Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, Volume 18, July 1583-July 1584. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1914.
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Before discussing the documents calendared in this volume it may be useful to say in a few words what is included in the term “State Papers, Foreign.”
It must in the first place be noted that these Calendars are concerned only with the papers preserved in the National Archives; documents not only having a more or less official origin, but which have always remained in official keeping, growing in number with the growth of England; herein differing from our other great Collections, such as those of the Bodleian or British Museum, which have been gathered together from many quarters either by gift or purchase. The foreign correspondence was chiefly in the hands of the Secretary of State pro tem., and Walsingham appears very carefully to have preserved the documents under his charge.
Their main bulk consists of the letters from ambassadors, agents or correspondents abroad; but to these must be added enclosures of all sorts; also letters from foreigners in England, from the English ministers to their representatives abroad; newsletters, petitions, intercepted letters, and many state papers in regard to foreign affairs. An exceedingly large proportion of the whole is concerned, as might be expected, with the affairs of France and the Netherlands, the adjacent countries with which England's relations were much closer than with any others; but about twenty series of letters and papers have been laid under contribution, besides those containing newsletters and treaty papers.
Nothing is more striking to the student of the Elizabethan period than the political isolation of England. Compare, for instance, England and France. France had ambassadors at the Courts of England, Spain, the Pope and the Emperor; and accredited envoys in Denmark, Switzerland, Savoy, Venice, Turkey. England's only ambassador “lieger” was to France. She had an agent in Turkey, but he was paid by the merchants. For the rest, nothing. At her own Court, she had the French ambassador, and for all practical purposes, he was the only one. The Spanish ambassador, Mendoza, hung on there year after year, but his embassy might more truthfully be said to be to the Queen of Scots. When Elizabeth at last lost patience and dismissed him (after his proved machinations in the Throgmorton conspiracy), it was stated that he had not, in the last two years, “once made show to move her Majesty in anything concerning his master's affairs” (p. 394). On her side, she had no agent in Spain, and (as she complained somewhat later) whenever she had had occasion to send an envoy thither, he had been so badly treated that he had to leave immediately. In Rome she, of course, had nobody, nor with the Emperor; and in Venice, anything that had to be done was undertaken by Sir Richard Shelley, who had taken up his abode there on account of his religion, but remained the Queen's loyal subject, and willingly aided the English nation in settling trade disputes.
For temporary negotiations, Elizabeth had a curious predilection for sending comparatively unimportant men as her representatives; probably because the plan involved much less expense for their trains and entertainment. Her intercourse with the Emperor was for the most part confined to rebutting the attempts of the Hanse Towns to destroy English trade in Germany. When the deputies of the Towns appealed to the Diet of Augsburg (in 1581), she employed George Gilpin, the agent for the Merchants Adventurers in Zeeland, and it was freely said that the business would have fared much better if she had entrusted it to a man of higher rank and dignity. This same Gilpin was the only Englishman who had any sort of official position in the Netherlands. Motley does him no more than justice when he speaks of him as “a highly intelligent agent” who kept Walsingham thoroughly informed of the sentiments of the people of that province towards England, and who, “mixing with the most influential politicians,” was able to render material assistance to the English ministers by his information; but it must be confessed that his letters are often very dull. Thomas Stokes, an English merchant at Bruges, was also employed as correspondent, and sent very detailed and apparently accurate accounts of doings and sayings in Flanders.
Further information is gained from the officers serving in the States' army. Of these, much the most interesting and entertaining writer is Captain Roger Williams, whose breezy letters are rarer than we could wish, as are also those of Georges Fremyn, the French captain, whose views of men and things continue to be always worthy of attention.
Colonels Norreys and Thos. Morgan write now and again about martial affairs, and many others contribute occasional letters which are useful. During Davison's missions to the Low Countries, his are the most important of all, but he was not there during the thirteen months covered by this Calendar.
In France, the despatches of the ambassador are of very great interest and importance, but it is to be regretted that hardly any communications from the army of spies whom Walsingham employed there are to be found amongst the State Papers; that cautious diplomatist having probably destroyed them.
It is impossible, in writing of the State Papers of this period, to leave out of view that other series which was in the hands, not of the Secretary, but of the Lord Treasurer, and has remained ever since in the possession of his descendants. As regards the Low Countries, for the months included in this Calendar, the Cecil Papers have nothing to give us; but for France, some important letters from Marchaumont (Le Moine) and others are to be found there. Also, Sir Edward Stafford usually sent to Burghley copies of his letters to Walsingham, many of which remaining at Hatfield have been calendared very fully in Vol. 3 of the Report on the MSS. of the Marquis of Salisbury, and are printed for the most part in Murdin's Burghley State Papers. As the Reports of the Hist. MSS. Commission are in every large library, and copies of any single volume can be obtained easily and at small cost, these letters are only briefly noticed in this Calendar.
It is only for the year 1583, however, that these are found at Hatfield in any considerable number. Some remain at the Public Record Office, and others are to be found (with many other papers of Lord Burghley) in the Cotton Collection at the British Museum.
Several letters from Sir Edward Stafford, written in December, 1583, are printed in Vol. 1 of what are generally known as the “Hardwicke State Papers.” They are stated to be “from the originals in the Paper Office,” but only two of them are in S.P. France, and in one of these the variants are considerable. On the other hand all of them (except a short note to Burghley) are amongst the copies in the Cotton Collection (Galba E. 6), and it may therefore be pretty safely assumed that these British Museum copies were used in the preparation of Lord Hardwicke's volumes.
The question of exact dating at this period is one which bristles with difficulties. When Pope Gregory XIII, by his bull Inter gravissimus, fixed October 1582 as the date of the adoption of his new calendar, Italy, Spain and Portugal made the change at the exact time, and Flanders, Brabant and other principalities thereabouts soon followed suit, as did also, rather curiously, Holland and Zeeland, though Protestant influence there was strong; the probable reason being convenience for purposes of trade. The entirely Protestant countries held out against orders which had issued from Rome, but there were many parts of Europe, especially Germany, where the mixture of creeds and intercourse of neighbouring peoples brought about disturbances of the general rule. It is therefore sometimes extremely difficult to say after which style a letter is dated, though internal evidence often supplies the necessary clue. Foreigners in England and Englishmen abroad have to be taken each on his own merits; thus Mauvissière, the French ambassador in England, invariably used new style, while Ortell, agent from Holland, always employed the style of the country when writing to the English ministers. Our English captains going over to the Low Countries in 1584 often, at first, show an inclination to use the new style, but after a few weeks, their mention of events shows that they mostly reverted to the old. Possibly this was in consequence of orders from home. One could well imagine Elizabeth indignantly desiring them to follow her custom and not the Pope's orders!
In considering the light thrown upon the affairs of another nation by the English State Papers, we have always to bear in mind the fact that they are written by “foreigners.” This makes them in some ways less valuable, in others more so. The picture is apt to be distorted by English prejudice, but the eyes of the writers are at any rate not blinded by the partisan feeling of the actors in the drama; and here, as in other cases, it may sometimes happen that “outsiders see most of the game.”
The last volume of the Calendar closed with the departure of the Duke of Anjou from the Low Countries. Biron and the troops under his command soon followed him, imperatively dismissed by the people of Flanders. They had been hated while they were there. It now remained to be seen how far the Prince of Orange was right in his belief that their presence was necessary—a belief maintained by him in spite of the French Fury, the people's antagonism and Anjou's folly.
Two days after Monsieur left Dunkirk, Parma's troops sat down before it. The place was victualled for three months, and Chamois, the governor, believed he could hold it for that time if the garrison was strong enough, but he was short of men. He sent out appeals for help on all hands, but the “Four Members” of Flanders were in too much peril themselves to aid others, and the Prince of Orange answered that without money he could not help them. And money the States could not or would not give. Stokes declared that they would not, thinking more of filling their own purses than of the general good (p. 8). But probably the fact that Dunkirk was a French garrison, not one held by their own countrymen, had much to do with their lethargy.
Parma's great ordnance—or his skilful negotiation—soon proved too much for Dunkirk's walls. On July 6, old style, early in the summer morning, he began to batter; by afternoon two great breaches were made, and the victors about to enter when the Frenchmen offered to surrender. Parma, “being a merciful prince,” agreed, the garrison went out with as much as they could carry, and the governor and captains “with horses and waggons laden with goods,” watched indignantly, no doubt, by the Spanish soldiery, who had been looking forward to the sacking of the town.
It was whispered at Gravelines that the whole had been a matter of arrangement; that the French had sold the place, and that it could have held out a year; but in face of Parma's great artillery and the admitted weakness of the fortifications this was hardly probable, and the yielding to easy terms at the last moment was in accordance both with Parma's own disposition—for though ruthless, he was not cruel—and with the policy of conciliation which he studiously followed. The picture of a garrison leaving the town laden with their goods while the inhabitants remained in quiet possession of their homes was a more attractive one to dandle before the eyes of Nieuport, Ostend and the rest than that of a town abandoned to the fierce Spanish soldiery; given up to massacre and pillage. The garrison departed for Calais. The people, for whom they had not troubled to make any bargain, were left to Parma's mercy, but on his entry he gave them all the King's pardon. There was no question of religion to complicate matters, for all belonged to the Roman Church (pp. 18, 21, 22).
The news of the loss of Dunkirk—a loss which was to cost them so dear—was received with astonishing indifference by the States at large. Gilpin wrote that those of Antwerp accounted nothing of it, “so they be quit of the French.” Yet, as he went on to show, the consequences were likely to be very serious. He believed that Flanders and Brabant, Antwerp perhaps excepted, would not make long resistance, and that even Holland and Zeeland, if the brunt fell upon them, might be doubted, for their mercantile inhabitants were beginning to cry out for peace, that they might “quietly enjoy their traffic” (p. 21). Events did not march so quickly or disaster reach so far as Gilpin feared, but the outlook was gloomy enough. Nieuport surrendered before the cannon began to play, and here too the burghers had pardon of life and goods. The “preachers and schoolmasters” were given into Parma's hands, but the days of cruelty and torture were at an end. So far, that is, as the General was concerned. As regards his forces in the field, the Spaniards often got out of hand, and the Albanians were worse. It was lamentable, Stokes said, to see the cruelty of both, who thrust the poor country people “out of their goods” and murdered men, women and children like beasts (p. 25). But Parma allowed no more sacking of towns, which is more than can be said for Hohenlohe or Neuenaar.
Furne gave no more trouble than Nieuport, but at Ostend Parma met with an unexpected check, and its successful resistance put heart into the other towns of Flanders. The burghers cut their dykes, and Bruges and Blankenburg followed their example, so that almost from Sluys to Ostend the land was under water. Unhappily, though this might mean safety to the cities, it meant terrible hardship to the country people, many thousands of whom were “undone” thereby (p. 22).
Finding more opposition than he expected, and apparently being resolved not to take any town by assault if it could possibly be helped, Parma raised the siege of Ostend and went on to Dixmude. According to Stokes' report the five hundred Flemish soldiers there, together with the burghers could have kept it a year, for it was strong and wanted for nothing, but “like butter-hearted Flemings” they gave it up and came away (p. 42).
