Spain: December 1523

Pages 290-296

Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Further Supplement To Volumes 1 and 2, Documents From Archives in Vienna. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1947.

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December 1523

9 Dec.
H. H. u. St. A. England, f. 1.
Louis De Praet to Charles V.
By my last letters, dated November 7th, and by Chasteau's report, your majesty will have learned the state of affairs here up to that time, and the results at that time of my negotiations with Wolsey about the conduct of the war this winter. Everything was then going very well. The English were collecting troops to reinforce their army, and sending beyond the sea considerable sums of money for its payment during the whole winter, all this in the hope that Madame would provide payment for the troops under Buren. But, according to what she wrote me, she was unable to do so by any means. She therefore charged me to attempt to persuade the king and the cardinal, in view of your great expenses and of the poverty of the Low Countries, to take these troops into their service from the beginning of last month, or at least from December 1st, or to lend her money for their payment during the time in question or until your majesty should have made other arrangements.
The request seemed unlikely to be granted, since the cardinal and the king's council had been assured by the English ambassadors in Spain and by your majesty's letters that there would be no defect in your co-operation in Flanders. Moreover, the winter campaign had been undertaken at your request. In compliance with Madame's request, however, I had several conversations with Wolsey on this subject, and used all the arguments I knew, but in vain. He would agree in no way to Madame's request, but began again to make his customary complaints.
The consequence was that on the 13th or 14th of November your troops left Suffolk and withdrew to Valenciennes, for lack of payment, the English say, although Madame maintains the contrary. Suffolk was constrained to follow them, since without cavalry he could not remain safely in the presence of the enemy. This sudden departure in such a manner greatly embittered the king and the cardinal, and they decided to order their army home at once. I was finally able to persuade them to some delay, and they have sent to Madame to say that, if she will diligently reassemble her troops and pay them for the rest of the winter as your majesty wishes, Henry will not hold back, but will fulfil everything agreed on. If not, he will recall his army, and he holds that he will be clear in the eyes of the world, and that all will see that the failure was not his, but your majesty's. I have no news as yet of Madame's reply to this proposal, but I am afraid it will be fruitless, judging by what I hear of the poverty of your treasury in the Low Countries. If it is, it is well known that unless Henry changes his mind, the English army will go home, which would be no small reverse, not only ending our hopes of a great victory in this campaign, but diminishing your prestige, endangering Lombardy, affecting unfavourably the papal election, and perhaps permitting Francis to direct a considerable army against you, thus placing your person in danger.
For there is worse news to follow. Yesterday a gentleman of Bourbon's, named Lurcy, arrived here, charged to inform the king and the cardinal from his master of three things. First, the Germans under Count Felix broke up toward the end of October, not for lack of payment but because of the bad weather and for other reasons, as Lurcy and also the bearer of this dispatch will tell you. Second, Bourbon, seeing that there was no hope of doing anything against the French this season, is on his way to Genoa, whence he will go by sea to Spain, and having discussed with your majesty plans for next year, will return by way of England where he will also discuss plans to make next year's campaign memorable. Third, to facilitate matters next year, Bourbon asks that the rest of the money given Russell remain in Franche Comté to be used next spring, and also that the rest of the funds advanced by your majesty, by letters of exchange on Geneva, remain available.
The king and the cardinal replied to Lurcy that although the break-up of the Germans was unfortunate, they attached no blame to Bourbon and were ready to accede to his request about the money, and even to increase the amount, and they hoped your majesty would do likewise. They said no harm could come of Bourbon's visit to your majesty, but that the road was long and dangerous, and for this reason, and because his appearance in the field in person would have a great effect in France, they thought it would be better if he would join their army in Flanders during this winter with as strong a force of cavalry as he could bring, or, if he preferred, come to England by way of Flanders to discuss matters with Henry, whence he could go by sea to Spain to report to your majesty what had been decided, so that plans for next season could be agreed on without much sending back and forth. Madame has sent a courier to Bourbon to persuade him to this course, but I think he will continue on his way to Spain for several reasons, the chief being the marriage you have promised him.
