Spain: March 1553

Pages 14-23

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

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March 1553

March 7. Simancas, E. 807. Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
The English are fitting out three vessels, one of 180, one of 120, and the third of 60 tons, and they will be ready within a month or six weeks. They say they are being sent on a voyage of discovery, and that they are to steer their course towards Iceland, and thence towards the east, making a few ports. They are being provisioned for two years, at the expense of certain London merchants and some members of the Council. The captain in command of the three is a gentleman named Villevi, (fn. 1) who served the King of England at sea during the last war with the Scots. The crews are mixed, sailors and English gentlemen, amounting in all to about 150 men. They have secured the services of two captains and Portuguese pilots, one named Pinteado, who was once captain of some of the King of Portugal's warships, and suffered imprisonment because he captured a French vessel. He found means to escape, and withdrew to England. The King of Portugal, having had cognisance of the affair, sent a messenger to the said captain, with letters of pardon, so that he might leave England and return to his own country. The messenger had speech with him, and delivered him his letters of pardon. The said Pinteado showed them to the Council in order to increase his own reputation, and now the messenger is detained in consequence, and accused of lese majestie.
Translation into Spanish of an extract from a lost French original.
March 13. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 1. The Lady Mary to the Emperor. (fn. 2)
Sire: The opportunity of a safe and reliable messenger having presented itself, I have dared, however unworthy, to write this short letter to your Majesty. I beseech you, as you have shown yourself in the past and even unto this day to be my help and refuge, nay, my second spiritual father, so to continue in your great goodness and virtue towards me, that through you I may obtain that which for nearly two years past has been denied me.
I hope your Majesty may remember the numerous requests proffered by your ambassador to the King, my brother's, Council to grant me permission to observe the ancient religion, according to the promise made after the death of the late King, my father, whom God shrive! Nevertheless, no good results have come of them, and therefore I now make so bold as to ask your Majesty once more, with all humility, that you may be pleased to give fresh orders to your ambassador to repeat his requests to the same effect; or at least, when a season shall appear more propitious in your Majesty's eyes, may he by all possible means try to obtain that the hearing of mass in secret may be permitted and granted to me. I remit myself entirely to your Majesty's prudence and discretion; and I shall be all the more obliged as too many obligations bind me already to you. I will pray God, while I have life, to grant the fulfilment of your Majesty's high, noble and virtuous desires, with health and prosperity.
Beaulieu, (fn. 3) 13 March, 1553.
Holograph. French.
March 16. Simancas, E. 807. Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: I heard from the owner of the Biscayan vessel that was assaulted and taken by Captain Strangways, an Englishman, that the clerk (fn. 4) of the Admiralty Court had used great diligence in apprehending the said captain and his associates, by special orders of the King and Council. I did not neglect to see the Council and declare to them that I had been informed and assured of the good offices performed by the said clerk in the neighbourhood of Devonshire, Exeter and the Scilly Isles, in his effort to capture the said Strangways and recover the vessel from Biscay with the goods that were on board, among which there had been a certain quantity of wool and money belonging to his Majesty (the Emperor), besides certain wines and other things wrapped up in the bales of wool. Certain associates of the said Strangways had been criminally executed, and many receivers, officers and retailers imprisoned in the ordinary course of justice. The said Strangways, however, was said to have taken refuge in Ireland and taken the Biscayan ship with him, as well as sundry bales of wool. Killigrew, the owner of Strangways' vessel, was gone to France with 50 bales. I would inform your Majesty and the Emperor of the foregoing facts, and especially of the executions and any other good offices they might choose to perform. I felt assured that your Majesties would take the said offices in very good part. I besought them to continue in their vigilance so that the goods that had been recovered, amounting in all to the value of 1,200l. if the above-mentioned wines were reckoned in, might be returned to the subjects of your Majesty, the rightful owners, and that the value of the merchandise not recoverable might be made good by the said associates, receivers and retailers in accordance with the import of the treaties and the Commercial Convention. I added that the captain of the said Scilly Isles had failed in his duty by favouring and receiving the said Strangways and his fellows; and I expressed my opinion that Strangways might be captured without difficulty, as he had been seen in the port of Cork in Ireland, where the Council's orders had also been published. They assured me that the King and they of his Council had the matter very much at heart, and that besides the precautions and orders I have referred to, they had done much more, and written special letters to the King of France, so that if Strangways and Killigrew found themselves in any town or port in France they might be apprehended immediately and sent to England: which the King had promised to do. Over and above this, the King of England, their master, had equipped two vessels at his own expense and was about to send them after the said Strangways. They assured me that they would not desist from their good work; they would provide for restitution of the goods that had been recovered, and proceed against the receivers and retailers who had been imprisoned, and others who were also guilty, dealing out exemplary justice to all.
