Spain: September 1551, 11-20

Pages 356-370

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

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September 1551, 11–20

Sept. 11.
L.A. 54.
The Queen Dowager to Jehan Scheyfve.
We make no doubt you have already been informed of the seizure by the French, just off the English coast, of certain Flemish vessels bound for Brouage and Spain. Since then we hear that the French captains who committed this act of violence say openly that they intend to sail into English ports and, with the help of the English, hope to seize those vessels belonging to our subjects who trade with England, adding that they are going to do their worst against our people.
This important piece of information, added to the above-mentioned seizure, shows how much ill-will the French bear towards his Imperial Majesty and his subjects, and we communicate it to you in order that you may, with all dexterity and proper moderation, remonstrate with the Council on the subject. Tell them that, as cordial relations exist between his Majesty and the King of England, and they profess to wish to remain our friends and declare they have made no arrangement to the contrary with France, we trust they will not allow French warships to enter their ports and assail his Majesty's subjects who trade in England or sail English waters. Rather do we expect them to prevent such raids, in accordance with the treaty of closer alliance between them and the Emperor. Say that we desire to know their intentions in order to take such measures as may be necessary for the safety of our subjects who trade with England.
You will take care to find out their real views, and observe whether they give you an open reply or speak evasively.
French. Copy of Minute.
Sept. 12.
Imp. Arch.
E. 19.
Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: The Lady Mary, Princess of England, has recently made known to me that the lords of the Council wrote letters to her controller and two others of her principal gentlemen, (fn. 1) commanding them to present themselves before the Council, at once and at a given hour, for a reason that should be declared to them.
This the Controller told his mistress. The Princess, Sire, had left her usual residence for another place, accompanied by very few of her people, and no gentlemen save the Controller, for a change of air, and to escape this new sweating-sickness which had attacked several of her gentlemen. As the Controller had entire charge of her household, she thought well to tell him not to go, as she felt sure the Council would be considerate enough to excuse him on that occasion, and she would write a letter to them for the purpose. So the Controller remained with her several days; but the two gentlemen who were not in the Princess' house did present themselves at Court. When the appointed day arrived, and the Controller did not appear before the Council, the lords displayed great dissatisfaction, and again wrote to him with still stricter orders to appear before them the next day at a fixed hour, setting aside all excuses and affairs that might hinder his coming, under penalty of incurring the King's displeasure. When he received these letters, he had recourse to his mistress once more, and she sent him with an apologetic reply to the Council. When he arrived there, the lords reproved him bitterly, saying that he had not only neglected to do his duty towards the King, his sovereign lord, but had been guilty of abuse of his trust in troubling her Grace his mistress, for he had had no reason for so doing. He excused himself as best he could.
This over, the lords let that matter drop, and began telling the Controller and the two gentlemen that they were the chief instruments and cause that kept the Princess in the old religion. Were it not for their instigation and persuasions, she would easily come over to the English religion; or at least it was in their power, as her principal councillors and advisers, to incline her in that direction, by which they would not only be doing their duty towards the King, their soveriegn lord and natural prince, but would also act in a manner most pleasing to his Majesty; for they would be contributing to enforce the observance of the laws and decrees of the realm.
The Controller and gentlemen replied that they were but the lady's ministers and officers in what concerned the management of her household and temporal goods; but as for her religion and conscience she asked nobody's advice and, what was more, not one of her ministers dared broach the matter in her presence. They confessed that they were the King's most humble servants and subjects in all other respects. The councillors then told them why the King and they had summoned them. The reason was that, seeing the Princess fixed and obstinate in a religion repugnant and contrary to that observed in England, which they were nonetheless resolved to have accepted by everyone in the kingdom, the councillors and gentlemen of the realm thought it most suitable that the Controller and the other two gentlemen should forbid the Princess' chaplains and ministers to say mass, or celebrate any service according to the practice of the old religion. This would avoid disturbing the lady herself, and also the scandal that might arise if any orders were to be issued to her directly. All the members of her household were therefore to absent themselves from any service of the prohibited description, and were to practise the religion established by the laws and ordinances of the realm. If it were discovered that any chaplain or other person had done otherwise, he was to be made an example of, and punished with the last penalty; and this was the commission given them by the King and Council, which they must be careful to accomplish under pain of incurring with the King's grave displeasure. They were to report it to their mistress; and, in order that she might give the matter more credit, the King would write her letters to the same effect.
