Friday, May 1, 2009

A Dreadful Expense: Lieutenants of Calais and Power in the Realm (1377-1536): Part III Arthur, Lord Lisle

As lord deputy of Calais during the 1530s, Arthur, Lord Lisle had to “ensure the defense and provision of the town, to see that the soldiers’ wages were paid, and—most difficult of all—to keep the peace among the English officials, all of whom were on the make and some of whose families had been entrenched there for generations.” These disagreements were nothing new. In the French Rolls of Henry VI, frequent contention between the staplers and the town government are detailed. In the reign of Henry VIII, a notable governor of Calais was Arthur, Lord Lisle, illegitimate son of Edward IV. Lisle was active in the service of Henry VIII, but his most important role was as Lord Deputy of Calais, a post to which he was appointed in 1533

Lisle obtained his title through his first wife, Elizabeth, the widow of Edmund Dudley. The Lady Elizabeth was only the aunt to the current baroness when she married Lisle. However, in 1523, she became the heir to the entire estate when her niece died without issue. Besides the title, the Lisle estate included a great deal of property, so Arthur Plantagenet became a substantial landowner. While he probably lost the Dudley lands when his first wife died, he kept the Lisle lands and acquired the Waytes’ lands in Hampshire in 1528. So, when he married Honor Grenville Basset, Lisle was an extremely eminent member of the court of Henry VIII besides being of the blood royal.

Lisle was a man known for his extravagant lifestyle. He was generous to a fault and was usually insolvent. Honor had to spend a great deal of her time trying to sort out the family’s financial predicaments while still making sure that her children had the right clothes to make the proper impression in the world and that the hospitality in Calais—which was a focal point for English diplomatic and foreign trade activities—was on the lavish scale expected of the governor and his wife. In 1533, Honor wrote to Henry, Lord Montague, complaining that entertaining in Calais was very expensive. Montague advised her to attempt to bridle her husband’s natural tendencies to extravagance.

Madame, I perceive by your letter that Calais is somewhat chargeable, as I reckoned alway it should be somewhat, to such a free stomach as my Lord hath. Therefore, for the love of God, look upon it in the beginning, now: for I assure you everything here is harder than it was at your departing; and so like to continue.

In her introduction to the Lisle Letters, Muriel St. Clare Byrne points out that Christine de Pisan teaches the same lesson. To reinforce the point, in 1478, Thomas Betson, who was at the staple in Calais, wrote to Elizabeth Stonor in the same vein as quoted in Kingsford’s edition of the Stonor letters.

I will advise you, Madam, to remember large expenses and beware of them, and in likewise my master your husband; it is well done ye remember him of them for divers considerations, as ye know both right wel.

Honor Lisle also had to make sure that the proper gifts were sent to the proper people, in order to maintain the network of influence so necessary to maintain a position in Tudor England. For example, she sent a cheese to Sir William Kingston, wine to Lord Hereford, fish to the French families that educated her children, and quails to Queen Jane Seymour. All of this took money that the Lisles seldom had and a flair for providing the most appropriate gift for each recipient.

Lisle himself was warned by a friend about his extravagances at Calais. On 1 October 1534, Sir Francis Bryant wrote to Lisle, “[A]s I am informed, you are no good husband in keeping of your house, which is a great undoing of many men; therefore I would advise you to look upon it, and to consider that in taking good heed you may do yourself pleasure and your friends also.” The constant entertaining that was necessary in the Lord Deputy’s position made for a necessarily expensive lifestyle. Sometime after 10 December 1534, Sir Thomas Palmer wrote to Thomas Cromwell,

Please you to understand that on Wednesday at ij of the clock at afternoon my Lord Admiral arrived in this road in Calais, and I think had had as short a passage as needed to be. That night my Lord Deputy had him home to his own house, and gave him his own chamber, and there he kept his chamber all that night and came not abroad. My Lord Deputy made a full good supper for all the noblemen that were with him, where I, with other of the Council, kept them company....[T]he next day, which was Thursday , my Lord Deputy made ready a good dinner, where the Admiral was, with all his gentlemen, who reported more honour than all the others which passeth my brain to recite....And so, Sir, he and his were entertained to the best of our power in everything.

As Muriel St. Clare Byrne commented, “Everything that we hear shows that he and his wife, in entertainment at Government House, sustained the honour of King and country by hospitality on a fitting scale that was certainly not provided for by his wages and fees...”

