Calendar of the Cecil Papers in Hatfield House, Volume 7, 1597. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.
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Summary of contents.
Part VII. of this Calendar—like the part which immediately precedes it—comprises abstracts of papers for a period of one year only, the year A.D. 1597. The chief points of this period as regards the history of England are :—the foreign policy of the country; the effort on its part to strike a fresh blow in some vulnerable quarter at the power of Spain; the progress of hostilities between France and Spain and Spain and the United Provinces, and the negotiations for peace between the two former nations; and, late in the year, the alarm of another Spanish armada. It is with these subjects that the greater number of the papers deal. Other subjects, however, of more domestic character also have their place, as, for example, the settlement of the Borders of Scotland (and in some small degree also the interior affairs of that country), the condition of the people of England, and the meeting of Parliament towards the close of the year. In addition, as might be expected, considerable information is forthcoming about individuals who in various ranks and employments were then living and active, including the Sovereign herself, her ministers, her soldiers and sailors, her ambassadors and agents abroad, and many other folk of more private or of humbler station. There are also many indications of the general opinions and tendencies of the time. It is unnecessary to remind the student that this Calendar does not cover the whole ground of English or Continental history of the year, and that there are many other sources of information, but the reminder will serve to emphasize the statement that the scope of this introduction to this part of the Calendar of Cecil papers will in the main be confined to what is to be found within its pages.
The contest with Spain.
Notwithstanding the events of previous years, the minds of most Englishmen were still bent chiefly, and in the first place, upon a consideration of the best methods of counteracting and rendering innocuous the hostile power of Spain. Their allies, France and the Low Countries, were likewise looking to England for assistance in attaining the same object for themselves. Not inappropriately, therefore, does it happen that the first document here is a letter from Sir Francis Vere at the Hague to the Earl of Essex, the one man in England who by common consent must be the leader in any action taken to carry out the common design. This letter reviews, the situation in France and Flanders, and, while it retails a rumour of a movement towards the making of peace, urges that an effort should be made to recover Calais from the Spaniards (p. 2). This was “the action” which to Vere's mind would be of greatest honour and profit to the Crown of England, and of greatest advantage to the common cause. He did not conceal the fact that this enterprise (p. 8), being that “most desired by men of sound understanding” (p. 9), nevertheless did not command at the time entire approval either in France or at the Hague. And his own view, too, was that, if attempted at all, it should be carried out “in such sort as may procure a good event,” and that to accomplish it a force of 20,000 men would be necessary composed in the main of Englishmen. Still he strongly urged Essex to undertake the task (p. 8). Three months later the question of the siege of Calais had assumed a different complexion in the eyes of the French and Dutch. In the interval many things had happened, some to be noticed later in another connexion; the King of France had made “an offer of Calais” (p. 171) to the Queen, and the States General had been urged by him to assist her in the undertaking, so that by this time Vere was “hearkening every hour to hear of a final resolution” and had “framed” himself to do Essex his “best service.” But the preparations, he urged anew, must be adequate (p. 172); and he expressed the hope of seeing “this action undertaken royally, for the right we pretend, the general desire to the securing of it, the inconvenience in rejecting the offer, the danger in receiving a repulse, and for the good the winning of the place bringeth with it.” This was in April. Nearly a month later (p. 205), however, the decision which he so ardently desired was still not taken; and in fact the enterprise was ultimately put aside for another, that, namely, which aimed at the destruction of the Spanish fleet in a port on its own coast. A letter of Vere's, written early in June (p. 236) states the arguments for the one enterprise and the other. Dutch opinion of greatest authority he represents as “inclined to the favouring of the action of Calais, but wish also that the fleet in Ferrol were destroyed, which they hold the work of a month or six weeks, and judge this summer long enough to do both.” His own opinion, nevertheless, still leaned to that which was discussed first; with regard to the other, he did not, he says (p. 237), make the exploit impossible to be actioned : he only cast doubts of the event,” and he goes on to state his reasons. He acknowledged that the capture of Calais had difficulties of its own, but they were such as might be overcome, while the results of success would be beyond comparison better, “as there is difference betwixt stopping the rage and destroying of an enemy.” Sir Robert Sydney (p. 243) entirely agreed with Sir Francis Vere. Having heard that the King of France had yielded all the conditions which the Queen had demanded concerning Calais, and that the King of Spain had withdrawn all his ships from Ferrol to Lisbon under the impression—an impression well founded in fact—that the preparations now making were for the destruction of that fleet, Sydney concluded that the English forces would be directed against Calais, and to reduce Calais to the obedience of the Crown of England seemed to him in the highest degree profitable for the state of England, and honourable for him that should accomplish it, the general affection of all Englishmen to see that town once more English being such “as surely the memory of it would never be delayed;” while the failure to take advantage of the opportunity might give an opening to Essex's enemies to cast the imputation that Calais was not secured because he had drawn Her Majesty's forces another way. These and other considerations failed, nevertheless, to affect the decision. The project was, as we know, abandoned for that other scheme which had been consistently deprecated by Sir Francis Vere.
The expedition against Spain.
Of the enterprise finally decided upon the first intimations in these papers are perhaps to be found in the applications addressed to Essex for permission to accompany him. That of Sir William Woodhouse is the earliest (p. 80), made in the month of February, but his is followed by those of numerous other aspirants, some of them “tall” soldiers serving at the time in France, like Sir J. Aldrich (p. 184); others, like Captain Chamberlain (p. 188), in the Low Countries. The first definite references to the voyage are to be found in letters from Sir R. Sydney of May 24th (p. 210), and from Sir Francis Vere of May 25th (p. 212), in which the latter argues against its execution. At this time he did not know the exact point of Essex's objective, and could only infer that it must be either the Groyne or Ferrol. But at home the decision had been taken, and in furtherance of the preparations for it, one Captain Constable was despatched with letters to Count Maurice and the States General calling upon them for aid. He reached the Hague on the 23rd of May (p. 211), and two days later Vere was able to report that Mr. Gilpin, the English Agent at the Hague, and he had “obtained for answer that Her Majesty's demand shall be fulfilled in all.” Sydney was among those who ardently longed to accompany Essex, though his desire was not granted. Vere too cherished the same desire, but he begged (p. 223) that he might be commanded by Her Majesty's letter, and that formal signification of his withdrawal might be made to the States “to whom in some sort he was tied,” in order to save his credit and secure his place. These preliminaries complied with, he promised to be at the rendezvous with the 2,000 men he was to bring with him, then and there “as ready to receive your further commandment as any that shall be in your army.”
By the beginning of the last week in June preparations for the expedition were so far advanced that Essex had gone down to Sandwich to take command (p. 267). He and his “adverse party” were now “very inward,” as Sydney puts it (p. 210), and he was at this moment expecting a visit from Sir Robert Cecil, the personage thus indicated, and Sir John Stanhope, to see the fleet, and was providing for their entertainment as his guests. But in his eagerness to strike a blow where the Spaniards least expected it, he was anxious to get further westward and nearer to the troops to be embarked. Some of the “inconveniences” with which he had to contend appear from a letter (p. 269) which he despatched from Sandwich. Its bearer was a certain Captain Talkerne, driven to leave the army because his brother had been killed “by a misfortune heretofore fallen out” between himself and another gentleman. If the surviving brother were retained, “hardly would he be contained,” so Essex's solution of the difficulty was to send him away. More serious hindrance to his plans arose from circumstances over which he had no control, namely, wind and tide. On the evening of Saturday, June 25, he set sail with a fair wind from the Downs (p. 275), but when the fleet had doubled the South Foreland there came an unwelcome calm, and they were carried by the slack tide into Dover Road. Meanwhile the Admiral of the Low Countries, whom Essex had been expecting, came up with sixteen sail. It was agreed to stop tides and then ply to the westward, but now gale succeeded calm, and instead of getting westward they were driven back to the Downs. From this uneasy berth he despatches on the midnight of Sunday a note to the Lord Admiral and Cecil, bare and hastily written from one over watched “and over tossed, and yet one that wisheth you both as much happiness as you may desire.”
