7.2.3. Oxford in Flanders, July 1574

 

In the early days of July 1574 the young Earl surprised all around him with a drama in his own life. After an audience with the Queen, whereby she refused to grant a request that he had made, Oxford left London at three o’clock in the morning, procured a large sum of money and in the very next night, set sail for Calais, from whence he travelled to northern Flanders via Bruges. This sudden journey to “enemy territory” caused quite a stir both in England and on the continent (most of Flanders was under Spanish occupation). There was immediate speculation that this peculiar person was on his way to Brussels, to the leaders of the Scottish rebellion. We may assume that he was on the way to his co-author George Gascoigne who had been taken a prisoner of war, one month previously, and was imprisoned in Haarlem. Oxford’s friend Thomas Bedingfield, who the Queen sent to fetch the young Earl back home, caught him up in Zaltbommel on the river Waal and took him back to London. – Zaltbommel was the most southerly bastion of the liberated Netherlands which withstood a Spanish siege for a whole month. Later, the escapade provided inspiration for a tall tale with which Oxford entertained his friends in later days: He said that the timing of Bedingfield’s arrival was most unfortunate. Duke Alba had just appointed him to the position of commander in chief of the Spanish forces. (Oxford’s biographer Alan H. Nelson, an embarrassingly bad historian didn’t realize that Oxford was joking.)

 

George Golding [1], July 1574

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxenforde, went from the Lady York’s [2] house in Walbrook [Street] in London where he then lay for a time, and at Aldgate where he took horse scilicet [apparently] the first day of July 1574 being Thursday between two and three of clock in the morning, and so to Wivenhoe in Essex, and the next night  he took ship & coasted over into Flanders, arriving in Calais.  In the afternoon of the same day [July 1, 1574] there was delivered to Robert Rose, his Lordship’s servant, a lease engrossed in parchment by my clerk for 21 years to begin at Michaelmas 1574 of such things as Sir Edward Littleton holdeth in Acton Trussell [near Stafford], which he would have preferred to the said Earl to be sealed if he had tarried.

 (Essex Record Office, D/DRg/2/24; Alan H. Nelson, Monstrous Adversary, The Life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, p. 108)

 

The Flemish diplomat Frans van Halewijn, Heer van Zwevegem, who was based in London, in the employ of the Spanish crown, wrote a surprisingly inaccurate account of the matter. Halewijn thought that Oxford was en route for Italy and Spain, and provided the Governor Don Requesens with instructions as how best to deal with the young Earl.

 

M. de Sweveghem et Jean de Boisschot [3] à Requesens [4], London, 6 July 1574

The Earl of Oxford, who is the son-in-law of Lord Burghley and hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain has caused for shock and apprehension at court by sailing for Flanders together with Lord Edward [Seymour], the Earl of Hertford’s brother, in disguise. It is feared that he intends to travel through Italy and other Christian countries, a desire which he has often mentioned, and there is consideration being given to put all ships on the alert. This suspicion is supported by the fact that members of the nobility who support the Earl have also set sail from Bristol to Spain with fifteen trunks containing his clothing and values. There are others who are of the opinion that Letters of Marque issued against French ships and others against  Portuguese ships, are part of preparations for a war against France.

The local rebels in the service of William of Orange, along with his other supporters, are all very surprised. They consider Oxford to be a supporter of Spain and they interpret his sudden disappearance from England along with the patent granted to me (Sweveghem) as meaning that the English ports have reached an agreement with the Spanish army. Until now the spokesmen for such an idea did not believe that such an agreement was possible, however, they are now amazed and shocked to see that our King [Philip II] has so many friends involved here, who would give the English Queen the impression that might form a mutually beneficial alliance with Spain, based on trust.

It is thought that a courier should be sent to the Earl of Oxford with a letter of commendation addressed from the Queen to all Princes and rulers requesting that all those whom he encounters proffer their help and assistance whilst he is travelling through their lands, and also that he should remain in office and be distracted from sinister machinations, and perhaps as an insurance that he that he did not enter a service contract which could bring her sorrow.

Should the situation arise that he offer his service to the King our lord (although nothing is confirmed as yet), it would affirm the faith of the Queen, if, before the securing of his service, either his Majesty or Your Excellency were to warn the Earl in an appropriate and fitting manner- for we are of the opinion that such proceedings could positively influence the disposition of the Queen towards English–Spanish relations.

London, July 6, 1574

(French original in: Relations politiques des Pays-Bas et de l'Angleterre, sous le règne de Philippe II, publ. par Kervyn de Lettenhove, Tome VII. Bruxelles 1888.)

