Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 20, September 1585-May 1586. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1921.
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The present volume opens with Elizabeth's decision to take the protectorate of the United Provinces of the Low Countries, and covers the time of the final negotiations and the first six months of the Earl of Leicester's government. It is a period so well known to students that no further account of the general course of events need be given than is necessary to link together the notices of letters and other papers which shed side lights upon the situation.
The treaty between Elizabeth and the States was signed on August 10, 1585, old style: Certain points, especially as to the exact number of troops to be furnished by her Majesty, were left for future arrangement, a few of the deputies remaining in England for that purpose, while the rest returned home.
On September 3 the Queen wrote to inform the States General that she had determinded to increase her “succour,” as they desired, from four to five thousand foot, together with a thousand horse; and to send a nobleman of quality to take charge of these forces and assist the States by his advice in the government. This restricted definition of her lieutenant's powers occurs two or three times (see pp. 187, 188), but its wisdom was by no means generally conceded. Two of the supporters of the English alliance urged the importance of her Majesty's lieutenant having absolute authority in regard to the war; one of the writers on the ground that few of those in the Council of State had judgment of knowledge enough to decide such matters, and that all was guided by Count Hohenlohe (well known to be more brave and impetuous than wise); the other bringing forward the old difficulty, that the several provinces were too intent on their particular interests to give due heed to what was best for the country at large (pp. 76, 108).
In giving her consent to the increased succour, Elizabeth strongly emphasised one condition. The Brill and Flushing with its neighbouring fort of Rammekens must be put into her hands, garrisoned by her troops and governed by her officers. The importance of thus securing control of the Scheldt and the estuary of the old Rhine was obvious, and Davison, who had now returned to the United Provinces, did not think much difficulty would be made, if the Queen chose governors pleasing to the townspeople. It was feared that, as regards Flushing, the private rights of Count Maurice, inherited from his father, might prove an obstacle; but the young Prince very graciously expressed his willingness to waive his claims. As regards the choice of the nobleman, Leicester's name seems to have been brought forward from the first, (fn. 1) but when it was supposed that she had finally fixed upon him, the Queen suddenly veered round, and on Sept. 5 Walsingham wrote that she did not now seem inclined to use the Earl's services, and he believed that Lord Gray [i.e. Lord Grey of Wilton] would be the man; whom he considered very “sufficient” for the post, save for his lack of wealth (p. 8): a serious reservation in view of the usual effect of high office abroad upon the purses of Elizabeth's ministers. The supposed reason for the change was the Queen's indignation against Leicester “at the proposed carrying down of his lady.” There is no further allusion to this point amongst the State Papers, but in the following February her anger was roused by a report of the same kind. (fn. 2)
For the government of Flushing, Sir Philip Sydney was believed to be the favoured candidate; but in this also the Queen wavered, and in a fit of indignation, imagining that she meant to give the charge to another, he hastily began to make arrangements for going to sea with Drake. His father-in-law, Walsingham, thought his suspicions were mistaken (p. 24), and so it proved. He was persuaded to give up his intention and eventually received the appointment he desired.
The negotiations for the surrender of Flushing and the Brill appeared to be nearing a happy termination, and Davison had sent orders to Col. Norreys, commander of the British forces, to make ready his most loyal and best qualified captains and companies to send thither, when matters were suddenly brought to a dead-lock; Elizabeth refusing to appoint and send over her governors until the towns were actually in her hands, and the States being reluctant to deliver them before the names of those who were to receive them were made known. In regard to the general administration of the country, the Queen desired the States General to renew the powers of the present Council of State until she should send over her lieutenant, at whose coming they might “with his advice, upon conference with the well-affected and experienced in the state of the country . . . establish further either that or some other form of government” that should be found most convenient(p. 29).
Davison found great difficulty in settling those details of the treaty which had been left for subsequent arrangement, and in the end, fearful of further delay, and alarmed by symptoms that many persons in the States were still plotting to overthrow the settlement and make advances to the enemy, he ventured to yield certain vexed points without again submitting them to her Majesty. Upon this, the States General gave warrant to Hohenlohe to withdraw their garrisons from the two cautionary towns, and surrender them into Davison's hands. Norreys chose the companies—five for Flushing and its attendant fort of Rammekens and three for the Brill—and on the last day of September the States' men marched out of this latter town and the English entered, being welcomed with bonfires, ringing of bells and firing of artillery. Public prayers and thanksgiving for her Majesty's protection followed; Davison formally received the keys of the town and delivered them into the care of Captain Henry Norreys until a governor should arrive, and the day closed with a supper and banquet (fn. 3) given by the magistrates to the English ambassador and captains (pp. 57, 58).
The surrender of Flushing was delayed by storms which hindered the coming both of Count Hohenlohe and of the English companies. These latter arrived on Oct. 9, and very disappointing Davison found them; their captains “all young commanders, and their companies neither so strong or well-furnished . . . as had been convenient, and of those a great many sick and some dead by the way,” and so entirely without pay that Davison had to borrow on his own credit to provide them with both money and clothes. The letter of their leader, Edward Norreys, is more like an account of the sufferings of shipwrecked mariners than of the passage of men from one part of a civilized country to another. He wrote that they had parted from his brother five companies, all strong, but that “lying ten days in open boats in continual rain and tempest, thrust together, sometimes without bread or drink,” and eight days more in a church at Middelburg, had so “infected” them and spoiled their garments that many were dead, a great many sick and the rest so ragged that the cold air would probably make them sick also. Everything in Flushing was so dear that the men would hardly be able to spare anything for clothes, especially as they had to pay ready money for all they bought, and if the townspeople saw the soldiers weak and ragged it might have very evil results, for though for the most part they were well-affected, they were a rude, strong people, who had never known any law save their own (p. 103). The population, indeed, as was likely in the case of a great port, seems to have been of a sort which might give trouble. Jacques Rossell compared the town to a Noah's ark, full of all sorts of wild beasts, although there were also many good ones; and Davison urged the special need of keeping the English companies well supplied if they were to hold the town in good order, especially seeing that they came as strangers in place of those who were of the same country and language as the townsmen, and so “thoroughly fashioned to their humours” (pp. 76, 96).
Hohenlohe did not arrive until October 18. Finding the companies so weak, he and Davison decided that they must all be put into the town, and another company be summoned from Bergen-op-Zoom for the fort. On the 19th they marched in and the States' garrison departed.
On learning that Flushing and the Brill had been actually given into Davison's hands, the Queen announced that she had chosen Sir Philip Sydney and Sir Thomas Cecil to be their governors, and sent letters to the two towns informing them of the fact and assuring them that she had given her governors strict orders to enforce the good behaviour of her soldiers towards the townspeople and to hold all in the towns “in very singular esteem”; hoping that on their part they would yield her garrisons due honour and obedience and give them welcome and good treatment (p. 130). The Instructions, drawn up by the Privy Council, are on p. 132.
Just at this time Elizabeth seems to have had one of her fits of discontentment and fear of expense. In answer to a letter which is not amongst the papers, Davison wrote that whatever might be thought of the value of these garrisons at home, they were there esteemed as no small increase to her Majesty's honour, surety and greatness; that is, if she were as careful in keeping them as happy in getting them; but of this, the “cold beginning” made him doubtful. Moreover, he saw no cause she had to shrink at her charge hitherto, for she had not yet disbursed more than five or six thousand pounds, besides what he himself had been compelled to take up, to save her from dishonour and disgrace. Over how long or short a time this sum had been spread he does not say (p. 154).
On the same day he wrote to Burghley, complaining bitterly of the shifts to which he had been driven for relief of the soldiers, without which the garrison could not have entered Flushing at all. Nothing was yet heard of the coming of the Treasurer, or of any order from him; the captains could do nothing, and he himself (unless he would see the poor men starve) must once again offer his own poor credit in order to borrow money. Moreover, if the governors, when they came, did not choose better captains than had been thrust into the cautionary towns by Colonel Norreys, they would do themselves a great deal of wrong and her Majesty's service a great deal of hurt.
Davison appears to have been vexed with Norreys for sending his two brothers severally as senior captain to the Brill and Flushing. Then a dispute arose as regards the commander of the Rammekens, Edward Norreys attempting to supersede the captain sent from Bergen, and to put in, by virtue of a warrant obtained from the General, a nominee of his own. Finally Edward Norreys attacked Davison on the subject of his men's lack of pay. A small amount, he said, had been imprested and the ambassador had promised the rest within six days, but then sent word that he would meddle no more in it, saying they must shift for themselves, for he had told the merchants to travail no more about it (pp. 165–6).
This tale, on the face of it, is not very credible, especially in view of Davison's previous efforts on the soldiers' behalf. And dated only one day later than Edward Norreys' letter is one from the ambassador himself which effectually refutes the accusations, showing that he had again been straining his credit to the utmost in order to procure further advances from the merchants to relieve the poor men in their want and misery.
In spite of these irritations, Davison protested that he complained of Colonel Norreys very unwillingly; that he loved and honoured him, and desired to serve him, but must be excused if he respected less (as he wished the General did also) the pleasuring of his friends than her Majesty's service. This again was evidently a hit at his supposed favouritism to his brothers (p. 159).
It may perhaps have been deserved, but on the whole there can be no doubt that Norreys carried himself well and honourably as “Colonel-general” of the English forces in the Low Countries, a post for which he had resigned to his brother his high office of Lord President of Munster. He was firmly persuaded from the first that the only way of opposing Parma's advance was by keeping a good army in the field, and greatly deplored having to send so many of his companies into garrisons, thus “dispersing them into corners” from which it would be hard to draw them together again. The newly completed musters showed him that he could command 10,000 foot—English and of the country—“all in very good order and complete”; and if to these were joined the horsemen from England and the German reiters hired by the States, now hanging about uselessly on the frontiers, he was confident that he could so keep the field that the Spaniards would not dare to attempt anything (p. 30 et seq.).
But his views were overborne by the opposition of a strong party in the States and the timidity of the Queen. When Davison sent the orders to make ready troops for the cautionary towns, he also, echoing the wishes of the ruling powers, protested against the risking of the English forces in the field, and urged their distribution into garrisons for the winter, as the Council of State desired (p. 27). Norreys, as in duty bound, sent the troops for Flushing and the Brill, and also complied with the States' demand for companies to strengthen the garrison at Bergenop-Zoom; but it was against his will and with great misgivings as to the result. His difficulties, moreover, were increased by jealousies between Counts Hohenlohe and Neuenaar (or Mœurs, as the English called him), the Generals of the States' forces. He had much ado, as he told Walsingham, to carry an indifferent hand between them, yet if either of them became discontented, it might be very hurtful to the cause. There was also a longstanding quarrel between the deposed Elector Truchsess and Neuenaar, owing to the latter having constituted himself governor of Rheinberg, after taking it from the new Elector, Ernest of Bavaria, in which quarrel Hohenlohe supported Truchsess. With unselfish disregard of the effect upon his own position, Norreys emphasised the fact that only the intervention of “one of the greatest account in England” would be able to settle their differences, and also to take precedence, without offence, of the young Maurice of Nassau; and such a man, he emphatically declared, must most certainly be sent over if her Majesty was to have any success in these affairs (pp. 33, 34). If he had foreseen what a thorn in his side the great man was to prove, perhaps he would hardly have urged the point so strongly.
At the beginning of October Norreys determined to attempt the taking of a fort above Arnhem, (fn. 4) in spite of the increasing sickness of his men, Davison's renewed arguments against action, and the States' unwillingness that he should keep the field. This at least was Davison's view of the action of the States General, but Jacques Rossell, whose information is generally accurate, declared that the States themselves kept the General employed in Gueldres, thinking that it would tend rather to the disrepute than to the honour of her Majesty, and desiring, by hindering her affairs, to bring her into contempt (p. 93). Whether this was their attitude at this particular time may however be doubted.
On October 13 the English began to batter, but without much effect, owing to the unskilfulness of the gunners and the breadth of the river. In an attack by water, the misdirected zeal of the men caused the death of many, but their commander was much pleased with their daring, and prophesied good things from them in the future. The rising of the river compelled him to dismount his artillery and threatened delay in the operations, but at this juncture the defenders sent to parley with him and gave up the place. Colonel Fremin (who calls it “the great fort") wrote that Norreys kept the captains prisoners, but both the General's own report and that of one of his captains seem to disprove this (pp. 84, 87, 89, 120).
Norreys and Neuenaar then proceeded to another fort, Berckshooft (spelt in half a dozen different ways by the English letter-writers), which surrendered without firing a shot. In this case the captain, being thought to be a Turk, (fn. 5) because he would not yield as the garrison did, was given up to Norreys and imprisoned at Arnhem (p. 120).
The Queen sent a congratulatory letter to Norreys on his first success, but plainly showed that she was displeased. She would (she wrote) have “liked best” that he had remembered her orders to stand only upon the defensive, both from her care for her subjects' lives, and because her meaning in the present action, as she had notified to the world, (fn. 6) was “principally to defend.” Also she reminded him that she had desired him to have a special care that “the young gentlemen of best birth” accompanying him should be spared from all hazardous attempts, such as the assault upon the fort had plainly been (p. 126). It is pleasant to remember how completely the young gentlemen of best birth on all occasions prevented their commanders from carrying out her Majesty's instructions.
After the capture of this second fort, Norreys remained near Nymegen, fortifying himself, but unable to take any active measures against the town without more troops, especially as Parma had sent fresh forces towards it as soon as he heard of its danger. According to Davison, the enemy had now in those parts 9,000 foot besides eight or nine cornets of horse, while the troops with Norreys did not exceed two or three thousand (fn. 7) in all, wherefore it was to be hoped that he would be better advised than to risk defeat (p. 157). Evidently, attack in such a case was impossible, but it is easy to conceive how the General must have fretted at being thus condemned to inaction.
When from Norreys and his forces we turn to the Prince of Parma and his army, we are at once met by the difference between one supreme command, and this in the hands of a great soldier and skilled politician, and a coalition such as that opposed to him. The English General may well have envied his great antagonist's ability to move and strike at his will, while he found himself fettered and harassed by the differing interests and contrary orders of Elizabeth and the States, or the insubordination and quarrels of his fellow commanders, Hohenlohe and Neuenaar, all preventing that freedom of action which, had he possessed it, might have led him to victory. For Parma was encompassed by difficulties, and two things he always lacked, money and provisions. The provinces he had subdued were wasted by the long wars; from the towns which he had taken, trade and prosperity had fled with the Protestant merchants who were turned out of them or forsook them when the Spanish rule was restored. Frequent allusions amongst these papers confirm what we know from his own imploring appeals to his master. We have already seen the lamentable accounts sent by Davison and others to England of the state of the English troops and thus we have a picture of the rival forces, each crippled and confined by lack of support from their Sovereign. If either Philip or Elizabeth had at this time boldly and suddenly thrown a strong force with adequate supplies of money and provisions into the Low Countries, the other side must have gone down before it.