Four days later, shortly after dawn, though the wind was contrary, the fleet, now reinforced by the Dutchmen, taking advantage of the tide, dropped anchor a second time in Dover Road (p. 279), and in the evening set sail again for the southwest, “purposing to tide it up as far as they may,” the wind still remaining adverse. By July 6 they had got to Portland (p. 291), where the troops were waiting to be embarked. And now a new difficulty arose, namely, shortness of supplies, the only obstacle, so it seemed to Essex and his companions, “likely to hinder the good success of their action,” Thereupon the council of war unanimously agreed to despatch Mr. Fulk Greville to the Court “to move Her Majesty that in her dear and princely wisdom she would weigh how much both in honour and interest she was engaged in this action, how just and how great a grief it would be to her royal heart that those services which yield glory to her blessed name, safety to her estate, and profit to her coffers, should be hindered by want of means to keep this brave fleet and army together, which being in all humbleness by Her Majesty's poor servants laid before her, they think to have discharged their duties to God and to her royal self, and will believe that that resolution is best which she is best pleased withal.” A month's supply was the extent of their demand, and one may well ask, were ever Queen and country more devotedly and patiently served by brave, self-forgetful men ?
But in their estimate of what was required, they were again mistaken, for they had reckoned without weather such as in the summer season of the year, “was never seen by man” (p. 306), and “great and sore extremities.” What these extremities were and what fortune befell the fleet during the next fortnight may be learnt in greater detail from the series of State Papers, Domestic, of this date : how the fleet set out for the Spanish coast; how it was storm-beaten and separated; how portions with Essex and Ralegh regained English ports, but with the utmost difficulty, after experiences in the course of which they had thought they must “yield themselves up to God,” having no way to work that offered any hope, the men wasted with labour and watching; how Lord Thomas Howard with fifty-seven sail of ships (p. 361) had pursued his course “with valour and constancy” for the Spanish coast, but eventually also returned to England; of all this the papers in this volume tell comparatively little. But we learn that “London was full of discomfortable news” (p. 307), and that men there and at the Court gave God fervent thanks when, on July 22nd, tidings came of Essex's safe return to Falmouth. And as to the feeling of the Queen herself, “I protest before God,” writes the Lord Admiral to Essex (p. 306), “I did never see creature receive more comfort than Her Majesty did when she saw by Sir W. Ralegh's letter that your person was safe. She shewed the dear love she beareth you, for with joy the water came plentiful out of her eyes.” The Queen expresses her own sentiments on the occasion (p. 314), both to Essex and to Lord Thomas Howard. A reply from the latter will be found on page 336. Wind and weather had been, indeed, says Howard, their bitter enemies, but no extremities already endured nor perils to come were, he avers, “prized at aught” in comparison of their desire and zeal to do the Queen service. His sense of the value of the presence and co-operation of Essex appears in a kind of postscript to his letter (p. 337). “We are here a naked flock without our shepherd, whom we beseech you return to us.” This postscript, in addition to other passages from the same source, is quoted by Cecil in a letter to Essex, not found in this collection, but included among the State Papers, Domestic [see S. P., Dom., Vol. CCLXIV., No. 77]. The result up to this moment gave point to a reflection by Sir H. Palavicino, who had his doubts (p. 319) as to the value of these “uncertain expeditions”
Foiled thus far in its endeavours, the fleet assembled for a second start in the early days of August, on this occasion, however, at Plymouth, and in a very different condition; still showing, nevertheless, the same loyal confidence in its “worthy commander” (p. 345), “well deserving that power.” But now again casual misfortune was not absent, and wind and weather were still adverse. Furthermore, to make matters worse, virulent sickness broke out among the soldiers, whereupon the council of war were driven to the' conclusion that they must in part alter the character of the expedition by “cassing” this part of the force, and must trust to the fleet to carry the attempt on the Spanish ships in Ferrol to a successful issue. To justify this “inconstancy,” and if possible to obtain sanction for the change of plans, two of their number were despatched forthwith to Court. This sanction they obtained; but before the result was known at Plymouth, the wind coming fair (p. 352), Essex, urged to this decision by his Council, assumed the responsibility of dismissing the “land army,” with the exception of the thousand veterans from the Low Countries, and prepared to set sail, having first made elaborate arrangements for the conveyance of the dismissed men to their homes. Essex's letters, when his days were fully occupied with other business, were not seldom written at midnight, and so it was on this occasion when he was writing to the Privy Council from Plymouth to inform them of his proceedings. It had been a busy day, taken up with the tasks of getting the fleet out of the harbour and shipping men and provisions and the work had “almost tired them all,” yet notwithstanding his own weariness he undertook the task of penning the necessary despatch, sending his associates to rest, that he might have more help of them in the morning, but he excused himself in advance for a hasty, and yet not short, letter, by reason of a confused mind “streighted with time and oppressed with business.” It is probable that his mind was also burdened with the knowledge of his own impoverishment. If now he did not succeed he must inevitably come home bankrupt (p. 346). And while acting the part of a thrifty servant by the Queen (p. 352). he had, he declares, been an ill master of his own purse, “for so long lying in so dear a place with so poor a company had made him lay himself to gauge.” It is certain that he was labouring under a consciousness of the ill-success up to this moment of the “poor endeavours” of himself and his fellows, and it is probable that he was sustained by but “weak watery hopes” (p. 361) in regard to the future.
Space is not available, in view of other topics which merit notice, to set out in detail the history of the fleet's adventures during the next two months, but particulars are given in letters from the Earl of Essex, Sir George Carew, Lord Mountjoy, Ralegh, and others, not all of course here printed for the first time. Briefly stated, the course of events was as follows :—The fleet sailed on the 17th August, experiencing storm and tempest as soon as they reached the Spanish coast, during which Sir George Carew in the St. Matthew fared so badly that he was finally compelled to make his way back to England. Essex and Ralegh were for a time separated. The consequence was that the Spanish ships in Ferrol were neither taken nor burnt; not even an attempt made to do either. And so, although going for the Azores, and levying tribute from the islands to the “Queen of the Ocean,” Essex kept the sea like a constable to arrest all ships passing within thirty leagues (p. 386), he nevertheless missed the Indian fleet (p. 489), from which, taking refuge in Tercera road, “God drove us off by contrary winds.” Three valuable prizes belonging to this fleet were, however, taken. But at this juncture want of water and an ill wind, and the danger of the separation of the fleet and army, all combined to compel the decision to sail for home, which was reached at the beginning of the last week in October in the manner of a “straggling retreat” (p. 447), to find that they were just in time to take part in the defence of the coasts of their own country on the alarm of the appearance of another Spanish armada. Three of the leaders. Thomas Howard, Mountjoy, and Ralegh, complacently summed up their achievements in the sentence (p. 450), “all well returned, Her Majesty's Kingdom defended, the enemy dishonoured and made a great loser, and the war made upon our enemy's charge;” but it is clear, all this notwithstanding, that to those at home at any rate the expedition which had stirred so great expectation in the world and had cost so much in its execution (p. 433) was only just saved from being considered to have been brought to a fruitless conclusion by the capture of the three Indian prizes, and that there was a keen sense of disappointment on account of the failure to take the whole Indian fleet. Sir George Carew was among the unluckiest of the adventurers. On the first occasion after having reached England with the greatest difficulty and in sorry plight with his battered and beaten St. Matthew, he was allowed to set out again in another ship to endeavour to rejoin Essex. But the effort was made in vain. Tossed and tempest driven, hither and thither, to every point of the compass, he was at last compelled to take refuge in a harbour on the coast of Ireland, from whence, indeed, he got safely to Dover, but not without great peril. Here he first heard of Essex's return home. He relates that in the course of his “tedious navigation” he had not had four days of fair weather (p. 465), and had been thrice in extreme danger of perishing; “and, that which was most discomfortable, an infection not unlike to the calentura did so possess my ship as that of seven score, I had not fifteen men able to stand on their legs to handle the sails when I came to an anchor.” When the St. Matthew was disabled on the first voyage he put in to Rochelle to refit, and he relates (p. 384) that here when he lay in St. Martin's Road, 12 miles from Rochelle, he “had at sundry times not so little as 4,000 persons aboard to see the ship, and among them Madame Chastillon, the widow of Mons. Chastillon, with thirty gentlewomen, who for three long hours talked of the Queen's beauty, wisdom, and government, calling her the only woman of ladies, and the assured pillar for distressed Christians.” One suspects a little exaggeration in the number of his visitors, and one thinks that the hours during which the lively French ladies held him in conversation should not have been deemed long.