When the Controller and the two gentlemen returned and presented the said letter to her Grace, she found it very strange and unreasonable that her ministers and servants should wield such authority in her house. She told them flatly that she forbade them to execute their charge, for she was mistress in her own house, and they were not to meddle with religion or her conscience. She would write letters in reply to the King's, and signify her intentions to him.
The Controller and two gentlemen then returned once more to Court, and presented the Princess' reply to the Council, declaring that they had exposed their charge to their mistress, but she was resolved not to allow them to execute it for the reasons set forth in her letters to the King. Notwithstanding, Sire, they ordered the Controller and two gentlemen to neglect all the arguments the Princess might use; for the King and Council meant that they should execute the charge given them, and otherwise they would incur severe punishment. The Controller and gentlemen replied with many excuses, saying that it seemed unsuitable to them to issue such orders, especially as they knew their mistress was already highly indignant, and felt sure that such a step would injure her already shattered health to an extent impossible to foresee. The Council insisted, so the others sought to make it clear that their office did not permit them to accept the said charge-besides the fact that they knew it would be useless-by humbly praying the King and Council to excuse them from executing it. When the Council saw that all was of no avail, they ordered them to be arrested and thrown immediately into the Tower, where they remain at present.
The Council, wishing to proceed further, decided to send the Chancellor, the Controller of the King's household, and Secretary Dr. Petre to the Princess with letters of credence from the King. When they appeared before her, they began by going fully into the dissatisfaction and resentment felt by their master when he saw how firm and pertinacious she remained in the religion that she had observed up to the present. They assured her that the natural affection felt for her by the King had moved him to long-suffering, hoping that one day divine inspiration would show her the better course. Now, however, the prick of conscience and solicitude for his kingdom's welfare, which depended upon implicit obedience of all his subjects, none excepted, to the laws and statutes of the realm, forbade him to put up with her behaviour any longer. Though she had given him so many reasons for ceasing to love her, the King still desired to show her all possible kindness; and with this they brought out all the exhortations and persuasions they could think of to induce her to adopt the religion and ceremonies of England.
The Princess then tried to invoke the promise made to your Majesty; but they said they would warn her that, though she had on other occasions maintained that such a promise had been made by certain of the King's councillors, in virtue of which she claimed a right to observe the old religion, the promise had not been as she described it, and had in reality never existed. They denied it altogether, and said, moreover, that had such a promise been given, they could assure her it was always subject to the King's good pleasure. This point they repeated several times.
They then informed her that the Council, after mature deliberation and consultation with several lords and gentlemen of the realm, had decided that, in order not to trouble her personally, and to avoid any public scandal, certain of her servants and ministers had better be summoned. They had charged these servants, on behalf of the King and Council, to forbid her chaplains to say mass or celebrate any of the rites of the old religion, and to forbid all members of her household to be present at any such service. They had found her servants quite hardened in their refusal to execute the charge that had so urgently been enjoined upon them. Consequently they had been ordered, by the same authority, to declare to the Princess that the King would no longer permit her, or any member of her household, to observe the old religion; but that he wished the decrees and laws of the realm to be obeyed inviolably and without exception of persons.
The Princess, bound as she was to obey the King and his statutes, ought to be all the more scrupulous in their observance because she was the King's sister, and in a position where she might afford an example to others.