There were frequent reports that the Prince desired to come to an agreement with the States Hohenlohe—goes so far as to say that he daily boasted of his intention (p. 52)—and it is very probable that if he had been able to offer the more Protestant provinces “freedom of exercise of religion,” as well as “freedom of conscience,” they would have accepted the terms. But freedom of “exercise” was a point which Philip refused to the United Provinces as steadily as Elizabeth denied it to the Roman Catholics in her dominions.
The loss of Antwerp had been a great tragedy for the United Provinces, but it was not an equally great gain to the enemy. Nearly all the wealthy men had left it and its trade was at a standstill, for the Holland fleet still rode off Lillo, and the entrance to the Scheldt was guarded by Flushing and by Sluys, both held by the States and garrisoned by English soldiers. Ostend, too, had been left uncaptured in Parma's march through Flanders, and what we learn of it in this volume sheds a curious light on the very restricted nature of the hostilities at this time. It was undoubtedly a great thorn in the side of Philip's generals, for the horsemen of the garrison harried the country far and wide, and we see from the reports of the English captain there that it was not in a condition to offer any serious defence (pp. 21 et seq.); yet only once do we hear of its safety being threatened, when, at the end of November, some Walloon companies under La Motte approached it. But, far from attempting to attack it, they merely sat down and waited, in the hope—we are told—that the English would sally forth to attack them, and that then their friends inside would seize the town and open the gates to admit them. The plan was ingenious, and certainly very prudent, but it failed, as the English captain, Erington, saw through the device and refused to let his men go out. Whereupon La Motte presently withdrew to Oudenborg, contenting himself with building more forts thereabouts, to bridle the excursions of the garrison (p. 184). The governor of Ostend was Maximilian de Hornes, Count of Lokeren (called M. de Locre by the English) and with him were eight companies of his countrymen, six of English foot, and a cornet of horse. As to their condition, there was the usual tale. Captain Robert Sydney, going over upon the rumour of a siege, reported that they were all in great misery and had not received a penny for four months. The States had now sent one month's money, but the men were still dissatisfied, and the more so that they had hoped to be transferred to her Majesty's pay, swearing that they would rather kill themselves than remain in the States' service. Every day men went over to the enemy, and most of the townspeople left there (for half the town was unpeopled) were Papists. There was food only for three weeks, no reserve of arms and very little powder. All the victuals had to come from Flushing and Holland; everything was very dear, and the people had no money. In spite of promises, the States sent nothing, and the warships of Dunkirk scoured u and down before the town, so that no small bark dared stir. The governor had shown all courtesy to the English captains, and both Sydney and Erington believed him to be true, but he was very poor, and all his friends were on the other side, which gave rise to so much suspicion that but for Erington's influence the States' troops would have mutinied against him (pp. 184,191). Some report of this danger may previously have reached England, for the day after the date of Sydney's letter both the Queen and Leicester wrote in very friendly fashion to M. de Locre, the former praising his zeal and affecton to his country and the common cause, and the latter sending him cannoneers, powder and other needful things, with promise of further succour if requred (p. 186).
The Spanish hold upon Antwerp was somewhat endangered by the strong States' garrison, chiefly English troops, at Bergen-op-Zoom; therefore it was suspected that the next serious attempt might be against this town. Roger Williams, who was in temporary command there, reported that immediately after he and his troops arrived, towards the end of September, 1585, the enemy forces from Antwerp showed themselves before it, and it was rumoured that they were making preparations for a siege. Williams thought this likely, for certainly if these forces marched anywhere eise the Bergen garrison would “undo” Antwerp. He had not the slightest hope that the walls of Bergen would stand battering with such guns as the enemy would be able to bring, and they had in the town but four guns worth anything, and very little ammunition; but the stout Welshman was not dismayed. Let the foe come:
“With God's help he shall be fought withal on the breach and come on't what will, he never gets one of our ensigns. . . At the worst, I will burn them” (p. 70).
Williams feared treachery and cowardice on the States' side more than he feared the enemy. He had urgently pressed the coming of the Queen's garrisons to the cautionary towns, for he believed the Prince of Parma had many instruments in Holland and Zeeland; and the people were “very timorous and variable, apt to conclude to a shameful peace or to deliver places impregnable at any overthrow.” The fleet at Lillo (where twelve years ago they had two hundred men-of-war) did not now number thirty ships, while Antwerp had not only more mariners and shipping, but was better provided with artillery, munitions and other provisions for a fleet (p. 70). Perhaps there was some exaggeration in this, as otherwise it is hardly credible that Parma would have lost the chance of putting the States' fleet out of action. He was, however, at this time greatly hindered by his old difficulty, want of money. He had managed to pay his Spaniards and Italians, but the Walloons and Germans were still unsatisfied; a tumult ensued between them and the Spaniards, their chronic jealousy being inflamed by what they considered the partiality shown by the Prince, and to his great indignation they made a marauding sally into the Pays de Waes, killing cows and sheep to supply their lack of meat. He sent Spanish troops to block their return route and force them to capitulate, but it was nearly a week before they were brought into order, and this gave Colonel Norreys the opportunity to gain the two forts in Guelderland. But so soon as the mutiny was appeased, Parma, as already mentioned, sent more forces against him, and in the first week of November marched himself towards Grave with his best troops (pp. 121, 127, 137, 141). Davison estimated his force to be eight or nine thousand men, and Jacques Rossell reported that eight thousand more were on their way from Italy to join him. His main camp was at Turnhout, in that district of Brabant known as Kempenland or La Campine, where it was supposed his army might probably winter, the country being apparently not eaten so bare as were most other parts (pp. 155, 162).
“That in intercepted letters from the Prince, he writes to the King of Spain that he sees no means whatever of putting an end to these wars. . . if his Majesty will not grant the two religions to the country; and that those who give his Majesty contrary advice are not faithful or loving servants to him. This language makes men believe that he is weary of the war, and that if he finds himself pressed in the future. . . he will seek for an accord” (p. I62).
I have not found any trace of this intercepted letter elsewhere, (fn. 8) but there is nothing improbable in the statements, either as to his desire for toleration or his weariness of the war. He must certainly have been very weary of Philip's lack of support!
The Prince's next objective was reported to be Neuss, on the Rhine. He had persuaded the Duke of Cleves to make a fort close to the town on the German bank of the river, professedly to save the Duke's own country from being pillaged (p. 195), which made it difficult for the garrison to issue out and get provisions. But it soon appeared that not Neuss but Grave was to be attacked. At the beginning of December his forces were lying round about that city. At the same time Nymegen was threatened, for Count Neuenaar had lost the fort which Norreys had built in the Betuwe, over against it (p. 160), giving it up, Colonel Morgan declared, without any fighting, on the mere appearance of the enemy; and Parma seized a bridge over the Mass, thus gaining easy access to the land between the two rivers where Nymegen stood (p. 200).
In the early days of December the Spaniards made an incursion into Bommelsward, but fell into a trap, for Hohenlohe opened the sluices and cut the dykes, compelling them to take refuge on a small island, with some of the States' men-of-war on one side and two sconces held by the Count's men on the other, cutting them off from Bois-le-Duc. Here they were in great straits until, “through fear or falsehood,” the sconces were abandoned and the imprisoned Spaniards got safely back to their town. A great opportunity was lost, for there were three thousand of them, while Hohenlohe had not one thousand. The man who abandoned the sconces was a Dutch captain called Rattel, and as he and his ensign both fled, it was supposed they were in league with the enemy. This account, sent by Colonel Morgan, who had been to confer with Count Hohenlohe, differs in several respects from that given by Meteren, who draws an equally tragic picture of the misery and danger in which the invaders found themselves, but describes them as remaining in Bommelsward, opposite to Empel, and gives as a reason for their escape that a frost came on, causing Hohenlohe to withdraw his ships for fear of their being caught in the ice. Then a thaw supervened and “the fort of Locht” being abandoned the people of Bois-le-Duc were able to rescue the whole army. The rescued forces marched towards Grave, and it was believed they would spend the winter in clearing Guelderland, which, as Norreys bitterly remarked, they might easily do, “the States having no army in the field to ‘let’ them” (pp. 199, 203).
On Dec. 19–29 Count Charles Mansfeldt, who had command of the operations before Grave, wrote a persuasive letter to the Heer van Hemert, governor of the city, arguing that it was as fitting “for a prudent, noble and valorous man . . . to foresee evident evil as to maintain himself resolutely in fair and safe times”; and the wise man “should rather run to the arms of his father, stretched out to receive him, than wait until at the end of his toils he finds a great dog with gaping jaws ready to suck his blood.” From the strangers he was proposing to assist he must expect nothing but ruin, while the King, his natural prince, wished only to bring his people once more, as in the days of their grandfathers, into the Golden Age. Wherefore, by authority of the Prince of Parma, he promised that the people of Grave, soldiers and townsmen alike, should remain entirely undisturbed, if they would take the oath of fealty, which as a compatriot he earnestly prayed them to do. Hemert's answer to this is remarkable, in view of his subsequent treachery. It was not, he held, “the part of true nobility to be resolute only in fair and safe times,” but every man of honour should be firmly resolute for the defence of his fatherland, undeterred by fear of evil. He believed God would give them strength to confound the designs of the wisest, and desired no other end to his labours than to see their country preserved from the “horrible tragedies” of the Spanish strangers. Moreover, if the King should incline to listen to the just complaints of his poor people, “not in order to put them into a Golden Age, but only to assure them of their life and property” against the vengeance of their enemies, the application for reconciliation must be made not to himself, but to those to whom he was bound by oath to guard the town (pp. 225, 226).
When the month of November came to an end, there was still no news of the coming of the Earl of Leicester, who, it was now generally understood, had been appointed to the chief command. Roels, pensionary of Zeeland, one of the most zealous and intelligent advocates of the English protectorate, earnestly pressed the necessity for his lordship's speedy dispatch, for “those of Holland,” with whom the chief power lay, made no effort to find moneys, and took no good order either as to the government or for General Norreys, “whom they deceive, professing to be going to make conquests, where we are sure to lose the whole district if he is not properly supplied” (p. 122). While hoping that these “machinations” might be set right by the presence of the Earl, he strongly urged the need for him to have due authority, that is:—
“letters from her Majesty in the terms of the treaty, that they are to pay his Excellency the same respect as to her own person, seeing that she will not recommend him for governor, which, under correction, she really ought to do . . . (p. 175).
From a letter sent from England to Sluys at the beginning of November it would appear that Elizabeth had been once again dissatisfied with Leicester and doubtful about sending him, but a few days later Walsingham, while acknowledging that there had been a hitch, announced that the matter was now “salved” and that the Earl and the two governors meant to embark on the 16th (p. 146). Sir Philip Sydney, however, was the only one of the three who then went over. On November 18, o.s., he arrived at Flushing, unexpectedly, for he was forced by the weather to disembark near Rammekins, found no one there to meet him, and had to walk the three miles which lay between the fort and the town. Here he was received in such manner as haste would permit; was very honourably entertained at the States' house, and at once set to work to investigate the condition of the place, his conclusion being that the defences were very weak and the garrison very small (pp. 176, 177).
Until the Earl of Leicester's arrival the young Count Maurice held the foremost official rank in the Provinces. After the murder of the Prince of Orange he was made nominal head of the new Council of State, and towards the end of the year was appointed governor of Holland, Zeeland and Frise, in succession to his father, but the appointment had never been confirmed. This was now done, with proviso however that he should administer the same under the Earl as Governor-General and obey him in all that concerned his Excellency's commission (pp. 155, 181). He had, as already mentioned, proved very amenable as regards his private interests in Flushing; and it was not thought there would be any friction between him and the English governor.
The Queen was still cavilling as to the power Leicester was to have. He would as soon be dead, he wrote to Walsingham on December 3rd, as go over unless he might have more authority than her Majesty intended (p. 193). But things had gone too far for him to draw back, and two days later he wrote that he would go to the camp, where it seemed his authority must wholly lie [i.e. over the forces only], and there do his duty, but if her Majesty dealt in this sort she would overthrow her own cause (p 197). In view of these letters, it cannot be said that Leicester went over to the Low Countries in ignorance of the Queen's views on this subject. As to money, he continued what was gone and going would only serve to the end of the month. If he had not wherewithal to pay the troops, “let them come home or what else,” he would neither starve them nor stay them.
“For my own part (he concludes), I have taken upon me this voyage not as a desperate or forlorn man, but one well contented with his place at home and calling as any subject was ever, and my cause was not is nor is other than the Lord and the Queen. If the Queen fail, yet must I trust in the Lord, and on Him I see I am wholly to depend. I can say no more, but pray to God that her Majesty never send General again as I am sent; and yet I will do what I can for her and my country.”
Leicester went on board the Amity (or as he calls it, the Amethyst) on Wednesday, December 8; sailed on the 9th and reached flushing on the 10th. Here he was met by his nephew, Sir Philip Sydney, and the next day the young Count Maurice, with deputies from the States General, came to welcome him. On the 12th he proceeded to Middelburg (fn. 9) (p. 212).
“I know not what war that might be called, to suffer the enemy to carry away four or five towns from us when so easily they might be saved, . . . neither was the hazard so great to bring twelve companies (of 50) into the field, especially for an great to bring twelve importance. And as for the loss of soldiers . . . few of them that are missing are perished either by the enemy or for want of victual; neither is it any new thing to see soldiers fall sick and run from the war; for since I knew Ireland it was never seen that of any companies sent thither by her majesty the half of them were to be found within six months.”
“Within few days after, the same enemy which durst not before look upon us, passed the river, and so amazed our Dutchmen [Germans], that they disorderly abandoned the fort, and left some of their artillery behind them” (p. 219).
On Friday, December 17, the Earl of Leicester left Middelburg, and, according to Sir John Conway's cheery account, had a good passage by way of Veere and Armue, at which latter place the people “showed their joy by vehement cries to God for the Queen's health and happiness for sending him, and gave him a brave volley of shot.” A great mist held up the fleet until the 20th, by which time they were very short of provisions and would have been in still greater distress if the people had not sent them a gift of beer, bread, butter and cheese. Going by way of Dordrecht and Rotterdam, at both which places his lordship was joyfully received and kindly entertained, they reached Delft on Christmas Eve, spent the festival there, and on the 27th went to the Hague. Conway gives an interesting description of the fertility of the country and the stateliness of the buildings. The people he described as “very covetous, industrious and no doubt passing rich,” showing themselves outwardly zealous and loyal towards the Queen, and probably really preferring her rule to that of the States. Therefore he believed that if properly supported the Earl would be able so to handle matters as to please and profit her Majesty and increase his own and his country's honour. But he must have men and money enough, which are the sinews of war. The bands already in the country were now weak and pitiful, and of those come over with him there were too few to do good service; “yet all covetous to rule which have not learned to obey” (p. 243 et seq.).