Another Spanish armada.; Captain Legatt.; Changed views about Spain.
The descent upon the English coasts of a Spanish “armado,” which Essex was thought to have arrived home in October just in the nick of time to superintend measures to frustrate and defeat, had been threatened on the one side and expected on the other ever since the spring of the year. It will be remembered that at the most unpropitious season of the last month of the previous year 1596 a Spanish fleet had set sail intending to effect a landing in the Isle of Wight, but had been shattered by tempest, numerous ships having been totally lost and thousands of men (pp. 6,7) having perished. With the surviving force the Adelantado, who was in chief command, had come to anchor in Ferrol. Concerning the Spanish force here, its condition and augmentation, and the renewed designs connected with it, a considerable amount of information supplied from various sources will be found in these papers. An excellent example of the manner in which information was obtained by the enterprising and bold English sailor is furnished by the story of Capt. John Legatt (p. 6), who put out to sea on his adventurous voyage in time to spend his Christmas Day becalmed at the Groyne. He succeeded in capturing “a sufficient barque to come home,” where he arrived within the space of a fortnight from his setting out, but having been. so weather beaten that he thought never to have seen England more. He declared that he would not again “abide the like continual torment,” not even for the certainty of an Indian ship and its great wealth. He brought home with him a couple of Spaniards who, he a thought, might be repositories of useful information. At Ferrol, as independent accounts testified, the Spanish soldiery were suffering grievously from sickness, and their numbers were also diminished by desertion, while the ships were scarcely in a fit state for any renewed attempt. The threatenings of Spain did not now indeed cause great alarm in England : there was little fear of inability to repel any attack. “As far as I can understand,” writes Stallenge, the Commissioner at Plymouth (p. 14), “they are more afraid of us there than we of them here.” And he expresses the opinion that if Her Majesty would keep a reasonable number of ships on the Spanish coast, much good service might be done; “and so should our mariners be employed abroad, and not rob and steal, as many of them do at this present at home for want of maintenance.” But the information to hand was that strenuous efforts were being made by the King of Spain to get together again a sufficient force to effect a landing in England or Ireland (pp. 154, 158, 187). “They prepare to land 40,000 men,” wrote Norreys from Ostend (p. 187), “wherewith they have swallowed up the poor island of England in their conceit.” “But He that sitteth aloft can overthrow them,” he adds, apparently in calm confidence of mind that He who could certainly would. This belief that God was without doubt fighting on the side of their Queen, their country, and themselves comes out clearly in the statements of several. Lord Thomas Howard employs the expression “our storms” in connexion with the subsequent frustration of the Spanish attempt, and Sir Thomas Leighton gives utterance to the reflection (p. 365), “The Lord seemeth to join with Her Majesty to fight against the proud tyrant of Spain.”
Spanish ships ashore.
It was in order to disperse the gathering clouds ere they should gain sufficient volume to discharge devastation upon the English seaboard, that the naval and military expedition under Essex's command essayed to set out for the Spanish coasts in the height of summer, only, as we have seen, to be driven back by unexpected storm and tempest at the first, and when, later, it did succeed in reaching the neighbourhood of Ferrol, to find the adverse forces of nature still too potent to be overcome, and to be compelled to return with purpose unachieved. The Spanish preparations being therefore unaffected, in the month of October the alarm spread in the south-west of England that another Spanish armada was on the coast. This fleet was composed of four squadrons under the chief command of the Adelantado, with a fifth to follow, numbering, as some said, 110 ships, but according to others, 160 (p. 455). Ten leagues off the Lizard it was met by a nor'-easter, one of “our” storms, as Lord Thomas Howard would say, and scattered, and this misfortune and “their own fears” (p. 462) sent the invaders packing home again (p. 494), so that the hasty preparations for defence in the southern and western shires were never put to the test. It happened, however, that here and there a Spanish ship touched at a port against the will and desire of its crew, and came to make a forced stay, as at Milford Haven (p. 466), or escaped with difficulty, after an uncomfortable welcome, as on the inhospitable shores of Merionethshire (p. 486). Here the failure to do more than fall upon a boat's crew who had landed for refreshment, and to kill and wound a few on board the ship “by application of musket shot,” left the Welshmen, from whom a fair wind—foul from their point of view—snatched the prize away, “most sorrowful that our care and diligence took not better successes.” So ended in failure this renewed hostile attempt of the once dreaded Spanish power.
Spanish successes in France.
In France, however, better success attended the Spanish cause. These papers contain full and lively histories of the progress of events from month to month in that country. The chief correspondents there, of English nationality, were Edward Wylton, William Lyllé (who addressed Essex as “master”), Sir Anthony Mildmay, the Ambassador, and Ottiwell Smith. The letters referred to are all long and interesting, Lyllé's particularly so. The French section of this correspondence is not, however, confined to Englishmen; letters of the French King and others are also included in the number.
Surprise of Amiens.
The very first page of this part announces the offers of peace made by Spain to France. Allusions to these negotiations are frequent, negotiations which Mildmay very early in the year affirmed (p. 64) were greatly “practised,” and the success of which was much desired, whatever assurance might be given to the contrary. But this is not a matter of history newly revealed. In the spring of the year occurred the incident which caused general amazement, the clever capture of Amiens, from which town the Count de St. Pol, the French commander, made a hair-breadth escape in hot haste, arriving in the early morning, unbooted, with a mere handful of horsemen only, to take refuge at Abbeville. In Amiens were stored the “whole magazines of the King's provisions for the war, with 40 pieces of battery,” and its surprise was fitly characterised therefore as a great blow (p. 88). The manner of the surprise, which had even greater result than its author had expected, is related in lively style by Lyllé in one of his letters (p. 99). Porto Carrero. the Spanish Governor of Doullens, which town had been taken a couple of years previously, a man of trusty character, but of no reputation for either enterprise or valour, determined to prove himself possessed of both these qualities, and with long premeditation carefully laid his plans; intending indeed, not to take the town as a whole, but only one gate, and a “convenient piece” of the place from which the rest might be “put in question.” The coveted gate stood on high ground, which already was, or might easily be converted into, an island surrounded by the river. The day fixed for the attack was that of a religious festival, “on which the people would solemnly follow the preacher that brought the Jubilé thither.” The attacking force consisted of five hundred horsemen, four hundred of whom carried each a foot soldier behind him on his horse. Sixty others dressed as countrymen and armed with pistols were told off to seize the gate. The guard at the gate were, indeed, warned by an old countrywoman of this manœuvre, but paid no heed to the warning, treating it as an idle tale. The sixty pseudo-countrymen brought with them two carts laden with hay and straw; these were “squat” under the gates so that the portcullis would not come down. The manœuvre was entirely successful, a number of the guard were killed and the gate seized. That done, “the rest came on in a soft pace and entered, little bruit made, nor any resistance.” But now Count St. Pol, the French military commander, roused from his bed, flew to the point of attack, and endeavoured to get together a sufficient number of men to make some resistance, but without success; he then retired to a churchyard hoping to be able to make this a rallying ground, but in vain; then withdrew to the ramparts to see what could be done there, “but never could have five together.” Then, judging resistance to be hopeless, and himself seized with fear—a state of mind from which he did not emerge for some time even after he was safely ensconced in Abbeville—he resolved to flee, and did flee, leaving his wife behind him at Amiens at the mercy of fortune. Meanwhile, Porto Carrero, unchecked, pressed on, sent the foot straight to the market place and the horse in two divisions to the right and left round the ramparts to the Pont Celestine and the Porte St. Pierre, and so by way of the bridge leading to Abbeville and the quay, to the market place. Here they found the mayor and eschevins and some burgesses assembled, and here a truculent butcher of the town, a Spanish partisan, it would seem, of whom the town contained many more, laying violent hands on one of the respectable assembly and stabbing him, a panic seized the rest and they fled in every direction, those taking refuge in their houses who could find their way thither, but many tumbling over the walls in their fright, a sequel much to Porto Carrero's satisfaction since “he saw himself possessed of more than he hoped and more than he could well digest.” The first day he allowed all that would to run away, his own force standing to their arms; commanding the burgesses to keep their houses where he promised that they would receive no hurt, but threatening them with death if they stirred. Next day he allowed Madame de St. Pol, separated from her husband since the moment when he was so rudely and unexpectedly summoned from their comfortable couch, and her family to be ransomed at the price of 4,000 crowns, and to rejoin her husband. Then it would seem that, playing “wolfish tricks” and coming to every man's door (p. 98), the victors proceeded to put the burgesses to ransom, but at very small rates, and then they set about securing their prize by making a citadel on the high ground first aimed at from which to command the town—altogether a pretty piece of work, and an excellent story to be told round Spanish camp fires.