When the Princess saw the King's letter, and had heard the above arguments at length, she excused herself from making any reply—though she would have liked to do so, and there was plenty to say—on account of her indisposition, which had recently become much worse, as they might readily imagine. Moreover, as the Council so flatly denied the existence of the promise made to your Majesty, she had decided not to answer them at all. She intended to reply to the King, either in his presence or otherwise; but for the time being she would refer them to the letters she had written to his Majesty two days before. She repeated that she failed to understand how the Council could flatly deny the promise made to your Majesty, for you had given sufficient testimony on that point, and you were a prince whose word must be accepted. She felt inclined to let me hear of the matter. All her life long, she assured them, she would remain the King's most humble and obedient sister, and would sincerely pray for his realm's good and prosperity; and she trusted that, when his Majesty reached riper years, he would not be dissatisfied with her conduct. At this, Sire, the Princess took her leave. Then the said envoys summoned all the members of her household and made known to them a general and particular prohibition, under the aforesaid penalties, and particularly to the chaplains. The Princess, seeing that the orders were strict and precise, remembered that I had been ordered by your Majesty and the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) to declare to her that, if in spite of all her excuses and arguments to the contrary they wished to take away the mass and rites of the old religion, she would have to put up with it. It was a matter she could in no wise help, and your Majesties had said that she might be sure God would never call her to account for it, and her conscience would remain clear, especially as she never would abandon her devotion to the mass, as your Majesty hoped. So, to avoid exposing her chaplains and the other members of her household to danger, and also in order that the Council might not hereafter enjoin upon them the observance of the new religion, she dismissed the said chaplains from her service the following day.
When the Princess informed me of the above occurrences, Sire, I immediately sent to the Court, then at Windsor, to demand audience. They appointed me the 4th of this month; and I failed not to attend, but the audience was put off because of the absence of the Earl of Warwick and some other lords. When we did meet, I exposed to them that the Princess had informed me of the prohibition, intimated to her, to continue hearing mass or any other service according to the rites of the old religion; to her chaplains, to celebrate mass or any other service according to the said rites, under the severest penalties; and, to the rest of her household, to be present at any such services, under the same penalties; for the King was determined that all his subjects, without exception, should observe the religion and ceremonies established in England by the constitutions and decrees of the realm.
Having said this, I reminded them of the remonstrances I had uttered on other occasions, by your Majesty's special orders, with the object of enabling the Princess to continue, with all her house, in the observance of the old religion, in accordance with the promise made to your Majesty and the lady's Grace on the subject. It was true they had made some difficulty about the general application of the promise, which they all said was limited and restricted to the person of the Princess, and a few of her ladies. But because of the promise, and for other reasons, they had continued to allow the lady to observe the old religion up to the present. I supposed, I added, that they had heard of their ambassador Wotton's conference with your Majesty, in the course of which you had told him that the promise had been given, not only to the late M. Van der Delft, but to your Majesty in person. You consequently requested the King and Council to allow it to take effect, and permit the lady to follow the old religion in her ancestors' footsteps, especially as she had been brought up and left in it by the King, her father, at least until the King came of age; for she had always proved a humble and obedient sister to him. It would greatly displease your Majesty to see her adopt any other faith, and even if she were inclined to do so, which you hoped she was not, you would do all you could to dissuade her, as she was your near relative. I enlarged on your Majesty's great desire that they should leave her in peace, and confidence that they would do so. I assured them that, by so doing, the King and Council would give your Majesty the liveliest satisfaction, for the lady's virtues and good qualities deserved no less; and they would thus give proof of the sincerity of their repeated protestations of good-will. I ended by begging them to permit her to continue in the practice of the old religion, at least until your Majesty should be informed of their change of attitude.
I then, Sire, went on to say that I had heard the Princess' Controller and two of her gentlemen had been arrested, on the pretext of some act of disobedience, and thrown into the Tower. Their offence had been to have refused to order the Princess' chaplains, servants and household to abandon the old religion, as stated above. It seemed very hard that their excuses should not be admitted; for it was not for them to give orders in their mistress' house, well knowing as they did that it would cause her great distress; and it seemed to me that they deserved to be pardoned, for their zealous devotion for their mistress had been the cause of all.
When they had listened attentively to my words, the Earl of Warwick spoke, and said that my proposal was so important that they must report it to the King and consult his Majesty; and to this he limited himself. I rejoined that my lords were sufficiently informed of the King's intentions, and it was not necessary to consult him further. The Earl replied that the King was now so old that he wished to concern himself with all the public affairs of the kingdom; and at this they rose to go to his Majesty. But before they went, when they were all standing there, I uttered some praise of the King's ripe understanding, and declared with all due moderation that there was hope of its becoming still more remarkable. I believed, however, that the King still left the management of the bulk of business to his Council. The Marquis of Northampton then retorted that I had requested them to allow the Princess to remain in the old religion until the King came of age, and it appeared from my words that I considered he had already done so. The Earl interrupted here and said he held the King to be as much of age as if he were forty. I told him that I had no intention of discussing the King's authority or whether he was legally or otherwise of age; but I could assure them that he had not yet reached the age that your Majesty and my lords had meant when the promise was given.