Parma then turned southward to Iper or Ypres; his hopes of gaining it being increased by the fact that the “Four Members” had called away the Scottish garrison at Menin. Stokes thought this a mistake, saying it was strange to see an important garrison thus cast away; but considering its position, on the verge of the enemy's country, it would probably have been impossible to hold it, especially as the loyalty of the Scots soldiers would seem to have been open to suspicion (p. 25).
In the last week of July, the enemy had surrounded Ypres, but the place was well manned and supplied, and would, it was hoped, hold out until relieved. Parma made some bulwarks, holding about five hundred men, to prevent provisions from going in, and evidently made up his mind to reduce it by famine, for he carried on the siege in a very desultory manner. No doubt if he had seen any hearty efforts to relieve the town, he would have acted more decisively, but no serious attempt was made to succour it, which, “considering its importance, seemed strange to all men” (p. 100).
Whilst a part of Parma's forces was thus in leisurely fashion besieging Ypres, another part, sweeping round to the eastward, was threatening Alost, in East Flanders. Part of Norreys' English regiment was sent to strengthen the town; with very disastrous results as it proved.
But this siege also was not pushed on with any haste, and did not occupy any great number of Parma's troops. Meanwhile, his horsemen dashed hither and thither. They suddenly appeared at Steenbergen, surprising it and killing the garrison; then swooped down upon Worcum, “spoiled” it and went off again. Near Mechlin another party took a great bark, in which were many persons of quality. Brussels became seriously alarmed and clamoured for aid; while Antwerp hired men to preserve her precincts by keeping the villages round about from the enemy's invasions (pp. 70, 75).
Thus in two months the Prince of Parma had “recovered a most goodly country, fraught with goodly towns, accommodated with many good ports to far beyond expectation” (p. 36); “in token of gladness” for which, the city of Lille sent him a hundred thousand livres towards the payment of his soldiers (pp. 69, 74).
But to the Prince himself, the main work in Flanders seemed yet to be done, so long as Ghent and Bruges refused to return to the King's obedience, and he never relaxed his efforts to gain them. In some respects his hopes did not seem difficult of accomplishment. As regards religion, the balance of opinion in these cities was probably pretty even, the Catholics outweighing the Protestants in numbers, but not in influence. The Prince of Orange was much out of favour in Flanders, because he still urged them to accept French aid, and this “to the last man,” they were determined not to do. Moreover, the old jealousy between them and Holland and Zeeland never slumbered, and at this time they had a special grievance, for with the people of Holland and Zeeland the love of doing a good trade continually overcame all other considerations, and deaf to remonstrances and prohibitions, they poured a constant supply of provisions into the ports recovered by the enemy.
But in spite of these things, not only the Protestants but many of the Catholics held back from putting themselves into the hands of Spain; the rather that the experience of the Walloons or Malcontents of the country, in the places recovered for King Philip, proved that as a rule the hard knocks fell to the natives and the plums to the Spaniards.
In July 1583, the Prince of Chimay, son of the Duke of Aerschot, was made governor of Bruges, and shortly afterwards chosen as governor of Flanders. He was an ambitious, vain and unstable man, who—rather curiously in view of his father's record—had acquired the confidence of the extreme Calvinist party; but he had no sooner obtained the governorship than he secretly opened a correspondence with Parma, and began to work for the restoration of the province to the King of Spain.
This was not at first suspected. Gilpin believed that his wise management was holding Flanders back from an agreement with the enemy; but from the first the Prince of Orange distrusted him, and the hopeful expectations at his coming were soon disappointed. As the year went on, it was seen that he did nothing against the Spaniards, a fact generally attributed to his ill-health, but suspected to have another cause by Stokes, who hinted that he was shamming sickness in order to excuse his inactivity. This may or may not have been true, but there is no doubt that with the aid of Champagny, Cardinal Granvelle's brother, then in very light imprisonment at Ghent, he was plotting in favour of King Philip.
Of all the cities of Flanders, Ghent was the most turbulent and fickle. At this time some of the burghers had begun privately to negotiate with Parma, perhaps because the Calvinist party had made up their minds to recall Hembyse, “the roaring demagogue” (as Motley calls him), whose fanatic excesses in 1579 had done much to convert the Walloons to the side of Spain, and who when turned out by the Prince of Orange, had taken refuge with Duke Casimir, of the Rhenish Palatinate, one of the most bigoted of the Calvinist princes of the day. He reached Ghent on Oct. 14–24, and Fremyn wrote that he came only “in the nick of time,” for two days later the city would have been in Parma's hands. His coming, for the moment, changed all that, yet, in spite of his drastic measures, there was a general impression that, in the end, he too would negotiate with the enemy (p. 175).
Bruges, the second great city of Flanders, was in very parlous state, both from without and within. It was chiefly dependant upon Sluys for its supplies, and if the enemy managed to stop the ways between the two towns, it was not supposed it could hold out a month. The Prince of Orange, the burghers complained, seemed to care little for their troubles, their money was spent, and credit they had none. Orange had once more mooted the question of their recalling the French, but the commons would not hear of it, and daily “cried out” to the magistrates to make peace with Spain. This they refused to do, and as they had the soldiers at their command, they were able to keep the upper hand. But, like Ghent, the rulers of Bruges would not join with others in making any comprehensive plan. They played their own game and appeared to care little what became of the country at large.
This lack of union, this absence of a general government, was a fatal obstacle to success. As in Greece in the old days, each province or great city fought for its own hand, and thought chiefly, sometimes exclusively, of its own profit and welfare. Stokes and Fremyn have much to say on this matter. Their indictments are very bitter and may quite possibly be exaggerated, but they appear to be borne out by the letters of the people of the country and not least by those of William of Orange himself.
The city which might have been expected to put itself most easily into Parma's hands was Brussels, for the Roman Catholic party was extremely strong there; but so far the Protestant section, with the support of Adrian van Tempel, the governor, had managed to keep the upper hand. At the end of August, their former “governess,” the Duchess of Parma, sent letters to the magistrates, “to persuade them to a reconciliation with the King of Spain.” magistrates assembled the guilds, and a large party, led by the powerful Guild of the Brewers, was found to be in favour of the proposal. The magistrates, who apparently had not expected this, became alarmed, imprisoned the spokesman of the brewers, and summoned aid from Antwerp to strengthen their garrison. Besides the large Papist population of the city, many more had flocked thither from other towns, because in no other place thereabouts could they have “free exercise,” i.e.celebrate mass publicly. Even there they were not allowed churches, but met in large numbers in many houses in the town. Fremyn, who wrote on the matter to Walsingham, thought it would have been wiser to give them “temples,” believing these big assemblies in houses to be dangerous (p. 90).
Prince of Orange
During this summer and autumn, the Prince held firmly prince of to his belief that the only chance of success was the recall of the French, and plied the Four Members with letters in this behalf, declaring that they must be either French or Spanish. But to Norreys, he frankly acknowledged that he found the country “clean out of taste” to deal any further with Monsieur ... so that in his opinion “that course will be no more hearkened to.” Gilpin thought that inwardly he did not himself wish it, but his own letters show that he sincerely believed it to be the only way by which the Netherlands could be saved at all. (fn. 1)
But it was a path which, good or bad, his countrymen refused to tread. It was rumoured that the States intended to make a peace for the whole land, “for they cared no more for the Prince of Orange,” and the travelling merchants from Holland went so far as to declare that he was a traitor.
At the end of August, the States met at Middelburg, and thither came des Pruneaux, the Duke of Anjou's agent, with assurances that “Monsieur” had now been made lieutenant-general by the King, and would presently, if the States agreed, come with all his forces to rescue the threatened cities and to proceed against the enemy. The States did not absolutely refuse the offer, but sent Monsieur's letters to the provinces and desired to know their views (pp. 80, 81).
On the adjournment of the Assembly, the Prince and his wife made a progress amongst the islands. Here we find the old tale: that he was “scantly welcome, and so talked of in every corner as was strange, considering his great services and the credit he was in till of late with all the people and provinces” (p. 110).
The States re-assembled towards the end of October. Doyley, writing on the 19th, gives a sketch of the matters they meant to take in hand, and especially of the proposals for a new Council of State, which was to fulfil much the same functions as did the Committee of Two Kingdoms in the English Great Civil War.
The final stages in the creation of the Prince of Orange as Count of Holland and Zeeland were also to be entered upon, though many believed that he would still hold back from actually accepting the titles.
On pp. 187 et seq. are two papers of “Reasons why England should aid the Prince of Orange.” In the second document is a curious description of the Prince,—as “wise, experimented, but perhaps, though not without cause, full of choler, desire of revenge, ambition, accompanied with some taste already of sovereignty, full of hope and despair and in truth of just distrust, joining always his own cause with the public, and wholly transformed both into a lion and a fox.”
In spite of the divided opinions of the country, the Prince and States General determined to send commissioners to Monsieur, and L, a Mouillerie and Asseliers started from the Hague on Dec. 1, n.s.; but as Parma was daily taking in towns and “invading deeper” into the country, Walsingham's correspondent declared that it was “an endless world” to think when Monsieur would win again what he had lost (p. 255).
Only after the commissioners had started did the States General send letters to the cities of Flanders, asking their consent to receive the Duke. The magistrates for the most part sent a secret consent, without consulting the commons, “which they ought not to have done, for it was contrary to their privileges and customs,” and there was likely to be trouble in consequence. In fact the determination of the magistrates in Flanders to go their own way was causing widespread dissatisfaction. Their governor, the Prince of Chimay, was not obeyed, and all was in the hands of a few men, who filled their purses and made great cheer, utterly careless of the common cause (p. 263). The hopes excited at Hembyse's first coming to Ghent had entirely faded, for though it had not yet been made manifest that he was in communication with the enemy, it was perfectly clear that he was attempting nothing against him. Within the town he carried things with a high hand, and was fast becoming very unpopular. And the commons everywhere longed for peace. Great indignation, too, was caused by the news that the Prince and States General had given the merchants of Holland and Zeeland fresh licence to send victuals to the enemy. “Why (they protested) should not we make some agreement with the Malcontents as well as Holland and Zeeland should victual them?” (p. 271). But to all remonstrances the northern provinces made the pertinent reply: Someone will victual them. Why then should not we do it, and thus get from the enemy himself the money with which to carry on the war against him?
La Mouillerie and Asseliers had started for France without any certainty, or even likelihood, that if their negotiations reached the desired result, that result would be accepted by even a majority of the provinces. Indeed Fremyn said that they were only sent to amuse Monsieur while the States were making up their minds, and to see what was happening in France (p. 303). They do not seem to have been taken much more seriously by the French, for Stafford wrote that they were being feasted and “made much cheer”; but he thought little would come of it, “seeing that their offers were so small, and Monsieur's demands so high” (p. 315).
The Duke's illness in the spring put a stop to the negotiations, but on his partial recovery he sent the deputies back to the States General with his proposals. Affairs appeared, on the whole, to be tending towards a settlement when his death, on June 10, n.s., finally closed that chapter of history.