On St. Stephen's Day the Earl's preacher “invited all to a general communion,” after which his lordship read his commission and made a pithy speech, showing his men why they were come and what obedience and service they must make up their minds to give. He would put no man to any peril which he would not himself share, and if any were unable or unwilling to undertake this service he required him to return home, “with thanks due for that he had done.” Sir Thomas Sherley, Lord North and Edw. Burnham also sent accounts of the journey (pp. 239, 245); and the last named seems to have used the short time to good purpose in gleaning information about the state of affairs. He wrote that there were many abuses which needed mending; that the companies now had only about half their men left; that the captains often dealt very hardly with their men, and that the garrison of Flushing was too small for the size of the town, and, as he feared, in case any quarrel should arise, was likelier to be governed by the townspeople than that these should be governed by Sir Philip.
The pensionary of Zeeland, Christopher Roels, shared his fears that there were rocks ahead. The States of Holland had not yet decided upon the authority of the new Governor-General: all the provinces had granted executoriales to establish the authority of the Council of State in Count Maurice's name, which now must be drawn up in that of the Earl; better pay must be secured to the English soldiers, as for want of money the towns were unwilling to receive them into garrison, and, above all, care must be taken that the rate of pay should be equal in all provinces and for all the troops (p. 247). At his going over, Leicester had asked the Queen for a supply of Irishmen, which Walsingham cordially approved, “both in respect of the hardness of that country people to abide travel” as also that the English were already beginning to “shrink” at the charge even of the little that had been already done. Leicester's idea was to send most of them to Sir William Stanley, and Stanley thought them “very sufficient for this place, in respect of their hardness and well training of their weapons”(pp. 232, 253). It had yet to be seen how “sufficient” for his purposes Stanley would find these zealous Catholic soldiers when it came to his betrayal of Deventer! Amongst the undated documents of 1585 is a long paper concerning Holland and Zeeland and the land of Utrecht; treating of their situation, the strength of their towns, number of their ships, how best they may prevail against the enemy, &c. It is unsigned, but written by someone who had been in touch with the Prince of Orange (p. 264).
The day after his arrival at the Hague, Leicester received the congratulations of the States General and the States of Holland, and on January 1, o.s., the States General, on behalf of the United Provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Friesland and Utrecht, offered him, as lieutenant for her Majesty, the whole government, martial and civil. They put under his command all governors and officers, both military and otherwise, and promised him all the ordinary taxes or “contributions,” together with 200,000 florins per month for maintenance, with many other dignities and honours. Lord North, sending the news to Burghley, wrote that he did not see his lordship as yet minded to accept it, at any rate unless he had guarantees for performance of the offers (p. 277). But Lord North was mistaken.
The most curious part of this business is that in spite of the many signs the Queen had given of wishing to limit his authority, Leicester does not seem in the least to have realised the situation. He was very anxious to have guarantees that the States' offers would be duly carried out, but apparently gave little or no thought to the effect which his acceptance of these offers was likely to have upon his mistress. He determined to send Davison to England, “as the man best able to satisfy her Majesty,” but rather by way of information than apology, and it was several weeks before he actually dispatched him.
Meanwhile, on January 14, he wrote a letter to Walsingham, which is not now amongst the State Papers, but is printed by Mr. Bruce in the Leicester Correspondence (p. 57) (fn. 10) and demands a moment's consideration before we pass to the answer sent to it by the Privy Council. In this letter he says that on receiving the States' offers he prayed for further time and consultation with them, wherein he thought they would find he had already more laid upon him than his weak shoulders could bear; that her Majesty had sent him only to serve them &c. &c. But when a deputation went to him on the following day for the further consultation, he entirely ignored this point, and plunged at once into a discussion concerning the forces and the means which they could put at his disposal. Once again they went to him, showing what moneys they proposed to give, and this time they did declare that he must take the whole government upon him, or all would be lost. They were followed, according to his account, by lords, captains, governors and magistrates, all pressing him if he loved her Majesty and the good of England and those countries to take the government, and that forthwith.
So far, all sounded fair, and had it continued to stand thus until her Majesty's pleasure was known, she would have had no ground for complaint against him, but his concluding words show that it did not. It was necessary, he said, “to take this way,” or all would be overthrown. He had done it for the best and so it would prove, if her Majesty accepted of it so. His only thought was for her service, and had he refused what they wished, all the lords and captains would have thrown over the service. This dispatch being written, he apparently considered the matter satisfactorily settled, for in his two or three following letters there is hardly an allusion to the subject. His letter of February 1st, for instance, contains a very warm recommendation of Davison to her Majesty's gracious consideration, but not a syllable of any need of intercession for himself. And, strangest of all, he did not write to the Queen!
His letter of January 14 had been received before the 26th, on which date the Privy Council drew up a reply, which is amongst the State Papers. This is fortunate, as the entry in the Council Register for this date is wanting. Her Majesty, they wrote, was much offended, finding it very strange that he had not plainly declared to the States how at all times she had refused to take any such government; which determination none knew better than himself, seeing that at his going away she had peremptorily charged him not to accept any such title and office. Wherefore her straight commandment was that he should not accept it, for if he did she would never “avow” him (p. 323).
The winds being contrary, it was sine time before he received the letter from the Council, but on February 7 he had heard someone in England that her Majesty objected to his taking the title of Excellency. “I marvel at it,” he wrote to Davison,"for when she made me an Earl I had that style due to me . . . If I had taken the name you know they were in hand to have given, of like she would have taken some cause to have misliked it. . . . I pray you, let it be known what they would have called me of I had not refused it"(p. 359). This is not the only time that Leicester hinted at some higher title offered to him (fn. 11) but what it was does not appear.
It was not until February 5 that Davison had his dispatch from the Hague and he was held back of some days by contrary winds. then for the first time, Leicester showed signs of impatience and urged him to hasten over “lest our cause take too great a prejudice there are you come; though I cannot fear it, because it is so good and honest” (p. 364). The ambassador sailed on Friday, February 11; reached England next day and on Sunday afternoon had his first audience of the Queen.
Elizabeth's burst of indignation when she first heard what had happend is well known and how in spite of Burghley's and Walsingam's mediation she at once resolved to send off Sir Thos Heneage with orders to Leicester to resign his authority as publicly as he had taken it they managed to delay Heneage's departure until Davison's return, but although he did his utmost to defend the Earl, his efforts were of no avail.
Of her celebrated letter to the Earl, written on February 10 there is no copy amongst the state papers, (fn. 12) but there is the draft of a preamble to Heneage's instruction, written in almost as bitter terms (p. 364).
the Queen's letters to the States General and the Council of State are dated February 13, and were probably written immediately after the audience. She reminded them that she herself had refused the absolute government when offered by their deputies, and informed them that she took it as an insult of them to have made to her subject the same offer which she herself had declined; especially seeing that in her lately published Declaration she had expressly said that she desired only to succour her good friends and neighbours, without meddling with the protection or sovereignty of their countries; wherefore to show the world the sincerity of this her avowal, she had determined to revoke the said authority and to order the Earl, whom she intended speedily to recall, to exercise no other form of government than was contained in her contract (p 371). Probably, however, she was persuaded to omit the words in italics, for in the draft they are underlined as if for deletion, and they do not appear in the full abstracts of the letters given by Bor and Meteren.
The following day, perhaps after giving her second audience to Davison, her tone to the States was much more friendly. In a letter of credence for Heneage, she graciously acknowledged and thanked them for their devotion to herself, and assured them that though unable to accept what they offered, she was still determined to aid in procuring their welfare and repose (p 376).
Before leaving England, Heneage was very anxious to be quite clear as to who and what the “States-General” were. Walsingham told him that they were “an assembly much like that of our burgesses that represent that State”; but it is not surprising that this definition failed to satisfy him, as it was quite apparent that the States General possessed powers infinitely greater than those of the English Parliament in the days of Elizabeth. The question was referred to davison, who at once sent a very clear and thoughtful answer to it (pp. 393,394).
Meanwhile, on February 8, Leicester had received the letter from the Council, which he answered on that day, both to the Council and to Walsingham, defending his conduct, but desiring to resign his place and retire into some obscure corner of the earth to end his “grievous days.: (fn. 13)
The new envoy arrived in the Low Countries on March 3. He was the bearer of the violent letter to the Earl already mentioned, and brought instructions to insist upon his making public resignation of his government, with as much solemnity as that with which it had been proclaimed. At the last moment, however, Burghley had persuaded his angry mistress to empower Heneage to withold a second letter which she had written to the Council of State, (fn. 14) if he thought that its delivery would be prejudicial to the public cause; and also, in the same contingency, not to insist on a public resignation. For although Burghley had not at all the same sympathy with Leicester which Walsingham had, he, in common with all Elizabeth's ministers, thought it a most serious mistake so scronfully to reject what was, after all, a very loyal attempt on the part of the States to make her protectorate a real thing and not a mere farce.
On Heneage's arrival, he delivered what Leicester calls “the very sharp letter” to the Council of State as ordered, after which he and Leicester, assisted by Clarke and Killigrew, the tow English members of the Council, conferred together how best to redeem the situation. They resolved to use the power given them to suppress the Queen's second letter, seeing that her first had caused much disturbance of mind, and for the rest, to utter so much in words “as might satisfy her,” but to give nothing more in writing. Heneage drew up his speech, and (Leicester having “perused and allowed it") pronounced it in the Council of State. He was followed by Dr. Bartholomew Clarke, commissioned by the Earl to protest his grief on being suspected of having violated the office deputed to him by her Majesty, and to declare his willingness to strip himself of all authority unless the Council of State could satisfy her that he had in no way contravened the late treaty or her recent Declaration. Nor would he delay to do so as soon as ever her Majesty declared it to be her will, unless (and the reservation is curious) he should see it to be to the danger of the provinces and loss to the common cause (pp. 445, 446).
The next day, march 15, Leicester wrote at length to Burghley and Walsingham, but without referring to his own affairs further than to pray that the poor soldiers might not be “beaten” for his sake. In truth there was some reason for the prayer, as Elizabeth's anger with him led to her refusal to send over any supplies. Not a penny of treasure, he said, had arrived since his coming; their credit was spent, they were perishing for want of food and clothing, and they could do no service outside their garrisons because they could not discharge their debts to the townspeople.
In a postscript he tells of the late exploit of Martin Schenck, “the only soldier in troth we have” (this was, of course, a sly hit at Norreys), at Werle in Westfalia, where he was reported to have killed, at his taking of the town and in a fight afterwards, above 3,000 of the enemy, with a loss of only some sixty men. But even if the numbers were not greatly exaggerated, it must be remembered that his opponents were chiefly townspeople and boors. Werle was too weak to be worth holding; but at this time Grave, in Brabant, a strong place and important from its position upon the Meuse, was being seriously threatened both by the enemy without and treason within. Leicester therefore dispatched a force under Count Hohenlohe to its relief, who successfully put in victuals and three hundred good soldiers. And so, the Earl concluded, he carried, he carried his grief inward, and would proceed with as little discouragement to the cause as he could; though his heart was broken, but not by the enemy (p. 446 et seq.). Two days later, he sent an impassioned letter to Burghley, meant to be shown to the Queen. He had often, he wrote, heard and read of good servants who for ill-success had incurred the displeasure of their Sovereigns, but seldom or never that when a man had brought matters to a sure and good pass he should receive worse reward for well-doing than any who had committed a most heinous offence. Yet such indeed was his case, for all there would bear witness that if he had not accepted the government as he did and when he did, the whole State would have been lost (p. 450 et seq.).
In answer to the Queen's complaints, the Council of State assured her that the commission granted to the Earl of Leicester differed in no way from what in like case had been given to other governors, and could not now be revoked without great danger to the State (p. 457).
The same day, March 18, Sir Philip Sydney wrote to Burghley declaring that Sir Thomas Heneage had, “with much honesty. . . done as much hurt as any man this twelvemonth had done with naughtiness"; but Sir Philip did not know how much more hurt might have been done if Heneage had obeyed his instructions in entirety (p. 458).
Another of Burghley's correspondents, Richard Cavendish, after reporting that, “as a man armed with the innocency of a good conscience,” the Earl of Leicester continued to labour for the safety of her Majesty and her State, “to the waste of his goods and adventure of his own life,” and that her withdrawal of her support would be the ruin both of those countries and of England, went on to say that a very grave and wise person had demanded of him whether it could possibly be that her Majesty should so lightly esteem of their willing submission to him whose whole care was but how best to obey and serve her. But—and this is the first time that the fear felt by so many as to the secret reason of Elizabeth's indignation finds voice in the letters from Holland—there were rumours that Champagney (Cardinal Granvelle's brother) had been boasting that he had in his hands conditions of a peace offered by the Queen to the King his master, and that it was in his power to conclude it at pleasure, two or three of her chiefest counsellors being appointed to handle the cause with him. This, if true, would assuredly bring ruin, for the people, worn out by long miseries, were already saying that they needed no mediator with Spain, as they could easily “conclude for themselves how with least mischief to become miserable again.” Cavendish waxed eloquent over the wealth, strength, shipping and abundance of mariners in those countries, and the danger of their falling into the power of the Spaniards, who nothing doubted in such case to bring about the ruin of England (p. 459 et seq.).
For the next act of the drama, we are dependent chiefly upon the letters at the British Museum, printed by Mr. Bruce. An emissary named Vavasor was sent over by Leicester, whose reports seem to have made a favourable impression upon Elizabeth; her ministers exercised strong pressure, Burghley going so far as to tender the resignation of his office, and last but not least a letter came to her from the erring favourite himself. On March 29, Ralegh was able to announce to him that her Majesty was well pacified, and that he was once again “her sweet Robin” (see Leicester Correspondence p. 194).