Effects of the fall of Amiens.
On the first receipt of the news (p. 103) the French King left Paris in all haste, whether moved by diligence or fear there is said to have been some doubt; for in Paris the people were “wonderful discontented herein,” the crowds in the streets crying, “Drown the whore; hurl her over the bridge!” This object of the people's animosity was the King's mistress, Madame Gabrielle d'Estrées, “whom they esteemed the cause of God's wrath, and so the loss of the town.” The King was much disturbed by the capture of Amiens, and very angry—as well he might be, knowing what the town contained (p. 104)—and vowed that he would not stir till he had come by his own again, and that he would leave his crown there if he failed; But although Lyllé at first thought that Amiens might by the exercise of energy and resolution soon be retaken, second thoughts and additional information altered his opinion, and induced the belief that the great number of ladders and spades and other tools which were being provided were after all but “to satisfy a French fury.” And, in fact, notwithstanding that the town was put immediately more or less into a state of siege with the aid of the English forces in the country, and notwithstanding the vows of the French King, more than six months elapsed before it was recovered.
Condition of the French people.
The papers in this volume relating the course of events in France from the surprise of Amiens onwards, although not without breaks in their continuity, are numerous, lengthy, and full of picturesque detail. They show the condition of the people of France at this time to have been as sad as it could well be; the country impoverished by war, the Spanish foe established upon its soil, holding certain of its towns—Calais, Doullens, Amiens—and greedy for others; the nation divided in its counsels; “the nobility fickle” (p. 144); the Huguenot party, “those of the Religion,” infinitely discontented (p. 129), refusing aid to the King excepting on conditions laid down by themselves; the French people—at any rate those of the North —“pliable to the Spaniard” (p. 135), and easily persuaded to change their master” (p. 183); conspiracies hatching in all the principal towns (p. 144); the “removing” in Paris being of so serious a nature that the King's presence was necessary to give speedy order in a matter of so great consequence (p. 143). Lyllé writes (p. 130), “At the camp I see no old men. They say here the mean officers and counsellors are not honest, and the Constable is lame of the gout in bed; of whom they will not speak because he at the Court plays the King, and the King abroad playeth the Constable; both taxed for lechery, and Madame Gabrielle accounted cause of all ill-fortune.” But,” he adds, “every man seeth many nearer causes which cannot be remedied in this broken commonwealth.”
Interesting reflections occur now and again in the Englishmen's letters, embodying the results of their own observation. Lyllé remarks (p. 149), “I have often seen that this people,” the French people, that is, “will not long endure any charge; they will at the first so spend their means and courages.” He agrees, moreover, with others in the opinion that in the event of certain contingencies they would “become easily Spanish.” Certainly instructive—to give another instance—is the outcome, as he notes it, of the exclusive dealing following as a matter of course upon the Spanish occupation of a French port. “There is nothing,” he says, “that so cooleth the Spaniard's heat as his great want of victuals through all his countries, and that occasioned altogether through his taking of Calles; which heretofore was open to all the traffic of the world, and did dispense that through all these countries; now being theirs and so excluded from others, it starveth itself and so all the rest.”
Madame Gabrielle d'Estrées.
The views of the common people as regards Madame d'Estrées, the King's mistress, have already been mentioned. The King's attachment to her is shown in various ways. Her position in the kingdom is illustrated by an incident which occurred at the time when the siege of Amiens was nearing a successful termination, and on the occasion of a skirmish before its walls when the Spaniards were “made to run.” “Of this victory,” says the relater, “we have made great triumph before the town and the K. mistress.” There is some evidence (pp. 496, 497) that this lady, “who governs the country” was not unwilling to secure her position, in case of accidents, by availing herself of such opportunities of serving the Queen of England as might arise from her ability to furnish valuable intelligence.
English forces in France.
During the whole of this year there was a body of English troops in France, 2,000 in number, under the command of Sir Thomas Baskerville, sent to aid the King, and doing very good service. Here is a description of their circumstances in January 1597, part stationed at St. Valery-sur-Somme, part at La Fertel, an open village on the same side of the river (p. 40), part at Crotoy, “a little fisher town” on the opposite side, six leagues from Hesdin, which was held by the enemy. It was not the attacks of “the enemy,” however, that the English troops either feared or complained of. Of disturbance from this quarter they considered themselves to be in little danger. But Captain Wylton writes (p. 30) : “We fight daily against cold, hunger, and the infections of the country; everything is exceeding dear with us; we have no wood but that we fetch three leagues off. The plague is grown so familiar to us that to get 6d. the soldier feareth not to ransack both the house and the party infected, and we have not yet to my knowledge passed any town or village uninfected. But that which is most strange of all, I have not heard of any soldier amongst us that hath died of the plague, although very few can say that they have not been in the places of contagion.” The little army suffered grievously, nevertheless. Lyllé writes about the middle of February (p. 69):—
“I found them decreased; not above 57, and sick 300 and odd; all their apparel worn out, the bareness whereof in this wild, cold, and wasted country being a principal cause of their sickness. Yet are there some eight or nine bands full of lusty men and very strong, which, relieved with clothes, and the rest with supply, would make in this country a fair little army, fit for any enterprise, for that now they are hardened and well trained.”
Sir Thomas Baskerville.
Here, at St. Valery and the immediate neighbourhood, they remained in enforced inactivity, “unprofitable for Her Majesty and our country,” but, nevertheless, by their presence preventing—and they alone preventing—“the country from being ruined to the gates of Rouen,” until such time as the untoward event of the fall of Amiens roused the French King to action. They were first employed to second certain regiments of Picardy in an attack upon Arras (p. 125), but this attack failed, their part in it, however, consisting only of a toilsome march. They were then stationed betwixt Amiens and Doullens, “four leagues from one and three from the other, expecting the enemy in one quarter or other,” a situation in which they were reduced to such extremity for want of money that their commander, Sir Thomas Baskerville, was constrained to return to St. Valery (p. 129) “to lay all his plate and all the other means he hath in pawn to relieve them.” From this time they took part in the siege operations in the vicinity of Amiens until these operations were brought to a successful termination, but ever in great want for lack of pay (p. 232). Early in June they lost their commander, Sir Thomas Baskerville (p. 232), who was struck down by sudden sickness and after the lapse of a few days died raving (p. 242). The question of the succession to his command caused some heartburnings (p. 257). He himself is described to have been one who “loved not many to shew them extraordinary kindness,” and who was capable (p. 286) of making a little profit for himself out of the soldiers' pay “upon pretence to have money to relieve them when they were sick,” a practice which he had himself previously condemned in Sir John Norreys. After the recovery of Amiens, Sir Arthur Savage, who was appointed to the command after Baskerville's death, was towards the end of the year entertained by the King of France at Fontainebleau “as never any before him of our nation,” and immediately afterwards set out for Ostend accompanied by four of the companies.
