of England, were not ignorant that the French were our enymies by nature and friends only by accident, and that this (Spanish) nation had become our enymies only by accident and our friends by nature." Lerma agreed that the French were also the real enemies of Spain, but appeared obdurately resigned to the fact that intimacy between England and Spain was precluded by the incompatability of religion, "which forbidds to adventure the perylling of soules for gayning of securytie to bodies or states temporall. Upon this subject," Cornwallis commented "passed some more speech between us, the Duke styll retayning the playnsong howsoever he varyed on the dyttie."
Since the Duke had mentioned security, the English Ambassador may have thought that an exposition of English views on that matter would not be irrelevant. He began with Ireland, not unlikely a sore point with Lerma since he had been instrumental in sending one Spanish expedition after another to keep up the morale of the Irish insurgents until the shattering defeat of Tyrone in 1602. The comments made by Cornwallis were rather heavy handed, and contained an ill concealed sneer at the methods of the Spanish Government. If the English had adopted the policy of extirpation, as the Spaniards had done in the New World, or of wholesale eviction as they had applied to the Moriscos in Philip II's reign (and would do so again the following year), order and peace would have long been established in Ireland. Instead they had dispensed with such extremes of cruelty, and had now succeeded in providing good government and tranquillity throughout Ireland, even amongst the most intransigent natives. It would be a complete waste of time and money, he added pointedly, to attempt to foment any further resistance to English supremacy in Ireland.
There was no reaction from Lerma, and Cornwallis turned to Spain. He complained about the friendly reception extended to traitors and disaffected persons from England, but he was not permitted to elaborate his charges for long. "Herewith with an angry countenance and a bent brow he (Lerma) began to ryse from his cheyre, saying that I never came but with repetitions of complaynts, and that he expected other language from me." Cornwallis partially mollified him by dropping all charges except those against the notorious English renegade, James Blount, who had recently arrived in Spain from Flanders. (fn. 9)
It was the last formal audience between Cornwallis and the real ruler of Spain during that year, and the English Ambassador could congratulate himself that he had managed to convey explicitly to the Spaniards that if they were prepared to keep the peace, the English Government would have no reason to count them as enemies. More than this James did not care, for the moment, to contemplate. In the same spirit, the Earl of Salisbury was disinclined to create a fuss if Spain inadvertently or otherwise sinned against some of the less important clauses of the Treaty of 1604. The English Government was quite capable of finding itself in a similar state of transgression, and if no real harm was done, such aberrations could and should be mutually ignored. And so he wrote to Cornwallis on the last day of the year that he should not protest too much against certain new impositions introduced in Spain. "So as in that kinde you may forbeare any such sharpe pursuite against it, least happily they pay us at our owne weapon, as you may see by the contents of the 9th Article of the Peace towards the end." (fn. 10)
Although no two rulers could have agreed more than James I and the Archduke Albert that there should be a truce to the inconclusive war between Spain and the United Provinces, they did little to ensure that their commonly shared opinion was translated into practical collaboration. The Anglo-Spanish Treaty of 1604, in which the Archdukes were included, had merely ended hostilities in the Narrow Seas. It had by no means paved the way to any closer relations between London and Brussels than ordinary diplomatic courtesies. And by January, 1608, even those were wearing thin, owing to the provocative attitude of Flanders on three matters which James and his advisers regarded as indissolubly bound with the political security and economic welfare of England.
The first was the question of Tyrone's and Tyrconnell's reception in Brussels, and their continued presence in the capital. The English Government was undoubtedly relieved by the flight of the two Earls from Ireland, which robbed the Irish resistance movement of its two most formidable and authoritative leaders. On the other hand, as long as they were welcomed and honourably entertained abroad, it could be legitimately presumed that they would attempt to return some time and recover their patrimonies with foreign assistance. To increase the distance between them and Ireland appeared to James to be the only way of countering this threat, and Sir Thomas Edmondes, the English envoy at Brussels, was instructed to request the Archduke to speed the Earls' departure to Rome, where they apparently all wished to proceed.
