Spain: January 1553

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Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 11, 1553. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

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January 1553

1553. Jan. 4. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve, Imperial Ambassador in London, to the Queen Dowager. (fn. 1)
Madam: On the first of the month Sir Andrew Dudley came to my house and told me that the King, his master, was about to send him to visit his Majesty (the Emperor), and he would not neglect to make his reverence to your Majesty on his way through Brussels. He asked me to let him know if he could render me any service on the same occasion. I replied, Madam, that I was pleased to hear of his embassy, as I surmised and indeed felt assured that it would tend to confirm and increase the old and sincere friendship between the two sovereigns. I expressed myself eager to second him by every means in my power in matters concerning public welfare, and professed myself ready to obey him in anything he might command. He declared to me of his own accord that his charge was a very important one, but did not make himself more plain; he thanked me for my offer and, after some more conversation, departed. I have not been able to find out anything except that his mission is in accordance with the import of my last letters to your Majesty of the last day but one of December. (fn. 2) He set forth on his journey on the same first of this month, and so did Mr. Sidney, (fn. 3) bound for France.
It is believed that the King of France intends to put Hesdin in a condition of defence with all possible haste, and then proceed towards the Comte de Rœulx, (fn. 4) revictual Thérouanne, and advance into the country laying it all waste behind him.
London, 4 January, 1553.
Signed. Cipher. French.
Jan. 16. Brussels, E.A. 106. Cornille Scepperus (fn. 5) to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: This morning between nine and ten o'clock I received letters from M. de Veltwyck, (fn. 6) warning me by your Majesty's orders of a rumour to the effect that the King of France was equipping a certain number of galleys for Scotland. May it please your Majesty to know that some time ago I received information that in Normandy and Ponthieu (fn. 7) a few small ships, of little importance, were being got ready, ostensibly to sail westward in the direction of the Canary Islands and Brazil, although it was whispered they were in reality bound for Scotland. I said to myself that their object would probably be to take soldiers to Scotland or bring back soldiers from that country, and I based my conviction on what happened before with the soldiers at Gravelines, etc. I have been able to ascertain the truth of this matter to-day, by means of a third person who is on good terms with the Scots, who are to be found in large numbers in this town of Antwerp, some of them recently arrived here from their country. I find it is certain that only a month ago, 3,000 foot and a thousand horse were waiting for ships from France to carry them across; and they expected to march through England to Rye, Dover etc., and take ship at these places to cross the Channel. I hold this story to be a likely one, especially as the French have been trying to induce the Scots to join their service, France having helped them from ancient times more loyally than any other foreign nation. Your Majesty heard from M. de Rœulx and M. de Nieuwerlet that the ships were to be ready to start on their voyage within seven or eight days; but I hear from persons recently arrived from Normandy that the equipping of the ships is carried on slowly, without the haste that would be needful in the other case. I am daily expecting the arrival of a reliable merchant from here, who is trading (in France) in virtue of a safe-conduct granted to him by your Majesty. This personage will give me trustworthy information of what is going on at Le Havre-de-Grâce and in the neighbourhood. If it be true that the ships for Scotland are to go there for the purpose set forth above or for any other, it would not be a wasted effort on your Majesty's part to keep them there once they are gone. They are sufficiently well-provided to be able to journey either towards Dumbarton, a place on the west coast of Scotland, by way of the channel between England and Ireland, or by this (the North) sea, according to the news they will receive of your Majesty's equipments.
Some difficulty may possibly be made by the Regent of Scotland about allowing the said 3,000 Scotsmen to leave the country; unless they be of the opposite party, in which case it will be considered best to send them out of the country, and let the wolves devour and all hazards threaten them, rather than keep them at home to foment troubles and sedition. . . .
(The rest of the letter is concerned with Dutch and Flemish shipping.)
Antwerp, 16 January, 1553.
Holograph. French.
Jan. 18. Brussels, E.A. 106. Cornille Scepperus to the Queen Dowager.