The number of letters dating from the Netherlands is considerable, while many of them run to great length. The principal correspondents are Sir Francis Vere, George Gilpin, the English agent at the Hague, and Sir Robert Sydney, still Governor of Flushing, “Governor” much against his own desire, as will presently appear. These despatches are invariably addressed to Essex, and relate largely, of course, to matters connected with the expedition which was about to set out under his command. But in this corner of the extensive field of warlike operations upon which the four nations—England, Holland, France, and Spain—were engaged, a notable success was obtained by Count Maurice of Nassau against the Spaniards. This was the engagement at Herenthals, near Turnhout, in which both Sir Francis Vere and Sir Robert Sydney greatly distinguished themselves, and by means of which Count Maurice added much to his military reputation, “even amongst us,” says Vere, “who believed exceeding well of him before.” Details of this encounter are given by several who took part in it, and Count Maurice himself announces the victory (p. 28), claiming to have left 2,000 of the enemy dead on the field, including the general, and to have taken 500 prisoners, 38 colours and one standard. The loss on the victors' side was small : “of ours,” as Captain Chamberlain writes (p. 30), “but 20 slain and not so many hurt.” It was followed by the surrender of the citadel of Turnhout the next day, its governor being suffered to depart, however, with bag and baggage. This was a blow that was expected “to touch the Cardinal shrewdly,” and his feeling in the matter was shown by the treatment accorded to the corpse of the slain commander, the Count Varax, which Count Maurice sent to him with the respect due to a fallen foe, but which the Cardinal “buried without ceremony as unworthy of any honour in that he had not better looked to his charge” (p. 43). The remainder of the year as regards the Netherlands witnessed no very stirring event. The States General waited to see what the King of France and the Queen of England would do. To the expedition against Spain under Essex the States General contributed, as has already been related, 20 ships under Admiral Duynenvoord, and a certain number of men from the garrisons in the cautionary towns. The inclination shown by the King of France to come to terms with the King of Spain, a matter upon which he paid the States General the compliment of asking their advice, did not by any means meet with their approval (p. 464). Gilpin in November (p. 482) reported Count Maurice's return to the Hague, “after the wars ended” for the year, “with great honour and contentment,” but these papers contain references to few, if any, of the incidents of this summer campaign which “stood them so dear” (p. 482).
Englishmen in the Netherlands.; Sir Robert Sydney.
Of the Englishmen stationed in the Netherlands, whether as governors of the cautionary towns or in other capacities, there were some at least who were not very well satisfied with the circumstances of their situation and employment. Sir Robert Sydney, brother of the more famous Sir Philip, sets forth at great length on several occasions the disabilities under which he conceived himself to lie, and dilates on the neglect from which he thought it was his ill-fortune to suffer. He opens, so to say, the correspondence of the year (p. 12), singing the “same song, that the time and manner of this employment brings small encouragement with it.” Whether justly or not, he had small confidence in “some other men”—referring, without doubt, to Essex's “adverse party,” the Cecils—from whom he looked “for nothing but wringing of my proceedings to any hard construction, and disavowing of my actions according as either myself or the matter shall give cause of advantage.” To Essex, “a councillor and a just man,” he therefore turned for protection, and to him he specially commended “the care of his allowance.” After the action at Turnhout, the Queen wrote Sydney a letter of thanks, adding a caveat, however, not to venture himself, considering the charge he had of Flushing. “Truly, my lord,” he writes (p. 62) in regard to this, “I will not idly hazard myself nor her men; but I must think it a hard fortune if at those times that I know there is no danger of this town, I may not go forth, when I am sent for, somewhat to increase my experience and reputation. I see my lord Burrow, who is in equal charge with me, can be sent for many years many hundreds of miles off to the greatest commandment the Queen can give, and yet retain his government here. And if I may not be suffered for some few days to go abroad where in three days I shall ever be able to be at home again, I must think it is not the place but myself who am too near looked unto.” His single despatch to Sir Robert Cecil is one of great length (p. 65), extending over four pages, in which he defends himself with warmth against a charge of neglect of duty in not arresting certain ships laden with corn, which by contrary winds had been forced into the river at Flushing. He was anxious to get leave to come home for a time, but being unable to obtain this favour, jumped to the conclusion that there were those who willingly hindered it (p. 108). He pressed hard to be appointed Warden of the Cinque Ports in succession to Lord Cobham (p. 108), the place in England that he desired almost above all others (p. 115); but in vain. With regard to his situation at Flushing he thus unburdens himself to his patron (p. 132):—
“Truly, my Lord, I begin to grow very weary, seeing business increase daily upon me and likelihood of more and more troubles, and the longer I go forwards the less cause to hope for any acknowledgment or requital. I cannot be so blind but I must see the great inequality held between me and others, neither is there any man of my profession which hath had commandment, but one way or another hath had somewhat added unto him. I have served here now a full prenticeship, besides the time I spent before in Her Majesty's court and wars, and can truly say that yet I know not what it is to have credit or profit bestowed upon me. If the Queen did not for others, I were to blame if I would not abide the lot that all other men did; or if she did not allow of my service, and oftentimes yield me thanks for it, I would be contented to believe that m deserts were nothing. But both these two being and yet I being in one place, I must think there is some secret canker in my fortune to which no medicine will be found.”
“I do perceive how easy it is to give opposition unto me, and how hard for me to be defended. It maketh me also to remember the disgraceful posting of me away the last year when the time gave some tokens that good might be done for me, notwithstanding all the fair promises were made unto you of forwardness for your sake to advance me, and already you were with victory returned from your voyage. Hereto also I must add the refusal of my leave the last year without any appearance of occasion. I will not say that this crossing of me is only for your sake, since I see you are suffered to prevail in greater matters for some of your friends, and not for me in these slight ones, though it hath pleased you to grace me so much as to make show unto the world that you make more than ordinary account of me. But I must persuade myself it is out of some particular ill will to my own person; yet I do not know any occasion I have given other than that I made open profession that I could not be drawn from the love of you by your adversaries, though their power were sufficiently known to all men, and they gave me good tokens to see that I might have had part in their greatness. I see that they take a constant course with me, suffering not anything to be dealt in for me whereunto they give not opposition.”
When made acquainted with Essex's command, he writes (p. 211):—“For myself I would much rather have served you in the execution of your actions than in the providing for them, but since I know it is otherwise resolved, I will not trouble you with offers of accompanying you.” And he moans—“I see Flushing must be the grave of my youth and I fear of my fortune also.” Leave to come to England he appears at last to have obtained (p. 490), but it was then nearing the end of the year.
The papers relating to the affairs on the Scottish Borders, and the “wonderful place,” the North (p. 452), which had fallen into a condition so deplorable as to seem to some almost past mending, are comparatively numerous, and some lengthy, but, nevertheless, they are not sufficient to present, of themselves, a complete narrative of events occurring within the period of the year 1597. They tell in part, however, the history of the endeavours that were being made through the meeting of commissioners appointed on both sides for the exchange of pledges, and in other ways, to establish a state of peace between the lawless and turbulent men on both sides who were constantly engaged in acts of vengeance and reprisal, and even of mere highway robbery, of the most brutal character. Great efforts were made on the part of the Queen to secure the delivery of the persons of the “brace of wolves”—the lairds of Buccleuch and Cessford, leaders both of them infinitely popular and potent on the Middle Marches (p. 452). After delays and subterfuges the surrender of the former was obtained. Not so, however, that of Cessford, though “Thomas Percy, the constable of Alnwick and Warkworth castles, may entertain him when and where and how he list.” Dr. Tobias Matthew, the Bishop of Durham, was for very drastic remedies, both for the stamping out of recusancy in the North and repressing the disorders of the Borders. v For the former purpose his suggestions included such regulations as that “their children may be, after five years of age, withdrawn from the education of their Popish parents and committed to the next-of-kin that is not to benefit by them;” and for the other, that statute laws “should be made against meeting with Scots, marrying with them, entertaining them into service, demising of lands and tenements unto them,” and so forth. In this same letter the Bishop calls attention to the fact (p. 453) that marriages made after divorce for adultery (the former husband and wife still living)—“marriages hardly warrantable by the word of God and precedents of the primitive church”—were growing “over-usual,” and expresses the opinion that it was a great blemish in the Reformed church that marriage without consent of parents (or others loco parentum) was not “more deeply chastised” than it was.