 

Edward Bacon to his brother Nathaniel [5], 7 July 1574

My Lord of Oxford is gone beyond the sea, & hath carried a great sum of money with him. He took shipping by his house [Wivenhoe] in Essex. My Lord Edward Seymour is with him, Edward York, one [Robert] Cruse & another [6]. He went without leave. The cause of their departure unknown. Much speech thereof. The Queen is said to take it ill.

(The Papers of Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey, ed. by A. H. Smith. Norwich 1979)

 

Francis Walsingham to Lord Burghley, 8 July 1574

I made her [Queen Elizabeth] acquainted with my Lord of Oxford’s arrival at Calais, who doth not interpret the same in any evil part: she conceiveth great hope of his return upon some secret message sent him.

(BL, MS Harley 6991/42, ff. 84-85; Alan H. Nelson, p. 109)

 

Sir Thomas Smith to Lord Burghley, 13 July 1574

Of my Lord of Oxford, for my part I can as yet learn no certainty; but it is commonly said, that he arrived at Calais, and was there very honourably received and entertained; and from thence he went into Flanders. As far as I can yet perceive, her Majesty’s grief for him, or towards him, is somewhat mitigated. But I will do what I can conveniently to understand more of her highness’ advertisements and mind in this case.

(Queen Elizabeth and Her Times, Series of original Letters, ed. by Thomas Wright, vol. I, p. 507. London 1838.)

 

Lord Burghley to the Earl of Sussex, 15 July 1574

My very good Lord, I most heartily thank your Lordship for your advertisements of my Lord of Oxford’s cause, wherein I am sorry that her Majesty maketh such haste and so to answer him, as I fear the sequel may breed offence, if he shall be evil counselled. My Lord, how so ever my Lord of Oxford be for his own private matters of thrift, inconsiderate I dare avow him to be resolute in dutifulness to the Queen and his country… I pray god the usage of the poor young Lord may not hazard him to the profit of others.

(BL, MS Cotton Titus B.2, f. 295; B. M. Ward, p. 94)

 

The historian John Strype (1643-1737) refers to Burghley’s letter of 15th July, which he completely misinterprets, when he writes: [7]

“The young Earl of Oxford, of that ancient and Very family of the Veres, had a cause or suit, that now came before the Queen; which she did not answer so favourably as was expected, checking him, it seems, for his unthriftiness. And hereupon his behaviour before her gave her some offence. This was advertised from the Lord Chamberlain [Sussex] to the Lord Treasurer. The news of this troubled that Lord.” (John Strype, Annals of Reformation vol. II, 1725, p. 336.)

There is a letter dated 18 July 1574 written by the diplomat Sir Henry Killigrew: ‘That my Lord of Oxford and my Lord Seymour were fled out of England & passed by Bruges to Brussels.’

Killigrew was labouring under a misapprehension. Oxford did not go to Brussels to join the exiled Catholic “rebels”, he rather went to Antwerp and then to Tilburg and ʼs-Hertogenbosch towards the north in the direction of Utrecht and Haarlem. 

How do we know that?

We know from the interrogation of Charles Arundell, Oxford’s once friend, then turned enemy, the man whom Oxford accused in December 1580 of having sympathy for Spain. So as to justify his own actions and to demonize Oxford, Arundell told the coroner a series of trumped up and dreadful stories, accusing Oxford of murder, atheism and subversion. He thereby made reference to what he claimed Oxford’s notorious falseness. Oxford (said Arundell) should have claimed to have (partially or completely) conquered the Dutch town of Bommel for the Spaniards in 1574 (or at least contributed considerably to their victory).

- Charles Arundell: “… that but for the coming of Bedingfield and the Duke of Alba’s persuasion rather to omit the service than forsake his country, he [Oxford] had surprised Bommel.”

Duke Alba had left Holland half a year ago and the Spaniards would never recapture the town of Bommel. But by all appearances Oxford knew from his own experience that Spanish forces, under the command of Gilles de Berlaymont, heer de Hierges, had surrounded and besieged Bommel in July 1574 [8]. Thomas Bedingfield, whom Queen Elizabeth had sent to secure the extravagant Earl’s swift return to England, met Oxford near Bommel[9]

Later, the adventurer used to relate, with great joy, to his drinking companions Arundell and York, how Duke Alba promoted him to the position of general over all Spanish troops in Flanders- and that Oxford only cancelled his attempt to liberate Bommel after the unfortunate arrival of Bedingfield.

A Falstaffian episode that leaves no doubt to Oxford’s fantastical and literary talents.

However, we still have to ask ourself what the devil was Oxford doing on the front line of the Spanish-Dutch conflict in the first place?

There is a recollection that comes in very useful.

