On 28 December 1552 the Duke of Northumberland imparted his latest thoughts on English diplomacy to his right hand man, Sir William Cecil. King Edward had just okayed the council’s suggestion “to employ ministers abroad for the public weal of Christendom”, that is to send envoys to Europe to offer English assistance in negotiating a peace between the Empire and France. Cecil was to tell Edward that he was to “be better served if those sent have grace and wit to note what they see and hear”. Those appointed by the council were Sir Andrew Dudley (“my brother”) and Sir Henry Sidney (“my son”), and it had not yet been decided who was to go to the emperor and who to the King of France; however, Northumberland thought that his son-in-law Sidney had “more means to express his mind in the Italian tongue than in the French” and so perhaps he should be the one to meet Charles V (whose first language, incidentally, was French).1
Ignoring the duke’s suggestion, the council sent Sidney to France and Dudley to the Low Countries – where the emperor was staying. For the last few years John Dudley had balanced successfully on a tightrope between the two great powers, and when both requested English assistance for their wars against each other, their demands were politely rejected and England remained neutral. Under these circumstances a general peace was welcome,2 especially as the negotiations would augment Edward’s prestige.
On 1 January 1553 Sir Andrew Dudley called on Jehan de Schefye, Charles V’s ambassador in London, to pay his respects and announce his mission:
He declared to me of his own accord that his charge was a very important one, but did not make himself more plain; he thanked me … and, after some more conversation, departed.3
Sidney and Dudley were chosen for their known personal closeness to the king rather than for any particular skills;4 the more convincingly they could represent the peace initiative as Edward’s personal suggestion. The sending of these “totally inexperienced” men has been criticized,5 yet Northumberland himself suggested that in due course they could be joined by “more experienced” diplomats and that the journey could also serve for their “learning and education”.6 Furthermore, Andrew Dudley was not wholly inexperienced. In 1546 Henry VIII had sent him with presents to Brussels, to Mary of Hungary, Charles V’s sister and Regent of the Netherlands: Dudley, in his role as Equerry of the Stable, brought horses, greyhounds, and running dogs.7
In 1553 Andrew Dudley again first travelled to Brussels, where he was received by Mary of Hungary on 8 January. One of the letters carried by him may have been an address from the emperor’s cousin, the Lady Mary, whom Northumberland had asked to emphasize England’s goodwill towards the Empire.8 Impatient to see the emperor himself, Dudley tried to intercept him on his way to Flanders. Sir Richard Morrison, the English resident ambassador with Charles, knew nothing of this until he met Dudley at Trier, on the Moselle. The ailing ruler was averse to being molested by diplomats while journeying; Morrison nevertheless managed to arrange an interview at Luxembourg in which Charles referred them to a later occasion.9
Morrison and Dudley went back to Brussels, where during February they were busy hosting their Imperial colleagues (including Diego de Mendoza, godfather to Guildford, Andrew Dudley’s nephew):
On the 9th Morysine invited Mons. de Rie to dine with Dudley at his lodgings, where he should meet Don Diego di Mendoza … and others. … After dinner De Rie accepted an invitation from Dudley to dine with him on the following day, and to bring his guest with him as he had done to Morysine. The same evening Mons. de Courriers came to town, and he also gladly came to dine at Dudley’s.
Finally, Charles V was ready to meet the English envoys,
for on Friday the 10th instant he sent a gentleman of his chamber to Dudley to tell him that the Emperor would speak with him on the morrow, as accordingly at three o’clock of the Saturday he did. The Court was very well furnished with noblemen, all of them very glad to embrace the Ambassadors, and glad to talk well of England. The Emperor came forth without staff or any to lead him, his chair being set on the farther end of the chamber that they might see he could go so far without any stay. In the conversation which ensued between his Majesty and Dudley, the former said that until particularities were known from his enemy how could he will the King of England to work in the matter of peace? What answer could he give? All the world knew he began not the wars; they knew France took his subjects’ ships and goods, had invaded the empire, hired men to rebellion, taken from the empire things belonging to it, and from himself part of his inheritance. For himself, he always loved peace and wished the quietness of Christendom, and if he might have such a peace … his will was good, and he would be glad to have a peace … But he knew, if peace were made, the French King would no longer keep it with him than he thought it his best.