English Roman Catholics.
The views of the Bishop of Durham regarding recusants were not singular, for, indeed, in the year 1597 adherents of the Roman Catholic Religion—“Jesuits, seminaries, and others that are their consorts”—were, it may be said, in the opinion of a very great number of Englishmen, “traitorous and disloyal” as a matter of course. Bearing in mind this prevalent idea but before accepting its universal justice, there are at least three letters in this collection which should be studied. The first is that of an Englishman (p. 34) who is a firm believer in the ultimate triumph of Spain in spite of the past successes of the “weaker nation,” as he considered England to be, since “things perforce must come to their natural course.” He affirms that, although obliged for conscience' sake to leave the kingdom many years before, and to become subject of another commonwealth, he had not lost the love of his country, nor the affection and respect to the Queen to which nature and religion bound him. Of the second (p. 86), Harry Constable, the poet, then established in Paris, who claims the character of “a true Englishman and an honest man,” is the writer, and it also bears directly on this question. He had written to Rome to dissuade the Pope from giving credit to those who would have English Catholics favour the King of Spain's designs against the Queen, and he maintains that this was the desire of most of his Catholic countrymen at Rome. And the endeavours of himself and others to persuade the Catholic recusants to disavow the aid of the King of Spain, who was making their necessities the pretext for his cause, would, he hoped, induce the Queen and her advisers to distinguish between the Catholics who merely desired the “peaceable enjoyment of their conscience,” and such as desired the subversion of the existing state, a result which would make for the quietness of State and Church and the peace of Christendom, and issue in the union of religion, “now only hindered by want of due enquiry and too much party passion.” But still more emphatic in their loyalty are the sentiments (p. 363) of another writer, a Catholic from infancy, but “never an enemy of his country”; forced, indeed, to abandon the realm by reason of his recusancy, but never, as he piously thanks God, a conspirator against Her Majesty or his country. That there was a party among the English Catholics abroad harbouring sentiments different from his own, the faction, viz, of Parsons and Holt, “a most monstrous wicked man,” whose “course tended to the ruin of England, overthrow of the monarchy, destruction of the nobility, and the bringing the country into perpetual bondage of the Spaniards,” he did not deny, but he himself was, he avowed, prepared to stake his life in defence of Queen and country against any foreign invader. One thing, however, he would not do, return without liberty of conscience. Nor in this was he singular. He professed that he could persuade the Earl of Westmorland to withdraw from the King of Spain if the Queen would but promise him some honourable means of maintenance. England, as it seemed to him, “stood in most dangerous terms to be a spoil to all the world.” “Would to God, therefore,” he exclaims, “that Her Majesty would grant toleration of religion, whereby men's minds would be appeased and join all in one for the defence of our country. We see what safety it hath been to France, how peaceable the kingdom of Polonia is where no man's conscience is forced, how the Germans live being contrary in religion, without giving offence one to another. Why might we not do the like in England, seeing every man must answer for his own soul at the Latter Day, and that religion is the gift of God and cannot be beaten into a man's head with a hammer.”
Whether such excellent sentiments as these—excellent in modern ears, at any rate—prevailed largely among English Catholics then, or not, no opportunity was lost in England of laying hands upon priests. So Waad reports (p. 33) a capture of this nature, “by means of a notable fellow of late that I have retained who hath discovered divers matters to me.” 100l. of money in a bag which Waad suggested might be usefully employed to relieve the “party that informeth,” was also part, and a valuable part, of the prize thus secured. But although the person captured was by his own confession a “seminary,” Lord Dunsany promptly (p. 33) claimed the man as his servant and the money as his own. And when a fortnight later he discovered that, though Mr. Waad “used him courteously and promised him friendly,” neither man nor money was released, he emphatically protests against the suggestion that “the money was a collection for the relief of the seminaries and such cattle;” and, as for its bearer, he was “by education a bad cook, and is in condition very plain and simple, and being now forty years old, could never write nor read, until of late he learned to scrape a few letters to keep his accounts.” Further in formation about this simple fellow, harmless, save for his cooking, these papers do not give. What amount of truth there might be in the statements such as were made (p. 95), that there were priests who had vowed the death of the Lord Treasurer in order to bring about the “merry days in England and Ireland” that would follow when he was gone, and that Cardinal Allen had an Italian which served him very skilful in poisons, is a matter of conjecture, but that such statements were received in all seriousness by such responsible men as Flemyng, the Solicitor General, Francis Bacon, and Waad is beyond all doubt.
It was in the north of England that the crusade against professors of the Roman Catholic religion was carried on most actively. In March, Joseph Constable, “whose standing out was a great emboldening of other subjects in the errors of Popery, and in their disloyalty to converse with seminaries” (p. 105), and who had hitherto escaped capture, was taken in his house at Kirkby Knowle, a house that “by reason of the vaults and secret passages, both above and beneath the ground, is so cunningly contrived that it is a hard matter by a search to find out all the receptacles,” and which was therefore accounted as safe a place for any seminaries or other traitor to lurk in as if he were at Rheims or Rome.” Later in the year the Bishop of Carlisle writes (p. 298), at the same time entreating secrecy as to the contents of his letter, in order to commend to Cecil's favour one Thomas Lancaster, the only man he could trust to discover the Jesuits and seminaries lurking in his diocese, and by whose means the bishop had secured the apprehension of Christopher Robinson, “our late condemned seminary, whose execution hath terrified a great sort of our obstinate recusants.” This Lancaster was also the one individual who could, if he would, effect the capture of another important member of the body, “one Richard Dudley,” termed by the aforesaid Robinson and other his associates the “termed that profession.” This Dudley was the heir of Edmund Dudley, Esquire, whose grandfather, old Richard Dudley, being a good Protestant, did in his lifetime so detest his grandchild's obstinacy that he disinherited him of all his lands and conveyed them to his second brother. From Hull, on the other side of England, came to Cecil—always the correspondent to whom communications of this sort are addressed—information as to a place twelve miles distant, called Twigmore, which, with four or five houses adjoining, was said to harbour a number of Jesuits and Seminaries, “one of the worst places in Her Majesty's dominions, used like a Popish college, for traitors that use the north parts.” “Joining upon Humber,” it, like Kirkby Knowle; was said to be a resort eminently fitted for concealment, having “great woods, caves and vaults thereunto belonging.” This was the chief abiding place of the “fraternity,” a fraternity great, and possessing in Twigmore a habitation strong with men, guns, and weapons. Here Davie Engleby, alias Jefford, “a common runner beyond seas to conspire treasons,” notorious as a recusant and common receiver of seminaries (p. 105), close companion, too, of the Joseph Constable referred to above, was said often to be, and here or in its neighbourhood, it was hoped to run him to earth, as had been done in the case of Warcop, a most dangerous person,” who had been “of counsel” with Engleby (p. 300).
In connexion with the subject now under consideration may be mentioned the letters of George Chamberlayne, breathing quite a different tone according as they were addressed to Cecil or to intimate friends; the capture at Bergen (p. 484) of a priest on his way to England, whose “face and fashion” betrayed him, notwithstanding his disguise of “red breeches and yellow stockings,” and the appearances, few in number, in these pages of the name of Thomas Alabaster, chaplain of the Earl of Essex, a convert by the means of Father Wright, a “proud insolent priest” according to the Archbishop of Canterbury (p. 395), whose convert had in his turn perverted his father, mother, and sister” (p. 394).
Dearth of corn.
