June 1550, 1-15


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'Spain: June 1550, 1-15', Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 10: 1550-1552 (1914), pp. 94-108. URL: Date accessed: 26 November 2014.


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June 1550, 1–15

June 6. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 17.Van der Delft to the Emperor.
Sire: A fresh difficulty occurred as we were about to put into effect the plan concerning the Lady Mary. For fear that the peasants might rise again as they did last year, all the good folk who had something to lose were ordered to keep strict watch by night and allow no one to pass from one village to another unless they could give a good account of their errand. The order was carried out so strictly all over the country that there were no roads or cross-roads, no harbours or creeks, nor any passage or outlet that was not most carefully watched during the whole night. The Lady Mary sent word to me that she would not accept my excuses for not taking leave of her personally, thus making me know that she desired to speak to me on this subject. The business was a difficult one to carry through at any time; and it seemed to me positively dangerous to attempt it then, considering the fresh difficulties that had arisen, while those we had foreseen were not quite removed. No boat was ready to sail from the harbour. One will have to be sent from here (fn. 1) under colour of carrying corn to sell to her household, as happens daily. It is useless to trust to English vessels. The man she had expected to serve her in this matter would not leave his native country, and was left in ignorance of the plan. The vessel for carrying the corn should be hired from Ostend, because the vessels of that place usually frequent the said harbour (fn. 2) and because they are safer on the shoals, being smaller and lighter than the others. My secretary would go on board, and feign to be the merchant owning the corn. The Lady Mary's controller would be informed of the vessel's arrival through a cousin of his who is to share in the adventure. They (the Lady Mary and her company) would travel by devious ways and give the night-watch the slip or overpower them by superior numbers, the watchmen being usually not more than six or seven together. The Lady Mary was for brooking no delays, had I not insisted very particularly on the advantages of this new plan, as the success of the other seemed to me doubtful, or at any rate difficult. She held that the dangers and difficulties attending the first plan were lesser evils, compared to the danger of losing the advantage of the escort of your Majesty's ships; and that she would always have to face the danger of going from her house to the boat, which would not grow less with the delay. She affirmed that she was determined to trust to Providence, as it was clear that the undertaking would ever be fraught with danger, and put her plans into effect. She was determined not to forego the advantages afforded her by the event of my departure, and asked me to send a fishing-boat that I had hired for all eventualities. When I saw her so determined, and that she would fall into utter despondency if she were to forego the opportunity of the escort of your Majesty's vessels for the journey, I advised her to temporise a few days longer, to allay the suspicions that her prolonged sojourn near the coast might have aroused among her household, and perhaps my too frequent interviews with her might have fostered. I recommended her to neglect nothing that could contribute to her safety, and promised her that I for my part would not fail to solicit your Majesty that the vessels (of the escort) might be ready to protect her later, as they were then. I assured her that I should be present in person, as she seemed to cling to me, and I would never spare myself in her service. But above everything this business must be put through safely. All the tribulations she had been visited with in the past would be as nothing to the troubles she might have to endure if the undertaking were to be unwisely conducted. She proposed to wear a disguise and go on foot to avoid meeting the watch. But the company of her four ladies, Sire, would always have been a hindrance. It is essential to adhere to the plan of the boat for carrying corn, because it could enter the harbour without giving rise to suspicions and would not in any case be sent there until we had news through a messenger, who should not himself be aware of the real import of the messages he carried, that my Lady was ready to start. The Lady Mary would then (fn. 3) return to Woodham Walter, on a false rumour that the plague had broken out in her house; she could give her people leave to withdraw, and without rousing suspicions go with a few of her household to the said place, as it is her custom to do in a case of necessity.