The Archduke may have secretly wished the Irish Earls even further away than Rome. They were in Brussels at a most inopportune moment, when he was relying on the ability of the English Commissioners at the Hague to prevail upon the Dutch to act reasonably in the peace negotiations. But without a sure knowledge of the King of Spain's intentions towards them—and Philip III's views on this as on other political subjects could be irritatingly nebulous, although it was persistently rumoured that the Earls were forbidden to go to Spain— the Archduke had to entertain them as state guests without appearing to commit himself too much one way or the other. Already there had been "chollericke speeches" between Hobocque, his ambassador in London, and the Privy Council over Tyrone's sojourn in Brussels, and tempers had not been improved by James's abrupt refusal to postpone a hunting expedition to grant Hobocque an audience. It was in this atmosphere of mutual resentment that Edmondes met the Archduke in a formal audience, and immediately taxed him with undue partiality towards Tyrone. "In excuse of the favor shewed unto Tyrone," he wrote to the Earl of Salisbury, "he (the Archduke) alleaged that he had not permitted him to be covered before him, as was objected, neither that there had been bestowed any medalls of his picture upon Tyrone and his company as was lykewise reported, and that the entertainment which was here given to him by the Marquis Spinola was not by any expresse order of his, but only proceeding from his own courtesie." Edmondes showed himself highly sceptical of these asseverations. He pointed out that Tyrone had been furnished with money to maintain a household commensurate with his titles and rank, he had been entertained at the Archduke's Court, and the many Irish soldiers in his train had been incorporated into the Archduke's military forces. (fn. 11) The bill of indictment appeared incontestable, and relations would probably have deteriorated still further if the fugitive Earls had not left for Rome in February. "It is generallie thought," commented Edmondes, "that he (Tyrone) is not lyke to obtayne any great releefe from the Pope himselfe, who in his own nature is noted to be extreamely miserable." (fn. 12) What Edmondes did or could not appreciate at the time was that little relief would be forthcoming to him personally from this timely departure of the Earls, for no sooner had they gone than another dispute erupted to bedevil Anglo-Flemish relations.
In a despatch dated March 23rd, Edmondes notified the Earl of Salisbury that, "some of the Merchants Adventurers which trade into these parts, addressed themselves of late unto me, praying me to assisste them for opposing my selfe against a greevance whereof they complayned, in that it was intended to revyve the exacting of an ancyent impost called the great Tolle of Gravelinge upon the merchandises of England which shall passe into the parte of Flanders, which they alleaged there was no just reason nowe to requyer of them, the same being established at such tyme as Callais was possessed by the state of England to right themselves against the proceedings of that tyme, in regard that order was then taken for the benefitt of the said towne of Callais to have the merchandises of England landed there, which were formerly accustomed to passe into the parts of Flanders, the which impost had continuance for many yeares so long as the trade was in that manner dyverted from the parts of Flanders. But afterwards, when Callais was lost, the trade returning to his accustomed course, that it was forborne from that tyme forward to exact further the payment of the said impost." (fn. 13)
To the English merchants the reimposition of the antiquated tax was arbitrary and unjustifiable, and it was in that light that the English Ambassador represented it to the Archduke. The Flemish fiscal officials, on the other hand, maintained, "that as the said imposte is of an ancyent institution, so the same hath not ben discontinued upon any other cause then only for that since the troubles of these countryes there hath ben so small trade used into Flanders as made the strickt urging of that impost to bee the more neglected." The Archduke temporised by suspending the toll for two months in order to allow both parties to consult and assemble documentary evidence in support of their contradictory declarations.
