316 The Valois Extinguished

The defeat of the Armada feels in retrospect like a watershed in Elizabeth’s reign; many of her closest advisers and companions died, and for the remainder of her reign England would be at war. Much of that war was fought on land, contrary to the normal story.

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Now then this seems like a good moment to take stock; and indeed I have received a request to give a sort of view of the arc of Elizabeth’s reign, and although we are by no means at the end of Elizabeth’s reign this is a good place to do it. Because the last years of her reign have been seen in some quarters as a sort of Golden Age; the great threat of the Armada had been seen off; a confident and daring England and her navy carry the war to Spain. The iconography of Elizabeth had moved into a new stage – no longer the subject of marriage proposals we have the glittering and victorious Gloriana, her hand laid firmly on the globe. A well-established privy council rules benignly, and population growth fed economic growth, trade grew especially in the city of London, and an increasingly sophisticated economy was better able to feed its people, and then there’s all that literary and drama stuff with that playwright whose name I can never remember.

If that is true, how did we get to this place, what are the salient features of the reign so far? The reign had started of course with the religious settlement, a highly contested settlement it was too, coming on top of the changes of Henry, Edward and Mary’s reigns, contested by Catholics and by the Godly, and a population confused by constant change. Many people expected the settlement to be just the first step – and yet, remarkably it was not; for Elizabeth this was her settlement and despite all the pressures she stuck to her view; and meanwhile evangelising and time made the new church familiar and acceptable to the mass of people. While radicals continued to look for further change, yet there had been no split in the church – puritans stayed within the new Church, and Catholics shrunk to a tiny percentage of the population by the end of the reign. The same uncertainties had occurred in the political arena in the early years; what could be expected of a woman, surely the queen would simply accept the advice of the men on the Privy Council? Elizabeth had proved to be a difficult master to work with, but she was always involved and always determined to make the decisions; she played the game at court expertly while the Privy Council became an effective group who, although frequently exasperated by their boss, ruled effectively, integrated with the nobility of court life. In foreign policy, so fraught and inter changeable and fed by fear of Catholic hostility Elizabeth had been largely non interventionist for as long as possible after a first initial foray wherein fingers had been burnt, but was prepared to intervene in the 1580s when it became unavoidable; and it might be said none of her decisions led to disaster or seriously damaged her realm, something which could not be said for Spain or France. And in the meantime, the Navy Royal had become an effective tool, well regarded by her enemies. So in a sense, as we reach the 1590s, the golden age thing has some guts behind it; looking from a political angle, Elizabeth’s realm seems to be at peace with itself, social order maintained and creativity flourishing.

You can, I imagine, feel a but coming. First of all it depends where you look; because from the perspective of ordinary people, the 1590s were a harsh decade indeed, with years of famine, falling real wages and growing poverty. The dogs of war had conclusively slipped their bonds, and everyone knows that pets cost a packet to maintain, cost a fortune, and one look at Philip’s 3 bankruptcies make that point. And while the Ireland appeared to have been pacified and made English at relatively low financial cost, although at massive human cost, it was about to get much hotter and much more expensive as the Nine Years War or Tyrone’s rebellion, depending on your perspective, made one more desperate effort to retain the independence and traditions of Gaelic lordship. So look, it does indeed feel we are moving into the endgame of Elizabeth’s reign, and the reality was that the last long decade of her reign almost feels like a second reign. The Golden Age thing then is in reality highly questionable, and probably displaying the vitality of the dodo.

Partly of course throughout the 1590s there is the growing sort of fin de siècle feel; central to that was the burning question – how much longer could the Queen last? 57 in 1590 doesn’t sound terribly old to us, but it was of course clear that she would have no heir, and so while the title ‘lame duck monarch’ is unfair, Elizabeth would never be lame, leading members of her court started making nervous glances over their shoulders towards their likely future Scottish ruler, and sending him billets doux. The queen despite her increasingly complicated attempt to maintain her appearance of youth and the now slightly disturbing fiction of courtly love, was beginning to look old. De Maisse, the French ambassador in 1597 described her in more brutal terms than her courtiers did:

She kept the front of her dress open, and one could see the whole of her bosom, and passing low, and often she would open the front of this robe with her hands as if she was too hot. The collar of the robe was very high, and the lining of the inner part all adorned with little pendants of rubies and pearls, very many, but quite small. She also had a chain of rubies and pearls about her neck… As for her face, it is and appears to be very aged. It is long and thin, and her teeth are very yellow and unequal, compared with what they were formerly, so they say,… Many of them are missing, so that one cannot understand her easily when she speaks quickly. Her figure is fair and tall and graceful in whatever she does; so far as may be she keeps her dignity, yet humbly and graciously withal[1]