As to the captain of the Scilly Isles, perhaps Strangways might have come so well accompanied to the island that the captain could not hope to get the better of him. I replied that, had he wished, he could have used force to detain Strangways, as he was well enough armed to defend his island against enemies and invasions. At any rate he should have sent information to the King and Council and sought help from the King's officers in Devonshire and Exeter; especially as Strangways was a notorious personage and had practised piracy even against subjects of the Crown, and repaired habitually for refuge to the said Scilly Isles, as it was proved by information gathered by the clerk of the Admiralty Court. They replied that as soon as the clerk sent in his report they would take counsel in the matter in such fashion that the Emperor and his subjects should have cause to be satisfied.
Your Majesty may be assured that in this case they have exerted themselves so diligently that the like has never before been witnessed in England, and the pirates and sea-robbers will be stricken with salutary fear.
Translation into Spanish of an extract from a lost French original.
March 17. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: The King of England has never left his room since the beginning of the illness that came upon him not long ago. (fn. 5) I have made inquiries whether his indisposition is likely to last long, and it appears that he is very weak and thin, besides which I learn from a good source that his doctors and physicians have charged the Council to watch him carefully and not move away from him, as they are of opinion that the slightest change might place his life in great danger. The Duke of Northumberland has written privately and personally to the Princess of England to inform her of it. One might surmise that he seeks to earn the good grace of the said Princess in case other designs which he may peradventure be nourishing do not come to fruition, and so clear himself of the suspicion of aspiring to the Crown.
Sire, I have resided here as your Majesty's unworthy ambassador for the space of three years, and I beseech you most humbly that it may please you to recall me and send some one in my place who may render better service to your Majesty.
London, 17 March, 1553.
Holograph. French. First paragraph in cipher.
March 17. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve to the Bishop of Arras.
My Lord: I have recently visited the Duke of Northumberland, and he mentioned to me in conversation, after we had exchanged some small talk, that his Majesty had received most honourably Sir Andrew Dudley, his brother, and shown in several ways the affection he nourished for the King of England, his master. He had been glad to hear that his Majesty (the Emperor) was convalescent, and hoped he would go on daily acquiring new strength. (fn. 6) He added that his death would cause great harm and trouble to Christendom, and that the King had greatly desired that a peace between all princes might restore union and security to the Christian world. I replied that Sir Andrew Dudley's visit had been very agreeable to his Majesty for several reasons, and that the King of England had given equal proof of his affection for his Majesty, their brotherly love being so binding, in accordance with the good and sincere friendship between their Majesties. As to his Imperial Majesty's health, it was not entirely such as his subjects and good allies desired it to be, but I hoped that with God's grace ill-health might pass. He replied that he prayed God to grant it, and declared that all the actions of the King had but one aim, the greater good and honour of his Imperial Majesty. He proceeded to remark that the Prince of Spain was young, and had not yet wielded his sword; and at this point I thanked him in the first place for his good-will towards his Majesty, who had interpreted the coming of Sir Andrew Dudley as the outcome of the mutual affection referred to above, and tending to the universal good, as neither the King nor his Council would have set their hand to the undertaking had the circumstances been otherwise. He interrupted me to assure me that they would not. I continued my sentence, saying that his Majesty (the Emperor) was still younger (than the Prince of Spain) when the late King Philip (fn. 7) died, and nevertheless God had given him grace. He replied that it was true, but that times of change were dangerous, and that the said Prince (Philip) had not frequented the countries he was to succeed to. I replied that he had made a good beginning, and that the inhabitants of the countries referred to were very much devoted to him as their natural sovereign, and one so gifted that he could adapt himself with ease to the differences between nations; and that perhaps the King of France would find his reckoning out if he expected to govern the world after his Majesty (the Emperor's) death. He replied that the French had shown their true nature after the late King (Henry VIII's) death. I replied that they (the English) had fought the French well, and now had made peace with them during their young King's minority; and I added that he would always be able to hold his own against the French with the help of his good allies and confederates. He concurred, and declared that old friends never failed one; going on to say again that he very much wished that peace could be made, especially as there had been a good beginning. I approved his words, and said that peace would be a laudable attainment, if it were a durable and sincere peace. His Imperial Majesty had had to act when his subjects were attacked and assailed against right and reason, without a preliminary word of warning. He replied that if the King of France were inclined to make peace, his Imperial Majesty ought to forgive what had happened, without remembering past offences. I rejoined that his Majesty was bound to defend his territories and subjects, and by all appearances the King of France was not seeking peace, as he was making a brave show of warlike preparations. He answered, smiling, that the Emperor was also making great preparations, but he did not explain himself further.