On Dec. 8, 1583, n.s., the countship of Holland was once more formally offered to and this time accepted by the Prince of Orange, who gave great suppers to the magistrates of the chief towns in honour of the occasion. But he was anxious and depressed, and, as he confessed to Walsingham, in a letter written in the following January, greatly worried by the delays and irresolution of the States General, though he begged his aid in excusing them to the Queen, comparing himself to a person who knew himself to be bewitched but tried to hide the true cause of his ailments even from his doctors. One gleam of sunshine, however, there was in the darkness. His wife had safely borne him a little son (p. 321). He prayed that God would grant him grace to bring the boy up in His fear. This blessing was to be denied him, but his heart would have been gladdened could he have foreseen the noble future which lay before the young Prince Frederick Henry.
William had made Middelburg his head-quarters after quitting Antwerp in July, 1583, but before the end of the year he fixed his abode at Delft and there, amongst his faithful Hollanders, his child was born.
Only Holland, it will be noted, made the offer of the Countship, but it was believed that when the “creation” had taken place, Zeeland, Utrecht &c. would follow. But the creation never did take place. Meteren only says of this episode: “On parla fort environ ce temps [the end of 1583] de faire le Prince comte de Holande et Zelande . . . mais comme quelques villes n'y voulurent pas entierement entendre, ce faict demeura sans succes.”
Roger Williams seems to have thought that the unpopularity of Orange's henchmen was the stumblingblock. Only a fortnight before the murder he wrote: “Your honour may be assured, as long as Villiers the minister governs the Prince's state and Villiers the marshal his wars, he will never be Count of Holland and Zeeland” (p. 555). A strong party in Zeeland, and especially the town of Middelburg, had always opposed it. At the time of the previous proposal, in July, 1583, Gilpin wrote that his Excellency was expected there, “but it seemeth not so welcome as heretofore, being thought he cometh to prosecute the admitting and acceptance of him for Earl.” And again, a week later, that Middelburg was the chief opponent, but other towns followed its example. Even in his own Holland there was a certain amount of opposition, but the most part of the towns there clung faithfully to their beloved lord, and the matter seemed on the point of conclusion when the tragedy occurred which cut short that noble life.
The position of the English troops during the summer and autumn of 1583 was sufficiently uncomfortable. Colonel Norreys had gone over to England, leaving the forces in charge of Colonel Thomas Morgan. On his return in July, he complained that during his absence Morgan “had treated for himself and sought to break all the rest of the companies”; accepting “so ill a composition for their pay that it was likely to prove a very hard precedent for them all” (p. 62).
Roger Williams tells us something of what had been going on in his own impetuous fashion—so impetuous indeed, that it is not always easy to follow his narrative (p. 30). He was devoted to Norreys and disliked Morgan, but it seems plain that the latter had tried to lure the troops from their loyalty to Norreys, and had, moreover, made a very bad bargain for their pay.
The States wished Williams to take Norreys' regiment to secure Dixmude, but the town surrendered before they could enter it. They were then desired to go into Alost, which they did, under Williams' conduct, their Colonel being for some time in Zeeland, and then going to Antwerp to direct matters. Money for their pay had been promised by Ghent, but instead of sending it, the Gantois seem to have attempted to turn them out, for all the world as if they had been the enemy. Williams tells the story to Walsingham in a letter written on October 2nd:—
“Never poor men were abused with a sort of people as we are with these here. I am in this town, with the rest of Mr. Norreys' regiment, in number 6oo; we are in great misery and know not what to do. Here is also as many Walloons. The last day the Gantois did send 500 foot, 200 horse. Our Walloons did promise them a port. As God would, we had half an hour warning by reason of a sentinel in the steeple, recovered the port in despite of the Walloons, made the others to retire. Their commission was to disarm us and to put us out; if we stirred, to cut us to pieces. Now they seek all the means possible to defeat us. Our case is poor and miserable, we have served them long, honestly, with valour, as the world does know. They owe us at the least 200,000 crowns or better, to be quit of us, they seek all means possible to cut our throats....”
The poor distracted captain ends by an appeal for himself:—
“Sir, I have followed the wars ever since I was able to carry arms. I have served under the greatest captains that was in my time. God bears me witness my mind is good to follow the wars; but rather than to continue with these ingrates, I will return to be a serving man. Is it not possible for a poor soldier to get nothing from her Majesty? There is a number of things in England to content many an honest man, and not to charge her Majesty, nor almost the country.”
After the Gantois were expelled, Williams took the keys of the “ports” into his own hands, and “ruled there as governor and burgomaster all alone.” In view of after events, it would have been better if he had let the Flemings have their way, but that he could not know. For the present all was quiet, but it was a deplorable thing, Doyley observed to Walsingham, that the affairs of the country were so badly managed that they employed their troops against each other, instead of against the enemy (p. 148).
By the middle of November, the lack of provisions was such that the English garrison sent a messenger to Antwerp to say that unless relieved within four days, they would be driven to get passport from the enemy to retire. And the pity of it was that provisions might easily have been put in, if any of the neighbouring towns would have lifted a hand to help them.
“At Ghent they answered that they had rather the town and all the English in it were set of fire than they would give them victuals. At Antwerp they entertained our captains with promises and delays, and gave them nothing in the end. . . . The most part of the captains have undone themselves by entertaining their companies at their own charge in hope of good order in the end, and now for their labours they are called traitors.”
So wrote Norreys, doing his best to defend his officers, when he sent the humiliating news that, headed by Captain Pigot, they had opened the gates to the enemy (p. 238). Roger Williams was away from Alost, endeavouring to get some money, when the tragedy happened. Strongly as he had felt the hardships of his men and the ingratitude of the Flemings, the honest Welsh gentleman could not defend treachery. The villain (he wrote) might have respected the honour of his nation, and thought of Colonel Norreys and the captains and poor gentlemen who were undone by his treason (p. 240).
The betrayal of Alost was the more unfortunate as at this time there were many reports abroad that the English Queen had made an agreement with the King of Spain (pp. 204, 220, 258, 261). There is no doubt she was inclined to believe that it would be best for the States to be reconciled to him if they could procure good terms, and at the end of November she sent Burnham, one of Walsingham's “gentlemen” to lay her views before the Prince of Orange, viz.: that she thought it would be better for them “to grow to an accord” while they had yet means to defend themselves than to wait until their desperate state forced each province to make what composition they could. She knew well that safety “that way” was doubtful, but a doubtful remedy was better than no remedy at all. And if they replied that, had she helped them, they would not have been in so desperate a case, Burnham was to answer that she had been so unthankfully requited for the support she had already given them, that she had more cause to repent having done anything than to do more. Also, he was to let the Prince know that she was greatly grieved to hear that her people there were worse handled than any other, which she noted as a great ingratitude, seeing that none had better served than they (pp. 233, 234).
But as Burnham arrived just after the betrayal of Alost he thought it an “ill time” to make complaints of the treatment of the English soldiers, and sent to ask Colonel Norreys for advice as to the wisdom of giving this part of the Queen's message (p. 245). The colonel's answer is not amongst the State Papers, but there can be little doubt what it would be.
In October, the Prince of Parma having taken Eccloo, the most northerly point yet reached, and made it his camp, was preparing to winter in the rich and fertile Pays de Waes, where his forces would lie between West Flanders and Brabant, thus cutting off direct communication between Antwerp and Ghent and Bruges. The plan was rendered easy of accomplishment by the treachery of the Bailiff, who not only agreed to admit them into the country, but gave up to them the castle of Rupelmond, a fortress occupying a commanding position just where the Rupel joins the Scheldt. A letter from Fremyn at this time gives a doleful sketch of the state of affairs—the probable surrender of more towns, the supineness of the States General and the powerlessness of the Prince of Orange by reason of the ingratitude and suspicions of the people. The State lacked good chiefs, the army good commanders, and the troops were so neglected that none were paid unless they mutinied (p. 152).
Gilpin and Stokes also testified to the growing danger, and Doyley, writing from Dordrecht, sent Walsingham a still more dismal tale of woe. The garrison of Herentals had been defeated; the cavalry of Brussels cut to pieces, and Zutphen had been taken by the famous Colonel Verdugo, who thus commanded the Yssel and threatened Arnhem and Utrecht (p. 148).
Even Zeeland, lying in comparative safety amidst its seas, was a prey to despair. M. de Buzenval, when at Middelburg on his way into Germany, reported to Walsingham that
“They could not be more filled with terror: such terror that they cannot even see the door behind them to escape by it, but in a stupor they await the coming of their enemies in their houses, which they seem to keep for no other purpose than to receive there those who will thrust them out of them. . . . Matters in these islands have come to that state that if the enemy had turned his head this way instead of going into Flanders, I know not whether they would not have sent ships to receive them. This is the good they have got from the long peace which they have enjoyed while their neighbours were in misery. And they have so relished the sweetness of it that they are loth to taste the bitterness of war, and do not greatly mind making shipwreck of their religion and of their liberty, provided that they may keep the free course of their traffic. . . . I have seen the most important man in this island [i.e., St. Aldegonde], who has spoken of it with much more misery than I have used in writing of it. It has grieved me to see him sitting with folded hands at this time, when there is the greatest need of good pilots to guide this poor vessel, so tossed about by waves and tempest” (p. 170).
A part of Parma's army settled down in the Pays de Waes, where they kept the peasants in such fear that in three or four days, more than fifteen hundred, with their families, took refuge in Antwerp, “to escape their diabolic fury.” During the Prince's temporary absence at Tournay, the castle of Middelburg in Flanders, manned by a small contingent of Morgan's English regiment, surrendered to Richebourg, Parma's lieutenant, and although not in itself a place of any consequence, its position, close to Damme and Sluys, endangered their safety, and if these surrendered, Bruges, which depended upon them for supplies, could certainly not long hold out (pp. 154, 174).
Repeated efforts were made by the States' party to eject the enemy from the Pays de Waes, and there, as so often elsewhere, they were able to call in the aid of their strongest auxiliary, the water. The Antwerpers cut the dykes below their city, and by the end of October had so “drowned” the country that it was believed Parma's forces would have to withdraw; moreover, Count Hohenlohe, landing at Terneuse with two or three thousand men cut the dykes to the north also, thus threatening the connexion between the troops at Eccloo and those in the land of Waes. The result of all this to the poor peasantry was terrible. Stokes, the most sympathetic of the English correspondents, grieved greatly over the ruin of so many trim villages and farm houses, “most lamentable to behold” (p. 194). On the news of Hohenlohe's landing, Parma hastily returned and sent out troops against him. Some skirmishes were reported, but the States' commander cannot have effected much, as immediately afterwards Parma swept round to the east and seized Hulst and the castle of Beveren, and thus had the whole of that part of the country in his power. He put his horse into the heart of the Pays de Waes, and his foot on its eastern side, along the line of the Scheldt, while he settled his own winter quarters in the camp at Eccloo, which “stood very well” to trouble both Ghent and Bruges (p. 237).
The burghers of Antwerp were now becoming seriously alarmed, yet in the midst of their anxieties they energetically pushed on the rebuilding of their Bourse, which was said to be more beautiful and magnificent than the former one. It was about the only great building erected in the Netherlands in these troublous times. They also strongly fortified their gates and banks, and erected a fine pyramid in honour of the happy escape of the city from the “French Fury” (p. 213).