After this, Sire, the Marquis of Northampton spoke again, saying that I had called the Lady Mary Princess of England, but they did not know her as Princess of England, but at the King's sister. The Earl of Warwick added that to give her that title would be to wrong the Lady Elizabeth, who was also the King's sister. I told them that I, for my part, held her to be Princess of England, because the King, her father, had so held her, and I had formerly given her that style. Wotton, moreover, in his conference with your Majesty had called her Princess of England in so many words. They well knew the difference, I added, between the Lady Mary, second person in the realm, and the said Elizabeth. They replied that they held her to be princess, as she was the King's sister, but not Princess of England. After that they went to the King to make their report to him.
In the afternoon, Sire, I met them again. The Earl of Warwick began by telling me that they had reported all I had said to the King their master, who, when he had heard it, had been surprised by the frequency of my appearances on this matter. His Majesty considered I ought to be satisfied with the reply already given. What was more, the King was quite determined that the laws and statutes that had been decreed and issued in his kingdom should be obeyed inviolably by everyone, without exception of persons; and he was obliged to insist upon it for the sake of his kingdom's repose and tranquillity. The Earl ended by asking me whether I had express orders from your Majesty thus to bring the matter up again and again.
I told them that neither the King nor his Council ought to be surprised by the efforts I had made to obtain leave for the Princess to continue in the old religion, for up to the present my lords had given me no definite reply, but had referred me to what their ambassador, Wotton, should declare to your Majesty. Your Majesty, when Wotton had revealed his charge, had given him to understand what I had said above, and expressed a hope that the King and his Council would still permit the lady to observe the old religion, as they had done in the past, without troubling her or destroying her peace of conscience or, what would be still worse, using any harshness or violence with her; and as she was so near a relative to your Majesty, you had given me express orders to intervene if they were to show any intention of molesting her, which your Majesty could not believe they would ever do. I was free to admit that since this last occurrence I had had no new instructions from your Majesty; but that was because you had not yet had time to be informed of it, for I knew the treatment shown to the Princess would seem very strange indeed to you. Even if she continued practising the old religion, I added, the repose and security of the realm would in nowise suffer, for in the past she had behaved with the greatest moderation and discretion, and avoided all scandal. She was by natural affection and duty bound to be greatly displeased if any trouble should arise; and your Majesty would feel it no less because of the cordial affection of which you had so often given proof towards the King and his country. In short, I added every argument I could think of to persuade them to let the Princess continue in the old religion; but all was of no avail, for they said that the King's intention and resolution was as had been declared; and to the end they maintained the same.
Seeing this, Sire, I asked them whether the King and Council intended that the Princess should no longer be allowed to hear mass with two or three of her ladies, as they had heretofore interpreted the promise. They declared flatly that the King intended to exempt no one at all, and the Princess must conform with the other subjects of the realm. They absolutely denied the existence of any promise that might exempt her, only admitting that the King had allowed the lady to hear mass, subject to his good pleasure, hoping that she would see the error of her ways, and that God, of His grace, would enlighten and better inspire her. I rejoined that your Majesty had given the said Mr. Wotton a detailed account of the promise, and it had been made to you by my Lord Paget in the city of Bruges, on an occasion when Paget had declared that the King did not intend the lady to be subject to the laws and statutes of the realm as far as religion was concerned; which appeared all the more likely, as your Majesty had made no reply at the time. In further support of this assertion, I said that my Lord Paget and my Lord St. John had afterwards gone to see the late M. Van der Delft, by express orders of the Duke of Somerset, then Protector, and the Council, and had uttered assertions to the same effect, and the Protector himself had done the same. What was more, when the Princess had paid a visit to the King some time after this, she had spoken of religion and invoked the promise, and Lord St. John had definitely admitted it, in consideration of which the King had continued to allow her to enjoy the practice of the old religion.
