Spain: September 1551, 1-10

Pages 348-356

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


September 1551, 1–10

Sept. 3.
Imp. Arch.
E. 1.
The Emperor to Edward VI.
We received your letters sent by your councillor and ambassador, Dr. Wotton, whose mission to us we have heard willingly, as we do not doubt he has informed you already. As you are now about to recall him to you, we will not forego writing these few words to certify and assure you of the continuation of our entire good-will and inclination to the keeping and observing of the closer amity and confederation between us, as we have declared more particularly to the said Dr. Wotton. We will write no more, as you will hear this again, and all he is to say besides from him; but we will add that he has conducted himself most becomingly in the fulfilment of his charge.
Augsburg, 3 September, 1551.
Minute. French.
Sept. 3.
Imp. Arch.
E. 21.
The Emperor to Jehan Scheyfve.
Ambassador Wotton asked for an audience on Saturday last. He informed us that he had received letters from the King his master in answer to the report sent home by him of his former negotiation with us, and that he had received orders to request us once more to grant that their ambassadors at our Court might use the ceremonies recently introduced into their new church, at least in secret. He laid great stress on the fact that our ambassador was permitted to observe Catholic ceremonies, and that the use of their own ceremonies was forbidden to their ambassador. We replied that we had hoped the King would have been satisfied with our former answer, and that we would not discuss the point of equality or inequality, as it was not our custom to use such terms even in the case of lesser and inferior persons, and much less concerning him or others of the same rank. We could not be taxed with having asked for any change, as we claimed for you something long-established and. customary to his forebears and to ours, a practice unbroken over a long stretch of time; whereas he was asking something new, and introduced, in opposition to the ancient rule, recently and during the minority of the King. The ambassador replied that their belief was in conformity with the word of God, and with the Testament of Christ approved by His apostles; and this moved us to say that we would not enter into any discussion on the subject, though we well knew those who had withdrawn to England in the hope of taking a share in the establishment of their Church to be apostates and heretics, such as Bucer, Brother Bernardino of Siena (Ochino), Brother Peter Martyr and others. If the English were so minded as to accept the guidance of such fellows in matters of religion, they were building on slight foundations indeed; for they and their life were known to everybody. We found ourselves so far removed from approval of the changes they had wrought that even were we the lowest creature in the world, and the King of England the most powerful prince that ever was or ever would be, we could not defer to him in this. We would sooner die than forsake the ancient faith and religion held by our fathers and forefathers; and still less would we allow considerations of equality or inequality to weigh with us in giving our answer. The ambassador then asked if he were to accept what we had just said as our definite reply, and if we refused our consent, and we replied clearly in the affirmative, adding that in all other matters we desired to please the King, but in this it was beyond our power to do so. We did not put off answering him on this very important point, our mind having long been made up, so that he should not be led to entertain any hope that we might alter it again on reconsideration. We did not think it needful to assert once more that we should recall you if you were forbidden to hear mass, as it seemed to us that what we said before on the subject ought to suffice, without going beyond the limits of the matter strictly under discussion at the present juncture.
The ambassador proceeded to the second point of his mission, concerning the request we recently made, as you have heard by our former letters for the Lady Mary, our-cousin. He laid the grounds of his argument by declaring how important it was that the laws of the kingdom should be observed by all without exception, the inconvenience that might result from any other course, the troubles that might follow if our cousin the Princess set an example by living without the laws of the realm; and he ended by asserting that the King was absolutely determined that the laws and ordinances, made with the authority of the Parliament, should be carried out, that no one should be exempted, and that he had resolved that any servant of our cousin who might disobey them by saying mass, or in any other way should receive exemplary punishment. He repeated once more his earlier assertions that my Lords St. John and Paget denied having given our late ambassador Dilfus (Van der Delft) the answer which he claimed in his letters to have received; and that the King had borne with our cousin for a certain time, in order that she might learn to know the truth. But she had grown all the more firm in her opposition to the edicts of the King, who did nonetheless hold her as his good sister; and he said no more. We realised that he was speaking with resolution, on a matter wholly settled and determined, and therefore we refrained from further reasoning. We said we would reflect upon what he had said, as the matter was of the greatest importance, and that after full consideration we would send him our reply by the Bishop of Arras.
The ambassador, continuing his negotiation, said that the King his master having heard that we left him to decide whether the ambassador Morison should be recalled or remain at our court, had determined to let him stay some time longer. We acquiesced without further comment.
