A Picture from the French Queen for the French Queen

In July 1551 the French Maréchal St. André visited the English court for negotiations about a marriage between King Edward VI and the French princess Elisabeth de Valois (‟Lady Ysabell“), the six-year-old daughter of Catherine de Medici, the ‟French queen“. There had been talks beforehand, conducted by the Florentine Guidotti (‟Guydot“). The letter below, dated 25 July 1551, was addressed to the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Thomas Darcy, one of John Dudley’s principal channels to impart his wishes to his young master. One striking aspect of its contents is how much the Earl of Warwick (Dudley) already recognized Catherine de Medici as a political intriguer of outstanding talent; this was seven years before her husband’s death and nearly ten years before she came into the position of regent. Warwick’s letter is also a fine example of what the diplomat Richard Morrison really meant with a phrase that has since become famous, writing, in hindsight and from exile, about matters concerning these diplomatic moves of 1551: ‟This Earl had such a head that he seldom went about anything but he had three or four purposes beforehand.“

These may be to signify unto your lordship that about half a year or more past at such time as Guydot gave unto the king’s majesty a gilt cup he also presented unto his highness a picture of the Lady Ysabell, the French king’s daughter, with whom now the contract between the king’s highness and his majesty is begun to be made and forasmuch as it might be that the said Guydot in that behalf was but an instrument to others as peradventure to the French queen her own self, who as I understand is the most desirous woman in the world that her daughter might be bestowed here to our master, it would not do amiss therefore in my opinion that the king’s majesty took occasion to show the said picture the marshal afore the taking his leave of the king.

It be neither here nor there for the matter yet perhaps it would much satisfy the said queen whose practice I think verily it was to send it, that the same should appear to her not to be rejected, wherefore I have thought good to send the said picture to you if the king’s pleasure be so to do that the same should be in a readiness; for the last day looking in a desk of mine I found it there and marvelling a while whose it should be, it came to my remembrance that at such time as Guydot made the present of it to his majesty, his highness delivered it to me and commanded me to keep it, thinking it my duty to send it to his highness with the consideration before rehearsed referring the executing thereof to his majesty’s own appetite.

Your lordship’s most assured friend, J. Warwyk.

A marriage agreement was indeed signed, and Edward, who had great fun with the French visitors (recording everything in his “chronicle”), sent his little bride a “fair diamond” early in 1552.

HMC: Calendar of the MSS of the Marquess of Bath. Volume II.
Loach, Jennifer: Edward VI. Yale University Press.

About Christine Hartweg

Hi, I'm the author of "Amy Robsart: A Life and Its End" and "John Dudley: The Life of Lady Jane Grey's Father-in-Law". I blog at www.allthingsrobertdudley.wordpress.com
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