No one here shall know where I and my secretary have gone (if, as Van der Delft proposes, he returns to England to carry off the Lady Mary); but they shall be told that I have departed to join your Majesty in Germany, and render an account of my charge. I have neglected to do this up to the present, not merely because of my illness, but to avoid giving colour to any (eventual) suspicion that your Majesty had a share in this business. I therefore came here to the Queen (Dowager of Hungary), and represented to her what is said above, urging the necessity of keeping the said vessels manned for some time longer, under colour of making some attack on Scotland. Your Majesty will consider whether it be advisable that M. d'Eecke who was entrusted with their equipment should be let into the secret and look after the business better, as it would be unsuitable for me to have much to do with the captain of the said vessels. Moreover, Maldon is towards Scotland (fn. 4) ; and the Scots, commit frequent outrages there against your Majesty's subjects. They took two vessels laden with corn, the tide before the arrival of your warships. When I left Gravesend to go and meet Captain Meckere (fn. 5) four principal galleys of the King's navy set sail too, carrying on board some of the soldiers that had served at Boulogne. It was said that this was done as a measure of safety against the French, who had arrived with six galleys and were to put off again the same day. Others opined that it was done because of the presence of your Majesty's warships at the mouth of the Thames, where they had lain ten days, without, however, doing any damage to anyone.
Turnhout, 6 June, 1550.
Holograph. French.
June 6. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 17.Jehan Scheyfve to the Emperor.
Sire: My predecessor left with me on his departure certain documents relating to my post. The substance of them is such, and the matter they refer to in such condition, that your Majesty's intention and pleasure must determine the issue; and therefore my predecessor and I agreed together that nothing should be done until he had reported fully to your Majesty and held a communication with you. I shall wait for orders before taking any steps.
On the 29th of last month the French ambassadors and envoys were received in full Council for a lengthy and protracted interview. The King went afterwards to see the games of tilting of French and English gentlemen, together with some Italians and Spaniards. They lasted about three hours, during which time M. de Châtillon was in close conversation, as far as one could judge of a secret nature, with the King. The games provided by the Frenchmen here, on water and on land, have given great satisfaction to a certain number of the English; but the gentlemen were saying that the Frenchmen would deceive them in the end. On the last day of May they departed, to the great relief of the English, as I heard. The four of them, including the secretary, received handsome presents of silver-gilt plate valued at fifteen or sixteen thousand (sic) ducats. Since their departure it has been generally held for certain that the King intends to make a progress through his realm to show himself to his people, and subdue them by showing them clemency.
My Lord the Vidame (fn. 6) is often in the King's company. He takes him away from his books and his master's lessons, saying to him: “What need has your Majesty of so many books?” And he leads him away to play.
They have raised a thousand foot soldiers who they say will be employed on ten or twelve warships that are being manned to be stationed round about the coast. I have heard that twenty ships or more are to be got ready, and more men to be levied. Rumour has it that this is being done for fear of your Majesty, because your warships are sailing off the coast of England. Also, that your Majesty is making great preparations in (for attacking) Ireland, and all gentlemen, noblemen and merchants are said to entertain a great fear that your Majesty may declare war because of religion, and for other causes too. Some believe it will be soon, as they are in a very low condition, and divided among themselves. Moreover, they have no closer understanding with France. Others say that on the contrary they are negotiating and keeping close watch (on your Majesty's movements) with France; and that your Majesty will no doubt bide the time till the peasants in England have gathered in their corn and filled their granaries, because they will then rise, as the promises that were made to them have been empty and fruitless. The peasants are not permitted to keep weapons in their houses, under heavy penalties. Their dwellings are carefully searched. The gentlemen whose seats are in the open country have charge of a certain number of foot soldiers, to prevent the peasants from assembling, as it is forbidden on pain of death that more than ten should assemble together.
A few more foot-soldiers have been levied here; but the exact number is not known. A certain number of men have come from Calais, and some say that, all told, they will be about eight thousand; some say more. About twenty captains and other officers have been retained, foreigners all of them, Spaniards, Italians, and others. The rest have been sent away.
It is rumoured that the condition of all the foreigners now in England, and their time of residence in the country will be inquired into. As far as I can make out from conversations with the lords of the Council and others, it seems to me that all their actions may be ascribed to the fears I have detailed above.
During the last three months more than twenty or thirty vessels laden with corn have arrived here. The English are very much pleased about it, as they were in great need, caused by the last year's peasants' revolt.
It is rumoured that the King of France has now offered to make his second payment of two hundred thousand crowns, due in August, to the King of England, but I do not know why, or on what terms. The King and his Council have not accepted the offer.
