The city of Exeter: Royal letters and other papers

Pages 13-19

Report On the Records of the City of Exeter. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1916.

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3.—Royal Letters And Other Papers.

Seventeen documents (all originals) numbered 1 to 17, many of which bear previous neglect, though now carefully mounted and bound, forming, with Sec. IV, seven folio volumes lettered 60A, 60B, 60C, 60D, 60E, 60F, 60G.

In Dr. Oliver's Calendar (vol. iv, p. 292) the following entry occurs:—Nov. 5, 1821. N.B.—Mr. Jones emplyed at home Six Whole Days in sorting, marking, reading and indexing the various letters from the Kings of England, Privy Council, Burgesses and others, which have been bound for their better preservation, and in transcribing Deeds and Charters respecting the manor of Awliscombe by order of the Chamberlain. And in vol. iv, p 342, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 1825: Seventy-Ninth day: Employed the whole of this day in arranging and marking the Chamber Letters in order to their Being Bound &c. Signed, P. Jones.

Many of the Royal Letters have recently been published in Cotton, Gleanings.

L. 1. June 29 s.a.—Delivered to the Mayor at Exeter on the 19th July. Privy Signet from Henry VII to his trusty and well beloved the "Mayor of our Citee and Port of Excestre," setting forth that "diverse evill disposed persons our soubjiettes born bee now lieing upon the see as comyn pyrates robbing and dispoilling as well our soubgiettes as owre frendes being in treux liege and amite with us and have their comon resorte unto diverse havons as well of that our towne as of other where they may be vitailed, favoured and comforted," and commanding him to come bringing two or three persons of his brethren to the King's presence, "to the ende that at youre comyng we by thadvise of our counsaill may see such a direccion to be taken for the reformation of thoos misbehavings as shal be thought for the wele of us and our said Royaulme and soubgiettes," &c.

L. 2. At our manor of Grenewiche, June 23, 1508.—Henry VII informs the Mayor of Exeter and his brethren of the treaty made at Calais [on Dec. 21, 1507] for the marriage of his daughter Mary and the young Prince of Castile [afterwards the Emperor Charles V], and requires them to sign and return the bond "specified in the letters obligatories which this berer shal shewe unto you." (fn. 1) For full text see Cotton, 188.

L. 3. Feb. 24, 1524.—Henry VIII to the Mayor of Exeter, Sir Thomas Denys knight [Recorder of Exeter], Richard Duke and other our Commissioners deputed for the subsidy in the City of Exeter. Recites that a subsidy was granted to the King by an Act of the last Parliament [in 1523, see No. LIX], and that "by inadvetence and misexposition of the seide Acte and party percace by favour the same in divers parts of this realme hath not been duely executed accordinge to the verraye tenor and true mentionyng thereof," the particulars of which oversights and defaults are set forth in a memorial enclosed [now lost], and desiring them "by dulce amycable and goodly meanes to make overture of the seide defaults and misexpositions unto such and as many our subgirttes as it shall appartaigne, shewing unto them howe ye not understanding the hooll of the seide Acte have in some things mistaken the same, soe that by your policies and circumspections the oversights and things paste may be really, effectually, lovingly and comformably reafourmed and amended according to the purporte, juste meaning and entent of the seide Acte," return of their proceedings to be made before Easter next. [For full text seeCotton, p. 189,] (fn. 2)

L. 4. Guildford, June 22, 1554.—Queen Mary thanks the Mayor &c. for the "courteous entreteynement and other good offices shewed unto our cousen the Marqes of Las Navas (fn. 3) at our request." For full text of the letter see Oliver, p 102;see also L. 34 infra.

L. 5. Westminster, June 7, 1557.—Proclamation of war against the French King [Henri II], with notice of 40 days' grace to French merchants to depart the Kingdom. [Printed in Cotton, 195, who wrongly dates it 1556. For summary of it see Lingard, v. 251, quoting Transcripts for Rymer, 359; Froude, vi, 476.]

L. 6. Hampton Court, Nov. 4, 1562.—Queen Elizabeth commands the Mayor and Aldermen of Exeter to contribute towards a levy of 500 men from Devonshire [i.e. to garrison Havre, them called New Havne], the citizens having refused to contribute because Exeter was not described as a separate county in the writ. [Printed in cotton, 190.] (fn. 4)