Now a French Ambassador is unlikely to be a sympathetic audience; and this image needs to be leavened a little; despite her age, Elizabeth had the great gift of good health, and retained much of her energy. An Ambassador from Wurttemberg gushed

‘She stood for longer than a full hour by the clock conversing with me, which is astonishing for a Queen of such eminence and of such great age.’[2]

Energy or not, after the Amada Elizabeth was quickly robbed of many of the servants on whom she’d relied for so long. The first was, without wanting to be melodramatic, the person that was as close to a soul companion as you could get and still be a monarch – Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Through all the vicissitudes, and despite Elizabeth’s fury at his marriage, they had remained close. Tracey Borman gives a nice flavour of the relationship by quoting one of her last surviving letters from 1586, which is relaxed, informal, unselfconscious, unpretentious:

‘Rob, I am afraid you will suppose by my wandering writings that a mid-summer moon hath taken large possession of my brains this month, but you must needs take things as they come in my head, though order be left behind me.’

Dudley had been a companion she had trusted and with whom she could to some degree relax. Soon after he had been at her side at Tilbury, Dudley struggled with illness, and made for Buxton, as you do when you need to be restored. He wrote a letter on the way from Rycote, where there is by the way, a fascinating church where Elizabeth had whorshipped while under guard in Mary’s reign:

I continue still your medicine and find that (it) amends much better than with any other thing that hath been given me. Thus hoping to find perfect cure at the bath, with the continuance of my wonted prayer for your Majesty’s most happy preservation, I humbly kiss your foot

He never made it to lovely Buxton, glory of the Derbyshire Peak District and for that I feel sorry, because there can be few better places to be. He got as far as Cornbury in Oxfordshire before he had to stop, and while no doubt waiting for the Cornbury Music Festival to begin several hundred years later, he died on 4th September 1588. Elizabeth kept to her room for days and would not come out until Burghley forced his way in; and Elizabeth kept his last letter in a casket til her death. Dudley, let’s call him Dudders for one last time, was buried at Warwick, and a 100 man strong procession took him there from Kenilworth. At the head of that procession, was his step son, the son of his wife Lettice Knollys, Robert Devereux by name 2nd Earl of Essex. A dashing young man we shall have occasion to meet again. One more anecdote; Dudley was of course married to Lettice Knollys, and Elizabeth had never forgiven her for marrying her favourite, and banished her from court. Now Dudley died with debts of £50,000. Elizabeth grimly called in those debts, and seized Kenilworth and other properties from Lettice’s possession. Elizabeth did like to bear a grudge for more than a couple of decades. Sic transit gloria Dudders, as Cicero was heard to mutter.

Elizabeth had to deal with the loss of other people close to her as well; particularly with the death in 1589 of the ‘Fair Geraldine’, aka Lady Elizabeth Fiennes de Clinton. They had been companions since childhood, shared intellect and humour; and the queen used Lady Elizabeth on diplomatic missions and her influence with the queen was well known – she became a magnet for the petitions of courtiers looking for favours. A year later, she lost Blanche Parry, who had remained faithfully at her side and become almost an unofficial private secretary.

Others courtiers died too; Walter Mildmay we’ve not talked about very much, but he was a stalwart at court, and died in 1589. Francis Walsingham, who had suffered from recurrent illness since 1571 finally succumbed in 1590; Christopher Hatton died in 1591. Christopher Hatton in particular had been a favourite of the Queen, and Walter Ralegh looked set to succeed him – but Elizabeth banished him when he seduced her maid. Instead, a new man began to appear; when Leicester died, he left no heir, and so those who had relied on his patronage needed somewhere else to go – and often they affixed themselves to his charismatic stepson, Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex.

With the loss of both Leicester and Walsingham, it is said that the support for active intervention to support Protestantism fell somewhat, in favour of Burghley’s greater version to risk. Honestly, I am not sure events support this view, given that 16 years of war lay ahead, including intervention in France. And the person that survives of course was Burghley, but he too had to deal with loss – namely the death of his wife, Mildred Cecil. Their relationship had clearly been close; Mildred was a powerful intellect, who’s talent for Latin and Greek and her correspondence to the fellows of St Johns College in Cambridge, written in Greek, reveal that she was at comfort in that world and deeply interested in classical authors. Together with her extensive charity works locally and for education in Cambridge, she and her husband shared and supported each other; Mildred in a letter wrote of her happiness and ‘everlasting comfort … living with this noble man in divine love and charity’. Burghley himself struggled with denial that his soulmate was gone:

There is no cogitation to be used with an intent to recover that which can never be had again, that is to have my dear wife to live again in her mortal body

Some of the energy leaves Burghley in the 1590s, but none of the shrewdness; and from under his wing emerged his political heir and successor, Robert Cecil – rather than Burghley’s eldest son Thomas, about whom his father was frequently exasperated and disappointed, with the 16th century equivalent of the cry of all modern parents, ’why can’t my children be more like me?’ Robert married Elizabeth Brooke in 1589, a very well connected person in the Queen’s Privy Chamber. In May 1591 Elizabeth visited Burghley at his enormous house Theobalds, where Burghley shamelessly promoted Robert as his natural successor. Incidentally, I believe I have mentioned before how hard Elizabeth’s courtiers lobbied to have their queen do them the honour of a visit – to the extent even of building houses for the purpose. Well, it was an expensive favour when bestowed; this particular visit cost Burghley a cool £1000. Now you might think that’s cheap at the price, and conversions of money to modern equivalents are tricky, but in today’s money that could be in the region of £170,000 for the privilege. However, Burghley would have considered it a thoroughly satisfactory investment; before the end of the visit, his 28 year old son Robert had been knighted, and weeks later he would be appointed to the Privy Council. By 1596, Robert Cecil would be the queen’s private secretary, and Burghley worked constantly through his son, especially when he was ill, corresponding with him in a stream of letters when Burghley was forced to be absent from court. Burghley’s influence and control of patronage prompted his enemies to mutter of a regnum Cecilianum, rule of the Cecil, which was slightly unfair, but reflected his dominance.

Given Burghley and Elizabeth’s supposed famed reluctance to wage war and get involved in spending money, it is ironic that war was such a dominant factor to the end of Elizabeth’s reign, and rather exposes the myth of Elizabeth’s supposed efforts to avoid foreign entanglements; though it is true to say that her approach was very much to minimise costs where she could. So war at sea continued the joint stock approach that was such a feature of Elizabethan naval warfare. This was true from the first expedition following the Armada, England’s own version of the Gran Amada, in 1589.

Full of confidence after their victory, the mission was more enormous than the eponymous crocodile – 23,000 sailors and 180 ships, 60 of which were Dutch making this an Anglo Dutch expedition. Elizabeth’s objectives were to destroy the remnants of the returned Spanish Armada in their ports – but such a huge expedition could not be financed without accessing the pockets of private investors in the City of London. The result was a disaster; and look for all you good folks out there expecting a roll call of glorious victory by the near legendary Elizabethan sailors, you are in for something of a rolling disappointment.

The campaign was led by Francis Drake and a pretty competent commander called John Norris. But the problem was that, as Elizabeth herself grumpily remarked, they ‘went to places more for profit than for service’. Elizabeth’s objective was not quite ignored; they spent a couple of weeks pointlessly besieging Corunna for appearances, and then upped sticks and headed to Lisbon. The idea was that they’d raise Portugal in revolt against its horrid oppressor Phillip II – and make a bundle by capturing Lisbon and the ships in the harbour while they did it. This, Elizabeth had expressly forbidden them to do unless there was widespread and obvious support. When John Norris landed outside Lisbon, the Portuguese essentially said ‘whatevs’ and went back to what they were doing before, which doesn’t fall into the ‘widespread and obvious support bin at all; Norris was forced to abandon the attempt with the loss of 2,000 men to disease. There is only one main advantage to all of this; Spain had once more been shown to be impotent; heretics with guns were walking all over Iberia, and there didn’t seem to be a blessed thing the king could do about it.

Incidentally as a wee footnote, Norris had been joined by the Earl of Essex; Essex had joined Elizabeth’s court and had already attracted her attention, despite having betrayed his default setting as a bit of a loose cannon and rather wild – or maybe, because he was as bit of a loose cannon and rather wild, and also equipped with a shapely calf.  To give you a flavour of the 24 year old, Essex was not a man to suffer other competing peacocks; so he conceived a great hatred of Walter Ralegh, for example, and for a 26 year old at court, one Charles Blount. Blount had scored a bit of a hit with the queen with his skill at the tilt, and she gave him a golden chessman, which Blount pinned to his sleeve. Now of course in the spirit of companionship and an English attitude to fair play, you might think that Essex would share in Blount’s joy. Well in fact he did not; in fact he was distinctly cheesed off and audibly muttered ‘Now I perceive every fool must wear a favour’. In the parlance of the 21st century freedom fighter, Blount called him out, the result was duel, which Blount won by sticking his rapier in Essex’s thigh. Now Essex had defied the queen to ride pell mell and join Drake’s fleet; defying the queen is something to which Essex will not be a stranger. Once in Portugal, Essex had proved his physical bravery, but was over imbued with the chivalric tradition. When repulsed from the gates of Lisbon, he stuck his lance in the gates ‘demanding aloud if any Spaniard mewed therein durst adventure forth in favour of his mistress to break a lance’. Predictably, the response was more eye rolling and whatevs, so Essex had to wander nonchalantly back to join the retreat. Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what we are dealing with here in Essex.

