Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Mary 1553-1558. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1861.
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The sixteenth century will ever be a marked era in the history of Europe, both in a military and diplomatic point of view; and the few years to which this volume refers were not the least stirring in regard of those movements in field and cabinet, which called into action the genius of so many illustrious warriors and statesmen. Of those events which engaged their energy, such as the disturbed state of Italy, the quarrels of Pope Paul the Fourth and the Emperor Charles the Fifth, the embroilment of Henry the Second with the house of Austria, from which resulted the defeat of the French by the Spaniards at S. Quentin, (fn. 1) a blow in some measure compensated by the capture of Calais; of all these the documents herein abstracted present a tolerably fair general outline. They contain the essence of the entire Foreign correspondence of England during the reign of Queen Mary, as preserved in the State Paper Office; whereof the first bears date seven days after her Majesty's accession, prior to that circumstance being known by the correspondent of the individual who sought to bar her rightful claim to the throne. The plan adopted in the compilation is similar to that of the former calendar appertaining to the rule of King Edward the Sixth.
I should be exceeding my duty if, appointed to the specific charge of forming a calendar, I were to make any remarks beyond those which strictly relate to the papers themselves. It is therefore only necessary to point out a few of the more noticeable ones and the occurrents recorded in them; premising, that as a considerable space is occupied by "intelligence" from Rome and elsewhere, by this word is to be understood the information conveyed by the spies, or "espials" as they were then termed, in the service of the respective envoys or agents abroad.
The correspondence of Sir John Masone, while resident at the Court of the Emperor Charles the Fifth, continues to supply the same attractive gossip as his despatches did when he occupied the like position at that of Henry the Second of France. He is described by Camden as having been "a man of learning and gravity, but a great devourer of church-lands," which doubtless accounts for his forcible comments on a preacher who, he is informed, "beateth the pulpit jollily in England for the restitution of Abbeylands." (fn. 2) Among other such property, he possessed those of Abingdon, under the shadow of whose walls his infancy was spent. But whatever may be thought of his appetite for ecclesiastical domains, his aspirations, while communicating the extensive naval preparations of Denmark, will meet with a hearty response at the present time. "I would wish," says he, "that our navy were looked upon in such sort, as the world might at the least see we mind not to suffer it to decay; for, if any mischief be intended, let us be sure our ports shall either first or last be therein." (fn. 3)
Two letters from Sir John Cheke to Petre and Masone, (fn. 4) depict strongly his feelings during exile; and the interest taken by the latter in Cheke's family, surely tends to relieve him from the insinuation of Ponet and Strype that he had betrayed his friend, even although he had become "under Queen Mary a strong Papist," like his equally pliant colleague, Wotton. Their family connection, besides, makes the charge less probable; as Masone's appeal to her Majesty on their behalf shows,—what has neither been noticed in the life of Cheke by Strype, nor in the memoir of Masone in the Biographia Britannica,—that Lady Cheke's mother, the "good widow Hill," had taken our Ambassador for her second husband. (fn. 5) Cheke's description of Venetia in his time, if correct, is by no means flattering. "He is here in a country much esteemed in opinion, of which yet being somewhat unskilled, he cannot judge certainly without rashness, else at first sight he would say that neither for private order, nor yet common behaviour, is it anything to be compared to their own supposed barbarous country. Courtesans in honour, haunting of evil houses noble; breaking of marriage a sport; murder, in a gentleman, magnanimity; robbery, finesse if it be clean conveyed,—for the spying is judged the fault and not the stealing; religion, to be best that best agreeth with Aristotle de anima; the common tenant, though not in kind of tenancy, marvellously kept bare, the gentleman, nevertheless, yet bare that keepeth him so; in speech cautious, in deed scarce; more liking in asking than in giving. The farther they go into Italy it is said to be the worse." (fn. 6)
The like pecuniary incommodities appear to have been experienced by the English Ambassadors in this as in the former reign, if we may judge by the letters of Masone, who now, as then, is grievously afflicted. Early his complaints commence: "If he hears not shortly of some aid of money out of England, extremity will drive him to make his refuge to her Majesty, who, he trusts will either call him home or else see him so furnished with her allowance, or at least with his own, as he may be able to continue the place in such a sort as to her honour is requisite." (fn. 7) Six weeks later, offering to Petre "his hearty thanks for the short receiving of his money," he declares that "whensoever it shall come it is already spent, . . . so as he sees the estate of an ambassador, that of himself is not able to bear the brunt, is come to be most miserable." (fn. 8) Writhing in financial agony he at length appeals to head-quarters, and