Spain: May 1554, 21-31

Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 12, 1554. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1949.

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'Spain: May 1554, 21-31', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 12, 1554, (London, 1949) pp. 257-265. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

May 1554, 21–31

May 21. Vienna, E. 22. M. De Courrières to the Queen Dowager.
Your Majesty will see by the letter we are writing to the Emperor that we made our reverence yesterday to the Queen, who received us so graciously that every one was well-pleased especially those who wish the Emperor well. After having heard our charge she referred us to the Lords of her Council, and of one accord with these we decided, the Alcalde (Briviesca de Muñatones) and I, to go to the port of Southampton as soon as possible, according to our orders. They who felt no pleasure about (the coming of) our Prince are now changing their minds, and we hope to come to an understanding with them, so that all may be well.
Madam, we have no secretary and know no cipher. So I shall not enlarge further, as the passage is not so safe as reason would demand, though they talk here of seeing to that. The Alcalde and I will do all you have commanded us, and we recommend ourselves to your favour and the Emperor's, seeing that we have lost all our horses and a great part of our luggage, which loss it is not incumbent upon us to make good. I shall live the disaster over again every time it comes back to my memory. I shall never forget the words “Heave to! heave to! or we'll ram you (and send you) to the bottom!” Our master-mariner did not lose heart, but played them a trick with the help of the wind that must have made them angry. He said that if he ever met them (the French assailants) he would string them up to the mainmast. We brought him here with us and the Queen is to give him a reward for his good services to us. We also gave him a small present, in the hope it would be made good to us on our return, considering he deserved much more.
Madam: we are about to go to the place mentioned above (Southampton). Your Majesty knows what money was given to us on our departure, and the expenses entailed by our keep and that of the people with us; and you have also been informed of the accident that befell us. I humbly beseech your Majesty to grant me favour to enable me to carry this mission through to the honour of his Majesty and my own.
Madam: the Bishop of Norwich told me yesterday that he had told the Queen what your Majesty had ordered him, and that she had taken your Majesty's advice in good part, and would always so accept it. We realised this yesterday, when we gave her your Majesty's letter, which she put in her pocket without having read it, thinking it might contain other matter (i.e. than the verbal message given by Courrières); though she made a passing reference to religion. The good lady is very much astonished, and not without reason, that no news have come from Spain.
London, 21 May, 1554.
French. Holograph.
May 23. Brussels. E. et A. 46. The King of The Romans to the Emperor.
The young Count Jean-Christophe de Tarnoff, bearer of these letters, who has been nourished since his childhood at my Court, is starting on a journey with our consent and by his father's commands, and may perhaps travel as far as England so that he may see the world and learn to know it better than he does at present. I expect he will not fail to present himself before your Majesty and kiss your hands. Out of consideration for his father, who is in Poland a personage of quality, as your Majesty is aware, I would not let him depart without the present letters, in which I very humbly beg your Majesty to receive him and grant him favourable consideration, whereby I shall be honoured and greatly obliged.
Vienna, 23 May, 1554.
French. Signed.
May 22–25. Brussels, R.A. Prov. 13. M. De Courrières and Simon Renard to the Emperor.
Sire: On the 15th of this month M. de Courrières and Councillor Briviesca arrived in this place, and on the 17th they had audience of the Queen and Council, and declared the substance of their instructions. As for M. de Courrières' charge, the Council replied that necessary stores and provisions had already been laid in, and lodgings engaged. Most of those who had been chosen to serve his Highness were in the country and would be present at the landing-place to discharge their duties, and M. de Courrières might leave in five or six days to go to Southampton, see whether everything is in proper order, and execute your Majesty's commands. As for M. Briviesca, the Earl of Arundel, Great Master of the Household, has deputed one named Holcrofte (fn. 1) (Holstroste) to confer with him as to the steps to be taken to promote peace, moderation and a good understanding between the different nationalities, and the question of the power or commission to be given to them will be gone into. As this point of the jurisdiction is a ticklish (chastilleux) one, we thought it wiser to proceed by the Council's advice at the outset and be led by the terms of the marriage treaty, in order not to give the impression that we wish to interfere with the administration. When the conference has taken place we will inform your Majesty.