They told me, Sire, that they were unable to believe that Lord Paget or other of the King's ministers had gone so far as to make such a promise, and even had they done so, it had been without orders and against the intentions of the King and Council. Then the man Hoby began to talk, and said he well remembered that when Paget was at Bruges and about to depart, your Majesty had strongly recommended the said lady, your cousin, to the King, begging him to respect her and show her favourable treatment in spite of the decrees and constitutions of the realm concerning religion. Paget, however, had only replied that he would report your Majesty's words to the King and Council, and was sure they would treat her with all the respect due to the King's sister, without saying any more. For my part I insisted upon the account your Majesty had transmitted to me. Then, seeing them going so fast, I asked if they had also decided that the Princess and all her household must adopt the new religion. They replied that the King had no desire to violate the Princess' or her household's consciences, or to force them to adopt his religion; and they repeated once more that such was not his intention nor that of his Council. With this I ceased talking about the affair.
To end up with, Sire, I requested that the Controller and two gentlemen should be released and reinstated in their former employ, for the Princess needed them sorely. The Councillors replied that these men had been guilty of grave disobedience towards the King under several headings, and had even abused their trust with their mistress, particularly the Controller, whom they called a very malignant person. As I saw they had no intention of setting them at liberty or of telling me anything further about the causes of their imprisonment, I did not wish to rouse them further, and only said that I was rather astonished, because the Controller's character, whatever it was, had caused him to be selected by the King and Council, who had sent him to the Princess. And this, Sire, was the end of our conference.
I have made known the intentions of the King and Council to the Princess, and told her that they were resolved that she, personally, should cease to practise the old religion. As the King and Council were proceeding to use violence, she could not resist, as I had already declared to her. But as for the new religion, they would not interfere with her or any member of her family on that account. Were it to come to pass that they should do so (which God forbid!), and attempt to force her to adopt it, to communicate in both kinds or submit to any other erroneous observance, in which she, by her own action, should offend against the precepts of the old faith, then she must remain constant, firm and unbending. It would be better to die, rather than consent to such turpitude. Your Majesty had the greatest confidence in her; and if she did her duty I felt sure that neither God nor you would abandon her.
Sire, the Council's attitude makes me fear they may try to push matters farther (fn. 2); and the present aspect of affairs makes this still more to be dreaded, as they are full of confidence in their new alliance and confederation with the French.
I have received your Majesty's last letters of the 11th of the (last) month, and will be guided by them.
London, 12 September, 1551.
Signed. Cipher. French.
Sept. 13.
L.A. 54.
Cornille Scepperus (d'Eecke) to the Queen Dowager.
I am writing to give your Majesty news of M. Van Buren's and my efforts to devise some practicable means of having a number of ships fitted out to protect sea-trade. May your Majesty be pleased to know that we arrived in this town at the beginning of this month, and heard many complaints from the merchants of the number of vessels on their way to Spain that had fallen into the hands of French men-of-war. Some of the merchants said it was a state of affairs not to be put up with, and it would be far better to pay the Emperor something for convoy than to expose their vessels to such danger, also that if his Majesty had a strong fleet insurance would not be as costly as it had been. To hear them one would really think they would be glad to make a handsome contribution, so we instructed certain persons to talk with them and find out whether they would agree to do so and how much they would subscribe, so that we might calculate the number and size of the ships that might be fitted out to protect trade. The result was that the merchants were so terrified that several did not even come to the Exchange, and days went by before I could obtain any reply. Eventually I succeeded in talking with some of them who suggested that the Emperor should take over the entire insurance business and issue policies against fire, storm and deterioration of merchandise as well as against loss from enemies and pirates, just as private companies now do. Their rates in time of peace are: four per cent. for Biscay; five per cent. for Lisbon; six for Calais; three for France; four for Bordeaux; two for London. In time of war with France these rates go up to: eight per cent. for Biscay; five per cent. for Rouen or France; seven for Bordeaux, three for London. This arrangement would prove very profitable to his Majesty, who would be able to keep up a fine big fleet on the proceeds. It would also put an end to the failures now