Spain: January 1552, 16-31

Pages 443-450

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

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January 1552, 16–31

Jan. 18. Vienna, Imp. Arch.E. 19. Advices sent by Jehan Scheyfve.
During these last feasts held at Greenwich the King kept open Court and table, which had not yet been done in his time. Many jousts, tourneys and other sports were also held for his Majesty's pleasure and recreation. This seems to have been thought of by the Duke of Northumberland and his party in order to win the hearts of the gentry, and dissipate the bad impression he had made on many of them. At the same time one of the King's lesser gentlemen was created Lord of Misrule, (fn. 1) which had not been done for fifteen or sixteen years, and received permission to do and say whatever he pleased without ever being called to book for it. He was accompanied by about 100 persons of the same description; and besides several witty and harmless pranks, he played other quite outrageous ones, for example, a religious procession of priests and bishops. They paraded through the Court, and carried, under an infamous tabernacle, a representation of the holy sacrament in its monstrance, which they wetted and perfumed in most strange fashion, with great ridicule of the ecclesiastical estate. Not a few Englishmen were highly scandalised by this behaviour; and the French and Venetian ambassadors, who were at Court at the time, showed clearly enough that the spectacle was repugnant to them. The Lord of Misrule and some of his followers have been rewarded with goodly pensions from the King, besides the ready money they received at the time.
The Venetian ambassador has been publicly knighted in presence of the Court; and the King gave him the collar of his first order after the Garter. The collar, in gold and silver, is valued at 500 crowns.
It is still said that Parliament is to meet on January 24th, and that they are going to reform their new religion, the decrees and constitutions of which are most strictly to be observed, under pain of death. It is also said that something is to be done about the currency, and that some means are to be proposed for remedying the extremely high prices of all commodities. Among other things, those who let out their houses, possessions, manors or other property en ammodiation, (fn. 2) are to be obliged to accept the old price for them, or at any rate a much more moderate one than that now current. Thus they are holding out hopes of better things to the commons; though some say that, instead of easing their burdens, Parliament is going to ask aid from them.
As for the Duke of Somerset and the other prisoners, their case has remained at a standstill, though it seems that more material to be used against them is being sought for, and that the affair will be dealt with by Parliament; so their necks are not yet out of danger. Some say, though it seems unlikely, that the Duke of Northumberland has worked so well through a third person that the Duke of Somerset has confessed the whole plot, compromised the prisoners and other notable personages, and signed his confession with his own hand.
They say that the French recently took two English ships coming from Spain, and threw the crew of one of them into the sea. The English merchants are a little excited about this.
The Scots, out of their regard for France and desire to please the English, have delivered over to them a certain Scotsman who tried to establish the King of France as lord of Ireland.
Friar Michelangelo, who used to preach here, has been banished from England for certain grave abuses. He would have been executed had they not let him go to avoid scandal, and to prevent it being known that England harbours and rewards such apostles.
The English are not pleased that food-stuffs are not allowed to be exported from Flanders, for they need them badly here.
The Council sent two English engineers abroad a few days ago. One of them is the man who built the forts at Boulogne. It is said they are to inspect the English fortifications, because these folk do not feel sure of the Emperor.
Cipher. French.
Jan. 22. Vienna, Imp. Arch.E. 19. Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: The King returned to this place from Greenwich yesterday; and to-day, before noon, the Duke of Somerset was publicly executed by decapitation. The matter was kept so quiet that no one knew anything about it until yesterday evening; and then a rumour was started that the execution was to take place in the Tower.
London, 22 January, 1552.
Holograph. French.