After this, my Lord, he came to speak of the ancient alliance and friendship between his Majesty and the King, his master, and declared that the King would not neglect to consolidate and increase it as far as it lay within his power, and that the Council would second him. I gave him the same assurances on his Majesty's side and that the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) would not fail to perform her good offices as she had done up to the present. He replied that the King trusted that it was so, and asserted that he had always felt great zeal for the fostering of the said friendship, more than he would or could make plain to me; and he requested me to do my best to further the friendship, excogitating means for cementing and making it still closer. I said that his Majesty was aware and assured of his goodwill, and for my part I would not fail to exert myself in favouring the said object as his Imperial Majesty desired; the best way was undoubtedly to speak as frankly as he had just been doing. The French way was different, as the English very well knew, and they were now aware of other facts (fn. 8) too, which by order of the Queen (Dowager of Hungary) had recently been communicated to them. He made no comment except that by good offices such as these one knew one's true friends.
My Lord, as far as I have been able to judge and discover, they cling to their position of neutrality, as I said in my preceding despatches. They revert so often to his Majesty's ill-health in order to prove that their intentions are good, and the pressure they have exerted in order to ascertain his Majesty's intentions may be attributed to the same motive. The knowledge might serve them for the better management of their own affairs, by strengthening their own hand and enabling them to set aside our reasons for demanding assistance. (fn. 9) They think that the attitude hitherto adopted towards them will excuse their conduct; that the kingdom has suffered greatly during the past wars, and that we shall always stand in need of their friendship. Perhaps herein lies the reason why no mention was made of how the King liked his Majesty's reply. My opinion is that they will not come and ask for another, unless perhaps to keep themselves in countenance. Their wish is that both sovereigns (the King of France and the Emperor) may continue to be at war, and the rest of the world in a troublous state, so that they may privately and publicly make their profit out of the situation. They desire to remain neutral, as I have said already, but with a show of greater favour towards us than in the past. I can assure you that, generally speaking, the people of this country are well inclined to accept and second his Imperial Majesty's designs, especially the common folk and the lords and noblemen who belong to the ancient religion, who make up more than two-thirds of the nation between them. As to the Council, the Duke of Northumberland and some of his followers are said to be on the side of France; but some believe and opine that all that has been done in the past was done for a different (disinterested) purpose, and for the kingdom's good.
With regard to what is happening in France, I must refer you to the actual events. It is very difficult to get to know anything here, because the English never let a word escape them and always keep to general terms, as I have proved on several occasions. There are very severe laws in France, so that the merchants do not dare to write anything. If any come over, they are generally Frenchmen, and full of bluff (bourdes). Others retail the same kind of goods, and popular rumours both here and in France are often untrue; even Scottish news are difficult to obtain. Were I to send advices every time I get wind of something, or communicate all information even when derived from an apparently good source, I should often be grossly deceived and compelled to unsay and withdraw my own words in subsequent despatches. Here, the head of affairs carries on his business so closely that his colleagues could not tell me what is happening if they would. The Duke of Northumberland governs with absolute authority, and often despatches business with his own hand, as he does not even trust his secretary.
The King of France, they say, has compounded for the duties and customs on silk goods in Lyons for the sum of 200,000 crowns.
Some say he has done so to prove that he is not yet running short of money. Others affirm that the duties and customs have fallen into other hands; and though there seems to be abundance of money in Lyons, the King cannot make use of it. Moreover, the merchants are said to be content to lose their 30 and more per-cent, and recover the capital of the loans that are still running.