His friend George Gascoigne, the translator and poet in whose anthology A Hundreth Sundrie Flowres Oxford (alias ‘Meritum petere grave’) included his novel The Adventures of Master F. I. along with 50 poems, had been a prisoner of the Spanish since his regiment surrendered to them. The Spaniards had transferred him to Haarlem where he awaited either his release on payment of ransom, his exchange, or his execution. (See 7.2.1 George Gascoigne, The Fruites of War.)

There is a presumption that Oxford wished to save his friend’s life. The irony of the matter was is that- whilst Oxford “surprised” Bommel, Queen Elizabeth completed his rescue mission for him from London, without lifting a finger and without paying a penny. In 1574, the Spanish general Bernardino de Mendoza travelled to London where he was granted an audience with the Queen. He released the English prisoners including George Gascoigne as a sign of Spain’s good will.

“Mendoza says that the lives of the English prisoners were spared at his express solicitation. He was at that juncture sent by the Grand Commander on a mission to Queen Elizabeth [in July 1574], and obtained this boon of his superior as a personal favour to himself.” (John Lothrop Motley, The Rise of the Dutch Republic, vol. II, 1855, p. 553.)

Bernard M. Ward comments:

“Lord Oxford must have visited the Spanish lines outside Bommel in July. He took great delight in after years in recounting this adventure, and, when flushed with wine, allowed his imagination to run riot in the most fantastic, but nevertheless amusing way. Reference has already been made to the attempts in 1581 on the part of Charles Arundell to disgrace the Earl in the Queen’s eyes. This he did by collecting all the scandal and slander he could lay hands on. One of these items was headed ‘details of three notable lies.’ As they throw an illuminating light not only on Oxford’s after-dinner talk but also on his escapade in the Low Countries, the first of these, as recounted by Charles Arundel, is given below”. (B. M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, London 1928.)

 

Charles Arundell,  Interrogatory (May 1581)

And first will I detect him of the most impudent and senseless lies that ever passed the mouth of man, which as heretofore they have made much sport to the hearers, so are they now turned to the prejudice of divers. Of a million at the least that hath passed his tongue I will only speak of three, in affirmation of which lies, being void of sense and without colour of truth, to have them believed he hath perjured himself a hundred times and damned himself to the pit of hell, a vice not inferior to many that him attend, and leaving all his circumstances, this is the first lie.

At his being in Flanders, the Duke of Alva, as he will constantly affirm, grew so much to affect him for those rare parts he saw in him as he made him his lieutenant-general over all the army then in the Low Country, and employed him further in a notable piece of service where, according to his place, he commanded and directed the ambassador of Spain that is now here [Mendoza], Mondragon, Sancho D’Avila and the rest of the captains, but these whom I have named, as he will say, of all others were most glad to be commanded by him, and so valiantly he behaved himself as he gained great love of all the soldiers, and no less admiration of his valour of all sorts, and in this journey he passed many straits and divers bridges kept by the enemy, which he beat them from with the loss of many a man’s life, but still he forced them to retire till at the last he approached the place that he went to besiege, and using no delay the cannon was planted, and the battery continued the space of ten days, by which time he had made such a breach as by a general consent of all his captains he gave an assault, and to encourage his soldiers, this valiant prince led them thereto, and through the force of his murdering arm many were sore wounded, but more killed. Notwithstanding, being not well followed by the reiters, he was repulsed, but determining to give a fresh and general assault the next day, Mr. Bedingfield, as the devil would have it, came in upon his post horse and called him from this service by her Majesty’s letters, being the greatest disgrace that ever any such general received, and now the question is whether this noble general were more troubled with his calling home, or Bedingfield more moved with pity and compassion to behold this slaughter, or his horse more afeard when he passed the bridges at sight of the dead bodies, whereat he started and flung in such sort as Bedingfield could hardly keep his back.

Whether this hath passed him I leave it to the report or my Lord Charles Howard, my Lord Windsor etc. And if in his soberest moods he would allow this, it may easily be gathered what will pass him in his cups.

(PRO SP12/151[/45], ff. 100-2)

Within a fortnight Oxford was back in England.

“Of my Lord of Oxford's return”, writes Sir Walter Mildmay on July 27th, “I am glad to hear. I trust this little journey will make him love home the better hereafter. It were a great pity he should not go straight, there be so many good things in him, to serve his God and Prince!”

 

Francis Walsingham[10] to Lord Burghley, [ca. July 29] 1574.

