Spain: January 1551, 16-25

Pages 198-203

Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 10, 1550-1552. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1914.

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January 1551, 16–25

Jan. 21. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 19. Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: In accordance with the Queen's (fn. 1) commands expressed in her last letters of December 19th, which I received on the 28th of that month, I presented myself before the Council and made declaration to them of the peace concluded between your Majesty and Scotland, together with the inclusion in it of the King of England and his dominions. Soon afterwards I sent my man to the said Lords at Greenwich, to demand audience of them. They first gave me the day of the Epiphany, but later sent to tell me that the French ambassador had demanded audience twice or three times, which they had forgotten, and that on the Epiphany he was to negotiate with them; so they would put off my audience until the 8th. I did not wish to take this in bad part, and replied that I would do as they liked. On the appointed day, when I entered the presence-chamber at Greenwich, the Lord Admiral (fn. 2) came towards me, and, after a little speech, asked how your Majesty was. I told him that, according to the latest news, your Majesty, thank God, was in good health. Presently, my Lords Warwick, Marquis of Northampton, the Treasurer, (fn. 3) and some others of the Council came, saluted me, and retired, leaving Warwick alone with me. After more talk of your Majesty's health and other matters, he told me he always remembered the excellent friendship existing between your Majesty and the King his master, and that he, humble servant of the King as he was, would always do his best to foster it because of the affection he bore your Majesty. Because of this, he said smiling, he was grieved by a certain rumour that was going the rounds.
I assured him, Sire, that your Majesty would always remain true to the friendship, as your actions in the past clearly showed you intended to do, and that I, for my part, would never fail to do good offices for its conservation. As for the rumour, I said, all sorts of things were being uttered; and I thanked him for his zeal towards your Majesty.
After some talk, and when dinner was over, we went to the Council, where, in the first place, I recited what the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) had commanded me; namely, that an ambassador had been sent to her by the Queen Dowager of Scots and the Regent of that country to negotiate a peace with your Majesty, and that, after several conferences, the peace had been concluded and the King of England included in it by your Majesty's initiative, according to the perpetual amity and confederation between your Majesty and the said King and his dominions. To this they made no reply, nor did they utter a word.
Next I reminded them that a few days before they had sent me their secretary, Sellinger, who was instructed to tell me that they had decided, out of their regard for the friendship and good neighbourliness between your two Majesties, to have prompt restitution made of certain ships, belonging to your Majesty's subjects, that had been seized by the Scots and pirates, together with payment of all damages caused thereby; and this in spite of the lively solicitations of the French ambassador that the said Scots and their ships should be freed from arrest and released. I told them I had sent to thank them most particularly for the good and speedy justice they had rendered, and that I had informed your Majesty, who had approved of my action in thanking them for their promptness and had instructed me to see that their intentions were carried out. In spite of all this, the injured parties had solicited in vain, and daily continued to do so, for the said restitution; though I presumed that the fault lay, not with the Council, but with the officers, who had been slow and negligent.
They replied, Sire, that they had not given so ample a commission to Sellinger, but had only instructed him to speak to me about one single vessel laden with herring and belonging to certain merchants of Flushing, of which restitution had already been made. I took up this point and definitely assured them that the said Sellinger had spoken to me of all prizes in general taken by the Scots in the last month or two, and not of one particular case, for the restitution mentioned by them was made by virtue of an arrangement and contract agreed to by the merchant and the Scotsman, and the Council had not been bothered about it at all. I admitted that the merchant might have begged, for greater security, letters from the Council to all the officers in order that no obstacle might be put in the way of his taking his herring out of the country; but there had been no need for making a report to me about that, and as your Majesty had already received an assurance, this new departure must seem rather strange to you. I saw, however, that they were persisting that Sellinger had been instructed to go no further than the one merchant's case, and that they had nothing to say about the manner in which the agreement had been arrived at; so I told them that the same reason held good in the other cases, for it was not licit for the Admiral to hold the property of your Majesty's subjects in open violation of treaties, amity and good neighbourliness. To this they replied, my Lord of Warwick talking most, and he of Somerset sometimes putting in a word, that the property in question had been taken at a time when your Majesty was still at war with the Scots, and since the Scots had ventured to approach the ports of this kingdom, and land without letters of safe-conduct, everything found in their possession ought, according to their ancient custom, to be confiscated.