On St. Andrew's day (new style) Philip Marnix, Sieur de St. Aldegonde, was chosen chief burgomaster. Poet, orator, scholar, soldier, diplomatist and theologian, he was truly a man, by his learning, judgment, experience of affairs and integrity of life most worthy of every honour (Bizarri to Walsingham, p. 241), and none could foresee that the appointment would lead, before two years were over, to the clouding of that great reputation, the tarnishing of that noble name. One of Aldegonde's first actions was to recall himself to Walsingham's remembrance. He had (he wrote) been living privately in a village ever since the “accident” at Antwerp, but now, having once more put himself under the yoke, he prayed Walsingham to commend his afflicted country to her Majesty, reminding him that the enemy who sought the ruin of the one was no friend to the other (p. 258).
When the news of the plot against Elizabeth (in December, 1583,) reached Antwerp, Bizarri suggested that thanks should be given for her escape in the “public prayers” at Antwerp. St. Aldegonde cordially agreed, and, moreover, promised that henceforward she should always be prayed for in the churches where the sermons were in French. Where the preaching was in Flemish, “it had been and was continually observed.” This statement is rather curious, but how long the custom had existed, Bizarri does not say (p. 262).
Early in January, misled by a trick on the part of the Spaniards, St. Aldegonde made an “enterprise” upon the town of Lierre, which might have ended very disastrously but that fortunately his suspicions were aroused, and he was able to retreat in good order and with small loss. Bizarri and Fremyn (who was present at the attempt) sent accounts of it to Walsingham (pp. 301 et seq).
Just at this date there is an interesting letter from Roger Williams. The Low Countries, he declared, would go to wreck unless the Prince of Orange could get an army from either France or England, and France, he thought, would fail them, although M. des Pruneaux was there, promising “wonders” and that the great troop was ready to march, but the troop was not so great as they were “great beasts to believe him.” If, however, her Majesty would give them 50,000l. a year, it would support four thousand brave soldiers, for they would all be willing “to take six months for twelve,” and would make the Prince strong enough to maintain the wars longer than the youngest in England should live, and perhaps clear the country of the enemy (p. 309).
Flanders and the Malcontents.
At the beginning of 1584, Ghent, now becoming suspicious of Hembyse, made overtures to her sister cities that they should “do all things friendly together,” and an assembly of the Four Members was arranged. Many letters came to them from the Prince of Orange, assuring them of speedy help, though from whence it was to come did not appear. There had lately been great discord between the Prince of Chimay and the magistrates of Bruges, and they were seeking to displace him from his government. Matters were patched up between them, but Stokes reported that he was very angry at the “touching of his honour.”
Apparently Stokes did not suspect him of tampering with the enemy, but thought that his having told the magistrates plainly “of their duties and of their covetous government was the chief reason why they wished rather his absence than his presence” (p. 297).
In Stokes' letter of Feb. 22, we get the first mention of the negotiations between the Malcontents of Hainault and Artois and the cities of Ghent and Bruges, which hence-forward occupy a large space in the letters from the Low Countries, but they have been so fully treated of by Bor, Meteren &c., that it will not be necessary to notice them otherwise than very briefly. In the first instance it seems to have been imagined that the Walloon provinces wished to be re-united to the States, but if this pretext was ever brought forward, it was speedily cast aside, and the matter resolved itself into the question whether the Four Members of Flanders could be persuaded to put themselves once again into the hands of Spain. Parma was encouraged by the rumours of evil government and mutinous soldiers, and friendly letters were conveyed to the captains of the garrisons urging them to come over and promising them good entertainment. Also when any captains, gentlemen or soldiers were taken, they were courteously treated and released for very small ransoms or none at all. Many guarantees were spoken of, especially for free exercise of religion and the dismissal of the Spanish troops when peace was restored. How far the people believed in the chance of obtaining these guarantees cannot be told. The Walloons, who hated the domination of the Spaniards, although compared with the domination of the Calvinists they thought it the lighter burden of the two, may have dreamed of the restoration of their country to its state in the days of Charles V, enjoying its old privileges and liberties while owning obedience to the Spanish crown. How impossible of realization the dream was under the rule of Charles' son, perhaps only Parma knew.
The leaders in the treaty on the side of Flanders were Chimay and Hembyse, aided by Champagny, who was still in a sort of loose captivity at Ghent. When the brother of Cardinal Granvelle was one of the active agents in the business, it was no wonder that many “had the worse liking of it,” but it was only the magistrates and upper classes in the towns who were likely to oppose it, for the commons had long been clamouring for peace.
In the middle of March a check was given to the negotiations by the discovery that Hembyse had been plotting to give up Ghent at once to the Malcontent leader, Montigny, and his forces. The town was in an uproar, Hembyse and some others, including the English captain, Rowland Yorke, were imprisoned, and Charles Utenhove was made chief burgomaster, although he also was said to be an advocate of the peace, “but with another way of proceeding.” It did not appear, in fact, that the ultimate issue of the treaty was likely to be affected, indeed some thought that they would now proceed better, and perhaps do for all Flanders what Hembyse would have done for Ghent alone. Hembyse had also planned to give up Dendermonde to the enemy, but the plot was discovered by Ryhove, the governor, and frustrated (pp. 423, 424).
At Bruges, the governor and commons, working as usual together, had changed the magistrates, ostensibly on the ground that they had enriched themselves with money that should have gone to pay the soldiers; but really, as was supposed, because of their opposition to the treaty.
The Gantois had been the first to accept the suggestion of an accord with the Malcontents, but now, when Bruges was ready to join with them, they began to draw back. The stumbling-block was the question of religion. They had felt confident that they would be granted Religionsfriede, but the Prince of Parma would promise them only the Pacification of Ghent, i.e. freedom of conscience, but not freedom of public worship. Stokes thought this was because the towns were too weak to withstand him, but now, with Philip II's correspondence before us, we know that the King positively forbade his General to make any further concessions.
After all, it was only a turning of the tables. The Catholic commons had not been allowed to celebrate mass or indeed to hold any service in the churches while the Calvinist magistrates held sway. Now, matters were to be reversed, and every day, as Stokes sorrowfully reported, the Papists in Bruges were gathering their relics together and preparing for the “trimming up again” of their churches (p. 465). But the Gantois hesitated much more, and after riotous scenes in their court-house, the promoters of the peace were silenced, and the rest resolved that rather than agree to the conditions offered, they would all “die upon the ramparts.” Stokes was quite puzzled by this sudden “volte-face”. Only a month before, all those who opposed the peace had been dismissed from their offices and put into prison, and now all that wished for it were treated in the same way, and the cry in Ghent was Vive le Prince d'Orange (p. 488).
While Ghent was making preparations for resisting the Spaniards, Bruges, having made its “accord,” was feeling the consequences of its submission. At first the people enjoyed the relief of being freed from their long strain, and their trade seemed to be reviving, but great indignation was excited by Parma's resolution to put in a Spanish garrison, and before long they began to be in distress for food, the States General having succeeded in preventing, or at any rate greatly lessening, the sending of provisions to the enemies' ports. Moreover, the States' men were busy in all directions burning the villages round about, with the corn in the fields (p. 561). Immediately after this, we learn that the Prince of Parma had come to Bruges and meant to reside there. It was undoubtedly the best way of securing quiet, for the Prince was very popular.
The first result of his arrival appears to have been a letter from the magistrates of Bruges and the Free to those of Ghent, probably inspired by Parma himself. As its contents are given at some length by Meteren, it is not needful to refer to it further than to mention its chief argument, viz. that the main things for which war had been made had now been satisfied, by permission of liberty of conscience, prohibition of search of households, and consent to the departure of strangers; and that “as to the public exercise of a religion other than that of his Majesty, all potentates claim to have free disposition to ordain the same in their own jurisdictions, as has been shown in England and in Germany (p. 568). (fn. 2) This was, of course, perfectly true. The cities of Flanders needed to look no further than their own late treatment of the Papists. Elizabeth of England, forbidding all public celebration of the mass, did not dream of protesting against Philip's veto of the Calvinistic services. France at this time was an exception, only because the Huguenots were numerous enough and powerful enough to have obtained the Edict of Pacification, as it were at the point of the sword.
The letter from Bruges to Ghent was written on June 27, old style. Three days later, the Prince of Orange was murdered by Balthazar Gérard. Villiers, “the minister,” and the Elector Truchsess, writing from Delft, were the first to send the news to England, but only briefly mentioned the fact, leaving the narrative to Roger Williams, the bearer of their letters. On July 2, Gilpin sent a short account of what had happened, in a letter which had apparently been begun before he heard of the tragedy. After narrating the doings of the enemy at Lillo and other places, he continues:—
“To multiply these thwart accidents, a more heavy and lamentable is fallen out by the sudden loss of the Prince of Orange, who on Tuesday in the afternoon, as he was risen from dinner and went from the eating place to his chamber, even entering out of a door to go up the stairs, the Burgonian that had brought him news of Monsieur his death, making show as if he had some letter to impart and to talk with his Excellency, with a pistol shot him under the breast, whereof he fell down dead in the place and never spake word” (p. 580).
On the 5th of July, Ortell had received the news from the States of Zeeland, and they too wrote that the Prince had died without uttering a word:— “Meurtry d'un coup de bistolet . . . lequel l'a touché du premier coup au cœur tout royde mort, sans que son Excellence oncques parla parole” (p. 592). Calvart's letter from Antwerp, dated July 7, was the first which brought to England the Prince's dying words (not quite in their usually accepted form): “O Dieu, ayez pitie de mon ame; ODieu, ayez pitie de ton peuple” (p. 601). The letter of the States of Brabant of the same date gives the same version, but this letter was probably written by Calvart himself.
There is no need, however, to take these letters from Zeeland as valid evidence against the truth of what Fruin calls “a precious legacy which the Netherland people would not allow to be questioned by unjust doubt.” The report of the Prince's murder would be at once spread abroad; and might well be despatched to Middelburg before the details of the tragedy were given to the world. (fn. 3)
The savage vengeance taken upon the murderer is well known. The accounts of it sent to England will be found on pp. 587, 596.
In the same letter in which Gilpin announced the murder, he told of the proceedings which followed it. The States, he wrote, immediately met and despatched orders to all places to keep good order and provide against further mischief when the news should be known; “being (notwithstanding the great loss of so rare a prince, especially dying on the place without speech) well animated and resolved; not doubting but the Lord will raise up another to defend His cause” (p. 581).
By “the States,” Gilpin always meant the States General, except now and again when in writing of local affairs he alluded to the States of his own province of Zeeland. At the time of the Prince's death, both the States General and those of Holland were in Session at Delft, but it was the latter who took the initiative and sent out the first despatches, as above mentioned. They had however first conferred with the deputies of the other provinces (see their letter to the States of Brabant: “So hebben wy . . . ons metten aenwesenden Gedeputeerden van Zeelant ende andere generale Provintien gheresolveert,” Bor, bk. xix, f. 3), so that they might be considered to be acting on behalf of all.
One of the saddest parts of the business was that the States should hope—as Gilpin said they did—that in some ways the Prince's death would do them good. “For so long as he lived no foreign prince would intermeddle, seeing he reserved to himself Holland and Zeeland, the chief places of all” (fn. 4); the common people were weary of contributing and seeing nothing done, the soldiers unpaid and the enemy prevailing; moreover, his Excellency had been of late but “slenderly accounted of,” and there had even arisen a general murmuring that the wars were continued “to make and maintain his greatness” (Gilpin to Walsingham, p. 595).