The Queen sent the Vice-Chamberlain to meet MM. de Courrières and Briviesca, and he and Cobham, who met them of his own accord at Rochester, conducted them to London. The day of their arrival the Controller visited them, but no one else, as all the Councillors were busy with the Earl of Surrey's (fn. 2) marriage. The Earl married the eldest daughter of the Earl of Arundel, and he is heir to the Duke of Norfolk, who is said to-day to be seriously ill. The same day Paget asked leave of the Queen to go to his home for a few days, and the Queen, irritated by his wish to depart just as MM. de Courrières and Briviesca were going to open negotiations, gave Paget a list of the acts of inconstancy committed by him ever since he entered the service of the Kings of England, as well as those of which he had been guilty to the detriment of her service, especially his working against his Highness and religion in the last Parliament. She told him that she saw he did not at all answer her hopes, and was following evil counsel, which her conscience, her authority and her resolve not to allow any intrigues that might turn out to her hurt forbade her to put up with in one who was her subject, servant and officer. She knew he was useful as long as he remained constant, but dangerous because of his light conduct. He might go and come as he pleased: if he did right, so much the better for him, and if he did wrong he should suffer for it. Paget was greatly amazed at this and began to weep, excusing himself as best he could. When he left Court he went to see the gentlemen and said that he was no longer needed, inferring that as things had reached so advanced a stage the Queen no longer valued his services. The Lieutenant of Amont and he talked at great length about the Queen's words, and the Lieutenant consoled Paget to the best of his ability, speaking kindly, as he thought the circumstances required of him, and insisting on it that he had no reason to be offended with the Queen or his Highness, for the rivalry between him and the Chancellor was a slender reason for throwing the Queen's affairs into confusion. Nevertheless he went off to his house and stayed away three days. Now he is back again, concealing his dissatisfaction, which makes the Queen suspect that he is carrying on dangerous intrigues, especially as she has found out that during his absence he held a long conference with Hoby, who is a heretic, a plotter, ill-disposed, an enemy of the Chancellor and deeply devoted to the Lady Elizabeth. When his actions are considered in all their bearings, they appear to confirm the idea that he is brewing something to the Queen's detriment, and make it likely that there is an understanding between him and those who voted, in Elizabeth's favour, against the bill on religion. We are doing our best to discover the truth.
When the Bishop of Norwich heard of this conversation and Paget's other doings since his (the Bishop's) return from your Majesty's Court, he blamed him heavily and told the Lieutenant (of Amont) that if King Henry had been alive he would have had Paget imprisoned and punished, and although the Chancellor ought not to have brought the Bill before Parliament without having made it known to the Council, Paget ought not to have tried to stop its passing or worked against it. We are trying to get to know more and to find out whether a revolt is in preparation. The heretics and French are doing their utmost to provoke one by means of placards and sheets which they are scattering about to tell the people that it is now time to take up arms for the kingdom's liberty.
The French ambassador's secretary went last Tuesday to the Chancellor and asked him whether it was a long time since he had had letters from Ambassador Wotton. His master, the French ambassador, had had no news lately, and would like to know how matters stood with regard to the peace between your Majesty and the King of France. Merchants come from France said that the King had sent Cardinal de Châtillon to confer once more about peace with Cardinal Pole, and his master desired that the Queen might take a share in the negotiations, and that the Chancellor might be instrumental in conferring this benefit upon Christendom. The Chancellor replied that he had no hope of peace, for the King of France was too exigent about terms ; but if he thought that his own diligence and labour might be useful he would be glad to take all possible pains and persuade his mistress to make up the quarrel. The Chancellor believes that the French either wish to deceive the Queen with these words or know that things are not going well with them. The more amiably they talk the more careful he will be to defeat their designs, for the suggested negotiation is unseasonable at present.
Since then the ambassador demanded audience of the Chancellor and complained that the captains and inhabitants of the islands of Jersey and Guernsey had bought the stores found in the island of Sark, which some subjects of your Majesty wrested from the French about twenty days ago, and had aided and abetted the assailants, saying that these were hostile acts, and using threatening words. The Chancellor replied, as he has informed the Lieutenant of Amont, that the ambassador was adopting a manner of negotiation unseemly in one who wished to treat of state affairs. He was in an error if he believed the Queen to be unable to defend herself, (as it seemed he did) since he turned all subjects of negotiation, even private and unjustified cases, into threats of war. Let his master clearly understand that the Queen feared him not, she had and always would have the means of defending herself if attached, and though she was a pious lady she would not cease to take measures for her kingdom's protection as long as she had troops and money to support them. The king might be satisfied with hiding her traitor-subjects who plotted her death. As for the island of Sark, it belonged to her and had come into the King's possession by usurpation of her rights ; and if the Flemish seized it, they did so by right of might in time of war. The munitions found there belonged to them and they could dispose of them however they pleased. If certain subjects of the Queen's bought part of them, that fact constituted no ground for breaking the peace. She would be displeased to hear that so grave a matter had its foundation on so slight a pretext. The Chancellor dealt in such a way with the ambassador that he left him without a word to say in reply on this point ; so the ambassador turned the conversation on the negotiations on peace conducted by Cardinal Pole, and asked the Chancellor to intercede with the Queen that she might consent to persuade your Majesty and his master to agree to make peace. We are of opinion that such requests as this are inspired by dishonesty rather than a sincere desire for good.