The wedding of my Lord Warwick's son to the daughter of the Protector, was celebrated on the 3rd of this month at a certain house belonging to the said Protector, called Sion House, situated on the river about five miles from London. The Earl of Warwick was not present. It is said that the two mothers have made the match. My Lord the Vidame was invited. He rehearsed a fine masque, and entertained the ladies bravely. The King gave the bride a ring worth about forty pounds sterling at the banquet; but as for her dowry, I have not yet found out the amount.
It is held here for certain that the English are at peace with Scotland, both by virtue of the publication of the peace between France and England, which included the Scots also, and because of the reasons given in the letters I have referred to above (fn. 7) ; besides other reasons too.
It is said that five or six Scottish vessels are hanging off the English coast, and even as near as the mouth of the Thames, which is a river passing through this town, waiting for prey. During the last fortnight or three weeks some of your Majesty's subjects have been pillaged and robbed.
Sire: I have enquired as carefully as possible whether my Lord (sic) Erskine, the Scottish ambassador mentioned in the joint letter of my predecessor and myself, who came here recently and was to return (from France) within forty days, during which time the Queen of Scots was to declare herself on the inclusion of the Scots in the treaty between France and England, has returned here, or if someone else has come instead of him. I can get no private or public information on the subject; but events show pretty clearly how matters stand in that respect. Whilst writing this letter I have heard that some personage has just arrived here from Scotland. I will find out all I can and inform your Majesty of the business if possible. I was told at the same time that the Queen of Scots was dead.
I laid before the Council the matter of the bulwark erected near Gravelines, of the seizure of French vessels (fn. 8) in the same place, and of the delimitation of the frontiers as the Queen (fn. 9) had ordered me to do, and as your Majesty will see by the duplicate of my letter to the Queen. I afterwards remonstrated with them on cases concerning private merchants, subjects of your Majesty; and among others, that of a certain seaman from Flushing. He came to the mouth of the Thames with a boat from the said place, and was boarded by a Scottish vessel, and told he was lawful prize, although the said seaman protested that he was within the jurisdiction of England. His boat was taken up the river to London, notwithstanding his protestations, and sold with everything on board to an English merchant who was quite well aware of the nature of the prize. The boat is still in his possession. The above-mentioned seaman had petitioned the Council to obtain restitution of his property; but he was referred to the Admiralty Court. The Admiral was present when I made my remonstrances and I declared that the proceedings seemed to me very strange, considering that the seizure was the deed of a Scotsman, an enemy of the King and his kingdom. I said this to make them understand (the import of) what passed between them and your Majesty, as they maintained that the Scots were still their enemies, and that they continued at war with them, saying that events would bring out the truth. To continue where I left off, I said there was no necessity to refer the seaman to the Admiralty Court, there to be harried and made to suffer delay and procrastination without any visible cause or reason. The Admiral remarked upon this that he had recently arrested a Scotsman. I replied that it was a good beginning, and that the King's four vessels passed in front of the said Scots when they escorted the commissioners across to France. The Council told me they could not interfere in matters of the Admiral's jurisdiction, and that the case should be referred to him. I replied that the King and his Council were higher in authority than my Lord Admiral, and could order him to act in a certain manner (if they chose), especially in so clear and notorious a case. There was no need to bring an action in this instance, as the circumstances were so well known that they established a clear claim which should be allowed. The sovereign's authority was paramount; and he was a competent judge, specially bound (to give judgment) by the nature of his office. At the most, the payment of a nominal sum, which the seaman was able and willing to pay, should suffice. They all said together that they would grant the application. I have heard since that they sent officers to arrest the Scotsman, and that they ordered the goods bought by the English and others from them (sic) to be detained until further order.
One of my people told me that yesterday he saw several objects being carried about the streets, which the man who carried them said were intended for casting artillery.
My Lord the Vidame is spreading a rich banquet to-morrow evening, which they say will cost him two thousand crowns. All the ambassadors are invited, and the members of the Council also. There is some talk of the King going too.
London, 6 June, 1550.
Cipher, signed. French.
June 6. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 17.Jehan Scheyfve to the Queen-Dowager.