However, the expensiveness of the appointment in Calais was not the source of Lisle's downfall. He was accused of treason in 1540, supposedly for planning to turn Calais over to the French. However, it is more likely that his wife's suspect religious leanings were the true source of Lisle's difficulties as Honor was not circumspect in expression of her opinions. The intrigues and factionalism at the aging king's court made negotiating the political waters difficult and the Lisles became less and less able to do so successfully. In the meantime, having to provide hospitality and expensive gifts for the king's court only added to the burden.

To conclude, an appointment to Calais was a highly coveted office. However, with the honor went huge expenses. In order to uphold the position as well as the honor of the crown, the appointee needed to have large sums of money of his own available. Giles Daubeney, a rich man and a good manager, was able to survive, although not without a taint on his character. Arthur, Lord Lisle, generous and profligate, was not so lucky. Politics and life were fickle and it was often the case that the prize so sought after brought only financial ruin, imprisonment and death (from a heart attack while in prison) in the end.

Copyright Sharon D. Michalove 2009. All rights reserved.
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Friday, March 20, 2009

A Dreadful Expense: Lieutenants of Calais and Power in the Realm (1377-1536) Part II: Giles Daubeney

Having surveyed the situation at Calais in the first installment, I would like to turn to the career of Giles Daubeney. When Henry VII won the English crown at Bosworth Field, he may not have been used to governing, but he was used to intrigue. His experiences in exile and the lessons learned from studying the instability of the English monarchy during his lifetime made him seek out his own lord Hastings from among the loyalists that had been with him in Brittany and France. That man was Giles Daubeney. Margaret Condon characterizes Henry VII’s method of appointment by stating that “Henry VII granted such offices as constables of castles generally, though not exclusively, to his household knights and esquires. Military expeditions were conducted largely by and through the household.” Obviously Henry felt that his forces would be more loyal if they were under the command of those he considered personally loyal to him and Daubeney was a good example of a loyal “household man.”

As earl of Richmond and a Lancastrian pretender to the throne, Henry Tudor spent his early years in Wales but spent most of his teens and twenties in exile in Brittany and France before defeating Richard III at Bosworth Field. After supporting Henry Stafford, second Duke of Buckingham, in his rebellion against his cousin Richard III in 1483, Daubeney joined Henry Tudor in Brittany, becoming member of Henry’s inner circle. He was one of the few men ennobled by Henry VII and, among the many royal appointments Daubeney received, he served as lieutenant of the town, castle and marches of Calais, tower of Risbank (in Calais harbor), and castle of Guines (7 Mar 1485/6). As the focus of England’s commercial and military toehold on the continent, Calais was considered vitally important to the security of the realm. Only a very trusted member of Henry VII’s inner circle would have been given this responsibility.

Daubeney was a privy councilor and as lord chamberlain of the household (after 1495), he was in charge of the arrangements for the reception of Katherine of Aragon on the occasion of her marriage to Prince Arthur, then the heir to the throne. According to the Spanish ambassador, Katherine considered Daubeney “the man who could do most in private with Henry VII.” Daubeney was one of the diplomats who arranged the marriage between Henry VII’s son Arthur and the Spanish Infanta, Katherine of Aragon (a daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella), and as the lord chamberlain of the household he was also involved in the marriage preparations. Katherine would have had an excellent opportunity to observe the relationship between Daubeney and the king. As a valued member of Henry VII’s court, Daubeney profited greatly from his prominent position at court as well as from the patronage of a king who parsimoniously doled out favors primarily to those who had paid for the privilege with either service or cash.

While Daubeney’s appointment in Calais was originally for seven years, it must have been renewed since he was still in charge of Calais in 1500, when Henry and Elizabeth of York visited Archduke Philip to arrange the marriage of Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon. In the Chronicle of Calais it is reported that in 1500

Kynge Henry the Seventh and quene Elizabeth his wyffe, comynge out of England, landed at Caleis on the 8. day of May, being friday at night, in anno 1500, and in the 15. of his raigne. With hym came the duke of Buckyngham, the erle of Surrey, the erle of Essex, the lorde Dawbeney, being then lorde lyvetenaunt of the towne and marches of Caleis, and lord chamberlayn of the kyng’s howse.

The spending incumbent on the Lieutenant of Calais in entertaining the king and his retinue as well as the archduke and his household would have been substantial. His lieutenancy gave Daubeney many responsibilities. The duties of the captain did not change much over two centuries of occupation. Daubeney knew who was expected in Calais and kept track of whether they arrived. An excuse from an unimpeachable source seems to have been necessary for absenteeism, even in the fifteenth century. In addition, the captain or lieutenant of Calais was responsible for accounting for the gentlemen who were to be garrisoned there. William Paston, the brother of Sir John Paston, was one of the gentry who was to take part in Henry VII’s war in France. He wrote to his brother

Syr, as towardes my jurney to Caleys . . . My lorde [Oxford], seyng me dysesyd, and also none otherwyse purveyd, wyllyd me in ony wyse to tary on tyl hys comying to London, and sent myn excuse to my Lorde Dawbeney undyr thys forme how that I was sore disesyd; notwythestondyng I was welewyllyd to have come to fulfyll my promesse, but he cowde not sofyr me, seyng me soo dysesyd; and so my Lord Dawbeney was sory of my dysese and content that I taryd.