Jan. 22. Vienna, Imp. Arch.E. 19. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: Since writing my last letters of the 14th instant to your Majesty, I have heard that the merchants of English nationality established at Antwerp and those here (i.e. in London) have agreed together not to freight any more goods in or for Flanders unless they are exempted from the tax of one-half per cent. This seems to confirm what the Council said to me at our last meeting. It appears that the London merchants, in order to prevent foreigners from making any profit in the meantime, are trying to arrange that foreign merchants shall not be allowed to freight any goods in England. For this reason a certain English ship laden with cloth was arrested here the other day, though it was released again immediately afterwards at the urgent request of certain foreign merchants, as a great favour; and the ship continued on its way towards Flanders. As a pretext for this arrest, they advanced a certain Act of Parliament which recites that no foreigner shall export out of this kingdom any cloth of more than four pounds sterling in value without previous leave. They paid no attention to the fact that this prohibition might well have been made long ago, because cloth of four pounds was then considered the best, whereas now all sorts of cloth are worth more; so that the application of this law would mean the total suppression of the export-trade. Some assert that the English are about to establish a staple for all and sundry kinds of merchandise at Calais, supposing that foreign merchants would be obliged to follow them there. Others say that they are preparing to move towards France; though neither version seems very likely. Nevertheless, it is true that they have recently brought a number of suits of armour from France, and are expecting a good quantity of corn from one day to the next; and the English, on their side, are transporting plenty of Flemish merchandise to France. It is believed that if the other English ships in Flanders had not been stopped, some of them would have proceeded straight to France, and others would have made for London, Calais, or other English ports, whence they would have transported their goods to France at the earliest opportunity. During the last few days they have been doing much the same, for they have unloaded merchandise in their ports, and then disposed of it as above by means of secret and fraudulent sales. It appears they are quite able to produce proof that their goods were sold and distributed in England, at any rate by the first sale.
As the councillors had not yet sent to tell me whether they had made up their minds on the matters I had laid before them on your Majesty's behalf at our last meeting, I sent to them five days ago, and they answered that they were not yet ready, but would finish as soon as possible.
Duplicate. Cipher. French.
Jan. 27. Brussels, L. A. 50. The Queen Dowager to M. de Vandeville. (fn. 3)
We have received your letters of the 23rd and 25th instant, and thank you for the information contained in that of the 23rd. That of the 25th treats of the transport of merchandise to Calais; and as you say you have detained three loaded carts, we thought well to send you the placard dealing with the matter, so that you may act in conformity with its contents on this and other similar occasions. If you find anyone trying to take out prohibited goods without safe-conduct or passport, you will enforce the placard and confiscate the goods.
As for the permission granted, subject to a caution, to the English to take away the goods seized by your war-ship, our intention is not that it apply to goods prohibited by the placard, such as sugar, but only to lawful merchandise such as copper and iron wire.
As for putting a stop to the export of horses from this country, you will do your best to catch those who disobey our ordinances and proceed against them with all the rigour of the law. In order that your soldiers and other officers who are deputed to capture the offenders may not be baulked by the diversity of jurisdictions, we are issuing letters patent by which we authorise you, with the advice of two councillors to be deputed by the members of the Council of Flanders, at your request, to proceed in a summary manner in such cases, as the ordinances shall be found to require. No further explanations are necessary, as a copy (fn. 4) of the letters patent is enclosed.
Ghent, 27 January, 1552.
Minute. French.
Jan. 28. Brussels, E. A. 65. The Emperor to the Queen Dowager.
I have heard M. de Glajon's account of his charge, and read the instructions and other papers he has brought with him. Being well able to imagine you are in need of him, and seeing your request, I would gladly have granted his repeated petitions and given him leave to return. His charge, however, is in connexion with the proposals contained in your letters which I received before leaving Augsburg, in which you urged me to make a great effort against France. You gave your reasons in detail, and they may be resumed thus. I must avoid acting in a manner that falls in with the plans of my enemy, who will never cease from traversing everything I undertake in God's service, or from molesting my subjects both in time of peace and of war, as past experience shows. If the war lasts long it will exhaust me and my dominions, and such peace as I shall be able to make with the King of France will not be much better, because I cannot put any trust in him and will always be put to heavy expense for keeping up the fortifications of my frontiers, which are very extensive. There is further the state of my finances in Spain and the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, and you have frequently been informed of their condition in Milan. All these countries are so burdened, so much has been taken out of them for past wars, for ordinary purposes of defence and other requirements, that it is to be feared they may fall into utter confusion as it is, letting alone what might happen were they to be more heavily taxed. As if any permanent result were to be achieved the effort would have to be made in the Low Countries, especially as you also suggest making an attack upon England at the same time, in order to secure some strong place there for the protection of navigation and commerce, I desired to ask you whether you could manage to raise in my Low Countries the sum that would be required for the conduct of such an undertaking. It would be necessary to be absolutely sure of the money, for were it to run short we might have to turn back after having spent enormous sums without fruit, and make peace not as we would, but as we might, leaving the enemy in the resentful state of mind usual in such circumstances.