In May Edmondes returned to the attack. He conveyed to the Archduke a request by James that the toll should be stayed. "And for answeare to the allegations which had ben made unto him by his officers of the Finances in favor of the said impost, who had produced an article of the Treatie made in the yeare 1476 betweene the Crowne of England and these countries, wherein it is sayd that all newe imposts of that tyme should be taken awaye save only that of Graveling, out of the which confirming of the same by treatie, they would inferre an agreement for the perpetuall establishing thereof, I tould him that I had considered of the tyme when the Treatie with that article was made (if there were any such thinge), and that it appeared to have ben in such a tyme when Calais was as yett possessed by the Crowne of England, and the lawefull pretence still houlding for the continuyng of the said impost, for that the staple of the English commodities was drawne out of these countries to Calais, it gave occasion to the producing of that article which ceased afterwardes to be of force, when the cause was taken away by the restoring of the trade to his former state in these countries. And where it was further alleaged that the said impost hath not ben of late yeeres duely levyed as in former tymes by reason of the warres of these countries, which have hindred the course of trade by the partes of Flanders, I tould him that it appeared that notwithstanding there did alwayes passe great quantitie of clothes hither by the waye of Calais, so as the ordinarie payement of the same would not have ben neglected if there had ben just pretence for it. And, contrariewise, that there was noe reason to make our marchants to incurre a generall prejudice for that which was exacted during the warres of some perticular men, who then traded hither underhand, when there was noe disputing of any thinge that was donne against right and the force of their priviledges. Moreover that it cannott be denyed that since the making of the peace with his Matie, the said impost hath not ben sought to be revyved till nowe." (fn. 14) Faced with this barrage of powerful arguments, the Archduke yielded to another re-examination of the whole question, and Edmondes, exploiting his advantage, urged him not to let his financiers decide it, "for that it were to make them both judges and parties in the busynes, for the desire they have onely to advance his proffit without respecting the interests of other Princes subjects."
There was one weakness in the presentation of the English case which Edmondes managed to cover up with the help of his loquacity but which he made no effort to conceal in his correspondence with the Earl of Salisbury. "If the marchants wilbe diligent to produce their proofs against that impost," he wrote to him, "I make no doubt of the staying of it, but they doe sildome undertake their busynes with a common care as they should doe." He received little encouragement from the Secretary of State. The Earl of Salisbury complimented him on his ingenious exploitation of all available and plausible arguments, but confessed that, "besides those reasons which you have already alleadged, wee know not what to add further, here being fewe or none of the marchants that can say anything to it." (fn. 15) That English merchants should have been struck by an inability to argue in favour of their own interests left Edmondes with a feeling of impotence, reinforced by a most unpleasant rumour that James was contemplating redoubling customs dues at the English ports to increase his revenue. The rumour strengthened the hand of the Flemish fiscal authorities who favoured the Gravelines Toll, but before the dispute had gone beyond the limits of diplomatic exchanges, it was overshadowed by a much more serious clash of policies and a thoroughly malodorous piece of judicial chicanery.
One faction that was determined to fight tooth and nail against the possibility of any accommodation of Anglo-Flemish differences was the group of English Jesuits and Catholic refugees in Flanders. From the days of Elizabeth they had gravitated to that country almost by instinct rather than preference, for by its physical proximity and its allegiance to Catholicism, it provided the best facilities for conspiratorial and missionary action against England, in the political as well as the spiritual field. Owen, Baldwin and other veterans of the anti-Elizabethan campaigns were still active protagonists of the forcible overthrow of the Protestant regime. Sir Edward Baynham and the Jesuit, John Gerard, suspected of complicity in the Gunpowder Plot were also there, freely advocating similar views. And no difficulty was placed by the Flemish authorities in the way of building English Catholic seminaries and religious houses. They also enjoyed another liberty whose abuse or dangers would be only too apparent to the English Government. "I have