Daubeney's position as lieutenant of Calais gave him a great deal of patronage to dispense among gentry and noble families looking for places for their sons. Not all of these clients were from Somerset or even from the west of England. His clerk, Nicholas Boveton, from Woolwich, Kent, was the war treasurer of Calais and a merchant of the Staple. Some of Daubeney’s patronage was indirect. In 1486, John Fermour received 4d. for writing a letter to Daubeney. In 1491, Edward Hextall received £3 for a chest of sugar given to Daubeney. And in the same year, John Byngham was rewarded with 13s. 4d. for delivering a letter to Daubeney while he was in Calais. Somewhat more directly, Stephen Calmady was given a licence on August 4, 1489, to freight a ship with merchandise for export as remuneration for transporting Daubeney and others to the king.

Foreign military adventures also came about through Daubeney’s position as Lieutenant of Calais and caused attendant expenses, not always reimbursed by the crown. When Henry wished to shore up the weak and vacillating Maximilian, the future Holy Roman Emperor, in his bid to marry Duchess Anne of Brittany, Daubeney was sent to help. While he was successful in winning the battle of Dixmude, “all was in vain. Maximilian was soon bought off by Charles VIII.” Henry’s real, although ultimately unsuccessful goal, was to keep Brittany from being absorbed by France and he saw aiding Maximilian in his marriage plans as one way of succeeding in that quest.

Francis Bacon, in history of the reign of Henry VII says of Daubeney and his Calais troops at the battle of Dixmude

While they [the French] lay at this siege [Dixmude], the King of England, upon pretence of the safety of the English pale about Calis, but in truth being loth that Maximilian should become contemptible, and thereby be shaken off by the states [estates or Parlement] of Britain [Brittany] about this marriage [to Duchess Anne of Brittany], sent over the lord Morley with a thousand men, unto the lord Daubeney, then deputy of Calis, with secret instructions to aid Maximilian, and to raise the siege of Dixmude. The lord Daubeney, giving it out that all was for the strengthening of the English marches, drew out of the garrison of Calis, Hammes and Guines, to the number of a thousand men more. So that with the fresh succours that came under the conduct of the lord Morley, they made up to the number of two thousand or better. wich forces joining with some companies of Almains, put themselves through the town with some reinforcement, from the forces that were in the town, assailed the enemies’ camp negligently guarded, as being out of fear; where there was a bloody fight, in which the English and their partakers obtained the victory, and slew to the number of eight thousand men, with the loss on the English part of a hundred or thereabouts; amongst whom was the lord Morley. They took also their great ordnance, with much rich spoils, which they carried to Newport; whence the lord Daubeney returned to Calis, leaving the hurt men and some other voluntaries in Newport.

However, being lieutenant of Calais carried risks as well as prestige. Late in the reign, Daubeney was accused of illegal embezzlement and was made to turn over his French pension to the king as well as being fined £2,100. Daubeney’s guilt is doubtful. Bonds and recognizances were forms of coercion that Henry used on powerful men in his kingdom to ensure their loyalty, even if he had no reason to doubt it, although Polydore Vergil, among others, ascribes these acts to simple greed. However, since Daubeney's brother John may have been among the rebels during the uprising in the west of England in 1497 that Daubeney himself was sent to quell, the bond may have also been a guarantee of his brother's continued good behavior.

Daubeney had paid some of this debt before his death and had arranged in his will for the payment of the rest as a charge on land in Dorset, Wiltshire, Goucestershire, Hampshire, and Lincolnshire. In the petition Edmund Dudley wrote before being executed by Henry VIII for doing his job too well under the new king’s father, he obviously felt the punishment was too severe—“Item the Lord daubeney had a hard end for his matter of Calais[.]” Evidently the examiners investigating under Henry VIII’s charge agreed because John Yong, keeper of the Rolls and Records in Chancery was ordered to cancel a recognizance of 2,100l., made by Giles lord Daubney, chamberlain to Hen. VII., 5 Dec. 22 Hen. VII., to Sir Thomas Lovell and others; it being found before executors of Henry VII.’s will to have been unjustly obtained. Greenwich, 12 April, 1 Hen. VIII.