We dined at the Earl of Arundel's house, and after dinner Petre told the Lieutenant of Amont that the Councillors had consulted on the powers to be exercised in England by M. Briviesca. The Earl, in his capacity of Great Master to his Highness and the Queen in this kingdom would delegate and commission Briviesca and Holcrofte to exercise the right of seizing, arresting and imprisoning any among those who followed the Court whom they might find guilty of aggression or crimes ; and if the guilt were of such a nature as to entail the death-penalty they might proceed jointly to give sentence and order execution. They should have the same authority for civil cases. The commission is going to be drawn up, and when we have seen it we will make a copy and send it to your Majesty.
The Lieutenant (of Amont) has been told that four of the King of France's best vessels in Brittany have been burned, and that Salcedo, who was in France, has been seized.
An Englishman has told M. de Courrières that the French have had Marienbourg reconnoitred and do not consider it pregnable, unless a fort were to be made on a neighbouring hill and used to starve out the place by a long siege.
Last Saturday the Lady Elizabeth was taken out of the Tower and conducted to Richmond. Thence she has been conveyed to Woodstock, there to be kept until she is sent to Pomfret. Four hundred men accompanied her, and the people rejoiced at her departure, thinking she had been set at liberty. When she passed by the house of the Stillyard merchants they shot off three cannons as a sign of joy, and the Queen and her Council were displeased about it, as we believe will be made known to the parties concerned. On Monday Courtenay is. to be taken to another place to be guarded, and he has been so favourably treated as to escape condemnation. Many people say that there is something suspicious in all this: in that case it will soon come out.
Last Friday William Thomas was dragged through town on a hurdle for plotting against the Queen with Peter Carew, and was afterwards hanged and quartered. (fn. 3)
We have been warned that the French are watching the Narrow Seas in the hope of taking the Duke of Savoy by surprise.
M. de La Capelle has taken up 1000 crowns, which the Lieutenant of Amont negotiated for him with Luis de Paz. May it please your Majesty to provide for its repayment.
The Chancellor has grown suspicious of Lord Clinton and does not advise that he should be left in this town in authority, now that the prisoners have gone.
Your Majesty will find enclosed herewith an account of what has been done for the coming of his Highness. (fn. 4)
(fn. 5) The split in the Council is so enormous (si tres grande) and public, and the members so hostile to one another, that they forget the Queen's service in their anxiety to wreak vengeance, and no business is transacted except on definite orders from the Queen. Paget has joined forces with the heretics against the Chancellor and the Catholics, and the Queen has been warned that Paget and his followers are arming and mean to attempt to take the Chancellor prisoner. The Chancellor and his adherents have communicated with the Queen, and advise her to leave London as soon as possible, and throw the Earl of Arundel and Paget into the Tower, for report has it that the Earl is fortifying one of his castles (fn. 6) near the coast and raising cavalry without the Queen's permission, whilst every day bands of four or five soldiers are arriving in London, and Paget is intriguing with the object of luring several gentlemen away from their allegiance to the Queen. I hear that strange words are being spoken against the Alcalde's coming, and spies say a great revolt is brewing. These quarrels, Sire, are not to be settled without violence, and that being the case it had better happen before than after his Highness's arrival. What is incredible is the inconstancy of these people, and also the confidence they inspire when on intent to deceive.
The cause of the trouble is the debate on religion in the last session of Parliament; and the Queen is so perplexed that she knows not how to act, for she realises that the intriguers' object is to favour the Lady Elizabeth. Courtenay has been removed from the Tower and taken to a castle in the north; and as long as the pair are alive your Majesty must realize that the Queen is in danger, for Paget, in whom she put her trust, has so forgotten himself as to profess himself a heretic and neglect the Queen's service.