been informed," Edmondes wrote to the Earl of Salisbury, "that one Shelton, an Irishman, is in hand at Louvayne to sett foorth an Apollogie for the Earle of Tyrone, whereof I had some speech with the Archduke in my last audyence, telling him withall that all the slanderous bookes against his Mats state, which are written by the Englishe fugityves at Rome or elsewhere, are sent to be printed in these parts without any controllment of the liberty which they take therein. He professed to have a great mislyke thereof, but he doth not so well make it appeare that he hath any great resolution to hould any hand upon actions of the churchmen." (fn. 16) With a freedom of propaganda to be envied by their co-religionists in England, the English Catholic community in Flanders could disseminate any rumours or factitious news they wished, as was exemplified in one of Edmondes's despatches that, "our Jesuitts here have raised the report of an other myracle, that Wright the Jesuitt, who brake out of the prison of the Clincke, was in the lyke manner assisted by an angell for the shaking of of his gyves and opening of the prison doores as St Peter was for his escape." (fn. 17)
In the same despatch the English Ambassador, after giving serious thought to the jeopardising of Anglo-Flemish relations by the machinations of the English Jesuits, summarised his views and proposals. He argued that the conclusion of a Spanish-Dutch truce or peace would incontrovertibly improve those relations, but that residual divergencies of opinion would always be exploited by the Jesuits to foment suspicions. "These ill instruments will not leave still to hatche some new practises against his Mats state, and to seeke to interesse both theise and other Princes when they shalbe discharged of the troubles of their owne countryes, in a zealous compassion of favouring them upon the spetious pretence of Religion, wherein there needeth no better instance then already they have wrought upon the levytie of this Prince in haveing procured allowance for the setting up in these countryes of a newe college, both of English and Irishe, to be furnished with greater nombers to send abrode, and in the exasperating of his Mats justice against them, to render the same the more odious to forraine states. I doe therefore make bould to present it to your Lordships consideration whether your Lordship doe not think it fitt, in case a peace shalbe concluded with the States (as in the end many men doe conceive that the King of Spaines necessities will force him to that resolution when he shall fynde that he can no longer continewe his marchandises), that both the said King and these Princes may be effectually dealte withall for the easing of his Mats state of much unquietnes, that his ill affected subjects may be no more harbored and protected here then they are in other parts, and those spetially to be removed which are knowen to be continuall authors of practise against the same. The lyke was formerly graunted in the late Queenes tyme upon some pacifications with Spaine, for the banishment of Owen and some others from hence, and the reason for giveing his Matie satisfaction therein nowe wilbe greater then ever, when by the making of the peace all causes of jallousie shall cease."
But the peace was far from being concluded, and in the meantime the English Jesuits were acting on the assumption that it might never materialise. In fact it was at this conjuncture that a most vigorous movement was launched by the English Catholic community to consolidate its position in Flanders. In addition to the colleges at Douai and St Omer, licence was obtained from the Archduke to erect another seminary at Louvain which it was proposed to remove to Watten near Gravelines. At Douai the English Benedictine order, despite the opposition of the Jesuits, established a house of their own. The Irish Friars, for their part, had built another for themselves at Louvain, and the various orders of English Catholic nuns were likewise engaged in expanding their establishments with the help of newly arrived novitiates from England, who had been given substantial sums of money by their families. Edmondes was perturbed by the activity of the English Catholics, which not even inter-order rivalries and jealousies could dampen. "If this libertie be allowed to sett up dayly newe Houses in this manner," he warned the Earl of Salisbury, "it will serve more and more to aucthorise and enable these people to continewe their practises against his Mats state." To Edmondes's remonstrances the Archduke either hinted that effectual counter measures depended on the progress of the peace talks, or kept a discreet silence. And it was at this stage that the English Jesuits engineered another of their plots to discredit the English Government, by trying to tar it with the same brush of conspiracy which it had constantly applied to English Catholic recusants abroad.