frequent among private companies. The plan might be put into execution by some one who should, in the Emperor's name, receive sums paid in for insurance here in Antwerp, and should also pay them out if loss to the insured followed, as the private companies now do. Payment for loss should be made two months after insurance. This scheme did not appear to me to deserve rejection, so I asked whether they meant that the Emperor's insurances should suppress all others, whether they thought the Emperor might insure all goods or part only, and whether all merchants ought to be obliged to insure. I also asked how much per cent. the Emperor ought to demand if he decided to take over the insurance business: whether his rates should be the same as those levied by private companies, or less, in order to make the operation more tempting in the merchants' eyes. In reply some of the men I spoke with thought the Emperor might insure nine-tenths of the goods, letting one-tenth run all risks as was stated in the ordinance on navigation. Others were in favour of forcing all merchants to insure one-half of their goods; for in that case they would have no cause for complaint, and if anyone wished to insure more than one-half he should be allowed to do so. As for private insurance, they assured me it would certainly disappear altogether; and they were of opinion that his Majesty might adopt the same rates as those levied by the King of Portugal, who, when the Emperor's subjects wish to be insured, gives them policies at six per cent. Thus the rates for other countries might be computed according to their distance. His Majesty would then make a large profit, keep a fleet continually at sea, and at the same time be in a position to enforce his ordinance on navigation. I then requested them to talk these points over with other merchants and decide exactly on what terms they would wish his Majesty to take over insurance, promising that if I found their decision reasonable I would inform your Majesty of it and do my best to enable them to receive a reply on the subject, or have some one sent to them to go into the matter more thoroughly. They appeared to be satisfied; but I have since discovered that the majority of the merchants are by no means inclined to agree to any such arrangement. They prefer to go on as before, saying that they realise profits by insuring one another, which is true. Nonetheless, the matter is of no small import, and is quite worth your Majesty's consideration.
While these negotiations were in progress, Madam, I received your Majesty's letter of the 5th instant, together with the report on insurance submitted to you some time ago. I thus had more to go on, and called together several merchants to ask them whether, if his Majesty were to abolish insurance, they would not grant some reasonable tax on all goods, at least as a provisional arrangement as I had suggested at first. The point then came up whether it would be better to abolish insurance altogether, or to permit it on the terms stated in the ordinance on navigation. The merchants used the same arguments they had invoked when questioned by Treasurer Longin and myself: that if insurance were abolished no one would care to take the risk of trading, for a merchant might lose all he possessed in the world and ruin many other people with whom he had dealings as well. They averred that if the Emperor attempted to put down insurance here the merchants would make shift to insure their property elsewhere, and that two Venetian companies were already doing business with them, the results of which migration of interests would be disastrous to these countries. They all appeared to be agreed that it would be quite enough to force merchants to risk one-tenth of their property, according to the above-mentioned ordinance, and that fraud might be prevented by strictly enforcing the ordinance and instructing the inspectors to make parties who were shipping goods declare on oath that they had only insured nine-tenths, and had shipped the rest at their own risk. Were this to be done merchants would be more careful to ship their goods in safe vessels than they had been when allowed to insure the whole amount. Some thought there ought to be a restriction to prevent merchants from insuring their goods for the sum they were to be sold for in the place of their destination, but only for cost price; others were for leaving this point alone, but for strict observance of the ordinance. But when it came to granting some reasonable duty on goods to keep up a number of war-ships, I found most of the merchants opposed to it. They said it would encroach on their liberties and raise the value of goods, which they did not desire, for goods to the value of one hundred livres de gros now only paid about two patards, and under the proposed system would have to pay much more. They also questioned the efficacy of the protection rendered by warships, saying that even a fair number of them would not be enough to guard the merchant-fleet. To prove this they turned against me an argument I myself had used when the ordinance on navigation was being prepared: that changes of wind and weather and other circumstances rendered it impossible for all the ships to keep together. However strong the convoy they often separated, and it would therefore be better to have each ship well enough armed