Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 1, 1485-1509. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1862.
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The researches at Simancas, Barcelona, the Archives de France, the Bibliothque Impriale, the Public Record Office, and the British Museum have been made by myself. I have not been able to proceed to Lille and Vienna. A publication on a large scale of the historical documents preserved in the Imperial Archives at Vienna is now in progress, under the title of Monumenta Habsburgica. It has, however, not yet reached the time of Henry VII., and therefore the letters found in this volume have been taken from the smaller publication in the Bibliothek des Literrischen Vereins in Stuttgart. The editor is the late keeper of the Archives, Dr. Chmel, a scholar whose high reputation removes all doubt as to the accuracy of his work.
A portion of the Papers, found in the Archives du Dpartement du Nord, was published anonymously as early as the year 1712, under the title of Lettres du Roy Louis XII. et du Cardinal d'Amboise. Another portion has since been edited by M. Le Glay, and printed by the Socit de l'Histoire de France. Doubts have been cast, in former times, on the authenticity of these letters ; but it is now known that the publisher was no other than Jean Godefroy ; and the originals still exist in the above-mentioned archives. The printed letters have been compared by modern scholars with the manuscripts, and the only reproach to their editor is, that he did not publish thirty volumes instead of four. The book is correct, but incomplete. The documents preserved at Lille, and noticed in this volume, are taken on the authority of Godefroy and Le Glay.
But of all the materials, which I have mentioned, those preserved at Simancas are by far the most numerous, and the most important. They throw a broader light upon the negotiations of Henry VII. with continental governments than all the documents of any other archives, with which I am acquainted. Simancas is a small village in Old Castile, about eight miles distant from Valladolid. The country is barren and treeless. For nine months out of the twelve it is destitute of verdure, and the climate, in consequence of the great elevation of the land, is very trying. The sun is as burning as in Africa, and the winds are as cold as on the plains of northern Asia. No hotel, even of the most moderate description, in which a traveller could find accommodation, is to be found in the place. The student who wishes to consult the archives is obliged to live in the house of some poor peasant ; for the pride of the few wealthy persons among the villagers, would not permit them to receive lodgers. Excellent, and in many respects, comparatively refined as are the peasants of Old Castile, it is very difficult to be satisfied with the scanty accommodation which it is in their power to offer. The rooms in their houses are very small, the windows, doors, and roof are of such inferior workmanship that bitter blasts, glaring sunlight, and pelting rain easily find admittance. The occupant of such a dwelling suffers by turns from cold, heat, and wet. The food is worse than the lodgings. No social intercourse, no books, not even the commonest works of reference, are to be had.
The old crenellated castle, formerly a strong fortress belonging to the admirals of Castile, in which the State Papers are contained, was confiscated to the Crown by Queen Isabella. It now contains forty-eight rooms, of different sizes, filled with papers, and one large chamber in which the officers and literary readers are accommodated. This room has a northern aspect, and, as no fires are allowed in the building, so bitter is the cold in winter that the thermometer frequently sinks almost to freezing point, and the ink becomes congealed.
It is generally supposed that in an age so remote as the fifteenth century, the Secretaries of State were accustomed to keep public documents in their houses, and to treat them as private property. This was undoubtedly the case to some extent, not, however, because the minister had an acknowledged right so to do, but on account of the frequent inadvertences which occurred at a time when the conduct of business had not attained its present regularity. In Spain, at any rate, in the fifteenth century it seems to have been a rule for ministers to retain such papers only as were necessary for the despatch of current business. When they were no longer needed for that purpose, the Secretaries consigned them to certain repositories, set apart for their reception. If a minister died, or retired from office, an inventory was made in the presence of a commissioner appointed by the Government and two notaries, in which every public document was carefully noted and delivered to the Government. Such inventories are still extant ; one, for example, made in 1500 at Toledo, when Fernand Alvarez had resigned office, and another taken at Burgos after the death of Doctor De Puebla. In both cases the number of documents found in the houses of the ministers was so exceedingly small as to refute the notion that it was customary for ministers to retain possession of official papers.
As far as that portion of Spain which was subject to the Kings of Arragon is concerned, the official correspondence, when no longer wanted for immediate use, was deposited in archives which date from very ancient times. In the Castilian dominions the custom was different. It is true that John II., who died in the year 1454, and his successor Henry IV., are said to have ordered all State Papers to be collected in the Castle of La Mota at Medina del Campo. Notwithstanding, in the time of Ferdinand and Isabella the practice still prevailed of having arcas, or chests, placed in the various royal palaces scattered over the broad surface of Spain. Some of the arcas with their contents have been preserved to the present day. They are wooden chests of moderate size and exquisite workmanship, enriched with carving and gilding, provided, moreover, with excellent locks. Great political personages, such as governors of provinces and ambassadors, seem to have had an arca in every palace, destined to receive their correspondence. There are letters still extant at Simancas in which the Secretaries of State inform their diplomatic agents that they cannot forward the documents desired, on account of their being deposited at a distance in the arcas at Granada or Segovia. It would scarcely be believed, if the proofs were not in existence, that King Ferdinand deposited State Papers even in foreign countries when travelling. In a letter, dated 14th September 1509, (fn. 1) he informed King Louis of France that on his return from Naples he had left a box of papers in the charge of Juan Fabro, a Catalonian merchant at Genoa ; and as he was in want of these documents, he begged Louis to send them. The inconveniences attendant upon the dispersion of papers must have been very great. A flagrant example will be found amongst the despatches contained in the present volume. Ferdinand and Isabella had concluded and ratified the second marriage treaty between Prince Arthur and the Princess Katherine on less favourable terms than had been already agreed upon, for no other reason than because they had not had the correspondence at hand. Towards the end of his life, Almazan, the chief secretary of Ferdinand, placed all the papers belonging to his department in a chronological order and endorsed them, but there is no evidence that he deposited them in one place.
The death of Ferdinand the Catholic was followed by the rebellion, known under the name of the Comuneros. Peasant and citizen rose up in arms against their master and his Flemish followers. Many monuments of former ages were destroyed. But the peasants had special reasons for singling out the public records for destruction. They imagined that they would thereby be free from rents and taxes. A great many papers were thus lost, while others were saved only because they had found their way into convents, or private houses.
One of the first acts of Charles V., after he had re-established order in Spain, was to collect all such papers as had escaped destruction. He even induced the Pope to grant him a brief enjoining all persons who had in their possession any portions of official correspondence to deliver them to the Government. They were also commanded, if they knew of any places in which State Papers had been hidden, to give information to the public officers. At last, on the 19th of February 1543, the Emperor selected the Castle of Simancas as the general depository of Castilian State Papers. The work, thus begun by his father Philip II., continued as a labour of love. He devoted his energies so successfully to the undertaking, and the regulations he made for the preservation of the papers were so complete, that he is generally looked upon as the founder of the archives. Not content with placing the papers in order, and preserving them from dust and worms, he endeavoured to make the collection as full and as valuable as possible. In the year 1562 he sent Juan Berzosa, a native of Zaragoza, to Rome, for the purpose of collecting, or copying, all such papers as could be found in Italy which had relation to "himself, to his father the Emperor, to his dominions, or to the world in general, and the decay of which would prove an irreparable loss to posterity." (fn. 2) Philip granted Berzosa, by a decree dated the 16th of August of the same year, 500 gold scudos annually, a splendid salary for that time. A few years later, in the year 1567, he commissioned Geronimo Zurita, the well-known historian of the kingdom of Arragon, and one of the most learned men of the day, to make a new search throughout Spain for such State Papers as might have been previously overlooked. He alleged as a reason for this proceeding, that "chroniclers and historians were ill informed on matters of state, and that it was therefore desirable, in order to obviate that defect, to collect all such materials as might prove serviceable for historical purposes in the archives of Simancas." Such language sounds now like that of a modern liberal Government. Yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that Philip was liberal even in this respect. Whilst he dwelt with fondness on his daily increasing collections, they were hermetically closed to all persons, excepting such as, for the purposes of absolutism, he empowered by a mandate, signed by his own hand, to see and make use of them.
Subsequent governments have often entertained the idea of transplanting the archives of Simancas to some more convenient place. The only alterations, however, which hitherto have occurred were brought about by the French spoliation, the removal of the papers concerning Spanish discoveries and colonies to Seville, and the transfer to Barcelona of such documents as relate to the history of the Crown of Arragon. Even the old regulations of Philip II. remained unaltered in substance until the year 1844, when M. Gachard, commissioner of the Belgian Government, and M. Tiran, deputed by France, were first admitted, in the quality of literary readers, within the precincts of the Castle of Simancas. (fn. 3)
It is generally believed that the French, during the Peninsular war, destroyed a large portion of the archives, and this notion has found its way into popular works. Many persons in Spain will go so far as to describe minutely how the French soldiers lit their pipes with Spanish State Papers. But during my long stay at Simancas I took a special interest in clearing up this matter ; and I could find no satisfactory evidence of this report. I was only told by two old peasants that one day, when a high wind was prevailing, some French soldiers threw down papers belonging to the archives from the upper balconies of the castle. The wind carried them away, and they were strewed over the neighbouring fields. The commanding officer on being informed of what was going on, hastened immediately to the spot, and not only stopped this very novel amusement of his subordinates, but also had all the papers carefully collected and restored to their former places. I cannot, however, guarantee the accuracy of even this story. On meeting afterwards with persons who were living at the time, and who would have known if such a circumstance had it occurred, they confessed their utter ignorance of it.
If documentary evidence may be trusted, the French were far from treating the archives of Simancas with neglect. They erred on the other side. In the first place, the French garrison was not quartered in the rooms in which the State Papers are deposited. Out of nearly 50 rooms only 29 were then filled with documents ; the other apartments appropriated to different purposes. The French garrison, consisting of 80 men and the governor, were lodged in the latter. It is thus also to be borne in mind that the Emperor Napoleon had, as early as the year 1809 formed the scheme of bringing together all the archives of Europe, and uniting them in the capital of France, in order to form one vast repository of historical documents. He had had a plan drawn of a building for their reception ; and but for the sudden fall of the First Empire this would have been one of the most splendid palaces in existence.
Three thousand one hundred and thirty-nine heavy chests filled with German records found their way from Vienna to Paris. The expense of transport from Vienna to Strasburg alone amounted to the sum of 400,000 francs. One hundred and two thousand four hundred and thirty-five bundles, amongst which were forty-three bundles filled with the correspondence of the Papal Nuncio in England, were taken from the Vatican and sent over to Paris. The archives of Piedmont, Belgium, Holland, &c., shared the same fate. Thus the spoliation of the archives of Simancas only formed a part of the gigantic plan devised by Napoleon. How well aware the French Government was of the value of these documents is evident from a passage in a letter of General Kellermann to the Prince of Neufchatel. "Je m'empresse de lui annoncer que cet important dpt est intact, et a t soigneusement conserv dans le mme ordre o je l'ai trouv tabli." Under the superintendence of M. Guiter, the imperial commissioner appointed for that purpose, seven thousand eight hundred and sixty-one legajos were taken from Simancas. As the Emperor and his government paid such attention to the State Papers contained in the archives of Europe, it is not at all probable that his soldiers and subordinates would be allowed to destroy them. After the Allies entered Paris in 1814, one of their first acts was a decree ordering the restoration to their rightful owners of all the State Papers which France had taken by force. France, however, retained twenty-five to thirty thousand documents out of the whole number of which she had formerly possessed herself. They are now most carefully preserved in the Archives de l'Empire in three hundred and twenty-seven cases.
Besides, if the French soldiers had burnt or torn any considerable number of State Papers at Simancas, the blanks thus occasioned would have been discovered long ago. It is true that the indexes now used in the archives were made by Don Thomas Gonzalez, who superintended the arrangement of the State Papers after their restoration by France. But in former times each series of papers had a separate index. These old indexes are still in existence, and Gonzalez made extensive use of them, when occupied in his laborious work. But neither Gonzalez, nor the present keeper of the archives, who has been engaged upon them for nearly fifty years, nor M. Gachard, M. Tiran, or myself, have been able to detect any loss which could be attributed to such wanton spoliation.
At present the archives at Simancas contain, according to information I received from the officials, considerably more than 100,000 legajos. The average number of papers contained in one legajo may be estimated at about 100, so that the whole number of documents of various sizes exceeds ten millions. This vast collection is divided into series, as, for instance, finance, war, &c. The series which has more especial interest for the student of English history is that of the Estado, or foreign affairs.
|1. In the Patronato Real by||7|
|2. Collection Estado||160|
Belonging to the 15th and 16th centuries.
The 18th and 19th centuries are represented by
The documents relating to foreign affairs before the year 1700 may be estimated at rather more than 800,000. If they were equally divided amongst the days of the two centuries to which they relate, there would be about ten State Papers for every day, elucidating the affairs of Europe. But it is scarcely necessary to add, that the division is not equal, and that many blanks occur. The documents in the series "England," amount to about 20,000 prior to the beginning of the 18th century, and 50,000 posterior to that date.
But though the series Estado be the principal one, the student must, nevertheless, not omit to consult those relating to the Navy and to War. Commanders of fleets or armies frequently acted as political agents. Besides, the separation of the various documents is not so complete but that a paper belonging to one series may occasionally be found in another.
