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Seventeenth Century

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Holbein's sketch of Thomas More

Letter from Thomas More to Cardinal Wolsey.


[BL Cotton MS. Galba, B. V. leaf 122.]

Hit may lyke Your good Grace to be advertised, that yesternyghte the Kinges Highnes commaunded me to advertise Your Grace, that his servaunt, Michael the Geldrois, delivered hym a lettre from Monsr de Iselsteyne, which His Grace hath sent unto Yours, in such maner cowched, that it semeth to His Highnes to have proceded not without thadvice of my Lady Margarete, and the Counsaile there. And for as mych as the lettre mencioned credence to be geven to the bringer, in the declaring of the same, he shewed un to His Highnes, on the behalfe of Monsr Deselsteyne, that my Lady, and all the Counsaile there, and among other hym selfe especially, were very sory for this warre intimated un to thEmperour, and mervelouse loth and hevy wold be, that eny warre shold aryse bytweene theym; and that it were to great pitie, and a thyng highly declaring Our Lord sore displeased with christen people, if the thre gretteste Princes of Christendome, cummyng to so nere poyntes of peace and concord, shold, in so nere hope and expectatione of peace, sodaynly fall at warre; beseching the Kinges Highnes graciously to percever in his godly mynde and appetite of peace, and how so ever it shold happe to fall bytwene hym and Spayne, yit to considre his auncient amite, and to continue hys good and graciouse favour towardes Flaundres, and those Lowe Countrees, whiche, of all folke living, lotheste wolde be to have eny enemyte with His Grace, or his people; adding therunto, that if His Highnes had, of his high wisedome, any convenient meanys, by whiche His Grace thought that the peace myght yit be trayned, and cum to good point, that thing knowen, he wold not dowte to cum over hym selfe to His Grace, with sufficient authorite to conclude hit.

Wherun to the Kinges Grace answered, that no creature living, prince nor pore man, was more lothe to have cummen to the warre than he, nor that more labour and travaile had taken, in his mynde, to conduce the peace; which he had undowbtedly brought to passe, if, with thEmperour, either reasonable respecte of his owne honour, profite, and suertie, or eny regard of the comen weale of Christendome, myght have taken place: and sith hit was without his fawte, and agaynst his mynde, cummen to this point, now His Grace muste and wold, with other his frendes, and helpe of God, defend his and theire good cause, and the comen state of Christendome, agaynste such, as by theire immoderate sore dealing, shewe theym selfe utterly sett uppon a purpose to put all in theire awne subjection: and that as towchyng the Lowe Cuntreis, he had, for the old frendeshippe and amite, such favour to theym, that, as it hath well appered by his actis, synnys thintimation, he hath not bene hasty to do theym harme, nor at the least wise to breke any clause of theire olde entercourse, albeit every clause had not bene kepte toward hym; wherin His Grace said that sumwhat thei had now bygon to loke un to, and he dowted not but more they wold, for their honour.

And where as Monsr Deselstayne, uppon the hoope hadde of eny good wais of peace, offred hym selfe to cum over, with sufficient authoritte, His Grace saied, that both for his great wisedome and good zele towardes peace, and olde frendely mynde toward His Grace, of long tyme well knowen, and for thacquayntaunce bytweene theym, with the favour that His Grace hath, for his well deserving merites, long borne un to hym, no man shold be to His Grace more wellcum, nor none could there cum thens, to whom His Grace could fynd in his hart more largely to declare his mynde; in whiche he had conceived such thinges, that he dowted not, if he cam over with sufficient authorite from thEmperour, either he shold conclude the peace, or playnely perceive and confesse hym selfe, that thEmperours immoderate hardnes shold be the onely lett and defawte.

Uppon this the said Michaell saied, that Monsr Desilsteyne wold be glad to know, what those devices were; which knowen, he myght se what hope he myght have of eny frute to cum of his cummyng: wherunto the Kinges Highnes answered, that sith His Grace had made the intimation, it wold not well stande with his honour, after suche a sleight fashion, to make eny overture of such pointes; but if Mons' Desilsteyn cam in such sufficient maner, authorised by thEmperour, he shold not faile to fynde His Grace such, that having so good zele and desire to the peace, he shold have cause to be gladde of his journey. And thus mych the Kinges Highnes commaunded me to advertise Your Grace, concernyng the communication had bitweene His Grace and the said Michael; desiring Your Grace, of your high wisedome, to considre what were ferther to be devised or sett forth, concernyng the said overture of Monsr Desilsteyne.