M. de Glajon's most important charge is to give me your answer, which tells me that you have discussed the possibility of action with your chief advisers, and have come to the conclusion that a defensive policy alone is to be thought of. It will be all you can do to obtain from the Low Countries enough money to defend the frontier, and even so only the frontier on the French side, as you ask me to see to protecting the German boundary, and you insist on the many warnings you have received that the Elector of Saxony (i.e. Duke Maurice) intends to attack us in that quarter, knowing as he does that I am quite unable to spend money on reinforcing it. I am doing my best to put a good face on matters, preserve my reputation, and not let it be supposed that I am to be frightened into doing whatever may be required of me; and you may believe me I have my hands full. So here I am waiting to see what will come of Duke Maurice's visit, and getting on as best I may with paper (i.e. signing bills). I am waiting to hear the result of the negotiations for peace between the Pope and Cardinal de Tournon, and for Eraso's return, to decide which will be the least evil course to take, for as things are at present I have a poor choice. As I well know what would be best, if I only had the means to do it, I hate to give you the definite reply I would have to send were Glajon to return, for I know he is awaited in the Low Countries with great anxiety. All I could answer is that I greatly praise the measures you and my lords have adopted for the defence of the country; in good truth I entirely approve of them, and see no other possibility. But as for my being able to make war in Germany this year, even if I were obliged to do so, the matter seems to me so difficult as to be well-nigh impossible. I beg you to believe this is true, and that I am not refusing out of lack of desire, but out of dire necessity, for if pure rascality moved the Germans to attack me, I am in such plight that I know not what I could do except use up my very last resources (lit., throw the handle after the axe), and God grant I may find some to use, even were it to be the end of all! Were I to be placed in this position (i.e. of a war in Germany), as I could not possibly hold out long, the only thing would be to strike a rapid and desperate blow. Were M. de Glajon to go home with this answer, which is all I can give him for the present, I greatly fear it might dishearten our people there, and encourage our neighbours to redouble their efforts if they were to get wind of it. I am writing you all this to let you know how affairs stand, and also that you may inform me whether you approve of my sending Glajon off with such a message, or whether it would not be better to keep him until I begin to see some light in the present darkness. I am unable to make up my mind as to what my son had better do, for I desire as much as you that you may have him as an assistant in the Low Countries, but were he to come without hope of doing some good, he would lose reputation rather than gain a name by it. So, as you know how much is at stake, I pray you to let me hear as soon as possible your opinion as to M. de Glajon's return, for well I know that as soon as he is back every one there will be beside himself to know what tidings he brings.
Innsbruck, 28 January, 1552.
P.S.—I would have liked to have written all this with my own hand, but I am weak from what I have suffered and still have some fresh pain daily. Also I do not like to tell you news like the above, and so have used a secretary. I beg you to believe that all I have said is true, for this Parma war—the Devil take it!—has ruined me. All the silver from the Indies, and all the money obtained for it, has been spent, and I do not know where to look for more. I am sure you will be sorry to see things in such a condition, as I am myself; but we must do as we may.
French. Signed; the postscript in the Emperor's hand.
Jan. 28. Simancas, E. 807. The Queen Dowager to Prince Philip.