My Lord, I have put myself forward in writing to you at such length, especially concerning public affairs, for certain considerations which your reverend Lordship will deal with as it seems best to you. I beg to remind you of my repeated requests to the Emperor that he may recall me from my post; and his decision having been deferred until the return of his Majesty to the Low Countries, I beg your Lordship to assist me in bringing about my recall, especially in consideration of the fact that whereas I was sent over here for three months, I have now been in this country three years. (fn. 10) My obligations to your Lordship will thereby, be greatly increased.
London, 17 March, 1553.
Signed. Cipher. French.
March 17. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Advices sent by Jehan Scheyfve.
We hear that the King of France is fortifying his frontiers and strengthening the garrisons. He is to go to Amiens to visit his frontiers in person. Some say that he has some enterprise on hand; others that peace will be treated between the Emperor and the King of France. Such at least is the common report, but on the other hand it is also rumoured that the King has begun to appropriate to the crown the furniture of churches and monasteries, that he is seeking to lay hold of the donations and bequests made to the Church during the last hundred years, and that he is doing all he can to find means of amassing money to carry him over next summer; so much so that the people in France are greatly impoverished.
It is believed that the King has ordered five or six warships to be got ready with all haste at Le Hâvre and at Brest in Brittany. These are some of his new ships built after the pattern of the English men-of-war. Some say that they are intended to waylay the fleets from the Low Countries and from Biscay: others that they will proceed towards Marseilles or the Levant, to pillage vessels returning from Peru or the Portuguese possessions in the Indies. The peace with Portugal is said to have been recently proclaimed and published in France, as some say, with the special object of deceiving the Portuguese.
The Scottish treaty is broken because of the quarrels between the Queen (Dowager) of Scots and the Regent (fn. 11) and nobles.
People here are making certain that fresh troubles are brewing in Germany and that the King of France is aiding and abetting them with all his might. They say the same about Italy, and that the Turk is about to make a descent with 200 galleys.
It is believed that the Duchess of Somerset (fn. 12) will be sentenced by Act of Parliament to prison for life, thereby setting the sanction of Parliament to the execution of the late Duke. Some say that her eldest son, (fn. 13) who is now merely a knight, will be made a lord.
Messrs. Mason and Hoby are making themselves ready to depart, the former to reside as ambassador at the Emperor's Court, the latter to go to France. Some say that both ambassadors have been commissioned to hold communications respecting the peace.
The fleet from the Low Countries sailed past Rye on the 13th of March at two o'clock in the afternoon. It is believed the journey will be accomplished in a short time, as the winds are entirely favourable.
Cipher. French.
March 21 Brussels, E.A. 106. Cornille Scepperus to the Queen Dowager.
(Extract from a letter concerned with naval affairs.)
A Scotsman, well-known and highly esteemed by those of his countrymen who frequent Veere, recently arrived there from Dover, whither he had journeyed on a vessel from Scotland. This personage declares and affirms as an established truth that the fighting-men assembled in Scotland to go to France have been disbanded by order of the Regent, with the excuse that the kingdom of Scotland might find good use for them instead of sending them to serve abroad. It seems that they fear they may have to fight England in the long run.-
Flushing, 21 March, 1553.
Signed. French.
March 31. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: The King of England is about to send two ambassadors in great haste to your Majesty, namely, the Bishop of Norwich, (fn. 14) formerly of Westminster, and Sir Philip Hoby; and he is also sending Messrs. Wotton and Sellinger, (fn. 15) Clerk of the Council, to the King of France. Some changes have been made in the appointments (i.e., since Scheyfve's last letters), and Hoby and Sellinger have been appointed resident ambassadors, while Mason has excused himself on the grounds that he is a valetudinarian and not bodily active (point portatif). The above mentioned ambassadors are to leave directly after Easter. As far as I am able to discover, their mission is to continue the negotiations for peace. The negotiations are expected to last six weeks or two months, if they are able to hit upon and propose means of arriving at an understanding. Perhaps under colour of the mission for peace they will hold communications on a closer alliance between your Majesty and England.
The report that the King of France made a great show of valiance before Ambassador Sidney (fn. 16) is still current. Nevertheless, some say that he declared in conversation with Sidney that he would not refuse to entertain (proposals for) peace, particularly as the King of England, his well-beloved son and brother, had taken a hand in them; and he would do more for his sake than for that of any other prince.