Anyway, once plan B had again bitten the dust, Drake and Norris reverted to the tried and tested plan C – let’s try and capture the Spanish Flota. But by this stage disease had spread in Drake’s fleet, and they were forced to slink off back to blighty empty handed; between one third and a half of their men died, maybe 11,000 men. The queen was livid, Drake and Norris were grilled by the Privy Council. But none the less, the moral of the tale was that Elizabeth simply did not have the money to do the right thing – which was obvious to plenty of people; the Chronicle of Bristol recorded of the disaster that

This army was levied by merchants; whereas in matters of this kind princes only ought to have employed themselves[3]

which hits the nail pretty squarely on the head. But As we have mentioned before I think, there’s no shame in punching the bruise as Alistair Campbell once charmingly remarked, damp, poor and needy England could not afford the bills the Hapsburgs and French regularly paid out for war; so despite the obvious disadvantages, joint stock enterprise it was. And this did indeed yield some sort of benefit; since earth and sky met to create a strategy of sort in trying to cut the sinews of the Spanish war machine by nicking as much silver as possible and ruining Spanish trade in the Caribbean; one key component of the approach was to hover off Iberia to try and hoover up ships coming from the coast and the treasure fleet coming to the Azores. The strategy continually failed – including the sinking of the Revenge in 1591. However, a certain amount of energy and chaos was created by the joint stock approach; between 1589 and 1591, 236 privateering English ships took 300 prizes worth £400,000; in 1592 the Madre de Dios was captured, with a vast value by English budget standards – £80,000 reached the exchequer. This, however, was after £100,000 worth of the cargo had been half inched by said privateers, and a further £60,000 distributed by the PC.  But It was all piecemeal.

The excitement caused by the capture of just one ship, the Madre de Dios rather brutally highlights the difference in scale between English and Spanish resources. Gone now were the days of easy pickings, as Philip invested in a new fleet; a squadron of 1000 ton galleons was started straight away, the 12 Apostles as they were called, and within 10 years of the Armada Philip had 60 to 70 ships available for use in the Atlantic. And however hard the failure of the Armada had hit Philip and the Catholic world, do not think for a moment that the hostility and resolve had been one whit reduced. As soon as the news of the Armada became obvious, Philip was advised to create a new expeditionary force that would

Sail straight to England and find a way to conquer her

Philip declared in response that ‘we are in a state of open war’ which does indeed showremarkable insight, and

I shall never fail to stand up for the cause of God and the well-being of these kingdoms

And also he went to the Cortes to demand yet more money and was rewarded with agreement for a fresh tax because they declared

‘If we defeat this enemy it will end the war in the Netherlands…because England provides them with the means to carry on…the army and navy you send on this campaign will aim to attack and conquer; and in achieving its goal will recover past losses and the reputation of our nation’[4]

Meanwhile William Allen had the Pope Sixtus’ ear, and in 1588 the declaration that Elizabeth was a bastard and schismatic and should be removed from power was renewed. It is worth noting that there was a new, suspicion of a bit of leeway though; the announcement looked for her removal when it was practical to do so, which gave English Catholics maybe a bit of wiggle room. In response though, Burghley indulged again his talent for propaganda; he ordered the release of a letter from a Jesuit called Richard Leigh, which spoke of the Jesuit despair at the collapse of the Armanda and the invasion, laid into William Allen good and proper, and talked of all the careful preparations by the English for their own defence. This was of course, completely fake news and a total forgery by Burghley. I think it’s fair enough to describe Burghley as a bit of a tinker.

Now although we like to focus on Elizabethan Sea Dogs in the finest tradition of history that hoots, in fact most of the critical expense of fighting was spent on land warfare, and in conjunction with foreign allies; the Anglo Spanish war was fought in the Low Countries and in France, as much as the Caribbean and Azores. So it is to there that we must return.

