Calendar of State Papers Foreign, Elizabeth, Volume 7, 1564-1565. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1870.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.
1. The present volume contains an abstract as well of the entire official correspondence which passed between England and foreign courts, as also of such letters as were sent from abroad to the Queen and the English ministry generally (as far as these letters and papers are preserved in the custody of the Master of the Rolls in the Public Record Office), during the years 1564 and 1565. In attempting to exhibit a brief notice of the general bearing of the facts contained in these documents, we commence with those which illustrate the history of the political transactions between England and France.
2. We saw at the end of the previous volume that Queen Elizabeth had no cause to be satisfied with the way in which she was treated by Condé and Coligny. She had not derived from the party which they represented the political advantages which she had been led to anticipate. The unwelcome truth daily became more obvious that she had been overreached and beguiled by the very men whom she had made so many sacrifices to assist and protect. The Huguenots in their struggle with the common enemy, the Guises, had thankfully availed themselves of her aid; they had accepted with professions of the deepest gratitude the considerable loan which she had advanced; the best blood of England had been shed in the furtherance of their cause; and yet there was no corresponding return upon their part. On the contrary, it seemed as if this intervention of the English had tended more than aught else to further the true interests of France by promoting, as it undoubtedly had done, a coalition between the conflicting parties of the Huguenots and Guisians.
3. The first use of the new strength thus acquired by France was to show how lightly she esteemed the friendship of England. Recent events had shown that she did not fear Elizabeth's hostility. The change which now took place in the manner in which the Court dealt with Sir Thomas Smith became painfully obvious to him, and he remonstrated, but to no purpose. When he pressed the Admiral for repayment of at least some portion of the sum which had been advanced to him by the Queen, he was treated with an indifference which astonished and offended him. The tone assumed towards him by the Queen Mother, by the Constable, by each successive courtier to whom he addressed himself, told the same tale. He saw that it would be wisdom to conclude a definite peace with France as speedily as possible. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton too, though by no means inclined to work in harmony with Smith under ordinary circumstances, in the present instance enforced his arguments and supported his conclusions. The result of the negotiations, pushed on with rapidity by the English ambassadors, was anything but satisfactory to them. They were treated with a haughty indifference which told them, plainer than words, of the estimate in which their mistress was held. Smith had an hour's interview with Catherine de Medicis, and he admits that "most of that time was spent by her in "accusations and by him in purgations." (fn. 1) It fared no better with Throckmorton, though he knew far better than Smith how to steer his boat through troubled waters; he too is constrained to report that "almost the whole of two hours was spent by him in excusing himself that he was not the author of these troubles in France, nor a motioner to send men to Newhaven, nor to take part with the Prince of Condé." (fn. 2) When they came to discuss the terms upon which the peace was to be based they found that these had already been settled by the French, and that no departure from them would be permitted. Smith and Throckmorton in the name of their Mistress demanded the ratification of the Treaty of Cateau Cambresis, which involved the restitution of Calais; this article the French peremptorily refused even to discuss. The payment of 500,000 crowns was required by England; 120,000 were offered, and after some bargaining were accepted. (fn. 3) These articles formed the basis of the treaty between England and France which was concluded at Troyes on 11th April 1564, (fn. 4) and published in Paris and London shortly afterwards.
4. During the progress of these negotiations an unseemly dispute sprung up between the two representatives of Elizabeth at the French Court, which at one time appeared likely to lead to serious consequences. Such at least was the report made to Cecil by Smith, who complains bitterly of Throckmorton's violent conduct and unmeasured language. (fn. 5) Sir Nicholas, however, on his side, does not condescend to fill his official letters with matters of such a purely personal character; had he done so, it is not improbable (judging by what one knows of the two men) that we should have found that Smith exaggerated at once his own courage and his own danger. On the conclusion of the peace Throckmorton returned to England, happy to escape at once from a service in which his Mistress treated him with neglect and from a position which exposed him to some hazard from the Queen Mother and the party of the Guises. Smith, freed from the presence of his obnoxious coadjutor, remained in attendance upon the French Court, which he followed in its long wanderings through the provinces of the South.