This is distressing reading, and far indeed from the picture drawn by Motley of a whole nation in tears, mourning with a “poignant and universal sorrow” such as had never been exceeded in human history; yet it fits in well enough with the repeated reports sent to England of the Prince's loss of popularity. In one way, it may truly be said that good did come of his death. The people were furious, stirred up, excited; and in the week following William's death more money was granted by the States than he had been able to extract from them in three months before.
As regards the movements of the enemy, the Prince's death made no difference at all. Motley tells us that it rendered the union of the Netherlands impossible; that so long as he remained alive, he was the Father of the whole country, and there was union in its policy, union in its history; that had he lived twenty years longer the Seven Provinces would probably have been seventeen; that habit, necessity and his natural gifts had combined to invest him at last with an authority which seemed more than human; that the nation had come to think with his brain, to act with his hand; and that even Parma's consummate ability would have proved inadequate to the reduction of the great cities of Flanders and Brabant had not the assassination of Orange made his task comparatively easy. (fn. 5)
Such statements receive no confirmation from the letters calendared in the present volume; yet these letters were written by ardent—not to say bigoted Protestants, men who would be prone to exalt the deeds of the Protestant champion to the Queen who was his friend.
If the Prince's authority was so great, how came it that he sat with folded hands while Parma swept victoriously through the land, and that to the appeals for help from one threatened city after another, he gave no response, save by vague promises of help which was never sent, or by letters urging them to receive the French again. We are, in fact, on the horns of a dilemma. If he had the authority, then the will must have been lacking, and that no student of the life of William of Orange will believe. One sees him rather as Fremyn draws him, a lonely figure in the midst of a people who insisted on managing things their own way, spurned his advice and would not listen to his warnings, and then, when calamity followed, turned round upon him and blamed him for the evils which his foresight would have averted (p. 353).
Before William's death, the Prince of Parma had established himself at the little town of Lillo, and was making every effort to increase his fortifications and forces upon the Scheldt, as a preliminary to the siege of Antwerp. How it came to pass that the States General had let this happen without apparently making any attempt to stop it beyond allowing a few hundred men to go from Bergen to strengthen the forts upon the river, is only part of the utterly perplexing problem which confronts us in regard to the defence of Antwerp, from the time when Parma took possession of the Pays de Waes up to the hour when he entered the city in triumph.
The disappearance from the scene of the Duke of Anjou and William of Orange brings to its close a chapter in the history of the Netherlands and forms a fitting conclusion to this volume of the Calendar. From this time the negotiations with Elizabeth come into the range of practical politics, and they occupy much space in the documents to be dealt with in the next volume.
At the time when this volume of the Calendar begins, Sir Henry Cobham was still in France, though his embassy was drawing to a close. At the beginning of July, the Court was away from Paris, but on the 9th, the Queen Mother had returned and gave him audience, at which she at once began to speak of the Duke of Anjou, and even “hackled some words” on the matter of his marriage. Cobham replied that the world believed she now rather wished him to bestow his love on some younger princess, glancing as he spoke at the Princess of Lorraine, who as usual was with her grandmother, and with that the subject dropped and he passed on to the more practical matters of the complaints of English merchants and the seizure of English shipsp. 51.
The next letters are concerned with the well-known story of the King's sudden and violent proceedings against his sister, the Queen of Navarre; his command that she should leave the Court, his dismissal of her ladies and his attacks upon her honour. Truly, Margaret's conduct had laid her very much open to criticism, but it was generally believed at the Court that the King's burst of indignation had less to do with her moral conduct than with his belief that she had caused a pasquin to be written against himself. Margaret demanded to see the King, but he refused to admit her. A few days later she met her mother in the Tuileries gardens. Catherine tried to extort a promise that if allowed to see the King she would not speak sharply or sourly to him, but in vain. He had hearkened to all sorts of reports against her, but she could prove many enormities against him (the particulars of which she angrily poured forth), and she meant to tell him of them. As there was no chance of his granting an interview under these conditions, the idea had to be abandoned; and parting from her mother “without weeping or changing of countenance” she said a cheerful adieu to the ladies of the Court, and departed to her own house. As for her two ladies, the first report was that the King had declared that if they stayed in Paris they should be put into a sack and thrown into the river, whereupon their mistress had hurriedly sent them away; but it afterwards transpired that they had been arrested, taken before the King and by him sent to their own friends (pp. 53, 58, 67).
When Henry's wrath had cooled down, he was apparently rather ashamed of what he had done, consented to have a justification of her conduct printed, and wrote to the King of Navarre that he only wished his sister to put away Mesdames de Bethune and Duras, “for their defamed life and bad language against himself and those nearest to his person.” This probably meant that they had been talking against the Mignons, who were by no means so well loved by the Court as they were by their master.
In August, Elizabeth sent orders to Cobham to protest to the King against the preparations which she heard were being made in Normandy for Scotland, and to remonstrate with him for suffering her “rebels and fugitives” to settle in his kingdom and to be admitted into the Duke of Guise's new seminary at Eu. The ambassador himself came in for a sharp reprimand. He had acknowledged having said to the Queen Mother that he thought she wished for a younger daughter-in-law; but by a letter from Catherine herself, Elizabeth had discovered that he had said much more than this; had, in fact, wished the Queen Mother success in arranging a marriage “pour avoir ligne de France,” and the insinuation that she herself was too old to bear. children had made her Majesty very angry (p. 84).
In October, 1583, Cobham returned to England and Sir Edward Stafford succeeded him as ambassador at the French Court. In one respect at least the new ambassador was pre-eminently fitted for his post. He had an admirable knowledge of the French language. This is not to be wondered at, for (as he tells us himself) he had been brought up as a page at the Prince of Condé's court. The advantage of this to his negotiations cannot be overrated. The advantage to us also is very great; for in his accounts of interviews with the French King or his ministers, we may feel sure that he not only told them what he meant to tell them, but that he clearly understood, and so could correctly report, what they said to him.
He was a gentleman of very good birth, and so far as I have gone in the examination of the papers, I have not found one word which could lead us to believe that he was other than what he professed to be, loyal to his country, his church and his Queen. But the Calendars of the Spanish State Papers tell, as Major Hume believed, a different tale, viz., that in 1586 or 1587, Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, “bought” Sir Edward Stafford, and that henceforth, while he remained in France, “such English diplomacy as passed through him was no secret from Mendoza and his master.” (fn. 6) Doubts have been cast upon Major Hume's conclusions; and if the “Julius,” whom he believes to be Stafford, really wrote from London, as he is said to do, the theory would fall to the ground; but there can be little doubt that this was only what Major Hume calls it,— “an attempt at mystification . . . not continuously kept up,” for from many passages it is only too clear that the Channel did not lie between the Spanish ambassador and his extraordinarily well-informed friend. The only person other than Stafford who seems possible is Charles Arundel, and “Julius's” confidences go on long after Arundel was dead.
Another cipher name believed by Major Hume to be Stafford was “the new confidant,” and the same explanation seems to hold good here also: that the apparent inconsistencies were deliberate “mystifications,” to veil the truth in case the letters were intercepted.
But even if communications were established between the two ambassadors, it by no means follows that Stafford was a traitor. When Philip was first told of the transaction, he was very suspicious indeed, and warned his agent in Paris to be cautious lest the English ambassador (as he plainly calls him) should sell him false news for his money, and then boast in England of having done so. (fn. 7) So far as I have examined the letters in the Spanish Calendar it has struck me that the “traitor,” while apparently giving a good deal of information did not really betray anything harmful either to England or the Queen; but the truth or otherwise of this suggestion will appear more clearly when the Foreign Calendar reaches the year 1587.
Stafford reached Paris on October 7, and on the 13th the two ambassadors had their audience, a full account of which will be found in their joint letter on p. 154.
On Oct. 21, Stafford wrote his own first despatch. He had only been in Paris a fortnight, but by “conferring with men of all sorts” he had collected a truly surprising amount of information. He had found an old acquaintance in the Duke of Epernon's house, who, he hoped, for love or money, or both, would tell him all he could come by, and was trying to “gain” someone in that of the Duke of Joyeuse, seeing that he would have much to do with this Duke in his capacity of Admiral. He writes of the King's passion for the Mignons and his attitude towards the Duke of Guise; of Marshal Retz's increasing credit, and of Monsieur's unpopularity and intrigues; of the affair of the Queen of Navarre and of the King's reluctance to spend money; and after a relation astonishing in a man only just arrived in the country, he breaks off to apologise:—“I am but young yet (he says), so write but what men say, and leave my judgment till I can look further into their actions, which I will labour all I can” (p. 159 et seq.).
In a private letter to Walsingham of the same date, he bitterly complains of the position in which he—“a fresh-water soldier . . . plodding to hunt for any scent” had been left by Cobham, who refused to give him either useful documents or information, and when implored not to leave his successor so “bare,” retorted that Sir Amyas Paulet had left him worse (p. 166).
Stafford was no sooner settled in Paris than he was visited by all sorts of people. The Portuguese pretender, Don Antonio, sent one of his gentlemen to invite him to come to him, but this the new ambassador dared not do without knowing her Majesty's pleasure. Next we hear of a visit from Chassincourt and Clervant, the King of Navarre's agents. With them all was plain sailing. He had only to give the kindly messages sent by the Queen, and listen sympathetically to what they had to tell him of the doings and proposed doings of their master.
Then came more doubtful visitors. In watching Stafford's conduct in relation to the refugees, we have to keep two points in mind. First, the doubts as to his loyalty; secondly, his own very reasonable belief that the best way of finding out what suspected people were doing was to have personal intercourse with them.
The Bishop of Glasgow came with great compliments and assurances of “good proceedings” on the part of the Queen of Scots. They spoke each other very fair, but Stafford's summary of the meeting was: “I believed him not, so do I think he did not me.” He was followed by Charles Paget, a younger brother of Lord Paget (who was still in England), offering all service and protesting emphatically that he never had done or would do anything against the Queen or country. Stafford meant to keep careful watch over him and the rest, and to this end, to use them all well. Nay, he declared he would use the devil himself well if he came “in the likeness of a man to serve the Queen withal.” He had already sent a spy to Rouen and to Eu, and had arranged with the “minister” in Paris to find out what he could of affairs in Brittany, these Reformed ministers having, as he tells us elsewhere, very good sources of information (p. 172).
In his next letter he informed Walsingham that the Master of Gray had gone to Scotland, taking great store of chalices, copes &c., which might cause a great broil in that country, it having been for long “rid of that filthy trash” (p. 181). That an English churchman should talk in such terms of the chalice, a vessel indispensable to the services of his own Church, seems almost incredible; but it is only an instance of the way in which protestants of that day spoke of anything connected in their minds with the ritual of the Roman Church. It does not, at any rate, look as if he had any leanings towards Rome, unless he was simply suiting his terms to the well-known views of his correspondent. In a private letter to Walsingham, he explains in detail the precautions he took in writing anything of importance. As regards his cipher, no one ever used or even saw it, except himself.
