Henry VIII, the Reign
Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Volume 8
My last letter to your Majesty was dated 14th instant; and since then I went to see the Councillors, to whom the King had referred me to make my statement of the complaints of your subjects. After I had laid before them several instances of wrong and injury they had suffered, I complained of the small results obtained by your Majesty's commissioner and myself; we having been delayed not only the forty days provided in the agreement of Utrecht, but nearly eight months.
I found them (the Councillors) more obstinate than I have ever known them to be, and they finally postponed the whole matter until the return of the King to London.
The assembly of Councillors was a large one, as they were occupied in the question of the Duke of Norfolk and his son, who are prisoners, but they made no mention whatever to me of the subject. The next day, however, the Lord Chancellor sent me a message by my man saying that the cause of their arrest was that they had planned by sinister means to obtain the government of the King, who was too old now to allow himself to be governed. Their (i.e. Norfolk and Surrey's) intention was to usurp authority by means of the murder of all the members of the Council, and the control of the prince by them alone.
The Earl off Surrey, however, had not been under arrest in his (the Chancellor's) house for this plot, but in consequence of a letter of his, full of threats, written to a gentleman. Two other gentlemen of faith and honour subsequently came forward and charged them with this conspiracy. With regard to the son, though he has always been so generous to his countrymen, there is not one of them, however, devoted to him, but regards him as suspect; and the earl appeared much downcast on his way to the house.
The feeling against the father is less severe. The Duke, both in the barge and on entering the Tower, publicly declared that no person had ever been carried thither before who was a more loyal servant of his prince than he was, and always had been. The fate of both of them will soon be known, as the King, who has (now arrived here, is keeping himself very secluded at Court, all persons, but his Councillors and three or four gentlemen of his chamber, being denied entrance; the King, it is said, being deeply engaged, and much perplexed in the consideration of this affair.
It is understood that he will be thus occupied during the holidays and some days in addition, the Queen and all the courtiers having gone to Greenwich, though she (i.e. Queen Catherine Parr) has never been known before to leave him on solemn occasions like this. I do not know what to think or suspect. Although the King recently told me, as an excuse for not receiving me when I sought audience, that he had suffered from a sharp attack of fever, which had lasted in its burning stage for thirty hours, but that he was now quite restored, his colour does not bear out the latter statement, and he looks to me greatly fallen away. In order to discover whether, under the pretext of considering the affair of these prisoners, an attempt was being made to conceal any indisposition of the King, I found means to send my man to the Lord Admiral.
Whilst he was at Court, where he slept that night, he learnt from a friend that the King was not at all well, though he had seen him dressed on the previous day. But, Sire, I do not think, in any case, that I ought to conceal my opinion from your Majesty of affairs here, which change almost daily.
Four or five months ago great enquiries and prosecutions were carried out against the heretics and sacramentarians, but they have now ceased, since the Earl of Hertford and the Lord Admiral have resided at court. The publicly expressed opinion, therefore, that these two nobles are in favour of the sects may be accepted as true, and also that they have obtained such influence over the King as to lead him according to their fancy. In order to avoid this, some of the principal Councillors to whom I had pointed out the evils and dangers threatened by these sects, unless they were vigorously opposed, requested me some time ago to address the King to a similar effect, as I wrote to your Majesty at the time. I find them (the Councillors) now of a different aspect, and much inclined to please and entertain the Earl and the Admiral; neither of whom has ever been very favourably disposed towards your Majesty's subjects.
This being the case, and since those who were well disposed have changed, it may be assumed that these two have entirely obtained the favour and authority of the King.
A proof of this is, that nothing is now done at court without their intervention, and the meetings of the Council are mostly held in the Earl of Hertford's house.
It is even asserted here that the custody of the prince and the government of the realm will be entrusted to them; and the misfortunes that have befallen the house of Norfolk may well have come from the same quarter. As regards the diversity of religion, the people at large are to a great extent on their (i.e. Seymour and Dudley's) side, the majority being of these perverse sects, and in favour of getting rid of the bishops.
They do not, indeed, conceal their wish to see the Bishop of Winchester and other adherents of the ancient faith sent to the Tower to keep company with the Duke of Norfolk. All this makes it probable that in the parliament which begins next month some strange acts and constitutions will be passed.
I have always found the King personally strongly in favour of preserving the friendship with your Majesty, and I understand that he will never change in this respect; but it is to be feared that if God take him, which I trust will not be the case for many years, the change will cause trouble, and plunge everything here into confusion. For the reasons stated above, therefore, I am the less surprised, Sire, that the better the news that reaches here of the progress of your Majesty's affairs in Germany, the more difficult do I find the Council in my negotiations with them. Your Majesty will be better able to judge than anyone of the significance and tendency of all this; and I pray for pardon if I have ventured too far in laying before you my suspicions and opinions, which I would far rather prove false than true.
Captain Paulin is still here, awaiting a reply to his demands both as to the prisoners and the galley, and as to the delimitation proceedings in the Boulognais. There is no doubt that he hoped to carry through the intrigue already commenced (of which your Majesty has been informed), under the cloak of settling the old quarrels; but he did not find these people responsive. I hear from a secret and perfectly trustworthy source that they (i.e. the English Councillors) look upon him as a cunning blade (fin gallant) whose coming is simply for the purpose of deceiving and playing with them, until the Scots are thoroughly well supplied with provisions and munitions of war from France. The French and Scots are very active in this matter, and doubtless the Scottish embassy is directed to the same end, since the ambassadors are tarrying here so long without doing anything. It is said here that the Castle of St. Andrews is well provided with food, and remains firm for the King of England; although those who killed the Cardinal and held the castle have now come hither to the King.
London, 24 December, 1546.