Spain: September 1551, 21-30

Pages 370-376

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, 21–30

Sept. 24. Brussels, E.A. 61. The Emperor to the Queen Dowager.
(Extract from a letter dealing with preparations for war with France, seizure of shipping, etc.)
In reply to your letters of the 14th and those brought by the present bearer, you did well to keep Bassefontaine away from Court, and entrust him to your maistre d'hostel, Falaix, and some archers, in order to prevent him from carrying on any negotiations or writing letters. For the rest, you will treat him most graciously and have him conveyed under the same guard to the frontier, where he shall be handed over, according to custom, when the French give back my ambassador now in their country. Have all packets for or from Bassefontaine or other Frenchmen seized and opened, and find out what you may from them. You will see to it that there be nothing resembling a report in the packet Bassefontaine shall send off to enable our ambassador to obtain his passport, and that it be written in plain writing. He may then be allowed to close the packet in his guard's presence, and deliver it to the bearer. We wish to inform you that as Marillac has behaved in a very straightforward manner here, and as the possession of Bassefontaine suffices for our ambassador's safety, I have given him leave to depart on his giving his word to return and put himself in our hands if any difficulty is made about handing over our ambassador. Thus he may return by Burgundy, or Champagne, as he begged, in order not to have to take a longer route; and I have given him a gentleman to escort him and see that he be provided with all things needful.
You desire to know how you shall treat the French servants of our sister, the Most Christian Queen. (fn. 1) You will tactfully suggest to her that she had better send them all back to France, men and women alike, expressing great regret to them that things should have come to such a pitch. She will also cause M. de St. Jean, or another of her gentlemen, to go to the King of France and offer on her behalf to mediate between him and ourself whenever she may be able to do so, and profess to remain his affectionate (step-)mother whatever befall. And the more graciously she treats him the better, for such conduct will put him in the wrong if, as is to be anticipated, he behaves badly towards her, detaining her property or inflicting other injuries upon her.
President St. Mauris wrote on your instructions to the Bishop of Arras to know whether it should be forbidden to send letters into France or receive them thence under the names of English, Scottish or other correspondents: a subterfuge that was allowed during the last war with Scotland. He also wished to know whether no quarter should be given, and no one spared; and whether no private individuals were to be allowed to enter the Low Countries by sea. I think it best to order that our people do their worst against the French in every respect, so that the enemy may understand how much they gain by forcing a rupture; for the courtesy and gentleness we have shown them in the past have only rendered them more insolent. In fine, as we are at war with the French, we had better treat them with no consideration whatsoever; and I suppose you have issued orders in this sense, as you have been apprised of the King of France's fixed determination to make war.
Augsburg, 24 September, 1551.
Minute. French.
Sept. 26. Brussels, R.A. Prov. 13. The Queen Dowager to Jehan Scheyfve.
We will add to this letter (fn. 2) that the English ambassador here resident has petitioned us for the release of an English ship arrested by the Margrave of Antwerp because it had taken on board goods for Rouen. He offered to have the ship taken straight to England. We replied that we would consent to let it go if the English merchant (to whom the ship belonged) would deposit a guarantee that he would send it with its cargo to England. In so doing we were treating him with great favour; for considering that he had intended to take his cargo of salt and herring to France, a strict application of the law would have meant the seizure and sale of his goods. The ambassador showed dissatisfaction at this, saying that the Commercial Convention allowed merchants to proceed freely from this country to England with their merchandise, and that the merchant in question would be unable to find securities at Antwerp or elsewhere. He founded his arguments chiefly upon the Convention, saying that it would be violated if we were to make the release subject to the deposit of securities. We answered that the Convention was not in the least affected, because the ship had taken on board a cargo for France, as the merchant himself confessed; and as we were at war with France we would not allow merchants to proceed thither from our ports. We inform you of this that you may answer to the same effect if you are spoken to about the matter.
Minute in St. Mauris' hand. French.