Being lieutenant of Calais made Daubeney an obvious choice as an ambassador–which would have occasioned even more expense. He was sent on various diplomatic missions, especially a series for missions to the French king before and after Henry VII’s military foray to the continent. James Gairdner, in his Dictionary of National Biography entry for Daubeney, describes these maneuvers.

In 1490 he was sent to the Duchess Anne in Brittany to arrange the terms of a treaty against France. . . . In June 1492, Brittany having now lost her independence, he was again sent over to France . . . as an ambassador, with Fox, then bishop of Bath and Wells, and four others to negotiate a treaty of peace with Charles VIII. No settlement, however, was arrived at, and the king four months later invaded France and besieged Boulogne. The French then at once agreed to treat, and Daubeney was commissioned to arrange a treaty with the Sieur des Querdes, which was concluded at Etaples on 3 Nov. Daubeney immediately after went on to Amboise, where, the French king having meanwhile ratified the treaty himself, he arranged with him for its future ratification by the three estates of either kingdom. [This was the treaty where Henry VII received his £50,000 yearly French pension and Daubeney received a pension as well.]

Calais was an important and dangerous place. Daubeney was an excellent military leader and a trusted friend and councilor of the king. He was the right man at the right time, and Henry VII put him in the right job as lieutenant of Calais. But his close ties to the kind did not protect him from the king’s penchant for intimidation. In addition, for all the prestige and patronage conferred by the office, Daubeney would probably have spent more than he took in—which would make the charge of fraud seem that much more plausible to Henry.

In the final installment of this series of essays on Calais, I will turn to the career of Henry, Lord Lisle as Lieutenant of Calais, whose fate was much less enviable than that of Giles Daubeney.

Tomb photograph of Giles and Elizabeth Daubeney from Westminster Abbey.
Copyright 2009 Sharon D. Michalove. All rights reserved.
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Friday, March 13, 2009

A Dreadful Expense: Lieutenants of Calais and Power in the Realm (1377-1536), Part I

To scholars of late medieval England, Calais is considered as an integral part of England. However, by the nineteenth century, the average Englishman thought of Calais as thoroughly French and had forgotten that it had ever been England. I was reminded of this when I read William Thackeray’s From Cornhill to Grand Cairo, where, in the guise of Mr. Titmarsh, Thackeray recornts his own travels abroad. In his musings about Smyrna he says “Smyrna seem to me the Eastern [town] of all I have seen; as Calais will probably remain to the Englishman the most French town in the world.” A fifteenth-century Englishman would not have understood this view.

From the time of its first possession by the English crown in the reign of Edward III to the end of English control in 1558, the position of captain, lieutenant or lord deputy of Calais was a prized appointment for members of the English nobility, but custody of the office could be a poisoned chalice. Two of the men who held the position found it so. One ended up being accused of fraud and the other returned to England to face both overwhelming debt and imprisonment. Both will be discussed in further installments. This essay is just a brief introduction to the importance of Calais to English politics in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

When the English lost their last foothold on the continent, Calais, in 1558, Mary Tudor is said to have cried out “When I am dead and opened, you shall find ‘Calais’ lying in my heart.” This loss signaled the end of English dreams of regaining Henry V’s empire in France. Most of the English would have agreed with Mary’s cry of anguish. Calais may not have been among the original English possessions established by William the Conqueror, but it had belonged to England, in fact had been a little England, for 211 years. The loss was a bitter blow, reminding the English of past military glories and present military impotence.

Possession of Calais began during the successful French wars of Edward III, who captured Calais in 1347. After a long siege Edward took the opportunity to recreate Calais in the model of an English town, according to Froissart, entering it with solemn pageantry and expelling the French citizens who lived there. He then induced the English to settle there and included exemption from taxation and special trade privileges as sweetners.

Calais immediately became a vital part of English defense, not only because of its English population, but because of its location. It commanded an important maritime route—the straits of Dover—at the shortest distance between France and England. Calais soon took on an added importance to the crown with the establishment of the wool staple. The export of wool was England’s largest and most profitable foreign trade and it provided a readily accessible form of wealth for taxation and borrowing, two of the most common methods used by the kings of England to maintain their treasuries. By establishing a monopoly over the wool trade in Calais, the king could easily enact the collection of a large subsidy or export duty at English ports when the wool was shipped to Calais for sale on the continent. In addition, the profit on the wool concentrated wealth in the hands of the small group of merchants who made up the staple. They could then lend money to the king.