The oldest record preserved at Simancas is a kind of Land Book of Peter the Cruel. In form and contents it is very similar to Doomsday Book, only that it enters more into details. But, until a hundred and fifty years later, the information to be obtained at Simancas is scanty. It is only when we enter upon the second decade of the sixteenth century that the collections in general become rich, full, and continuous. Fortunately, England forms an exception to this rule. The papers which relate to her history commence more than twenty years earlier than those of any other country. This, according to tradition, is to be ascribed to accident merely. During the wars of the Comuneros certain royal arcas were hastily conveyed for concealment to a convent at Zaragoza. The monks having been popular, the multitude respected their property, and the arcas, together with the convent, escaped destruction. On being opened they were found to contain the correspondence with England.
In the month of August 1860 I found myself duly installed in the Reading Room of the Archives at Simancas. I did not go to Spain quite unprepared for my work. I had carefully studied the Paleographie of Christoval Rodriguez ; I had also spent much time in deciphering such old Spanish documents as were to be found in the libraries of London and Paris. But when the first legajo was placed before me I almost despaired. I can imagine a man, who has navigated a little river, all at once finding himself in mid ocean, bewildered by the waves running mountains high. The specimens given by Rodriguez contain all the principal features characteristic of the Spanish writing of that period. But they are neat and clean engravings, whilst the papers with which I had to do were the rough drafts of Ferdnan Alvarez, Secretary of State to Ferdinand and Isabella. They are incoherent and confused, portions are blotted out, and marginal additions are written in such small characters as scarcely to be discernible. In fact, the writing is more difficult than any which I subsequently met with. I passed whole days at first over a few lines. I can never be grateful enough to the Archivero, Don Manuel Garcia Gonzalez, who, with ever ready courtesy, assisted me in making out the characters with which he had become intimately acquainted during a time extending beyond the general average of human life.
As soon as the conduct of the business passed from the hands of the aged and mentally exhausted Alvarez into those of Miguel Perez Almazan, a very great improvement in style and writing is observable. Had all the State Papers been composed by Almazan, the reading of them would have become comparatively easy. But as the change was only in one, though a very important statesman, the improvement could not be otherwise than partial. If, on the one hand, however, I had reason to be grateful to Almazan, on the other, I soon found that he had put greater difficulties in my way than even Alvarez himself. Almazan was, if not the inventor, at any rate the person who introduced cipher into Spain. The whole history of ciphered writing, from its rudest beginnings until it had become so complicated a system that even those statesmen who were the most thoroughly initiated into the art were unable to make use of it, may be studied in the papers belonging to a period of about fifteen years. On some of the deciphered despatches marginal notes such as the following may be found. "Nonsense," "Impossible," "Cannot be understood," or, "Order the ambassador to send another despatch." After the year 1504, in which year Queen Isabella died, it was found necessary to return to a more simple system of cipher. Some hundreds of ciphered despatches, in the greater part of which not a word of common writing occurred, were before me. In what language were they written? On what subjects did they treat? Were they only copies put in cipher, or drafts which I had already read in common writing? I was unable to answer these questions. I inquired for the keys to the ciphers, but received for answer that there was not any key extant to ciphers of so early a date.
I had never in my life occupied myself with endeavouring to decipher any despatch. Nothing but sheer necessity would have forced me to attempt such a task, which, I think, is one of the most laborious that any man could undertake. Encouraged by my friends in England, I did not, however, despair ; and the final result of my labours was that I discovered the keys to all the ciphers excepting one. It is employed in a short letter of Ferdinand and Isabella to Ferdinand Duke de Estrada, their ambassador in England, dated Segovia, 20th Aug. 1503. It is the only paper extant in that cipher, and it is easy to understand that the shorter the letter is the more difficult is the discovery of the key. I have formed twenty keys ; but I will not insist upon that number, as some keys so nearly resemble one another that it is difficult to determine whether they are the same keys, with some alterations, or new ones. In most cases, however, they differ so far that one key does not afford the least help towards finding out another. Some of the keys were of use to me in deciphering page after page ; others were useful only for reading a few lines or sentences.
When I had nearly completed all my keys, doubts arose in the Archives whether I could be permitted to copy the ciphered documents. As I was the only man living who was able to interpret them, the control to be exercised by the Archivero was impossible. The ciphered despatches were actually taken from me, and all my labour seemed destined to be fruitless. I went to Madrid. The result of my appeals to the ministry showed that the whole affair had simply been due to a misunderstanding. The Spanish Government, treating me with the greatest liberality, imposed only one condition ; namely, that I should leave copies of all my decipherings and keys in the archives, to which I gladly consented. When I returned to Simancas the ciphered documents were not only restored to me, but another search for keys to the ciphers was made, and resulted in the discovery of one complete key and the fragments of two others. The complete key was the one which had been the most used in the extensive correspondence of Doctor De Puebla with the Spanish Government. It contains two thousand four hundred signs. Had it been found some months earlier, when I first asked for it, it would have saved me immense labour, injurious to my health. As it was, it only served to confirm me in the conviction I had entertained that my discoveries were real, and to fill up some blanks occasioned by the circumstance that certain signs had never been made use of in the correspondence.
When I began to read the despatches I found that, fortunately for me, the same ciphered despatch very often existed in four, five, and even six copies. This circumstance reduced their number from some hundreds to about forty-five or fifty, varying in extent from less than half a page to 27 folio pages of writing. Copying and deciphering such complicated ciphers, especially before the keys are complete, requires such a constant concentration of thought, and such uninterrupted attention, that if I had had to decipher some hundreds of despatches I believe it would have impaired my mental faculties. (fn. 4)
In addition to the Archives at Simancas, Spain possesses two other great repositories of State Papers of general historical interest, namely, the Archives of the Crown of Arragon at Barcelona, and the Indian Archives at Seville. A fourth collection, under the name of the Central and General Archives of Spain, is now in course of formation in the splendid old archi-episcopal palace at Alcal de Hnares.
When I had finished my work at Simancas, so far as the reign of Henry VII. is concerned, I went to Barcelona. My reasons for going there were twofold. One portion of the Simancas papers, as already mentioned, had been transported to the archives of the Crown of Arragon. Moreover, observing that many blanks occurred in the papers at Simancas, I conjectured that King Ferdinand might have deposited them in the archives of Barcelona, which were more properly his own, than the arcas of Castile.
As long as the Crown of Arragon and its dependencies formed an independent state, the archives were well cared for. In later times, they were so much neglected that in 1802, when Charles IV., during his visit to Barcelona, wished to see them, he could not obtain admission, because it was said that the keys could not be found. A new period of improvement began soon afterwards with the appointment of Don Prospero de Bofarull to the keepership of the institution. He devoted his time and energies to render the documents serviceable for the purposes of science. After his death, he was succeeded in his office by his son Don Manuel de Bofarull. Don Manuel and his assistant officers, Don Antonio de Bofarull and Flotaz, would be an honour to any archives in Europe. The courtesy and assistance I received from them, even at the expense of their comfort, calls for the highest acknowledgment on my part.
The State Papers are at present preserved in a palace near the cathedral, built on the ground where formerly stood the residence of the old Counts of Arragon. They contain a great number of curious old manuscript books, eighteen thousand six hundred and twenty-six documents on parchment, six thousand three hundred and eighty-eight volumes of Registros, and a copious collection of papers of different kinds. The Registros are in substance similar to the Rolls of the English Chancery. All orders and letters emanating from the King were entered upon them, and they have the same authority as the Rolls. In their exterior, however, they are different ; for, while in England the Rolls are written on pieces of parchment sewed together and forming long narrow strips, the Registros are written on paper bound up in volumes. They are much easier to use than the Rolls, and are in an equally good state of preservation. Corresponding to the different branches of the administration, three hundred and forty-eight volumes belong to the reign of Ferdinand the Catholic. I examined more than eighty of them in which any information concerning England might be expected to occur. I found them full of curious matter about Sicily and Naples, at that time dependencies of Arragon ; the other Italian States, France, the Government of Arragon, and especially the Inquisition. I derived great advantage from them, so far as the general policy of Europe is concerned. But of papers relating to England I found only a few, and those of subordinate importance. The legajos brought over to Barcelona from Simancas concern merely the interior administration of Arragon.
Among the papers of various kinds already referred to is one collection bearing the name of Royal Letters. It raised my highest expectations. When, however, I came examine it, I found that, with a single exception, the letters were orders of the King requiring the Archiveros to make copies of, or deliver up some of the papers in their charge.
The Indian archives of Seville contain no papers excepting those which relate to Spanish discoveries and the colonies. As far as the time of Henry VII. is concerned, the most important of them have been published by Don Martin Fernandez Navarrete. I did not think it necessary to examine the archives myself. I was the more confirmed in my opinion because England at that time possessed no colonies. America could not, therefore, as in later times, influence to any considerable amount the political relations between England and Spain.
It has been already mentioned that a very important portion of the Spanish records were retained in France. I therefore thought it my duty to go to Paris in order to inspect them. Of the Spanish documents taken from Simancas five boxes belong to the reign of Henry VII. A few documents of an earlier, and a great many of a later period are however intermixed with them. I found nothing in them which served my immediate purpose. The Spanish-French correspondence, which had formerly been preserved at Simancas, only becomes copious, like the other series, about the year 1512.
Of the chief agents in the correspondence, now submitted to the public, very little is known. The secretaries of Ferdinand and Isabella, who composed the Royal despatches and letters to England, were Fernan Alvarez, Juan Coloma, De la Para, and Miguel Perez Almazan.
Fernan Alvarez had been for at least thirty years Secretary of State, when he makes his appearance in this volume. He does not seem to have been a man of great capacity or large attainments. It gives us a poor idea of his scholarship when we find that he was unable to write Latin, at that time the diplomatic language. Towards the year 1500 he retired from office, and seems to have ended his days in the town of Toledo, his native place.
Coloma is supposed to have been an Italian, or, at any rate, of Italian extraction. His spelling often betrays an intimate acquaintance with the Italian language, but nothing certain is known of his origin. He was mainly employed in the correspondence with France, and conducted the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Barcelona, by which the counties of Roussillon and Cerdaa were ceded to Spain. In his more advanced years, before the war with France broke out, in 1511, he was taken prisoner in his country-house, and carried off by some partizans of France. He was liberated near the frontier, and a short time later countersigned not only the amnesty, but the letters patent by which the King granted honours to the perpetrators of the crime. He seems to have fully understood that policy is to be preferred by a statesman to the gratification of private vengeance. At the time of Ferdinand the Catholic, Johannes Carbonellus, a man of great literary fame, but a dry pedant, was the keeper of the Archives at Barcelona. To his propensity for making Latin distichs we are indebted for the knowledge that Coloma brought up Almazan as his pupil, and introduced him to King Ferdinand.
Miguel Perez Almazan was certainly the most accomplished and most able secretary in the service of Ferdinand the Catholic. He was born in the town of Calatayud. We first meet with him in the State Papers of Spain when he was assistant secretary to Fernan Alvarez. Soon afterwards he rose to the place of Secretary, and then to that of First Secretary, of State. Almazan was not a Richelieu. He was not the originator of the policy of his country, the guide of his King. Ferdinand would not have tolerated such a minister. But Almazan was his most intimate friend and loyal counsellor. The principal advantage, however, which the King derived from Almazan was not in regard to his advice, but the execution of the orders with which he was entrusted. Ferdinand, able to decide by his own judgment on great questions of policy, could not have a better servant. Intelligent, discreet, and industrious, Almazan accomplished an amount of business that is scarcely credible. When he was elevated by letters patent to the rank of a nobleman, it was stated that it was for the almost superhuman work he had achieved. This expression will hardly seem too strong to any one who knows his handwriting, and has examined the State Papers of that period at Simancas, Barcelona, and Paris. The duties of a minister, in the time of Ferdinand the Catholic, were of a very different character from what they are now. He had not only to confer with his monarch and give orders to his subordinates, but he was obliged to compose and write, with his own hand, the great mass of despatches to be signed by the King, and even the treaties inscribed on the immense sheets of parchment, which drive the historian almost to despair. If a despatch was to be ciphered Almazan had to perform the task himself, and if letters had to be deciphered from diplomatic agents Almazan was the interpreter. The State Papers drawn up by him are in general excellently composed, and some of them are masterpieces. I need only point out, as examples of the latter, the instructions to Luis Ferrer and those to the Spanish Ambassador at Venice at the time that King Ferdinand proceeded to Naples. This minister died at Madrid on Monday the 10th of April 1514. His funeral was splendid, and a Latin epitaph, full of the highest eulogium, was inscribed on his tomb. But Ferdinand died within twenty months after him. Scarcely had the King closed his eyes, when the brother and the children of Almazan were robbed of their offices, dignities, and property. A letter is still extant at Simancas in which a friend of the family informs the Archbishop of Toledo that the sons of Almazan had been turned out of even the servants' rooms at the palace, and could not obtain in the kitchen a meal or a crust of bread, whilst those whom Almazan had raised to greatness were living in splendour and luxury.
