Elizabeth: February 1578, 21-31

Pages 510-515

Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, Volume 12, 1577-78. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1901.

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February 1578, 21-31

Feb. 22. 655. The KING OF SPAIN to M. DE SELLES.
Since your departure we have received by M. de Hoboque a letter from the States-General of our Low Countries, dated Dec. 31 last, of which a copy is enclosed. We have bidden him tell those who sent it that they will receive an answer by you. We know not what to answer, or how to say more than is contained in your commission in the way of declaring our will and intention. As to the affairs of our country, we claim no more than they have promised in their letter of Sept. 8 last, namely, the maintenance of the Catholic religion, and obedience to us, as in the time of the late Emperor. If they will observe these as was then done, we are content that all things should be restored to their former state ; and that there should be a cessation of arms, with an amnesty for the past. With regard to what they write touching the Archduke Matthias, there is no more to be said than we have told you by word of mouth, namely, that if they will return to their obedience to God and to us, maintaining entirely and effectually the Catholic religion, and if it is necessary for the peace of the country to give them another Governor, we are content to give them one of our blood, with whom they cannot reasonably be dissatisfied. But this can only be if the Estates return to their obedience, and matters are brought to a peaceful state ; otherwise we cannot take our brother Don John from the country, to the end that by his means and the forces we have given him what we claim may be carried into effect.—Madrid, 22 Feb. 1578. 'Copy according to the ordinal, and made at Malines, 23 April 1578. (Signed) Jan de Noircarmes.' Copy of copy. Endd. by L. Tomson. Fr. 1½ pp. [Holl. and Fl. V. 55.]
655a. Another copy of the above. 1½ pp. [Ibid. V. 56.]
In my last, of the 17th inst., I wrote of 1,000 horsemen, 'prest' in these parts for the service of the States, the captain of whom is Schenk and the lieutenant Alexander van Rosendale. They join with the 'Grave of Swartsenborghe,' who, as report goes, is 4,000 horsemen strong. I also send you a copy of the provision made here by the contractors for the behoof of the King of Portugal ; to which I was chiefly moved because the counterfeit English Duke at Rome is going to Portugal with 600 soldiers, which may breed a suspicion that the Africa voyage is colourably and deceitfully meant. I the rather fear this because an archpapist told me that the 'army' now in rigging in Spain would divide, half for Ireland, half for Friesland, but I rather doubt, Zealand. God grant they may meet their matches, especially if they bend themselves to these parts of Christendom, I mean Ireland, England, or the Low Countries. The copy enclosed was given me by one of the chief of the Senate. It appears thereby that the Prince of Orange needs to look to himself. I have sent the same fast sealed and enclosed in a letter to Mr. George Gilpin at Antwerp, whom I have directed to deliver it to her Majesty's ambassador ; who I doubt not will impart it to him, whom it so nearly touches, whose safety God provide for.—Hamburg, 23 Feb. 1577. Add. Endd. ½ p. [Hanse Towns I. 32.]
Feb. 23.
K. d. L. x. 285.
Since the return of Mr. Leighton, there has occurred the surrender of the town of Aerschot, a town of greater importance as regards the passage of the river Demere above Mechlin than for its strength. Having but one company of soldiers besides the burghers, it surrendered after two or three assaults, the lives and goods of the inhabitants saved, the soldiers, some say disarmed, others, put to the sword ; but I hear nothing for certain. The enemy has since encamped before Sichenen, a little town belonging to the Prince of Orange, upon the same river, which, being of as little strength as the other, though it has in it two or three companies of Walloons, is likely in a few days to 'run' the same fortune ; no better being expected of Diest, Halen, Herentals, and other towns thereabouts, the gaining of which with that river is of no little importance to the enemy and disadvantage to the States, who till they are provided with horsemen, will not be able to prevent him from overrunning the 'platt' country. His forces are divided into two camps, one consisting of Spaniards, Italians, and Dutches, who lie before Sichenen ; the other, of Burgundians, French, and Walloons, have, since the capture of Bovines, come down towards Nivelles, a walled town of no great strength, lying between Brussels and Mons, in Hainault ; not far from which they have taken a castle called Genappe, between it and Geblours. They have appeared before Nivelles, where are some companies