Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

chapuys1533 was a momentus one for Henry. He married Anne Boleyn, Cranmer annulled his marriage to Katherine of Aragon and in September there was the birth of another princess– Elizabeth. Anne had promised Henry a boy which was a tad silly of her. History knows that she fell pregnant on three more occasions and miscarried at least one male sealing her own fate in 1536.

 

However that was all in the future on December 6th 1533 when Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador wrote a long letter to Charles V (Katherine’s nephew and at various times affianced to Princess Mary -Henry VIII’s sister- and also to Princess Mary- Henry VIII’s daughter). Chapuys’ letter from today remains in the archives of Vienna. Here is an extract that relates to the legitimacy of Princess Mary:

 

On St. Andrew’s eve, the King, who, for a month past, ought to have made or sent me an answer for what reason he claimed to deprive the Princess of her title, legitimacy, and primogeniture, sent to me by Norfolk and Cromwell to say that he would like to be informed by them of what I wished to say both on that matter and in what concerned the Queen ; and this he did, not to refuse or delay the audience, which he was very willing to give me, whenever I liked, but in order to take advice upon the subject.

And having made several remonstrances to them that the King could not allege illegitimacy, or deprive the Princess of her title, they replied that my arguments might be true and well founded in civil law, which had no force here, but that the laws of this kingdom were quite otherwise. But on showing them that I rested my argument only upon the decision of the canon law, which in a spiritual matter no prince’s decree could prejudice, they knew not what to reply, except that they would report it to the King, and afterwards declare to me his intention. This they have not yet done, although he has held almost daily consultations, to which several learned canonists have been called. As regards the Queen, viz., the agreement proposed by the Pope, they said that formerly it had been under consideration, but that since sentence had been lawfully given by the archbishop of Canterbury, they thought the King would not expressly or tacitly do anything prejudicial to the said sentence, as it concerned his own honor and the interest of his new born daughter, especially as she was already declared Princess, and that if all the ambassadors in the world were to come, or even the Pope himself, they could not persuade the King otherwise.

 

And there it is neatly summed up by Eustace – it didn’t matter to Henry what anyone else might think, he had too much invested in his new marriage and family for any form of backtracking.

 

So, our face of today is Eustace Chapuys, the Imperial Ambassador whose words inform us about many of the events in Henry VIII’s world where he arrived in 1529 having had a career in the imperial diplomatic service following his education in law at Turin University and acceptance into holy orders.

 

He was sent to England by Charles V to replace the previous ambassador Mendoza with the specific aim of supporting Katherine of Aragon during her marital difficulties. The diplomatic relationship turned into one of genuine affection. It was Chapuys who made a last visit to her bedside as Katherine lay dying. Chapuys describes Katherine’s nemesis as “the Concubine” and “the whore.”  If he was required to be polite he referred to her as “the Lady.” It doesn’t take much imagination to identify the way he talked about the infant Princess Elizabeth.  Chapuys refused to meet Anne until Henry orchestrated a meeting  just before her fall in 1536.

Chapuys had reason to dislike Anne. He counted Sir Thomas More amongst his friends and he remained loyal to Princess Mary throughout his life.

 

Chapuys remained in England until 1545 where he didn’t always win friends and influence people. Lord Paget described him as a liar who would be able to hold his own in a court of vipers (he must have fitted right in).

When he retired from diplomatic life/spying he returned to Louvain where he originally came from and founded two centers of education.

 

He died in 1556 having done much to influence the way history would perceive Henry and his wives because of his lengthy correspondence with Charles V. It is from Chapuys that we get all the gossip, some of it without any foundation whatsoever beyond Chapuys dislike for Anne and an equal dislike for all things French. Reading his letters does give a fascinating insight but they need to be taken, on occasion, with a hefty pinch of salt.

 

images-9In other news for the 6th December.  It was on this day in 1421 that Henry VI was born at Windsor to Katherine of Valois.  A mere nine months later his father Henry V would be dead from dysentery and a babe in arms would wear the crown.  And, of course, from there it is a gentle downhill spiral towards the Wars of the Roses and ultimately the arrival of the Tudors with their dodgy claims to the throne.

 

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

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2 Comments

Filed under December, On this day..., Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

2 responses to “Eustace Chapuys – Imperial Ambassador

  1. M Vallazza

    Have you an article on Ambassador Mendoza, Chapuys predecessor?

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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