Roderigo Gondesalvi de Puebla was doctor of civil and canon law. His name first occurs in Spanish State Papers when he was Corregidor of the town of Ecija in Andalusia. He seems to have attracted the attention of the King by a memorial concerning certain sums due to that town. Late in the year 1487, or early in the year 1488, he was sent to England with Juan de Sepulveda, to negotiate the marriage between the Princess Katharine of Spain and Arthur, Prince of Wales. Henry VII., who greatly desired to establish a closer alliance with Spain, and a nearer relationship to Ferdinand and Isabella, well knew how to flatter Ambassadors for the purpose of rendering them subservient to his interests, and as De Puebla was a vain man, Henry succeeded with him from the first. Everything belonging to the King and his family was magnified by him, and regarded with admiration. When Sepulveda was to return to Spain he and De Puebla had an audience of the Queen. Henry, who wished to impress the Ambassadors with an idea of his grandeur, most probably made arrangements for them to be received in great state. But De Puebla wrote as if he imagined they had taken the Queen at unawares, and that she had always in her state apartments thirty-two ladies attending upon her. Every one of them was, moreover, in the eyes of De Puebla, of angelic beauty. It is said that he was chosen as ambassador because he was so uncommonly honest a man. His honesty, however, was of very doubtful character. One of the first exploits which he performed on his own responsibility showed not only great inexperience in diplomatic affairs, but a shameless indifference to truth. It is not clear from the papers now extant, whether De Puebla was also accredited to the Court of Scotland ; but, whether accredited or not, he tried to arrange a marriage between the King of Scots and Doa Juana, not the legitimate daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, but an illegitimate child of Ferdinand. As he was quite persuaded that the King of Scots would never agree to the marriage if he knew who the lady was, he told him the positive untruth that she was the offspring of a clandestine marriage of Ferdinand before his marriage to Queen Isabella. James listened favourably to his proposals. As soon, however, as Ferdinand heard what was going on in Scotland, he wrote to his ambassador, not reprimanding him, indeed, for the lie, but because the lie was foolish. The truth, he said, could not fail to be detected.
In the year 1494 it was intended to send a new ambassador to England, and Sasiola was selected for the post. As, however, he either did not like to go to England, or was really ill, De Puebla went in his stead. The position which De Puebla occupied was as great as ever has been attained by any ambassador. He not only represented the crowns of Castile and Arragon, but also the Pope and the German Empire. Nevertheless, his partiality to the interests of England soon became so apparent, that grave doubts were entertained by Ferdinand and Isabella whether it were safe to entrust him with the management of their affairs. Moreover, serious complaints made by Spanish subjects, resident in England, against De Puebla, seem to have been frequently sent to his masters. When, in the year 1498, the Knight Commander Londoo and the Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz were sent as ambassadors to Flanders, they were commissioned to inquire, on their way, into the manner in which De Puebla transacted his business. To put him off his guard Ferdinand and Isabella wrote to him, at the same time, the most gracious letter he had ever received. On the arrival of the commissioners in England, they carefully concealed the real object of their mission while they carried on their investigations with great vigour. Witnesses, selected without distinction as to nationality or social position, were heard. We meet amongst them with a privy counsellor and a porter, with Spaniards and with Englishmen. All agreed in depicting De Puebla as not a very amiable character, or as a faithful ambassador. They said he was a great partizan of England. He magnified everything that related to Henry VII., who, on his part, was quite satisfied ; not, however, because he thought De Puebla a good ambassador for Spain, but a good servant to himself. His nomination as ambassador had been a failure ; Henry VII. had himself acknowledged it, and expressed his astonishment when he heard that De Puebla was to return to England. Aware of of his true character, Henry was certain that Ferdinand and Isabella had been mistaken in their appreciation of his qualities. De Puebla was dependent on the King of England, and did not dare to say a word except what he thought would be agreeable to Henry. This dependence was so visible that people sneeringly asked whether De Puebla was sent to England to superintend the affairs of Spain, or to do the business of the King of England ; and the Spanish merchants gave him the nickname of agent of King Henry's exchequer. Notwithstanding all his servility, however, he could be spiteful to Henry if he thought that his services were not sufficiently remunerated. He was continually telling Ferdinand and Isabella that the affairs he had to transact were enormously difficult, when in fact they were perfectly easy. He went even so far in his faithlessness, that he decided against Spain in matters that were left by the English entirely to his discretion. Flagrant instances of this occurred when he was negotiating the conditions of the marriage treaty. He was often glad at the bad success of Spain. He was in a state of constant irritation against Don Pedro de Ayala, his co-ambassador. He could not conceal it, and thereby caused many scandalous scenes. From spite against Don Pedro he falsified one of his letters which had been given him to translate, and so delayed the peace with Scotland. So jealous was he and suspicious of other ambassadors, that when Londoo and the Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz were speaking with the King he went "prowling about like a wolf." In a word, De Puebla was a liar, flatterer, calumniator, beggar, spy, secret informer, enemy of truth, full of lies, vainglorious, ostentatious, a quarrelsome intriguer, and moreover a bad Christian, who had said that the Jews were the only merchants in Spain.
Such accusations seem tolerably to exhaust the catalogue of everything bad which can be said of a man. But the commissioners protested that "they could not bear to relate all the blasphemous things that had been said of De Puebla by even the very servants of the King."
Whilst ambassador in England, De Puebla still exercised his profession of a lawyer, and of his extortion the following incidents are narrated. A merchant of Genoa, who had incurred a penalty, was obliged to pay him 500 crowns, and a new suit of velvet for the wedding of the Princess, in order to obtain his pardon from King of England. Not a Spanish captain, or a single sailor, had anything to do in England, whom he did not fleece. He took money from both parties. By the judges, lawyers, and merchants he was most heartily hated. His trade of an usurer was notorious in London. When the Court was staying in the country he went to dine there every day for four or five months together. He does not seem always to have been a welcome guest. The Queen, and the mother of the King, asked him in seeming compassion whether his masters did not provide him with food. Once Henry asked his courtiers if they knew the reason why De Puebla was coming. They answered, "To eat," and the King laughed. But to dine at the palace was not enough for him. He begged wine and bread for his own and his servants' supper. When the King's servants saw him coming up towards the palace, they said to one another "Here comes the old Doctor a begging!"
His life in town was not very dignified. Once, according to his own account, he lived at the Convent of the Augustine Friars, a place where the great men of England came to confer with him, and where all the spies of Europe were trying to find out what he did. If that were true, he must afterwards have greatly retrenched his expenditure. For when the Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz came to London he found that he had been living, for three years already, in the house of a mason who made money by keeping disreputable women under his roof. He took his dinner at the same table with them and the apprentices. The price charged him was not high ; twopence a day. But the landlord robbed other gentlemen who went to the house, and De Puebla protected him against the agents of the law.
All these are only a few specimens. A privy counsellor said that "all the paper in England would not suffice to describe the character of that man." (fn. 5)
Such was the information which Ferdinand and Isabella received, not from the enemies of De Puebla, but from men who had every reason to be impartial, and in whose veracity they placed the utmost confidence. The King and Queen had no personal predilection for De Puebla ; the Queen could not endure his self sufficiency, and by the King he was merely regarded as an instrument to be thrown away when no longer of any use. How, then, did Ferdinand and Isabella act when they had received the report of the commissioners? Did they recall their ambassador? No, they retained him. Their reasons for doing so were entirely of a political nature. De Puebla had acquired a very intimate acquaintance with the way in which business had to be transacted in England. It was therefore not easy to find an efficient substitute for him. But this was only a subordinate consideration. Henry, in gaining over the affections of De Puebla, became attached to him in a degree uncommonly high for his character. There were sufficient indications that Henry trusted to De Puebla more than he would confide to any other ambassador. It is even probable that at that time there was not a single Englishman who shared the confidence of the King to so great an extent. What could be more convenient for Ferdinand and Isabella than to have a man who had such intimate relations with the King, subject to their orders? Besides, although De Puebla might occasionally prefer the interests of England to those of Spain, they could rest assured that he would never betray them to France. The doctrine held by De Puebla, that it was the chief duty of a Spanish ambassador to raise as many obstacles as possible in the way of the policy of France and to bring her into bad repute, was not mere theory but the principle on which he constantly acted. The King of France was the chief adversary of Ferdinand and Isabella, whose constant policy it was to separate England from France. To obtain this object no man could have been more useful than De Puebla. This advantage formed a complete counterpoise in the estimation of the King of Spain to any inconvenience occasioned by the partiality of De Puebla towards England, and outweighed all the blemishes of his character. But in order that the interests of Spain should not suffer, they always kept another ambassador in England in addition to De Puebla, who by degrees, though to all appearance the Spanish ambassador, really became the English minister for foreign affairs as far as Spain and Flanders were concerned. De Puebla not only conferred with the King in his private closet, when no English subject was present, but assisted in the deliberations of the Privy Council. The management of the diplomatic relations with France, however, Henry kept entirely in his own hands. At all events De Puebla had nothing to do with them.
It might seem as if the same reasons which induced Ferdinand and Isabella to leave De Puebla at his post would have led Henry to with-hold his confidence. It was indeed a strange thing that the man, who in many important matters had so often to perform the duties of an English minister for foreign affairs, should have been at the same time the subject and the servant of the very Princes with whom he had to carry on negotiations. But on the other hand, it must be remembered that excepting the last few years of his reign, Henry had no resident ambassador in Spain. Even then, John Stile acted more in the capacity of a subordinate agent than in that of a representative of the King. Ferdinand always threw great difficulties in the way of resident ambassadors remaining for any length of time at his court, as he regarded them in the light of spies and intriguers. If Henry had thought it absolutely necessary to have an ambassador in Spain he would have overcome these obstacles. But he also thought that it was more convenient for him to make use of a Spanish ambassador who was entirely devoted to his interests, than have a diplomatic agent of his own. France and Spain were constant antagonists, while the King of England wished to remain the friend of both. He was therefore obliged to use very different language to Spain from that which he addressed to France. Had he employed his own minister for that purpose he would have been fully responsible for all that was said. Ferdinand would have been quite diplomatic enough, in such a case, to have communicated Henry's correspondence to France on the first convenient opportunity. He would thereby have raised at any rate suspicions in the mind of the King of France, or perhaps have caused a breach between him and the King of England. If however, as was the fact, the correspondence with the Court of Spain was to be carried on by means of the Spanish ambassador, Henry would then be at full liberty to disavow whatever might be contained in his letters to the prejudice of France. He could not be made formally responsible for the correspondence of a Spanish servant with the Spanish King.
If De Puebla be regarded, not as the Spanish ambassador, but as an English minister, his official conduct affords less ground for censure. His letters to Spain were highly coloured in favour of England. But was an English minister to be blamed for that? All the promises which Henry made, only to gain time, were reported by De Puebla as if their sincerity could not be doubted, while an independent ambassador would have seen through them at once and advised his King not to put any trust in them. But would it have been the duty of an English minister to betray the real intentions of his master?
When the Cornish insurgents marched against London, De Puebla did not write a word about the matter to Spain. As soon, however, as the insurrection was suppressed and Perkin Warbeck made prisoner, Henry sent one of his chamberlains post haste to De Puebla, whose letter, containing the intelligence, was sent off, not only that very day, but the very same hour to Spain. Ferdinand demanded explanations for the suppression of so important a fact as the revolt, on which De Puebla made the clumsy excuse that the news had been known sooner in Spain than in England. Again, when Perkin Warbeck escaped out of prison, De Puebla remained silent ; but the very day that he was recaptured he despatched the tidings to Spain, remarking that others might have written informing Ferdinand of the escape, but not of the circumstance of his having been once more arrested. The office occupied by De Puebla was quite irregular, and both Henry and Ferdinand had so good an opinion of their own diplomatic powers that each imagined he would be able to secure to himself the full advantage of this irregularity.
Queen Isabella treated him in a manner in accordance with her character. She cajoled and flattered him, constantly holding up before his eyes the most brilliant prospects, and telling him that if he performed just what was required of him, he should attain all he had ever desired. Her language is that of a Queen who does her best to corrupt the servant of a foreign prince. On the other hand, she threatened him with her severest displeasure if he did not obtain whatever she asked. De Puebla had not only sold all his possessions in Spain, but had also caused his son to come over to England. Ferdinand and Isabella had it in their power, however, to punish and even to ruin him. There still remained in Spain members of his family who were dear to him, and amongst them an only daughter, who had had the misfortune to fall into the hands of the Inquisition. It may be imagined that a man like De Puebla could not have cared much for his family. But in a country such as Spain, where social life was almost patriarchal, the head of a family was dishonoured if any member of it was brought to shame. Besides, if his office as ambassador had been taken from him he would no longer have been of any use to Henry, and nothing would have been left for him but to retire from the political life to which he was so much attached. The most dreadful threat, therefore, which Queen Isabella could employ was to recall him to Spain.