In the first month in the year (p. 3), and also in the last (p. 526), correspondents from the eastern counties of England call attention to the serious circumstance of the want of corn in the country. The dearth was not confined to the eastern counties, but extended to London and the south and west, and indeed to every part of the realm. At Ipswich the merchants begged for a license to import corn free of duty, a privilege which they understood that London had obtained, promising on that condition to sell it under market rates. A Venetian ship laden with corn having put into Portsmouth in February, its cargo was immediately seized. Payment for it was, it is true, made, but at the rate of 3s. 8d. the bushel, which the Lord Admiral considered below its value, estimated by him at 5s. the bushel. He was anxious that the true cause of the embargo—the want through out the realm—should be made evident to the Queen's good friends, the Venetians. Of this unexpected godsend he proposed that Ireland should have a good quantity, and the country about Portsmouth some part, if they would give 5s. the bushel for it, and, if possible, that a portion should also be spared to Somersetshire. In March, Southampton, by the mouth of its mayor, petitioned the Privy Council for 500 quarters to relieve their “miserable dearth.” “These five last market days,” the mayor assures the Council, “in our town there hath not been in any one above one quarter of meal at the most, and in some but half a quarter, and in other some none at all for relief of our distressed inhabitants, whereby a miserable want is grown amongst us, and a cruel famine is to be feared if some supply of corn is not granted.” A certain quantity of the corn brought according to contract into the port of London, being declared by the wardens of the Bakers not to be sweet nor serviceable, the shippers petitioned (p. 102) to be allowed to carry it further afield to some port in Devonshire, where, pre- sumably, they supposed it would be considered good enough, but the Lord Mayor opposed the request (p. 148), on the ground of the great dearth, of wheat especially, which in April had reached the price of 9s. the bushel, and the great discontentment and murmuring of the people which he expected to follow. In the south-west corner of England people clearly wanted it badly enough (p. 160). Corn was to be had from the Emperor of Russia (p. 192), if it could be paid for in gold, in Spanish money or dollars; but for the shipment of the necessary bullion licence from the Privy Council was necessary. By September “the late dearth of all kinds of grain, butter, and cheese” had abated, but now the Privy Council found it to be necessary to take measures against persons “liker to wolves or cormorants than to natural men, that do most covetously seek to uphold the prices of grain, &c. by bargaining aforehand for corn and in some parts for grain growing before it be reaped, and for butter and cheese before it be ready to be brought to the ordinary market.” Among these wolfish persons was a kinsman of Sir Robert Sydney, for whom Sydney's sister, Lady Essex, pleaded (p. 442), begging that Cecil, to prevent public disgrace, would draw into his own examination the whole matter in connexion with which this gentleman, Mr. Harry Sydney of Norfolk, “ever reputed honest and religious,” had been sent for by warrant to answer before the Council, and had been threatened by Coke, the Attorney-General, with a summons before the Star Chamber. In December, as before hinted, the dearth, which had passed away for the time, was again spreading (p. 526) and had reached Colchester, “abounding with so great multitude of poor people as without some present provisions numbers must perish, notwithstanding the excessive charge wherewith each man's best liberty is already burdened.”
Relief of the poor.
The manner of dealing with the poor is illustrated (p. 160) by the measures adopted by the justices of the peace in Cornwall. These regulations (p. 161) afford matter of interest, and show how the parish church and the Sabbath Day might both be utilised for civil purposes.
Meeting of Parliament.
One of the chief events of the year was the meeting of Parliament, with regard to which a considerable body of information is forthcoming. No Parliament had met since the spring of 1593. The first hint of the intention to call a Parliament is contained in a letter of Essex (p.,), who deprecated its meeting until the result of the expedition which he was about to lead against the Spaniards was known. In August (p. 359) the Lord Keeper reminds Cecil of the necessary warrant for summoning the body, “if Her Majesty do still continue her former resolution,” He also reminds him that some one to fill the office of clerk of the Parliament should be thought of and time given him to make himself acquainted with the nature of his duties. New Lord Keeper, new Speaker, new Clerk, and all newly to learn their duties, he had the fear that some would say of them, Ecce nova facta sunt omnia.
Writs were sent out on the 10th of September, and in most places the elections were quickly over. In the cases of several boroughs Sir Robert Cecil took pains to control the elections, desiring to nominate the members to be chosen. East Grinstead was one of these. But although a signification of his wish reached the town on the 14th, it was then too late (p. 385), the election having been already made, and the writ returned to the sheriff. Not the smallest disinclination to comply with his wishes, however, is signified. On the contrary, the bailiff and burgesses acknowledged their obligation to do what he had asked, and expressed their readiness to undo what had been already done in the matter if that were possible. At Ripon Cecil was more successful. This was the only borough in the diocese of the Archbishop of York which returned burgesses. This town, having elected John Benet, the Archbishop's Chancellor, to one of the places, left a blank for the Archbishop to appoint the other. The Archbishop, who had himself asked for (p. 383), and received (p. 404), a dispensation from attendance in Parliament, quite contentedly passed the choice on to Cecil, suggesting, however, as a suitable person Sir William Cornwallis, or (what is somewhat remarkable in view of present disabilities) the Dean of Carlisle. To a similar request for permission to nominate burgesses made to the Bishop of Durham, Cecil received the reply that the Bishop could not discover that “ever any such were allowed in the Parliament house, though writs sent out in error have been received.”
The town of Colchester was likewise unable to comply with Cecil's demand, but here again because it came too late. It was the opinion of the Queen and her advisers that the choice of burgesses in the towns was a matter which required special attention. The Privy Council, therefore, admonished the boroughs in general (p. 410), that while the election of knights of the shire might safely be left to the principal persons in the counties, yet in the boroughs “many unmeet men and unacquainted with the state of the boroughs” might be nominated, and added the warning that, if any answering to this description made their appearance in Parliament, there would be “occasion to inquire by whose default it so happened.” Such were the views that then obtained upon the point of freedom of election.
The election of knights of the shire was not in Yorkshire the tame affair that it was elsewhere, and long accounts given by the opposing parties of the' proceedings at the Castle of York will be found in the text of this volume. In this county Sir John Savile and Sir Thomas Fairfax carried their election against Sir John Stanhope, Treasurer of Her Majesty's Chamber, and Sir Thomas Posthumus Hoby, after some disorderly scenes and by the partial conduct, as alleged, of the under-sheriff. The Council at York were directed by the Privy Council (p. 426) to commit Sir John Savile to prison, but this direction arrived too late, he having already started on his journey to London (p. 436). The under-sheriff maintained that he had done nothing which he could not lawfully justify. For the details of this election the student must be referred to pp. 411, 416, 418, &c.
Of the actual proceedings of the Parliament when it had assembled, there are some fragmentary accounts, some lists of committees, and some intimations of the contents of speeches (p. 489), and of the matters that engaged the attention of members.
In the introductions to preceding parts of this Calendar, attention has been called to any particulars afforded by the papers concerning the Queen's personality and her relations with her subjects. The papers of this year yield a few items of this kind. For example, letters from Sir John Stanhope (pp. 41, 55) give just a hint how portions of the Queen's days were parcelled out. Information of alleged intentions to attempt to compass her death came from abroad twice. On the first occasion the immediate source was Sir Robert Sydney, who while himself evidently giving no great amount of credit to the informant, yet considered the man's statements of sufficient importance to justify the despatch of a ship-of-war to England from Flushing with the sole purpose of bringing the man into Essex's presence. A little later Sir Horatio Palavicino communicates to Cecil a warning received from Rizza Casa, the astronomer, of poison having been prepared for the Queen, the warning accompanied by an offer to name the man, but the further statement that the deadly concoction was five years old, and had been offered to the Archduke Ernest, appears to have raised doubts in Palavicino's mind of the value of the information. An account of some treasonable talk when the Queen was at Windsor, heard by the man telling the story while he was lingering “in the upper court at the conduit where the water comes out at a dragon's mouth,” was obviously not even worthy of relation, but, nevertheless, it was carefully brought to Cecil's notice, for the same reason probably that induced Sydney to send his warship posting across the sea from Flushing, the reason, namely, that “in a matter whereupon depends the good of a whole state, not only of England but of all Christendom, there cannot be too much carefulness.”