My very good Lord understanding of this messenger’s repair unto you, though there is no great matter to advertise your Lordship of, yet I thought I would not turn him away without some few lines to witness that your Lordship is not forgotten amongst your friends here absent. The chiefest news presently here is that the Earl of Oxford lately arrived Dover, whose return hath very much qualified her Majesty’s displeasure conceived against him: yet I perceive her Majesty doth not mean to wrap up his contempt without using some kind of reprehension: that he may not think but that his fault is not only to be reproved but were also to be corrected, had he not cured the wound of his undutiful departing contrary to her Majesty’s inhibition through his dutiful return upon her Majesty’s revocation.

(PRO, SP12/45 p. 59; Alan H. Nelson p.112 f.)

 

Francis Walsingham to Lord Burghley, August 1, 1574.

I find Her Majesty graciously enough inclined towards the Earl of Oxford, whose peace I think will be both easily and speedily made: for that Her Majesty doth conceive that his obedience in his return hath countered the contempt of his departure; and the rather than vow his honourable and dutiful carriage of himself towards the rebels, and other undutiful subjects of her Majesty’s in that country: an argument of his approved loyalty which, as opportunity shall serve, I will not fail to lay before her Majesty by acquainting her with your Lordship’s letters.

(BL, MS Harleian MSS., 6991/50; Alan H. Nelson, p. 112)

 

In the following letter from Lord Burghley to Francis Walsingham we can recognize the fatherly concern which Burghley feels for Oxford in a manner which is almost touching.

 

Lord Burghley to Sir Francis Walsingham, Theobalds, 3 August 1574

Sir, Yesternight your letters came to Master Beningfeld [Bedingfield] and me signifying Her Majesty's pleasure, that my Lord of Oxford should come to Gloucester now at Her Majesty's being there. Whereof he being advertised by us was very ready to take the journey, showing in himself a mixture of contrary affections, although both reasonable and commendable, the one fearful and doubtful in what sort he shall recover her Majesty’s favour because of his offence in departure as he did without licence, the other gladful and resolute to look for a speedy good end, because he had in his abode so notoriously rejected the attempts of Her Majesty’s evil subjects, and in his return set apart all his own particular desires of foreign travel, and come to present himself before her Majesty, of whose goodness towards him he saith he cannot doubt. Hereupon he and Master Bennigfeld departed this afternoon to London, where the Earl, as I perceive, will spend only two days, or less, to make him some apparel meet for the Court, although I would have had him forborne that new charge, considering his former apparel is very sufficient, and he not provided to increase a new charge.

But now considering my Lord is to come to Gloucester, there to make all humble means to recover her Majesty’s favour, wherein he is to be helped with advice and friends, and that I cannot be so soon as he, for that on Friday or Saturday next I am to attend at London for the celebration of the French King’s funerals, so as I am in doubt whether I shall come to Gloucester before Wednesday following, I must be bold by this letter to request you in my name most humbly to beseech Her Majesty that she will regard his loyalty, and not his lightness in sudden going over, his confidence in her goodness and clemency, and not his boldness in attempting that which hath offended her, and finally so to order him both in the order and speed of his coming to her Majesty’s presence that her Majesty’s enemies and rebels which sought by many devices to stay him from returning, may perceive his returning otherwise rewarded than they would have had him imagined, and that also his friends that have advised him to return, may take comfort thereof with himself, and he not repent his dutifulness in doing that which in this time none hath done, I mean of such as hath either gone without licence or gone with licence and not returned in their due time.

Of his offence he hath examples over many in going without licence, but of his dutifulness abroad, where he was provoked to the contrary, and of his returning again when he lacked not some stings of fear, he hath no examples at all to my remembrance. And truly, not for himself only, but for to give some good examples to others that either have erred, as he did or may hereafter err in like sort, I think it a sound counsel to be given Her Majesty that this young nobleman, being of such quality as he is for birth, office, and other notable valours of body and spirit, be not discomforted, either by any extraordinary delay or by any outward sharp or unkind reproof.

But if her Majesty will not spare from uttering of some sparks of her first offence for his first, yet that the same may in presence of some few of her Council be uttered, and that her favourable accepting of his submission may be largely and manifestly declared to him to the confirmation of him in his singular loyalty.

Thus you see how busy I am, and surely not without some cause, for if he shall not find comfort now in this amendment of his first fault, I fear the malice of some discontented persons, wherewith the Court is over-much sprinkled, will colourably set to draw him to a repentance rather of his dutifulness in thus returning, than to settle in him a contentation to continue his duty.

And to conclude, sir, I beseech you to impart such parts of this my scribbling with my Lords of the Council with whom you shall perceive Her Majesty will have to deal in this case, that not only they will favourably reprehend him for his fault, but frankly and liberally comfort him for his amends made both in his behaviour beyond seas and in his returning as he hath done, and beside this that they will be suitors to her Majesty for him, as noble men for a noble man, and so bind him in honour to be indebted with goodwill to them hereafter, as indeed I know some of them hath given him good occasion, though he hath been otherwise seduced by such as regarded nothing his honour nor well doing, whereof I perceive he now acknowledgeth  some experience to his charge, and I trust will be more wary of such sycophants and parasites.

