|240. Copy of the letters of Pietro Aliprando, from Gravelines on the confines of England, on the 25th of November to the Duke of Milan.|
I will set forth briefly what has happened to me of late with the English. In the morning they are as devout as angels, but after dinner they are like devils, seeking to throw the pope's messengers into the sea (li quali sono tanto devoti, da matina como angeli, da poi disnanare sono diavoli, cercando gettare in mare li messi del papa).
I had experience of this these last months when I was at the port of Calais to pass to London, in the company of the ambassadors of the Duke of Burgundy and those of the King of Scotland, who came from the duke's camp. I was arrested as a messenger of the pope. They said that I brought briefs and bulls in favour of the Archbishop of York, Warwick's brother, detained by the king, who had sent them to prevent me from crossing, or any other person who came from Rome. When I perceived this, I protested that I had not come direct from Rome, and had nothing against the King. I offered to show them my letters and commissions, or else asked them to allow me to return, but they would not, saying that I should send for a safe conduct from the king. I showed them this and told them how I had been well received by his Majesty in England for more than forty days. At last, as the shortest way, I brought a horse to Bovere, and then with some servants and in disguise, I crossed the stream to this place of the duke on the frontiers of England. I made a vow to say the masses of St. Catherine, to-day being her feast; and at the altar I found this Martino, the courier, who will relate my case better by word of mouth.
Although I have sent to the king for a placet to cross, I shall reflect a long time before I put myself in the hands of the English again. I mean to excommunicate them and send the interdict, so that they may go to Rome for the trick they have played upon me.
It is reported that they have also arrested at Calais that cavalier, ambassador of the King of Scotland, to whom they had given a safe conduct. Thus they do not keep faith and are evil islanders, who are born with tails (sono mali insulani che nascono con la coda).
In reality I returned thither by letters of the king, to take an agreement and some sort of composition; but they suspected otherwise, so it would be well for something to happen to them, for the welfare of the apostolic see. The king made me great cheer, pressing for the deprivation of that good prelate whom he keeps in prison. I told him that I had no commission, but that was confided to the legate of France. I returned with his ambassadors and those of the Dukes of Britanny and Burgundy to the camp of the latter before Rouen, which was in such extreme want. I then proceeded to Bruges, Ghent and Brussels, in Flanders and Brabant, where the duchess and the grand chancellor (fn. 7) were established, who were pressing the people to obtain money. They made a good collection, of 140,000 leoni. Owing to this the people are discontented, perceiving that this rubric is a constant fever, and every year they have to pay loans and other charges beyond their power.
I returned to the duke's camp towards St. Quentin, (fn. 8) and found there an ambassador of Madame of Savoy, who was sick. In the event of his death, I was accepted by safe conduct of the constable in his town of Boam, where the duke pitched his camp, though he did no harm to the constable's land, only to those round about. Moreover the constable negotiated those truces which have been published for the whole of April next. But previously the French recovered St. Valery and all those towns towards Normandy, which the duke had taken, and they captured a fine booty of 30,000 crowns, which the Burgundians who were in garrison will pay. Although the Bastard of Burgundy has come here to make an expedition to recover them, he will do nothing.
For this winter, at any rate, it is enough that the English have cheated the duke, promising to send him men every day, while he had sent them money. But they did not choose to cross, and they are so bad that they cheat all the world with their eating and drinking (horamai per questa invernata basta che li Anglesi hanno truffato el duca, promettendo ogni jorno mandare gente et esso gli havea mandato denari: non hanno voluto passare et sono tanto cativi che truffano el mondo per suo manzare et bevere).
They are now engaged at London upon the great parliament of the three estates of England, to reform the kingdom; but so far they have done nothing but talk. (fn. 9) They devote every moment to gormandising (attendono ad papare ogn'hora).
Two ambassadors of the King of France are there, with those from Britanny and four from Burgundy. They solicit some distemper, offering Normandy and wonderful things. I think the duke has approved them, and if the English are not friends of the Flemings or Burgundians, yet he will now promise them many things, in order to induce them to make a landing, but perhaps they will cheat again (solicitando qualche malathia, offerendo la Normandia et mirabilia. El Duca credo li habia aprovati et si non sono amici de Flamenghi ne Bergognoni, ita de presente gli promettera molte cose per farli descendere, ma forsan anchora truffarano.)
The king can do no more as he is a tavern bush (el Re non po piu che e uno circulo ad tabernam.)