to defend herself if attacked alone. They went on to say that if the ordinance had been observed, and the ships had chosen an admiral and proceeded in an orderly manner as it directed, the misfortune of the captures lately made by the French would never have come to pass. Also the merchants ought to have obeyed the placard and refrained from insuring their goods for more than the ordinance allowed. Now all was over, the only thing left was to make sure that it should not happen again. In fine, they think your Majesty ought to enforce the ordinance, forbid merchant-ships to sail in less company than twenty or twenty-five together in these dangerous times, and instruct the inspectors to see to it that the size and armament of ships satisfy the ordinance, and particularly that they have the proper number of men on board. If this is done they believe there will be no danger unless some royal fleet is at sea; at any rate no harm would be done by the force the French now dispose of, nor by an even greater one. When I said they must know the Sevillian merchants paid a certain fee for the war-ships that escorted their vessels to and from the Indies, over and above the King's dues, and that they ought not to think it strange that they should be asked to furnish some contribution here for a similar purpose, they replied that what I said was true, but it was done at Seville by the consuls and merchants themselves, who agreed to put an extra fee of one or two per cent. on their goods according to the size of the fleet and the risks to be incurred; and they had their own officers on board the fleet. True it was that in the past all this had been done by the King, but it had been found to be more expensive and less effective than the present system. In Biscay the same method prevailed: the prior and consuls fitted out the ships, and, provided the ordinance drawn up by those officers was obeyed, it seldom happened that a vessel was lost. Indeed, if a vessel now and then was taken by the enemy or pirates, the reason was the rashness of certain individuals, who were sometimes lured on by hope of gain to run the risk of pushing on alone or only two vessels together in order to arrive at their destination before the rest of the fleet and sell out their goods at a high price, for which conduct they richly deserved punishment. The foregoing was as much as to say that if the merchants decided to equip some war-ships for convoy service they would prefer to raise the necessary funds among themselves and avoid declaring the value of their goods than to let the matter get into the hands of the Emperor's officers. So, Madam, I see little likelihood of obtaining their consent, though there would be no harm in approaching them with one last suggestion: that they should of their own accord put a duty on their goods, without his Majesty interfering in the matter at all, and with the proceeds fit out some war-ships; his Majesty of course retaining the right to nominate a captain at their expense. Or if they did not want war-ships they might supply money for the up-keep of his Majesty's nominee as admiral of the merchant-fleet, and of 100 or 200 tried men under his direct command. These men might be set in companies of six or seven on each ship to see that all went well. This is the suggestion made by M. Van Buren in his last letters to your Majesty. I have talked it over with one or two merchants, who appeared to like it well enough, but I have been very busy with matters of detail connected with the fleet and have not had time to discuss it with a larger number.
Your Majesty was pleased to ask M. Van Buren's and my advice on the suppression of insurance, and whether the merchants could be induced to agree to such a proposal. As far as I can see, it would be wrong to counsel your Majesty to attempt it for the reasons given above. But the Emperor might take over the insurance business himself and issue general policies for either half or nine-tenths of cargoes in peace and war, compelling merchants to insure a minimum of half their goods. I make no doubt that his Majesty would realize a large profit, and if the ordinance were strictly enforced and transgressors punished to frighten the rest, and a few war-ships were sent with the fleet, the vessels composing which should also be armed, all would go safely and loss would seldom ensue. When we first started our inquiry M. Van Buren and I intended to make the merchantmen observe the ordinance, even if a sum for the up-keep of war-ships were to be granted, and to make the inspectors do their duty more punctually than in the past. Some officer ought to be appointed by the Emperor to watch over the inspectors, and he must be man enough to act without any partiality, favour or slackness. The question as to whether the Emperor shall take over insurance is so important, that your Majesty had better obtain all the consuls' opinions and then decide to adopt the plan or let it alone, without letting it be supposed that you are in any need of obtaining the merchants' consent or summoning them to appear before you; for the merchants will dislike the plan, wishing as they do to keep the insurance business in their own hands. And this is all I have to say at present about the matter.
Antwerp, 13 September, 1551.
French. Copy.
Sept. 14.
Imp. Arch.
E. 19.
Advices sent by Jehan Scheyfve.