The ambassador passed on to formulate a complaint because, as he said, goods belonging to Englishmen had twice of late been embargoed in the Low Countries.
He expressed astonishment thereat, considering the good friendship and intelligence between us; and he complained too that sugar, and malmsey and other sweet wines should have been included in an edict published there prohibiting the exportation of the goods mentioned in it as “victuals.” We replied that we had no knowledge of either matter; but perhaps some error might have arisen in the case of the arrested goods, if they were found in French vessels, which were lately stopped in the Low Countries because shipping belonging to subjects of ours was embargoed in France. Both sides set the goods at liberty on one occasion, and the French subsequently arrested others, belonging to our subjects, and we retaliated in the Low Countries by seizing French goods there, making a declaration, however, that when the French released our goods, we would release theirs.
Wotton asked us to grant them (leave to export) a certain quantity of powder; as ambassador Hoby and Morison too had asked before him. We deferred our answer to another time and said we would let him know about it through the Bishop of Arras.
After weighing very fully the matter concerning the Lady Mary, our cousin, we thought best to refrain from making any comment then, but to order the Bishop of Arras to remonstrate again with him concerning the answer given, in the King's name by my Lords St. John and Paget, to the request which we formerly proffered, that the Princess might continue to use the ceremonies and rites of our ancient religion during the King's minority on the same terms as during the late King, her father's, lifetime. The Bishop was to remonstrate also that an account of it was given to us by our late ambassador Dilfus (Van der Delft); and although he was dead, and no one could bear witness for him, yet as we had always found him a person worthy of trust we could not believe that he would have misinformed us in a matter where he had no reason whatever for doing so. Had the answer not been to our satisfaction and contentment we would have persisted in the attempt to obtain a better one; but that we received fulfilled our wishes, and we asked for nothing more except that it should be given in writing, as we suspected,-and declared our suspicions clearly-that the frequent changes that took place in the Council might one day bring about that the promise made by those who were highest in authority would be ignored by others who succeeded them. The Bishop of Arras was to ask the ambassador (Wotton) to reiterate on our behalf to the King our intercessions for the Lady Mary, our cousin, in conformity with what was once granted by the King, as he had been informed, and permit her to use the ceremonies established by the late King, her father, during the King's minority. Were she to do so secretly and privately in her own house, there would be no cause to apprehend the troubles and inconveniences they anticipated. We trusted he would treat her as his own sister, as he himself said he would, and grant her consideration as our near relative, bearing in mind the just resentment we should feel for the threatened vexations. We recommended our cousin, the Lady Mary, once more most cordially to him.
The Bishop fulfilled his charge punctually following what is said above. Wotton undertook to transmit the remonstrances to the King's ear, and promised his good offices in the matter. We are sending you detailed information of all that occurred, so that you may meet the Council and say the same, without venturing outside the question on any point that might cause greater friction. You will inform us of their answer so that we may consider what more can be done. Exhort the Lady Mary, if you have means to do so without compromising her in any way, to stand firm as we hope she will; and to let herself be guided by the advice we have given her in this matter, of which you are aware.
With regard to the gunpowder which the ambassador asked for, we have had him given our final answer: That he must know we were not bound to grant it by the treaties, which we observed scrupulously in every respect. We would not fail to carry out any obligation, of any kind whatever, laid upon us by the said treaties. Moreover he and the other councillors were well aware how we had behaved in the past, granting assistance to the King in his time of need beyond our obligations, moved by friendship and the affection we bore him, and his father's cordial recommendation to us. Our conduct differed greatly from that of others, who would use the opportunity of his minority to diminish him, whereas we would support him, as our sincere friendship required. When he was attacked and found himself in need we supplied him with victuals, arms and ammunition, as he might remember, outside all treaty obligations. Before we left our Low Countries not long ago, their ambassador had had shown to him a note giving him permission to take a certain amount (of powder) out of the country. They had had no need to use it since, and must therefore possess it still, so that the kingdom was sufficiently provided. They were now at peace with the whole world-thanks be to God!-we said; and if God were to permit them to be visited with war, we were such near neighbours that within two days they could lay their needs before us. We could not leave our own territories unprovided now, considering how matters stood in every direction; particularly as our frontiers extended very far, and as we must provide for the kingdom of Sicily, Naples, Genoa, Goletta and other African possessions; the whole coast of Spain must be defended against possible attacks from the Turk; much was required for the Indies, Milan, and Parma; while we must be prepared for any event in our own patrimonial territories and within the Empire. For the present we were unable to grant leave to export what he sued for; as we should be placing ourselves in need in order to furnish the English, who had no need.