Amongst the papers now calendared, however, are her final letters on the subject to the Earl and to the Council of State. To the latter she at first wrote rather shortly, to the effect that having reflected that the laying down of “her cousin's” authority might bring danger of disturbance to the State, she had determined for a time to continue and establish him in it. This draft, however, was cancelled in favour of one written in a much warmer tone as regards Leicester; assuring the Council of her love for him, whom she esteemed as much devoted to her “as ever subject was to prince”; begging them not to diminish their goodwill or respect to him, and stating that she had given authority to him and Heneage to confer with them upon some course by which her honour might be saved and peril avoided. Her letter to Leicester of the same day was also superseded by one written in much less formal terms. If he was grieved at her displeasure, she was no less grieved by his conduct, but as his wounded mind had more need of comfort than reproof, she forebore to dwell further on the matter (pp. 500, 501, 510). And so the storm died down.
Elizabeth's anger against her favourite had cooled. Also she probably considered that she had vindicated her own position. There is no reason to doubt that she felt sincere sympathy for the sufferings of the people of the Low Countries, and desired to prevent their falling again into the cruel hands of a ruler such as Alva. Moreover, the safety of her own realm was involved. The danger of a Spanish invasion hung like a cloud over her head, and that danger, she well knew, would be immeasurably increased if Philip were to make himself master of Holland and Zeeland. Looking forward a little, we know how fatal to Spanish hopes was Parma's enforced inaction in 1588. If instead of his poor fleet of small ships, lying in harbours from which they could only emerge at certain times of the tides, the Scheldt had been in his hands, and all the shipping of the ports of the two great northern provinces under his control, to transport and defend his troops, the outcome might have been very different. Roger Williams was a true prophet when he affirmed that the King of Spain could do no harm to England without the shipping of the Low Countries.
But on the other hand, the imperious Queen, who called and felt herself “an absolute prince,” had found it difficult enough to bring her mind to give aid or encouragement to those whom she looked upon as in rebellion—though that rebellion had been forced upon them by cruelty and oppression—against their natural lord, and shrank altogether from allowing herself to be elected ruler in that lord's place. Instigated by these feelings, she had practically committed herself to a merely defensive policy by the “Declaration” issued after the conclusion of her Treaty with the States; in which she avowed that in sending her troops, she had but three objects: religious freedom for the provinces, restoration of their ancient liberties, and security for her own realm. She would be disgraced in the eyes of mankind, she declared in her Instructions to Heneage, if she did what would induce the opinion that this, her solemn published Declaration, was only intended to deceive the world. And to the States General she wrote that acceptance of the government would seem:—
estre du tout repugnante au contenu de la Declaration. . . par laquelle protestons de ne prendre ce party avecq aultre intention que seulement de secourir nos bons voysins et amys, sans nous vouloir aucunement mesler de la protection ou souveraincte dé ces pays-1à (p. 371).
Her dream seems to have been of a sort of Home Rule for the Netherlands; self-government by those of the country, with the King of Spain as a benevolent over-lord, and her growing desire that this dream should be realized was probably the real cause of a startling revival of her indignation against Leicester and Heneage at the end of April.
Having practically consented to the continuance of the authority bestowed on the Earl, she suddenly expressed the utmost astonishment that the reduction of that authority had not been settled out of hand, and also that Heneage had held back her letters, “finding it very strange that ministers, in matters of that moment, should presume to do things of their own head, without direction.” Moreover, she declared that Sir Thomas had exceeded his commission in assuring the States that she would make no peace without their privity and assent, for her meaning only was, if it had been rightly set down and not mistaken by her secretary, that in any treaty between herself and Spain, she would have no less care of their safety than of her own (p. 586). Her letter to Heneage, Walsingham's to Leicester, and the Earl's reply, are at the British Museum, but must be briefly noticed, to complete the story. To Heneage she wrote in very tempestuous terms. Did he suppose, she demanded, that she would be bound by his speech to make no peace for her own matters without the States' consent? Truly she was “utterly at squares with this childish dealing.”
Walsingham and Burghley were quite bewildered by this unlooked for alteration, but when the Treasurer tried to put things before her in their true light, she flew into a passion and bid him not to argue any more. Their conjectures were, firstly that she had taken fresh alarm as to the financial burden of the war, and secondly that she was really indulging hopes of a peace with Spain. Leicester's reply was chiefly directed to the latter point. He was more than willing to satisfy her entirely in regard to his title, and for her to do just what she liked as to the government, if she only would not deal for any peace, by which he believed she would forfeit the confidence of the States and be “never the nearer of the King of Spain's friendship.” (fn. 15)
Perhaps the most interesting documents calendared in this volume are those relating to the underhand negotiations between Elizabeth and Parma. In order to arrive at anything like a clear view, these must be taken in connection with the letters between Parma and King Philip and certain other documents connected with the same subject, preserved at Simancas, and of which there are transcripts at Brussels. Major Hume does not include these in his Spanish Calendar (or indeed any other Simancas documents of 1585 or 1586 save those taken to France during the Peninsular War, and now in the Paris Archives), but happily the learned editor of the Correspondence de Cardinal Granvelle, M. Charles Piot, considered them of such importance that he has printed some of them in the Appendix to Vol. XII of that work. Unfortunately, two of the most important, a letter written by Burghley and a Memoire by Andrea de Loo, being dated English style, had been placed amongst the papers of the spring of 1586, whereas they belong to the spring of 1586–7. (fn. 16) This has misled M. Piot, and also, strange to say, Motley also (who saw the Brussels transcripts of the letters); throwing his whole account of the affair into a confusion which is increased by his assigning the main negotiation to an agent who only played a subsidiary part in it.
As to the real originators of the idea, it is not possible to pronounce definitely. As early as August, 1585, immediately after the signing of the treaty with the States, Elizabeth issued Instructions to Sir John Smith to go to the Prince of Parma, to explain her reasons for sending forces into the Low Countries and to assure him not only that she had no intent to make herself “possessioner” of those countries, but that if ever the King should incline to a friendly accord with them, such as was offered at the Pacification of Ghent, none would be more ready than herself to persuade them to adopt it. (fn. 17) Whether Sir John actually went over is not certain. There appears to be no mention of his journey in the documents of the time; but Elizabeth's views were in any case brought before Parma by her “Declaration” issued just at this date, and which no doubt it was intended should be carried to him by Sir John. It is not likely, however, that at this date she would make any actual suggestion for a treaty. On the whole the most probable solution of the problem would seem to be that the negotiations really, as well as professedly, originated with the Italian merchants themselves. At any rate, a peace would have been very greatly to their advantage, for their flourishing trade in Flanders and Brabant had been almost utterly ruined by the war. This theory is supported by a passage in one of de Loo's letters, where he speaks of the eager desire of the nobles and merchants of the Low Countries, who were all being ruined, to accommodate the differences (p. 617).
There was an Italian merchant in Antwerp [Carlo Lanfranchi] who professed acquaintance with M. de Champagney, the governor of Antwerp, and had written to another merchant [Andrea de Loo] in England to know whether her Majesty would be willing to make peace with the King of Spain. To this it was answered that by her “Declaration” she had shown why she had sent her forces into the Low Countries; and if the King would restore the countries to liberty and peace; remove from them the foreign soldiers, and repay her own subjects their losses, she would be willing to hear any honourable offer; otherwise she must persist in the defence of her neighbours and recovery of her subjects' losses. Whether Champagney would proceed further, Burghley did not know, but was sure he had nothing to boast of in the matter, for if there were any yielding it would come from the King, not from her Majesty. (fn. 18) There is another account, much to the same effect, in a document amongst the State Papers, which will be further alluded to later on.
The first overture was made by Lanfranchi to de Loo on December 14, 1585, o.s. He wrote that he believed the Queen was sending troops to the Low Countries rather to keep the war out of her own realm than for any other reason, as he did not imagine that she wished to take what was not her's, or to do to another King what she would not have another do to her. The Prince, on his part, was so gentle, friendly and desirous of peace, that he would probably agree to anything fair. Therefore Lanfranchi suggested that de Loo should find some way of treating personally with her Majesty. This was followed by another letter written three days later, proposing that de Loo himself should be the negotiator. De Loo—being, as he said, greatly astonished by the suggestion—consulted the Master of the Rolls, who advised him to put the matter before Burghley (p. 240; see also p. 219). He described Lanfranchi as a man of power and influence, and in great credit with the Prince of Parma.
The next notice of the matter in the State Papers is on Jan. 28, when we learn from a letter of Lanfranchi's that de Loo had spoken to Burghley, who in his turn had laid the matter before Elizabeth, and (as reported by de Loo) had received her resolution that she sought nothing save the peace and preservation of her Crown; to which end she had caused the book of her Justification to be printed and set forth. This was satisfactory, so far as it went, but Lanfranchi insisted that it was absolutely necessary for her to make up her mind that there should be no treating of religion, as not only the King but the nobles of those countries would have none but the “Catholic Roman.” He did not however fear difficulty in this matter, as Champagney had told him that when he was in England the Queen had agreed not to treat on this point, knowing it to be a thing impossible to obtain. [This is probably an allusion to Champagney's interview with Elizabeth in February, 1575–6, though it is quite unlikely that she then agreed to any such thing.] If some confidential person were sent over to treat with Champagney, he was assured good would come of a negotiation with so benign and peace loving a prince as Parma (p. 329). De Loo found this letter very unsatisfactory, considering how Lanfranchi had formerly boasted of the marvels he could do with his Highness; and thought it might be well to go over himself, get to the bottom of the whole matter, and find out from Champagney whether there was any real desire for a treaty (pp. 357, 368, 370).
Towards the end of February, Lanfranchi applied both to Champagney and to the Prince of Parma, in the hope of persuading one of them to open formal negotiations with Elizabeth, but neither of them would agree to do so, Champagney on the ground that he was too much detested by the Spaniards on account of what happened at the sack of Antwerp, (fn. 19) and Parma because of his position as the King's Capitano-Generale. Both, however, expressed hearty sympathy, and promised help if occasion offered; but the Prince only with the proviso that there should be no treating of religion. As to the safety of the Queen's own realm, the repayment of her moneys, and the withdrawal of the Spanish garrisons, Lanfranchi believed there would be no difficulty, but explanations might be demanded for her proceedings in the Low Countries, and in relation to her dismissal of Mendoza (pp. 391, 392).
The difficulty lay in breaking the ice. Neither party would make the first move. De Loo suggested various subjects on which the Prince might well open a correspondence with the Queen, and implored Champagney “for the love of God,” to persuade him to write, but all in vain.
At this point, complications arose. To begin with, when de Loo (no doubt in consequence of Lanfranchi's letter above mentioned) entirely believed that Parma had been approached and had expressed himself cordially in relation to the proposal—a conviction strengthened by hearing from Lanfranchi (as de Loo understood it) that his letters had been sent to his Highness at Brussels and very well received—he received another letter from Lanfranchi, expressing the utmost astonishment at what de Loo said he had written to Burghley. It had been better (he wrote) to have sent his letters or a copy word for word, for never said he had spoken or caused speech to be had with his Excellency; nor could he do so without assurance that it would not be thrown in his teeth hereafter (p. 538).
The wording of Lanfranchi's earlier letter certainly supports de Loo's interpretation, for Il Capitano Generale could be no other than Parma; but perhaps he had received a warning that the Prince's name was not to be brought into the matter, and so disavowed his own words. The only other explanation is that Lanfranchi meant that he had discoursed with Champagney, who said that as Captain-General, Parma could not seek an accord, but in this case he expressed himself badly.
About the same time, de Loo was having difficulty with the Lord Treasurer, who, being as yet very far from assured of the wisdom of the negotiation, was showing scruples at entering into the business at all, and apparently had accused de Loo (not, it may be suspected, without reason) of not putting fairly before the Spanish party the English standpoint in regard to Religion. He evidently had doubts of Champagney's sincerity, which de Loo defended warmly, saying that he was a true Burgundian, who loved the Low Countries and heartily desired their welfare. That Champagney desired their welfare, one may honestly believe; but hardly that so ardent a Roman Catholic desired a treaty throwing the doors open to the free “exercise” of Calvinism. Motley speaks of him as “the chief director of the intrigue”; eager to atone by “exuberant loyalty” to Philip for his patriotism at the time of the first Antwerp Fury; but, as seen above, when applied to, he refused to take any active steps, and his chief inducement to further the matter seems to have been the chance offered of getting rid of the detested Spanish soldiers.
Moreover, a further complication had arisen in the shape of another—one might almost call it a rival—negotiation. An account of this is found in a document amongst the State Papers, entitled “A declaration of the manner of treating of peace underhand to the Earl of Leicester.” It is dated August, 1586, but may be more conveniently mentioned now than later, as it entirely relates to the proceedings of the first four months of the year. (fn. 20) Sir James Croft, Controller of the Household, had a kinsman “about the Prince of Parma” named Bodenham, who, at Croft's instigation, attempted a negotiation between the Prince and her Majesty, which the Prince, having “a good liking of Mr. Controller,” received very amicably. Lord Cobham was also an agent in the affair and sent one Augustin Grafigna, an Italian Merchant in London, to Parma, who, going over, “had good audience of the Prince, but so handled the matter” that his negotiation fell to the ground. The letters in the Simancas archives throw a good deal of light on the above narrative. We find that about the end of February the Sieur de La Motte, Governor of Gravelines, wrote to Lord Cobham, saying that while he had not been much surprised by the desire of the French—who had always been enemies of the Spanish Crown—to undertake (emprendre) something against that King, he was greatly astonished that the English should do so, without any ground, and contrary to the ancient amity between the two nations. (fn. 21) The answer to this is evidently given in a letter from Cobham, dated March 2, 1586. He did not think La Motte would find it strange that her Majesty should have undertaken something in those countries, if he called to mind all the wrongs practised against her state and person at the instigation of the Ministers of Spain. At the same time he believed, if she were satisfied that the King would act as her good friend and neighbour, it would not be her fault if peace were not easily made. (fn. 22) La Motte sent this letter to President Richardot, who showed it to Parma, and by his orders desired La Motte to reply cordially to Cobham, but to say that he dared not speak of the matter to the Prince without being well assured of the Queen's intentions. (fn. 23)
On the same date, Richardot wrote to Champagney, who had evidently sent him a letter from de Loo (l'ami d'Angleterre). He also was to go on with the affair, but not to let it appear that his Highness knew anything about it. He was to write to the “ friend, “ saying that he had seen the letters, both about his own and public affairs, thanked him for what he said, and desired their meeting, that he might show both how wrongfully he himself had been treated (fn. 24) and also prove his desire to employ himself in so holy a cause. But he, like La Motte, was to insist upon having some real assurance of the Queen's intentions before he dared speak to the Prince upon the matter. (fn. 25)
That Champagney wrote as commanded is shown by de Loo's reply on p. 513 of this Calendar, thanking him for his welcome letter of March 30 [n.s.], assuring him of his confidence that his honour had in no way acted unworthily, and expressing his firm conviction that the Queen—who both in private and public had stated that it was not her desire to injure the King of Spain, or to do to others what she would not have done to herself—would not let herself be moved to take up arms if it were possible to remain at peace. (fn. 26) It is evidently to the same letter from Champagney that de Loo alluded in one to Burghley, informing him that Champagney desired to prove the injustice of the reports spread abroad of him by deeds not by words, and promised all help in guiding the ship into a good haven if assured of her Majesty's intentions (p. 504). (fn. 27)
Grafigna's negotiation having failed for the time, Croft turned his attention to de Loo. The narrative sent to Leicester states that about the beginning of May, Mr. Controller (who had perfect knowledge of all that had passed) began himself to treat with de Loo, and urged him to go over; showing him her Majesty's “good liking” of the action, and assuring him that upon this treaty she would with all speed recall Drake and surrender the towns in her hands to the Spanish King. But this she entreated: “that all favour might be showed to his poor subjects of the Low Countries, and that Drake might quietly return.” It is exceedingly unlikely that Elizabeth had said all this, but whether the exaggeration was on the part of Croft or of de Loo we cannot tell.