Letters came yesterday from the Queen's ambassadors who have gone to Spain, reporting that they landed at Corunna and were received there by the Bishop of Betanzos and the Captain of Corunna, who conducted them to Betanzos, where they were joined by the Alcalde of Galicia and Raymond de Taxis, whom his Highness had sent to instruct them to await his arrival, for he was setting out by the post to take leave of the Queen of Spain, (fn. 7) his lady grandmother, and save time by meeting on her way the Princess of Portugal, his lady sister, in whose hands he was to leave the government of Spain. They had, they added, been very honourably received. Letters have also come from Valladolid, dated May 12th, in which the Englishmen who went with Count d'Egmont speak of their welcome at his Highness's hands, and particularly of the banquets given in their honour. They also say that the Marquis de Las Navas has gone to Laredo to sail to England, accompanied by four ships, on a visit to the Queen and to make preparations for his Highness's landing. The English were glad to have news from Spain to serve for their guidance. The letters state that the Duke of Alva, Gutierre López, Don Diego de Acevedo, one Benavides and a member of the house of Acuña are bringing their wives with them.
M. de Courrières and the Alcalde are leaving on Monday for Southampton, and the Alcalde's commission has been drawn up as your Majesty will see by a copy here enclosed; but there was a great dispute about it, for most of the Councillors wanted it to be in English, not in Latin, and if the Chancellor had not taken the trouble, the secretary would not have drawn it up.
The Venetian ambassador, of the house of Michiel (fn. 8), has arrived here, and the old ambassador is to set out on his way home in a week. He is going by way of France, though he had talked of taking the German route.
The Duke of Savoy has written to the Queen to say that he will deliver his message by word of mouth. As he has also written to Paget I thought there might be some intrigue of Mason's brewing on hand, but I will leave the question to your Majesty's riper understanding.
London, 25 May, 1554.
Signed by both. French. About half in cipher.
Part of this despatch is printed by Weiss from a minute at Besançon (C.G. 73), Documents Inédits, Vol. IV, and part by Tytler, The Reigns of Edward VI and Mary, Vol. II.
May —. (fn. 9) Besançon, C.G. 73. The Ambassadors in England to the Emperor.
Sire: Since our last despatch, Wotton has written to the Queen that the King of France arrived at Compiègne on Whitsun Eve, and that he demanded audience the same day of the Cardinal of Lorraine, in the absence of the Constable who was then at Chantilly. The King excused himself from granting it because of the religious character of the day, and said that on Wednesday he was going hunting. The Constable then arrived, accompanied by a larger suite than the King usually has with him, and on the next day sent to Wotton to ask what he had to negotiate. Wotton replied that he wished to confer on what the French ambassador in England had said at his last audience, to the effect that the King of France was not bound to observe the treaties passed with the Kings of England because the Queen had not confirmed or ratified them. As this point was of great importance the Queen desired to elucidate it, especially as the King and his ministers were acting in a manner consonant with the ambassador's words, for they sheltered fugitive traitors who had plotted against the Queen's life and crown, caressed them and gave them pensions and troops to command in attacking her kingdom. D'Oisel, passing through England on his way to Scotland, had conspired with the rebels. A gentleman of the Bishop of Ross, a Scotsman now a prisoner in London, had wished to turn away Mr. Percy from his allegiance and persuade him to accept the assistance of the King of France and Queen Dowager of Scotland and stir up civil war in England. The words of the ambassador were bitter and big with threats, from all of which it seemed clear that the French bore ill-will and wished to fight. The Queen was justified in asking an explanation of these matters in order to be prepared, although it would be greatly against her own inclination to have to go to war with a Christian prince. The King had evidence that she had always proclaimed her wish to observe the treaties signed by her ancestors, and to transmit them to her successors on the English throne, wherefore she had not thought herself called upon to make new treaties, and she feared that if she did so new matter might be added to alter their substance. Express mention had been made of the observance of the treaties in two or three letters written by the Queen's own hand, and what was more the marriage contract between the Queen and his Highness stipulated that the treaties should be observed, which would not have been done if the Queen had not desired to keep them.
The Constable replied that the Queen had been unwilling to ratify the treaties, and that the King had inferred that she did not intend to be bound by them. Her and her ministers' actions also pointed the same way, as she had married the greatest enemy the King had in the world. A copy of the clause reserving the treaties had been promised, but never given. The King's packets had been opened and kept. Your Majesty's subjects had been favoured to the detriment of the King's, who had safe-conduct to go to Scotland refused to them. D'Oisel had written to the King that he had never talked to the English about conspiring, and he had not been instructed to do so; and the King would make inquiries about the Bishop of Ross's gentleman. The King had not asked the Englishmen in his kingdom whether they were heretics and traitors, for they had had confidence in his justice; but your Majesty took them into his service, and he had done the same. Lastly, the King had not instructed his ambassador to say that the King was not bound to observe the treaties, but only that the Queen was not, so either the ambassador must have made a mistake or the Queen's Council had not quite understood him; and the King was an honourable prince, who knew what he had promised.