London, 31 March, 1553.
Signed. Cipher. French.
March 31. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 20. Advices sent by Jehan Scheyfve.
The Estates have granted the subsidy asked by the King, namely, two shillings and eightpence in the pound, and four shillings in the pound for those whose possessions are for the greater part in land; the clergy are to pay six shillings in the pound. The payments are to be made in two parts, the first at Michaelmas next, the second a year later. They have granted the King, moreover, two payments of fifteen pence (in the pound), one of which will fall due next Midsummers day and the other at Christmas. The whole amount is computed at 300,000l. more or less, as estimates are usually made on such contributions, and it is supposed they will be levied with greater strictness and severity than in the past.
The subsidy was applied for on the grounds that the King's expenses during the past wars, and especially over Boulogne, had placed him heavily in debt, and that the interests on the debts were still running. The King's intention was to collect enough money to have some by in case of need. He was likened to a very Solomon, who first had set his hand to construct the temple and build up the Church, and then had made his peace with the neighbouring princes; both with France and Scotland, there being only a few contentions left to decide concerning the boundaries, and these also now agreed upon. As to the Emperor, his Majesty was clearly and publicly described as the ancient friend of the kingdom of England. Even as Solomon had built his house and called together the master-builders and the great among his people to decorate and adorn it, so the King had summoned his Estates together to rebuild the edifice of his house and republic. A certain number of measures concerning police have also been taken, and these are still spoken of diversely.
The King is not going to stir from Westminster during the Easter holidays, when he habitually used to withdraw to Greenwich, because he is not entirely recovered yet, and is still troubled by catarrh and a cough.
The King of France is believed to be going to Rouen and thence to Dieppe and Boulogne to visit his frontiers. Some say he has some ulterior design.
The (merchant) fleet is believed to be already in Spain, and there are no news that the French have rubbed up against it, or that any vessel is lost.
Cipher. French. Enclosed in the preceding letter.


  • 1. Sir Hugh Willoughby, who finally set sail from Harwich on June 23rd, 1553, in search of a north-east passage. He and his companions tried to winter somewhere in Lapland, and perished there. His journal was afterwards found.
  • 2. Mary's handwriting was bold and irregular; she traced her lines in pencil on the sheet and sometimes erased them imperfectly. The appearance of the letters cannot be said to give the impression of a polished and courtly writer. No doubt for this reason, this and other of Mary's autograph letters in the Vienna Archives are marked “Copie.” This one is undoubtedly written entirely in Mary s handwriting, and signed.
  • 3. Mary's house of Beaulieu, or New Hall, three miles from Chelmsford, is still standing.
  • 4. This appears to be one Richard Cornwallice, who received 3 marks in January, 1553, “for bringing up of Stranguishe.” See Acts of the Privy Council for 1552–1554, p. 203.
  • 5. Edward VI fell ill of a chill about February 15th, see p. 9.
  • 6. Henceforth, until the last paragraph, the letter is in cipher.
  • 7. The Archduke Philip the Handsome, husband of Joan of Castile, King of Castile from 1504 to 1506.
  • 8. See Spanish Calendar, Vol. X, pp. 585–589. Two Englishmen in the Emperor's pay had waylaid a French courier coming from England, and found on him a number of letters from French servants in Scotland and England. Some of these letters were communicated to the English, and others to Regent Arran.
  • 9. i.e. in virtue of the treaty of closer alliance between England and the Emperor, in which it was stipulated that if the dominions of either party were invaded by a hostile force of a certain size, the other party should be obliged to declare war on. the invading prince. The Emperor had fruitlessly demanded England's help in 1552; see Calendar, Vol. X.
  • 10. Jehan Scheyfve was sent to England in May, 1550, to replace Francis Van der Delft. See Spanish Calendar, Vol. X.
  • 11. James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, Duke of Châtelherault.
  • 12. Anne Stanhope, widow of Protector Somerset.
  • 13. Edward Seymour.
  • 14. Thomas Thirlby, formerly ambassador with the Emperor.
  • 15. Sir Anthony Sellinger or St. Leger, Lord Deputy of Ireland in the preceding reign and again under Mary.
  • 16. Sir Henry Sidney, son-in-law of the Duke of Northumberland.