Whether the material advantages which De Puebla derived from his devotedness to Henry consisted only in gains from his illegal practice as a lawyer, the sale of testimonials, &c., or whether he received money directly from the King, I am unable to state. In the year 1508 he was made Master of Sherbourne Hospital, which office he was to hold during the King's pleasure. But the revenues, I should think, could not have been very great. Besides, this grant was made only a short time before the death of Henry and of De Puebla. After the conclusion of the marriage treaty between the Princess Katharine and Arthur, Prince of Wales, the King offered De Puebla a bishopric. He was crippled. I do not know what his defect was ; it seems to have been so obvious that though it is often alluded to, it is never stated in what it consisted ; only from one expression which is used it may be inferred that a limb was wanting. Henry undertook to procure a dispensation from the Pope for this, and all other canonical disabilities. Although the affair seemed one which it would be very easy to arrange at Rome, there were serious difficulties to contend with in Spain. Without the permission of Ferdinand and Isabella nothing could be done. Henry therefore wrote a letter speaking in the highest terms of De Puebla, and recommended him as their most faithful servant. While saying that De Puebla deserved a liberal recompense from them, and that he did not doubt they would bestow it upon him, he begged their permission to be associated in this work of royal grace and favour. As a bishopric was vacant it was, he said, his intention to bestow it upon De Puebla who, in point of character and dignity of presence, had no equal. The letter remained without response. De Puebla, while anxiously awaiting the reply, hinted more than once at this letter of King Henry in the despatches he sent to Spain. But when month after month passed, and all his expedients were fruitless to obtain an answer, it became clear that the King and Queen of Spain did not wish to see their ambassador preferred to an English bishopric, which would have rendered him comparatively independent. De Puebla, therefore, made a virtue of necessity, and declared that on no condition would he accept such a dignity. In the year 1500 De Puebla was spending the eve of Twelfthday with the King and Queen of England. The poverty in which he lived, and his disinterested refusal of a bishopric, formed the subject of their talk. In the course of this conversation De Puebla was agreeably surprised by an offer made by the Queen of a rich marriage in England. His modesty would not, however, permit him for a moment to entertain such an idea. At last the persuasions of the Queen, in which the King took part, prevailed over his scruples. He promised to accept from their hands a wife if his masters would give him permission. In this way, at any rate, the story is told by himself and the King. Henry again wrote to Ferdinand and Isabella asking their consent The King and Queen of Spain followed once more their old policy, and made no more reply concerning the marriage than they had done about the bishopric. Five months having elapsed De Puebla wrote to Almazan. Almazan emulated his masters. As a second letter of Henry received no attention, the marriage fell to the ground. His salary as ambassador was considerable ; he could have lived very well upon it, if it had been regularly paid, but such was never the case ; and after the death of Queen Isabella he could not count upon the smallest amount being sent to him. It did not seem to produce any effect upon the mind of Ferdinand, who himself was in want of money, when De Puebla told him that he was in debt, and that the ambassador of the King of the Romans, being in a similar predicament, had had an execution put into his house and had narrowly escaped imprisonment. Besides, De Puebla, from his desire always to show Henry in the light of a good brother of other princes, missed his mark by adding that the King, as soon as he heard of the affair, was very angry and treated the creditor so unceremoniously as to deter others from attempting the same thing towards ambassadors. If, therefore, Henry screened ambassadors who were in debt, there was the less reason to send them money.
De Puebla dragged on a miserable existence in England, always complaining of ill health, the bad climate, and the enormous fees to be paid to English physicians. There are quite reasons enough for believing that his complaints were well founded. Nevertheless, this decrepid old man, who was sometimes so ill as to be obliged to be conveyed in a litter to court, could, when occasion required it, display an amount of physical energy that was quite surprising. For instance, when on his way to the King who was then staying in the country, he was overtaken by a messenger of his brother ambassador, Fuensalida, bearing despatches to Henry about the same business as that on which he was going himself, in order not to be forestalled, he spurred on his horse, and riding day and night actually reached his destination a day earlier than the professional courier.
King Henry died on the 21st of April 1509. De Puebla seems to have outlived him but a very short time. In the autumn of the same year we find his son, who was a canon of St. Paul's, going to Spain in order to settle the affairs of his deceased father. Both Henry and De Puebla had few, if any real friends, but they were attached to each other to a degree rarely seen among better men. The letters of De Puebla are very numerous, and it is scarcely necessary to add that they form the most important part of the present collection.
Don Pedro de Ayala formed a great contrast to De Puebla. He was Apostolic and Imperial Prothonotary. He was not a great scholar ; the Latin he wrote was bad, and even his Spanish spelling was indifferent. But there was nothing of the pedant about him. Of agreeable manners, genial and light hearted, he made friends wherever he went. While De Puebla led the life of a beggar, Don Pedro lived like a gentleman, rented a good house, and took especial care to have his cellar well stocked. Though raised to the rank of a bishop, he remained a man of the world. Possessed of keen determination, he had a thorough insight into the characters of those with whom he had to deal. Not indifferent to money, and in the habit of frequently asking for his salary and for preferment, he did so in a manner quite different from De Puebla. Whilst the requests of the latter were made in such a tone as to render those to whom he addressed himself more inclined to withhold than to grant his demands, Ayala preferred his solicitations in so gentle a way as to make it difficult to refuse him.
Don Pedro was first nominated ambassador to the King of Scots, but afterwards while retaining his post in Scotland he was likewise accredited to the King of England. He had a marked predilection for James, who on his part was so attached to him that he called him his father, and did not venture to decide on any great question of state without asking his advice. Henry was perfectly aware of Don Pedro's amiable disposition and great capacity for business. He flattered him and tried to win him over, but never succeeded. When the Princess Katharine was about to come to England, Henry asked as a special favour of Ferdinand and Isabella, that Don Pedro might remain in this country for there was no one, he said, so well calculated as he to make the Princess feel less a stranger in her new home on her first arrival.
His clerical character did not prevent him, during his frequent travels between Edinburgh and London, from occasionally taking part in a little fighting on the Borders. Even in the streets of London he sometimes indulged in similar exploits. In one of these brawls, he had a brick thrown at him, and an Englishman was carried away dead from the scene of action. While Ayala had participated in the slaying of the Englishman, De Puebla decorously went to see him buried and to pay him the last honours. So great was the scandal that the officers of the law took occasion to proceed against Don Pedro's servants. The one most deeply incriminated was his chaplain, a Scotchman by birth. Ayala was obliged to use all his influence to save him from execution. The most serious part of the affair, however, was, that it cost more than 200l. to secure the escape of the offender. The brother of the chaplain could not refrain from expressing his vehement indignation at the cupidity of the English myrmidons of the law.
To be a servant of Don Pedro was a dangerous post. He had brought over with him from Spain, six servants and his brother ambassador, Don Martin, had left him six more at his death. By the year 1498 only three of them had escaped death or mutilation. Two had been slain on the road and were buried in Scotland, four had fallen in the wars, and three more were invalided in consequence of wounds.
De Puebla hated Don Pedro more than any man living. His letters are full of the bitterest invectives against him. The influence of Don Pedro over De Puebla was so strong as to occasion the latter to exclaim, that in the presence of Don Pedro he felt utterly unable to transact any business, and lost all command over his moral and intellectual faculties. On the other hand, Don Pedro never mentions even De Puebla's name.
Don Pedro exchanged his embassy to Scotland and England for Flanders, where, however, he did not remain long. His letters are not confined to political subjects. They contain little essays on the customs of the people, the constitution of the government, and other similar matters ; and often descend to notice the most trifling occurrences of the day. Unfortunately they seem to have been almost all lost. We only possess one long letter, and a few short ones, of this interesting correspondent.
Londoo and the Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz stayed a very short time in England. Most of their letters, which are not without value to English history, were written from Flanders. The Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz belonged to the same convent as Tomas Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of Spain. His letters are animated by the pious feeling of a Dominican friar of that time.
The Duke de Estrada was not only a courtier, but an officer in the royal household. The Princess of Wales calls him a mediocre man, who had not even sufficient means to support the dignity of an ambassador. There is nothing in his correspondence tending to make us imagine that the Princess was mistaken.
Of the private life of the Knight Commander of Haro, and afterwards of Membrilla, I know nothing ; and the principal part which he played in his capacity of ambassador, belongs to the reign of Henry VIII.
Katharine, Princess of Wales, was herself one of the more prominent characters in the political drama of the day. In that quality I shall have to mention her more than once hereafter. She was, however, formally accredited by King Ferdinand to the King of England as his diplomatic agent. Her letters were, therefore, not only private communications of a daughter to her father, but official documents. When she first came to England she was a mere child, and certainly had no experience of the world. But the intrigues into which she was constantly dragged very soon opened her eyes. Too great confidence in men, or their promises, was not her foible, and she could not be easily duped. Her letters are very numerous, and though the spelling is sometimes incorrect, and the style heavy, they are always clear and decided.
The few notices I have been able to gather concerning the principal persons employed in the diplomatic correspondence between England and Spain at the time of Henry VII. are not of a kind to induce us to place much reliance on their love of truth. Are their letters then to be received as unexceptionable evidence? As far as their communications relate to the business on which they themselves are employed not the least doubt can be raised. If Ferdinand, for instance, writes to Henry telling him he is thoroughly prepared to make war on France, and to reconquer Normandy and Brittany for England, whilst in reality he only wishes to embroil England with France, and thereby to obtain better conditions for the treaty of peace which he is already negotiating, his want of truth is so flagrant that it is seen through in a moment. But the value of the document is not the least impaired in consequence, for, we learn by it the real fact that the negotiation was carried on by falsehood. The State Papers of a first-rate power are in this respect much superior to those of a secondrate state. If the agents of a leading government make false statements, these false statements influence the course of political events, and it is indispensable for the historian to know them in order to understand the history of the time. Even with respect to intelligence which does not form the subject of their negotiations, diplomatists, however great their propensity to tell untruths, must be more guarded than private persons. Whilst the latter may generally gratify their animosities or predilections to any extent without fear of evil consequences, the diplomatist must be aware that untrue statements, if continued, would raise political questions on matters which have no foundation, and would fall back on his own head.
I come next to Ferdinand and Isabella. Ferdinand was married to Isabella at Valladolid on the 14th of October 1469. He was then 17 years of age, and Isabella about one year older. After having succeeded to the crown of Castile on the 15th December 1474, they came into possession of the crown of Arragon some five years later. Many portraits of them are still extant in Spain ; but they are all by bad masters, and do not resemble one another.
The Queen often spoke of her dress. She dwelt much upon her simplicity, and laid great stress on the circumstance that she had been obliged to receive the French ambassadors twice in the same costume, whilst she spent large sums to the glory of God and the good of the world. These kind of letters have often been published, and have not a little contributed to exalt her as a pious character. But such persons as had opportunities of seeing her, and of judging by their own observations, could not find words expressive enough to describe the splendour of her attire. We have in the journals of Machado (fn. 6), who accompanied the English ambassadors as king-at-arms to Spain in the year 1489, a relation of her toilette worthy a court milliner. He declares that he never beheld such magnificence, and the description of the velvet, gold, and pearls which she wore is so minute that it leaves us no room to doubt of his being a connoisseur. When he, therefore, assured the King of England that a single toilette of Queen Isabella amounted in value to 200,000 scudos, and that he never saw her twice, even on the same day, whether it were at an audience, a bull fight, or a ball, in the same costume, we may conjecture that she carried on her person the greater portion of the contents of the Royal Exchequer.
Ferdinand, at least on state occasions, was also addicted to similar magnificence. John Stile, the English ambassador, describes him in the year 1509 as squinting with the left eye, and lisping in consequence of the loss of a front tooth, but for the rest a right hearty Prince, of a robust constitution, and smiling countenance.
Neither Ferdinand nor Isabella were scholars. They spoke and wrote Spanish well, but seem to have been unable to understand any other language. A great distinction is generally made between the writing of Ferdinand and that of Isabella Ferdinand we are told, if he were able to write at all, wrote so badly, that he could scarcely express himself. Even Lafuente, not Modesto Lafuente the author of the Political History of Spain, but the modern ecclesiastical historian of that country, thinks it necessary to defend Ferdinand in his Church History against the reproach of not having been able to sign his letters. He shows that Ferdinand was really able to sign, but adds, that the writing was very bad, and we should infer from his words that he believed Ferdinand was unable to write more than his name. It is strange how long such prejudices may exist in spite of the clearest evidence to the contrary. Holographs of Ferdinand are by no means rare. Many exist at Simancas and elsewhere. In the archives of the Duke of Frias in Madrid I have seen five very long letters written entirely by the King. I subjoin a specimen addressed to Isabella, the original of which is now in the collection of autographs in Madrid, but an authenticated copy remains at Simancas in Estado, Castile, legajo 1 and 2, f. 177.
Mi Seora,"Now at least it is clear which of us two loves best. Judging by what you have ordered should be written to me, I see that you can be happy while I lose my sleep, because messenger comes after messenger and brings me no letters from you. The reason why you do not write is not because there is no paper to be had, or that you do not know how to write, but because you do not love me, and because you are proud. You are living at Toledo, I am living in small villages. Well! one day you will return to your old affection. If you do not I shall die, and the guilt will be yours.
Write to me and let me know how you are. There is nothing to be said about the affairs which keep me here, except what Silva will communicate to you, and what Ferdinand Pulgar has told you. I beg you to believe Silva. Do write to me.
While Ferdinand was able to express himself perfectly well in writing, Queen Isabella was not inferior to him in this respect. The handwritings of the King and the Queen are so alike that it requires an intimate acquaintance with them not to mistake the one for the other. The characters are large and bold, but already old-fashioned for the time. Holographs of the Queen are exceedingly rare, and therefore very highly valued. In the Egerton MSS., No. 616, there is a short note written entirely by her. The person who sold the volume does not seem to have been aware of the fact.
With regard to their moral character, the Queen has been extolled as simple-hearted and pious, whilst a large amount of opprobrium has been cast upon the King. But it is very difficult, where two persons are so intimately united as Ferdinand and Isabella, to decide what measure of praise or blame attaches to the one or the other. They quarrelled sometimes about their private concerns. It could scarcely be otherwise, when we remember that Ferdinand had four illegitimate children by different mothers. But in their aggressive foreign policy, and in their measures of oppression at home, they were always agreed. The praise bestowed upon the character of Isabella is, to no small amount, due to the chivalrous character of the Spaniards, who never forgot that the Queen was a lady. Another reason was the old and still-continued strife between the Corona and Coronilla. Queen Isabella represented the Corona, in other words, the great kingdom of Castile ; whilst Ferdinand was only the representative of the Coronilla, that is to say, the small crown of Arragon. In Castile he has always been regarded as an intruder ; and as Castile was the leading portion of Spain, its opinion has generally been received as expressing that of the whole country. Such judgments, when once established, influence even the most clear-sighted historian, and the only means of divesting himself of prejudice is to read the original letters and papers. Some of them have been published, but the great mass still remain undisturbed in the archives.