L. 7. Richmond, Feb. 17, 1603.—Queen Elizabeth to the Mayor and Justices of the Peace: Having often bene advertised from the maritime partes of our Kingdome our many losses which our good subiects receave in their trade by such shipping as the King of Spaine and the Archduke doo maintaine for no other purpose but to spoile upon our coasts, wherein after good deliberacion we have determined that there must be some certeine proportion of shipping wholly assigned to guarde our marchants from what parte soever they sett forthe and retourne, which being a matter no way convenient for our own shippes to attende the uncertaintie of their trade requiring sodaine and changeable going to and fro. It shall be most necessarie to appropriate some other shippes for that purpose, and therein we make no question but all our loving subiects will conclude that those important actions wherein our own ffleets are still ingaged being well considered and the charge thereof daily multiplying more and more this burthen of expence (whatever that shall amounte unto) must be for the most parte raised and maintained by the voluntary contributions of our subiects. . . . We have thought good to commaunde and authorise you to direet your l'res to such effect as may procure a speedy collection and disbursment of all things necessary for the grounding and furnishing og tenne or twelve shippes wholly and only to attende that service. Authorising you also to promise that the charges of all maner of munition for that service shall be borne by our selves that they shall be free from paying any customes, tenthes or other duties for all things which they shall take being lawfulle prise.

Footnote.—This agreith with the original signed by her Matle Windebank. (fn. 5)

L. 8.—Undated letter [probably 1603, though endorsed Jas. 16, i.e. 1618–19], from James I to the Mayor &c., commending the careful government of the city and promising that he will be "als readye to yeald to any your reasonable suites that may be for your good and somewhat the rather yf they shalbe preferred unto us by our welbeloved servant John Howell, one of your brethrene, of whose loyaltie and good service wee have experience. Signed, "James R." [Printed in Cotton, p. 197.]

John Howell was Mayor in 1599. For his offer to obtain a mint for the city in 1603, see Act Book, 6, f. 62b.

In D. 1725, Jan. 17, 1615. Alderman Johan Howell gives to the city "one Book of abridgement of Statutes until the xxiiijth of King Henrie the Eight, one greate booke of Statutes at large from Magna Charta untill the Parliament ended the xxixth yeare of Queene Elizabeth, one other booke of the abridgement of all the said Statutes contained in the said booke and one other booke of Statutes att large, 35–39, 44 Elizabeth and 1 and 7 James I, With John Howell's seal and signature. These volumes have not been preserved.

L. 9.—A copy of L. 8, and on the same sheet a copy of a letter from Mr. William Hunter [a friend of John Howell], written from the Court on Nov. 15, 1603. desiring the citizens of Exeter to keep secret the above letter, "for that yt ys wrtten by secretary, a Scottish man. (fn. 6) and His Matle., ys not desirous that the secret love which he beareth to his secrett frendes should be publickly knowen." With the city's frendes should be publickly known." With the city's reply to Mr. Hunter expressing their sense of the favour shown to them,—"for we must needes confes ourselves to be weak and meane in regard to many ohter cittys in this Kingdom, yet neverthelesse by the good blessinge of Almighty God this Citty hath ever byn found to be confidently feathfull and truly loyall to her Prince." [Hunter's letter is printed in Cotton, p. 197, who misdates it 1604.]

Door through the City Wall.

L. 10 Westminster Palace, March 6, 1623.—Order to the Mayor and Alderman to allow the Bishop [Valentine Carey] "to make a convenient doore through the Citty wall and to have the use of it from tyme to tyme. he beinge readie whensoever any publicq urgent necessity shall require for the good and safety of the Citty to make it up againe." [Printed in Cotton, p. 198. See also Cal. Dom., 1622–1623, p. 513; Freeman, 163.] For the Bishop's petiton to the King on the same subject dated Jan. 27, 1623, see L. 240; Book 55, f. 197b, in which he states that his request has been refused by the Chamber, who are "more desirous of his roome then of his company with and amonge them", with a footnote: At the Courte at Whitehalle, Jan. 27, 1622–3, his Matle. is gratiously pleased to grant this peticion, beinge in his princely judgment very reasonable upon the condicion propounded and willethe that Mr. Secretarie Calvert give order for a letter to be written to the Maior of Exeter and his brethren to the effecte desired.—Jo. Cooke. For counterpetition of the Chamber to the King giving eight reasons against allowing the Bishop's request, see L. 247; Book 55, f. 198. For an order in Council May 9, 1623), see L. 245, 246.

L. 11 is a duplicate of L. 10.

Isle de Rhé.