I made answer, Sire, that the Scots had not become owners of the property thus taken, since it had been seized while negotiations for peace were in progress, and it had been expressly agreed that all goods seized on either side during the negotiations, to wit since August 15th last, should be restored in full and not considered as lawful prize. And as for the safe-conduct with which they wished to help themselves out, your Majesty did not intend to enter into any discussion as to whether the Scots ought to be supplied with safe-conducts or not, for in any case the goods of your Majesty's subjects must be restored. The Admiral could lay no claim to them; and besides, the placard put up about five or six months ago concerning piracy had been couched in conformity with the treaties, Commercial Convention and amity, to make it clear that the English were not to receive or encourage any pirates or enemies of your Majesty, which the English ambassador resident with the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) had often spoken about, making much of the said placard; and now they wished to disown it to the hurt and disadvantage of your Majesty's subjects: a proceeding quite contrary to sincere friendship and good neighbourliness.
They nevertheless insisted on the confiscation of the said property, and only answered on the point of the agreement, (fn. 4) saying that, since it was so ordained, we ought to proceed against the depredators or their property, and that they (the English), for their part, would do all in their power to administer good and prompt justice. I was by no means satisfied with this reply, but told them that the plaintiffs certainly intended to proceed against the depredators and their property for the sake of obtaining damages, and consequently I demanded that their (the depredators') persons and goods should remain under arrest; but as for the goods of your Majesty's subjects that were in the Lord Admiral's hands, immediate restitution ought to be made, as I had said before. The Admiral here intervened and said that he knew nothing about any property, and had none in his possession, for the Scots had sold it to certain Frenchmen before arriving in England. I rejoined that only six days ago the Scotsmen had told him, in the presence of several persons, that they had not sold any goods, and agreed that restitution ought to be made, confessing that the prizes were not lawfully come by. I added that I was unable to understand how the Scotsmen could have managed to sell any of the property, as it had been sequestered on arriving in England, and the Admiral had taken care to prevent them from doing so, as most of them had been made prisoners; and when I said this Warwick and some others began to laugh. Proceeding with my discourse, I remonstrated that the Admiral must know something about the property, for I had it from a good source that, in spite of the declaration made by the Scotsmen, he had sent to several ports with orders to sell immediately all prizes, whether of herring, wine or oil. To this the Admiral replied nothing but that the Scotsmen might say what they pleased; he knew nothing about the property. At that, seeing their tactics, I demanded a final reply to be communicated to your Majesty. Then the Marquis of Northampton joined in, saying that it was not yet proved that the goods really belonged to your Majesty's subjects, and that this point ought first to be gone into. The others then held their peace, but I told them that the goods did belong to your Majesty's subjects, and no one else laid claim to them, besides which they could not belong to enemies of England because England was not at war. There was also the confession of the Scotsmen themselves, who had not been at war with anyone except your Majesty, whose subjects' goods were now being confiscated, wherefore the proof they demanded would be useless and superfluous, especially as they had nothing to say about the property, and it seemed that they were aiming at nothing else than forcing your Majesty's subjects into a law-suit, for which there was no justification. Seeing that they still demanded a proof and refused to listen to aught else, I requested that at any rate your subjects might be allowed to take their goods away after depositing a guarantee, especially as there was perishable matter. Even this they refused, though the guarantee was quite gratuitous and unnecessary, but said that as soon as it was clear that the goods belonged to your Majesty's subjects they should be released, and declined to assure me that the whole affair might not afterwards be sent to the Admiralty Court.
I also told them I had heard that a certain Scots pirate was being welcomed and supported at Margate, the inhabitants of which place openly purchased from him goods seized from your Majesty's subjects, and that most of the crew of the pirate ship were English; wherefore I demanded the punishment of these pirates, purchasers and abettors, according to their offences. The Admiral stated that the said pirate had been arrested, and should be punished. I praised this good deed, and added that, a few days before, the same pirate had taken three vessels from Flushing, which ought promptly to be restored. He replied that he knew nothing about such prizes, and supposed they had already been sold to the French.
This conversation finished, Sire, I exposed to them how often I had complained about the violent treatment suffered here by your Majesty's subjects when their vessels were searched to see whether they contained any goods whose exportation out of the kingdom was prohibited. People tried to force their way into the vessels, insulting and beating the poor seamen, and, with the pretext of searching, often ruined the merchandise and, what was worse, even carried off anything they might take a fancy to: a thing most grievous, of evil example and of recent introduction, that might have most disagreeable consequences. The search conducted by the officers appointed for the purpose, Customs-men, searchers and the like, ought, I said, to be quite enough; whilst they were in the habit of doing it ten or twelve times over, and not in London only, but at Gravesend and other places as well, whereas over the sea (in Flanders) the officers were satisfied with a simple inspection, particularly where the English were concerned. At this my Lords of Warwick and Somerset said that according to their ancient law and custom it was lawful for every man to enter and search ships as often as he desired to, and this statute had been passed because the officers themselves had been found negligent and were sometimes bribed with money. I