It began with the arrest of one Thomas Wilford in the market place at Brussels on a charge preferred by the two Jesuits, Owen and Baldwin, that he was in correspondence with the Earl of Salisbury and had been hired by him to assassinate Owen. His papers were seized, he himself subjected to a most thorough interrogation, and finally imprisoned at the castle of Vilvorde outside Brussels. From his examination it appeared, or his interrogators would have it appear, that he had offered his services in apprehending and conveying Owen to London. Edmondes strongly protested against this imputation which reflected on the honour of the Earl of Salisbury, and insisted that Wilford's offer amounted to no more than acting as an informer. To show in what degree of contempt Owen was held by the King of England, he revealed a hitherto well kept secret to the Archduke. "I tould him that I would acquaint him with a further point of Commissyon heretofore given me then as yet I had ever made knowen unto him, which was that when his Matie commanded me to requyer the delivery of Owen, to shew that he despised his person and desyred only to make his villany appeare to the world, he gave me Commissyon not only to promise in his name that he should have no other prison then but the (Flemish) Ambassadors house in England, and not to be examined and proceeded against but in his presence and meerly for the barbarous conspiracy of the Gunpowder treason, but also that after his conviction his Matie would be content to send him back unto the Archduke to be dealt withall as he should thinck fitt, which latter offer I forbare in discretion to make when I founde that his reall dealling in the former was nothing well entertayned, and his Matie did very well approve that I had so donne." Edmondes did not conceal that his own attitude to Owen amounted to more than contempt. "In speaking of Owen to the Archduke, I said to him that I would not conceale from him that if occasion were offered, I would doe my best endevor to procure the seizing of Owens person to be sent prisoner into England, for that it is pitty that he should dye otherwise then by the gallowes, at the which he smyled." (fn. 18)
The English Ambassador may have derived some consolation from that smile and from the general view in Brussels that the Jesuits had laid a fuse which (not unlike the Gunpowder Plot) had failed to explode, and that, in any case, there was little truth in Owen's charges against Wilford. "All men," he informed the Earl of Salisbury, "have judged it to be an enterprize of no small difficultie, but much more for Mr Wilford to undertake. And they make a jeaste of it that when Wilford was demanded howe he did project the performance thereof, that it was answered by him that he meante hereafter to bethinck himself of the meanes." (fn. 19) Edmondes also opined that Wilford had been betrayed by another Englishman, Whitebread, who had allowed himself to be corrupted by the Jesuits. "The best excuse that I can make for Wilford is that it is a thing of Owens and Baldwines owne hatching, by the setting of Whitebread in worrke to engage him therein and afterwards to betray him."
But that was not the view of the Flemish Government. When the English Ambassador next saw the Archduke, the situation had changed for the worse. Whether it was the result of torture or not, Wilford had confessed his intention to seize Owen, and the Archduke notified Edmondes coldly that, although he could not associate the Earl of Salisbury with such a premeditated crime, Wilford was to pay the penalty for threatening the safety of a person who was under the Archduke's protection. There ensued a protracted argument between them. "I debated with him," wrote Edmondes, "that by any due proceeding the matter could not be made Capitall, and therfore that it could not but much taxe his justice if in this odious case of Owen, wherein we only take a course to right ourselves against our wicked rebells which are entertained and supported here against the bondes of all frendshippe and reason, the extremity of the law should be strayned . . . and very hote disputation we had thereuppon; he stiffley maynteyning that his justice should be well founded to justifie his proceedings therein." (fn. 20) In the heat of the argument, the Archduke put forward the incredible proposal that, if the Earl of Salisbury avowed that he had employed Wilford in the affair, the latter would escape the full rigour of the law of treason. "I suppose," Edmondes commented on this and other manifestations of a, to him, misplaced obduracy, "that a principall cause of his stiffness is his doubt, if he shall not proceed vigorously in this matter, to be censured for the same in Spain."
Edmondes was correct in his supposition. Owen was under Spanish protection and enjoyed Jesuit support and favour. Not even the considered opinion of five eminent lawyers in Brussels that Wilford was not guilty of either treason or attempted manslaughter, could neutralise the opposition or discredit Owen's charges. Finally Edmondes, playing his last card that the King of Spain would be personally involved in the sordid affair if it had to be revealed that Owen was protected by him, succeeded in getting the case transferred to the Archduke's Privy Council. And there, when he was summoned to meet its members, the English Ambassador wrote to the Earl of Salisbury that, "I spake freer language then they are accustomed to heare for making them to understand the truth of things." (fn. 21) His expostulations may have had some effect; three weeks or so later, the Flemish Privy Council decided to set Wilford at liberty and to expel him from Flanders. It appeared to have been a neat little diplomatic victory for Edmondes. But the "truth of things" was that the Archduke, and the Spanish King to a lesser degree, were more desirous of obtaining English help (and that meant the Earl of Salisbury's active sympathy) in arranging a satisfactory suspension of hostilities with the United Provinces, than in harassing an insignificant individual like Wilford when his potential usefulness had expired.