Madam: In accordance with the letters of your Majesty, I went to the Council yesterday. I laid their contents before them; and remonstrated with them upon the matter. I mentioned first what had passed concerning the nomination of commissioners to inquire into the erection of the bulwark near Gravelines, the seizure of French vessels in the same place, and the differences about the boundary. I asked if the commissioners on their side were ready, and the commission duly despatched. They replied, yes. I asked for a duplicate of the said commission, and that your Majesty's letters, which my predecessor had left with them for their guidance in the drawing-up of the said commission, should be returned to me. The letters were returned to me; and after some debating the duplicate copy of the commission was granted to me. It was qualified, however, as being given as a personal gratification to me. I thanked them, but declared that my request was well-founded, required for the discharge of my duty and otherwise. As they said that their commissioners were ready, I requested that a near date should be appointed for their meeting the envoys of his Majesty without further delay, as they had been disappointed twice already. Acts were committed, I said, which infringed his Majesty's rights and impeded his service; and after talking this over among themselves in my presence, they presented their excuses, as they did before. Concerning the rights and service, they replied qualia contra. They accepted an appointment for the 23rd of this month, when the commissioners will find themselves at Gravelines. I have desired to inform your Majesty, so that I may know whether that date will suit the convenience of his Majesty's envoys, and I have written to the same effect to the captain of Gravelines.
I made ample complaint to the Council concerning the violence and oppression used here against the merchants and subjects of his Majesty, and the taxes and exactions levied from them, guiding myself by the copy of the letter which your Majesty wrote to me expressly for the purpose.
I represented to them that their proceedings effectually checked the flow of trade and interrupted free commerce between the two countries, which nature had favoured, and the friendship and peace between the two sovereigns and the treaties of perpetual alliance and intercourse were intended to foster. The course adopted by the toll-gatherers and other officers was a direct infringement of the said treaties, which should be jealously guarded and faithfully executed, as the Emperor for his part did not fail to do. Particularly, I said, this should be observed, as the King's subjects were most graciously received and considered in his Majesty's dominions; well-treated, and ever better respected and more highly favoured than his own subjects, which the Council could not pretend to ignore, the matter being notorious. After the reductions which had been discussed and agreed upon by the envoys of both sovereigns at Bourbourg, the said impositions and exactions should cease. These would otherwise become empty and fruitless, and would yield no benefit, whereas they ought to sanction the good friendship and perpetual alliance referred to above and ensure the whole effect of the said treaties and intercourse. His Majesty was pleased to propose and request that fresh negotiations should take place, to enable the subjects of both realms to be treated reasonably henceforth, and suppress and abolish all undue exactions and charges. Let the time and place be appointed for the discussion and redress of the differences and wrongs referred to. They replied that they earnestly desired to foster the friendship and perpetual alliance between the two sovereigns, and keep the treaties and conventions, which they did not think they had diminished or infringed, nor contravened what was settled at Bourbourg, which I had referred to as reductions, and which they desired to support and observe. But my complaints were too general, and they requested me to name instances of merchants and subjects of the Emperor said to have been oppressed, specifying the nature of the offence, and naming at the same time the officers and tax-gatherers who were guilty. When this was done, and they had acquired certain indications of the violences complained of, the guilty parties should be punished according to their deserts, as the King had forbidden the committing of such acts. I replied that there was no need to make any particular mention of this or that merchant subject of his Majesty, because all merchants and subjects of his Majesty who traded with England were treated alike and suffered equally. The King's prohibition had no results; and considering that the customs officers had usurped the same right for sometime past, they must have found it profitable to continue in their practises; and therefore they deserved to be still more severely punished. I was surprised that they should dare to disobey the King's prohibition if it was seriously made. No proofs were necessary to support my statements, as the matter was notorious; but if evidence were required the said merchants and subjects might summarily and sufficiently assert and prove what I said.