told them that such conduct was unseemly and contrary to treaties, conventions and good neighbourliness, and could only end by suppressing all commerce, which was very different treatment from that meted out to their subjects in Flanders, who were favoured in every respect. I had been informed that the English had, in the past, been accustomed to behave in this way, but it might well be that on such occasions certain persons had taken it upon themselves to denounce the presence of contraband goods, though not themselves allowed to proceed against your Majesty's subjects as they now had done. As for the officers who had been to blame, they might easily be punished by destitution from their posts or otherwise, but it ought not, for that reason, to be lawful for everyone to injure our subjects, especially as we did not know who these searchers were, and they, having come once, often went away and came back disguised so as to be unrecognisable. Therefore there ought to be officers present to see that the search was conducted in a civil and inoffensive manner, for if one officer exceeded, the merchants knew who to complain of, and if any private individual had a grievance, he might be heard in justice. But as it was, though several of these searchers had been recognised and their names made known in order that they might be punished, no steps whatever had been taken towards doing so.
In spite of these and similar remonstrances, they stuck to it that everyone should be allowed to search, though they said they would see to it that, in future, our subjects should no longer be treated violently; and this was all I could get out of them.
At the same time, Sire, I spoke to them about certain merchants of Bruges' suit concerning some sugar and canvas, as your Majesty had expressly commanded me. I remonstrated with them that some time before, after several conferences, the Council had granted my predecessor, Ambassador Van der Delft, a right to such part of the said goods as had not already been sold, together with all sums proceeding from the sale of the rest; and I had already informed your Majesty of it. Nevertheless I had always failed to get possession of goods or money, try as I would, and though my predecessor had also made many efforts for the same purpose. The merchants had long exhibited in vain their proofs and titles, from which it had become perfectly clear that the said property belonged to them, and that no one else had any share or portion in the same. Consequently, your Majesty now demanded that prompt justice should be rendered to them, as was always done in similar cases in Flanders; for otherwise you would be obliged to indemnify the said merchants in such way as might seem best. When they realised that this was a private claim they began to make as if to go, at which I said I had express orders from your Majesty touching it, for it was of great importance. None the less my Lord of Somerset said he must go, in order not to miss the tide, so I turned to Lord Warwick and asked him, as he knew all about the affair, to stay a little, which he did. I then gave them a full account of the matter, and particularly of the above-mentioned decision; but as they really had no sort of wish to settle it, they replied that they knew nothing of any decision, and the property ought certainly to be confiscated, as it was enemies' goods. Even had it belonged to your Majesty's subjects, they said, it had been found in a French ship, and was therefore all confiscated by their ancient Admiralty law. Seeing they had no intention of agreeing to let the goods go, I told them it was not enough to affirm that the goods were enemies' property, for that was a matter which inquiry could decide, and they ought to examine the evidence brought forward by our subjects; as for the ancient law, such was not its real character, or at any rate it had not been applied in that sense where our subjects were concerned. As they insisted that the law should thus be applied to our subjects, I said that in Flanders their subjects had never been treated in like manner, contrary to treaties and friendly relations. The decision had been proof enough on the principal point, and yet it now came to naught, because they said the thing was already settled. Reason demanded that they should administer justice to our subjects directly without sending them before the Admiralty Court, especially as the decision referred to had been given by the Council. Their ambassador, I added, had several times declared to the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) that restitution of some of the sugar had been granted to the merchants—though nothing had been seen of it here—and that they should be satisfied immediately as to the rest. To this they replied that they would promptly see to it. Then, Sire, I wished to proceed to explain certain other matters entrusted to me by the Queen, but Warwick and others got up and went away, leaving my Lords the Treasurer and the Admiral, to whom I made some mention of these matters, telling them that everything depended upon the expedition with which justice was administered, and urging them to have certain decisions that had been given in favour of your Majesty's subjects executed. They promised to do their best to have it done.
When my negotiation was finished, as I had heard that the French and Venetian ambassadors had made their obeisance to the Lady Elizabeth, sister to the King, I said to the Treasurer and Admiral that if it were agreeable to her Grace, I also would like to make mine. They told me they would go and see if it were convenient, and, as it seemed to me, told Warwick, who had retired to his room, for when they came back they told me that her Grace was with the King and would stay some time. So, perceiving their intentions, I said: “Some other time, then,” and took my leave to depart.
London, 21 January, 1551.
French. Cipher. Signed.


  • 1. Dowager of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands,
  • 2. Edward, Lord Clinton.
  • 3. William Paulet, Earl of Wiltshire, created Marquis of Winchester later in the year.
  • 4. Referred to above, in virtue of which restitution was to be made of all goods seized while peace negotiations were in progress between the Emperor and the Scots.