Neither Isabella nor Ferdinand scrupled to tell direct untruths, and make false promises, whenever they thought it expedient to their policy. But if any distinction is to be made, certainly Queen Isabella excelled her husband in disregard to veracity. It even seems to have been a matter of understanding between the two, that whenever any very flagrant falsehood was to be uttered, she should be the one to do it. I will merely allude, as examples of this, to two instances of which I shall here after have to make fuller mention ; namely, her letter to the Pope in which she solemnly declared that she derived no pecuniary advantage from the Inquisition, and her despatches respecting the second marriage of the Princess Katharine.
Suffering from ill health, she seems to have been of a highly nervous temperament. She wrote much with her own hand, but she generally had her letters translated into cipher, most probably destroying the originals. Whilst writing, she worked herself up into a state of excitement, and her expressions grow by degrees stronger and stronger, while her protestations sometimes contain so much warmth that, most probably, she herself, for the moment, believed in the truth of them. She appears to have been very liable to mistake her own interests for those of God, whose name she constantly had on her lips, or to substitute self-gratification for real love of the people. For instance, in her letter to Henry VII., dated the 15th September 1496, she enlarged, in the most touching terms, on the blessings of peace, and concluded by saying that, if it were possible to avoid thereby the calamities of war, she would not only send one, and more than one embassy, to the King of France, but that she would go to him in her own person, and ask him to make peace, not sparing herself any trouble or pains whatever. No words can be more becoming a great and pious Queen. It is to be regretted that, in the same letter, she urged the King of England to declare war upon France and thereby to render the bloodshed and slaughter more general even than it was.
Ferdinand had not the reputation, among the princes of his time, of being a very untruthful man. Still his double dealings were endless. In addition to his duplicity, he was characterised by cold, pitiless sternness, hidden below a smiling surface. The only excuse that can be made for him, if excuse it be, is that he was a man of large grasp of mind, and that he had great plans to carry out. Whoever has been seriously engaged in vast enterprises will have found that it was impossible for him to be equally just to all interests. To gain the principal object in view he will have had to neglect and even disregard other duties. The political views of Ferdinand embraced the whole of Europe. I am not able to state at what period his plans arrived at ripeness. A man like him was not likely to make proclamation of his intentions from the housetops. They came to light when the time for action had arrived, and most probably their growth only kept pace with the march of events.
Ferdinand had great confidence in his family relationships, and thought the world was to be governed by means of marriages and family connexions. That was not an opinion peculiar to him. The whole age might be called a dynastic age, and marriages have never assumed so much importance since, as they did then. The reason was that treaties did not offer any security, but were broken as soon as they were negotiated and sworn. There seemed really to be no lasting bond between man and man except the sacrament of marriage. In one respect, however, Ferdinand differed widely from the kings of his time. In his opinion the family connexions of the reigning houses ought to be subordinated to higher principles of policy. He was most probably the first statesman of the middle ages who saw that a strong government must not be based upon heterogenous national elements and disjointed provinces. Had not events, beyond the control of man, prevented him from carrying out his plans, the map of Europe would have been constituted three hundred and fifty years ago almost as it now stands.
Spain, there can be no doubt, was the inheritance of his only legitimate son, Don Juan. When he married his second daughter, Doa Juana, to the son of the King of the Romans, no human foresight could have predicted that from this marriage would spring the unnatural union of Germany and Spain. To bring about such an event it was necessary that four deaths should occur ; that of the Prince Don Juan himself, of his son, of his elder sister, Doa Isabella, and of her son Don Miguel. While Ferdinand, therefore, is not morally responsible for the union of these two empires, much less can he be accused of having wished to divide the kingdom of Spain. It is true he married Germaine de Foix ; but an exchange or barter of kingdoms, was, in his time, by no means unusual ; and as it was his intention to form Italy into a kingdom, a son of Germaine de Foix might easily be provided for there. The only son of his second wife died so soon after his birth that there was no opportunity afforded him of carrying this plan into effect. But when Maximilian proposed that his grandson, Prince Ferdinand, should be made King of Arragon, Ferdinand rejected the proposal at once, and in the most determined way declared he would not suffer any one to speak even of such a subject. Castile and Arragon, he said, were united, and must remain united for ever. (fn. 7)
Ferdinand entered into long negotiations with the King of France in the latter part of his life respecting Italy. A treaty was actually concluded, by which Rene, the second daughter of the King of France, was to be married to Prince Ferdinand. The King of France was to give up as dowry to his daughter his claims on Northern Italy, and to cede his rights on Naples to King Ferdinand, so that he might dispose of that kingdom as he liked. Nor are we left to guess at his intentions. He declared, in a letter to the King of France, that he had entered into negotiations with the King of the Romans, the object of which was to exchange the kingdom of Naples for the inheritance of Prince Ferdinand in Germany. (fn. 8) If the north and the south of Italy, Ferdinand said, were formed into one powerful state, the remainder would not be able long to withstand it. Even the union of Scotland with England occupied the mind of Ferdinand. In the archives in Paris there is a letter extant in which he admonishes King Louis not to raise any difficulties if the King of England should "take upon himself the government of Scotland." (fn. 9)
Ambitious as he was, and entertaining the largest plans, Ferdinand never liked to wage a great war. There is still a curious memoir extant at Simancas, which gives a clear insight into his manner of proceeding. When Francis I. had been made prisoner by Charles V., the Emperor asked the advice of an ancient counsellor of Ferdinand who had retired from official life many years before. The old man advised him not to insist on too hard conditions, holding up to him the policy of Ferdinand as an example. King Ferdinand, he said, always made peace with France on easy terms when he had been prosperous in the field. But he made use of the peace which he had negotiated only to prepare himself anew for war. Thus he obtained a two-fold advantage. As countries may be conquered by arms, but cannot be held by force, he gained time to consolidate his new acquisitions ; and, in the second place, while he might in the end gain the whole, he never exposed himself to the danger of a great loss. (fn. 10)
Ferdinand and Isabella fill such an important place in the correspondence contained in this collection, that I must not omit anything likely to elucidate their personal character. I think there is nothing better calculated for that purpose than to place the King and Queen before the reader in such a light as to enable him to judge for himself of their actions. I will select some circumstances which are but little known, and which are connected with the introduction of the Inquisition into Spain. The line of conduct pursued by Ferdinand and Isabella is not only characteristic of them, but was also connected with the negotiations between Spain and England. It belongs, therefore, indirectly to the subject of this work.
Before Ferdinand could occupy himself with his great European policy he was obliged first to arrange his affairs at home. The wars against the Moors were to be carried on, and the coffers of the state were empty. To make state loans had not at that time become a scientific art. The only expedient was to increase the taxes. One of the principal sources of the public revenue was derived from the confiscation of the property of criminals. To find out a new class of wealthy criminals was an idea which, provided it were not in contradiction to popular feeling, might enter the mind of a financier. Religion seemed to offer such an opportunity. Two very different classes of opinions were then entertained in Spain. Many who were disinclined to narrow-minded orthodoxy had, from their daily intercourse with Moors and Jews, imbibed latitudinarian doctrines. Zealots, on the other hand, were exasperated by that very fact. Interposed between these two extremes was the great mass of the nation, who, it was to be imagined, might be easily gained over to the policy of the Government. The persecution of the Jews and those who held friendly intercourse with them, would, consequently, at once be a means of gratifying the wants of the minister of finance and the feelings of orthodox Christians. Queen Isabella, who always shared the harsh doctrines of the Dominicans, could not have felt any great objections against carrying such a project into execution. If religious motives had less weight with Ferdinand, the deficiency was amply compensated for by political reasons in addition to those of finance. He saw that uniformity in religion and a strong ecclesiastical rule were good preparatives for a concentrated and powerful political government.
In the year 1478 Ferdinand and Isabella were staying at Seville. At the same place a small assembly of priests and laymen were gathered together to consider how the evil influence exercised by the Jews over Christians could be prevented. The King and Queen took part in the deliberations, the result of which was, that all priests in towns and villages were instructed to use their earnest endeavours to bring back the erring sheep into the true fold. It was easy to predict that this measure would produce no effect. (fn. 11) The next step taken by Ferdinand and Isabella was to request of the Pope a bull, by which the reverend father, Friar Tomas de Torquemada, or as he is styled in Latin documents, Turrecremata, should be confirmed as Inquisitor General in Spain, with power to nominate his agents. This bull was granted in the year 1481. Torquemada was the confessor, not, as it is sometimes believed, of the Queen, but of King Ferdinand, and he was Prior of the convent of Santa Cruz in Segovia. The first act performed by Torquemada, on his elevation to his new dignity, was what he called an act of grace. He published an edict, which was placarded on all the church doors throughout Spain, by which sinners were commanded to confess and repent within a certain number of days. Fifteen thousand persons obeyed his behest. Penances, differing in degree, according to the guilt of the offenders, were imposed. As soon as the period of grace had terminated, the Inquisition began its reign of terror. It must not be imagined that it had to take cognizance of religious dogmas alone ; morality in general, and matrimonial causes, were also subject to its jurisdiction. The punishments inflicted by the inquisitors were, death by fire, imprisonment for life, or for a certain term of years. Those who were restored to liberty were obliged constantly to wear red crosses outside their clothes, one on their back and one on their breast, for the remainder of their days. The use of gold, silk, and camlet, was, moreover, forbidden them. They and their children were declared incapable of holding any office or trust. The whole of Spain from one end to the other was startled by the flames of the autos da f. Towns, provinces, and kingdoms sent deputations to Ferdinand and Isabella declaring that it was impossible to submit to such cruelty. In some of the provinces there still remained officers of the former Inquisition. They had become harmless, and their very existence almost forgotten. On this occasion they again showed signs of life by protesting in stronger terms than the rest of the Spanish people against the new institution. The storm was so general that it seemed almost impossible to withstand it, but Ferdinand and Isabella bore the brunt of it immoveably. They sent commissioners with secret instructions to their governors of provinces and kingdoms, who had also begun to waver, threatening them, on the one hand, with the most terrible punishments, and on the other, luring them to their cause by promises of riches and greatness.
Notwithstanding all the measures taken by Government the inquisitors did not enter into peaceful possession of their offices. They were no sooner installed into them by the help of an armed force than they were driven out again and hunted down by the populace. The utmost that could be obtained was, the prevention of the complete downfall of the Inquisition. This critical state of things was rendered all the more dangerous by the opposition against the Inquisition having extended to Rome itself. The Pope modified the bull which he had given, deposed the most cruel among the inquisitors, and ordered that an appeal to Rome should be opened. Ferdinand responded by sending the Pope a minatory letter. (fn. 12)
The Pope was intimidated. On the 3d of August 1483 he wrote that he intended to reconsider his last resolution in favour of the heretics, and until then he would leave the matter in suspense. As nevertheless papal remissions of penalties were obtained, Ferdinand promulgated an ordinance stating that in the kingdoms of Arragon and Valentia any person, whether ecclesiastical or secular, and without any distinction of class or sex, who should make use of a papal indulgence, should be put to death on the spot. (fn. 13)
Not only living heretics, but those who had died, were persecuted. They were cited before the tribunals, and if found guilty their bones were exhumed and solemnly burnt. So far the whole procedure looks like a hideous farce ; but there was also a serious element in it. The goods that the heretics had left to their heirs were confiscated, and filled the coffers of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Amongst the many dead who were destined to undergo judgment after burial were the father, the mother, and the grandmother of Don Juan Arias de Avila, Bishop of Segovia. As soon as he heard what was in prospect, he drove out from his diocese all the inquisitors, and remonstrated with the King and Queen. When he found that all was in vain, he went in the dead of night to the churchyard of the Convent de la Merced, dug up the bones of his ancestors, and hid them in a place where they could not be found. He himself proceeded to Rome. As soon as Queen Isabella was informed of his journey, she wrote a long letter to her ambassadors at the papal court giving them instructions what they were to say to the Pope and the Cardinals. The Bishop of Segovia, she said, had exhumed the bones only in order to deprive the Inquisition of proof that they had been buried after the Jewish fashion. "I have," she said, "caused great calamities, and depopulated towns, lands, provinces, and kingdoms," but she protested that she had acted thus from love of Christ and his Holy Mother. Those were liars and calumniators who said she had done so from love of money, for she had never herself touched a maravedi proceeding from the confiscated goods of the dead. On the contrary, she had employed the money, she asseverated, in educating and giving marriage portions to the children of the condemned. (fn. 14) So solemn a declaration of the Queen seems to demand respect. If, however, we turn over the leaves of the State Papers, we find orders emanating from her which very strongly impeach her veracity. Amongst many instances I will quote one. A certain Pecho of Xerez had been condemned for heresy, and his property, to the amount of 200,000 maravedis, was confiscated. 20,000 maravedis was the portion of the widow, who with her children remained in utter destitution. The Queen granted them, as a special favour, 30,000 maravedis, and the rest went into her own coffers. (fn. 15) There is a great number of similar cases to be found ; and as the registers speak only of her bounties, the instances in which she took possession of all the confiscated goods remain unnoticed. (fn. 16)
The Pope determined to send a legate to Spain in order to inquire into the proceedings of the Inquisition. Isabella did all in her power to prevent it. She used corruption on a large scale, larger even, as she declared, than was agreeable to herself. The final result was that the Courts of Spain and Rome came to an understanding respecting the person who was to be sent as legate. He received rich donations in Spain, and his inquiry was reduced to a mere form. It is characteristic of the Queen that the only condition she made was, that his Holiness shall absolve her from simony. (fn. 17) We are indebted to the Archivero of Barcelona who lived at that time for many lists of autos da f. We find among the sufferers men of all classes,clergymen, officers in the army, tailors, and cobblers ; but the number of widows of merchants occupies a disproportionately large space in the different lists. Were they really more inclined to heresy, or were they only rich and comparatively defenceless?