Concerning the quality and nature of the tolls and taxes, I named the dues (fn. 10) of poundage and tonnage, groundage, package, beck-money (sic, i.e., beacon money), cocket-money, which had all greatly increased since the year 1495, though they had existed before. I also named rendegelt (?), licentiegelt, entregelt, search-money. They persisted in their remarks about the general character of the complaint and demanded proof, as stated above. As to the list of taxes, they said they had never h ard the names and did not understand what I meant. I replied that the names were English, and they could understand them better than I; that the words were familiar enough to the toll-gatherers and customs officers, and particularly to the envoys who went to Bourbourg,—some of whom were present,—and who specially rejected some of them, and moderated others. I referred them to the text of the answer given by the envoys of the King to the grievances and complaints made by the commissioners on his Majesty's side. They repeated what they had said before, although I explained to them the meaning and import of the said taxes. Thereupon they complained to me of the violence used against the King's subjects in the Emperor's dominions, and especially in Spain; and said they would give me a more detailed account thereafter. I replied that a general complaint such as they made could not counterbalance or excuse what I had complained of. I could not believe that merchants or English subjects were treated in the Emperor's dominions in any but a suitable manner; but nevertheless, I should not fail to do my duty and apprise the Emperor my master, if they would give me a more detailed account.
When this incident was closed I reverted to the point of fresh negotiations, and talked of appointing a time and place to end these differences and do away with the impositions. They replied that they on their side desired it should be done, but as some of the Councillors were absent they asked for a delay in naming the time and place, and promised to give me their answer on Monday next. Their request seemed reasonable, and I shall expect the answer on the day mentioned.
Madam, I should have answered your Majesty's letters sooner, had I had the opportunity of doing so. The Council put off giving me an audience until to-day, although I had sent them several messages. They excused themselves, pretexting the small number present because of the marriage of the Earl of Warwick's son with the Protector's daughter to which I referred in my letters to the Emperor, of which I enclose a duplicate copy. Current events are also described therein.
M. François Van der Delft, my predecessor, went to see the Lady Mary to take his leave of her, three days before his departure, which took place on the last day of May. I had determined to go with him to visit her and commend his Imperial Majesty and your Majesty to her. But the said Van der Delft was of opinion that my visit would not be suitable to your Majesty's service, and that it would be better for me to wait some time and dispel any suspicions that I might have special instructions concerning her. I thought it best to acquiesce, and I intend to go before long and pay my duty to her.
Duplicate, passages in cipher. French.
June 8. Brussels, E.A. 60.The Emperor to the Queen Dowager.
Together with your letters, I have received one written to me by him who was lately my ambassador in England, Van der Delft, since his return to this country, and heard the reason why there has been a delay in the attempt of our cousin, the Princess Mary, to escape from England. In truth, I was also very anxious about Van der Delft's return without her until I received his letter, and heard what his secretary had to say. And in spite of all these explanations, I still cannot help being uneasy as long as the matter remains in this hazardous state. Though I greatly desire to see it successfully concluded, I well know it to be a very dangerous business for the reasons contained in your letter, and as it has been in preparation for some time, I believe it cannot possibly be kept secret much longer. It would grieve me were it to come out now and cause our cousin to suffer before we have even seen whether, by taking a real risk, we might not remove her from all her troubles; for if the matter is discovered, she will certainly be in danger.
As she desires to leave England, come what may, and it is to be feared she will attempt escape whatever happens, I think it will be best to assist her by the means Van der Delft suggests, which I suppose you have heard from him, and which his secretary, the bearer of this letter, will be able to declare to you. M. d'Eecke had better take a share in the enterprise, and be on board the ships with Stuecker and other soldiers, for d'Eecke is just the man for such work, and it is believed that he knows something of the matter already. However, impress it upon him that nothing must leak out, and act as rapidly as you can, in order that the pretext of chasing Scots pirates may serve, and that delay discover not the undertaking.
Aix-la-Chapelle, 8 June, 1550.
Minute. French.
June 12. Brussels, L.A. 46.Count de Reuil to the Queen Dowager.
Madam: The moment peace was concluded between the French and English, I wrote to your Majesty all I could gather about it. Soon afterwards a servant of the King of England's ambassador resident in your Court passed by here carrying the same news to his master. The French give one account of the peace, and the English another; but it is clear from the Frenchmen's silence that it is not really to their advantage. The two camps have not moved as yet, and the French camp was reinforced steadily up to last night, horse and foot arriving there daily. . . .
(Estimates of the strength of the French frontier.)
Furnes, 12 June, 1550.
Holograph. French.
June 13. Vienna, Imp. Arch. E. 18.The Queen Dowager to Jehan Scheyfve.