You see I cannot well end, neither will I end without also praying you to remember Mr Hatton to continue my Lord’s friend as he hath manifestly been, and as my Lord confesseth to me that he hopeth assuredly so to prove him.

And now I end. My Lord Keeper, Mr Sadler and I will be tomorrow at London, and on Friday speak with the Lord Mayor for their matters and for redress of some disorders about the city.

From my house at Theobalds this present Tuesday 3 August 1574

You assured loving friend, W. Burghley

I pray you so to deal with my Lords that are to deal with my Lord of Oxford that this my letter to you may be as an intercession to them from me for my Lord, and I doubt not but Mr Secretary Smith will remember his old love towards the Earl when he was his scholar.

 

Bertrand de Salignac de la Mothe Fénélon to Queen Cathérine de France, London, 13 August 1574.

Madame, following the memorial services which were held here for your son, the late King; I have not omitted to talk to Lord Treasurerer Burghley and assure him of our lasting friendship...  He is travelling to meet the Queen his mistress tomorrow, with the purpose of restoring the Earl of Oxford [pour luy ramener le comte d'Oxfort], his son-in-law. This he hopes she will accept for his having acquitted himself virtuously in his behaviour, when he was in Flanders, where he communicated neither with the Earl of Westmoreland nor the Countess of Northumberland, nor attempted to see nor hear them, nor any of the fugitives of this realm.

(Correspondance Diplomatique de Bertrand de Salignac de la Mothe Fénélon, Tome Sixiéme, années 1574 – 1575, Paris et Londres 1840, p. 209. - Alan H. Nelson, p. 115.)

 

By 14 August Oxford had won back the Queen's favour because of his loyalty to her when approached by her exiled rebel subjects in Flanders.

 

Francis Walsingham to --- [11]  [undated; c. 30 August, 1574].

My very good Lord, the persuasion I have, that your Lordship is now of late so wholly dedicated to a private life as the hearing what course public affairs taketh might rather breed

unto you discontentment than otherwise, hath been cause why I have forborne to write unto your Lordship, but when I consider how unfit it is for you to live long privately for that your calling in this state may not allow of it, then do I think it necessary that your Lordship should be made acquainted with the state of both home and foreign matters, to the end that when you shall be employed the ignorance of them may be no hindrance unto your service.

I am sure you are not unadvertised how the Earl of Oxford is restored to Her Majesty's favour, in whose loyal behaviour towards Her Majesty's rebels in the Low Country who sought conference with him, a thing he utterly refused, did very much qualify his contempt in departing without Her Majesty's leave. The desire of travel is not yet quenched in him, though he dare not make any motion unto Her Majesty that he may with her favour accomplish the said desire. By no means he can be drawn to follow the Court, and yet there are many cunning devices used in that behalf for his stay.

(PRO, SP12/45 p. 60; Alan H. Nelson p.115 f.) 

 

Edward Woodshaw at to Lord Burghley, Antwerp, 3 September 1574. [12]

The said Mr Harcourt[13] hath been very great with my Lord Edward Seymour[14] since his coming hither. Further, the said Lord Edward Seymour maketh the bruit here that he will travel into Italy, but he told me he would go into Spain, but he would have none to know it, & he requested me to bear him company for that he understood I meant to travel thitherward. He told me he had a great friend there of Mr Stukeley, & that in the way he would tell me more of his mind.

Further I cannot but advise your Honour what triumph, joy and gladness was here amongst our noble & unnoble northern rebels that be here, as also amongst our Catholic men of Louvain [Leuven] or elsewhere on this side the seas, when that they heard of my Lord of Oxford’s coming over. What great lies, what divers fables were of his Honour’s flying out of England I am ashamed to write, as also that my Lord of Southampton [=Seymour] was fled into Spain by seas & there was a general council held at Louvain wherein was concluded that my Lord of Westmorland should ride to Bruges to welcome my Lord of Oxford, & to persuade him not to return back with Mr Bedingfield & others in no case but as far as I can learn the 2 Earls met not together. It were a great pity that such a valiant & noble young gentleman should have communicated with such detestable & devilish gentlemen to their natural princess & country, but God amend them.

(Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Elizabeth, 1566-1579, London 1871, Addenda, p. 469. – Alan H. Nelson, p. 111)


Whatever it was that motivated Edward Seymour, Oxford’s travelling companion, to travel to the continent, we can only speculate. According to the spy Edward Woodshaw he intended to continue his journey to Italy or Spain. The Italian agent in Flanders reported to Rome his doubts that Seymour had Catholic inclinations.