The possibility that the forty years' struggle between the Protestant Dutch Republic and Catholic Spain might be ended by a truce or peace appealed irresistibly to a non-militarist like James I, who had no objection to religious controversies as long as they were fought in print and not on the battlefield, or exploited for the purposes of political and territorial aggrandisement. It was with particular interest therefore that he followed the course of the preliminaries that led to the Hague Conference in February, 1608, also attended by English and French representatives, and it was Edmondes's task to report comprehensively on the tortuous negotiations which took place there.
The Flemish delegation, led by the Marquis Spinola, was an impressive one, and included Richardot, President of the Archduke's Council, and Mancicidor, secretary for the affairs of Spain. Spinola was determined, it would appear, to be as successful a diplomatist as he had been a general, and to employ all means to that end. The English Ambassador reported that his liveries were reckoned "to be very riche and withall it is said that for further shewe of greatnes amongest that (Dutch) people, he intendeth to keepe an honourable table there, and for pryvate woorking that he will goe furnished with jewells and other presents of all prices to apply to the severall conditions which may be of use unto them there." (fn. 22)
A truce to hostilities with the Dutch was by no means popular with all sections of the community in Flanders. The anti-peace faction was strong and influential. It criticised the new employment of Spinola as derogatory to the personal honour of Philip III of Spain. Processions ordered by the Archduke to demonstrate in favour of the negotiations were ill attended by the public; and there was a sudden eruption of lampoons against the Treaty Commissioners. The death of Mancicidor's wife, when her coach accidentally overturned in a river crossing, and a narrow escape from the same fate by two prominent Treaty Commissioners, Jean Neyen, General of the Cordeliers and Louis Verreycken, Grand Audiencer to the Archduke, were only too readily construed as proof positive of divine disapprobation of any talk of peace.
But what encouraged the war faction to believe in the infeasibility of a truce between Dutch and Spaniards was the unaccommodating attitude of the representatives of the United Provinces on the two cardinal issues of religious toleration and freedom of trade in the Indies. In a conversation with the Spanish Ambassador at Brussels, Edmondes had been told by him that liberty of worship for Catholics in the United Provinces "was the bynding or loosing knott of that busynes", that is, the talks at the Hague, and he summed up the position for the Earl of Salisbury in these words. "It seameth that the King of Spayne will stryve much to gayne that point, if it may be, uppon the States concerning religion, that in case he shall renounce his right to those countries, it may serve him in part to cover his honor for having held good to stipulatt honorable composition in the favor of the Catholickes religion, and consequently, to geive him thereby hoape of some more favorable advantages against those countries by time." (fn. 23)
There was an adequate leakage of confidential information at the Hague to justify the scepticism of the uncompromising diehards in Brussels. At first the renunciation of Spanish sovereignty over the dominions of the Dutch Republic was agreed on, the Flemish delegates merely acknowledging what had been obvious to the rest of Europe for years. The talks seemed set for at least a navigable course, but soon they met with head-on trade winds. "Pryvatly," Edmondes wrote to the Earl of Salisbury, "it is said that the (Flemish) Commissyoners are troubled to fynde the States to stand upon much higher termes then they expected, which doth very aversly answere to the favorable interpretations which before they made of the kynde entertainment given them at theyr arryvall, and the lyke extraordinary demonstrations in the confluences of the people for affecting vehemently a peace." (fn. 24)
What had disconcerted the Flemish Commissioners was the insistence of the Dutch that they should be accorded complete freedom of trade in the East Indies. It was a demand from which any Spaniard would recoil with indignation, and it resulted in a temporary suspension of the Hague negotiations. The Brussels Government hoped that to avert a serious rupture, those inland provinces which were not vitally dependent on or interested in sea-borne trade, would curb the pretensions of Holland and Zeeland in this matter. What they did not anticipate was that the Dutch would adopt a more arrogant tone and treat the representatives of the Spanish monarchy and empire "comme de pair en compagnon" or "as if they were absolute conquerors", Edmondes noted. Moreover, they raised their demands and spoke confidentially of the eventual separation of the two states now confronting one another in the Netherlands. To all intents and purposes, the Dutch and the Spanish controlled provinces were already neighbours, and no longer members of the same cultural, linguistic and religious community. For their part, the Dutch had emphasized the distinction by subjecting the river trade of the southern provinces to harsh dues and taxes which seriously impaired their economy.