We have received your letters of the 6th of this month, together with the duplicate of your letters to the Emperor enclosing the commission from the King of England for the negotiation concerning the various points now under discussion. We are obliged to you for the manner in which you have performed your duties to favour the said negotiation. The commissioners on our side will be at Gravelines on the 23rd of this month without fail; we have given them notice to that effect. The English have added one more to the original number on their side; but we shall adhere to our first resolve, and be content to send three only.
Concerning the violence and oppressions practised by the English upon Flemish subjects, and their neglect of the commercial convention, you did well to remonstrate sharply with them and to insist that the matter should be discussed, as according to your letters they were denying the facts. You must return to the assault and point out that the matter might be sifted and settled when our other business is discussed, and that time would be gained by doing so. We wrote to the same effect from Brussels, and we do not doubt you have attended to the matter; but we wish to remind you of it again now, so that there shall be no chance of it being overlooked by you. You will inform us at once when you receive their answer, and Councillor Noppenius shall hold himself ready to accompany the commissioners and take part in the discussion on the commercial convention, for which purpose he has ample instruction and full information, according to the tenor of the said answer.
As to our cousin the Lady Mary, you did very well in following the advice of Van der Delft and not paying your visit to her together with him. You will have to be careful to visit her as little as possible; were you to do otherwise you might prejudice her very much, considering the times we live in now. We trust she will use her judgment in not summoning you to her unless there be some urgent reason for it. Should she require to hold communication with you, however, you might send some one whom you could trust to her, always on the understanding that he should go as secretly as possible, following in this the precedent observed by Van der Delft.
We have noted in your letters to his Majesty that the English are raising one thousand foot-soldiers to be sent on ten or twelve war-ships they are arming and making ready for war; and that a further number of foot-soldiers, as many as 8,000, are also being levied, some of whom are to be sent to Calais. (fn. 11) You ascribe these movements to their fear that his Majesty may declare war on England because of religion. It is very important to his Majesty's service that the exact truth about the matter be carefully ascertained. We charge you therefore and command you on his Majesty's behalf, to inquire promptly and diligently if the said vessels are being armed; if it is proposed to arm any more; if any are now ready, or when they are expected to be ready. Inquire also whether they are well-armed and well-provided with artillery, how many men are to be sent on each one, whither they are bound, and their object in going. You will send whom you please to the various sea-ports and places whence information may be collected, to confirm and sift the information you may receive. If this course entails extra expense, you will advance the money required, which we will hereafter reimburse.
You will ascertain the exact number of the foot-soldiers, whether as many as 8,000 are being levied; what proportion is being sent to Calais, what their purpose may be in sending them over the sea, and what ammunition is being sent with them. Find out if the said troops are not being raised in view of the peasants' rising, and whether they are gathered in great numbers in any part of the country.
We enjoin you to inquire carefully whether there are any vessels belonging to Scottish pirates in English waters, or in any English port; and if so, how many there are, how well equipped, whether they put out to sea or lie in the harbours.
Ascertain especially whether there are any at present near the English coast, and, if so, in the neighbourhood of which port; and whether they are intent on watching for subjects of ours. . . . We have noted in your letters to his Majesty that you have remonstrated with the English concerning the robbery committed upon one of our subjects by a Scottish pirate in English waters. You were quite right to insist upon full and prompt reparation, the offence being inexcusable and generally known. . . Were you to meet with any difficulty in obtaining it, and were you to observe that an attempt were made to favour the Scottish pirates directly or indirectly, instead of inflicting the proper punishment upon them, you must remonstrate with the Council, and inform us of their reply.
Turnhout, 13 June, 1550.
Copy of minute. French.
June 13. Brussels, L.A. 46.The Queen Dowager to M. d'Eecke (Cornille Scepperus).
We have been informed that M. François Van der Delft is seriously ill and in danger of death, and that he has with him correspondence concerning my Lord the Emperor, consisting partly of the papers of his own embassy, and partly of others formerly in possession of the late secretary, Guillaume Desbarres. We command you by this le'tter to proceed to Van der Delft's house as soon as you know of his death, and there, having summoned his secretary, Duboys, and obtained his heirs' consent, seize and put aside all the papers you find that might interest his Majesty. You will then send us these papers by the said Duboys, as we have already commanded you. And you will advise the heirs on our behalf to make no difficulty about this, especially in what concerns our commands to you contained in our letters to Duboys.
Turnhout, 13 June, 1550.
Minute. French.