humbly desires her Majesty to pardon him for writing something of his own case. An unmeeter man in all respects for her Majesty's affairs could not be; this from the outset he had declared, but since, notwithstanding, she had commanded he should serve in this place, he doubts not but her meaning was he should be furnished from time to time of so much as it liked he to appoint him as well as if he had been much fitter. How that has been answered since his coming hither the Lords of her Majesty's Council can tell. He has often written for their aid, and knows by report their good mind to help him, yet it has not liked the Lord Treasurer so to understand the matter, as either their entreating or any intolerable lack could move him to help Masone in time either with the diets appointed to him for this place or with his fees in the Exchequer, wherein in effect stands his whole living, till by borrowing a good piece thereof was run out in interest. Seeing this ordering continues without hope of amendment, he is driven to make his moan to her Majesty, and most humbly, prostrate on the ground, desires aid and remedy at her hands, or else that she will revoke him and appoint one to the room who may be better able to bear the brunt, which goodness he shall esteem as a sufficient recompense for all the service he may do to her life-during. For, rather than to continue the life he has done, sithen his coming hither, still in lack and misery, and alway constrained to live by borrowing, selling, pledging, and credit, which is so far spent as he is scant able to redeem it, he assures her Majesty death were to him much lever." (fn. 9) A few months later he requests the Council "will consider his great and long lack and give order for the payment of his diets, as such of their Lordships as have been lately at Brussels are able very well to declare what it is to live there with a public countenance;" (fn. 10) declares to Petre that "as to his own case, he has so often written that he will now see what will drop out of heaven;" (fn. 11) and at length, unable to brook further delay, tells the same correspondent that he "will write no more this day or that day, nor this week nor that week; but when the King shall have taken his leave of the Emperor, then he can boldly advertise that they will have him shortly. No private person has more cause to hasten his farewell than he, for he is living at the rate of sometimes 35l., and sometimes 36l. per week (if it be not so, God confound him!) without any help for the maintenance of that insupportable charge other than borrowing. When money is asked for, answer is made that he shall shortly go home. In the meantime, time runneth and charges withal; and he remains tied to the stake." (fn. 12) His penultimate letter thanks her Majesty "most humbly upon his knees" for receipt of his diets due a month back. (fn. 13)
The singular delusion which led her Majesty to believe that she was destined to continue the succession of English Sovereigns is amusingly illustrated by the number of letters prepared for communicating the anticipated event to the various crowned heads, in which a blank was left for specifying the sex of the infant; (fn. 14) and the rumours and speculations that went abroad in relation to what was so anxiously desired, considerably heighten this. Masone,—who sagaciously suspected the reported birth of a prince to be erroneous,—expressed his doubts, when summoned to the Emperor's bedside at the early hour of five in the morning to state what he "had heard of this matter," and tells us of his Majesty, that "loath was he to bring the thing to any doubt:" (fn. 15) while Gresham, "trusting in God that the news is true, for no one of the English has any certain writing of it," narrates the jubilant demonstrations made by his brother merchants at Antwerp, on news being brought "along the seas by men of that country" that the Queen was confined. (fn. 16) Sir Philip Hoby, writing to Masone from Padua, in thanking him for those his letters which "extinguish many false rumours spread there concerning the Queen's health," reproaches the "fond and fastastical inventions" of Boisdaulphin, the French Ambassador, from whom such reports emanated; and who not only had affirmed that on the 7th of May the Queen was delivered of a mole or lump of flesh, and was in great peril of death," but "shortly after, refreshing his former inventions," had positively asserted the receipt of subsequent letters confirming her Majesty's decease. (fn. 17) And his corre spondent, communicating to Petre this epistle, "by which he may see the honest nature of the Frenchman, who makes as many bones to set out to the world a shameful lie with a shameful tongue, as he does to sup up a cup of good wine," solemnly animadverts on the "kind of bruits many ill men have devised of the long keeping in of the Queen, who for that her Grace hath somewhat longer deferred the discharging of her burden than the world looked she would have done, devise the occasion of the stay as pleaseth themselves." (fn. 18) Again, about a month later, he returns thanks to the Council for their letter, than which none were ever more welcome, "as they will enable him to still a great many doubtful talks upon the longer tarrying of her Majesty's delivery than was looked for;" and devoutly prays "Almighty God assist her with His holy hand, whensoever the time shall come, so as the fruit may come to light so much prayed for by all good men, to the joy and gladness of the good sort of the whole estate of Christendom!" (fn. 19) Thereafter we have no more allusions to this very delicate and tender point.