But these were, for the moment, peripheral matters. The real issue was the recognition and legitimation of Dutch trade in the East Indies, and the incessant wrangling over it almost succeeded in bringing about the collapse of the peace talks. It was the Archduke, perhaps, who saved the situation. "Seeing the States will not yeeld to be excluded from the trade of the Indias," Edmondes informed the Earl of Salisbury, "they will here seeke to perswade the King of Spaine for the accommodating of that difficulty to agree that the States may be allowed for some number of yeares to trade to such places as are not possessed by the Spanyards rather then to passe that point in generall tearmes without restriction, which might give the States pretence to take the more liberty to pursue upon their adventure, as nowe they doe, the settling of their trade in those parts to the hazarding of the losse of the same to the Spanyards." (fn. 25) The proposal was realistic but it produced an explosion in the Spanish King's Council, one of whose members was overheard to remark that "it were better to give Portugall to the Hollanders then to allow them the trade of the Indias." (fn. 26)
While the Treaty Commissioners argued indefatigably at the Hague, their Governments proceeded to bring other factors into play to gain their objectives. The Archduke soon had reason to believe that the defensive league which James I was actually proposing to the Dutch had much to do with their stiffnecked attitude. He roundly told the English Ambassador that the English offer could only serve to make the States less inclined to peace. Edmondes conceded the existence of the offer, but denied that it would prove detrimental to the peace negotiations. "I tould him," he wrote to the Earl of Salisbury, "that it did not so appeare, for that the said league was not to take place unless the peace should proceede, and as there was noe better meanes to drawe the States to a peace but by assuring them that they should be assisted in the mainteyning of the same." As if any one could doubt the disinterestedness of the English King's efforts for peace, he in turn complained that it was sorely tried by the activities of James's disaffected subjects in Flanders which should be stopped. It was a remark which led the Archduke to hint openly that there was room here for a bargain—the removal of the persons in question in exchange for James's personal pressure on the Dutch to show less obsession with liberty of trade and to accept more reasonable terms of peace. (fn. 27)
Meanwhile Philip III was prosecuting his own scheme of a FrancoSpanish dynastic alliance to neutralise the defensive treaty which Henry IV had concluded with the United Provinces earlier in the year. He judged that the French King might be inclined to regard it as a useful Spanish guarantee not to interfere with the peaceful succession of the Dauphin, Louis, and, in return, might be induced to urge the Dutch to employ more flexibility in the Hague talks. He therefore dispatched Don Pedro de Toledo to Paris to persuade Henry to seriously contemplate a double marriage between his two daughters and Philip's sons. Toledo was to inform Henry that should the union take place, the youngest Spanish Prince, Carlos, was to be given the inheritance of the Low Countries after the death of the Archdukes.
Henry chose to temporise, and while he did so the Hague negotiations dragged on desultorily, with neither side conceding anything of value. There was the usual threat of a walk-out by one side or the other, to which nobody paid attention, but it was obvious by certain inescapable signs that the Flemings were more worried than the Dutch about the outcome of this indeterminate state of affairs. They publicly and liberally acknowledged the services rendered by the French and English Commissioners in the promotion of the peace talks. They agreed that the article of renunciation of Spanish sovereignty should not contain any restrictive clauses, nor be made concurrent with the duration of the truce. And to please the States General, the Archduke agreed to extend the truce to ten years and not to seven as had been tentatively proposed by Holland; he averred, in fact, that even twenty years would not be an outrageous proposal as far as he was concerned. The Flemish desire for peace could not have been made plainer. If the French King did not allow himself to be seduced by the Spanish marriage scheme, it was felt that the Dutch would force Brussels to accept their irreducible terms.