It is possible that Seymour was seeking support for his thirteen year old nephew, Viscount Beauchamp’s succession to the throne. (Beauchamp was the son of Lady Catherine Grey, the granddaughter of Queen Mary Tudor.)

 

News Letter from an Roman agent,  Flanders, 17 September 1574.

There goes to Spain Lord Edward Seymour[15], third son of the Duke of Somerset, who took the chief part in establishing the heretical religion in England, being Protector of the realm and of King Edward, as all the world knows, and was the cause of so much evil. And to this day his sons have followed in their father's footsteps, and are mainly supported and encouraged by Secretary Cecil, who was their father's servant and by him advanced to the service of King Edward, because there was none so adroit as he in promoting his innovations and pretensions, as he has done and still does with results so disastrous to all Christendom, endeavouring by means of a new religion and new titles to abrogate the right to the Crown of England, and give it to the house of the Duke of Somerset, with which he also seeks to ally himself. And now the said Lord Edward Seymour pretends to be a Catholic[16], and gives out that he desires to serve under Don John of Austria, and nevertheless will not allow that the Queen of Scotland has any right to the Crown of England. Some say that Secretary Cecil is minded to do something for him, and to try if the Catholic King will give ear to a proposal for the marriage of one of the Infantas with the son of his brother, the Earl of Hertford; and that Cecil has just of late begun to countenance the Catholics and show them favour, speaking them fair from time to time, and expressing a wish that they might live on their estates and in their houses with liberty of religion and conscience; but whether this proceed from fear or something worse, God knows.

(Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Vatican Archives, Volume 2, 1572-1578, London 1926; p. 185.)

 

 

NOTES:



[1] George Golding (1545-1584). Oxford’s uncle and auditor, the brother of Mary and Arthur Golding.

[2] Lady York. Lady Anne York, the widow of Sir John York (died 1569), an English merchant who became Master of the Mint and a Member of Parliament. Sir John left ten sons, among them Edward and Rowland York, two friends of Oxford. (See note 7 and 7.2.1, Oxford and the ships for Spain, note 56).

[3] François De Halewyn, chevalier seigneur de Sweveghem (Frans van Halewijn, Heer van Zwevegem, c.1525-1585), was both diplomat and official correspondent to the Spanish crown. – As of 1569 Halewijn was burgomaster of Brugse Vrije (a castellany in the county of Flanders). In 1571/72 Duke Alba ordered him to go to London to improve conduct negotiations on the improvement of English-Spanish relations. After his return to Flanders Halewijn wrote grimly: “It would cause me great shame if I ever had to return to this unfortunate abyss of hell, to this chimney of a volcano.”

Don Requesens sent him back to England again in 1573 where he stayed until 1577. Halewijn returned to Flanders, and was taken prisoner by the rebels from Gent in October 1577. He escaped in 1579, and was appointed Upper Bailiff in Kortrijk in 1580. - See: Mémoires sur les troubles de Gand, 1577-1579, par François de Halewyn; publiés par Kervyn de Volkaersbeke. Bruxelles 1865. - Esquisse biographique de Messire François De Halewyn, chevalier seigneur de Sweveghem, suivie de la correspondance en 1573, publ. par Désiré van de Casteele. Bruges 1869.

Jean de Boisschot (1528-1580), jurist, fiscal advocate (that is member of the council of finance, one of the three councils set up in 1531 by Charles V to assist his sister Mary of Hungary), and member of the Privy Council under Philip II. In 1565 pensionary (who had about the same function as an advocate) of the City of Brussels, in 1569 fiscal advocate in the Council of Brabant (the highest law court in the Duchy of Brabant), in 1573 under the Duke of Alva member of the privy council. In 1574 and 1575 he accomplished some successful trade missions to England. After the revolt of 4 September 1576 with the subsequent arrest of some of its members he was imprisoned on the suspicion of pro-Spanish sympathies,  not to be released until March 1577. He would have been better off had he  withdrawn with his political associates to Louvain or Namur, for the same year he was again imprisoned. Three years later he died in a prison in Antwerp as a consequence of ill-treatment.

The letter reads in the original:

Ceste Court est toute esbranslée et plaine d'appréhensions pour ce que le Conte de Oxfort, gendre de Milord Bourghley, chambellan héritable et second conte du royaulme, est, avec Milord Eduard [Seymour], frère du Conte de Herford, en habit desguisé passé la mer en Flandres. De paour que ce ne fut pour aultre fin que pour veoir l'Italie et aultres provinces de la chrestienté, comme il a de long temps dict avoir envye de faire, l'on discourt que pour ceste occasion l’on arme de rechief (selon que se dict) tous les batteaulx. Leur suspicion s'augmente par ce que aucuns gentilshommes familiers et favorys dudict seigneur Conte se sont embarqués à Bristol avec quinze coffres de ses hardes et deniers pour Espaigne. Combien que aultres sont d'opinion que l'on arme pour doubte de France en tant que hier furent accordées lettres de marcque contre les François, et aultres contre Portugal.