Those people still believe that another Warwick will arise, because they do not love this king, who gives them all the pleasures that he can in order to reign. At the present time he has remitted the spiritual to them, which is a great matter, so that they may give him 20,000 combatants, paid for a year, within six months, to cross over to France, as the king has sworn to do in person. But he will first decide about the regents and lieutenants to govern, so that he may not be overthrown by his brother the Duke of Clarence, who has Warwick's daughter to wife, and certainly things are doubtful and changeable in that realm, owing to its nature and for reasons that it would take too long to write (et quelli populi credano anchora debba resuscitare un altro Veruich; perche non amano questo Re, quale gli fa tutti li piaceri chel po per regnare et de presenti gli ha remesso el spirituale, che e una gran cosa, acio che gli dagano XXm combatanti, pagati per uno anno, fra sei mesi, per passare in Franza, come ha jurato el Re in persona propria, ma se consigliara prima delli rectori et locotenenti a regere, acio non gli sia accalata da quello suo fratello Duca de Clarenza, quale ha per donna la figliola de Verruich et certamente le cose sono dubii et mutabile in quello Reame per la natura sua et le rasone che saria longo scrivere).
But, to conclude, they threaten and talk freely, but do nothing, It is not possible to be certain of anything before the conclusion of this parliament. I hear that it will last another four months, possibly until Easter. For the present, at Calais, which is three leagues from here, they are expecting the king's great chamberlain, the Earl of Hastings, with 3,000 persons, not to succour Burgundy, but to form a fleet and scour the sea against the Easterlings of the King of Denmark, who cruise about Calais here with sixteen great armed ships, and plunder. For example, they have taken a ship with English cloth, worth 20,000 nobles, and they capture all the passages, seeking to avenge themselves for the plundering which the king caused to be committed against them while I was in London. They then caused all the goods of the Easterling merchants to be taken, amounting to 100,000 ducats, owing to evil information. (fn. 10)
It is thought that there will be another great war, except that the Duke of Burgundy has undertaken the task of bringing about an agreement between the king and the said Easterlings. The latter shelter in Holland, Flanders and other of the duke's dominions, and yet the English accuse the king of receiving them, and in secret they are not good friends, except to the extent of being the king's brother-in-law, and the king must do what the council and parliament decide (et pertanto li Anglesi imputano el Re che li accepta et nel secreto non sono boni amici, salvo in guanto cugnato del Re, che bisogna faza cio che delibera el consiglio et lo parlamento).
It is said that these Easterlings are in agreement with the French. If this is true, they will not come to terms with the English, because they are powerful at sea, and are all pirates who seek to plunder and avenge themselves. The English moreover have no fleet at sea, and the French have a strong one, and have taken many ships and prisoners and more than 120 fishing barks, which were catching herrings, and which they let go for 500 ducats each, amounting to 60,000 crowns. Indeed if they had done as much by land, the war would be over, but possibly latet anguis in herba. The constable commands the barques, and he has had a secret conference with the duke. It is even believed that he is making fresh plans owing to the threats of the English, so that the King of France may do the docebo.
Now, O my lord, because it is difficult to know the secrets of princes and, as your faithful servant and subject, I would rather be silent than he or write badly, with the loyalty and devotion that I owe as to my lord and god upon earth, I will do so as long as I live, trying to do my duty and give you truthful and agreeable advices and not mere phrases.
After the truces were made, the duke betook himself to Rax, two days' journey from here. It is expected that he will go to Builla and other towns in Picardy, to supply them with garrisons, and he is expected at Bruges for the Christmas festivities. However, I hear that there are four deputies on behalf of the King of France, to wit, the constable and three others; and four on behalf of the Duke of Burgundy, to wit, his grand chancellor, my lord of Chiveren, the ruler of Flanders, and Messer Philip of Cravacori. These deputies are to meet within a fortnight at the city of Amiens, two days' journey from here, to treat about a peace or a renewal of war. If this be true, I will go there for love of your Excellency, and advise you of what I hear. I have very good relations with some, who will not tell me fripperies, but will let me know the truth.
The son of Duke John has returned to Lorraine, until he will be sent for. When he was passing through the town of Namur the duke's daughter spoke with him recently at a nunnery. Some believe that it will all end in smoke, and that the English have become very suspicious. (fn. 11)
When I was speaking at Calais with that ambassador of the King of Scotland, who is detained, he told me that he went to the Duke of Burgundy to inform him that his king wished to have him for a good friend and kinsman. So he offered to come here in person to make a good peace with the King of France. This ambassador was desperate because those English have broken his safe conduct, and will not allow him to pass and return. I have been assured that if he had passed the sea he would have been murdered, not because the king intended it, but because some thought that he went to collect tenths (io sono stato certificato che se havesse passato el mare seria stato amazato, non gia de mente del Re, ma alcuni che credevano andasse per scodere decime.)
Although I am not at that parliament, I will try hard to learn what is decided, in such a way that I believe your Excellency will be satisfied, but they are so long and changeable that I do not know what to say except to obtain some of those nobles and ryals that they will not suffer to be taken out of the realm (salvo cavarne de quelli nobili et reali che non vogliono soffrire se portano fora del reame), and they consider all foreigners as mortal enemies, but in secret, the Burgundians most of all.