1 The ambassador is writing from Turnhout.
2 Maldon.
3 When a vessel from Ostend arrived in England.
4 i.e., Maldon is near the sea-route to Scotland.
5 In 1554, Meckere was Chief et Vice-Admiral General des navires de guerre de l' Empereur.
6 The Vidame of Chartres, to whom Scheyfvo refers as “M. de Vidasme.
7 The lotters and documents left by his predecessor.
8 On p. 18 only one vossel is mentioned.
9 Dowager of Hungary, Regent of the Netherlands.

In the Archives at Brussels (R.A. Prov. 13), there is a full report, dated July 19th, 1541, of the taxes, harbour and customs-dues that Flemish merchants were obliged to pay on entering or leaving England, together with a schedule giving the exact duty levied on 800 specified varieties of merchandise.

As the present volume contains much correspondence on these dues, which the English Council usually maintained to have been levied for 100 years past, whilst the Emperor's ambassador voiced Flemish merchants' assertions to the effect that they were of recent introduction, and that their application was consequently prohibited by the commercial convention regulating taxes on shipping and tariffs between England and the Low Countries, I append a summary of the principal dues levied in 1541, which will also throw light on the nature of the charges specified in this letter:—

Dues which merchants entering England with their ships laden with goods are obliged to pay:

For beaconage (beacon money in present letter): the upkeep of stakes to guide shipping in the Thames, every foreign ship now pays twopence Stirling, equal to three groats in Flemish money; whereas no charge was made 18 or 20 years ago.

When the master of a vessel arrives near London he is obliged to pay fourpence (6 groats Flemish) for anchorage.

For groundage he pays fourpence; and 20 years ago no charge was made.

As soon as his ship is at anchor, the master is obliged to go to the custom house and there write a declaration of the goods he has on board; for which he pays twopence. This done, he delivers the declaration to the controllers and clerks of the customs, and pays twopence.

Every merchant arriving at Dover from Calais has to pay threepence for each time he crosses the sea.

Every merchant who has goods in his ship is obliged to furnish a declaration of these goods in his ship under pain of confiscation; half to the King and half to the informant or officer.

After this, the merchant is obliged to make a detailed specification, for which he pays 8 pence; and this charge is of recent introduction.

The customs officers have made it a rule that they must be present at the opening of every bale, package, barrel, etc., and if the merchant is found to have more of any commodity than he declared, the difference is confiscated. Beyond this again, the foreign merchant suffers heavy loss because he is often forced to wait eight or ten days before he is able to get his goods opened, the result of which is that the English merchants frequently sell all their goods before the foreigners get theirs on the market.

Flemish merchants are not allowed to lay their vessels alongside the quay, but must pay for boats to take their goods on shore, at the rate of fourpence per bundle, package or barrel. This imposition, known as lightage, is not levied from the English, and increases our merchants' expenses by two livres (Flemish) per ship or more.

The customs officers force our merchants to deposit securities to the value of their goods to answer for it that they spend the money obtained for the goods in buying more merchandise in England, or give it out at exchange to other merchants here (i.e., to make sure that the Flemings do not take money out of the country). A fee of twelvepence is exacted for this formality, which amounts to nine patards (Flemish).

Foreign merchants have to pay, beyond the above charges, the duty known as couatume dea angloia, amounting to one shilling in the pound on the aforesaid valuation. There is also the lesser duty called petite coustume of threepence in the pound, which the King has remitted for seven years; so at present one shilling in the pound is paid.

(Here follows a list of the King's import duties on each specified article, over and above the general ad valorem duty of one shilling in the pound, as above; and another of the duty levied by the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London and other cities. The second duty is said to be a new imposition, which the English, Easterlings and French are not obliged to pay.)

When the above charges have been met, the Flemish merchant is obliged to sell his goods to the burgesses or freemen of the town he is in. If he does otherwise he is liable to confiscation: half to the town and half to the informant. This does not apply to English or other merchants, but only to the Flemings, who also suffer from being forced to sell their goods by English weights, which vary from one place to another, therefore having to get their goods weighed afresh, for which a fee of one penny per hundred-weight is taken. If the Emperor's subjects buy more goods from private individuals, these refuse to use any but their own scales and measures, and always manage to give short weight, the result of which is a constant loss that may be computed at 4%.

(Here follows a list of the export duties levied on each specified article, from which it appears that the Easterlings obtained preferential treatment.)

