Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, Volume 11, 1575-1577. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1880.
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The period, covered by the documents herein calendared, is less by six months than that contained in most of the preceding volumes, and comprises the years 1575, 1576, and 1577 up to the month of June, inclusive, which is chiefly owing to the increase of documents relating to the affairs of Holland and the Low Countries. As the contents relate entirely to foreign affairs it will not be necessary to do more than glance at the state of domestic politics during this period. The violent revolution in the social arrangements of the nation caused by the Reformation was beginning to subside, and, although there was a large party who wished for the restoration of the nation to the Catholic faith, there can be no doubt but that the bulk of the people was satisfied with, or at least acquiesced in, the new order of things which had sprung up, and this would necessarily be more the case as time went on and the new generation grew to maturity. Elizabeth's great rival, Mary of Scotland, was a prisoner and in her power, and though her cause had numerous sympathisers in England and powerful supporters on the Continent, these latter were unable to render her any effectual assistance, owing to the dissensions and troubles in their own country; whilst the former were held in check by the wakefulness of the Queen's ministers. The restoration of the purity of the currency, which had been dreadfully tampered with and debased during the preceding reigns, materially tended to the increased prosperity and content ment of the nation, whilst manufactures received an important impetus from the multitudes of refugees who fled over to England, principally from Flanders, and brought with them new and improved processes which had hitherto partaken of the nature of trade secrets. This peaceful and prosperous state of affairs was unfortunately not universal throughout the kingdom; as on the frontiers of Scotland the borderers of both countries could not at once give up their old evil courses, and neither the severity of Henry Carey, Baron of Hunsdon, Governor of Berwick and Lord Warden of the East Marches, "who took as great a pleasure in hanging thieves as other men in hunting or hawking," (fn. 1) nor the friendly feeling which was growing up between the English and Scottish nations, was able to suppress their natural lawlessness. These evil practices nearly occasioned a serious break between the two nations, and was only prevented by the prudence of the Regent Morton. Sir John Forster, Lord Warden of the Middle Marches of England, having occasion to meet the officer of the corresponding March in Scotland, named Sir John Carmichael, agreed to meet with him at a place called Reedswire, near the Carter Fell, where there arose a sudden fray amongst their followers, in which several on both sides were slain and wounded, and the party of the English Warden put to flight, with the loss of Sir George Heron slain, whilst the Warden himself and several other gentlemen were taken prisoners and conveyed to Dalkeith, the residence of the Scottish Regent. The news of this affair, but more especially the detention of her officers in time of peace, excited the wrath of Elizabeth to the utmost, and several angry and threatening letters were written to the Regent, as the Queen was not at all satis fied with his excuse that Sir John Forster and his companions were only detained till their first excitement had cooled a little, lest they might be induced to make reprisals in revenge of their treatment at Reedswire. It was not until Morton sent hostages to Berwick as a pledge for the performance of his promise to hunt out and punish the murderers of Sir G. Heron, and had sent Sir John Carmichael to London to explain in person his conduct in the affair, that the Queen allowed herself to be appeased. With the exception of these papers and letters relating to the raid of Reedswire, the documents, both in the Border correspondence and that of Scotland, are few in number and of little interest, being almost entirely confined to the accounts of the garrison of Berwick and complaints of frays and disorders on either side. In one of his letters (fn. 2) the Regent of Scotland hints that robberies were not confined to the native Borderers, but that some of the garrison of Berwick were not above a little plundering when occasion offered. In the same letter the Regent complains of the introduction into Scotland of false money which was coined on the English side. This industry seems from earlier documents to have been rather extensively carried on by the Berwick garrison.