That king is indeed a most handsome, worthy and royal prince, the country is good, the people bad and perverse. To tell the truth I am but little better attached to him, as I have been his prisoner, and I have made a vow to return and possess those benefices and possessions which God and your Excellency granted to me, and I beg you to consider me as your good and faithful servant. If you think that it is useful and profitable for me to stay here or to return to report what I cannot very well write, I will do what you command. I will remain at the duke's court for all the month of January, taking measures against the English, who need rods for deeds and not talk. O my lord, when I speak of the English, your Excellency must understand those old prelates, abbots or other fat priests who rule the Council, and have represented to the king that he must have all who come from Rome arrested, with great shame of the Court. Accordingly I have written to the pope and to some cardinals, including Monsignor of Novara (mi tegniro nella corte del Duca per tutto lo mese de genaro, procedendo contra Anglesi, che vogliono bastoni per facti e non parole. Signore mio parlando de Anglesi, intenda V. Exellenza de quelli prelati veschi, abbati o altri preti grassi quali regeno el consiglio et hanno messo devanti al Re che faza arrestare tutti quelli vengono da Roma con grande vergogna della corte, secundo ho scripto al papa et alcuni cardinali, etiam a Monsig. de Novara.)
The King of England has had more than 20,000 ducats from the archbishop, Warwick's brother, whom he keeps in prison three miles from here. He was a great friend of the Greek Cardinal. (fn. 12) If he can succeed in escaping, he will yet accomplish something.
Troylo has left Bruges. He had money to go to Venice to get the rest and equip himself to return in April.
What I wrote about the new league I saw in a writing to the ambassador of England. It will be found effectively that those beaks will have to sing money. They do nothing but set things on fire, and give tributes and intrigues against my veracity. Your lordship will let them confound themselves in their own malice, although at Bruges they have his ambassador and another commissioner of the pope, who is a bishop, and he told the chancellor of Burgundy that I was of Milan. I only wish to live and die so, and I confessed so much to the King of England. The pope will be well advised to recall this bishop and entrust to me his commissions for indulgencies and pardons to raise money. It is enough that he has been here all the time of Pope Paul. Your Excellency has enough influence at the Court to get the pope at least to depute me as his commissioner at Bruges, upon the matter of the rock alum. I will perform the secret duty, and shall have a legitimate reason for remaining here and sending advices at any time. The Bishop of Capatra is still here, the ambassador of King Ferrando and colleague of the pope's commissioner. That other bishop is the mouthpiece of the ambassador, and would do a lot of mischief if he could, but he has no credit.
The Chancellor of Burgundy loves me and is a worthy sage, well fitted to negotiate the peace, if the duke recovers those towns of Picardy. But certainly nothing will be decided until the issue of the parliament of England, which is very important, since the ambassadors of France, Burgundy and Britanny are there, and I understand that they expect some from Portugal.
The duke's leading captains are the following:
The Bastard, his brother; my lord of Ravasteno; my lord of Marla; my lord of Rouzi, sons of the constable of France; my lord of Fienes; my lord of Crutux; the prince of Orenza; my lord of Monteacuto; my lord of Trabona; the soveran of Flanders; Messer Philip of Cravacori; Dom. Jacomo de piu Martinij. Dom. Oliveri de la Marche; Dom. de Miramondo; Dom. Jacopo de Sancto Polo; my lord of Chiverem, who was ambassador at Naples, all of whom I know and have had dealings with. His leading councillors are the following: the chancellor, the protonotary of Cluni, the judge of Besancon, the provost of Bruges. The audientiero is one Messer. Guilielmo Rugeforti, who was ambassador at Venice and is entirely devoted to him. He has now gone to England. Thus I know the whole troop from top to bottom, those who may serve your Excellency, and those who are opposed. My wit will suffice to bring some ship to the port of my lord's desire, and he may make proof of it any day.
I may report that in this war many noble cavaliers have perished, and it would be hard to say what has been gained; there has only been burning, wasting and destruction. The Easterlings and the French do better, as they take prisoners from the English to the tune of 4,000 ducats. The English are preparing a fleet at this moment against the Easterlings, who trouble the ports of England, and do things without talk, plundering some ship every day.
The King of France pro forma offers to hand over the Duchy of Aquitaine and the country of Poitou to the King of England. The duke here promised these to the Duke of Britanny. So this will cause discord in the parliament, as Burgundy desires to cut down the Duchy of Normandy. He also desires that Flanders and all his dominions may be exempt from the parliament of Paris and from the Crown of France, to which the king cannot consent. Sic disputant consiliarii Brugundie nec plura etc.
Gravelines, the 25th November.