Connected with the Lady Anne of Cleves, a remarkable notice occurs, less than a year before her death. Two of her foreign domestics are represented as having obtained some influence over her, to an extent apparently affecting her mental health; and her brother the Duke specially sends to England a Licentiate of Laws to entreat that her Majesty may cause these otherwise irremovable servants to be expelled from the realm. (fn. 20)
Petre, like Cecil, was not indifferent to literature. Wotton is in the habit of sending him books, and in forwarding some (fn. 21) alludes to the pseudonymous rejoinder by Gardiner, under the title "Confutatio Cavillationum, &c." to Cran mer's answer to the "Explication and Assent of the true Catholic Faith, &c." In another letter, he has purchased for Petre "the new old Pandects of Florence," which he will bring home when he returns. (fn. 22)
The falcons of Prussia appear to have been held in estimation. Albert, Marquis of Brandenburg, is in the habit of annually sending several casts to her Majesty. (fn. 23) These birds, properly trained and exercised, were, as is well known, from a very early period considered worthy the acceptance of potentates, and bore a high price.
Cramp-rings, blessed by Queen Mary, were in request at the Emperor's Court. Masone, in April 1556, requests that the Council "will be suitors to her Majesty to send him a few for division" there, and makes a similar application to Petre. (fn. 24) A former Ambassador to the same Court, Lord Berners, wrote to Wolsey from Saragossa in 1518 for some of these rings, which in ancient times the English Sovereigns were accustomed to hallow upon Good Friday, and which were supposed to possess a prophylactic virtue against epilepsy.
While the question of precedency is warmly agitated abroad between Carne and the Portuguese Ambassador, (fn. 25) the former stoutly maintaining that his place at the Pontifical Court was next to the representative of France and before the others, "for it is the place for Ambassadors of England nigh 1,000 years before there was any King in Portugal;" the Council at home have to pass from more serious considerations to record a "heat" between the Lord High Chancellor and the French Ambassador, (fn. 26) as well as the claim of the French Agent to free quarters; (fn. 27)—grave topics that demand diplomatic coolness and vigilance.
Although comparatively little as to the domestic transactions of England is met with, there is frequent mention of the movement of her discontented sons who sought a foreign domicile,—such as Carew, Killigrew, and others,— who in the next reign will doubtless be found playing their parts. The beneficial operations of Gresham—"a jewel for trust, wit, and diligent endeavour" as Chaloner styles him —in matters of finance and commerce stand out prominently, and are valuable as denoting the rise and progress of our present system of exchanges; of these, Mr. Burgon has made good use in his excellent biography of Sir Thomas.
For minute facts in biography, and touches of individual character to be gathered from these papers, may be noticed those relating to Dr. Valentine Dale, of the Arches; (fn. 28) to Cardinal Pole, as sketched by Vannes and Masone, however these may be coloured from interested motives; to the livings and places of emolument held by the former of these writers in England; to Dr. Serles, the prebendary sent by Dr. Harpsfeld to do duty at Calais, and who, according to Sir Thomas Cornwallis, was "a man so rude and barbarous, as the like was never heard in the place of a preacher;" while the pliant convictions of Masone and Wotton are exemplified, inter alias, in Nos. 246, 249, 251, 252, 275, and 316.
The preceding will serve to show what may be expected from a perusal of the volume. As explained at the outset, I have studiously abstained from offering even a survey of the political relations between England and the Continent, or of the great questions then at issue. This, therefore, while it accounts for an introduction so disjointed and jejune, must be accepted for its apology.
For the elaborate and accurate index I am indebted to the kindness of my friend Mr. William Hackett of Lincoln's Inn, whose love for historical research induced him to undertake that somewhat irksome task.
Since the sheets were printed off, it has been discovered that the abstracts on pp. 95, 96, 105, and 278, have been accidentally misplaced; but the error is so obvious and amendable as to supersede the necessity of cancelling the pages.