Meanwhile (the narrative continues), on May 7, her Majesty had delivered to her an Italian letter with divers Latin sentences, “which she took with good liking,” and immediately de Loo's dispatch was arranged. This is quite evidently de Loo's letter to Burghley of April 13. (fn. 28) He wrote that he doubted not but, by means of the sincere inclination both of the Prince and her Majesty, to guide the bark into a good haven;. “and as it has been said quod audaces fortuna juvat, I will set sail bonis avibus to make proof thereof”; wherefore he prayed for permission to go, ample passport, and directions how to manage future correspondence. In this letter he also asked-should his action be discovered, and he were questioned by Mr. Secretary or the Council-what he was to reply; adding in a postscript that he did not wish to treat with the Earl [of Leicester] and “ still less” with the Secretary or others of the Council (p. 547). Of this desire it would appear that Burghley entirely approved, as according to the narrative, de Loo was charged to go neither into Zeeland or Holland, lest Leicester should hinder his proceedings.
Just at this juncture, Grafigna was once more brought forward by Lord Cobham, and advised to hurry over before de Loo “that he might win the spurs.” He started on May 8, and de Loo followed him on the 11th, being assured both by Croft and Burghley that he need have no fear of Grafigna, as the Prince of Parma had promised not to take the business out of his [de Loo's] hands. Amongst other instructions, Croft desired him to contrive that Champagney should be the man sent over to treat with the Queen, and to give him assurance that whenever he came he would find her Majesty and the “most best” of her Council well inclined to the peace, “except the Secretary, who against so many others should be able to do little hurt.” (fn. 29)
A third effort to bring about an accord with Spain by means of the Italian merchants is revealed in these papers, carried on by means of Horatio Palavicino (then on a mission from Elizabeth to the German Princes) and Lazaro Grimaldo with Prince Juan Andrea Doria, Admiral of King Philip's Genoese squadron. The Dorias and the Grimaldi were two of the great merchant-princes' houses in Genoa, and Palavicino belonged to one hardly less wealthy and important. The inception of the negotiation cannot be traced either to Parma or Elizabeth, and, as has already been suggested in the case of de Loo, Lanfranchi and Grafigna, probably originated with the merchants themselves.
The matter was put before Prince Doria, who seemed pleased with the idea, and agreed to write both to the King of Spain and one of his ministers (supposed to be Cardinal Granvelle). Grimaldo was, however, not very hopeful that the King's answer would be satisfactory, as he was much angered by Drake's proceedings, and was making great preparations for war (pp. 516, 590, 635). There are several letters from Palavicino on the subject, and one or two from Grimaldo, but up to the end of May (when this volume closes) there had been no reply from the King. In one of his letters, Palavicino speaks of the fame of Doria's valour, his rare qualities and his favour with the King. The incident best known in his career is his failure to execute a certain manoeuvre in the battle of Lepanto, whereby he ruined the chance of crushing the Turkish fleet; but it is believed by modern crities that this was done purposely to carry out the known wishes of the King.
In addition to the negotiations of de Loo, Grafigna and Palavicino, we have glimpses of yet another attempt to come to terms with the Spanish King, and in this Walsingham was directly concerned. About March 23, 1585–6, Dr. Hector Nunez, a Portuguese physician who had been long resident in London, wrote to the Secretary to the following effect:—That in November last, having safeconduct from his honour, he sent his man, Jeronimo Pardo, to Portugal with a letter to Antonio de Castillo, (fn. 30) explaining her Majesty's intent (as declared by the Discourse published in her name) not to possess the Low Countries to her own use, but only for the security of her estate and the relief of the people from the tyranny of the King of Spain's officers there; touching upon the many good means which the Queen had used to purchase that King's good-will and the ill-offices done by him and his ministers in return; and urging that the dealings between them should be committed to others than those who under the name of ambassadors “were factors and deputies to the Devil"—an evident allusion to Mendoza.
That this letter was directly inspired by Walsingham is shown by a paper endorsed “Mr. Secretary's memorial delivered to Dr. Hector,” in which are enumerated, amongst others, just the points mentioned above:— That her Majesty, as notified by her Declaration, did not mean to make herself proprietary of the Low Countries: that she would be willing to treat for restoring those countries to the Spanish King, on good conditions; and that Mendoza was working against her. And finally suggesting that Castillo should be employed in the matter of this treaty (p. 508).
To return to Nuñez' narrative:— On receipt of the letter, Castillo sent it to the Senor de Moura, one in great favour with the King, and summoning Pardo, told him that he was ready to do all he could, but must first be assured that the lords in England were in earnest. He wished that instead of only a report of a discourse with Mr. Secretary, Nuñez had sent a letter from him, declaring her Majesty's inclination to a peace; in which case he would have taken it upon him to bring the agreement to pass to the satisfaction of both sides. He regretted that he had not himself brought a letter from the Secretary, when he last talked to him in England; but as matters stood, he urged Pardo to hasten home, and as soon as he had “answer,” to return with it to Spain. This interview took place at the end of February. After some delay, owing to the arrest of his ship, the messenger had now returned to England.
Nuñez enclosed to Walsingham the translation of the letter sent by Castillo, expressing his pleasure on hearing of her Majesty's good intent as regards the Low Countries, and alluding obscurely to some offer already made by him to the Spanish King, which had failed,—though both their Majesties were so desirous that the matter should be brought about—because the dealers had handled it so ill. When Sir Francis, on her Majesty's behalf, talked with him on these affairs, he was a private man [i.e. no longer an ambassador], had no letters of credit, and was, moreover, one of the King's Council, therefore he could not deal in the matter, but if Nuñez was still on familiar terms with the lords of the Council, it was his duty to do it, and to persuade them to an agreement before the King further got the upper hand. At present, Castillo stated confidently, he would yield to any good composition for the quiet of Christendom, and employ his forces else-where, because as to England, he knew “the little fruit he shall reap in the matters belonging to the Catholic religion.” From this last sentence it may be surmised that Castillo was not very deep in the counsels of his master (pp. 472 et seq., 508). There is no further trace of this negotiation to be found in the State Papers; but it may possibly have been connected with the one previously mentioned, to be begun by Doria.
From the above, it is plain that Walsingham was by no means kept in such ignorance of the negotiations with Spain as has sometimes been supposed; but it is very probable that at first he was not consulted in regard to those with Parma. This was undoubtedly the case as to the Grafigna embassy, for he writes of having come to the knowledge of it “by good hap”; and of being “secretly informed” that a safe-conduct had been sent to Champagney. (fn. 31) Leicester certainly speaks of Walsingham having given Grafigna his passport, but this probably could hardly have been refused, as he was a merchant, professedly going over on matters of trade. It is quite possible that the Grafigna negotiation, engineered by Sir James Croft, was at this time unknown, not only to Walsingham but to Burghley. (fn. 32)
It may, indeed, well be that Chasteauneuf had grasped the truth when he wrote that the professed differences between Burghley and Walsingham (amongst others) in regard to Spain were rather simulated than real. (fn. 33)
By the middle of April, at any rate, all secrecy was at an end; but rumours had been flying about many weeks earlier. On February 7 Leicester wrote, “The Prince of Parma giveth it out still he may have peace when he will with her Majesty, and that Sir John Smith was warned to come over about it” (p. 359); and a month later: “Champagney doth give it out that he hath secret dealings with her Majesty for peace, and that she hath let him know her mind therein” (p. 453). Richard Cavendish speaks of this latter report more at length :—
“There be here advertisements of most fearful instance; namely that Champagney doth not spare most liberally to bruit abroad that he hath in his hands the conditions of peace offered by her Majesty to the King his master, and that it is in his power to conclude at pleasure; wherein he affirmeth that some one or two of the chiefest counsellors about her are by her appointed to handle the cause with him” (p. 460).
The first open announcement to Leicester that there was anything on hand was on April 21, when Walsingham wrote by the Queen's command to tell him that the Prince of Parma had, through Grafigna, let her Majesty know his willingness to treat for peace, and to send someone over to make proposals in that behalf. Leicester was to inform the Council of State that overtures of peace were daily made to her, but she meant not to proceed therein without their good liking and privity, her safety and theirs being so linked together. It is apparent, as already noticed, that only now had Walsingham heard of the Grafigna negotiation; but his objection seems to be not so much t the business itself as to the agents employed. He had, he wrote, let the Queen understand how dangerous and dishonurable it was to use such base ministers:— Norryce, Cobham's man, a notable papist, and Grafigna, formerly servant to Spinola. (fn. 34) Mentally, he no doubt included the Controller in the category.
This message from the Queen to the Council of State was written only a few days before the sudden volte-face which so bewildered her ministers, when she indignantly repudiated the somewhat similar message given to Sir Thos. Heneage (see p. xxxiii above).
Before receiving Walsingham's letter of the 21st, Leicester had heard of Grafigna's embassy; his comment upon it being that he did not dislike a peace, if well handled, but the best way to get it was by hard war. If her Majesty would back him “princely,” and settle the countries in security, she might have what peace she would. In reply to the letter, he earnestly desired her Majesty to consider well what she was doing. Grafigna's and other's dealings were so well known that, as she wished, he had spoken to some of the Council but very cautiously, telling them only how greatly she was sought for, and how careful she would be to do naught to their hurt, which had, he knew, had a very good effect. (fn. 35) On the Queen's learning this, the natural result followed:—She wrote rebuking him for acquainting the Council of State with the offers made to her for peace, although, as Walsingham said, “in very troth” she had given him orders to direct Leicester to do it. (fn. 36)
In the last letter concerning the peace negotiations calendared in this volume, written on May 26 o.s., de Loo announced his arrival at Antwerp and courteous reception by Champagney. On the morrow he was to go to his Highness at the camp, and, as he hoped, see the fruit of all his labours (p. 674).
It will be seen that while in these letters we have endless asseverations by de Loo of the Queen's desire for peace with Philip and willingness to abandon her support of the Provinces, yield the point of Religion, and give up to the King the ports in her hands, we have no proof of what she actually said, and the suspicion is left in our minds that the gentleman doth protest too much, and that some of the words put into her mouth represent rather what he wished her to think than what she actually did think; at any rate, at this early stage of the negotiations; that is as regards terms. Of her sincerity in desiring to make a peace, her anger against Leicester seems very strong proof; also her repudiation of the promise to the States General not to treat with Spain without their consent. Moreover, she was perhaps influenced by de Loo's emphatic assurances of Philip's good will, Parma's peaceful proclivities, Champagney's desire to treat with her, and the good terms which would be given her; though it is very doubtful whether, in spite of all de Loo's avowals on the subject, the idea of surrendering the point of the free exercise of religion was at this time plainly put before her.
As regards Burghley, the impression given so far is that his attitude was reserved and distinctly critical. The paper which has seemed to support the view that he was a zealous supporter of the scheme was, as already said (see p. xxxiv above), not written until the beginning of 1586–7, when the negotiation had reached a much more advanced stage. And de Loo's letter of April 15, and Burghley's to Leicester, already quoted (see p. xxxv above), certainly show no ardour on the part of the Treasurer.
In relation to the allusion above to Elizabeth's promise to the States General, it may be mentioned that this promise does not occur in any article of the Treaty signed with the States, but is contained in a document belonging, apparently, to the first stage of the negotiations after the deputies' arrival. On first reading the paper, indeed, I was inclined to think that it belonged to the preliminary discussions with Gryse and Ortell in the spring; but for several reasons the later date seems more probable.
This document, contained in the packet of papers relating to the Treaty (catalogued at the end of the previous volume of this Calendar) is in two parts, endorsed respectively “Articles exhibited by the Deputies of the States Englished,” and “Postiles to the Articles made by the Commissioners.” At the end of the 1st article are the words:—
“And [her Majesty] shall defend them against all and every their enemies, and namely against the King of Spain, the Malcontents and their adherents . . . and shall not make any truce or peace with them, without the consent of the General States of the Low Countries.”
“Her Majesty is content . . . to take upon her the defence of the said Provinces against such as seek to overthrow the liberties and privileges of the same, until such time as by composition or otherwise the said Provinces shall be repossessed of their ancient liberties and privileges with perfect peace and quietness, and in the mean season to use the subjects of the said Provinces in all respects as if they were her own natural subjects; not meaning to make any truce with the enemy without the privity and consent of the General States of the said Provinces.” (fn. 37)
Those concerned in negotiating with Elizabeth professed to have no doubt of the Prince of Parma's readiness to support the project, or of his entire sincerity in so doing; although they pretended that in its early stages he had not been directly approached in the matter. But the documents here calendared throw no light on his real views or ends, and this is not the place to discuss the interesting and important letters from the Prince to King Philip printed in Vol. XII. of the Granvelle Correspondence. One point, however, may just be touched upon. The most usual supposition seems to be that Parma was merely working to gain time while Philip completed his preparations for invading England; but certain passages in his letters to his master suggest that he was playing for higher stakes than this.
They show that he was not nearly so sanguine of the success of that invasion in the spring of 1586 as he had been in the autumn of 1583; and it seems quite possible that he actually contemplated the conclusion of a treaty by which Elizabeth would be induced to give over to Spain the seaport towns which the great commander so ardently desired to have in his hands. it would always have been easy, when this was once accomplished, for Spanish cunning to pick a new quarrel with England, and carry out the plan of invasion with infinitely greater chances of success. Motley speaks of the “deliberate treachery” and “unlimited dissimulation” of the Prince. Yet even his enemies looked upon him as a high-minded and honourable man. The terms promised by him to reduced or surrendered cities were scrupulously fulfilled; his word once passed was as good as his bond. But when it came to diplomacy, the only morality with which he concerned himself was to do his utmost for the King, his master; and to deceive the enemy's ministers as to his plans and purposes in negotiation was, to his mind, as fair as to deceive the enemy's commanders as to his plans and purposes in the field.