Wotton answered as before, and the Constable then changed the subject and spoke in praise of the Queen, saying that the King wished to live on friendly terms with her. This over, Wotton had audience of the King, who declared that he had not instructed his ambassador to say that he did not wish to observe the treaties, which for his part he would not infringe; and he used amiable words.
Wotton adds that Peter Carew and other fugitives have had him requested to pray the Queen for a pardon. They say that the King does not trust and has not employed them, they are in want of money, they repent of their offences and if the Queen is inclined to be merciful they are wholly disposed to go home and make their submission. The Constable wishes to go to the camp that is being formed at Soissons and command there; it is calculated that there are forty French companies, ten or twelve thousand lansquenets, six thousand Switzers and more light horse than men-at-arms, for whom there is a lack of suitable mounts. The King has sent 4000 Gascons to Corsica and 5000 Switzers and Grisons to relieve Siena; and the Constable wishes to perform some great exploit before your Majesty is ready, as Wotton says.
The Queen's Council. . . . . . (fn. 10)
Printed by Weiss, Documents Inédits, Vol. IV, but dated “middle of May.”
May 28 Brussels, E.A. 108. M. De Vandeville to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: The Queen of England's servants were to blame for the faulty information I recently sent to you about the approach of the French; and I sometimes suspect them of doing it on purpose these days. So I will write once more, and make known to you that the last time Marshal de St. Andre was at Ardres he sent a French Englishman to Calais to fetch another Englishman, who has served your Majesty in this war. But when the two arrived at Montreuil they found that the Marshal had left by the post for Chantilly, so M. de Villebon sent them on to that place by the same way, and when they reached their destination the Marshal took them to the Constable, who told the Englishman that he understood he was anxious to serve, and that he should have a good reward. The Englishman replied that what he was prepared to do would be to go, about June 12th, to the place where your German troops, horse and foot, were to be, (fn. 11) and find out their numbers while they were being mustered. He would also go to Brussels and Malines. to see what artillery was there, and if there were carriages and field-pieces, and make shift to get in among the English in your service by allowing the captain to draw his pay for himself and two horses, and asserting that he was unable to live in England because he had committed manslaughter there, but was obliged to go frequently to Calais in order to look after his interests. Thus at Calais he would be able to furnish reports of what was happening, or if desired he would himself come to France. The Constable was to give him an answer within six days; and I thought it my duty to tell you that Jan and Peter Andrieu came to tell me this when I was at St. Omer. I thanked and rewarded them, and the fellow in question is a cool hand and speaks French. If you wish me to catch him for you or treat him otherwise you will let me know. . . .
Gravelines, 28 May, 1554.
Holograph. French.
May 29. Vienna, E. 1. Mary I to the Emperor.
The bearer, Mr. Philip Hoby, Knight, is a servant of ours who was ambassador at your Court under our late brother, whom God absolve! He is now going abroad with our permission to try to cure himself of a malady which has long vexed him, and as he desires to visit your Court and present his respects to you, and has requested us to give him a letter to you, we were unwilling to refuse him. We therefore beg you not only to allow him to make his obeisance to you, according to his wish, but to favour him in all his reasonable undertakings, for thus you will give us pleasure.
St. James, 29 May, 1554.
Signed. French


  • 1. Sir Thomas Holcrofte, afterwards Knight Marshal, was ordered to attend upon the Spanish ambassadors at Southampton. With him went Thomas Shelley. [Acts of the Privy Council.]
  • 2. Thomas, Earl of Surrey, who married the Lady Mary Fitzalan.,
  • 3. Down to this point this letter is printed, with omissions, by Weiss.
  • 4. This paper has not been found.
  • 5. From this point on this letter is printed by Tytler, and seems to have been written on May 25.
  • 6. Probably Arundel Castle.
  • 7. Jane the Mad, who had been confined at Tordesillas since the days of Ferdinand the Catholic.
  • 8. Giovanni Michiel, who succeeded Giacomo Soranzo as Venetian ambassador in London.
  • 9. The date of this letter is missing, but it must have been written about May 26.
  • 10. A rent in the paper causes a gap of several lines here. There follows a passage which is practically identical with the last paragraph on page 261, beginning: “The split in the Council..” The end of the letter is entirely missing.
  • 11. The passages in italics are underlined in the original.