of Walloons, who have issued out and skirmished with the enemy, defeating, it is said, a cornet of horsemen, and taking some prisoners. Seven or eight companies went from Brussels to relieve Genappe, but find the enterprise more difficult than they expected, with no fruit but a few prisoners whom they have, as they do as many as they take, hanged and drowned ; imitating the enemy, to whom they are resolved to give such measure as in the persons of certain Scots and others of theirs, he hath 'mett' to them ; a beginning which prognosticates a cruel and desperate war. The enemy's whole force is estimated at 22,000 or 23,000 men, besides 5,000 Spaniards now arrived at Namur with Don Lopes de 'Figuiera.' By the middle of April he reckons to have 12,000 Swiss, and 10,000 Italians to be led by the Pope's bastard son, by the brother of the Duke of Florence, and other great personages, besides the aid of France. The States being as yet unable to put an army in the field, have disposed their forces in the towns, having at Maestricht nine or ten ensigns under M. de Hèze ; in Diest and Sichenen Count Egmont's companies ; in Mechlin two ensigns of Scots and five of Walloons, who served before Ruremonde ; in Lyre ten companies under M. de Glymes ; and in Brussels the regiment of Count Bossu, governor of the town, nine ensigns of Scots under Balfour, three companies of French under la Garde, six of Walloons under Colonel 'Temple' ; besides others placed here and there as needed, and those that are levying in Flanders, and those about Amsterdam, which are now sent for hither. On Monday last they sent to treat with Duke Casimir for 3,000 reiters and a regiment of Swiss or other foot, to be led by himself, though some think he will hardly stir out of his country unless he can command such a force as may give law to the rest. They have also 'made their exchange' into Germany for the entertainment of the 2,000 reiters to be conducted by the Count of Zwartzenberch (Schwarzburg), 2,500 by the Marquis of Havrech, as many by one Schenck ; all long since agreed on, but by reason of the want of money not effected till now. So, with those they have now, they reckon on 9,000 reiters at least, besides the rest of the force they can make, and the succours they expect from her Majesty, the want of which would breed no little confusion. To hasten them, they have now fully resolved to return the Marquis ; who is to start in a day or two, in hope to return with your Lordship, and such a troop of our nation as their need requires. There is little other news, save a continuing bruit of a revolt and slaughter of the Spaniards at Naples ; the truth of which we await, par le courrier boiteux. The Dutches levied in the country hereabout by the Portugal Ambassador, to the number of 3,000, to be transported into Africa for the service of the King, are about to embark, their arms being meanwhile delivered into the custody of the Prince's officers, to be restored at their departure to sea ; the Ambassador besides having 'put a good caution' to answer for any accident that might arrive by them. The fortifications of Brussels are mostly finished to the parapets, and in every respect well provided.—Antwerp, 22 Feb. 1577. P.S.—The putting of the soldiers that were in Aerschot to the sword is even now confirmed ; with the taking of the town of Sichenen and retirement of the soldiers and burgesses into a castle, where they yet hold out. Add. Endd. by Burghley's secretary and by L. Tomson. 2 pp. [Ibid. V. 57.]
Feb. 23.
K. d. L. x. 287.
[Same information.] Don John's Walloons are under Count Charles Mansfeldt and St. Belmont. In Lyre are two companies of Englishmen, under Captains Gainsforth and Cromwell. At La Halle, about three leagues from Brussels, is Champagny, with his companies, and at Nivelle certain companies of Montigny, to whose supply they have sent others from Brussels. With the 40 ensigns levied in Flanders, they will have a greater force than they have yet entertained. Scots have been sent for from Danzick. When they have all their forces, they will have a gallant army to 'coast' the enemy.—Antwerp, 23 Feb. 1577. Draft. Endd. 2 pp. [Ibid. V. 58.]
Feb. 25. 659. L. TOMSON to DAVISON.
The delay of this bearer has been due to the desire to send you 'nuse' of some resolution, but that will not be as yet, though I suppose the loan of money will be first accorded. For men there is more difficulty made, on account of sundry intelligences sent from divers places of an invasion intended by the enemy upon Ireland. Before long, however, you shall understand fully one way or the other. Touching the last letter I wrote, not of myself but from another you wot of, I wonder I have no word of answer, and so does he. My master prays you to excuse him to M. de Villiers for not writing by this bearer ; the reason is as before.—Hampton Court, 25 Feb. 1577. Add. ½ p. [Ibid. V. 59.]