Sept. 26. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 19. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: I received your Majesty's letters of the 11th instant on the 18th, and immediately afterwards demanded audience of the Council. As most of them were at the time with the Earl of Warwick in a house of his between London and Windsor, they sent to ask whether my charge bade me speak to the King's Majesty, or to his Council only. I sent word that I had no particular instructions to treat with the King, but would act as they should think best. So at length they appointed me the 23rd instant for my audience. When we met, Madam, I began by reminding them of the recent capture by the French, off the coast of England, of some vessels belonging to the Emperor's subjects, which were sailing towards Spain. Your Majesty was informed that, in the port of Brouage, (fn. 3) the captains and others who had committed this act of hostility had been so bold as to say that they had done so with the encouragement of the English, and that they expected to have much favour shown them by the same nation. Moreover, the captains continually stated that they intended to make use of English harbours, and put in there whenever they chose, in order to have more facility for attacking his Imperial Majesty's subjects. In spite of these declarations, the old confederation and good friendship between the Emperor and the King of England, and their countries, still existed, and the King and his Council had uttered protestations of their intentions to continue observing the alliance, and had assured the Emperor that nothing they had agreed to with France was contrary to it. Therefore your Majesty found it hard to believe that the English intended the French men-of-war to take refuge in English harbours, or to allow them to be assisted or favoured in their hostile attempts upon the Emperor's subjects who traded in this country, or who might pass along its coast. Your Majesty would rather believe they would drive the French away and hinder them, in accordance with the treaty of closer alliance; and you wished to know the intentions of the King and Council.
When, with patience and an amiable air, they had heard all the above, Madam, the Earl of Warwick asked me whether any ships belonging to the Emperor's subjects had been taken by the French; for the Council had heard of nothing of the sort. I told him, once more and with all moderation, that I could assure him of the aforesaid capture, as it was already a matter of common knowledge. Nonetheless, the Earl still tried to persuade me that the Council had heard nothing about the capture; and he appealed to the other lords, who also pretended ignorance.
After this they conferred apart for a space, and then Mr. Mason acted as spokesman to tell me that the Council had understood the import of the question I had put them on your Majesty's behalf. As for the words spoken by the said French captains and others who had taken the prizes, they were free to say what they liked; but the Council had had no part in it, and desired to assure me that the King and they intended scrupulously to observe the treaty in all its provisions, and meet all obligations that might arise from it. I might inform your Majesty of this their intention; and they said no more. Hearing such very general talk, Madam, I said by way of a summing-up that the King's and his Council's intention was apparently to keep the French men-of-war out of their harbours, to abstain from assisting or favouring them, and also to free English waters of them.
At this the Earl of Warwick said sharply: “Do you want the King to keep up a fleet especially to drive off the French men-of-war?” I replied that the Council well knew what obligations the treaty of closer alliance imposed upon them. The Earl answered that the Emperor had not so acted when England was at war with France, but had allowed the Frenchmen to enter his ports and take refuge there with their prizes as often as they chose. I assured him, Madam, that neither the Emperor nor your Majesty had ever allowed the French such liberty, for it would be entirely contrary to the treaty; it might be that some French ship or other, pursued by the enemy, had run into one of his Imperial Majesty's ports, but that did not mean that the French had been taken in or favoured there. The Earl persisted in his version, adding that it happened over and over again, and that the French were allowed to revictual in our ports. As this had seemed very strange to the late King, and had looked like a breach of the treaty of closer alliance, the said late King had sent commissioners to his Majesty to formulate a protest; but it had profited them very little. I replied once more that I was unable to believe that his Imperial Majesty, who was so scrupulous in the discharge of his treaty obligations, had thus acted; and they could not pretend to ignore that his Majesty had several times shown the English favour far exceeding anything to which he was bound by the treaty. Still the Earl held fast, but said he did not wish to give me to understand that the English would do the same, for what he had said was nothing more than a general observation. Seeing what they were after, I only said I hoped they would always act in conformity with the treaty and friendly relations existing between their Majesties, and never deviate therefrom. They replied that they would not fail to do so.