By late October the deadlock still remained unbroken. Philip III was showing extreme reluctance to having his name associated with the surrender of Spanish sovereignty and inserted in the actual article of renunciation. For their part, the United Provinces were becoming divided on the question of the truce, the province of Zeeland being particularly averse to any lengthy suspension of hostilities and supported in its contumacy by Prince Maurice and his party. An inoffensive English suggestion that some person of repute should be sent from Spain or Flanders to request James I to intervene was turned down by Edmondes on the grounds that the English Peace Commissioners were already doing all they could to keep the moribund negotiations alive at the Hague; and that, in any case, English diplomatic influence was scarcely regarded as effectual as that wielded by France. If so, a rumour which had begun to circulate through some Western countries about a new English move to end the deadlock, must have appeared rather puzzling, not least to Edmondes himself.
Sometime in November it was reported that Sir Charles Cornwallis, the English Ambassador in Madrid, had gone so far as to assure the Spanish King that James I would be able to procure a truce for him without any reference to the complex issue of his personal renunciation of sovereignty over the United Provinces. The reaction in Brussels to this alleged English diplomatic initiative was not even polite. "I cannott forbeare to expresse unto your Lordship," Edmondes informed the Earl of Salisbury, "that to my poore understanding it appeareth by their wryting in suche manner, and by other their proceedings, they have little opinyon here his Matie will be able to prevayle for the obteyning of such a Truce. And therefore, to free themselves from the dishonor of being shamefully disavowed as they are by Spaine, they have chosen to caste parte of the excuse thereof upon his Mats deallings, without respecting what jellousy the same may give both to the French King and the States. For the Commissyoners here, which have ben used in the Treaty, doe not only stryve by all meanes to mainteyne their proceedings and counsells against the contrary advices of others, which are sente into Spaine, but also would be gladd according to the earnest desyer of these Princes, that the King of Spaine should be rather drawen to conclude the Truce upon the tearmes which are now proposed then by other tryalls to putt it in more hazard of breaking." (fn. 28)
By "other tryalls" Edmondes meant to convey as tactfully as possible that attempts at English intervention, similar to the gaffe supposed to have been perpetrated at Madrid, could only harm the prospects of peace by encouraging the obstinacy of the Spanish monarch. At the same time, the English Ambassador tried to salvage what he could of James's reputation by declaring unequivocally to the Archduke that the King had given no such assurance to Philip III as had been alleged in Madrid. "I tould him playnly he could not be ignorant that the way which he tooke to propounde the same in that manner, could not but give great cause of jellousy both to the French King and the States themselves, to the hinderance of the said motion, in case his Matie had intended the tryall of any such thing, and therefore that they made use of that pretence for the serving of some other tourne of theirs." Since, at that moment, the Archduke was primarily concerned to get a peace treaty signed, and evaluated any proposal, from whatever direction it came, according to how it furthered or hindered the Hague talks, Edmondes's strictures were hardly convincing. And he was forced to admit that in one quarter some harm had been occasioned by Cornwallis's alleged statement. "That the French have taken a great allarum," he wrote in the same despatch to the Earl of Salisbury, "of his Mats pryvate dealling in the matter, it is most certayne, and theis men are not sparing to lett them knowe that assurance have ben given thereof in England to the Spanish ambassador there." (fn. 29)
The Archduke's annoyance with the English King may have been caused by his fears that the Dutch, exasperated by Philip III's reluctance to join in the treaty, would refuse to prolong the truce, and that the new year would see the resumption of war. He could not view that contingency with much confidence at a time when his treasury was empty and his forces clamouring for pay, and when Spinola himself, Philip's Lieutenant-General in Flanders, had lost credit with both army and merchants for failing to meet his financial liabilities, "being," as Edmondes wrote with a deprecatory sniff, "the thing that made him only recommendable for that charge." The year ended more encouragingly than he had anticipated, however. The States General consented to continue the truce to the 15th of February, 1609, and the harassed Archduke had reason to believe that he would be able, after all, to enjoy a little peace and relaxation during the Christmas festivities.