Up to the end of the year 1585, the documents relating to France are few and for the most part unimportant, as all Stafford's dispatches to Walsingham are wanting. There are short letters to Burghley (with tantalizing references to those to Walsingham), but these are for the most part of little interest.
On p. 69 is an obscure reference (fn. 38) to some proceeding of Epernon's which he had prevented by acting at once, without waiting for permission from England. If he had done so, he felt assured he would have been stopped, as whenever he desired to do anything that would win him credit it was “misliked of"; and then they might have shut the stable door when the steed was gone.
At the end of October he reported a warning given him by the late ambassador in England, Mauvissiere, of a plot against the Queen's person; and a few days later wrote of the new ambassador, Chasteauneuf, that in the little space he had been there he had written so many untruths that he had quite lost his reputation in France (pp. 125, 141).
There had, apparently, been correspondence as to whether Stafford should approach the King on the subject of making peace with the Huguenots, and it had been decided that it was better not to do so; but becoming alarmed by reports of the coldness of the Protestant princes of Germany, and of the small numbers and long tarrying of the reiters promised to Navarre, the ambassador thought it would be wiser to speak before there was any confirmation of the bad news (p. 194). Three days later Walsingham wrote that her Majesty was very anxious that he should do so, seeing that, not being disposed (so far as he could perceive) to give any contribution to the levy, she was willing “that any lame peace shall be shuffled up in France rather than to be put to any charges” (p. 201). Stafford obtained his audience—for an account of which he refers Burghley to his (missing) letter to Walsingham—but received a very “slender answer.” Fortunately, Mendoza sent an account of this interview to King Philip, from which we learn that the English ambassador represented to the King the danger of continuing the war, warned him against the House of Guise and offered an undertaking on her Majesty's behalf that the King of Navarre would accept reasonable conditions and obey him as a loyal subject. But if the contrary happened, she could hardly avoid helping the Huguenots to check the aggrandisement of the Guises. To this the King subsequently sent answer by Pinart to the effect that her intervention between him and his vassals was uncalled for, but it was supposed that this answer was agreed upon, to throw dust in the eyes of the Nuncio &c., and that the French ambassador in England had actually requested the Queen, in the name of his master, to take the step she did. (fn. 39)
Suspicion had evidently been excited in England by his intercourse with Charles Arundel, who had come to Paris on the Scottish Queen's affairs, but was believed to be framing a plot against England, was even reported to have settled the details of a raid upon the south coast of England, and was known to have paid a visit to the Duke of Guise. These reports were sent to Walsingham by his spies, and will be found in the Appendix to this volume, p. 705 et seq. There is, however, no mention of the English ambassador in them.
Stafford's own explanation of his apparent friendship with Arundel was a manly defence of his conduct and loyalty. In no other way—he declared—could he have done the Queen better service; for by that means he had discovered things which would not otherwise have come to light, and had managed to set a deadly feud between Arundel and the deeper traitors represented by Charles Paget and Thomas Morgan.
“And one thing (he goes on to say), I would have everybody to look in; not whom I deal withal, but whether my dealings tend to serve the Queen or no. . . . My dallying with Arundel is not unknown to Mr. Secretary, as I can show by the answers of his letters to me with his own hand in cipher; but which way I deal, it is not reason anybody should know it but them that I may trust well, which truly is not he” (p. 222).
On December 29 Stafford wrote to the Queen concerning the visit of the Prince of Conde to England. The French ambassador there reported that her Majesty had made little account of him, and would do nothing either for him or for the general cause. This had given great joy, especially to the Queen Mother, and whereas they had hitherto tried to smoothe down their curt answer to Stafford, and were all but ready to disavow Pinart, who delivered it, now there was no speech but of the utter ruin of the King of Navarre and those of the Religion; and the rather that news had been received from Nancy that Duke Casimir would not march, and that if the French King would assure the “past” reiters of their pay, none would now come to aid those of the Religion. This Stafford knew to be untrue, and hoped that the French ambassador's reports would prove as false, but these things had their effect upon the King, who, “seeing the stream to run that way,” had sent money to Mayenne, while the Queen Mother had forwarded him all the letters, to encourage him. She had, moreover, held secret conference with de Retz and Madame de Montpensier, when they were all “the jocundest and the merriest that might be,” believing the English Queen would send no money to Germany, and that if she did nothing, all others would grow cold. Stafford tried to counter this by insuring that reports should reach her of a quite opposite import, and urged her Majesty to make his words good; for a few thousands now given would do what millions hereafter could not. As to the Prince of Conde, he was as near the throne as the present King was when his father died, and if she would use him well she would bind all “his” to her, and add repute to the general cause. For himself, Stafford knew him better than any in England did, (fn. 40) and declared that “though his outward show be not the best . . . he is as honest a man and as grateful as liveth under heaven” (p. 251).
On January 2 we have the first of the ambassador's dispatches to Walsingham, giving information concerning the Scottish and Papist clique in Paris. He complained (not for the first time) of Solomon Aldred's want of caution, who had been dealing with them in too open a way, and declaring that he and Stafford had commission to do so together, which was just what Stafford did not wish, as it hindered his plan of “nourishing” the various factions amongst them. Mendoza had been talking largely of a great defeat of the English at Nymegen; of a mutiny of the people against Leicester and of the large demands of the Earl for himself and his officers. The letter containing this intelligence was brought to the ambassador for his opinion. As he did not know how far the news was true, he got out of the difficulty by the non-committal statement, “omnis homo mendax” p. 276).
A week or so later he reported a “graet jar” between the King and his mother. The King was certainly ill; the Queen Mother feigned to be so, and was plotting to bring Guise to Paris. If any accident happened to his Majesty and the Guises got the upper hand, he concluded, “we shall feel the smart of it, and that very soon” (p. 287).
Just a year before this, two of Stafford's chief servants, Moody and Lilly, had fallen under Walsingham's displeasure, and now they were again in disgrace, Lilly apparently upon complaint of the Earl of Leicester. Their master was hurt that the matter had not been referred to him, instead of their being detained in England; as if he could not be trusted to do justice upon them. As to Lilly, he feared the Earl's prejudice against him arose more from the poor fellow's love to himself than any other cause; but if he might come over, he should be sent to Leicester, to punish or to pardon him as he saw cause (p. 306). His next letters are rather newsletters than dispatches. Madame de Nemours had come to Court with her two sons (by her second husband), evidently that the young Duke might do his wooing. He had had but cold reception from the Princess (of Lorraine), but courted her diligently. Claude Hamilton had embarked for Scotland, with assurances of devotion to Elizabeth's service, which Stafford did not believe. The Queen Mother was alarmed by reports of treating between the English Queen and the Prince of Parma, of which treaty Stafford (truthfully) asserted his ignorance, yet privately fostered the report. Her qurrel with the King had been made worse by a rumour that he was about to repudiate his wife and marry one of Madame d'Estree's daughters. There was also a report that Drake had been defeated, and that the preparations in Spain were in truth against him, not against England (pp. 313, 316, 351).
In response to a suggestion from Walsingham as to sources from which he might gain Spanish intelligence, Stafford gives two or three interesting little character sketches. The Venetian ambassador [Giovanni Dolfin] was very friendly, but his information not so important as could be wished. The Savoyard was of a retired nature and wholly Spanish, knowing that the Duke, his master, was altogether for his father-in-law [King Philip]. The said Duke was in wit and discretion (though he thought he had more) far behind his father, who wisely “kept himself almost in an even balance between France and Spain.” Stafford was very sorry that this man was come now in the other's place, who was one of the best bishops he ever met with, and his very good friend (fn. 41) (p. 362).
In the middle of February, Secretary Pinart had a long interview with Stafford on the vexed question of sending victuals to the Spanish Netherlands, Leicester's proceedings in the Low Countries, and the Queen's grant of money for the German reiters who were coming to the aid of the King of Navarre. As to this last point, the ambassador professed entire ignorance, but avowed that he could not tell what her Majesty might be brought to do, “seeing the King led by constraint of bad subjects . . . to let his own realm go to ruin.” Pinart answered that the King, in desiring to have but one religion in his realm, only wished to enjoy the same peace which England had from the same cause. To this Stafford retorted that custom was second nature; that England had so long continued in peace with one religion that suffering two would breed unquietness; while France had so long been accustomed to two that to take one away was sure to lead to disturbance. The argument was of course absurd, considering the vicissitudes in English Church history during the past fifty years; so absurd that it is strange that Pinart should not have challenged it; but if he did, Stafford does not record the fact (p. 372).
A little later, the French ambassador in England had audience of the Queen on this same subject of assisting the reiters, urging her not to intermeddle between the King and his subjects, but rather to persuade the King of Navarre to conform himself in point of religion. To this, her Majesty replied that if she assisted the King of Navarre she should deserve rather thanks than blame, being persuaded that his overthrow would endanger the French King's own estate; seeing that, as the King himself had believed when the League first broke out, its chiefs, under colour of the Catholic religion, sought nothing but their own advancement. As to advising the King of Navarre to conform to that religion, it was against her conscience to persuade him to abandon that which she herself professed, and if he did so, it would bring the French King rather danger than benefit, as Navarre would be forsaken by those of the Religion, and thus no longer able to bridle the ambition of the League. As Chasteauneuf professed that he dared not report what had passed to the King, Elizabeth ordered Stafford to do so; and to “prosecute” especially these two points following:— that the League took arms, first, by possessing themselves of the principal towns, to bridle the King for the present, and seize the power if (as they expected) he should shortly die; and secondly because of their jealousy of the favour shown by the King to certain gentlemen by advancing them to places of honour; “a thing that princes have at all times, in all ages, done, and were most dangerous example that they should be called by any subject to any account for the same.” Walsingham sent the orders, as in duty bound, but without hope of any great effect; the King being so weak-minded, and his mother (who now dispaired of his life), building her own future upon the House of Guise (p. 429 et seq.).
Stafford's next dispatches reported that the King, having sure news of the reiters' coming, had resolved upon war; that he had persuaded the clergy to give him the money he asked for (though they openly expressed their fears that as soon as he got it he would make peace), and that the Queen Mother was cunningly plotting to lull the English Queen to sleep; it being certainly said that word was to be sent to Chasteauneuf that the King desired nothing so much as peace; on hearing which they were confident that her Majesty would stay the sending of her succour to Germany, and consequently no reiters would come to the King of Navarre. It was perfectly understood at the French Court that the Queen of England did not like to spend money! The Queen Mother also had it given out that after Easter she was going to that King to make a general peace.
But all these things, Stafford declared, were but tricks to lull people to sleep, and preparations for war went steadily on. He believed, indeed, that the King would have made peace very willingly, but was forced to the contrary, and that his secret hope was that the reiters and the troops of the Duke of Guise would so destroy each other that his own “fresh army” would be able to bring about whatever he desired.
The Queen Mother approached Stafford on the question whether Queen Elizabeth would try to reconcile the King and Queen of Navarre and also persuade the King to change his religion. As to the first point, he professed ignorance; the second he thought impossible, but offered to write whatever she commanded him. In proof of the “integrity” of her purpose, Catherine sent a warning to Elizabeth that the King of Spain had great practices on hand against her, especially in Ireland; but Stafford thought that Scotland was much more likely to be the point of danger (pp. 440 et seq.).
There was at this time in Paris a Spanish navy captain named Vasco Duarte Pacheco, who was playing a double game by offering his services for some exploit to the French King, to Stafford and to Mendoza, and for a time succeeded in tricking all three. To Mendoza he had suggested the performance of a signal service in England or elsewhere, which Major Hume supposes to have been the murder of Don Antonio. (fn. 42) His proposal to Elizabeth was, if given a ship, to go to the West Indies to a certain island, whence he promised in five or six months to bring back more wealth than ever Drake had done. He completely imposed on Stafford and on Mazin del Bene, who wrote in his praise not only to Walsingham but to Howard and to Ralegh. Walsingham, however, was suspicious of him, possibly warned by Don Antonio, then in England, and hung back in the matter (pp. 352, 382, 390, 400). Within a month Stafford's and Del Bene's warm commendations had changed into lamentations over their own credulity, for the man had proved to be but “a cozening knave.” Their only consolation was that the French King and others had been cheated as well as themselves, and had given him much more money. He had played his dupes off one against another, and the truth had only come out when the French King wrote to his ambassador in Spain about him and received for answer that he was but “a common rooger about and a cozening merchant.” Even then Stafford's doubts were almost lulled to sleep by the Spaniard's plausible explanations; but he had been made cautious, and demanded more proofs, and especially to see the pilot who was to conduct the proposed enterprise. Instead of bringing him, the man made such excuses that Stafford was convinced of his duplicity and refused him passport for England (p. 520 et seq. See also an undated letter, found too late to put in its place, on p. 721). From a letter of Mendoza's to Idiaquez, we learn that a few weeks later he attempted to assassinate Stafford, and then disappeared. (fn. 43) He had not gained very much from a money point of view. Stafford congratulated himself that he had only given him a hundred crowns, when he might have had five hundred for the asking, and Mendoza got off even more lightly, having, he declared, not disbursed more than twenty. Ralegh had sent him money, but it had not been delivered when the discovery took place.
The business which Stafford had most at heart was to try to draw the Count of Soissons, younger brother of the Prince of Conde, to espouse the cause of the King of Navarre. That unstable and unprincipled youth, who had hitherto attached himself to the Guise party, was now wavering, and had apparently promised to take up arms for Navarre, if financed by England. But, unfortunately, Elizabeth objected to pay the price. Stafford wrote urgently and repeatedly, representing the importance of securing him, and so strengthening the King of Navarre's hands, especially at this juncture, when it was believed that the French King had not long to live. The Count conceived himself “assured” of three of the most important towns in Picardy. If only one of these, Peronne, were gained, it would be well worth the money. But there was need of haste. It was believed that Montpensier (also now veering round) was almost ready to “stir,” and if he rose it was highly important that Soissons should do the same. Stafford had promised him the money within ten days, and besought Walsingham to enable him to keep his word (p. 395).
This was on February 27. On March 6 he wrote again more urgently. News was come from Montpensier and from the Prince de Conti (Conde's youngest brother) that all was in readiness, and they only waited to hear from Soissons, whose enterprise in Picardy was one of the most weighty parts of the movement. The Count was said to be almost out of his wits, that only for lack of wings he should be unable to fly. Some six thousand pounds would do it. What was that to her Majesty, for such a result?