Next, Madam, I informed them that two French war-ships had recently been standing off Margate to watch for ships belonging to his Majesty's subjects on their way in or out of the Thames. Two hoys belonging to the said subjects had been pursued on leaving the Thames by the Frenchmen, and obliged to put about and run into a certain English port called Walmer. There they were arrested by the officers of the said place with the pretext that they had contraband on board, though this accusation proved to be false. Nonetheless, their ships had been detained, and the men subjected to ill-treatment. When I had exposed all this, the Earl of Warwick told me he had not heard of any such ships at Margate, though, considering where Margate was placed, they might go and come without the Council knowing anything about it, and the fact that Margate was not a harbour rendered it very difficult to prevent them. He added that, when England and France were at war, they had been unable to prevent the French from coming to Margate now and then. I told them they well knew how important it was to keep the passage open and free, as it was the way in and out of the Thames, and to fail to do so would mean the end of English trade with the Low Countries, as no ship would be able to reach London or leave the Thames without being plundered. I added that these Frenchmen might furnish English and other pirates with an opening to attack and pillage the Emperor's subjects, and that all this might be avoided with a much smaller force than they said. And I again reminded them of the tenor of the treaty.
Finally, Madam, the Earl told me the Council had been informed that four hoys belonging to the Emperor's subjects, that had recently sailed from this place, had ill-treated two English ships at Margate. I replied I could not believe that they had attacked his Majesty's ships; but if the hoys had been attacked or pursued, they might have taken the two pinnaces for the Frenchmen that had chased the two hoys a few days before. The Earl smiled, and said I had given an ingenious explanation. I rejoined that I knew nothing more of the matter, and would abide by my opinion; and there our conference ended.
Duplicate. French. Cipher.
Sept. 29. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 19. Advices sent by Jehan Scheyfve.
A few days ago it was announced in London that Englishmen were to be allowed to enter foreign princes' service, and it seems that several, especially of those who are in receipt of the King's pensions, have gone over to France.
The English have again fitted out three warships. One of them is a pinnace with a crew of forty or fifty men, and the others are vessels, one of one hundred, and the other of one hundred and fifty tons. Both of them have good artillery and provisions for two months on board. There is a rumour that they are to go in pursuit of pirates, and to keep an eye on the Emperor's ships. Others say they are to be stationed at Margate to re-search ships coming out of the Thames, and that the two pinnaces now at Margate are to be withdrawn. As far as we can discover no more ships are being outfitted; and the six at Rochester on which they were at work have been abandoned for the time being.
Hans Fuchs, the German, is still here. He was lately at court with à Lasco; but we have failed to find out his business. The ambassador, or deputy, of the King of Denmark has also been with the Council. It seems he has been entrusted with the private suits of the King of Denmark's subjects who have had to complain of their treatment here; but the last information received makes it credible that he may have some further charge. The Scottish deputy here is called Maitre Jacques.
The French ambassador is often at court, where he gives the King of England all the news. Many people here are delighted by the war between France and the Emperor, for they hope to make something out of it. Others say that the nature of the secret intelligence and league between England and France will soon come out; and several persons of quality dread it, considering it likely to prove the total ruin of England.
They say that Parliament is again to be put off, this time until next January; and the commons are dissatisfied about it.
French. Cipher.
Sept. 29. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 19. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: on the 26th of this month Secretary Armiger came to inform me, by the Council's orders, that, immediately after I had left them at the end of our last conference, they had written orders to the captains, harbour-masters and other officers of the English sea-board to admit no French men-of-war into their harbours; and to keep such order in all English waters that the Emperor's subjects should in no wise be troubled by the French. He added that two French warships had recently been so bold as to enter the port of Camber, near Rye, in search of a Dutch ship laden with corn for Italy, which they seized and were taking out to sea, when the harbour-master was informed of what was happening. He immediately sent a pinnace to summon the Frenchmen to let the Dutch ship go; and when they refused, he began battering the French ships from his castle to such good effect that they were obliged to put back into the harbour. There arrived, the French captains had been put under arrest until they should indemnify the master of the Dutch ship. The Council desired me to be informed of this event.