In France the troubles on account of religion still continued, the Huguenots being in strong force throughout the south of France, especially in Languedoc and Dauphiny, whilst they maintained possession of the important seaport of Rochelle, and several other places of strength in other parts of the kingdom. They were the better able to maintain their defiant position through the deplorable state of the King's finance, who besides owing upwards of 100,000,000 francs could no longer obtain supplies. (fn. 3) There had been expended in the endeavour (fn. 4) to suppress the Huguenots the enormous sum of 36,000,000 francs, obtained from Paris and other towns, and 60,000,000 francs raised by the clergy, besides other gifts and subsidies, and all this with apparently little or no result. The King's poverty (fn. 5) was such that he was obliged to have recourse for the payment of his guards to such of his courtiers as were willing or able to advance him money. Large bodies of German mercenaries under Duke John Casimir and other leaders were employed by both parties, but more especially by the Huguenots, (fn. 6) who were assisted with money by the Queen of England; they were, however, most irregularly paid, which produced disastrous results to the peaceable inhabitants of those parts of the country which they over-ran. The war was carried on principally by a series of petty sieges and skirmishes, attended with mutual executions and outrages. In one of these affrays with a party of German reiters, which occurred near Chateau Thierry, the Duke of Guise received the severe wound in the face which procured for him the sobriquet of Le Balafré. He was shot in the side of the face, and his ear torn away; the wound being aggravated by the fact of his wearing a helmet of proof from which the ball in its rebound injured the back of his head dangerously. The disturbed condition of France at this period is shown in a letter from Sir Henry Cobham, sent as ambassador to Spain by Elizabeth, in which he mentions being attacked in his passage near Bordeaux (fn. 7) by a body of 50 men at arms under M. de Longshaye, the Huguenot Governor of Talmont. The cruelty (fn. 8) used by the populace of Paris against the Huguenots is illustrated by a letter from Dale and Paulet, giving an account of an attack made on the Protestants on their return from a preaching, in which, though no lives were lost, they were subjected to great indignities and even outrage.
The state of affairs at the Court of France was in no better condition than in the rest of the kingdom, it being split up into numerous factions, all busily employed in intriguing against one another. Besides the great factions of the Catholics and Huguenots there had sprung up a third under the name of the Politiques, at the head of which were the Duke of Alençon and the Montmorenoies, which allied itself with the Huguenots; there was also the party of the Guises, favoured by the Catholics, and especially by the populace of Paris, which was very earnest in the cause of religion; the Queen Mother favoured each by turn as appeared most conducive to her own interests. Monsieur, Duke of Alençon, and afterwards Duke of Anjou, had rendered himself so suspected by the King, his brother, that his movements were vigilantly watched, (fn. 9) and the King strongly advised by the Cardinal of Guise to commit him to close ward; under these circumstances he secretly quitted Paris on September 12, and fled to Dreux, where he openly joined the Huguenots under the Prince of Condé. The Queen Mother did all in her power to recall Monsieur to his duty, and to appease this strife between the brothers; she assured Dale, the English ambassador, in the presence of the King, that it was only a youthful frolic which would soon be ended if Monsieur did not receive encouragement from foreign princes. Notwithstanding this speech (fn. 10) Dale remarked that the King was very heavy and sorrowful, and the Queen Mother as one dismayed. The prevalence of these factions did not tend to soften manners in the Court of France, and we therefore find frequent mention of quarrels and duels which were productive of much mischief and trouble, in which the notorious Bussy D'Amboise figures conspicuously. These quarrels were not confined to the comparatively inferior personages, for we find the King, overhearing a disparaging remark of the Grand Prior's (fn. 11) on his dancing, so far forgetting himself as to call that dignitary a liar and scoundrel, which had the effect of causing him to quit the Court in disgust. The open accession of Monsieur and the young King of Navarre to their party was such an encouragement to the Huguenots, and tended so much to complicate the King's embarassments already sufficiently great, that the prospect of re-establishing the Catholic religion by force seemed further off than ever. It was, therefore, decided to have recourse to diplomacy, and a peace was concluded with the Huguenots in the following month of May.