The king’s authority in Calais rested with his chosen representative, the captain or lieutenant of Calais. Most captains were military men such as Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset; Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; and William, Lord Hastings stood high in the king’s favor (or in the favor of Richard, duke of York as protector in the case of Warwick). The captaincy was highly prized both for the power it conferred on the holder and because of the possibilities for the dispensation of patronage that enhanced the natural power of the office. According to Hugh Trevor Roper in his foreword to The Lisle Letters, edited by Muriel St. Claire Byrne, “To assist [the lord lieutenant], he had a council of officials and a retinue, whose officers were known as ‘Spears’. Commissions as Spears were highly valued—they provided the basis for profitable sidelines—and local officials coveted them for their sons. So did courtiers in England.” In the 1450s, the struggle for control over Calais (and over the government of Henry VI) was a test of strength between the Duke of York and the Duke of Somerset.

The soldiers of Calais could be restive and unruly. A large part of the subsidy paid by the merchants of the Staple was converted into the pay of the garrison. But in the early days of the English occupation, the money did not always get to the soldiers. If the king’s finances were low, the money might be diverted into the king’s coffers. When this happened, most notably in 1407 and 1454, the Calais garrison would rebel In 1407 J. L. Kirby pointed out in that the “wages of the garrison had been grossly in arrears for several years, and now the soldiers seized the wool which was waiting in the merchants’ warehouses to be sold to the Flemings. It was the only form of wealth on which they could lay their hands.” The eventual resolution to this problem came after the 1454 rebellion. Henceforth, the staplers would collect the subsidy, pay the garrison, and account for the surplus at the Exchequer. The staplers, whose need for protection was more immediately evident than that of the king, were more likely to act as honest paymasters. This is not to imply that the king did not recognize the value of the Calais garrison. The point was propinquity.

The standing army in Calais, the only standing army of English troops, protected the Staple. It also protected the king. Still, as Maurice Keen remarks, “[Retainers and tenants] were not always well trained or enthusiastic to serve; that is why the regular troops of the Calais garrison and the reserves that the great northern lords, as Wardens of the Marches, knew how to mobilize at speed, played a disproportionate part in much of the fighting. (It is also why the Yorkist lords, in the crucial years 1459–61), were so determined to keep the captaincy of Calais in their hands.)” While a threat to the realm could come from within or without, the funding for any threat against the English crown was likely to come from without. French kings found that subsidizing discontent within England or financing forays by the Scots were relatively inexpensive ways to keep the English from campaigning in France. However, by maintaining a foothold in France, the French could be kept from attacking the English coast.

Besides the protection afforded by the garrison, Calais could be the eyes and ears of the English king. Calais was a nest of spies from England, France, Spain, Burgundy, and the Empire. Plots of conquest and treason were hatched in Calais. Roger Lockyer, in his study of Henry VII notes that “The atmosphere of these years [1503 and after] is recaptured by an informer’s report to the council of a discussion held among ‘many great personages’ at Calais. They were considering what would happen after Henry’s death, and the informant recalled how ‘some of them spake of my lord of Buckingham, saying that he was a noble man and would be a royal ruler. Other there were that spake in like wise of your traitor, Edmund de la Pole; but none of them spake of my lord prince’ [the future Henry VIII].” The volatility of Calais meant that the king’s deputy in Calais had to be an exceptionally trustworthy member of the king’s court. The patronage that went with the position meant that the garrison might be more loyal to its commander than to its commander-in-chief. An untrustworthy captain like the earl of Warwick, could use his position of authority over the garrison of Calais to threaten the monarchy. This is exactly what Neville did in 1469, when he dropped his allegiance to Edward IV and agreed to support Margaret of Anjou to bring about the readeption of Henry VI. Edward learned his lesson. When he regained the throne in 1471, he made William, Lord Hastings, captain of Calais. Hastings, Edward’s companion in drinking and wenching, was also his most loyal lieutenant and a man who owed his power to the king rather than a man who thought he made kings.

With this background on the importance of the role of Calais in English politics, next time I will look at Giles, Lord Daubeney, as Lieutenant of Calais in the reign of Henry VII.

Manuscript illustrations from the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Royal Engineers Museum.
Copyright Sharon D. Michalove 2009. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A New Blog about History

This will be a blog devoted to essays primarily on early modern history with some excursions into other historical topics of interest to me. My main focus will be on cultural exchange in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and while I will range geographically, my background is in European history so there will be proportionately more about England, France, Burgundy, and Venice. Subjects will include court culture, trade, language, and education as well as politics and biography. I don't expect to publish often since each essay will take time to research and write but will be intended for a general audience as well as for the scholarly community. Read more!