From this time forth the Inquisition was established on solid foundations. Two thousand men and women were burned, and a still greater number condemned to perpetual imprisonment, while immense numbers fled to France, Italy, and other countries. In Xerez, Seville, and Cordova alone, 4,000 homesteads were deserted. The Queen was implored to relent. But she answered that it was better for the service of God and herself to have the country depopulated than to have it polluted by heresy. Persecution even hunted the fugitives in foreign countries. The King of Naples, for instance, was requested, in a tone of command, to torture and put to death all those who would not at once deliver the small remnants of the fortune they had saved.
The heretics were not safe even in England. Ferdinand and Isabella, in their letter of the 18th August 1494, asked Henry, as a special favour, to prevent the courts of law from condemning Diego de Soria, a Spanish merchant in London, to pay back to the fugitive Jews such sums of money as they had confided to him on leaving Spain. In the year 1498, when Londoo and the Sub-Prior of Santa Cruz were sent to England, the Sub-Prior had a secret mission to Henry. The instructions relating to it are not extant, but there is no doubt that they were connected with religious persecution. The Sub-Prior gives a short sketch in his letter of the 18th of July of his conversation with the King of England, from which it is perfectly clear that certain demands respecting the Inquisition were made. Ferdinand and Isabella had expressed their sorrow that, whilst Spain had been purged of infidelity, Flanders and England were infected by that scourge. Henry laying both hands on his breast swore that he would persecute without mercy any "cursed" Jew or heretic that the Queen of Spain could point out in his dominions. Much more, however, must have been said on both sides, as the Sub-Prior writes he spoke to the King for a long while on the subject. We know from other sources that soon afterwards new processes against heretics were begun in England. But the proceedings were not very severe, and nothing like the Inquisition was ever attempted by Henry.
Of the personal appearance of Henry VII. little is to be learnt. He was of middle height, and had by no means a robust constitution. All foreign diplomatists who had any business to transact with him mention the vivacity of his expression, and especially the liveliness of his eyes. He liked to speak French, of which language he retained a perfect command to the end of his life. On the whole, he looked more like a Frenchman than an Englishman. He did not sympathise with the peculiarly national mode of thinking, and had imbibed so little of English prejudice, that he did not even hate the Scots. Henry would have very much liked to employ foreigners as his servants, but was afraid of hurting the feelings of his subjects.
He looked old for his years, but, as Pedro de Ayala observes, not older than might have been expected, considering the cares and troubles he had undergone. In the middle of his career, when not occupied with affairs of state, it was his custom to retire to his closet and employ himself in settling his accounts. During the last years of his life, and especially after the death of Queen Elizabeth, his habits altered to a considerable extent. When he was not confined by illness to his apartments, he went, for weeks and months together, from one hunting place to another, to enjoy the pleasures of hawking and the chase. He spent, moreover, a great deal of time in devotional exercises. The popular tradition respecting his avarice, which has descended to us, seems only too well founded. It is quite the characteristic of a usurer to have a fondness for gold. We are informed that whenever a gold coin entered the chests of Henry it never found its way out again. But whenever he appeared before the agents of foreign princes nothing of meanness was discernible about him ; on the contrary, his magnificence is often alluded to.
Henry wished very much to be considered by other princes as a great man, and he possessed in fact, as the most judicious observer of his character remarked, (fn. 18) many of the qualities which constitute greatness, but he had one characteristic which spoilt all the rest, his love of money.
The supposed harsh treatment of his Queen has often afforded subject for comment. That he felt no very warm attachment for her is very probable ; but I have met with no instance of harshness or ill treatment. On all public occasions he showed her much consideration. Sometimes even, scenes occur which prove that they were not wanting in cordiality towards each other. The impression that Queen Elizabeth made upon the Prior of Santa Cruz was that she was the most noble woman in England. He thought that she suffered under great oppression, and led a miserable, cheerless life. The oppressor, however, was not the King, but the Countess of Richmond. He begs Ferdinand and Isabella to write a letter to the poor Queen sometimes, for charity's sake.
Henry was not an unfeeling father. He educated his children with great care. The death of Prince Arthur was a heavy blow to him. During the latter part of his life he kept Prince Henry constantly with him. Though he might have had political reasons for doing so, namely, to prevent any communications taking place between him and the Spanish party, there is no doubt that he was also actuated by another and nobler motive,the wish to form the character and sharpen the intelligence of his son.
Besides Henry, there were no political personages in England of any great importance. Even Cardinal Morton, who had great ability in finding out small expedients, seems to have been only an instrument in the hands of the King. After the death of Morton, Richard Fox, the Earl of Oxford, the mother of the King, and other persons are sometimes mentioned as possessed of some weight. But it is always added that their influence was restricted to affairs of small moment. The Countess of Richmond appears to have been of a decided and even imperious character. Her regulations respecting the hangings of the chamber in which the Queen was to be confined, and similar directions of hers, show that she was not without talent in her domestic capacity ; but between a housewife and a politician there is a great difference.
From the moment when Henry VII. landed at Milford Haven, and before the crown was placed on his head at the battle of Bosworth, he considered himself King of England by the grace of God. The story so often repeated that he submitted to the decision of the Court of King's Bench the question whether an attainted person could sit upon the throne, and attainted members take their places in Parliament, is entirely without foundation. It seems to have been the invention of a constitutional lawyer.
Neither Polydore Vergil, nor Hall, nor the Chronicler of England, who speaks very fully respecting the first Parliament of Henry, make any mention of such a proceeding. The simple reason is, that the story was not circulated until later times. It first appears in a copy of the Year Books, printed by Robert Redman (fn. 19). As the first book of Redman was printed in the year 1525, the mention of the alleged fact does not takes place until forty years after the time at which it is said to have happened. (fn. 20) The late mention of it would not be a proof in itself that the relation was false, but it is directly contradicted by the authentic Rolls of Parliament and by the Judgment Rolls. According to the Rolls the first Parliament of Henry assembled on Monday, 7th November 1485. On that same day the King himself nominated the Receivers and Triers of Petitions. At the head of them is Sir John Morton of Exeter, attainted in the first Parliament of Richard III. The Speaker of the House was nominated the following day. He was Thomas Lovell, attainted in the same Parliament. The reversal of the attainder took place after the subsidy had been granted, and the succession to the crown settled ; that is to say, not until all the other important affairs of Parliament had been concluded. (fn. 21) It is therefore clear that the attainted members participated in business before the reversal.
The Judgment Rolls of the King's Bench of Michaelmas Term, 1485, mention Thomas Lovell, but not in the capacity of an indicted person. He came to the court in order to propose different persons as candidates for certain vacant places. On the 7th of November, the day in which the question was, according to the notice contained in the Year Books, submitted to the King's Bench, the court really sat at Westminster and received a message from the King. But the subject of it was nothing less than an order issued by Henry VII., "grace de Dieu," King of England, &c., to enter upon the records certain grants he had made. Thus the official documents of the Parliament and the King's Court not only fail to contain the least mention of a fact which certainly would have been recorded had it taken place, but state circumstances which contradict it. Besides it would have argued but little intelligence on the part of Henry if he had excluded his adherents who were all of them attainted, from Parliament, and then had submitted a question of such transcendent importance to members who were either indifferent to him, or his enemies. The doctrine of Universal Suffrage, as lately exercised in France, had not then been invented. But the principles on which Henry VII. acted come very near to those of Napoleon. Both of them first rendered themselves masters of the country by force, and then, without entering into any question about right, obtained,the one from the people, the other from the Parliament,the declaration that they were King, or Emperor, by the grace of God.
Sir John Fortescue is generally celebrated by Liberals as a partizan of the rights of the people. It is true that in the theoretical part of his books he speaks with even exaggerated praise of a limited monarchy, and heaps contumely on an absolute government. But when he comes to devise measures to be carried out his language is entirely changed. His theory was not in favour of strengthening popular rights, but of adding more power to the Crown. In his book entitled "The Difference between Absolute and Limited Monarchy," he points out to King Edward IV. that he had been too liberal in the grants he had made to the lords of the realm. The royal power had been too much weakened in consequence, and that of the lords increased. There were peers who had revenues as large and vassals as numerous almost as the King himself. As often as two of the great lords combined together, the Crown was in danger. The only effectual remedy would, therefore, be to make no new grants to the nobles, and to prevent them from adding to their possessions by great marriages. If that were done, the domains belonging to the Crown would, by degrees, be so much increased that the King would be stronger than any three of the most powerful men united. Sir John further proposed that the servants of the Crown should not be the nobles but men who depended upon the King entirely, and who would be nothing more than servants. If these servants and vassals, and especially foresters, were formed into an organized body the King would have a considerable force, at once, at his disposal, and with it would be able to put down any rebellion which might arise in his kingdom.
King Richard III. was but a poor politician. He thought that he could corrupt the people by extravagant liberality, and win thousands over to his cause. Sir Harris Nicolas has made a list of the grants of Richard, which is contained in the Public Record Office, and the mere enumeration of the grants fills 108 folio pages. Richard III. acted the part of King Lear, and was, like him, forsaken.
The character of Henry VII. is very repugnant to us because of his avarice. He carried economy too far, and grew mean in consequence. But the very quality, the excess of which became a matter of severe and deserved reproach to him, added, at first, materially to secure him in the possession of the Crown. Henry was just the man to profit by the advice of Sir John Fortescue.
Availing himself of every opportunity at home of strengthening his government, he pursued a policy of peace abroad. He wished to be the friend of all the Princes of Europe. In a letter to the Pope (fn. 22) he dwells much at length on his pacific disposition. Whatever his rights on the former possessions of England in France might have been, it had never entered his mind, he said, to insist upon them. He valued the peace of Christendom far more than any conquest ; besides he had a natural abhorrence to the shedding of blood. However disinclined we may be to accept similar professions, and especially when made by Henry VII., in this case his assertions are fully borne out by facts.
When the Knight Commander Londoo and the SubPrior of Santa Cruz visited England in the year 1498, they found it utterly impossible to speak with any Englishman, or even with a foreigner who had for some time resided in England, about matters concerning Scotland and the Scots. As soon as such a subject was mentioned, the English flew into a passion. The only person, the ambassadors added, who knew Scotland well, and spoke calmly and reasonably about the Scotch, was Don Pedro de Ayala. The materials of the following description are principally borrowed from his long letter dated the 25th July 1498. But I must not omit to remind the reader that Don Pedro was a personal friend of King James.
James was of middle height ; his features were handsome. He never cut his hair or his beard, and it became him well. He expressed himself gracefully in Latin, French, German, Flemish, Italian, and Spanish. His pronunciation of Spanish was clearer than that of other foreigners. In addition to his own and the above-mentioned languages, he spoke that of the "savages who lived on the mountains and on the islands." The books which he read most were the Bible and other devout works, with French and Latin Chronicles.
He was very devout. He never ate flesh on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on Sundays he would not, for any consideration, mount on horseback, "not even to go to mass." Before transacting any business he heard two masses ; the second mass was generally followed by a cantata, during which he despatched urgent business. In the smallest things, and even when indulging in a joke, he always spoke the truth. He was very proud of his veracity, and often reprehended the custom which had then become usual among kings of swearing to their treaties. The royal word, he said, ought to suffice.
James was courageous, but a bad captain. Often before he had given the word of command he had already personally engaged in the battle. His subjects, he said, served him with their persons and goods in just and unjust wars exactly as he commanded ; therefore he did not think it right to begin any warlike enterprise without being himself the first in danger. He was active and hard working. When he was not occupied by wars he hunted in the mountains. He was moderate in his eating and drinking. "God has almost worked a wonder in him," exclaimed Don Pedro, "for out of Spain a temperate man, and especially in Scotland, is something nearly superhuman."
When still very young he was guilty of some dishonourable acts, but it was less his fault than that of those who were his guides. They favoured his amorous connexions with their relatives in order to keep him in subjection. When the Spanish ambassador arrived in Scotland, he found that the King had a fair lady in a castle, whom he kept in great state, and visited from time to time. He afterwards sent her home to her father, and married her to one of his nobles. Not long afterwards he did the same with another lady by whom he had had a son. As soon, however, as his judgment was formed, he gave up his love intrigues, as well from fear of God as from fear of being unfavourably talked of : for, the love of scandal was rife in Scotland, and James estimated his own reputation as highly as "though he were lord of the world."
Although liberal and humane, he was a severe judge, especially in cases of murder. It had been the custom in Scotland to farm the administration of justice ; but James IV. discontinued this practice. He himself went on the circuits, even to the small islands. The inhabitants of them had been warlike and rebellious, but under his reign, while they remained warlike, they became in addition loyal. He was revered by the islanders as a god.