After this, whan I was goone from His Highnes, hit lyked hym to send agayne for me in to his Prevy Chambre, abowte 10 of the clokke; and than commaunded me to advertise Your Grace, ferther, that he had considered with hym selfe how loth the Low Cuntreis be, to have eny warre with hym; and that hym selfe and Your Grace, if it may be voided, wold be as lothe to have eny warre with theym; and, for that cause, His Grace thinketh it good, that albeit he wold, there were no slakkenes in putting of my Lord Sandes,1 and his cumpany, in a redynesse, yit they shold not over hastely be sent over, leste those Low Cuntreis, being put in more dowte and fere of His Graces entent and purpose toward theym, for some exploit to be done by land, myght be the rather moved to retayne and kepe stil the goodes of his merchauntes, and to begynne also somme busynes uppon thEnglishe pale; which thing, the mater thus hanging, without ferther fere or suspicion added, His Highnes verily thinketh that they will not attempte, but rather, in good hope of peace, accelerate the delivery of his merchauntes goodes; namely, perceiving the discharge of the Spanyardes, whom, by Your Graces moost prudent advice, His Highnes hath condescended shortely to sett at libertie and fre passage.

And His Grace also thinketh, that if my Lord Sandes, with his cumpany, were at Gisnes, they shold be sore preaced by the French partie to joyne with them, in some exploite uppon the borders of Flaundres; which thyng either they shold stifly refuse to do, and therby peradventure move grudge and suspicion; or joyne in the doing, and therby some hurt done un to Flaundres, uppon the fruntiers, myght not onely exasperat the mater, and hynder the peace, causing the goodes of his merchauntes to be retayned, but also geve occasion to have some broilery made uppon the Englishe pale, in which his people myght percase take more harme, than they shold inferre. And whan I was abowte to have shewed His Highnes sumwhat of my pore mynde in the mater, he saied this gere could not be done so sodeynly, but that His Grace, and Yours, shold speke to gether first; and, in the meane while, he commaunded me thus mych to advertise Your Grace of his mynde.

Ferthermore, His Highnes desireth Your Grace, at such tyme as ye shall call the Spanyardes by fore you, to geve theym libertie to departe, hit may lyke you, in such effectuall wise to declare un to theym, what favour His Highnes bereth to the nation of Spayne and how lothe His Grace wold have ben to. have eny warre with theym; that thopinion of his graciouse favour toward theym, comprobate and corroborate by theire discharge, and franke deliveraunce, being by theym reported in Spayne, may move the nobles, and the peple there, to take the more grevousely toward thEymperour, that his unresonable hardenes shold be the cause and occasion of the warre.

His Highnes hath, also, commaunded me to write un to Your Grace, that ther is an Hospitall in Southwarke, wherof His Highnes is enformed that the Maister is olde, blynd, and feble; and albeit that the Hospitall is in the gifte of the Bishoppe of Winchestre, yit His Grace is enformed, that Your Grace may, as Legate, geve the Maister, in this case, a coadjutor; which if Your Grace conveniently may, then His Highnes very hartely requireth Your Grace, that it may lyke you to appoint for his coadjutor, His Graces Chappeleyn, Mr Stanley, which to desire of Your Grace, he saith that 2 thinges move hym, the one that he wold the man were provided for, being a gentle man borne, and His Graces Chappeleyn; the tother is, that His Grace, being therby ridde and dischargyd of hym, myght, as he shortely wold, have a bettre lerned man in his place.

Hit may lyke Your Grace to receive, with thes presentes, such lettres as the Kinges Grace hath yisterday received owte of Ireland; which, after that I had, by His Graces commaundement, redde and reported un to His Grace, he commaunded me to sende theym un to Your Grace, to be by your high wisedome ferther considered, and answeris to theym to be devised, such as to your high prudence shalbe sene convenient. And thus Our Lord long preserve Your good Grace in honour and helth. At Wyndesore, this 16th of Marche.

Your Graces humble Oratour, and
moost bounden Bedisman,

(Signed)   Thomas More.

To my Lord Legates good Grace.

1 Lord Sandys was, at this time, Captain of Guisnes.

State Papers. Vol I. King Henry VIII pts I and II.
London: Public Record Commission, 1830. 284-287.

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