After Charles had stressed a few more times that he was amenable to a reasonable agreement, Andrew Dudley’s great moment arrived:
When about to take leave, and offering to kiss his hand, the Emperor cast his arm about Dudley’s neck, with great show of accepting his coming, of liking his message, and of allowing his behaviour in the doing thereof.
Dudley and Morrison noted that the chamber had been hung with tapestries depicting the emperor’s victories.
De Rie and others accompanied them home … They had scarcely arrived at home when Don Diego, who had called during their absence, returned to desire Dudley not to fail him to-morrow at dinner. De Rie promised by the way, that he would not leave Dudley so long as he could enjoy him, and when he could no more, his trust was they should meet one day again.
On taking his leave, Dudley alongside his resident colleagues, Morrison and Chamberlain, received “very gentle entertainment” from the Regent; Morrison was as sorry to stay as Dudley was “glad to be gone”.10 Back in England he delivered a gracious letter to King Edward from the emperor and elicited the close interest of the Imperial ambassador, de Schefye, who in his turn informed Charles V:
Sire: I received your Majesty’s letters of the 13th through Dudley, who arrived in this town on the 18th of the month and had audience of the King and my lords of the Council the following day, and came to see me the same afternoon. I congratulated him on his return, and he told me how he had left your Majesty at Brussels in good health, and that the King, his master, had rejoiced to hear it because of the singular affection he bore you. He declared that your Majesty had done him great honour, and bestowed a present on him. … He declared that he had perceived most clearly that your Majesty indeed loved the King, his master. I assured him such was the truth, and that your Majesty had always held him as his son, and proved it in the past, in contrast to the course adopted by certain others.
As we had entertained one another at some length with these professions of mutual love, … and never a word had he said about the letter from your Majesty to the King, or his negotiation, I made bold at last to question him if he had accomplished his mission to your Majesty. He replied that he had made his report to the King and my lords of the Council on what your Majesty had declared to him, and did not enlarge beyond this, which he did, in my opinion, rather to safeguard his reputation than for any other reason. Therefore I thought it well to say no more at the time and let the matter drop there. …
I can assure your Majesty that the Court and the town are full of the honours and welcome given to the said Dudley, and that all seem pleased about it, especially at the good understanding between their Majesties; and some go so far as to say that under colour of the said embassy a closer alliance may be about to be negotiated. The matter has given some umbrage to the French ambassador. To sum up, Sire, and reverting to the question of friendships, Dudley said to me that the friendship with France would never prove to be a real one, that the English had never thought much of the French, and he believed that if your Majesty wished to employ Englishmen, you would get a good number together. I replied that they had proved their zeal in your Majesty’s service, and after a few more words of no importance, Sire, he took his leave.11
1 Knighton 1992 p. 283; Beer 1973 p. 139
2 Loades 1996 pp. 241 – 242
3 CSP Span 4 January 1553
4 Loades 1996 p. 242
5 Jordan 1970 pp. 174 – 175
6 Knighton 1992 p. 284
7 L&P XXI No. 444
8 Beer 1973 p. 140
9 Jordan 1970 p. 175
10 CSP Foreign 12 February 1553
11 CSP Span 21 February 1553
Calendar of State Papers, Spain. Volume 11 – 1553 (ed. Royall Tyler, 1916) http://www.britishhistory.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=973
Calendar of State Papers, Foreign http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.aspx?gid=124&type=3
Letters and Papers of Henry VIII. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/catalogue.aspx?gid=126
Beer, B. L. (1973): Northumberland: The Political Career of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland. The Kent State University Press.
Jordan, W. K. (1970): Edward VI: The Threshold of Power. The Dominance of the Duke of Northumberland. George Allen & Unwin.
Knighton, C. S. (1992) (ed.): Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Edward VI, 1547–1553. Revised Edition. HMSO.
Loades, David (1996): John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland 1504–1553. Clarendon Press.