The government was principally in the hands of priests, Spiritual as well as secular lords belonged to the great council. The counsellors, when they were at court, had their meals in the palace. The persons selected by the King for his Privy Council always accompanied him wherever he went. They received no salary, and the only advantage they enjoyed was, that they and their servants had lodging and board at the expense of the King.
James seldom resided in towns. He never remained long in one place, but was always travelling from one part of the kingdom to another. The reason was twofold. In the first place, to administer justice ; and, in the second, to consume such revenues of the Crown as were paid in kind. The journey was not expensive. The Court and all the officers went from one abbey, or one manor, to another ; and the great families in the country regarded it as the highest honour that could be done them if the King accepted their hospitality. The Crown revenues were considerable, but a small portion only was paid in money.
The army which the King of Scots was able to call into the field was very considerable ; it was estimated at 120,000 men, (fn. 23) exclusive of the contingent of the islands. When only a third of the army was assembled, 12,000 tents were pitched, with banners flying, and made a splendid appearance. There was great emulation among the different lords as to who should be the most magnificent. The Scotch considered themselves to be the greatest military power in the world as far as land armies were concerned. On the sea, they allowed that other nations were stronger.
The Scotch were often considered by foreigners to be a handsomer people than the English. The women were very free, even bold, in their manners, and very courteous. Though appearances were against them, Don Pedro believed that they were as virtuous as women in other countries. They dressed better than the English, and the national head-dress was thought especially becoming. The Scotch ladies reigned as absolute mistresses in their houses, and the men, in all domestic matters, were subject to them. On the whole, dress was much thought of in Scotland, even by the men. They were very ostentatious by nature, and were accustomed to spend all they had only for the sake of keeping up appearances.
French education was very prevalent in Scotland. The young men of the better classes, who had no property, went to France, and were well received there. The French were consequently much liked in Scotland. The Scotch were hospitable, and often quarreled with one another as to who should have a foreigner in his house. Envious to excess, they showed great jealousy of those who happened to have a foreigner of importance staying with them.
De Puebla, when he first came to England, thought the Scotch were such a simple-minded people that they might be easily duped. Soon, however, he found that he had been entirely mistaken, and declared that they were astute to the highest degree.
The towns and villages were populous. The houses were good, built of hewn stone, and provided with doors, glass windows, and a great number of chimneys. The furniture was rich and abundant ; every convenience which was known in Italy, Spain, or France, was to be found in Scotch dwellings. This, moreover, was not a modern improvement, but the inheritance of preceding ages.
The progress of the people had been remarkable ; Scotland, under James IV., was no longer the Scotland of James III. The enmity between England and Flanders had much contributed to increase the commerce of the country, as captains of Scotch vessels and Scottish merchants were carrying on a great portion of the trade in Flanders, which had formerly belonged to their southern neighbours. Nevertheless, the nation was not rich, because the people were not industrious. Even the land was carelessly cultivated, although the produce was comparatively great for the small population. The Scotch had plenty of flesh, of fish, and of fruit for food. They lived better, in many respects, than other and richer nations. The greatest inconvenience was, that they did not lay by any money for a time of necessity.
There will be found in this collection the abstract of a document drawn up in the Secret Consistory in which Pope Pius III. was elected. It is dated on the 21st September 1503, and we are indebted for our knowledge of it to the industry of Philip II. in collecting State Papers. Ferdinand had entered into negotiations with Henry respecting this election, but I have given the document, not so much because it is mentioned in the correspondence between England and Spain as on account of the curious insight it affords into the state of morals of the Papal Court. It is the more important, as belonging to a time so closely preceding the Reformation. Ferdinand had expressed his apprehension that the cardinals would not dare to state their opinions freely. He was mistaken. The cardinals showed even a greater spirit of independence than was desirable. They all swore that whoever might be elected Pope should directly sign and swear a book of articles made in their secret conclave. The first clause stipulated that the new Pope should pay 200 gold florins monthly to all the cardinals participating in the election whose ecclesiastical income did not amount to 6,000 gold florins a year. They were also to remain in the undisturbed possession of all the property they had acquired, however ill gotten. Further, the Pope was to swear that he would absolve all the cardinals present at the election, and everyone of them, from all past crimes and offences "however exorbitant, enormous, and great they might be, and under whatever circumstances they might have been perpetrated." (fn. 24) The absolution was to have effect in both the spiritual and secular courts, and all the cardinals were to be made as "innocent as when they came from the baptismal font." To obtain this absolute innocence it was not necessary to confess to the Pope, not even in such cases as by the statutes of the Church required the cognizance of the Holy Father. They might choose any confessor they pleased, down to a simple mendicant friar, who was to be invested with all the power and prerogatives of the Vicar of Christ and successor of Saint Peter, and absolve them from all and every kind of sin. The future Pope, on the other hand, was forbidden to choose a confessor after his own liking. If he committed any act contrary to this statute he incurred the penalty of anathema and eternal damnation, and every servant of the Church was bound to oppose him. Not trusting, however, to the most solemn oaths of the future head of the Church, the cardinals added material guarantees to his moral obligations. The future Pope was to deliver to each of them a fortified castle in the neighbourhood of Rome, which, after the death of the cardinal who held it, was to be delivered to his successor. The articles enter into even such details as the restitution of furniture which had been stolen by Pope Alexander, and of the dresses, ornaments, and jewels of the ladies which he had appropriated to himself in the house of the Cardinal of St. Angelo.
The document fills forty-eight pages. It is in substance an attempt at reforming the Church, a thing which was so much spoken of in those days. But this reform would not have benefited Christendom. Transforming the Church almost into a republic, it would have substituted the corruption of thirty or forty cardinals for that of one sole head.
The illustrations of personal character are few ; and the principal merit of the State Papers in the archives at Simancas consists in the information they afford in regard to matters of state. They not only elucidate dark passages in contemporary annals, but throw a new aspect over the history. Modern historians have sometimes expressed their contempt for the official acts of diplomatists ; but in the time of the Tudors, measures of state depended to so great an extent on the personal views of the kings that it is impossible to understand their history without being acquainted with the papers which were intended to be seen only by them and their few confidential advisers. The diplomatic correspondence between England and Spain is not complete. Many important dispatches are lost. Still so much has been preserved that the historian may compose a tolerably complete narrative out of the materials placed at his disposal. How greatly such a narrative, based on unimpeachable documents, would differ from the history of Henry VII., as hitherto written, will best be seen by a few examples.
Henry never entertained any personal predilection for Ferdinand and Isabella. The King and Queen of Spain had lived on friendly terms with Richard III., and it may even be suspected that they had supported the measures taken against Henry when he was an exile in Brittany. But neither Ferdinand nor Henry permitted personal feeling to interfere with their measures of policy. Thus Henry soon endeavoured to become the most intimate ally of the former friends of Richard, while Ferdinand and Isabella made the same offers to Henry which they had made a short time previously to his mortal enemy.
The reason which led Ferdinand to wish for a union with Henry was his fear of the growing power of France, which had already, under the reign of Louis XI., united all the dismembered provinces, with one exception, under the crown, and had thereby become the first power in Europe. Ferdinand, as he himself confessed, was afraid that France might render herself mistress of the world ; to prevent this was the chief object of his life. Two ways lay open before him. Charles VIII. was a mere youth, and at the head of the French government was a woman. Ferdinand might marry Charles to a daughter of his, and win over by artifice the Duchess of Bourbon. If he succeeded in this project he might then hope to exercise influence enough over the destinies of the neighbouring country to hinder France in her ambitious designs. Should he, on the contrary, be unsuccessful, there remained nothing but force.
In the year 1486 Ferdinand offered to the young King of France his eldest daughter Isabella, afterwards married to Don Alfonso of Portugal. (fn. 25) In spite of all the flattery lavished on Madame de Bourbon he did not succeed in overcoming the obstacles in the way of the marriage, and on the 29th July 1487, (fn. 26) he recalled his ambassadors. Though Queen Isabella openly declared that it was against her honour to insist any longer on the marriage, she had by no means given up all hopes of eventual success ; for, in a secret letter to the ambassador Fray Bernard Boyl, prior of Monserrat, she told him to make new offers to Madame de Bourbon. They consisted, first, in the promise to assist her if she wished to render herself perpetual Regent of France. Secondly, Queen Isabella declared herself ready to give security, that, if the King of France were to marry her daughter, she would, notwithstanding, never send her to France without the consent of Madame de Bourbon. The third offer was to pay her 400,000 francs. (fn. 27) I have not been able to discover all' the letters relating to this subject, and it is beyond my power to say how far Madame de Bourbon acceded to the Spanish proposals. Judging by the wording of the despatch from Queen Isabella she had accepted them. If this supposition be right she must either have been prevented by other influences from carrying out her designs, or must have only been deceiving Spain. Whatever may have been the truth, the marriage never took place.
Ferdinand was therefore forced to enter into that long contest between the houses of Spain and Austria, on the one hand, and France, on the other, which has given its political character to the history of Europe during the last three centuries, and which does not seem to be ended even yet.
As France, was so strong a power, it was necessary that the pressure brought to bear upon her should be strong likewise. A general coalition in which England also had to play her part, became consequently a necessity. From her geographical position, England had it always in her power to make a diversion which would prevent France from employing the whole of her forces on the frontiers of Germany or in the South. Switzerland enjoyed similar opportunities. Whenever, therefore, Ferdinand contemplated making war upon France he tried to disunite her on the one side from England, on the other from Switzerland. In conformity with his general policy he did not unveil his large plans all at once and asked for nothing beyond the restitution of Roussillon and Cerdaa, a comparatively small strip of mountain land which had been pledged by his father to Louis XI. for the expenses of the very expedition which had saved the life and crown of Ferdinand.
Both policy and inclination absolutely forbade Henry to enter upon a war with France. But, on the other hand, he had already learnt that his subjects were only too ready to espouse the cause of a pretender who, if effectually assisted by foreign princes, might become as dangerous to him as he had been dangerous to his predecessor. He could rest tolerably assured of the friendship of France. But that was not sufficient If Charles VIII. were occupied with his own enterprises, a pretender, supported by the King of the Romans and by Spain, might invade England, and perhaps be successful. The best way to obviatc such peril was evidently to secure the good will of Ferdinand and Isabella. As they were already intending to form matrimonial alliances with the House of Austria, their friendship would prevent the King of the Romans and the Archduke from taking part against him. A marriage between the Houses of Spain and England would effectually prevent assistance from being given in any quarter to English rebels.
The first offer seems to have been made by Henry, who sent agents to Spain, most probably in the year 1487, to make proposals for a marriage between Prince Arthur and the Princess Katharine. Preliminary discussions on the marriage and alliance took place, and in the result it was agreed that Spain should send ambassadors to England, formally and definitely to settle the affair. De Puebla arrived in London late in the year 1487 or early in 1488. Juan de Sepulveda followed him in the spring of 1488 to act in the capacity of joint ambassador. Soon afterwards the negotiations began. The English commissioners endeavoured from the first to keep the subject of the alliance as much in the back ground a spossible, pretending that it was only a subordinate affair. The marriage would decide all questions. But, although Henry was most desirous to conclude the marriage, his commissioners asked a marriage portion five times greater than the English ambassadors had asked in Spain. The money, they said, would not come from the strong boxes of Ferdinand and Isabella, but out of the pockets of their subjects. Why should not the King and Queen be liberal? The Spanish ambassadors, on the contrary, offered only one fourth of the sum demanded. They pretended that the English ought to be content with whatever marriage portion Ferdinand and Isabella might think fit to give, for it was an unusual thing that the King and Queen of Spain should condescend to allow their daughter to enter into a family which any day might be driven out of England. This remark, says De Puebla, was made in the most smiling and courteous manner, in order not to offend and "enrage" the English. After long discussions of no very dignified character the English commissioners abated their demands, and the sum was eventually fixed at 200,000 scudos.
The negotiations for the alliance, though they might be delayed for a few days, could not be avoided. All the other clauses were of small importance in comparison to the one respecting France. The demands of Ferdinand were in truth very explicit and imperious. He asked nothing less than "that the King of England should bind himself not to assist France, or conclude peace or truce with France, except in case Ferdinand and Isabella should do the same. Moreover, the King of England was to oblige himself to make war upon France as often and whenever Ferdinand and Isabella found it convenient to engage in such a war." The King and Queen of Spain promised, on the other hand, no more than to "include the King of England in any peace which they should make with the King of France." Henry might have treated the very demand as an insult. Quite irrespective of his own wishes to remain at peace with France, this clause would have degraded him into a mere instrument of a foreign prince. But he knew that if he had indignantly rejected this proposal, or declared that for his people's sake he would not accede to it, the marriage would not be agreed upon. He therefore sought for means to evade the difficulty, and by a cunning policy to overreach his exacting friend and intended brother. The English commissioners had recourse to flattery and false promises. They lauded Ferdinand and Isabella in the most extravagant terms, and said that as soon as the marriage was concluded, the whole of England would be at the disposal of Ferdinand and Isabella, who might then dispose of it as though it were their own country. Henry, owing a debt of gratitude to the King of France, would act dishonourably if he were to conclude a treaty to the direct prejudice of Charles. But things which could not be justified when clearly stated, might be excuseable when actually done. The Spanish ambassadors were not satisfied with this answer, and De Puebla even declared that he was scandalized. The English commissioners then took a mass book, and in the most solemn way swore before a crucifix that "it was the will of the King of England first to conclude the alliance and the marriage, and afterwards to make war upon the King of France, at the bidding of Ferdinand and Isabella."