Besides (continued Stafford), if for want, this man cannot do that which he hath promised Montpensier, whom he hath been the chiefest cause of setting on, and nobody so much, considering the great offers are made him by the French King. . . I cannot tell what humour may take him, for he is tickle-headed enough (p. 418).
On March 20 he had received the Queen's flat refusal of Soissons' demands, and was obliged to deliver it, but finding that matters could be a little delayed, he did his best to keep some hope alive, declaring her Majesty's resolution in the most plausible terms he could, and leaving them satisfied of her good-will, but quite desperate that, for want of the money, “the chief of their action was like to quail.” He saw that Soissons was greatly afraid lest Montpensier's “capricious head” should cause him to fly off. The King was negotiating with him, trying to persuade him to let Biron be associated with him in the command, and this gave a short breathing space, until it should be known whether he would consent or would finally break with the King and declare for Navarre. If he held to the resolution which he declared in a letter to Soissons, a copy of which Stafford sent to Walsingham, he would certainly do the latter; but it was essential that Soissons should fulfil his part; otherwise the other had “opportunity and offers enough” to keep himself in good credit with the King (pp. 462, 464, 465). At every stage Stafford's efforts were met by a check. When, a week later, he took the good news that the Queen had agreed to send 6,000l., Soissons at once increased his demand to nine (p. 491). When a compromise had been made, and a day fixed for the money to be paid, the day came and passed, but no money arrived, and her Majesty was again hesitating whether to send it at all. By pledging his wife's jewels and his own credit, Stafford raised enough to content Soissons' captains for the moment, and luckily Biron's departure was still delayed, but unless the rest of the money were speedily sent, the whole scheme would fall to the ground, and he passionately adjured Walsingham to avert this:—
“God knoweth whether Montpensier, if he be not kept touch withal by Soissons, will be drawn any other way; for he loveth to have promise kept with him, and is capricious enough if it be not. For God's sake, Sir, let us not for a trifle of nothing, of 9,000l. or under, lose that that this opportunity giveth us” (p. 555).
Once again, Elizabeth seems to have given some sort of assent, but with the proviso, in the first place that the money was not to be given to Soissons until Montpensier had actually taken horse, and then that it was to be kept at Rouen until the news came of his doing so, thus involving four or five days' further delay. This was at the end of April. Whether the money ever got further than Rouen, Stafford's correspondence does not tell us, nor have I found any notice of the negotiation elsewhere; but no rising then took place, and we learn by a letter from the King of Navarre to his agents in Germany that the three princes had put off their open declaration in his favour until the reiters should come. (fn. 44)
It was rather hard lines for Stafford that after having been thwarted on all hands, it would seem that he was held responsible for the failure of the plan. He was an honest man—the Abbé del Bene wrote to Buzenval—but not clever in managing such a matter as this. With which verdict Buzenval agreed, though adding that he had done well hitherto, and so must be encouraged and aided (p. 672). Stafford, on the other hand, declared that Buzenval had almost marred all, and prayed Walsingham to communicate nothing to him or Guitry but their own causes, for they could hardly keep even these secret.
On March 23, the ambassador warned Walsingham that one Chute had started for England, and, as he heard from a good hand, meant to execute something upon the Queen's person. He was said to have taken money from the Spanish ambassador, and he had certainly had interviews with the Queen Mother and the Duke of Guise, but Stafford did not believe him to have courage enough for such a deed. He described him as a man “with a great long, hooked nose,” whose sister married Sir Walter Waller (p. 468). This identifies him as one of the sons of Philip Chute of Appledore, Captain of Camber Castle. (fn. 45) From a letter of one of Walsingham's spies, we learn that a month later this same “monstrous longnosed gentleman called Chute” had returned to France, with his murderous plans indeed (if he had any) foiled; but boasting of his good success before the Council, and especially how cunningly he had hoodwinked Walsingham, so that in future he might safely return to England on any enterprise; but this writer, like Stafford, did not fear him, saying that the Papists apparently saw well enough that he was not “made of that mettle and spirit that must serve their turn” (p. 713).
There were at this time a good many peace rumours in the air. Chasteauneuf had written confidently of her Majesty's good inclination thereto, whenever the King should propose it; that she would indeed be pleased to hear of it, as it would give her an excuse for holding back the money she was sending into Germany. Orders were at once sent to him to “keep her in assurance” of the King's willingness to a peace, and to do all he could to procure the stay of the money. In reporting this to Walsingham, Stafford warned him by no means to let it be known that he was sending information of what Chasteauneuf wrote, as the ambassador already suspected that his intelligence was leaking out, and some of Secretary Pinart's folk had been called in question for it. Stafford's own idea was that the King would in truth be very willing to agree to a peace, but not the Queen Mother, unless necessity compelled it; which necessity only the reiters could bring (p. 519).
On Monday, April 11, he had audience of the King; the first for many weeks. They had “very long speech and many replies one to another,” which was quite contrary to his Majesty's usual custom, “but at this time, he was fully instructed and perfect beforehand.” His attitude towards the Queen and the King of Navarre, the question of the said King's change of religion and her Majesty's support of him were discussed at length; the summing up being that the French King was resolute to have but one “exercise of religion” in his realm, but
“That being done, to favour the King of Navarre in all things. and to give him all the vantage he can to pull down the others . . . whom by all speeches he seemeth in his heart to hate. . . . And for his conceiving evil of her Majesty's dealings . . . that he will never believe evil of her till he see great cause.”
Finally, the King spoke of what was a very common subject of complaint at that time, and apparently with just cause:—the daily “spoiling” of French merchants by English ships—demanding prevention in the future and redress for the past. The ambassador assured him that the Queen had already provided by proclamation against such mischances; but declared that the French were themselves the cause of it, because, while knowing that the English merchants had letters of mark against the Spaniards, they would needs help these latter to convey their goods away under colour of being French, which was the occasion of all the mishaps (p. 547 et seq.).
Edward Gratley (alias Foxley), (fn. 46) Gilbert Gifford and Solomon Aldred were members of the gang who, while professing to be devout Roman Cartholics, were traitors to the cause of their Church and acting as Walsingham's tools. Both Gifford and Gratley were members of the College which, formerly at Douai, had now its headquarters at Rheims. Gifford, “clarus adolescens,” was admitted to the community in 1577, (fn. 47) and so little was his treachery suspected at the date of which we are speaking, that in the following March, 1586–7, he was ordained priest at Rheims. Gratley was already a priest when he came from Rome to Rheims in 1580. (fn. 48)
By taking Stafford's, Aldred's and Gratley's letters in connection with one from Dr. William Gifford to Walsingham, preserved amongst the Domestic State Papers (and printed in Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, p. 262), we can get a fairly clear view of the business in hand.
It would appear that in the spring of 1586 the Queen was disposed to a gentler policy towards the English Catholics, perhaps due to her inclination for a peace with Spain. Gratley writes of the clemency which Catholics had lately found, and of her Highness' inclination to moderation of severity, and reunion of her subjects in assured amity (p. 711. See also p. 715).
Amongst the priests at Rheims was Dr. William Gifford, then professor in the Seminary, afterwards, Dr. Allen's chief chaplain and secretary, and eventually Archbishop of Rheims. He was a cousin of the traitor Gilbert Gifford, but there is no reason to suspect that he had any knowledge of his treachery. His standpoint at this time would seem to have been much the same as was Sir Thomas Tresham's, holding firmly to his own faith, but a loyal subject to Elizabeth, as queen de facto.
To him Walsingham wrote a courteous letter, (fn. 49) urging him to return to England and persuade others to do the same; sending him a passport, and no doubt promising some relaxation of the harsh proceedings against the members of his Church.
It may be surmised that the letter was sent to Stafford, to be by him delivered, and furthered by verbal persuasions; for we find that Dr. Gifford was induced to go to Paris to meet the ambassador, Gratley and Gilbert Gifford being also there, all lodged in Aldred's house. Incidentally we learn that the doctor was both poor and energetic, for though he had been lately ill, he walked all the way from Rheims. The night after his arrival Stafford went secretly to the house, where his “sweet speeches and friendly entertainment much encouraged Dr. Gifford to look favourably upon the plan.” He expressed himself as confident that five or six of his best scholars would follow him, and even believed that Dr. Allen himself might be brought into the action, if the friction between him and the extreme party under Morgan, Paget and Parsons could be fanned into a flame. This suggestion of including Allen plainly shows that no treachery to faith or Church was intended.
As for Gratley, he was perfectly willing to scheme and perjure himself to any extent; and he and Gilbert Gifford were already planning to “join in making a book to justify her Majesty's proceedings.” From Stafford's own account we learn that he talked with and encouraged them, finding them “very good and proper wise fellows,” and fit to carry out Walsingham's wishes. Meanwhile, Gratley professed to have great credit with the Spanish ambassador, and fed Stafford with hopes of being able to get for him what he was always so eager to obtain—information of what was planning and doing by Mendoza and his associates.
Dr. Gifford returned to Rheims and thence sent the very touching answer to Walsingham which has already been alluded to. He heartily desired to enjoy the comfort of his own country, and to induce others to the like, if they might have assurance of freedom in religion and conscience. He was a Catholic, as indeed all their forbears and princes had been, for hundreds of years, and in that faith and no other would live and die, yet so far from having any desire to join with foreigners against her Majesty, would defend her sacred person and the weal of his dear country with life and goods. When he had sought to persuade his friends to return, he had been met by wounded hearts, who saw only penal statutes, rigorous dealings, condemnations and executions; but if it would please her Majesty to abate that rigour, he would gladly be an instrument both for the safety of her person and the relief of his poor friends, by any means that his pen, tongue or heart could do. It will be noted that, like Tresham, he made no demand for the open exercise of their religion, but only for liberty of conscience and freedom from persecution. Perhaps some good result might have followed, but very shortly afterwards the Babbington plot and the growing fear of Spanish invasion did away with all thoughts of greater leniency to the Catholics.
In regard to this incident, Thomas Morgan, who though in prison seems to have been kept informed of all that was going on, certainly believed—or hoped—that Dr. Gifford was tricking the Secretary; for he wrote to the Queen of Scots that some of the banished priests were corresponding with Mr. Walsingham, but two of them, Dr. Gifford and Mr. Gratley, would, he believed, outwit him and do her Majesty signal service. (fn. 50) Of course, if the testimony of the Babbington conspirator, John Savage, is to be believed, not only Dr. Gifford but Dr. Allen was at this time inciting men to murder the Queen, but there seems no reason to attach credit to anything said by such a man to screen himself, or to doubt the truth of Dodd's assertion that there are no proofs of Dr. Gifford countenancing any attempts against Elizabeth's person, “though a certain miserable man thought to lessen his own guilt by casting out words to that purpose.” (fn. 51)
On May 14 o.s. the Duke of Guise left Paris in very discontented mood. In spite of his cool reception, he had had very kind entertainment from the King, and all he asked for was promised him, but when it came to the performance of anything there was nothing to be had. This determination of the King not to fulfil his promises, and especially his countermanding the gendarmerie which he had engaged to give, and his sale of magazines of corn to relieve the needs of the people, brought Stafford to the belief that the King really hated the League, and so much desired a peace that he might even be induced to yield the point of Religion (p. 644).
This is the last letter from Stafford included in this volume of the Calendar. It may be noted that his intercourse with Walsingham appears to have become more intimate and friendly than in earlier days. There are next to no jarring notes, or complaints of him to Burghley. The ambassador's zealous efforts were given to supporting the cause of the King of Navarre; and the one suspicious point—his intercourse with Charles Arundel—is not only frankly explained by him, but there is considerable doubt whether Arundel was not at this time in Walsingham's pay. At the beginning of 1586 Thomas Morgan and Charles Paget had grave doubts of his good faith, and a little later Paget wrote that he was credibly informed that Arundel had been gained over, and was gone to Spain to gather advertisements for Elizabeth. (fn. 52) Moreover, Mendoza himself was dubious as to his fidelity, and certainly had, at this time, no flattering illusions concerning Stafford. On May 11 he wrote to Philip of his suspicion that Arundel might have gone to the Spanish Court at the instance of the English ambassador to make discoveries whereby he might obtain favour from the Queen; and in another letter he informed the King that an English priest, feeling bound thereto by his conscience, had revealed the fact that Arundel had gone by the Queen's orders and had been supplied by her with money. This being the case, Mendoza thought he should be sent away at once, in which opinion Philip quite acquiesced. (fn. 53) It has occurred to me as a possible explanation that without treachery on the part of anyone, Arundel may have been employed in regard to the Spanish part of Elizabeth's peace negotiation.
Stafford's allusions to the Queen Mother show that, in his opinion, she was learning more decidedly to the party of the League than she had ever done before; his theory being that she was convinced the King had not long to live, and built her own “future standing” upon the House of Guise (p. 431). It was reported that she had sent for the Duke to Paris, and when he came “welcomed him marvellously,” used him with very great kindness, and held private conferences with him at night, while the King received him very coldly (pp. 287, 363). She professed the greatest desire to keep on friendly terms with Elizabeth and to persuade the King of Navarre to a peace, but Stafford was credibly informed and was himself convinced that this was merely a blind to induce her Majesty (who she knew would be glad of an excuse to save her money) not to send aid to Germany, in which case no reiters would come to the King of Navarre. He even had “good advertisement” that she was a party to a design to murder Elizabeth, but on this point he professed himself doubtful (pp. 468, 469). The Papists in Paris believed that her influence with the King was entirely against England, and that she would be ready secretly to further an enterprise against that realm (pp. 704, 708). She was urged by Montmorenci to have a meeting with the King of Navarre, and sent M. d'Escars to him to propose it, but the Huguenots vowed that her only object was to cause delay, and so to put off the coming of the reiters until the harvest was got in and their defences strengthened (p. 646). Early in May, there was a report in Rome that she had actually gone (p. 661). It so happens that during this month there are no letters in her printed correspondence to show us where she was, but I can find no trace of such interview, and M. Baguenault de Puchesse tells us that for the first six months of 1586 she remained in Paris or at St. Maur des Fossés. (fn. 54)
“it was surely that seeing the French King so overruled in his own realm that he bare but now the name of a King, so that she . . . could hope no help at his hands if she should stand in any need . . . [and] perchance seeing herself to have in her hands that [which] should bind the King of Spain to her for ever . . . it might be that she would make him beholding to her.”
But he was sure that if the French King would make peace in his own realm, and join with her to annoy the King of Spain, who had so much annoyed them both, her Majesty would leave off any such resolve (if there were any) or never enter into it (p. 605).