I am writing this letter to inform you that I have been working all this winter, keeping up a large number of war-ships and arranging for the outfitting of others, in order to have a strong force to protect the Flemish (merchant) fleet. Great difficulties have cropped up in the execution of this project, as well because of the very heavy expenses incurred in keeping up the ships, as because no decision has been arrived at as to how far they are to go; so that the matter has remained pending up to the present. I am hurrying on the work as fast as possible so that the ships may all be ready by March, before the (merchant) fleet is fitted out, and protect the same fleet on its way to Spain. I shall allow no merchantmen to sail until orders are issued, and I hope that you will also take due care. Indeed it is most necessary that you see to it that the first fleet coming hither from Spain be so well guarded that it may safely arrive in this countay, for I have received letters from all quarters to the effect that the French are very strong at sea. It is known that the King of France is fitting out a royal fleet of 40 or 50 ships, ten of which are galleys; and besides this he has sent word to Brittany, Normandy and other maritime provinces, commanding his sea-faring subjects and private individuals who own ships to arm, and not to use their vessels for trading, but fit them out for war. The result is that there will be some 150 sail in all, which will do their best to hold the sea, and consequently prevent intercourse between Spain and these parts. We must endeavour to stop this because of the terrible damage it would inflict on his Imperial Majesty's dominions.
On land the enemy has tried to gain several of our frontier towns with the aid of corruption and treachery; but, thank God! he has failed, and has been discomfited with loss by the very-men he wished to win over, so that not a single place in this country has fallen a prey to him. As the French are making great preparations to attack us as soon as spring begins, I have taken such good care that I shall have, by February 8th, some 7,000 horse ready here under arms, subjects of these countries all of them, and a large number of infantry to guard the frontiers. At the same time I have bespoken a good quantity of troops in Germany, so that they may be ready if I need them. I believe his Imperial Majesty will inform you of all that is happening in Germany, so I will not do so, but only tell you that I am busy-inducing these folk to help with the war expenses. I find his Majesty's subjects well disposed to do so, for Flanders, Artois and Hainault have conceded the contribution I asked for; and I hope the rest will do the same, though many of them have suffered heavily from the recent inundations, which have been worse than any on record.
Decipherment. Spanish.
Jan. 28. Brussels, L.A. 50. The Queen Dowager to the Master of the Customs in Zeeland.
The Queen Dowager orders the release of the vessels and goods belonging to Thomas Lodge and John Stockmeed, English merchants, which had been arrested.
Ghent, 28 January, 1552.
French. Signed.
Jan. 29. Brussels, E.A. 490. Guillaume de Poitiers to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: Duke Maurice's deputies and those from Württemberg have arrived here, and begged the Fathers and his Majesty's ambassadors that the decrees that were to have been pronounced at the last session held on the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25th, touching the sacrifice of the mass and the sacrament of orders, might be deferred until March 19th, when the next session is to take place. His Majesty's will was ascertained, and the request granted. The points touching the sacrament of marriage that are to be treated in the meantime will be dealt with at the same time. Besides the said prorogation, the Protestants had granted to them the safe-conduct they desired and demanded, as your Majesty may have seen in my last letters, resembling that granted to the Bohemians at the time of the Council of Basel. The said deputies, after obtaining their safeconduct, complained that it was not exactly in the same words as that given to the Bohemians, and declared that they did not know whether this might not cause some delay in the arrival of their letters and powers.
The men of Württemberg have handed over to the Fathers a paper book, together with a certain writing containing what they term their grievances. The book, as far as I am able to find out, contains their doctrine and confession, which is like enough to the one formerly subscribed to at Augsburg. I therefore considered it superfluous to trouble your Majesty with it, especially as the grievances are the same as those exposed by the Saxons, a duplicate of which I recently sent your Majesty.
Trent, 29 January, 1552.
French. Holograph.


  • 1. On March 18th, 1552, George Ferrers received 50l. from Northumberland for his exertions as Lord of Misrule. (Note to Edward's Journal for December 24th, 1551.)
  • 2. A system of land-tenure according to which rental was originally paid in kind, though later money-payment was substituted.
  • 3. Captain of Gravelines.
  • 4. The copy exists in the same bundle. The letters patent state that horses are frequently smuggled from Flanders to Calais, whence they are taken to England, and that the offenders frequently manage to defeat action against them by appealing in various local courts, the judges of which are suborned. To remedy this state of things, the Flemish Council is to depute two of its members at Vaudeville's request, who shall proceed in cases of this nature independently of local jurisdiction.