5. The young King of France and his Council having compelled the English to accept the hard terms of the peace of Troyes, became exceedingly complimentary to Queen Elizabeth. Charles asserted that he esteemed her love and amity more than gold or silver. (fn. 6) Lord Hunsdon, when he carried over the Order of the Garter which the Queen had conferred on the King of France, was treated with marked distinction. (fn. 7) From the time that he set out from Boulogne he was "presented with wine and fowl, according to the custom of the country, in every town;" and when he alighted in Paris, "came one of the provosts and a dozen of the chiefest of the town by the King's command, and afterwards sent him a present of preserved fruits and comfits." Upon one point of his mission, however, Lord Hunsdon was not at ease. He could have wished that the Garter with which the King was to be invested, "had been better considered of, for (as he writes to Cecil) it is neither rich nor fair; and besides, it is so great that the King can neither put it on nor wear it." He inquired whether it were possible to get one of the late King Edward's, or King Philip's sent. And he was the more uncomfortable, because it was expected that the Duke of Savoy would be present at the Investiture, "who had so fair a Garter, chain, and George sent him by Queen Mary, which he will wear now." (fn. 8) It does not appear how the difficulty was solved; but the ceremony of the decoration passed off satisfactorily. Smith was presented with a handsome cupboard of plate, weighing 1,154 ozs., and doubtless the popularity of Lord Hunsdon, a near relation of Queen Elizabeth, met with an adequate acknowledgment. (fn. 9)
6. At this time France was suffering from the scourge of a disease which Smith calls the Plague, of the virulence of which he gives some terrible details; and as he was an eye-witness of what he records his reports are worthy of attention. He describes the city of Lyons (which he had just left when he wrote) as the most miserable and inhuman town he had ever seen. One or two men had died, he says, in the street before his chamber, shortly before he had dislodged. His men, who went there daily for provision, sometimes saw ten or twelve bodies lying in the street dead of the plague, some naked, "and there they lie till night, or till the deputies for those matters, clothed in yellow, come for them. They almost had no place to bury them. A great number of them they cast into the river, because they would not be at the cost to make graves." As a natural consequence the fish in the Rhone became unfit for food, "nor did fishermen venture to lay their nets in that river, because instead of fish they took up the pestiferous carcasses which were thrown into it." Almost every third house in Lyons was shut up in consequence of the pestilence. Upon the day on which Smith wrote, a man had lain in the street from dawn till ten o'clock, naked, groaning and drawing his last breath, but not yet dead. Round the town were tents for the plague-stricken, besides those who were shut up in their own houses. "The third or fourth day from the attack rids them either to death or hope of health; and then they are almost in as much danger to die of hunger, by the fear and inhumanity of the people, as they were afore of the plague. And it was thought that almost as many died of hunger and lack of tending as of the plague itself." (fn. 10)
7. From this point Smith's letters are comparatively devoid of interest. He employed himself in the laudable attempt to procure a mitigation of the sufferings to which the English prisoners in the French galleys were subjected, but without the success which his representations merited. (fn. 11) He reports from time to time the various flying rumours which were circulated in the French Court, all of which were probably known to Cecil at an earlier date and in a more authentic form. The letters which reached Smith from the English Court possess a certain indirect value, inasmuch as they enable us to see events in the light in which Cecil wished that they should be regarded by the politicians of France.
8. From France to Spain the transition is easy, but there is little to communicate from that kingdom. Philip was inaccessible to a fault, his Court was proverbially cautious and taciturn, and Challoner being personally unpopular had no material with which to fill his letters. They abound in petty details, chiefly upon subjects of a purely personal nature; of the miserable condition in which he finds himself, of the heat, filth, and bad cooking of the country, of the paucity of the letters which he receives from Cecil, and of his desire to return home. He had a long correspondence with the Spanish Court in attempting to procure the liberation of about 250 English sailors, who had been thrown into prison in consequence of their alleged infringement of the laws by having attacked a French vessel in a Spanish port. He was less successful than he ought to have been, considering the nature of the cause for which he pleaded.
9. But the chief interest of the present volume consists in the letters and papers which throw light upon the history of Mary Stewart. She was now detaching herself in a great degree from the influence of the French Court as represented by Catherine de Medicis; and she no longer thought it necessary, as she hitherto had done, to neglect her own interests, or those of her country, in order to forward the schemes of her selfish mother-inlaw. (fn. 12) She showed an earnest desire to be upon friendly terms with Elizabeth, for whom she lost no opportunity of expressing her regard. In doing so Randolph believed her to be sincere, (fn. 13) nor do her professions or her actions, as exhibited in the documents now before us, awake any just suspicion as to her sincerity.