The negotiations did not end here. Sepulveda was to return to Spain, and went to the King in order to take leave. De Puebla accompanied him. The King took off his bonnet, and said the most flattering things of Ferdinand and Isabella, every time that he pronounced their names, making a reverential gesture with his bonnet. He then declared that he knew of the oath which had been made by his commissioners, and "that it must be accepted for plain truth, without double dealing or falsehood."
Henry thought he could win over the Spanish ambassadors still more by introducing them to his family. Both, De Puebla and Sepulveda, went to see the Prince of Wales and the Queen, who were staying in the country. The Prince of Wales had, at that time, attained the venerable age of twenty months. He was first shown to the ambassadors dressed, then naked, and afterwards asleep. He was, most probably, a handsome child. But the praise in which De Puebla indulged was unmeasured. Whatever flattery could invent would only be truth, he said, when applied to the Prince of Wales. Henry, we are further informed, being well aware of the extraordinary qualities of his son, wished that Sepulveda should take his portrait to Spain, in order that Ferdinand and Isabella might also admire their future son-in-law.
He seemed to have attained his object. The draft of the treaty of alliance and matrimony, which was signed on the 7th July 1488 by the Spanish ambassadors and his commissioners, contained nothing that could compromise his interests. The assistance to be given by the allies to each other was restricted to the case of their respective countries being invaded by a foreign enemy. As France had not the least intention of invading Spain, Ferdinand could not, according to the clause as it stood in the draft, make any use of Henry for his aggressive plans.
Still, he had overlooked one circumstance. The final decision did not depend on the ambassadors, but on the King and Queen. When Sepulveda arrived in Spain, Ferdinand was quite unable to understand how he could have acted so indiscreetly. He asked explanations from Sepulveda, who being a simple-minded knight, was unable to give them. Ferdinand, therefore, wrote a letter to De Puebla, which was marked by bad humour. The marriage portion, he said, was to consist of nothing more than 100,000 scudos, to be paid in Spanish money, because otherwise the King of England might "cheat" him. With regard to the clause which related to France, Ferdinand made some concessions respecting the form, but none in the essentials. If King Henry were afraid to incorporate the clause in the principal treaty, it might be signed without that clause, but only on condition that he first signed, sealed, and swore, and made his vassals also swear, an additional treaty by which he was to bind himself to request the King of France to restore to Ferdinand and Isabella the counties of Roussillon and Cerdaa. In case the King of France should not comply within a certain number of days, Henry was to bind himself to make war upon France at the bidding of Spain.
To accept the proposals of Ferdinand was impossible, but the counter proposals of Henry came very near to the demands of the King of Spain. He consented "to bind himself to make war with France every time and whenever Ferdinand and Isabella should be at war with that country. He was not to be at liberty to conclude peace or truce without the consent of Spain, except in case the King of France should restore to him de facto the duchies of Normandy and Guienne. Ferdinand and Isabella, on the other hand, were to bind themselves, likewise, to make war upon France, as often and whenever England should be at war with that country. The King and Queen of Spain were, moreover, not to make peace or truce without the consent of the King of England, except in case the King of France should restore to them the counties of Roussillon and Cerdaa."
The reader may be surprised to find that Henry did not only assent to, but propose such a treaty. It must have been clear to any one who had but a limited knowledge of politics that the clause respecting France was entirely in favour of Spain. Had the King of France been placed in difficulties by the alliance between Spain and England, he would most certainly have preferred satisfying the smaller demands of Ferdinand and Isabella, and thereby have dissolved the alliance. There was no probability that in any circumstances whatever Henry would derive benefit from the alliance of Spain for recovering any portion of the former English possessions in France. In fact, that cannot have been his intention. He must have looked upon this treaty only as the best that could be made under the circumstances.
At the beginning of the negotiations between France and England, Ferdinand had required Henry to conclude a similar alliance with the King of the Romans and the Archduke Philip, under his superintendence. Henry at first made out a long list of grievances against the King of the Romans, but finally declared that he would leave the matter entirely in the hands of Ferdinand and Isabella. The treaty was soon afterwards concluded and, thus, Ferdinand succeeded in making Henry a member of the league against France.
Whilst Spain, England, and the King of the Romans were carrying on these negotiations, France had not been inactive. She had concluded a treaty with Scotland, according to which the King of Scots had bound himself to make war on England whenever France should be at war with Henry. Besides, France had invaded Brittany, and in the battle of St. Aubin scattered the small forces that had opposed her. Brittany, especially after the death of Duke Francis, on the 9th September 1488, was split into a great number of political parties. Each of the great powers had its partisans, whilst the peasants attempted to drive out of the country their own chiefs and nobles, together with all foreigners, without distinction. The pretenders to the hand of the young Duchess were not less than six in number at one and the same time. The Duke of Buckingham was the suitor countenanced by Henry. The Gascon party, strongly represented in Brittany, supported the pretensions of the Count D'Albret. The Duke of Gueldres was another aspirant, and was at one time favoured by the King of the Romans. Maximilian, however, soon afterwards thought fit himself to enter the ranks of the suitors in Brittany. He was a widower of about thirty years of age, handsome and distinguished-looking. Don Juan, the son and heir apparent of Ferdinand and Isabella, was but ten years old ; nevertheless, his parents endeavoured to win for him the fair heiress. Last came Charles King of France. He was between boyhood and manhood, ugly, but his ugliness somewhat tempered by a pair of fine eyes.
The Duchess Anne had by no means a bad opinion of herself. Heiress of a great duchy, and sought by so many suitors, it could not well have been otherwise. She would not content herself with a petty prince, but looked for a very brilliant match. (fn. 28) The small princes, such as the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Gueldres, and Count D'Albret, had consequently but little chance. Moreover, as difficulties were soon thrown in their way by their more powerful rivals, they retired from the contest in a short time. Ferdinand likewise declared to the King of England that he had not been in earnest when seeking the hand of the Duchess for his son. He had made the proposal, he said, only with the intention of diverting the mind of the Duchess from the King of France. There are, however, good reasons for doubting the veracity of this assertion. Ferdinand thought that he might, perhaps, easily win, not only Roussillon and Cerdaa, but also the duchy of Brittany. His intentions respecting Brittany were so earnest that more than a year later, on the 4th July 1490, he instructed his ambassador Rojas to persuade Maximilian to relinquish his pretensions to Anne in favour of the Infante Don Juan.
Both Ferdinand and Maximilian had their personal views. Henry, after having abandoned his plan of marrying the Duke of Buckingham to the Duchess, had no interest of his own respecting Brittany, and served Spain only in order to gain the Infanta for the Prince of Wales. In the spring of 1489 English and Spanish troops were sent over to the duchy to expel the French. The captains of both forces were instructed to act in combination on every occasion, as though they were serving the same prince. The first intelligence we find in this collection with regard to the combined movements of the English and Spaniards is in a joint letter of the commissioner and the Spanish captains in Brittany, in which they declare that the intentions of the English are much suspected by the Bretons. It was, they said, impossible for them to act in concert, lest they should become as unpopular as their allies. This letter was not addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella, but to Henry VII., who was even asked to exculpate them to their masters. It is easy to imagine the joy Henry felt at receiving these welcome tidings ; a weight must have been removed from his mind. The consequences of the combined action of both armies might have been a great battle, perhaps a great victory over the French, which Charles would have deeply resented. On the other hand, the want of union between the allies left him master of his own actions. He, therefore, wrote back on the 13th of August a most gracious letter in which he not only entirely excused the Spanish captains, but promised to write to Ferdinand and Isabella in their favour.
Maximilian did not send a single soldier to Brittany, but endeavoured to overreach the Kings of England, France, and Spain. He married the young Duchess by proxy, without the consent of either England or Spain. Christopher Mosquera, the Spanish commissioner in Brittany, as soon as he heard what was in contemplation, remonstrated with the Duchess. He spoke to an unwilling listener. The young princess, seeing before her in imagination the imperial purple, answered shortly either that she had or that she did not want (the words are not clear) the consent of Spain and England. Henry took the ingratitude of the Duchess very quietly. But Ferdinand and Isabella entertained very different feelings. They were unwilling to acknowledge the marriage of Maximilian, and made proposals to Henry to take the Duchess under their joint protection, and dispose of her hand ; no doubt, with the intention of marrying her to the Infante Don Juan. The King of the Romans, when he saw that his marriage was opposed by Spain, thought he should best secure his interests by making a separate peace with France. After short negotiations the treaty between him and Charles was signed at Frankfort on the 22d of July 1489, and the Duchess became soon afterwards a party to it. The stipulations seem at first to have been kept secret, but whether the King of France played into the hands of Henry, and indirectly allowed him to have a copy of the treaty, or whether Henry procured it in another way, certain it is that Henry shortly afterwards had it in his possession. He showed it to the Spanish ambassadors, who immediately sent an abstract of it to Spain. The King of the Romans and the Duchess had, amongst other things, openly and clearly promised to drive out the English from Brittany, and to force them, even before they left, to make restitution of the places which they held.
In this conjuncture Ferdinand and Isabella seem to have been afraid lest they should become the victims of their honesty, if they did not conduct themselves as faithlessly as the King of the Romans. In conformity with their old policy, they renewed secret negotiations with France and declared themselves ready to abandon the Duchess entirely. France, they promised, should obtain what she wished without risking the life of a single soldier, if Charles would marry a Spanish Infanta. They offered him this time their second daughter Juana. The friar, Juan Manleon, the ambassador, Juan Dalbion, and the French Court baker, Charles Daucezune, were continually on the road between the one and the other court, bearing and receiving ciphered messages. (fn. 29) But while Ferdinand and Isabella employed all their energies in negotiating a separate peace with France for themselves, they opposed a reconciliation betwen England and France with all their might. The Pope had sent a legate to France and England in order to renew the old friendship which formerly existed between the two countries. He was accompanied by the Prothonotary Flores, who entered heartily into the work of reconciliation ; but Ferdinand and Isabella declared, in their letters of the 6th of May and 7th of September 1490, directed to their ambassador in Rome and to the Cardinal of Valencia, that they considered Flores as their most implacable enemy. The Pope, they said, must recall him. For, if peace between France and England were of some moment to the welfare of Christendom, peace between Spain and France was incomparably of higher importance. To make peace with France before Roussillon and Cerdaa were restored to them was a thing not to be thought of. (fn. 30) At the same time Queen Isabella wrote to De Puebla in the most flattering terms, calling him her "virtuous and intimate friend," and entreating him to persuade the King of England by all means to enter into a new war with France.
Every fresh instance of bad faith practised by his allies was an advantage to Henry. The alliance forced upon him was falling to pieces. Brittany remained unprotected, and Charles VIII. married, on the 13th December 1491, the Duchess Anne.
Henry had strictly fulfilled his treaties. He had left his forces in Brittany for as long a time as he had promised the duchess, although she had not fulfilled even that part of the contract by which she had agreed to supply the English troops with sufficient provisions. Ferdinand and Isabella had likewise nothing wherewith to reproach him. Henry was not, according to the treaty, obliged to continue his hostilities against France a single day longer than Spain. The English and Spanish troops left Brittany at the same time. He had not, it is true, carried on a vigorous war, but neither had Ferdinand. Of all the allies Henry was the person who had least betrayed his friends. The King of the Romans, the Duchess of Brittany, and Ferdinand were either really guilty of treachery towards him or had declared themselves ready to betray him.
But Ferdinand had been entirely foiled. Therefore, however right and equity might have been on the side of Henry, if he wished to marry the Prince of Wales to the Princess Katharine, he must continue to serve Spain. Ferdinand intended to form a new coalition, and Henry objected a second time, and in even stronger terms than on the first occasion, to an alliance with the King of the Romans. Nevertheless, the King of Spain again succeeded in forming a coalition against France. Henry landed at Calais in the beginning of October, and marched to Boulogne. Scarcely had he pitched his camp when he called a council of all the captains of his army, and submitted to them the question whether peace should not be preferred to war. They decided in favour of peace. The French commissioners were near at hand. Henry signed the power for his ambassadors to treat for a peace on the 30th of October, and on the 3d of November the treaty was concluded.
The most commonly received opinion is that the whole expedition to Boulogne was a sham. Nevertheless, it was not so entirely devoid of reality as not to exercise a considerable influence on the question then pending. Henry positively declared that the restitution of Roussillon and Cerdaa to Spain was the consequence of his invasion of France. Ferdinand, in his answer to England, would not allow that he had incurred any obligation to Henry in respect of his last expedition. Nevertheless, there is a Spanish memoir directed to the other European courts and preserved in the archives of France, in which Ferdinand and Isabella confess that the restoration of Rousillon and Cerdaa was partly the consequence of the enterprise undertaken by Henry against Boulogne. (fn. 31) However that may be, France had acquired Brittany, and Ferdinand and Isabella had regained their counties. The chief actors were satisfied, and this most complicated affair was concluded. But the ratifications of the treaty of the 27th of March 1489 were not yet exchanged. Fresh alterations had been proposed by both parties. Now that the services of Henry were no longer needed by Ferdinand, Spain broke off all further negotiations with England, and the signatures of Ferdinand and Isabella, affixed to the treaty, were cut out, apparently with a pair of scissors. Thus, Henry did not obtain the desired marriage between the Prince of Wales and the Princess Katharine. He had served Spain and received no recompense.