Les rebelles sollicitans icy les affaires du Prince d'Orenges et aultres favorisans son party se sont fort estonnés, quand, par le gentilhomme et par la patente accordée à moy de Sweveghem, ils se trouvent asseurés de l'accord des ports pour nostre armée d'Espaigne, s'estans fermement persuadés jusques à maintenant que ne le sçaurions obtenir, ce que les principaulx d'entre eulx ne peuvent dissimuler, s'esmerveillans et plaindans de ce que le Roy nostre maistre a icy tant des amys en jeu, lesquels augmentent à la Royne l'impression de la bonne confidence et asseurance qu'elle doibt prendre de Sa Majesté.

Il s'entend que l'on dépesche ung gentilhomme amy dudict Conte d'Oxfort avec une patente de la Royne, s'adressant à tous princes et potentats, pour le caresser et assister en passant par leur pays, pour tel qu'il est, pour par ce moyen le retenir en office et divertir d'aucune machination sinistre, et peult-estre pour ne s'adonner à quelque service, duquel elle pourroit estre marrye : par où samble (parlant à correction), en cas qu'il présentast son dict service au Roy, nostre maistre, qu'il augmenteroit grandement la confidence de la Royne, si Sa Majesté ou Vostre Excellence fust servie de luy en donner préallablement l'advertissement convenable, nous estant advis que tels et semblables accomplissemens serviront grandement à entretenir la dévotion de la Royne en ceste conjuncture [conjonction].

De Londres, le sixième de juillet 1574.

(Archives du Royaume à Bruxelles, Nég. d'Angleterre, t. V, fol. 92.)


[4] Luis de Zúñiga y Requesens (1528–1576) was a Spanish politician and diplomat. – Wikipedia: In 1571 he accompanied John of Austria during the Lepanto campaign, his function being to watch and control his nominal commander-in-chief. Afterwards Philip named him Governor of the Duchy of Milan, a post usually given to a great noble. Requesens was only a gentleman, though by the kings favour he was grand commander of the military order of Santiago in Castile.

In 1573 Requesens was called by Philip II to succeed the Duke of Alba as governor of the Spanish Netherlands, then in revolt against the Spaniards. - He was rather moderate in comparison to Alba, requesting Philip to grant a general amnesty to all, with the exception of persistent heretics, and to permit the emigration of those who would not comply. The king wished to pursue a more conciliatory policy, without, however, yielding any one of the points in dispute between himself and the revolting Dutch. His situation was aggravated by the empty Spanish treasury. Requesens came to Brussels on 17 November 1573 and launched a new military campaign.

[5] Edward Bacon (1548-1618), a half-brother of Sir Francis Bacon, was a member of Gray's Inn and an English Member of Parliament, representing Tavistock (1584), Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (1586) and Suffolk (1593). - Bacon travelled on the Continent during the late 1570s. He certainly visited Paris, but went on to Ravenna and Padua, spending some time in Vienna and remaining for a long time at Geneva, where he lived in Béza’s house. John Sturmius, whom he also visited, informed Burghley in December 1577 that this young man’s ‘good manners, modesty and conversation pleases me so much that I am sorry I cannot be of as much use to him as his goodness deserves’. Bacon had returned to England by 1584. – Nathaniel Bacon of Stiffkey (1547-1622), the second son of Sir Nicholas Bacon and half-brother of Sir Francis Bacon, was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1562, and became an "ancient" of the Inn in 1576. He was an English lawyer and Member of Parliament.

[6] My Lord Edward Seymour is with him, Edward York, one Cruse & another. Lord Edward Seymour, see note 5. - Edward York (died 1622) was an elder brother of Oxford’s friend Rowland York. Edward York later became vice-admiral and was knighted.

Robert Cruse to Lord Burghley, May 3, 1575:

‘Has all his life been loyal to his Queen, and had no evil intention in going to France. Had associated there with the disaffected Scots for the sake of gaining information, which he had now returned to disclose. - Sends information respecting the dealings of several Scots, refugees in France, and the plans of the rebels for liberating the Queen of Scots. - May 4, 1575: Answers to all the questions Burghley has sent him respecting his dealings with the disaffected Scots, and long detail of all his proceedings in France.’ (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reigns of Edward VI., Mary, Elizabeth, 1547-1580, London 1856, p. 496-7.)

