« PreviousContinue »
and situate so opportunely to annoy England either for coast or trade.' But the King's hopes were, that partly by negligence, commonly imputed to the French, (especially in the court of a young King?); and partly by the native power of Brittaine itself, which was not small; but chiefly in respect of the great party that the Duke of Orleans had in the kingdom of France, and thereby means to stir up civil troubles to divert the French King from the enterprise of Brittaine ;3 and lastly in regard of the power of Maximilian, who was corrival to the French King in that pursuit; the enterprise would either bow to a peace or break in itself. In all which the King measured and valued things amiss, as afterwards appeared. He sent therefore forthwith to the French King, Christopher Urswick his chaplain, a person by him much trusted and employed; choosing him the rather becau ie he was a churchman, as best sorting with an embassy of pacification; and giving him also a commission, that if the French King consented to treat, he should thence repair to the Duke of Brittaine and ripen the treaty on both parts. Urswick made declaration to the French King much to the purpose of the King's answer to the French ambassadors here, instilling also tenderly some overture of receiving to grace the Duke of Orleans, and some taste of conditions of accord. But the French King on the other side proceeded not sincerely, but with a great deal of art and dissimulation in this treaty, having for his end to gain time, and so put off the English succours, under hope of peace, till he had got good footing in Brittaine by force of arms. Wherefore he answered the ambassador, that he would put himself into the King's hands, and make him arbiter of the peace; and willingly consented that the ambassadors should straightways pass into Brittaine to signify this his co:sent, and to know the Duke's mind likewise ; well fore seeing that the Duke of Orleans, by whom the Duke of Brittaine was wholly led, taking himself to be upon terms irreconcileable with him, would admit of no treaty of peace; whereby he should in one both
1 Sive bello, sive impediendo commercium.
8 The edition of 1622 has a full stop after Brittaine: obviously a misprint. I have followed the punctuation of the MS.; which certainly has a semicolon, though not clearly written
generally abroad veil over his ambition, and win the reputation of just and moderate proceedings ; and should withal endear himself in the affections of the King of England, as one that had committed all to his will; nay and (which was yet more fine) make faith in him that although he went on with the war, yet it should be but with his sword in his hand to bend the stiffness of the other party to accept of peace; and so the King should take no umbrage of his arming and prosecution, but the treaty to be kept on foot to the very last instant, till he were master of the field. Which grounds being by the French King wisely laid, all things fell out as he expected. For when the English ambassador came to the court of Brittaine, the Duke was then scarcely perfect in his memory, and all things were directed by the Duke of Orleans ; who gave audience to the chaplain Urswick, and upon his ambassage delivered made answer in somewhat high terms: That the Duke of Brittaine having been an host and a kind of parent or foster-father to the King in his tenderness of age and weakness of fortune, did look for at this time from King Henry (the renowned King of Eng
land) rather brave troops for his succours than a vain treaty of peace. And if the King could forget the good offices of the Duke done unto him aforetime, yet he knew well he would in his wisdom consider of the future, how much it imported his own safety and reputation both in foreign parts and with his own people, not to suffer Brittaine (the old confederates of England) to be swallowed up by France, and so many good ports and strong towns upon the coast be in the command of so potent a neighbour King, and so ancient an enemy: And therefore humbly desired the King to think of this business as his own: and therewith brake off, and denied any farther conference for treaty.
