Arrival in England
In late summer 1529, Eustace Chapuys the new Imperial Ambassador arrived in London to take up his post as the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V’s representative in England. His two predecessors had endured a torrid time during Cardinal Wolsey’s tenure as ruler of England. The cardinal, however, who a few weeks earlier had famously failed to secure Henry VIII a divorce from the Queen of England, Catherine of Aragon, was about to be overthrown.
The new ambassador was also, and most importantly, tasked with looking after the estranged queen who was the aunt of Charles V, he was undertaking what appeared to be a thankless task.
Previously Charles’ man in Savoy, Eustace was born c. 1490 at Annecy in the Duchy of Savoy. He was the second son, one of six children, of Louis Chapuys, a notary and syndic, and Guigonne Dupuys. He studied law and became a Doctor of Civil and Canon Laws. He had been in Charles’ service for some years before his appointment to England was made on 25 June 1529.
Chasing the King for a Meeting
It must have been a blessing to Chapuys that he didn’t have to deal with Wolsey and no sooner had he arrived in London than he thought to ask for a meeting with the man himself, Henry VIII, but Henry wasn’t at home. He diligently reported back to Charles…
Eustace tracked him down, and the king sent back the ambassadors messenger expressing pleasure at his appointment, he would send his first secretary to take him to Grafton Manor in Northamptonshire, where Henry was ‘purposed being about the Day of the Exultation of the Holy Cross,’ which was on 14 September.
Chapuys made his way to Grafton, and on arrival, he was ordered to appear before the king at 11am. In his despatch of 21 September 1529, he reported…
The principal point of Eustace’s commission, the divorce, was one that the king seized upon straight away. Henry was annoyed that a new document – a brief – had appeared containing evidence against him but Charles wouldn’t let him have a copy.
Remonstrations at Grafton Manor
Henry remonstrated with Eustace…
A fair point it seems. Henry was also annoyed about the pope ordering the trial of the marriage from Blackfriars in London to Rome. The trial, of course, was doomed and never resumed.
The ambassador was not to be drawn into a confrontation at their first meeting.
Henry had said. “Do you imagine that I have acted lightly in this case? Not the least, I would never believe those who spoke to me without first discussing the question and consulting books about it."
No Polemic for Eustace
But Chapuys responded “I saw that the King by these words meant to drag me into a polemic about the validity of the marriage, and therefore shunned as much as possible the discussion of this point for two reasons: the first and principal the defence of Your Imperial Majesty's acts and interference in the affair; the other, that there are already books written on the subject in which this matter of the attempted divorce has been sufficiently discussed, so much so that there is no need of further argumentation for or against it.”
But the king badgered on and turned his fire on the pope, for a while, until he declared.’ “Enough about that Pope, this is not the first time that he has changed his mind; I have long known his versatile and fickle nature."
The meeting wound up with pleasantries exchanged, Chapuys expressing his master's affection in gushing terms for Henry and Henry likewise about Charles.
“I then, “reported Chapuys,” begged his permission to call on the Queen and present the Emperor's letters to her, which he willingly granted, and then retired to his apartments.”
Exchanging Pleasantries with Anne Boleyn’s Father before Meeting Catherine of Aragon
The paradox here is that as Henry VIII left so Thomas Boleyn, Anne’s father, “and other gentlemen of the court came to welcome me.” Another round of ambassadorial pleasantries followed before Chapuys was conducted to Queen Catherine’s apartments
The meeting with Queen Catherine was a discomfited affair because of the presence of courtiers. They were, however, able to discuss the two cardinals, Campeggio and Wolsey, who had presided over the Blackfriars trial. Their tete-a-tete sheds some light on the outcome which, to all intents and purposes, ended in her favour.
The Queen said to the ambassador. “"There are, however, matters upon which I dare not, surrounded as I am, speak to you in detail. I will send you one of my servants (“her own physician, a very trusty man”) to explain the remainder.
“There is, however, one thing I must not forget, which is that if you have not yet visited Cardinal Campeggio, it is very important that you should see him as soon as possible,[ he was about to leave England and return home] and thank him in my name and in that of the Emperor also for his honest and rightful behaviour, and the trouble he has taken in this affair. As to me, I am so grateful for what he has done that I should hardly know how to repay his services."
And of Wolsey, she responded. "There is no necessity, [to involve him] for the Cardinal's affairs are at this moment rather embroiled".
“This last sentence she said in such a low tone of voice that nobody but myself could hear her, and I doubt even whether the courtiers in the room could see her actually move her lips.”
Did He Do Well?
On leaving Queen Catherine, he was met again by courtiers this time headed by Sir John Russell who complimented him “on the satisfactory and pleasing manner in which the King had received me. I had already received from Mr. de Rochefort similar assurances, and if truth be told, I myself was far from expecting such a reception. So, when I heard my guide [ Russel] insist so much on this topic, and tell me all manner of agreeable things respecting the good impression I had made upon the King, his master, and other flattering remarks about my person…”
And so there he left them, not before noting that the king was in a great hurry to repair to the meeting place of the morning where the Lady [Anne] was ready to open the chase.
Henry’s matrimonial affairs were in turmoil, his government was in chaos and the Reformation was underway, but none of that was important enough to keep him from the chase.
For Chapuys, on the other hand, it was a pretty good day, he secured the confidence of the king, met Queen Catherine and organised arrangements with their spy, her physician – all in a day’s work for Eustace.
Stay posted! And then we shall meet Eustace again, and often.
Henry VIII, the Reign.
Henry VIII, the Reign.