The next despatch, in which all the names are in cipher, is chiefly concerned with the jealousies between the Mignons and the means he is taking to obtain information in the houses of the Spanish agent (Tassis), the Bishop of Glasgow and the Duke of Guise (p. 196).
On Nov. 10, he wrote that a man had come to him praying to be sent over to her Majesty, as he had important matters to declare to her, heard in Epernon's house and the Queen Mother's chamber. Stafford thought it better to let him go, but his suspicions had been aroused by the fact that amongst some jewels which he left as a pledge were musk and “some sweet smells,” and he begged Walsingham to look well to it, lest he had some design against her Majesty; by poison, as it would appear (p. 200).
The Assembly of Notables had now met at St. Germain-en-Laye, and Stafford sent a detailed account of the scene when, upon the King making further demands upon the clergy, the aged Cardinal de Bourbon, kneeling before him, declared that if his Majesty would give order that there should be no religion in his realm but “the old Catholic and Apostolic religion of Rome,” the clergy, poor as they were, “would sell themselves to their shirts”; and the King angrily replied that he had already hazarded his life and estate to bring this about, but in the end had been obliged to make peace, which he had promised and would keep (p. 216).
Stafford must about this time have received a warning from Walsingham (who from the first was apparently suspicious of and not too friendly towards him) not to “haunt” the Bishop of Glasgow. The ambassador answered frankly enough that he would do as was wished, though he thought that by going to him he might have done good and learnt something. It is perhaps with a spice of malice that he goes on to mention a report in Paris that the Spanish ambassador in England had of late been much made of by the Queen and feasted in her Court. He hoped, “if there be any meaning of being friends that way,” they would let him know it (p. 222).
The King was now about to despatch a messenger to the King of Navarre, and before doing so, gave audience to Chassincourt and Clervant. Coming to visit Stafford shortly afterwards, they told him what had passed. The King, prompted by Villeroy, asked them the meaning of the journeys of Ségur-Pardailhan, the King of Navarre's agent, to England and Germany. They said it was to arrange for an assembly to clear up doubts amongst those of the Religion, This was true enough so far as it went, but the King rather shrewdly enquired whether sending money into Germany was the way to clear doubts in religion, to which Clervant replied that as other subjects of France put money in Germany without the King's knowledge, the King of Navarre, “being a prince of the blood, so near the realm and crown of France,” hoped his Majesty would not take it ill if he sought to have a store there to help to defend his Majesty and the realm against any evil enterprize they might take in hand. The King was said to be so “choked” by this answer that he spake no more of the matter (p. 230).
Before Clervant's actual despatch, the King again sent for him, to speak about his sister. He was sorry with all his heart, he said, that evil reports had made him act as he had done; had already sent Bellièvre to deal in the matter and prayed Clervant to persuade her husband to have all things done to her honour. When the Queen Mother urged the same thing, the agent pertinently replied that he could give no such message to his master, as the dishonour came not from him, but from “hence,” and from hence it must be repaired. Villeroy tried to put matters right by saying that the King himself was sorry for what he had said, but had been “moved” to it by hearing that the King of Navarre meant to repudiate his wife. He begged Clervant not to deliver the message, to which the latter replied that he had not the slightest intention of doing so. Bellièvre's mission proved of no effect, for Navarre flatly refused to hear him, saying that he was not going to be made to do things a coups de baton (p. 266).
In November, Montreal was occupied by the Huguenots, and at the end of the month news reached Paris that Mont-de-Marsin had been surprised by the King of Navarre. It was one of his own towns, which should have been restored at the peace, and the French King professed not to be annoyed by its resumption, but it was known privately that he “stormed marvellously” at it. A little later he showed his indignation plainly to one of Navarre's agents, declaring that his master might reign in Beam, but he should not be King in France (ibid.).
Moreover, he was alarmed by a report that Navarre was going to hold a conference with Montmorency, who, united by many ties to the Huguenot chiefs, yet loyal to the old faith, was wooed by both parties, but at this time held himself aloof from engagements to either. The French King not only feared his intercourse with Navarre, but that he (or perhaps both of them) had intelligence with Spain. If he did not fling himself into the arms of the Huguenots, it was not the fault of the Duke of Joyeuse, who was striving hotly to get the government of Languedoc for his father. The King, it was said, had promised it and even taken the first steps for displacing Montmorency, but was held back by Epernon, who had no mind to see Joyeuse made more powerful than he was already (p. 314).
The Assembly of Notables, whose meeting at St. Germain had been signalised by Cardinal Bourbon's veiled attack upon the Huguenots, had listened to the King's regrets for the oppression of his people and excuses for not having relieved them; had received the statement of the royal revenue and expenditure; and had protested against certain “pernicious privileges” of the Church, such as the right of sanctuary. There was much talk of the “retrenchment of officers,” but it was suspected that the only result of this would be that the King would pocket large “fines” (or bribes) from those threatened, in return for their being allowed to remain in their places. When a few weeks later his Majesty stopped “the cutting of his officers,” it was at once concluded that this had happened, and the people murmured greatly. In any case, he was likely to have good store of money, if it was true (as Stafford wrote) that he meant to pay neither wages nor pension to anyone, but “to have his whole revenue come into his coffers clear” (p. 230). (fn. 8)
On the last day of the Assembly, the deputies for Paris and for Normandy made very bold speeches to the King.
“He for Paris” complained that the King had broken promise with them, and instead of remission, had increased their taxes to a sum which the people were not able to bear. The Normandy deputy went further, declaring that Kings were as bound to keep promise to their subjects as their subjects to them. The King was very angry, but answered only “that he had a soul to save, which he was of age to look to, and in the meantime, he would teach his subjects their duty and not to use their tongue in that sort.” The next day a prisoner was secretly carried to the Bastille, and the people murmured that it was the deputy of Normandy. Many people thought that the end of this would be open rebellion, but Stafford doubted it, having seen “greater matters compassed and found the people of France the humblest to their Kings and the easiest to be trodden on, in the world” (pp. 267–8).
Much more practical work was achieved by the extraordinary assize or ordinary Grands jours, held at Troyes, in Champagne. Stafford wrote that justice was there being done “marvellously severely.” At first it was thought to be “taken in hand to ‘attrappe’ those of the Religion,” but it was soon found to be acting against criminals, whatever their creed. Many of name and mark were sentenced and executed, and the King steadily refused pardon to all condemned by the Court (pp. 252, 257).
On December 1, Stafford was startled by the unexpected appearance at his house of Lord Paget and Charles Arundel. They evidently expected a welcome, but he hurried them away as soon as possible, asked them not to come again until he received directions from the Queen, and wrote off to Walsingham for orders (Appendix, p. 657). His letter was crossed by one from the Secretary, announcing the departure of the two gentlemen from England without leave given, and desiring the ambassador to find out what they were “practising.” In the same letter, Walsingham asked Stafford, when he wrote of a secret matter, to put it on a separate sheet, as he must show the general letters to the Council and thus either make them privy to the contents of the cipher or vex them by sending it undeciphered. This would seem to have been merely a scheme of Walsingham to keep information to himself. The French names were put in cipher for fear of the letters being intercepted, not in order to hide the information contained from the Privy Council. Soon afterwards, there came another of Walsingham's curious suggestions to Stafford; suggestions as to which it is difficult to say whether they were really the result of the Queen's orders or his own jealousy. The ambassador had complained of lack of news from England, and asked him to write more frequently:—
I would willingly do so (he replied), but “her Majesty is many times so offended with the charges of often writing as I dare not make her privy of all the despatches I receive from you . . . and advise you not to write but upon occasions of good importance” (p. 272).
Her Majesty, as is well known, disliked spending money, but she still more disliked being kept in the dark. Did she really not appreciate the advantage of having what was going on in France laid before her clearly and in detail; or did the Secretary hold back Stafford's despatches not lest she should be angry but lest she should be too well pleased with her ambassador? In the spring of the next year, Walsingham renewed the warning, this time adding the suggestion that Stafford should continue to write by every post, but that his letters should be concealed from the Queen. This effectually roused the ambassador's suspicions, and he wrote to ask Burghley's advice, saying plainly that he was jealous of the Secretary's meaning.
“I know (he continued) that by his means the Queen has had false advertisements . . . and has been incensed that news of importance should come from others, and some have come from me and he has kept them a day and delivered his first” (p. 459).
In the middle of December there was discovered a plot or a pretended plot to murder Monsieur, but as an account of it is calendared in the Report on the Cecil Papers, there is no need to dwell on it here.
About the same time Dr. William Parry, formerly a spy abroad for Elizabeth, but now reconciled to the Roman Church, passed over into England. The story of “Parry's plot” is well known, but his own guilt, as given in his supposed “Confession” has always been held doubtful. A letter in his own hand written to Thomas Morgan in Paris (Appendix, p. 658), however, exactly tallies with a passage in the Confession, (fn. 9) and proves plainly both that he had some dark enterprise in his mind, and that the Scottish Queen was mistaken when she refused to believe Parry's accusation of Morgan as an accomplice. (fn. 10)
This Thomas Morgan (of whom much more will be heard in the next volume of the Calendar) was a Welsh gentleman, who had been one of the Queen of Scots' secretaries, and was now, with Charles Paget, administrator of her dower in France. They were both devoted to her interests, and were hand in glove with the Bishop of Glasgow, her ambassador at the French Court.
Stafford's letters at this time were much concerned with the doings of the refugees, and also with his discovery of a printing press in Paris whence pamphlets against the Queen were being sent out. By his means three men found on the premises were taken, one of them an English-man, but Dr. Allen took up the cause of the prisoners and persuaded the Nuncio to remonstrate with the King for allowing the persecution of Catholics. In spite of the ambassador's protests the Englishman was released, and in the end was conveyed safely away to Rome.
On Feb. 2, the two Pagets and Arundel came to inform Stafford that having received no answer from the Queen to their letters explaining their reasons for coming away, they could no longer wait in Paris but “must seek where to live” They would not act against their country if they could help it, but what desperation might drive them to, they could not tell. Stafford remonstrated with them at considerable length, but in vain, and so they departed, with a final “blessing” to Lord Paget that he might seek long before he found on that side what he had lost on the other. Stafford quotes an interesting saying of Lord Paget's in relation to the celebration of mass; viz., that to hear a Frenchman's mass “would make a man hate it, they did all so lightly,” but an Englishman's mass “was done with such devotion that men could not choose but love and worship it” (pp. 347–9).
A week or two later, Lord Seton arrived in Paris as the envoy of James VI, was lodged with the Bishop of Glasgow, and at once began to associate with all those disaffected to Elizabeth. Another visitor to Paris was Mendoza, who after his dismissal from England resorted thither, taking up his abode at the Spanish embassy. When the Queen heard that her ambassador had visited Lord Seton, she was much offended, saying that he was notoriously known to be disaffected to her. Walsingham seems to have defended Stafford very fairly, reminding her Majesty that all ambassadors visited each other at their first coming, unless there was hostility between their princes. “For my part,” he wrote, “I do not see but you had reason to do as you did, but yet we may not plead not guilty when our superiors will have us faulty.” (p. 435).