(Extract from a letter dealing with preparations for the departure of the merchant fleet for Spain.)
Inasmuch as the 3,000 Scottish infantry might, if wind and weather served them, not refrain from trying to set foot ashore somewhere in this neighbourhood, and especially on the island of Walcheren or towards the Ecluse in Flanders, where they are by no means totally unknown as it is, it may be well to inform and forewarn the governors of those parts, so that they may be on their guard, there being yet time to get ready. We shall have to watch the course followed by the French ships sent to fetch the 3,000 soldiers; they are not ships to be feared (estimer), but three medium-sized vessels, suited for transport of troops. Warships belonging to some of the French adventurers (fn. 8) may be found among them; though we need not fear them on their way out, but rather on their return journey. I am hourly expecting trustworthy information from France, sent by means of certain personages known to me, who frequent those parts with safe-conducts.
Antwerp, 18 January, 1553.
Holograph. French.
Jan. 20. Vienna, Imp. Arch, E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: I received on the 13th of this month certain documents and writings sent to me by your Majesty's orders, and also Ambassador Chamberlain's (fn. 9) negotiation and the matter which was communicated by your commands to the King of England, his master, concerning the care and safety of his realm; with regard to all of which I will conduct myself according to your Majesty's injunctions.
Inasmuch as I found it stated in the negotiation referred to that the King of England had wished to perform similar offices respecting his Imperial Majesty, by causing a declaration to be made to your Majesty that the King of France had lately carried through a financial operation amounting to 400,000 crowns with divers foreign merchants resident in England, borrowing the sum to be paid over in Northern Germany, it seemed to me consonant with the discharge of my duties to make enquiries on that point. I have done so as secretly and diligently as possible, in order to send the information to your Majesty, but I have not been able to hear a hint of any such loan having been contracted here. Had it been done, it would have been impossible to keep the matter secret, especially as several merchants would have participated in it, and the sum is so large. An examination of the (merchants of) various nationalities makes the matter appear less likely; and it is more improbable still because trade with Northern Germany is suspended for the present by the Stillyard and English merchants who used to trade there. It would be difficult to carry such a financial operation through without the effect of it being felt on the Exchange, which is so sensitive and easily affected; so that the story appears to have been invented to correspond and show signs of goodwill and favour to his Imperial Majesty, besides implying how much England is able to do. Or, again, the sum of money mentioned may have been sent hither, to the West country, from France, and conveyed by land northwards to Scotland to proceed to Northern Germany, or perhaps the King (of England) and his Council, especially the Duke of Northumberland, having financed the loan between them and being about to send it across to Germany, through a third person, possibly a merchant, provided against the possibility of the transaction being subsequently discovered by clearing themselves in this way. However, I have no certitude on this point. True it is that every one generally, and particularly people of weight and consequence, are astonished and wonder what the reason may be why the King is not paying his officers' and servants' wages, but defers the payments from term to term. The last remnants of church property are being sold; 100,000l.'s value, it is reckoned, has been disposed of for cash, and the sale is still in progress. They are amassing coin for all they are worth, and the circumstance is all the more suspicious because the King's moneys, which used to be under the direct control of the Lord High Treasurer (fn. 10) and the receivers who managed the finances, are now being taken either to the Tower or to the house at Westminster, and only one or two intimate friends of the Duke (of Northumberland) are given access to them. The Treasurer is excluded; and this has been going on for some time past. Some say they (the Council) are about to debase the coinage further, and coins are being collected together to scrape those of better quality, payments to the King's officers being suspended for the time being. Others opine that the operation is intended to raise the price of exchange as a consequence of the scarcity of coin; and that the price of victuals may fall as a result. Again, it is said that the King wishes to pay off all his debts and await the results of the present war.
I must add, Madam, that the estates of England are summoned to meet in Parliament on the first of next March. It is believed that laws on religion are to be passed, so that their creed may be universally accepted and practised everywhere in the kingdom according to the last ordinances and decrees. Some say that the King intends to appropriate the bishops' lands and revenues, and those of other dignitaries of the church, allowing to each minister a certain sum as pension, sufficient for his maintenance and needs. The King is reported to be about to ask for a large subsidy from Parliament on account of the said moneys (i.e. in order to pay his debts); and by these means he might free himself entirely of debt.