This peace, which was chiefly the work of the Queen Mother though popularly known as the peace of Monsieur, was the fifth that had been concluded since the commencement of the civil wars in 1560, and contained the most favourable conditions for the Huguenots that they had yet been able to obtain, as it accorded them nearly entire freedom in the public exercise of their religion within certain bounds, appointed to them certain strong towns for their security, placed them on an equality with the Catholics before the law, and annulled the sentences which had been pronounced against the Admiral Coligny and other victims of St. Bartholomew, rehabilitating their memories, and permitting their heirs to enter again into possession of their goods and estates. In addition to this the duchies of Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Berri, were added to the appanage of the Duke of Alençon, who is known after this time by his title of Anjou. The publication of this edict of pacification had, however, very different results from those either anticipated or desired. The indulgence shown to the Protestants raised the anger and indignation of the Catholic party, and gave rise to the formation of the celebrated association known by the title of the Holy League, which was the cause of so much misery to France. This treaty, therefore, does not seem to have had much practical effect in pacifying the realm, as the accounts of warlike operations by both parties are continued down to the end of the present volume without any prospect of abatement. There will be found several allusions to the proposed marriages of the Duke of Alençon not only with Elizabeth, but also with the sister of the King of Navarre and the daughter of the King of Spain. (fn. 12) On page 453 there is a letter, dated December 24, 1576, in which he complains of an attempt on his life by putting poison in his wine, which had brought on a most violent sickness. On page 446 there is a description of the personal appearance of Henri III., and his Queen, Louise de Vaudemont, which was sent to Elizabeth by Sir John Smith, the ambassador to the King of Spain, who visited the French Court on his passage through France, in which Smith is careful not to praise the beauty of the French Queen or her attendants too much, and to assure his mistress of her own infinite superiority in that respect.
The chief interest in this volume centres in the documents relating to Flanders. They alone fill five large manuscript volumes, and comprise a mass of correspondence, both public and private together, with numerous papers of an official character, giving an account of the events passing during the tremendous struggle which was taking place in the Netherlands to shake off the yoke of the Spaniards, and throwing a light on the motives and intentions of many of the principal actors. The most notable features brought out are the profound mistrust that the Prince of Orange had under all circumstances of the intentions of the King of Spain and his agents, and the obstinate determination of the latter, on no account to permit the exercise of any other religion than the Roman Catholic to his subjects. The Low Countries consisted of 17 provinces, and were divided into two distinct sections, partly by race and religion, and partly by the natural features of the country. The inhabitants of both districts were united by a common hatred of the Spaniard and a determination to rid themselves of his oppression. This feeling was the stronger in the provinces of Holland and Zealand, who, from the first, placed themselves under the guidance of William of Orange. These provinces consisted for the most part of islands, formed by broad but shallow estuaries of the sea, from whose incursions they were protected by vast dykes, and were inhabited by a hardy race of seamen and fishers, amongst whom the Calvinist form of Protestantism had taken firm root. Brabant and the rest of the provinces which depended on their manufactures, and were infinitely more wealthy and pleasant to live in, were for the most part Catholic, and it was on account of its avarice and tyranny that they disliked the Spanish rule, and not through its interference with their religion, which was probably not so great as is usually imagined, and certainly not as great as it was in Holland and Zealand, with whose inhabitants the reformed opinions were more popular. The rise of the spirit of resistance, and the determination to shake off the Spanish rule is evidenced by some undated manuscripts which have been placed at the end of the year 1576, containing complaints of the rapacity and cruelty of the soldiery, (fn. 13) and a declaration that the only way to get rid of them was by force, moreover objecting to the reception of Don John of Austria as governor.
On the other hand, the bitter feeling with which the Spaniard regarded the inhabitants of the Low Countries is shown a few pages further on, where the extermination (fn. 14) of the whole race, both males and females, and the destruction of their towns, is openly recommended, Don John being fully determined to prosecute the war to the extermination of those who resisted. It is no wonder when both parties were actuated by such strong feelings of mutual hatred that the strife was carried on with unusual atrocity. The Prince of Orange, who was the ruling spirit on the side of the revolted provinces, knew too well the character of Philip to trust to any promise, or to hope for forgiveness if they submitted, and did all in his power to persuade the more wavering of the uselessness of their yielding, whilst at the same time, knowing his own weakness to withstand a determined attack by the enemy, he took care not to lose any advantage that he could gain by negotiation or temporising; and even went so far as to lay a cunning trap for Don John (fn. 15) by proposing the erection of the Low Countries into a separate monarchy, with Don John as the first king. An instance of King Philip's strong antipathy to Protestantism is given by Paulet, (fn. 16) who writes that the Spanish Ambassador in France told him that the States of the Low Countries might easily obtain all their demands from the king, saving the exercise of religion, wherein, rather than abate one jot, he would hazard his crown and all that belonged to it, adding that he had been warned by the example of France of the perils attendant on toleration of diversity in religion.