Feb. [25]. 660. [The ESTATES-GENERAL to the ESTATES of the PROVINCES, as to new taxation.]
As you know, the enemy has entered the country, and is doing his utmost to ruin it, and put his Majesty's good subjects to fire and sword. To obviate this, and preserve our own lives and those of our wives and children, the only way is to assemble an army of good fighting men. This cannot be done without plenty of ready money, which again can only be obtained by a voluntary and liberal contribution from all the united provinces, in such wise as though each province had by itself to resist and repulse the enemy. His Highness, the Prince of Orange, with the Council of State, and the States-General, considering that the moyens généraux lately proposed to the provinces are insufficient to furnish the sum required for the defence, have unanimously resolved as follows :—
A tax to be levied on every house, whether in town or country, castles, cloisters, and monasteries not excepted, of 8 pattars per week ; provided that the cloisters and the better houses, whether of noblemen or burghers, shall support the smaller in such proportion as shall be most reasonable, at the discretion of the magistrate or those deputed by him ; owner and lessee each to find one-half, and the actual payment to be made by the occupiers ; Where the taxation shall be impracticable, the local magistrate shall be permitted to raise an equivalent sum by some other method of assessment ; moderating it in such wise that one-third of the sum total shall be remitted for the relief of the poorest. The allotment of this quota to be faithfully made in every place, according to the valuation of the houses ; and that for the term of three months, beginning to run from the 25th of this present month of February 1578. The levy to be made as was done in the case of the personal contribution, or as the magistrates shall find best, for the good of the generality ; On every measure or plot (bonnier) of land, arable, pasture, meadow, wood, or fishponds, reckoned at 400 perches of 20 feet to the perch and 11 inches to the foot, one pattar a week for the term of three months. When the lands are not let, the proprietor alone shall be liable for the payment ; landed property by itself shall be assessed according to the bonnes at the discretion of the local magistrates ; and in the case of rent-charges on houses and lands, the proprietor shall deduct one-eighth for three months. Every 'ame' of beer, containing 100 pots, whatever the value, whether home-brewed or otherwise, shall pay 2 pattars ; but 'cervoise' of a value not exceeding 12 pattars per ame shall pay nothing. The sum accruing from this tax is destined for the purchase of powder, saltpetre, matches, and ammunition, and may not be employed otherwise. This is all over and above the duties recommended by the Estates on provisions, merchandise, and the wearing of silk ; provided always that persons qualified to wear silk shall pay the duty whether they wear it or not. They shall at once draw up and present to the Chamber of Aids a verified statement of their quotas granted by them since the union, to wit, of the 2,780,000 livres for general purposes, of the hundredth, of the 400,000 livres granted for the three months expired on the 25th of last January ; to see if any province has furnished too much or too little, and to put an end once for all to the disputes on that subject which daily come before the States ; also a statement of the extraordinary call for 200,000 livres. We call upon you promptly to execute the levy of the weekly taxation above stated, in order that the war may be shortened, and that we may not remain long in our present distress, nor brought back into the servitude in which the Spaniards have long tasked us. For every pattar, which each of us can easily pay now, they will make us give a hundred, or they will have our honour, our lives, and all that we possess. They boast that they will spare nobody ; the Churchmen, on the strength of their being excommunicated, he will strip of all their goods to endow benefices (commendes) and crusades ; the nobles he will slay with the sword and divide their estates among those who have helped him to conquer them ; while as for the people, he will make them his slaves, and mark them in the face like Moriscoes ; in short, he will have all and we nothing. To resist these designs, his Highness, the Prince, the Council of State, the Estates-General, doubt not but that you will do your utmost with your clergy, nobles, notables, and commons, that the above may be liberally granted by them as necessity requires, without disputing about inequalities and differences ; seeing the risk of delay, and that if the above means are accepted, the experience of the first month will show the right way to recover the time and relieve those who may be aggrieved, in such wise that no one shall be injured by reason of the shortness of the time, and that no one's contribution may be excessive. If by giving this money you pay the soldiers, you will maintain discipline among them, and your contribution will be a safeguard to good subjects in town and country alike ; and that which no one has hitherto been able to carry out, for want of sufficient ready money [apparently incomplete]. Copy. Fr. 6 pp. Endd. and annotated by L. Tomson. [Ibid. V. 60.]
661. Another copy. 3 pp. [Ibid. V. 61.]