During the last few days there has been talk of the Scottish foot for the King of France's service, and the numbers have been quoted as even higher (than 3,000). There was talk of them last year about this time; and it is being said and repeated at Court that the soldiers will shortly cross the channel between Dover and Calais, and no one has news of any men-of-war bound for Scotland. It is of course understood that seven or eight well-armed vessels left Dieppe recently to convoy the fleet that brought wine and flour to Bordeaux. Haply they may be employed on their return hither for the purpose mentioned above. No vessels have left this country for Northern Germany these four months past; but I am not certain if this applies to the north country or Scotland.
Madam, I have sent my secretary repeatedly to my lords of the Council to find out their intentions with regard to the transport of cloth, about which his Majesty's subjects make constant complaints to me. I can get no reply, but they delay their answer by putting it off from one time to the next, and it is possible that they may carry the matter on till the assembling of Parliament, and then pass some fresh ordinance. There is no change in the matter of the confiscated powder; and as for the Biscay vessel robbed by certain Englishmen, it appears that the owner of the pirate ship, my Lord Grey, (fn. 11) went off to France with part of the wool, but the rest might be recovered.
Decipherment. French.
Jan. 24. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: On the 20th of the present month, I received your Majesty's letters of the 12th, with a certain writing concerning Thomas Luchtmachere, who was arrested in this town on a warrant obtained by people from Newcastle, because his men had pillaged a certain vessel from the said place. He was set at liberty at the instant request of the French ambassador, (fn. 12) at whose house he was a frequent guest. It appears that the said ambassador also interceded on his behalf with the King of England for the recovery of a certain sum, which the said Luchtmachere affirmed that he had earned for his services during the lifetime of the late King of England. He did not succeed in obtaining this; but, furnished with a passport, he withdrew from the country towards Franco, whither his armed vessel and a certain pinnace had preceded him by a few days. They met a number of the King of France's warships off Dieppe, and were taken prisoners, carried into Dieppe, and were made to suffer, though they exhibited the passport given them by the King. Nevertheless, I will act in conformity with the import of your Majesty's letters on the first occasion that presents itself for doing so. The Duke of Northumberland has not come to Court so far, but he may soon arrive.
Mr. Sidney returned from France two days ago. Twenty or twenty-five vessels freighted in the Low Countries with herring and other merchandise for France were arrested here at Rye and Dover; and it seems that the English intend to be served first.
It is believed that the King of France is raising more men in Gascony and elsewhere, and that he personally is at Compiègne.
London, 24 January, 1553.
French. Decipherment.


  • 1. Mary, Queen Dowager of Hungary, Regent of the Low Countries, sister of Charles V.
  • 2. See Spanish Calendar, Vol. X, p. 618.
  • 3. Sir Henry Sidney, husband of Mary, daughter of the Duke of Northumberland.
  • 4. Adrien de Croy, Count de Rœulx (Reuil), in command of the Imperial land forces in Flanders.
  • 5. Sieur d'Eecke, a Flemish naval commander.
  • 6. i e. Gherard de Veltwyck, a member of the Emperor's Council of State.
  • 7. Ponthie, a region included in the modern Département de la Somme, capital Abbeville.
  • 8. It was the practice of the Kings of France to grant lettres de cachet to private individuals who, under the name of corsairs, policed the sea for their own profit. Many gentlemen of Vendée and Brittany were corsairs as late as the 18th century.
  • 9. i.e. Sir Thomas Chamberlain, English ambassador with the Queen Dowager of Hungary, Regent of the Low Countries.
  • 10. William Paulet, Marquis of Winchester.
  • 11. William, Lord Grey de Wilton, Captain of Guinea.
  • 12. René de Laval, Sieur de Boisdauphin.