Don Luis de Requescens, Grand Commendator of Castile, the successor of Alva in the Government of the Low Countries, having determined to assail Orange in his stronghold of Zealand, prepared a force of 5,000 men, (fn. 17) under veteran commanders, and on the night of the 28th September 1575, partly in boats and partly by wading through two miles of sea, effected a landing in the island of Schouwen, (fn. 18) with a loss variously estimated at 500 and 2,000 men. In the conflict, which lasted four hours, M. Charles de Boissot lost his life, but whether at the hand of the enemy or his own men was uncertain. Requescens quickly afterwards repaired to the scene of this exploit, and commenced the siege of Zericksee, which however he did not live to see completed, for having passed the winter months in preparations for the success of this object he was obliged to return to Brussels, where a violent attack of fever carried him off, 6th March 1576. After the death of Requescens the government of the Low Countries was carried on by Hieronimo Rodas and the Council of State sitting at Brussels, pending the arrival from Spain of the Governor whom the King should appoint. Even before the death of the Commendator the finances had fallen into such a bad condition that the troops had to receive part of their wages in merchandise, while after that event they remained almost entirely without payment. Under these conditions their discipline vanished, and they no longer obeyed the commands of their officers, whom in some of the garrisons they deposed altogether, placing themselves under the orders of one chosen from amongst themselves, whom they termed Eletto. As it was absurd to suppose that men with arms in their hands would allow themselves to starve or suffer want in the midst of a peaceful and wealthy population, these troops who had so lately prided themselves on the strictness of their discipline and obedience, became no better than organised bands of robbers, whose numbers and skill in the use of arms made them the more terrible to their neighbours. The Council of State at Brussels having vainly appealed to their sense of duty, and promised that their arrears should be paid as soon as treasure should arrive from Spain (without however sending ready money) were at last compelled to proclaim them rebels and traitors to the King and public enemies, and to order them to quit the country. This had not the slightest effect in stopping the misconduct of the mutineers, and only succeeded in exasperating them to the highest pitch; after making an unsuccessful attempt on Mechlin the main body made a sudden onslaught on Alost in Flanders, which they carried by storm and made their head quarters, laying the surrounding country under contributions. At Antwerp, which was held in awe by a garrison of Spaniards under Alonzo de Vargas, posted in the strong citadel which had been built by the Duke of Alva, the inhabitants were naturally alarmed, called on the Council at Brussels for assistance, which was furnished in the shape of a large body of Walloons. Champagny, the Governor of Antwerp, having good reason to suspect the fidelity of the German mercenaries procured their withdrawal from the town, when they shortly justified his suspicions by openly joining the mutineers. In the midst of all this confusion the Council of State, sitting at Brussels, were at the instigation of Orange made prisoners by the Seigneur de Heze under the authority of the States of Brabant. An attempt by the burghers of Maestricht to drive out the Spanish garrison completely failed, with great slaughter and the plunder of the town. The magistrates of Antwerp, emboldened by the above-mentioned reinforcement of 5,000 Walloons, thought themselves strong enough to lay siege to the citadel, and accordingly opened a fire on it which was hotly returned by the garrison, who summoned their fellow mutineers from Alost to their rescue and on their arrival sallied forth and quickly surmounted the feeble entrenchment thrown up by the besiegers, whom they followed with great slaughter into the town which they sacked for the space of several days, indulging in all sorts of horrible barbarity. In this conflict some 8,000 of the townspeople and the Almain and Walloon soldiery perished. According to Rodas, Sancho D'Avila, Alonzo Vargas, and Romero used great diligence to stop the plundering by the soldiers, which they had forbidden under pain of death. Notwithstanding their endeavours the spoil of the city has been calculated at the enormous sum of 4 or 5,000,000l., besides large sums obtained by the ransoms of the English and other foreign merchants. The magnificent town hall and numerous other houses were utterly consumed by fire, and the trade and commerce of the town for a long time destroyed. A great outcry was very naturally raised at this atrocious crime which is known as "The Spanish Fury of Antwerp," but though it is not possible to exonerate the soldiery for their part, it appears that the burghers were greatly to blame in attacking with insufficient forces a strong citadel, garrisoned by exasperated ruffians. At this time Don John of Austria, a natural son of the Emperor Charles V., and therefore the half brother of Philip II., arrived on the frontiers at Luxemburg, bearing a commission from the King to act as Governor and Viceroy of the Low Countries.