When the merchant goes to Gravesend to join his ship, he pays a toll of four-pence; and before he leaves Gravesend he is searched to see whether he has on him more than the authorised sum of two pounds (i.e. it was illegal to take coin out of England). If he has more, the difference is confiscated.

Flemish merchants are not at liberty to contract for the packing of their goods. They are forced to accept the services of English packers, and to pay for them at a fixed rate of twopence for each piece of cloth, and fivepence for each hundred yards of frieze, which works out at six or seven shillings a load (fardeau). English merchants, to whom this regulation does not apply, get the same done for six to eight patards (eight to ten pence); and Flemings could get it done as cheaply were they at liberty to contract freely. This practice seems to aim at turning the foroigners out of England.

When the bales and packages have been made up, the merchant has to go to the customs-officers, report how many bales he has, and take out a warrant, called a cocket, for which twelvepence is charged for each ship, and fourpence to the searcher who delivers the cocket. This seems most unjust, as the merchant has already paid duty on his goods. If he has not enough money to pay for the cocket, his goods are confiscated to that amount.

On leaving London with his ship, whether she has a cargo or is in ballast on account of some prohibition, the morchant pays twopence to the customs.

He also pays two-shillings and fourpence to the city of London searchers. Thirty years ago nothing was paid at Gravesend; but in the year 1535 the searchers of that place began claiming and taking sixpence per vessel, and now take two shillings from each vessel outward-bound. And the King's officers do not allow our people to pass until these fees have been paid. And ships coming from France or the Baltic with goods on board are also obliged to pay one stooter, (nominally fourpence; cried down in 1551 to three, and then twopence), per ton which is a new imposition.

When the merchant has settled with the searchers at Gravesend he is not yet free, but obliged to lower his sails at each of five castles on the banks of the Thames. These castles are very near one another, so that the vessels that have to lower their sails on passing are often in grave danger of being cast away. If they neglect to do so, they are fired on from the castles.

Once past the castles, ships belonging to the Emperor's subjects are often boarded by the King's great ships, or other English ships, whose men take away our people's provisions, saying they are doing so for the King.

Flemish merchants are frequently obliged to pay taxes voted by Parliament of two shillings in the pound, whereas the English only pay one shilling. This imposition seems unjust; and English merchants in the Low Countries are not subjected to it.

Proclamations have recently been issued in England prohibiting the exportation of horses, livestock and provisions, which seem to be in direct contradiction to the commercial convention.

Gerard van Dorne, an Antwerp merchant of 70 years of age, declares that he heard from one Bederich (?) Wernier (Warner?) who was a customs officer in London under Richard III, that the representatives of the Antwerp merchants were so successful in their negotiations with the King that he offered to grant the said Antwerp merchants the privileges enjoyed by his own subjects. The commissioners replied that they had no power to accept such an offer, and had only been instructed to obtain a remission of the subsidy of twelvepenoe then levied on vessels leaving or entering the Thames. The master of the customs then said to them: “Take this letter sealed with the King's seal, and keep it in safety in the town-hall at Antwerp: your rights shall not suffer. If you refuse you will displease the King, and will have great difficulty in obtaining what you want.” When he (Wernier) was in England it was said by the Flemish ambassadors that they would send blank paper to the King and his Council, who should write on it what dues they wished Flemish merchants to pay in England; and the English in Flanders should be treated in the same way as the Flemings in England.

The same Gerard van Dorne declares that nowadays the Mayor and Corporation of London levy a due called scavaige of their own on merchandise, which alone amounts to more than the entire duty the English have to pay in the Low Countries.

He also says that in the days of Edward II. the duty paid only amounted to threepence in the pound. The origin of the shilling in the pound now paid was as follows. Formerly pirates used to hang about the mouth of the Thames and plunder vessels going in and, out. A powerful English merchant, Beeing this, fitted out five or six warships to protect foreign merchants, and levied a tax of one shilling in the pound on their goods for his services. The King, being informed of this, arrested the said merchant and his ships. And the witness thinks he has heard tell that the tax of one shilling in the pound has been levied from foreign merchants since that day.

Delivered by Jacques du Priee by order of Despleghem, July 19th, 1641.

11 See p. 97. The two statements do not agree in this particular. The Queen a version seems to be the correct one.