The Queen's powers of literary composition are mentioned in two connexions. Her “prayer” is only incidentally referred to in a request for a copy of it by the Archbishop of Canterbury (p. 278), who applauds “the worthiness of the thing itself,” but the other piece of eloquent expression is given at length. This was her oration to the Polish Ambassador at Greenwich (p. 315), which was of a character to surprise that too forward gentleman by its vigour and directness of speech. The Queen, however, could warmly praise other effusions than her own. It is Sir John Stanhope who passes on by command to Cecil her opinion of his aged father's speech drawn in answer to the same Ambassador (p. 320). Her view was that Sir John “might have left off admiring that little she had spoken to have wondered at the great learning expressed in his lordship's speech, with the elegancy of words and deepness of judgment.” She suggested, however, a certain amplitude of style in its commencement where her queenly person was referred to, as both due and requisite under the circumstances, and also certain arrangements at the conference between her Ministers and the Ambassador such as would be calculated to teach him his proper place.
Her high appreciation of her aged servant, Lord Burghley, and his son is pleasantly indicated in a letter from the Lord Admiral (p. 425). “By the Lord,” he tells Cecil, “I am not able to express in writing those gracious words and the manner she willed me to write to him. . . . . . Her Majesty laughed well, and so did I, at my lord's term of her 'slender servant,' but what she said in her favour to you I will keep till you come, to have some talk with you. Well, father and son are blessed of God for her love to you; and the Lord continue it to the end!” Her tender consideration of the old lord's bodily weakness is apparent in the postscript to this letter, “Her Majesty giveth you many thanks that you letted my lord your father from coming.”
Sir Robert Cecil.
In the month of January 1597 died Sir Robert Cecil's wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Cobham. The allusions to his loss—a loss which he felt grievously—are not many, and occur only in letters of condolence. Lord Borough (p. 56) urges him to find a counterpoise to sorrow in the circumstance that “the High Disposer of all things” had constituted him a member for his country, raised him to public use, made him an instrument of His providence in matters of State, and “enabled” him to things which ought to be dearer than wife and children. His aunt, the Dowager Lady Russell, addresses to him a set of Latin verses on the occasion, and when, some months after the event, she learns that he is still “without comfort of worldly light,” she endeavours to rouse him from a state of dejection by warning him (p. 281) against the fruits of melancholy, namely, “stupidity, forgetfulness of your natural disposition of sweet and apt speeches, fit for your place; and instead thereof breed and make you a surly, sharp, and sour plum, and no better in truth than a very melancholy mole and a misanthropos, hateful to God and man.”
A number of small presents fall to his lot : e.g., some firkins of oysters from the town of Colchester, “failing anything better;” a harp from the Countess of Desmond, and a “simple lover's gift” (its nature not otherwise defined) from Sir Richard Molineux.
The fortunes, continuously perverse, of Thomas Arundell—count by foreign creation, but plain commoner at home in England, where no one would recognise his patent of nobility—are illustrated by nearly twenty papers. Among them are letters from his aged father, Sir Matthew. This old servant of the Queen's, who had married “a woman of Her Majesty's own breeding,” and till his wife's death (being twenty-six years) had never left service in Court, derived little comfort from his son's proceedings (p. 36), and cherished a particular antipathy to his son's wife, so much so that he confidentially confessed to Cecil that he had already disinherited him so far as the law allowed, the “law of nature having clean forgotten, her office in me, having received from my son and my son's wife many proud thwarts for too too much bounty and love.” The old knight had the most intense dislike of the whole business of the foreign title, chiefly because all his son's sons and daughters and their issues must become counts and countesses, “a matter so peevish, harsh, and absurd” to the old Englishman's understanding that the more he spoke of it the greater was his grief in thinking upon it. The unacknowledged count was himself anxious to proceed on a voyage of adventure (pp. 72, 94), but falling anew under suspicion in consequence of the despatch of one Smallman, a retainer, to the Emperor's Court with his pedigree, “that the Emperor might see he had not bestowed that title of honour upon any base person,” he was again put in “close durance” (p. 228) and under surveillance, being first committed to the care of Mr. Robert Beale (pp. 193, 194), who took occasion to reason with him on the subjects of his pretended dignity and his religion. After more than a month's restraint, however (p. 228), and a strict investigation (p. 229) he was pronounced to be guilty of no crime of disloyalty, but only of contempt “in practising to contrive the justification of his vain title.” On account of this and the fact that his house had been haunted by massing priests, though, as he maintained, without his knowledge, the Queen, while remitting all punishment but of favour to the house from which he was descended, decided that his father “should receive him and his upon his good abearing for some convenient time until there should be better demonstration of his discreet and dutiful carriage.” But this arrangement greatly “disquieted” the old gentleman (p. 260) now in the year which he designates his annus climactericus magnus, and he begged that the son and his family might be settled instead at a house “two flight shots” from his own at Shafton, where he would pay for their “diet” and keep as vigilant a watch over them as his age, his wit, and his occupations would permit. Sir Matthew's wishes were respected, and it was explained to him (p. 276) that he was not asked to be his son's jailor. By December Thomas appears to have purged his contempt and established a character for good behaviour, and to be moving, a free man, about London (p. 527).
Smallman, the retainer whom he had employed on the mission to the Emperor, and Sir Humphrey Druell, also connected with his household, found themselves to be in worse case than the chief offender. The one was imprisoned in the Fleet, and the other (run to earth after a hunt of some days and some difficulty) in the Wood Street Counter (p. 284). Druell's letters incidentally disclose views of the interior of the Fleet prison three hundred years ago (pp. 188, 198).
Among miscellaneous correspondents are Sir Thomas Challoner writing from Florence, telling, among other items of news, the popularity of English merchants there; Henry Cuffe, on his travels abroad in Europe, dating his letters from Paris and Florence; and Dowager Lady Russell, already referred to, a woman of vigorous modes of expression, ready at any moment to take up the cudgels on her own behalf and maintain what she held to be her just rights. Certain letters on the subject of a demand made upon her by one May, a draper, for money which she averred she had already paid (pp. 296, 297) are amusing reading. Among her accomplishments was that of Latin verse-making. Her English is more emphatic in style than lucid, and her words as they flowed from her pen assumed forms far removed from modern orthography and not by any means always consistent. It is clear that she was not a “painful” writer, using the word in the sense in which it is applied to the applauded preacher in these pages, the meaning universally given to it at the close of the 16th century, but if not models of careful composition, her letters are extremely lively.
A gossipy letter of news with a spice of slander from Thomas Audeley (p. 391) is also remarkable, because the endorsement erroneously attributes it to Sir Thomas Bodley. The original is clearly dated September, though the matter of the letter itself points almost inevitably to the month of December.
A single notice occurs of John Norden, the topographer, who devoted time and talent (p. 459) to “the more perfect description of the several shires of the realm.” Part of his labours had by this time been embodied in imprints, but in order to obtain funds for the further prosecution of the work, Lord Burghley assisted him with a warrant to justices of the peace generally, commanding them “to use their best favours for some voluntary benevolence or contribution to be given by them well affected to this service.” London topography appears in a letter of Sir John Hollis (p. 464) which gives information of holdings in the neighbourhood of Clements Inn and “Comming” Garden, and their rentals. Certain building operations had brought those connected with them into the Star Chamber, where some remarks made by Lord Burghley stung the hasty-tempered knight into the dangerous course of replying by means of a “lewd, saucy letter” (p. 270). This proceeding procured him an opportunity of quiet reflection in the Fleet prison upon the folly displayed in those days by an insignificant man who allowed himself the satisfaction of addressing abusive remarks in writing to so potent a personage as the Lord Treasurer. In another connexion (p. 187) we read of a “back gate” opening into the Strand, and of “field upon field” being then found in the district between Drury Lane and Grays Inn.
In the preparation of this volume the Commissioners have had the assistance of Mr. R. A. Roberts, Mr. R. F. Isaacson, Mr. E. Salisbury, Mr. R. H. Brodie, Mr. A. Hughes, and Mr. C. G. Crump, all of the Public Record Office, and of Mr. R. T. Gunton, Private Secretary to the Marquis of Salisbury.