The ambassador declared he had fulfilled the charge entrusted to him by the King his master when he sent him to us, and asked our leave to withdraw. We granted him this, and accompanied it with the usual recommendations and courtesies suitable to the occasion. He asked to have a safe-conduct to return home. We found this a strange request and told him it was not usual to ask for it, nor in our opinion, would he need one. But he gave us as a reason that he had been, as he said, watched for, between Cologne and Juliers, which he supposed to be because of a private quarrel between Riffenberg and the English, dating from the time when he undertook to serve them with a certain number of horse. We granted him letters of passage in very good form, such as are used within the Holy Empire, to satisfy him on this point.
You have heard everything that took place here with the said ambassador, during this last negotiation. You will abide by what is said herein, if the above-mentioned points are brought forward to you.
Augsburg, 3 September, 1551.
Minute. French.
Sept. 5.
L.A. 54.
The Queen Dowager to MM. Van Buren and d'Eecke.
In accordance with our yesterday's letters, we are now sending you the report formerly drawn up on the question of insurance. As you, M. d'Eecke, and Treasurer Longin have gone into the matter, you will be able to judge whether its suggestions are of value. After examining it here and considering its bearings on navigation and the fitting out of convoys, we have debated whether it would be well to prohibit all insurance except against fire, water, deterioration of merchandise, and the risks incurred by ships sailing the Levantine seas. It seems there is much to be said for such a plan. If insurance is permitted, the merchants and masters court great risks, knowing as they do that they have no loss to fear, nay that they may often make a real profit. On the other hand, if no insurance were allowed, trade would certainly suffer and diminish, and merchants who have been in the habit of insuring their merchandise might retire altogether were they to be deprived of this safeguard. As the matter is one of the gravest importance we request and, on his Majesty's behalf, command you to examine the report together. You will endeavour to devise by what means the merchants might be induced, once insurances were abolished, to grant some reasonable tax on all goods to be transported by sea to meet the expense of keeping up war-ships for convoy-service, or at least to agree to a provisional arrangement of this description until it be seen how the scheme works. It is to be hoped that they will the more readily consent because of the losses they have suffered lately, for if they do so they will be relieved of the expense of insurance which, according to information we have obtained, amounts to five or six per cent. in time of peace, and twice as much in time of war. You will let us know your opinion about insurance, and as to how the merchants will look at the matter. If you consider it necessary to send other commissioners to Antwerp, or that we should summon some of the chief merchants to come to us, you will say so. We have already instructed certain private persons to find out from the merchants whether there is any other good method of achieving our purpose; and we will at once let you know what they have to say.
Brussels, 5 September, 1551.
French. Copy.
Report On Marine Insurance.
(Enclosed In The Above Letter.)
There has recently been, and there still is, great trouble at sea, caused by the robberies and pillage committed by the Scots- and other pirates pretending to be Scots-on ships laden with merchandise and goods belonging to the Emperor's subjects, natives of these countries and of Spain. And the reason of it all is that the masters of these ships loiter about at sea without proper convoy or a strong enough equipment of munitions, artillery and men to withstand the enemy in case of attack. This they do relying upon the insurance policies that merchants are taking out every day for their goods and ships, which they often manage to insure for a higher sum than they are worth. Therefore the masters expose their ships to danger, and as often as not desire to have them lost, so that they may fall back upon their insurance, which cannot cause the merchants any loss, but only profit. It is to be feared that sometimes merchants enter into a secret engagement with the Scots and other pirates, by which in exchange for handing over their vessels to the pirates they obtain a share of the booty over and above what they get from insurance. The result is that the Scots and other pirates have, in the last eight or ten years, made out of the Emperor's subjects and other merchants who frequent these parts over 2,000,000 crowns in gold, which is greatly to the disadvantage of the Emperor's dominions and against his subjects' interests. At this moment many cases are pending in the Antwerp courts and before the provincial councils. It seems that her Majesty might remedy this state of things in the following manner:
In future no one, merchant or other, of whatsoever degree or quality, shall be allowed to insure merchandise or other goods or the ships that carry them either here, in France, or anywhere else except against fire, water and deterioration of goods. Shall be excepted from this rule only ships going to or returning from the Levant, which would risk being robbed by the Turks and Moors and can only be protected by general insurance. The penalty for non-observance shall be: he who issues the insurance policy shall forfeit the sum at which the merchandise has been valued; the owner of the merchandise shall forfeit his merchandise; and the master of the vessel shall forfeit his vessel. The proceeds shall be applied: one third to the Emperor, one third to the informant, and one third to the officer who puts the law into execution.