10. At this juncture the family of Lennox begins to occupy a prominent place in the correspondence. For some time past Mary had been urged by Elizabeth to accept as her husband Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; and although she had rejected the proposal as inconsistent with the dignity of her family and her own personal feelings, Cecil had continued to press the offer upon the official advisers of Queen Mary with a pertinacity which at last had become offensive. (fn. 14) Nor were Leicester's antecedents such as to recommend him to any woman who was careful of her reputation. Another suitor soon appeared upon the field. At the solicitation of the Countess of Lennox, her son, the Earl of Darnley, obtained permission from Elizabeth to spend three months in Scotland, ostensibly for the purpose of assisting in the settlement of some questions which had arisen as to certain estates formerly the property of his family, but which that family had lost during the period of its banishment from Scotland. As early as the beginning of October 1564, the report was rife at Avignon, where the French Court then resided, "that there was a privy practice between Lennox and Queen Mary to marry his son. They fear that she is inclined to this offer of Lennox's, and take it to be concluded." (fn. 15) Elizabeth, therefore, was perfectly conscious of the existence of these reports long before Darnley left London. With her concurrence however he reached Edinburgh in February 1565, (fn. 16) and speedily attracted the notice of Queen Mary. Ere long Elizabeth was informed by Randolph that a marriage between Queen Mary and Darnley was probable; and then, but not till then, she did all in her power to prevent its accomplishment. (fn. 17) Lethington was sent to her from the Scottish Court to endeavour to remove her opposition, but in vain. (fn. 18) Elizabeth's objections were insuperable. She saw in the union of the houses of Stewart and Lennox at once a personal slight and a political coalition against herself, and she resented it accordingly. (fn. 19) She directed Lennox and his son to leave Scotland, and to return to London. They refused to obey, and Darnley became the husband of Mary Stewart and King of Scotland.
11. Even had Darnley been a man of calm judgment, high principle, and conciliatory manners, it would have been no easy task for him to retain his power in the midst of the dangers by which he was surrounded. But he possessed none of these qualifications for governing a realm or conciliating a faction; and the weakness and worthlessness of his character speedily were revealed. Hostility towards the individual was converted into hostility towards the Government. The Scottish nobility, stimulated by the Duke of Hamilton and the Earl of Murray, was soon in league against Darnley and the Queen, (fn. 20) and trusting to the assistance of England, (fn. 21) ventured to take up arms in the open field; but they were put to flight without difficulty by the royal troops, and were glad to avail themselves of the asylum afforded them in England. They took up their residence first at Carlisle and then at Newcastle, whence they despatched Murray to plead their cause with Elizabeth, who was embarrassed by their arrival within her jurisdiction. (fn. 22) The interview between the Queen and the Earl was so conducted as to produce the impression that these Scottish lords had received no encouragement from the Court of England. (fn. 23) She informed Randolph however that she saw no reason why Mary should be offended with her nobility, and she instructed him to state that it was her intention to appoint commissioners so as to bring matters to a good end; and finally he was requested to obtain from Mary, "in some more satisfactory and plainer text," either by writing or by sufficient message, what would satisfy her good sister of England. (fn. 23) Mary upon her part chafed at what she considered at once an unwarranted interference with her rights as an independent sovereign and a slight offered to her realm, her husband, and herself. She held that Elizabeth was fomenting rebellion within Scotland. The present volume at its conclusion leaves the two sovereigns in undisguised antagonism the one to the other, and ready to take advantage of any incident which might lead to a more overt hostility.
12. The correspondence which relates to the smaller states of Europe is of no especial historical value, and consequently appears to demand no specific notice in this place. It presents the usual amount of detail respecting occurrences of a political and personal character, which is not without its use in minute investigations, hut which is too multifarious to admit of a separate enumeration. It may be advisable, however, to direct the attention of the reader interested in the personal and private life of Queen Elizabeth to a correspondence which refers to the revival of a treaty of marriage between her and the Archduke Charles, brother to Maximilian the Second, Emperor of Germany; (fn. 24) among which will be found the draft of a letter entirely in Elizabeth's handwriting, in which she expresses herself with remarkable frankness. (fn. 25)