I replied that I was very happy to hear that the Council had made such excellent provision. I praised the harbour-master's action, and said I would inform your Majesty of it. Still, I desired the secretary to report to his masters that I had heard two days ago that French warships to the number of twelve or fifteen were appearing from time to time in English harbours, particularly at Plymouth, Falmouth and Dartmouth, and that their crews were talking in the same tone of which I had spoken to my lords the other day. Moreover, they were being caressed and favoured; and they were believed to have been the ships that had lately taken vessels from Spain and Portugal laden with sugar, spice and other merchandise. This I said by way of a hint that the ship laden with corn had perhaps been saved because her cargo was not worth much.
He assured me, Madam, that my lords knew nothing about that occurrence, and would be greatly astonished to hear of it; for they had issued the strictest orders to the harbour-masters and other officers to be most careful to allow no French men-of-war to enter their ports. Still, he would report my words to the Council.
On the same occasion I informed him that your Majesty had written to tell me that six Portuguese and Spanish ships laden with sugar, spice and other goods had been pursued by the French, who had captured two or three of them. The others, one of which was a Portuguese ship with a cargo of spice, had taken refuge in the Isle of Wight and neighbouring ports, where the Frenchmen had said they would force their way in and cut them out. As the Portuguese were old allies and confederates of his Imperial Majesty, and included in the treaty of closer alliance, your Majesty requested that the said Portuguese and their ships might receive the same favour and treatment as your own subjects, as the treaty provided, to which end you hoped the Council would write to the harbour-masters and other officers of England. I then made known to him that your Majesty had been warned that the French fleet had recently taken a Dutch ship by force in an English port. This was a questionable way of interpreting the treaty, and if the English really intended to behave in so strange a manner, the Emperor might well refuse to put up with it. The secretary replied he was quite certain that the said ships were not at the Isle of Wight nor in any other English ports; but he would nonetheless make his report to the Council, and doubted not that the Portuguese would be treated suitably and in conformity with the provisions of the treaty.
Decipherment. French.
Sept. (?). Brussels, L.A. 54. An Oath administered by Count de Reuil to Englishmen who took Service with the Emperor.
By the faith you owe to God, your Creator and Redeemer, and on your word as good Christians, swear that you will serve the Emperor loyally and well against all comers except the King of England, your sovereign lord. Swear that you will obey Count de Reuil, governor and captain-general for his Majesty in Flanders and Artois, or whomsoever he may depute; and that you will do as they shall command. Swear that you will not seek to stir up his Majesty's soldiers or other subjects by your conversation or by reading to them books that are forbidden in his Majesty's dominions, and that you will cause no scandal in any matter concerning the faith or the fashion after which his Majesty's subjects serve God in church.
Swear that, if you desire to depart, you will give three days' notice to Count de Reuil or his deputies, and return home without inflicting any damage upon the goods or persons of his Majesty's subjects, soldiers, peasants or other folk. And that, before seeking to go, you will either serve for the period for which you have already received your pay, or refund your pay. That, while you are in his Majesty's service, you will use no violence upon his subjects or allies; and that if it happen—which God forbid!—that any one of you commit any offence, you will allow him to be punished according to his deserts; and that, for the rest, you will bear yourselves in all respects as good and virtuous fighting-men should.
Copy. French.


  • 1. Eleanor, widow of Francis I.
  • 2. This appears to be a postscript to a letter, the rest of which I have not succeeded in finding.
  • 3. Brouage once an important port, is now almost abandoned. It lies about eight miles south of Rochefort.