Although the English reply to Bourbon's envoy was very cordial, Wolsey has let fall remarks which show that he has grave suspicions of Bourbon, who, he thinks, has not acquitted himself as he should, and has behaved very feebly in fleeing from France, and in failing to raise cavalry with which to join the Germans under Count Felix. In fact, the first time I asked him to send Henry's power to Spain to complete the treaty with Bourbon, he replied that he was not bound to do so, for Bourbon had not kept his promises. He has changed his mind since, and the powers have been sent, but he is still suspicious and inclined to believe that Bourbon may reconcile himself with Francis, and is hastening to you to negotiate a peace between you and the French, although Wolsey says he is sure that your majesty will listen to no such proposals except jointly with the English as the treaties require. It seems to me that your majesty should know of these opinions at once. The more I frequent these English lords, the more I find them hard to satisfy. They are people whom a little good fortune rejoices beyond measure, and whom a little adversity casts down unreasonably. They will cast all the blame for failure on their neighbours and allies to excuse themselves to their own people, as indeed they are doing daily. I cannot tell you what evil rumours are current here about Bourbon, rumours which sometimes do not spare your majesty. Indeed, Wolsey himself has recently belaboured me with his reproaches, and in the presence of the council, more times than I can remember. It is true that Henry acquitted himself last summer quite as your majesty wished, and not without great expense ; also this alliance is now very necessary to you, so that we must temporize and take what advantage of it we can. Once your affairs are so prosperous that you hardly need the aid of this kingdom at all, these people will take another tone, and instead of being as aloof as they are at present, they will fear nothing more than the loss of your majesty's friendship.
Such has been the effect of the break-up of the English army and of Bourbon's, and I see no way for either of them to be reformed to any good purpose this year. Certainly Bourbon's cannot be, and it is unlikely that the English army will be, although when Madame asked, through Suffolk, for five thousand English infantry to garrison the frontier towns for the rest of this winter, Henry, in refusing, said that if she would put her former number of troops in the field, he would do everything possible on his side. But the scarcity of money in your treasury in the Low countries, and the fact that Henry could not reassemble and reinforce his army now in less than six weeks, makes it unlikely that anything more will be done this winter. If, in the spring, your majesty is able to put a good army in the field from Spain, and if Bourbon can invade Burgundy or elsewhere, I think Henry and Wolsey could be induced to do their share. Wolsey has said to me recently that in such a case Henry would invade France in person, but I was unable to give him any answer, not knowing your pleasure or whether your finances would bear the expense of two such years of war.
Day before yesterday the king and the cardinal had letters from Rome, announcing the election of the cardinal de Medici on November 19th. He will call himself Clement VII. This is excellent news and, since he, himself, could not be elected, Wolsey is very pleased. It seems to him that your two majesties never had a better opportunity of defeating the enemy or bringing him to reason than now, when you have a pope who is your great friend and ally, able to sustain the cost of a war, and experienced in Italian politics.
Good news has also come in a letter from the duke of Milan, written November 18th. He writes that, the day before, the French, seeing that they were wasting time before Milan and that their army was growing daily weaker, and hearing that Lannoy had reached Bologna with reinforcements, and fearing to be surrounded and defeated, raised the siege. Before they did so, they remained for two days drawn up in formation as if offering to give battle, so that their retreat might not seem forced by fear, and so as to cover the withdrawal of their baggage and artillery. Nevertheless, they abandoned and buried much baggage and many cannon balls. They are retiring across the Ticino, which their advance guard had already passed the day the letter was written, so that if Lannoy joins the duke of Milan, we shall have still better news, and few of the French may get back to France alive.
I am sending your majesty the letter which King Francis wrote the count of Carpi, which Wolsey has finally found, and also one from the Sieur de Vendôme.
London, 9 December, 1523.
Signed, Loys de Praet. French. pp. 10.
15 Dec.
H. H. u. St. A. England, f. 2.
Charles V to Louis De Praet.
Since writing the above and when Estombes was ready to leave for England, there arrived here the Sieur de Lurcy with letters from Bourbon, dated October 31st, copies enclosed. We learned from Lurcy of the failure of the lanzknechts and of Bourbon's plans, of all of which I suppose you are informed, since Lurcy says that his brother was sent to England. As you will see by the letters, Bourbon wishes to come here with the count of Penthièvre and the other personages with him, to complete his marriage and to arrange for the invasion of Burgundy where he has friends, next spring.