On his sending to announce his arrival to the Estates they made great difficulty as to his reception until he should promise to observe certain articles, providing for the withdrawal of the Spaniards and the government of the country through the advice of a council composed entirely of native born subjects; and it was not till the month of May in the following year that he was able to make his entry into Brussels. Notwithstanding the demonstrations of public rejoicing which marked his arrival in the capital, and his own endeavour to make himself popular, Don John was regarded with great suspicion by a large portion of the council who were moved by the instigations of the Prince of Orange, and did everything they could to thwart him, and render his power insignificant, and his position intolerable. The documents leave off at the date of the seizure of the Castle of Namur by Don John, who thus openly defied the States and renewed the struggle which was not terminated till long after his own death. A very curious story will be found on page 516 relating to an alleged plot for the poisoning of the Queen of England, and for the marriage of Don John to Queen Mary of Scotland; there is also frequent mention of negotiations between Don John and the Prince of Orange in the latter portion of this volume.
The papers relating to the affairs of Spain proper, are comparatively meagre in quantity, owing to the cessation of regular diplomatic intercourse between England and that country since the dismissal with contumely of Don Guerau d'Espes for participation in the Duke of Norfolk's conspiracy in the year 1578, whilst on the other hand the residence of Dr. Man, the English Ambassador in Spain, was cut short, owing to his quarrels with the Inquisition on the question of the observance of religion in his household with the Protestant rites established by the law in England, which the Inquisition would on no account tolerate. The Holy Office in Spain claimed and exercised a jurisdiction coequal, and in some respects superior to that of the King, and had made a regulation under which any vessel on board which heretical or forbidden books were found, was together with its cargo liable to confiscation, and its crew to imprisonment. This regulation pressed with peculiar hardship on the English ships trading to the Spanish ports, for it was not necessary that the owners or officers of a vessel should be cognizant of the presence on board of the offending books to ensure its condemnation. This harsh and unjust regulation was carried out with a rigour which gave rise to numerous complaints, and in order to procure some mitigation in the execution of these regulations of the Holy Office, which were in direct contravention of the treaties of intercourse between the two countries, Elizabeth sent Sir Henry Cobham, and afterwards Sir John Smith, with her remonstrances to Philip II. Sir Henry Cobham, who was the first envoy, was received with much outward courtesy, and had several interviews with the Duke of Alva, but to his demands for redress, and for the observance of the conditions contained in the treaties of intercourse and commerce, he could for some time only obtain the assurance (fn. 19) that it was beyond the power of the King to interfere with the jurisdiction of the Holy Office. At last, however, he obtained a promise that the Inquisition would only hold the Queen's subjects individually responsible for their own actions, and would not inquire into spiritual offences committed out of the realm, with which concession he was obliged to rest contented. His successor, Sir John Smith, who was an old courtier, and a relative of the late King Edward VI., had in his charge also to intercede with the King in behalf of his revolted subjects in the Netherlands. He was received in the same favourable manner as Cobham, and applied personally to the chief inquisitor, who was the Archbishop of Toledo. Forcing his way into his presence Smith demanded the release of all English prisoners confined in the Inquisition, and compensation for the injuries they had received; the Archbishop, who was not accustomed to be addressed in this tone, replied haughtily to Smith, threatening him with chastisement; (fn. 20) Smith in no wise disconcerted answered that he should complain to the King of the insult shown to his mistress in his person. The Archbishop in his fury ordered him to quit his house, and pursued him with a volley of invective, which Smith was not slow to return as long as they remained within hearing of one another. One of the last documents calendared contain Smith's complaints of the non-observance of their promises by the Inquisition. (fn. 21)
The documents relating to the other countries are tolerably numerous, but generally of less interest than those which have been just noticed. It may be as well, however, to mention that those relating to Germany contain a few letters from Philip Sydney, who was sent on an embassy to the Emperor's Court in 1576. There are also a few papers relating to the opening up of traffic with Russia and Morocco, and in a letter from an English merchant in the latter country to the Queen of England the writer recommends the King "finding him to, be a very earnest Protestant" and well experienced as well in the Old Testament as the New.
In conclusion, I have to express my thanks to Mr. J. J. Cartwright for his kind assistance in translating several long documents in the old German language and writing; and again to thank Mr. Hamilton E. Lawrance for his assistance throughout the compilation of this present volume.
Rolls House, May 21, 1880. A. J. CROSBY.