In the early days of 1584, rumours were flying round of “practices” by the Duke of Guise, the first murmurs of the storm which was to break in the following year. In March the dangerous illness of the Duke of Anjou increased the energy of the Guise party, and they publicly put forward the aged Cardinal of Bourbon as heir to the throne, in order to cut off the King of Navarre. There was unrest throughout the country, marching of troops, preparations as if for war, but what these preparations portended no one knew. The King himself gave three different reasons for them. To the Huguenots he hinted at danger from the Spanish King; to the Guises he spoke of the arming of the Protestants; to others he gave out that it was to punish Montmorency for his dealings with Spain (pp. 359, 363, 370). Stafford “prayed God” that the overthrow of Montmorency might not prove a plank for the easier overthrowing of the Huguenots afterwards.
But Montmorency was not yet overthrown. At the beginning of March the matter was the cause of an open quarrel between the Mignons. Epernon declared that the King ought not to risk losing one of so ancient an house and who had done such good service, for the sake of Joyeuse's private ambition. Joyeuse was very angry, but the King would not listen to him; he came out of the chamber “as red as could be” (p. 380), and for awhile he and Epernon were not on speaking terms.
On Feb. 22 (o.s.) a visitor came to Stafford, (fn. 11) evidently sent from high quarters, to put before him the reasons why it would be well for the English Queen to propose to the French King a joint action on the part of the two crowns “to abate the greatness” of the King of Spain. Stafford replied that her Majesty had already made a move in that direction by dismissing the Spanish ambassador, while the French King not only let the Spanish ministers “practice” in his realm, but suffered his nearest servants to be their instruments; that it appertained to the King, as a man, to propose the matter, and that as to the danger to England from divisions in religion of which his visitor had spoken, France was in much worse case, for she already had them in her midst. Moreover, there was one essential difference between England and France. In the latter, when dissensions arose, both parties welcomed the aid of strangers, whereas, however much Englishmen quarrelled amongst themselves, the moment a stranger offered to set foot in the country, they all united to drive him out (p. 364).
The next to speak on the subject was Don Antonio, set on, as Stafford believed, by the Queen Mother. Many others followed, but to one and all he answered that it was for the King to make the first move, an answer of which Elizabeth entirely approved, though Walsingham thought that, considering the strong Spanish party in France, it would have been better for her to consent to make the motion (pp. 388, 389). His advice apparently prevailed, to a certain extent, and the Queen wrote to Stafford telling him to put the matter before the King, but only as a suggestion from himself. Before he could obtain an audience, however, news came from Chateau Thierry which engrossed all men's attention.
Monsieur had become suddenly worse, and was given over by his physicians. Next day it was reported throughout Paris that he was dead. He had certainly been at the point of death, but when apparently at the last extremity, when all were gathered in his chamber, and “ready to pull the sheet over his face,” he rallied, and the immediate danger passed away (p. 481).
When at length Stafford succeeded in getting an answer from the King, it was a distinct declaration that the necessities of his own realm were such that he could not enterprise anything abroad (p. 476). The ambassador believed that the reasons for it were:—1. The Jesuits, who warned him to do nothing against the Catholic King; 2. the Mignons, who would not let him undertake anything involving great charges, whereby the less would come into their own purses; last but not least, the King's own desire to have no wars, “for so long as he was sure to be King while he lived, he cared not what would become of his realm after he was dead.” In this same letter of Stafford's of May 2 we first hear of Epernon's intended mission to the King of Navarre. There were many rumours as to its cause, and Navarre's agents were said to be at their wits' end, not knowing what to make either of the King's dealings or of Epernon's journey.
It was not until towards the end of May that Monsieur's health again gave rise to serious alarm, but he then became so rapidly worse that although the physicians gave out that he would certainly recover, nobody believed them, and it leaked out that they had privately informed the King that he was “a dead man” (p. 511).
At once all the parties in France were stirred into action. The nobility, Stafford wrote, looked to the King of Navarre as the heir; the Guisards were dismayed, “knowing well that the nobility was stronger than their Jesuits and priests on whom they depend.” This might be so; but in their own family and kinsmen the Guises had a strong phalanx of nobles and followers, apart from the power of the Church. Rather curiously, Stafford imagined that the Spanish ambassador inclined to the King of Navarre. One important factor, the attitude of the King, remained very doubtful, though all now believed that the object of Epernon's mission to the King of Navarre was to induce that King once more to change his religion, or at any rate to permit freedom of worship to the Catholics of Béarn, in which case the Catholics of France, hoping for the same in the event of his coming to the throne, would be the less likely to oppose him. The Huguenot leaders feared the effort might be successful, and urged that Elizabeth should send some one to strengthen him and offer him help if needed (p. 521).
Monsieur died on May 31, old style, and the news-letter announcing his death also stated that the King of Navarre was to be called Monsieur, which was equivalent to declaring him the heir to the throne. A moot point was whether, at the funeral ceremonies, the “titles of Flanders” should be given to the Duke, but it was decided that it would be more prudent to omit them, and also that Cambrai, left to the King by Monsieur's will, should be declared to be the property of the Queen Mother, “according to the custom of France” that mothers inherit their sons' purchases (pp. 535, 537).
Stafford made every effort to find out the true relations between the King and the Guises, but without success. Popular report said that he “had a great mislike of them,” but certain straws seemed to indicate that the wind blew in another quarter. A Privy Councillor, for instance, told a friend that “a Cardinal not two years past had lost a kingdom, but they had provided that a Cardinal here should lose no more” (p. 537).
As the arrangements for the royal “funerals” were now in hand, Stafford was anxious to know what the Queen wished him to do if invited to be present, in view of the two points that the ceremonies would be “contrary to the religion her Majesty professeth,” and that the Nuncio would certainly take precedence of all other ambassadors (p. 533). But the Anjou farce was being played out to the end, and Elizabeth's ministers had not yet dared to break (at any rate officially) to the enamoured Queen the sad news of the death of her beloved (p. 551). They could therefore only on their own responsibility advise him, considering the great friendship between her Majesty and Monsieur, to do all possible honour to his corpse, and suggested his following the example of the Protestant Electors of Germany, who took part in imperial functions, but withdrew during the celebration of the mass. As regards the Nuncio, as all the ambassadors of Christendom gave precedence to him, the point need not be disputed (p. 543). Whether Burghley and Walsingham took it upon themselves to decide upon so weighty a matter without orders from above may well be doubted !
But after Stafford had interviewed the Master of the Ceremonies, he received a polite message from the King to the effect that all was arranged on the supposition that he would not wish to assist; that they feared his retiring at the mass would give offence; that in fact they did not wish him to be present. It was rather a “set-down,” but Stafford made the best of it and paid his visit of condolence to the King, while awaiting further orders from her Majesty (p. 552). The long letter in which he gives an account of Monsieur's funeral is printed by Murdin, from the copy amongst the Cecil Papers. When his orders arrived, the ambassador made another visit of condolence on her Majesty's behalf, and “as coming from the princess who loved his brother best” was received by the King before any of the other ambassadors, much to their indignation (p. 562).
There was talk of a funeral service in England, but the Queen's grief was “too green” for such a suggestion to be made to her, not a day having passed without tears since she learnt the sad news. Walsingham urged her to write to the King of Navarre, but she refused. She could not now, she said, love that King so well, who was to succeed him whom she loved so entirely. She gave Walsingham permission, however, to write to Du Plessis, excusing her on the ground that it might excite suspicion at the present juncture of affairs (p. 579).
Meanwhile, Epernon's embassy to the King of Navarre had proved very successful. The account sent by Stafford shows the Beamais in his most characterisic mood, as we read of him in song and story, and his gay, frank manners won him much reputation and love. Strange to say Stafford was “credibly informed” that Epernon had said nothing at all about alteration of religion; that if he had done so, the King would have given a resolute answer, but that he was very glad the motion had not been made ! Considering how well-informed the ambassador usually was, it is remarkable that neither from his friends at the court or from the agents of Narvarre had he learnt the real purpose and result of the mission. The main point had not been gained, but the French King appeared highly gratified by Epernon's report of his very cordial reception and entertainment. Some thought that Navarre had abased himself too much; others (including Stafford) approved of it. The contrary faction fumed and fretted over Navarre's proceedings, but had to content themselves with declaring that he was un fin Bearnois corrompu, and that no trust was to be placed in him (p. 581 et seq).
The House of Guise at this time was busily occupied with the preparation of two books; one an invective against the King of Navarre; the other a declaration of the Cardinal de Bourbon's prior claim to the throne. Stafford thought this last would do Navarre more good than harm, as the King was not likely to be pleased to see that they looked for his speedy death, by proposing as his heir a man nearly fifty years older than himself (p.585).
Two special ambassadors were now to be sent from the Queen to France; Sir Philip Sydney, to carry her Majesty's formal condolences on Monsieur's death, and the Earl of Derby, to invest the French King with the Order of the Garter. But his Majesty showed the utmost unwillingness to receive either of them. On being informed of Sydney's intended arrival, he sent Pinart to Stafford to desire that it might be delayed. He had broken up his Court; was to start in four days for Lyons on very important business; had sent away his guard, and would be loth to receive her Majesty's ambassador without all honour. In fine, he could not receive him at all until he returned to Paris. Presently, he put an end to the question by departing hurriedly for Lyons, “before day, and without bidding his mother farewell.”
Sydney was stopped at Gravesend and did not go over at all. The messenger sent to Elizabeth brought a suggestion from the King that the journey might “proceed” on his return, but to this her Majesty replied that since he did not like to have Sydney go over, she was well content to stay him, and “for the sending of him hereafter,” she saw no cause at all (p. 646).
Camden, in his Annals, states that after the Duke of Anjou's death, Elizabeth sent “B.” to France. From a comparison of his account of the object of this embassy with the instructions on p. 601 of this Calendar, it is quite evident that B. and Sydney are the same person, Camden, as it seems, not being aware that the journey had never taken place.
The French King.
There are a good many personal notices of the French King scattered up and down amongst the letters. His “besottedness” over his Mignons, and his enthusiasm. for his new order of Jeronomists are frequently mentioned. This latter absorbing interest often made things very difficult for his mother and his ministers, for he sometimes shut himself up for days together at the Bois de Vincennes, during which time he refused to see anybody from the outer world, or to transact any business at all. He planned the “habit,” made all the arrangements, and insisted on his courtiers becoming members of the society. To them it was rather a jest than otherwise, but the “poor companions who were compelled to keep the strict rules of the order, found their lives made well nigh unbearable” (p. 315).
In March, 1584, he made a pilgrimage to Notre Dame de Chartres, during which he showed such excellent walking powers, that of a hundred and twenty ecclesiastics and fellow penitents who set out with him, more than eighty were left behind on the way, including almost all the monks and friars, who being accustomed to a sedentary life, were quite unable to manage the long marches (p. 400).
At the beginning of the year, he seems to have had an attack of mania, described by Stafford as follows:—
“It is told me for certainty that the King upon Thursday at night last rose up out of his bed in a marvellous fury, and with his sword in his hand swore that he would kill the devil that was before him, that would have him; and used himself in such sort that they have been ever since afraid of him. It is kept very close and men here be greatly amazed at it. I do not hear it hath happened since, but men grow in great fear of a return” (p. 300).