We are sending you a copy of the reply which we are making to Bourbon through Beaurain. You will tell the king and the cardinal as much of this affair as you think will help to induce them to furnish at once the remainder of the 100,000 crowns for Bourbon ; we shall furnish a like amount. You will also ascertain their intentions regarding war for next year according to the fourteenth article above, for in case we cannot arrange a truce or peace, we should be agreed in good time on our course of action. We think we ought not to attempt so many separate armies, in view of last year's experience, and of the difficulties in communication and co-ordination. It will be better to form a single, common army to which each of us may contribute equally, and which may invade France wherever Bourbon thinks best. We shall be glad if Henry thinks our army of Italy suitable for this purpose, since it has experienced captains, and includes a large number of veteran Spanish and German infantry, and can be joined by Bourbon and his friends and allies. This is our present plan. We suggest that besides the money already given Bourbon, we each give him another hundred thousand crowns and that what else is necessary to maintain the army, beyond what can be raised by the contributions of the Italian states, which should suffice at least to maintain the fleet, be provided equally by the king of England and us. The first charge on any profits from the campaign would be the repayment of our expenses, in proportion to the size of our contributions. We can do more harm to the enemy in this fashion for a hundred thousand crowns, than we can by costly separate armies. Therefore, for our part, we shall complete our payments of the first hundred thousand crowns and furnish such other money as we have said. Use every persuasion to induce the English to do likewise.
Since our reply to the proposals of the archbishop of Bari about a peace or truce seemed unsatisfactory, and the archbishop constantly urged us to make another answer, we consulted the English ambassadors, and with their advice and consent permitted the archbishop to write to France a letter, a copy of which we are enclosing. Show it to Henry and Wolsey and ask them their advice and intention, which they should also communicate to their ambassadors, who have no powers or instructions for this negotiation. You will say nothing about having the peace arranged through Bourbon's mediation until Beaurain writes to you. Keep in close touch with him and also with our viceroy at Naples.
You will say to Henry and Wolsey that our army here has done little, so far, for the reasons we have already written you, and also because the Sieur d'Albret has refused free passage for provisions as we have summoned him to do by letters, copies of which are enclosed. Our army has already taken Solaville and the château of Mauleon in Guienne and is now besieging Sauveterre in Bearne, which we hope will soon surrender. After that the army will go into winter quarters around Bayonne or elsewhere, for the weather is too bad for more campaigning.
We are sending a copy of this letter by Beaurain, to whom we have given a copy of your cipher so that you may use it in communicating with him hereafter. Keep us constantly advised, both by way of Italy and by the ordinary zabras, the sailings of which should be better ordered ; each one should take one courier, and couriers should never have to wait for a ship. We have news from Rome of the election of the cardinal de Medici as pope on November 19th, but we have had no letter on the subject from our ambassador there, since the one in which he wrote of the frenzied politics in the conclave, and the oath which all the cardinals had sworn not to elect any foreigner. They would be in danger from the people of Rome should they do so. No doubt you will have accurate news by this time, but tell Henry and Wolsey the above, and tell them, also, that the duke of Sessa has written us that he was doing everything in his power to secure Wolsey's election. Let this courier proceed to Flanders at once, and reply by him when he returns through England.
Pamplona, 15 December, 1523.
Copy. French. pp. 4.
20 Dec.
H. H. u. St. A. Eng., f. 2.
Charles V to Louis De Praet.
Since the courier left, the archbishop of Bari's man has returned from France with the reply of King Francis and his mother, copies enclosed. We communicated the matter to Sampson, and, with his advice, permitted Bari to send a reply. You will communicate a copy of this reply to Henry and Wolsey, and say that we do not intend to treat of anything without their knowledge and consent. If they approve the conference on this frontier which the French propose, they should inform their ambassadors and send them the necessary powers and instructions.
Chasteau arrived here to-day with your letters of the 10th of October and the 7th of November, which make a full reply to what we wrote you by Cilly. Since everything has been altered by the change in Bourbon's affairs, we have no further instructions for you now, beyond what we wrote in our former letter. We are sending this letter post after the courier, in the hope that it will overtake him before he sails and that you will be fully informed.
Signed, Charles ; countersigned, Lalemand. Copy. French. pp. 3.