Pages vii-x

Calendar of State Papers Foreign: Elizabeth, Volume 6, 1563. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1869.

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The documents analysed in the present volume furnish us with a connected and detailed history of the transactions between England and foreign nations during the year 1563. Here, as in the previous volume, we are chiefly interested in the progress of our intercourse with France. It will be seen that in the beginning of the year the party of the Royalists was in the ascendant, and had more than regained the influence which it was supposed to have lost. The army of the Huguenots had been defeated at Dreux, and its leader, the Prince of Condé, was a prisoner. For a moment Cecil paused to deliberate how he should act, but only for a moment. Resolving to continue in the course upon which he had already entered, he instructed Throckmorton to open negotiations with Condé's brother in arms, the Admiral of France, who was now regarded as the leader of the revolutionary party. In the progress of these negotiations Sir Nicholas Throckmorton displayed his usual dexterity and address, and his despatches continue to exhibit their wonted vivacity and powers of observation and description. His account of the battle of Dreux will be read with interest, being the narrative of an eyewitness and a soldier; and no less graphic is the account which he gives us of his interview with the Duke of Guise. (fn. 1) With regard to the whole of this series of documents it may be affirmed that, whether we regard the history of England or of France, they are of primary importance.

2. Thus fortified by the encouraging representations and the advice of Throckmorton, Queen Elizabeth and the English Council persevered in their resolution to support Condé. Among the many inducements thus to act by which they were influenced, none seems to have been more cogent than the desire to recover Calais. (fn. 2) Condé, who had begun to negotiate for peace with the French king, was reminded by Elizabeth that in so doing he would compromise not only his honour but his safety, and the scruples and fears of the Admiral were removed when he heard that England would support the common cause. (fn. 3) The murder of the Duke of Guise by the hand of Poltrot de Méré, (fn. 4) which occurred at this most critical moment, threw an immense accession of strength into the hands of the Condéans, while the Royalists felt that the loss which they had sustained was irreparable. While the French were paralysed by the consternation which followed this calamity, a large English force under the Earl of Warwick, supported by a well selected council of war, had taken possession of Havre, and declared their intention of holding that town as a security for the restitution of Calais. (fn. 5)

3. The narrative of the siege of Havre will be read with interest. It was invested by the French on 21 May 1563, at which time the English possessed many advantages, not the least of which was the command of the channel, by which "the navy shall keep the seas and victual it in spite of the enemy's beard, and put in fresh aid at their pleasure." (fn. 6) But ere long the aspect of affairs changed for the worse. Early in June "a strange disease" appeared in the garrison, whereof nine died in one morning very suddenly. (fn. 7) Two days afterwards, out of 600 labourers one-half was sick and unable to serve. (fn. 8) Before the end of the month the death-rate was sixty daily, and of those that once fell sick few or none recovered, partly by the disease and partly from want of fresh meat to comfort them, which was not to be had. (fn. 9) On June 28 seventyseven died, and the weekly loss was reckoned at 500. (fn. 10) On July 11 Warwick informs the Privy Council that the plague increased daily, and that the garrison was now reduced to 1,500 able men. The mortality was at the rate of 100 daily. (fn. 11) The place, in fact, was untenable, and although Warwick, too proud to complain, kept his post manfully, the real condition of the town and fortress had been made known to Cecil some weeks previously. (fn. 12) During the whole of this period of protracted suffering to the English, the besiegers pushed on the attack with skill and success, and were amply supplied with provisions, stores, and munitions of war. Our troops, on the contrary, were deficient in all these requisites. The iron pieces sent from the Tower were old waste pieces, unserviceable. There was want of axletrees, stocks for cannon, wheels and wheelers, also plates for ladles. They were short of rods for ramrods. Many of the carpenters lately sent were unskilful and altogether ignorant of their art. (fn. 13) Their shot was utterly decayed. (fn. 14) Although archers would do great service upon any sally, they had no bowstrings nor arrows. (fn. 15) All this while the communication by sea with England was open, and victuals might land between the fort and the town. No wonder then that in writing to his brother at the Court of Elizabeth the Governor of Havre felt indignant at the neglect under which the garrison had suffered. "Surely, brother, there is some that shall never be able to answer their doings, for that we have been and yet are not so well furnished with victuals as we might have been." (fn. 16) On July 28 Warwick agreed to surrender the town to the French. With the correspondence which is now before us, our wonder is that he held it so long.

During the year 1563 the affairs of Scotland attract no great attention. Queen Elizabeth and Cecil were occupied almost exclusively with France. Speculations were rife as to the marriage of Queen Mary, upon whose movements Randolph kept a watchful eye. Nothing, however, occurred to excite uneasiness in the mind of Queen Elizabeth, or to arouse the apprehensions of Cecil. The correspondence with Spain is singularly uninteresting, while that with Flanders derives its chief value from the light which it sheds upon our commercial relations with that country. The information connected with the smaller European states calls for no special notice. Events, however, were, silently preparing themselves, which in the course of a few months changed the aspect of affairs, and transferred the attention of the Court and Queen of England to another quarter. Of this we shall see ample proof in the ensuing volume.
Joseph Stevenson.
April 1869.


  • 1. No. 12; see also No. 22. Throckmorton's sympathies, political and religious, were on the side of the Huguenots: he warmly urged the Queen of England to assist them with men and money, and he repeatedly assured Cecil that there was every reason to suppose that with this aid their efforts would be successful.
  • 2. See Nos. 645, 689, 714, 840, 894, 895, &c.
  • 3. Nos. 527, 528.
  • 4. Nos. 354, 361, 424, 476, 478.
  • 5. Nos. 537, 689.
  • 6. No. 742 (1).
  • 7. No. 857 (5).
  • 8. No. 867 (1).
  • 9. No. 948 (1).
  • 10. No. 952 (1).
  • 11. No. 998 (1).
  • 12. No. 921.
  • 13. No. 1024 (3).
  • 14. No. 1031 (1).
  • 15. No. 1045.
  • 16. No. 1048 (1).