If such an ordinance were strictly enforced, merchants might henceforth insure their goods in the licit manner at two, three or four per cent. according to the distance to which they were to be sent, whereas they now pay eight, ten, twelve per cent. and more. They would also take care to choose the best ships they could find, hulcques (fn. 1) or others of similar description, and would see to it that they were armed and manned, and provided with artillery, in such a manner as to enable them to resist not the fury of the sea alone, but also the attacks of the Scots and other pirates. The merchants would also not allow their ships to sail less than ten or twelve together, as they have recently been doing, because they would no longer be able to insure against robbery or seizure at the hands of enemies and pirates, but only against fire, water and deterioration of goods. Thus, if merchants and masters who failed to equip their vessels in a proper manner and to see that they sailed in sufficient company, were once made to suffer the consequences of their neglect, the seas might be sailed secure, and enemies and pirates would be unable to fall upon our shipping as they have been doing recently.
Were it to happen that, notwithstanding all these precautions, the merchants had a ship taken by the enemy, and were it to be proved that the sailors and marines on board had not done their duty as good fighting men should, the said sailors and marines should be obliged to pay a sum equivalent to the loss sustained, and should be arbitrarily punished as a warning to others.
When once masters of vessels understood that merchants, no longer being able to insure against attacks of the enemy, would choose the best and strongest ships they could find, and would be prepared to pay well for them, they would do their best to obtain cargoes, especially those who own good hulcques, the most convenient sort of craft for this purpose. It is clear that, if the masters were to keep their hulcques and other vessels well equipped, they could not take cargoes at the same rates as before because of the heavy expenses they would be put to for equipment, and the merchants would have to make it up to them out of what they would gain by being able to insure twice as cheaply as in the past.
It is to be observed that the hulcques and great ships of these dominions would then be in much greater demand with merchants of all nationalities, subjects of the Emperor and others, than any other class of craft such as French, Portuguese or English ships, for ours are better sea-boats and better adapted for being strongly armed to resist attacks. Thus, with time, the Emperor would find he had at his disposal, were need to arise, in time of peace or war, some 200 to 300 ships well-equipped for fighting, and 8 to 10,000 good mariners and stout fellows (bockgeselles) enured to the sea, all ready at an hour's notice.
Over and above this the merchants, in order to make trade all the more secure, should club together to raise four, five or six amounts by subscription to build at their expense as many good ships and fit them out with powerful artillery to serve as convoys, in which case our ships would be in a far more advantageous position than any others. The merchants would not grudge an extra 2 or 3,000 florins for this purpose, for if, under the new arrangement, their ships were attacked and taken by the enemy, they would suffer double loss.
Were an ordinance to the above effect to be enforced, our good hulcques and other ships would have the advantage over all others, which has not been the case up to the present, for the merchants relying on their insurance have chosen the worst ships: namely the cheapest, whether they are properly outfitted or not.
The possible disadvantage attending this ordinance would be that if it were not enforced in Spain and Portugal it might have the effect of causing the merchants to insure secretly in those countries, and thus merely divert insurance business from these parts. Also trade would probably cease for a month or two after its publication, because no one would wish to be the first to start arming his vessels. Still, this delay would cause a rise in prices of goods in Spain, Portugal, the Baltic ports and elsewhere, so that the great profits to be realised by sending goods to those countries would tempt the merchants to go to the necessary expense. And once the thing had been started all the other merchants would follow suit.
Sept. 8.
L.A. 54.
Cornille Scepperus (d'Eecke) to the Queen Dowager.
- I have also heard from a Scotsman called John Wasson, lately come from Rouen, that the French are expecting a number of troops from the Baltic, who are to pass through England on their way. The English are affording them every facility; and the said Scot has seen about a score of German captains arrive at Rouen from England. -
The Queen (Dowager) of Scots is said to be going back to Scotland by the western route. Truth to say, Madam, this seems doubtful, for the Queen would hardly take ship at Boulogne if she were going to take the western route. Perhaps the French are thinking of embarking upon some other enterprise. -
Antwerp, 8 September, 1551.
French. Holograph.


  • 1. The hulcque or hurque was a heavy, flat-bottomed, round stemmed and sterned vessel, used for transport. It is said to have had not more than six square, and one lateen sails.