Stafford was very anxious to know if he had answered rightly, but so long as he helped Elizabeth in the admirable game which she had always in hand of playing off France and Spain against each other he could hardly do amiss.
The notices of the King of Navarre are frequent, but not important, and are for the most part sufficently indicated by the index. When the Swiss begged him to send deputies to Paris to meet their ambasadors, he returned word that he would Willingly do so, but to them only, not to the King. He would tell them his griefs and his demands, but ask a peace he would not, for it was not he who broke it, and wars with the King he declared he had none(p. 619. see also p. 686). His military proceedings are often mentioned, but seldom with any great detail. Stafford believed (writing in the middle of May) that the aim of his enemies was to drive him into Rochelle, and there blockade him (p. 630).
Throughout the whole period covered by this volume, negotiations for the dispatch of a body of reiters from Germany to his aid were being carried on. Duke John Casimir, ruler of the Rhenish Palatinate during the minority of his young nephew, and the Landgrave of Hesse took up the matter, and Casimir agreed to be himself their leader, while for funds they chiefly looked to Elizabeth. She sent Horatio Palavicino over as her agent and his letters give an account of his proceedings.
It was desired if possible to induce the Electors of Saxony and Brandenburg to join, and Palavicino went on a mission to them for the By purpose. But matters were retarded on all hands by Casimir's hesition, Elizabeth's reluctance to disburse money, the inability of Navarre's deputies to furnish their quota towards the expense, and the coldness of the German princes themselves, who finally determined, before giving aid by arms, to send an embassy to the French King to persuade him to a peace. The King of Denmark was sympathetic, but he also preferred to negotiate rather than to furnish men or money. Stafford gives a rather amusing account to the stubbornnes of the Danish ambassadors deputed to the French Court, and their refusal to listen to any advice or to depart one jot from their instructions, which were to deliver their message, to receive the King's reply, and without further discussion to return home (p. 566).
A third embassy in this behalf was sent by the chief Evangelical towns of Switzerland. On p. 620 is Strafford's account of the object of their coming. They intended to take a very temperate course with the King. The Germans, he heard, would “speak bigger,” and he prayed God might do more, although he inclined to the view that with this King a modest course might do most good. They had audience on May 19–29; put before him their reasons for imploring him to make peace, and were very kindly received by him, but his answer in writing to the Cantons gave no promise of any intention to carry out their wishes (pp. 631, 640, 641, 654).
Before these embassies had arrived, in reply to Stafford's request, Walsingham wrote very exact instructions as to how Elizabeth wished her ambassador to deal with them and what line he was to take with the King afterwards; ending with a declaration that if his Majesty remained resolute against all concessions to the Huguenots there would be no other remedy “but for all well-affected princes to assist roundly the King of Navarre,” and so to do the French King good against his will (pp. 568 et seq.).
At the beginning of April, Henry (fn. 55) had sent Verac and the Abbe of Juilly on a conciliatory mission to Montmorency. Stafford gives at considerable length the answer which they brought, of which the main points were:— That he was the King's most faithful subject, and in religion was and ever would be a Catholic, but that he honoured the King of Navarre as the heir to the throne, was beholden to him for many benefits and would serve him with life and means in all things not opposed to the service of the King his master; that he would willingly lose one of his arms to see him converted to the Catholic faith, and wished the same for all those of the Religion, but as for their obedience, he never saw more dutiful and faithful subjects. That for the war, he did not hold it to be upon any cause of religion, which the Guises only took as a cloak to cover their designs, and looked upon their House not as belonging to France, but as stranger princes outside the realm. As to any pretensions they made to the Crown, if there were none of the House of Bourbon left to succeed, “he himself, as first baron of France, would not quit them the place.” And though he would not take it upon him to advise the King about the peace, he wished he would make a good accord and not hazard his own ruin; for the King of Navarre and House of Bourbon had great alliances in France and great friends abroad, and he doubted not (if some order were not taken) but that within a few months they would be before Paris, where they looked to have a peace made to their profit (p. 602). In this same letter Stafford draws a sad picture of the terrible sufferings of the people from famine, in consequence of the war.
Scattered up and down, in Stafford's dispatches and other documents, is a fair amount of intelligence concerning men and matters in France, especially in relation to the war; but it is too fragmentary to allow mention of more than a few items. There is an account of the attack upon the castle of Angers, probably not very accurate, as it differs more from the narratives of d'Aubigny, Sully &c. than they do from each other. There are also a good many notices of the siege of Brouage by the Huguenots, and of the movements of the various commanders and their armies. In regard to Brouage, we read of a foiled attempt by the governor, St. Luc, to levy the salt of the Marennes and to block the entrance to Rochelle, in which d'Aubigny played a part, and of the garrison's lack of victuals, although St. Luc in person
”hunted out all the smoking ovens in the town and villages near about him both for bread and meat, insomuch as some poor creatures have been found dead in the field with grass in their mouths, whose means of sustenance was taken away from them by him” (p. 537).
The same letter tells of Condé's victorious skirmish near Saintes, a victory saddened by the death of two brothers of the House of Coligny, while a third, the Count of Laval, whose valiant exploits are several times mentioned, died a few days afterwards, it was said from grief. Allusion is two or three times made to the betrothal and marriage of the Prince of Condé to Mademoiselle de Tremouille, and to the unsuccessful wooing of Christine of Lorraine, the Queen Mother's favourite grandchild, by the young Duke of Nemours, son of Anne d'Este (mother of the Guises), by her second husband.
There is not much to be learnt concerning the embassy of L'Aubespine Chateauneuf, who had replaced Mauvissiere at the Court of Elizabeth, his letters and memorials being mostly concerned with complaints of wrongs committed against French ships and merchants by the English corsairs. Soon after his arrival, the Queen took umbrage at hearing of the great resort not only of strangers, but of some of her own subjects, to mass in his house, and sent Waad to remonstrate with him. He first answered (en ambassadeur) as, he said, M. de Foix had done on a like message, that his gates were shut to no man, and he could not forbid any to frequent his prayers; but after some arguing assured Waad (en homme de bien) that not one of her Majesty's subjects had ever been at mass in his house, nor any others save a few chance Portuguese and Spaniards, and even as to such as these, promised to tell his master her Majesty's pleasure (p. 61). With the same courtesy he answered another complaint of Elizabeth's, viz. of writing to the King that she had sent 5,000 men to Scotland. He very reasonably protested that he was not bound to give an account of what informations he sent to the King his master; but declared that he had never mentioned such a matter, and would never write anything. which might disturb the friendship between their Majesties, unless obliged to do so in obedience to his charge (p. 139). Stafford seems to have had but a poor opinion of the new ambassador:—
”French men love to believe nouvelles (he wrote to Burghley), and never any I think more than he who is now in England; for in the little space he has been there, he has written many extraordinary untruths, inasmuch that he hath here lost that reputation that he will scarce get again a great while” (p. I4I).
But if Châteauneuf wrote “untruths” to France, it would more probably be by design than that he was fooled by false stories, as he seems to have been extremely sagacious and discriminating; witness the account by him of the views and aims of Elizabeth and her ministers, an account quite remarkable for its insight and accuracy. (fn. 56)
There are a good many scattered notices of Lord Willoughby and several letters from him. In September, 1585, he was at Wolfenbuttel, at the marriage of the Duke of Brunswick's son, and from thence went to Denmark, where it was said the King “minded to entertain him” all the winter. He writes of his gracious reception by his Majesty; his negotiations with the ministers there &c., and of a visit paid, while at Copenhagen, to Tycho Brahe, at the splendid observatory which had been given him by King Frederick. This “rare astronomer of a great and noble house” had of late been observing a new comet, Sine cauda, of the first magnitude, “somewhat dark about the extreme parts, but bright in the midst, higher than the moon and not so high as the sun.” It was not wonderful, Willoughby continued, that he should observe it, for he had “divers servants in an observatory furnished with rare, huge and admirable instruments, which do nightly watch the course of the stars, whereof I have been a present witness” (p. 235). In the early days of the new year he had reached Hamburg, and after a terribly cold and somewhat dangerous journey, he arrived in Flanders and was made governor of Bergenop-Zoom (pp. 282, 545 &c.). At the beginning of March, 1585–6, Gianibelli the engineer, of Antwerp fame, presented to Walsingham a project, which he said he had already talked of with Sir Philip Sidney, for subduing the power of Spain; firstly by cutting off all supplies from the enemy and secondly by boldly carrying the war into Spain itself. For the easy carrying out of the first, he proposed a ship-money tax on every parish in England, sufficient to purchase a hundred or a hundred and fifty vessels of from four to six thousand tons, armed with good brass artillery and furnished with munition and victuals for six months. This might be done, he believed, for about 20,000 florins apiece, one with another, and he had no doubt but captains and mariners would be found ready to venture them at their own charges if they might have half the prizes they took. That they might not be confounded with free-booters, he suggested that each ten ships should have one of her Majesty's men of war as Admiral, while for any important enterprise they should all join the royal fleet. As for his second proposal, he declared that there was not a city in Spain which could not be taken without artillery; that they could bargain with the King of Morocco for provision of victuals, galleys and cavalry by promising to set free the Moorish slaves in Spain, and that there would be no difficulty about this, as, there being more slaves than Spaniards, they would be strong enough to escape or kill their masters, whereupon great confusion would ensue. And the King would not dare to bring troops from his garrisons in Italy, where so much “jealousy” and ill-feeling already existed in consequence of the insults and injuries offered them by the haughty Spanish nation, that they might at any small occasion turn against the Spaniards to revenge themselves, “wherefore he would be forced like the Carthaginians to recall the forces with which until now he had mastered them [i. e. the Low Countries] as Hannibal did the Romans"; so that they would be able to remove the war from their own house while they put it into that of the enemy (p. 409 et seq).
About this same time, the magistrates of Hamburg renewed their former negotiations as regards giving the English merchants a residence at Hamburg, on condition that Elizabeth took off the restrictions imposed on the Hanse merchants in England; Dr. Schulte, who had been the active agent in the matter before, sending a long letter in support of the proposal (pp. 420, 424, 431).
At the end of March, 1586, the news-letters from foreign parts, which have been wanting from the previous August, begin again, given “intelligences” from divers places, the most interesting being from Rome. There are many notices of the doings of the Pope, Cardinals &c., including certain proposed improvements projected by his Holiness, as the opening of a new road from the Salarian gate to the Baths of Diocletian; the draining of the Sezze, Piperno and Terracina marshes, and the “putting into use” of the Appian and Ostian ways as far as Gaeta. In May, 1586, the people of Rome were much excited by miracles reported to be wrought by a picture or image of the Madonna in an old church which had been desecrated by being used as a store-house for hay. Multitudes flocked thither to offer their devotion, but the Bishop of Gaeta, “a Spaniard and a reformer,” not finding, as he thought, sufficient proof of the miracles, had the picture whitewashed over by night. This, however, did not put a stop to the concourse of the people, and displeased the Pope, who ordered the removal of the whitewash, and determined, as was said, “to make the church parochial” and have it rebuilt with the offerings which poured down upon it. Meanwhile, it was at once re-conserated and the first solemn mass celebrated in it by the Bishop of Milo [qy. Mileto] (pp. 622, 624, 663). The church is described as being “behind the monastery of Silvestro,” which seems to point to Sta. Maria in Via, and this confirmed by a notice of that church in a book on Rome published at the beginning of the 18th century, (fn. 57) from which it appears that it owed its foundation (in 1283) to a miracle working image of the Madonna, standing in the stable of one of the Cardinals; that the said image had been guarded with great care ever since, working divers other miracles at various times, and that the church was rebuilt in 1594.
In the spring of 1856 we hear of the death of the Duchess of Parma, Margaret of Austria. She died in the Abruzzi, form whence her body was brought in state to Piacenza, accompained by her ladies, a band of horsemen and footmen with lighted torches. Forty loads of her household goods had already been sent on, including thirteen mules lade4n with chests of gold, silver and precious jewels. There was a report that the Queen Mother of France was about to make a claim upon the Grand Duke of Tuscany for certain of her property, as being now the only legitimate heir of he Duke (or doge) Alessandro de Medici (father of Cosmo, the first Grand Duke), but there is no further mention of this.
The Infant, “Don Philippo,” a boy of seven years old, is “of a very weak body, yellowish and as dry as a stick,, . . . heareth not well, and can speak little.” The Empress [Mary of Castile, the King's sister, widow of the Emperor Maximilian] holds her Court apart, does not trouble herself with public affaire and is very religious. The King, who has often vainly solicited the Empress's daughter, “the widow of France” [i. e. widow of Charles IX] is now wishuful to marry her youngest sister Margaret, nut her mother will not allow it. There has been great talk of marrying the eldest Infanta,Elizabeth,” or as the Spaniards call it, Isabella,” to the emperor, but tow things hinder it; his ill-health and the difficulty of residence in Spain. The Estates incline rather to his younger brother, the Cardinal Archduke Albert [whom she did eventually marry], but this would nee a dispensation. Later advices from Spain report that the young Prince is said to be a leper, and that the King's eldest daughter is a fair woman, for whom her father has such liking that he has sent to the Pope to get licence to marry her himself. The transmitter of these scandalous rumours was one William Norris, captain or owner of an English ship then at Gibraltar (p. 490).
On p. 264 is a lengthy paper of nots on Holland, Zeeland and Utrecht; treating of their situation, strength of the towns, number of ships, and how best to protect these provinces from the enemy; on p. 270 a “Discourse” said to have been delivered to the Prince of Parma, with arguments for and against a Spanish invasion of England, and on p. 292 a list of French refugees in England (the names in several cases being apparently mis-spelt).
There are several letters from Dr. Lobetius at Strasburg, in one of which he discusses the probable action of various European princes, the coming Deputationstage at Wurms &c. The Pope, he writes, “is marvellous and very bold; cares neither for Kings or Princes, but only to enterprise things and bring his enterprises to pass”(p. 297).
On p. 312 Martin Schenck tells of some of his martial enterprises, and in the next letter Admiral Treslong recalls his own youthful exploits as one of the “Beggars of the Sea” though when he writes of destroying one of the gates of Middleburg it would seem that his memory some-what failed him. He actually did this at the Brill, but the fate of Middelburg (in 1573) was decided by a sea fight; after which the town capitulated.
There may also be mentioned a letter from Feodor, Emperor of Russia, to Elizabeth (p. 54); an account of Drake's sudden descent upon Bayona (p. 64); and the opinion of Villiers “the minister” upon Ste. Aldegonde's apology for his conduct at Antwerp (p. 115).