L. 12. Hampton Court, Sept. 29, 1627.—Copy of a letter from Charles I to Francis Earl of Bedford, Lord Lieutenant of Devon, requiring him to levy 200 able and serviceable men in Devonshire and Exeter for the Wars, according to the directions sent to his by the Privy Council, as "there is now a necessities imposed on us for some speedye reinforcement and supplye [i.e. to the Duke of Buckingham in Isle de Rhé], to the end wee may pursue and finish (with God's favour) those prosperous beginings which hee hath already given us for ye defence of religion, and for the safety and is enclosed with l. 296, i.e. an order of the Council addressed to the Earl of Bedford, dated Sept. 30, 1627, stating that "such are the pressing occasions of his Majesty's affaires that further supplyes must bee had at his p'sent of the number of 200 foot," and requiring that "there bee speciall care had in the choice of the men that they bee of able bodies and yeres fit for service and well clothed, but none of them taken out of the trained bands which are still to bee kept intire." They are to be "committed to ye care of some discreete and able conductor"; their march is to be at 15 miles per day; "the charge of coate and conduct money is for the present to be disursed by the countrye and to bee repaid according to former presedents." The conductors are to receive the men from the Deputy Lieutenants by roll indented tripartie showing the number of the men, their names and the parishes from whence they were impressed. To guard against former "abuses of Constables, conductors and other officers imloyed in former levyes" orders are to be given "that there bee noe connyving, selling, changing or sparing of the most able men," &c. and these, men are to be at Plymouth by Nov. 1st. The document is endorsed: "The Duke of Buckingham hereuppon verie shortlie retorned to Plymouth from Ree, (fn. 7) and noe souldiers were sent by these letters eyther out of Devon or Exeter.

In L. 297, 18 Justices of Devon to the Lords of the Council acknowledge receipt of L. 12 and (L. 296) stating the difficulty experienced by the count of Devo in levying 200 men required on account of the number of Seamen which this county ever yeeldes to his Mats. service and of the later Presses." They have "taken course for the levying of 150 men leaving the residue upon the City of Exeter, who have been sometime spared though they are better able to furnish soldiers from its Handicraftsmen than the county from its Labourers." They hope that these troops will be "attended with a good fund of ready money." having regard to the "satisfaction of hte late charge of the 2,000 men now shipt, which comes to about 2,500l., and also for the weekly billet of those to come." They are "continuosly so molested with the cry of the poore billetters for punte. pay, as our business is disturbed, our credit lost with our countrymen, and ourselves utterlie wearied in the p'formance of this impossible service," and they ask the Council to send "a goode sum of money-to hasten some sufficient captain, as you lately did in the lord Viscount Willmot, both to govern and billet them," and to assign a certain proportion of the men to Cornwall.

Thomas Jefford.

L. 15. Windsor, July 26, 1686.—James II revokes royal letters of "the 19th day of this instant" in which he had recommended Thomas Jefford (fn. 8) to be chosen an Alderman on the vacancy of Alderman [Issac] Maudit or Alderman Endymion Walker, "upon some recommendation made unto us concerning this matter," and "leaving you at full liberty to supply the said vacanceys as by your Charter is directed."


  • 1. * Exeter being one of the towns entered as sureties for the payment of 250,000 crowns as dower—Rymer V, iv, 241.
  • 2. * For similar writ to Wilts, dated at Greenwich, Feb. 27, 1524, see Letters and Papers, Henry VIII, pt. 4, i, 49. The "defaults" may have reference to the amount possessed by those liable to pay, which is given as over 40l. in Pat. 15 Henry VIII, pt. 2, mm. 20d-22d; but 20l. in Rot. Parl. vii, p. lxxvii; Stat. iii, 231; and 10l. in No. LIX supra.
  • 3. † He is so called in Acts of Privy Council, v., 28, May 26, 1554, but Les Naves in Cal. Dom., 1547–1580, p. 62. He is called "Les Naves" in Queen Mary's will, March 13, 1558. J. M. Stone, 515.
  • 4. ‡ For a similar demand for 600 men from Essex, Nov. 3, 1562, see Cal. Dom., 1547–1580, p. 210.
  • 5. * For a similar order to other places, dated Feb. 5, 1603, see Cal. Dom., 1601–1603, p. 289. For a subsequent order, Feb. 22, 1603, fixing 200l. as the contribution from Exeter, see L. 108, with enquiry from the Mayor of Plymouth (L. 109), March 9, 1603, as to what Exeter proposes to do.
  • 6. † i.e. Sir Thomas Areskyne or Erskine, who succeeded Sir Walter Raleigh as Captain of the Guard on May 8, 1603, Acts of Privy Council, xxxii, 198; Cal. Dom., 1603–1606, pp. 145, 156.
  • 7. * i.e. He left Rhé on Oct. 30, 1627, and landed at Plymouth Nov. 8, 1627. Gardiner, vi, 197.
  • 8. † Thomas Jefford was recommended to the city as Mayor by James II on Nov. 28, 1687. He surrendered the City Charter on Jan. 24, 1688. Izacke, 183, 185; Oliver, 219.