It was noticed that his temper was much changed, his usual moderation giving way to fits of excitement or rage. He is more than once spoken of as being “in a marvellous choler,” and on one occasion during a meeting of his Council, being “crossed” by the Chevalier de Sevre, he struck him repeatedly, drew his sword and would have killed him if he had not been prevented. His mother said of him that “he was a soft prince, not easy to be stirred, but being stirred . . . would go through with anything he had in hand” (p. 645). The difficulty was to get him to take the things in hand. Stafford thought he was often much less ignorant about affairs than his ministers professed; but “if he had a foolish toy in his head, or a monk's weed to make, or an Ave Maria to say, he would let his State go to wrack” rather than not do it (p. 612).
Catherine de' Medici.
The picture drawn of the Queen Mother in this volume a pathetic one. In spite of ill-health, she was as active as ever. We see her with Monsieur, planning for the preservation of Cambrai; in Paris, in deep distress for the King's violent attack upon his sister and doing her utmost to put an end to the scandal; trying to induce Henry to receive and be reconciled to his brother; under-taking the work of the State during his many absences and fits of seclusion; giving audience to ambassadors, interviewing ministers of State; her life, in fact, one constant round of work, responsibility and anxiety. And yet her ungrateful son treated her with negligence and offered her many discourtesies; accused her of keeping Monsieur from the Court at the very time that she was doing her utmost to bring him there, and on one occasion, when she came to Paris on purpose to see him, her lodging being “no further from his than Whitehall from Charing Cross,” neither came to her nor would let her come to him, “so that she went back weeping and marvellously discontented”(p. 494).
Stafford believed that she sincerely wished for the league between Henry and Elizabeth. He was told (apparently by Pinart, as he and the Abbot Guadagna were alone with her at the time) that when the King refused to engage in it
“She fell a weeping, said that her son was ravished out of her hands by them that possess him to make him a monk; that it was no more in her power to do good with him; that having married a French king, which was the greatest honour any woman could look for, and having since had the honour of governing this estate, she had hoped to have left it at her death in some reasonable state, but now she saw that she needed not to desire to live long to see it ruinated and destroyed” (p. 467).
“Poor Queen Mother (he wrote a little later), to maintain a show that she hath some credit, is fain to have all things come from her, and bear the burden of all, to please her white son that careth no more for her . . . than I care for her I have never seen” (p. 612).
The notices of the “Cologne business” or Bishops' war are pretty numerous, but not very important. Duke John Casimir, brother of the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, having gathered some forces, started in July, 1583, to march to the aid of the deposed Elector and Archbishop Truchsess, but he was not well supported, for the other protestant Electors, having vindicated their rights by making a protest against the deposition of the Elector by the Pope, remained serenely inactive, feeling little disposition to risk a conflagration in the Empire for the sake of either Truchsess or Casimir, with whose bitter Calvinism they had little patience and no sympathy. They let their people enlist in the service if they so desired, “but of putting their hands in their purse” there was not a word (p. 73). Truchsess himself was in Westfalia, busy with the congenial tasks of “compelling the presbyters to marry their mistresses,” and breaking down the images and taking down the bells in the churches. The new Archbishop was at Brühl with his camp, and thither the Pope had sent him the pallium by his Nuncio, the Bishop of Vercelli, who was on his way to Cologne. While in that city, the Bishop not only settled the business of Truchsess deposition, but zealously occupied himself in trying to make the ecclesiastics, monks, friars and nuns conform to the stricter ways of life laid down by the Council of Trent; who, according to a correspondent of Gilpin's, had soon had enough of him and wished him far away that they might return to their old ways (p. 49).
As the ecclesiastical Electors of Mainz and Trier had determined to remain neutral, and the new Archbishop, Ernest of Bavaria, was hampered for want of money, it was thought at this time that Truchsess had a very fair chance of regaining his electorate, especially as it was generally believed that the Emperor, who “in health, disposition and ability was unequal to his calling,” would leave to each what he could catch, and (as with the new Calendar) let princes and people take the new or the old as they chose (p. 97).
In September, 1583, however, an event occurred which crushed the hopes of the deposed Archbishop. The Elector Palatine died, and Casimir threw up his command, disbanded his army, and returned to Heidelberg, to take up the administration of the Palatinate and the guardianship of his nephew, a boy of ten years old. The only serious antagonist whom the new Archbishop had now to fear was the Count of Moeurs and Neuenaar, and he was chiefly concerned to block the entrance into his own territories. He was aided by some troops of the States General under Hohenlohe, as his country formed the barrier protecting their eastern provinces from incursions out of the Rhineland. There was a good deal of desultory fighting between the two parties, and Roger Williams gives a very lively account of what happened on one occasion when Truchsess and the two Counts faced the enemy on the Rhine near Wesel (p. 429). This was Truchsess' last effort. He retired into Holland to the Prince of Orange, leaving a fair field to his rival, who quickly made himself master of his possessions, including Westfalia, until only the two strong towns of Rheinberg and Ordingen (belonging to the Count of Mœurs) remained under Truchsess' sway (p. 489). The new Elector himself went to visit the Duke of Cleves, and while he was being hospitably entertained by that prince, his men, lying upon the country, “were spoiling and burning gentlemen's houses, cloisters, churches and villages, taking his subjects, killing divers and the rest ransoming them,” using them with such cruelty that Stephen le Sieur said he had never heard the like. It must be remembered, however, that he was not an unprejudiced observer.
On p. 92 will be found an interesting narrative of the affairs of Cologne from the resignation of Salentin of Isenburg in 1574, and of the attitude of the Princes of Germany. It is written with a distinct bias towards the Reformed party and the old Archbishop, but without bitterness.
Dr. Lobetius and old Dr. Sturm still send occasional letters from Strasburg, a good deal occupied with the wrongs suffered by Sturm from the King of Navarre and the Prince of Condé, who had never paid him for what he had written for them during twenty years. Also he had a controversy with the “consuls” of Speier, who accused him of perjury, blasphemy and sedition, because he had fallen away from the Augsburg Confession, defended the Gallican Churches, and denounced the doctrine De Ubiquitate; in other words had gone over from Lutheranism to Calvinism (p. 131). In March, 1584, Dr. Sturm wrote a long letter to the Queen concerning methods of improving her horses and horsemen by importing German stallions and artificers. The most interesting part of the letter is his reminiscence of what he had seen in the war of 1545, when Boulogne was occupied by the English (p. 406).
There are many papers in the volume in relation to the mission of Ségur-Pardailhan to the protestant princes of Germany. He was despatched thither by his master, the King of Navarre, in July, 1583, with the avowed object of bringing about harmony between the various reformed churches, arranging for the holding of a general synod, and especially, obtaining a warmer recognition for the French churches from those of Germany. The gulf between the Ubiquitarians of Saxony or Brandenburg and the Huguenots of France was too deep for there to be much chance of bridging it over, as no doubt Henry of Navarre knew well, but it was extremely important for him to establish or strengthen friendly relations with the protestant princes, and in this part of his negotiation Ségur was very successful.
The struggle between the Hanse towns and the English Merchants Adventurers still continued. The English had been warmly supported, even in defiance of threats from the Emperor, by Count Edzard of East Friesland. Dr. Henry van Holtz or Holte was also working as a sort of half accredited agent on their behalf. In the spring of 1584, reports were sent to England that Edzard had become “absolute Spanish” and in June the Queen sent Herle over to enquire into the matter. However that might be, his remonstrances to the Emperor had borne fruit, and in an imperial decree dated June 4 (n.s.) and a letter to the Electors, which no doubt accompanied it, Rudolf declared his opinion: 1, that the banishment of the English was not desired by the Empire as a whole; 2, that he feared it would harm the merchants of the Empire and probably even the Hanses themselves, and that therefore he did not think it well to put into execution the decree of the Diet of Augsburg, but rather to send an embassy to the Queen, trusting by friendly treaty to bring the matter to a quiet end. In his letter to the Electors, he goes more fully into his reasons for this, especially emphasising the fact that her Majesty would believe the action to be taken “by way of reprisals” and might revenge herself on the whole trade of the “Dutch nation” (pp. 513, 517).
Apart from the affairs of the Low Countries, the most important notices of Spain relate to the mission of Waad, sent by Elizabeth to announce and explain her dismissal of Mendoza. Of this, a very full account is given in his statement on p. 391. See also his letter on p. 446.
There are about a dozen letters from Harborne, but they are extremely disappointing. We know from the Venetian Calendar that at this very time, this capable English agent was holding his own against the combined efforts of the French and Venetian ambassadors, the latter of whom had orders from his Government that the English were to be opposed at all points; that he had obtained a renewal of the cancelled treaty between England and the Sultan, and that in March, 1584, the Venetian Bailo wrote to his Government lamenting the failure of his efforts to procure the expulsion of the Englishman, and describing Harborne's bold defiance of all attempts to make him yield precedence to France. Yet beyond an occasional word of complaint against his rivals, he hardly ever mentions diplomatic matters, but devotes the whole of his long despatches to accounts of the doings of the Turkish forces and the Turkish Court. His letters are worded in most fantastic fashion, and are usually written from beginning to end in cipher. Having had to wade through these myself, I have printed them at length, that no one else may need to take the trouble, but there is an intolerable deal of sack to a ha'porth of bread.
In making the abstracts for this Calendar, passages quoted verbatim have been put within inverted commas; but throughout, the actual wording has been retained as much as possible.
A list of proverbs or proverbial sayings is given in the Index. The obsolete words in the volume are mostly such as formed a part of the ordinary language of the 16th century, amongst them being “to hackle some words” (p. 51) “stand to their tackling” (p. 95) “fly the tilt” (p. 251);“garnish” money (p. 357); “gird” meaning a blow or check (p. 360); cannot “away” = cannot abide or endure (p. 401); “surbated” i.e. footsore (p. 478) “in a gogge”== agog (p. 380)“a jollity” in the sense of a jest (p. 560) to “take saie” i.e. try by tasting (p. 582) “white” used apparently (a sense given in the N.B.D.) as a term of endearment (p. 612)“treacher” for traitor (p. 626) and to “go through stitch” i.e. to perform thoroughly (p. 645). Also many which are now in use with different meaning, such as accident, alteration, amazement, commodity, impeach, let, naughty, pretend, respect, success, &c. The word “Dutch” is slowly changing. It still generally means “Deutsch” or High-Dutch, but now and again is clearly used in relation to the people or language of the Northern Netherlands.
I am myself responsible for the Index. It will be noticed that the references are not (as in previous volumes) to the number, but to the page. The Domestic and Spanish Calendars have always been thus indexed, and Mr. Hinds has already made the change in the Venetian volumes; so that all the Public Record Office Calendars of State Papers are now indexed on the same plan.
In conclusion, I must offer my very sincere acknowledgments to M. le Comte Baguenault de Puchesse for his kind and generous offer to help me in the identification of French names, an offer of which I have freely and gratefully availed myself. Three names have defied identification: du Halde and Raigny (in a letter of Stafford's, p. 165) and the war of the Petithyt (p. 616), but as they are quite clearly written, they can only be left as they stand.
As the figures of Burnham's cipher (see p. 425n) are peculiar and would have each to be cut separately, it has been thought better, instead of printing the key here, to place a copy of it in Vol. I. of Foreign Ciphers, temp. Eliz. at the Public Record Office.