Alan H. Nelson, p. 109, writes: “Cruse, otherwise unknown, was perhaps a Spaniard.”

[7] The historian John Strype refers to Burghley’s letter of 15th July. John Strype based his conclusions on a single source, namely a letter from Lord Burghley, dated 15th July 1574. Strype misunderstood Burghley, obviously ignoring the date of the cited letter. Elizabeth had not reacted so hurriedly before Oxford’s unauthorized departure (“her Majesty maketh such haste”), but after he had already left. - Alan H. Nelson, p. 108, mistakenly assumed that Strype’s words were actually a statement made by Gilbert Talbot on 28th June 1574. Nelson had taken such liberties with John Nichols’ quote from Strype’s Annals in Nichols’ The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, vol. I, 1823 (p. 388), thinking that it was taken from a letter written by Talbot, that he set off a chain reaction of historical falsifications. 

It is possible that the letter of July 1574 from the Earl of Sussex to which Burghley is answering, is kept in Hatfield House. This letter would shed light on Sussex’ advice given to Lord Burghley, concerning Oxford’s behaviour (“your advertisements of my Lord of Oxford’s cause”).

[8] that Spanish forces … had surrounded and besieged Bommel in July 1574. The troops of the Dutch commander Dirck van Haeften, heer van Gameren (c.1530-1578), had taken the town of Bommel on 31st July 1573. The Spanish commander Gilles de Berlaymont, Baron van Hierges (1540-1579), led many attempts to recapture the city, but to no avail. 

Biografisch Woordenboek Gelderland 4 (2004):

The year 1574 was a very dramatic one in the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648) with Spain. An army under the command of Louis and Henry of Nassau, younger brothers od William of Orange, was routed in the so-called Battle of the Mooker Heath. Both Louis and Henry were killed. In the same year the Duke of Alva laid siege to the city of Leiden. In the same year was started the siege of he town of Zaltbommel (also known as Bommel) which had received much less attention, though it was also of crucial strategic importance because the town was situated on the river Waal on the route from Brussels to Utrecht via Den Bosch. In June 1574, the pro-Spanish Gillis of Berlaymont, baron of Hierges, laid siege to Zaltbommel. Dirck van Haeften, had already prepared the defence of the town. He had, for instance, ordered the demolition of the mills outside the town. Berlaymont’s troops built redoubts around the town in Hurwenen, Bruchem, Tuil, and around the castle in Gameren. Characteristic of the siege was a series of skirmishes, especially in the west between besiegers and besieged. The people in Bommel often tried to bring the harvest into the town, which the Spaniards tried to prevent. Dirck van Haeften was often personally involved in the skirmishes. At the end of July he narrowly escaped killing. He lost his gun and his horse and returned to the town afoot. From the redoubt near Tuil at the opposite side of the Waal Zaltbommel was permanently shelled. The siege lasted till the beginning of October, when the Spaniards were forced to withdraw, after the besieged had pierced the dykes flooding their camp.  

[9] Thomas Bedingfield. Sir Thomas Bedingfield (1537 -1613) Thomas Bedingfield, gentleman pensioner to Elizabeth I of England, was a translator. In 1573, Bedingfield published Cardanus Comforte translated into English at the ostensible command of the Earl of Oxford. There is a dedication to Oxford dated 1 January 1571–2, in which Bedingfield claims that he had not sought publication but was making his work public only under compulsion by Oxford.

[10] Francis Walsingham to Lord Burghley. The letter comes from Walsingham’s letter book (PRO, SP12/45 p.59). 

[11] Francis Walsingham to ---. The letter comes from Walsingham’s letter book (PRO, SP12/45 p. 60).  We don’t know the addressee.

[12] Edward Woodshaw at to Lord Burghley. Edward Woodshaw, a Catholic refugee who was an informant for Lord Burghley. - The English spies John Lee und Edward Woodshaw are said to have received instructions from Elizabeth (either in or around the year of 1573) to negotiate the return of Catholic refugees from Holland to England with William of orange. For a certain sum of money, William was to ensure both the capture and the transport of the said exiles.

[13] Edward Harcourt, servant to Philip Howard (1557-1595).

[14] my Lord Edward Seymour. See note 6.

[15] There goes to Spain Lord Edward Seymour. The Italian agent writes „Lord Edward Seler“ (=Seymour), “Duke of Solerset” (=Somerset) „Secretary Secil“ (=Cecil), and “Earl of Arford” (=Hertford). – See note 6.

[16] And now the said Lord Edward Seymour pretends to be a Catholic. It is clear that the agent does not believe this statement.