A few days ago a placard was published here about food-stuffs, which settled the prices of certain articles. Soon afterwards another appeared, forbidding all foreigners, even such as are naturalised, to lodge anyone or keep a tavern or eating-house in London. This seems to have been done to please the people, and rid them of foreigners.
We hear that there has been an attempt at insurrection among the peasants at Reading, a place near Windsor, and also in Wales, caused by the debasement of the coinage and the placards about food-stuffs. Measures were taken at once to crush it, and the leaders arrested and executed.
The English are buying a good many hoys and other vessels from such of your Majesty's subjects as fear to put out to sea, (fn. 3) and hope to get all the shipping into their hands. As far as we have been able to ascertain, they have no men-of-war ready beyond those we mentioned in our last advices, of which the three that had put out are still at Margate, and the six at Rochester are in the same state as before.
The alliance and friendship between France and England, and their secret understanding, are receiving further confirmation; but we have been able to gather no particulars of the new treaty beyond those contained in our former letters.
There is a rumour here that the King of France has dismissed and sent away the nuncio with great acrimony, and is about to create a patriarch in his kingdom. The English are overjoyed about this, supposing that in the end France will embrace the English religion, and that the two countries will be at one on all points.
A certain German called Hans Fuchs (fn. 4) has recently come to England with letters to the King, and recommendations to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Earl of Warwick, Marquis of Northampton and Lord Paget. Some people affirm that the Elector Duke Mauris, the Elector of Brandenburg and his brother have sent these letters to the King of England without the consent or knowledge of their Council; though that seems improbable. Still, it is not known with what object the envoy has come; and the man who gave us the information avers that he saw the Electors' seal, and that of Mecklenburg as well, and says Fuchs has been heard to say he had some documents to show to the King. Others believe Fuchs to have been sent by the people of Magdeburg in order to obtain more money, for last November they succeeded in raising 20,000 thalers here in England. It seems that the men of Magdeburg have also sent to the Kings of France and Denmark, and the Duke (sic) of Sweden for the same purpose. Fuchs addressed himself, immediately after his arrival, to John à Lasco, who is managing the affair.
At the same time another envoy has arrived in England from the King of Denmark. It is believed that his only object is to prosecute the private suits that have been brought by the King's subjects against Englishmen for some time past. Another version has it that he is to gather all possible information touching the position and income of the Lady Elizabeth, the King of England's sister, and prepare the way for negotiating a marriage between her and his master's eldest son. Some persons consider this improbable, as a marriage between the Prince of Denmark and the Lady Margaret, the King of France's sister, is still being considered.
The French are said to be arming several warships in Brittany, which are to put out towards the Indies and fall upon the ships coming from those parts; though others say they are to wait for ships coming from Spain. It is also said that certain warships put out from Normandy a few days ago with the intention of harrying the fishermen and other subjects of his Imperial Majesty.
They say that the Count of Mansfeldt, who was formerly in England, has bought four great men-of-war at Hamburg, with which he is going to serve the King of France.
French. Cipher.


  • 1. These were Sir Robert Rochester, Edward Walgrave, and Francis Inglefield.
  • 2. The Council appears to have feared that Mary might again attempt to escape, for pinnaces were fitted out to watch the coast, and it was decided that she should soon be summoned to reside at Court, (Edward's Journal, August 29th, 1551.)
  • 3. On account of the hostilities between the King of France and the Empero.
  • 4. This would appear to be the person referred to in Edward's Journal, November 18th, 1551: “Mr. Fossey, secretaire to the duke Maurice, who was here for the matter specified” . . (unfinished). J. G. Nichols, in a note in his edition of the Literary Remains, suggests that Fossey may be Jean de Fressé, Bishop of Bayonne, Henri II's envoy to Germany, who concluded the treaty at Friedwald in October, 1551. It is unlikely, however, that Bishop Fressé would be confused with a Protestant secretary to Maurice of Saxony. Much more probable is the supposition that Hans Fuchs and Fossey are the same person; and further corroboration comes from the Council Book, which states that Fossey received 400 crowns. (French) as a present, and à Lasco 100 at the same time. Now à Lasco introduced or assisted Fuchs at the English court, according to Scheyfve's Advices of September 29th.