Urswick returned first to the French King, and related to him what had passed. Who finding things to sort to his desire, took hold of them ; and said, That the ambassador might perceive now that which he for his part partly imagined before: That considering in what hands the Duke of Brittaine was, there would be no peace but by a mixed treaty of force and persuasion: And therefore he would go on with desired the King not to desist from the other: But for his own part, he did faithfully promise to be still in the King's power, to rule him in the matter of peace. This was accordingly represented unto the King by Urswick at his return, and in such a fashion as if the treaty were in no sort desperate, but rather stayed for a better hour, till the hammer had wrought and beat the party of Brittaine more pliant; whereupon there passed continually packets and despatches between the two Kings, from the one out of desire, and from the other out of dissimulation, about the negotiation of
1 Cupide sed candide
peace. The French King meanwhile invaded Brittaine with great forces, and distressed the city of Nantes with a strait siege,' and (as one who, though he had
· This is Polydore Vergil's statement; who seems, as I said, to have been the original authority for these transactions; and whose narrative could not then be corrected by comparison with more authentic records. Rymer's Fædera however and the Rolls of Parliament enable us now :0 detect inaccuracies of date, which show that his means of informatica were either imperfect or carelessly used; and the researches of mode: historians into the Breton archives supply several material corrections. Bacon seems to have taken Polydore's narrative as his ground-work, to have done his best to make out the meaning of it, and then to have told it as plainly and luminously as he could. And the meaning of it - the ideas and designs of the parties, the ends they were aiming at, and the issues they brought out — he appears to have divined with great accuracy; insomuch that every correction of his story in its details seems to make the truth of his general interpretation more manifest. But as he was obliged to fit his narrative into Polydore's frame-work, which contains several wrong dates, the details are of course very far from accurate. In a story that hangs well together, a single false date will commonly affect the whole sequence of events; and when that false date happens to separate material points that were in fact connected or to bring together material points that were in fact separate, it may even affect the whole series of causes and effects.
Though I know how inconvenient it is for a reader to be continually called away from the story in the text to listen to a different version of it, I fear that in this case the inconvenience must be submitted to. The corrections would not be intelligible to bim if the original story were not fresh in his memory; and if I were to remit them to the appendix, I should be obliged either to repeat the whole or to interrupt him by references to the body of the narrative which would be more troublesome than references from the text to foot-notes. If he wishes therefore to take a true impression of Henry's proceedings in the matter of Brittany, I must ask hiin to pause at the points which I shall indicate, and hear what I have to say before he goes on.
In the present instance, Bacon, following Polydore Vergil, has misdated the siege of Nantes by eight or nine months. It was commenced (see D'Argentré, xiii. 38.) on the 19th of June, 1487, -- only three days after the battle of Stoke; and raised on the 6th of August following, a little before the time when Charles sent his first embassy to Henry. Which if Bacon had known, he would probably have included the fresh failure of this enterprise among Henry's reasons (ree pp. 106, 112,) for thinking that Brittany was not in iminediate dauger from France; especially if lie would have connected it with another fact, which he does not seem to
no great judgment, yet had that, that he could dissemible home 1) the more he did urge the prosecution of the war, the more he did at the same time urge
the solicitation of the peace; insomuch as during the siege of Nantes, after many letters and particular messages, the better to maintain his dissimulation and to refresh the treaty, he sent Bernard Daubigny, a person of good quality, to the King, earnestly to desire him to make an end of the business howsoever. The King was no less ready to revive and quicken the treaty ; and thereupon sent three commissioners, the Abbot of Abingdon, Sir Richard Tunstall, and Chaplain Urswick formerly employed, to do their utmost endeavour to manage the treaty roundly and strongly.
About this time the Lord Woodvile (uncle to the Queen) a valiant gentleman and desirous of honour, sued to the King that he might raise some power of voluntaries under-hand, and without licence or pass
have been aware of, though it is mentioned by D'Argentré, xiii. 41., and which Henry must have known, namely, that the Duke of Brittany did at that very time (24th Sept. 1487) formally entertain Maximilian's suit for his daughter.
But though it is not true that Charles was investing Nantes while the negotiations which Bacon is here speaking of were proceeding, it is true that he was preparing a fresh invasion of Brittany. (See Daru, iji. p. 134.) The inaccuracy therefore does not in this case affect the substantial truth of the narrative.
1 Sed tamen qui simulationum artes in sinu patris optime didicerat.
2 Bernardum Dobenensem, honestum equitem, according to Polydore. We learn from the Herald (Lel. iv. p. 236.) that “the Lorde Dawbeney, embassator of Fraunce” was at Windsor on Twelfth Even, 1487–8: which may have been the occasion Polydore was thinking of. The embassy which he represents as sent by Henry in answer (after some delay, it seems, from the illness of one of the commissioners) was despatched on the 17th of March, 1487–8. See Rymer. This Bernardus Dubenensis was, I suppose, Bernard Stewart, Lord Aubigny; a gentleman of Scotch extraction; who commanded the body or French soldiers that accompaniel Henry to England. See Tytler's Hist. of Scotl. vol. iv. p. 296.