As soon as it was clear that the Gran Armada was a busted flush, the so far relentlessly successful Duke of Parma went on the offensive again, attacking the town of Bergen op Zoom in September. But hey, shock horror – the garrison fought back and the unbeatable Parma was forced to withdraw; yet more damage was inflicted on Spain’s martial reputation. The following year, Parma had another bad one – it started off OK but by August the curse of Spanish operations had returned – all the gains had to be abandoned as the army mutinied. Parma I guess would have begun to feel a little like Sisyphus and his blessed stone. Later in 1589, Parma was beginning to lose the trust of his king; none the less when Parma suggested approaching the Dutch for peace negotiations, Philip’s resolute refusal to contemplate religious toleration showed a tiny, hairline crack, conceding that maybe possibly perhaps if the sun was in the west and the wind from the east he might just conceed toleration for a limited period. It was too little and it was too late; Parma’s failure and the ease with which the Anglo Dutch forces had wandered over Iberia had pulled up the royal Spanish trousers and revealed the feet of clay had done it’s work on Dutch confidence. Like Henry Cooper against Mohammed Ali or Frank Bruno against Mike Tyson, they suddenly thought they had a real chance of winning this. And fortunately their optimism was much better founded than either Henry or Frank’s.

However, despite this burst of confidence, it was events in France which would decide the fate of the war. Let’s return to Henry III. By 1588 Henry III had effectively lost all authority and freedom of action, and had been firmly placed in the Duke of Guise’s pocket, and that of the Catholic League. Under their influence, Henry had been forced to repeal religious toleration, and had excluded the unfortunately protestant Henry of Navarre from the succession in favour of his Uncle, whose claim was even more distant than Henry of Navarre’s; the Duke of Guise was declared Lieutenant General of France, and was supreme, effectively acting king of France. Such a state of affairs was utterly intolerable to Henry III, and despite having allowed himself to be pushed around, the crashing and burning of the Armada stiffened his sinews and he resolved to imitate the action of a tiger. But what to do?

Well a couple of days before Christmas 1588, the king summoned the Guise brothers to the royal chateau at Blois. When the duke Henry of Guise arrived expecting due festivities and welcome, he knew that the king was with Guise’s brother the Cardinal of Lorraine, and so off he trogged to join them. On his way to see the king though, he was politely informed that the king would like to see him in a private room. When he got there, he found not a king armed with a welcoming smile, but the King’s bodyguard armed with less welcoming steel. The Duke of Guise was hacked to death. The following day his brother the Cardinal of Lorraine was also murdered; both were then burned and their ashes thrown into the Seine. So perish the king’s enemies.

Well, when the news got out I think it’s fair to say that the inhabitants of Paris were a little miffed that their Catholic champion’s life had been snuffed; apparently 100,000 citroyens carried candles in a huge procession, holding lit candles in the air as though they were at a Chris de Burgh gig with that hideous Lady in red number, and then simultaneously snuffed out their candles and cried ‘Thus does God extinguish the Valois race!’ which would be a little less usual for a Chris de Burgh concert to be fair. Henry III was faced with the realisation that his latest policy decision could not be described as a vote winner, but given there was no election looming for a couple of Hundred years, Henry kept his head and slipped away to Tours, there to join up with his brother in Law Henry of Navarre. All of this amounted to a declaration of war on the Catholic League, and the French Wars of Religion were once more on fire, with Catholic and Protestant armies duking it out.

Henry of Navarre had undoubted military flair, and it was reasonably clear that the next objective was to seize Paris; by August 1589 the King was at St Cloud just outside Paris with an army, preparing to reduce Paris to its due royal obedience. His servants and advisors informed him that a monk called Jacques Clermont was here to give him some papers and a secret message; obviously a monk presents no threat to anyone, and so he was admitted. Henry might have been less welcoming had he known that Clermont had been in communication with Catherine de Guise. Once before his king, and indicating to him that he had a secret message, he asked Henry to give them a bit of privacy; intrigued at what this secret message could be, Henry ordered his advisers to withdraw, and lent his ear towards Clermont’s cherry lips. He received not a message, but a knife to the guts. In some pain, Henry called his attendants who promptly defenestrated Clermont and had his body hanged drawn and quartered, as you do.

Henry made like the Black Knight and declared it was but a scratch but by the following day he was clearly heading toastwards, and gathered his people around him and told them to recognise Henry of Navarre as Henry IV their king. And then died. His army disintegrated and his supporters grieved; meanwhile Paris hit the party button and celebrated with some joy.

It was clear, therefore that Henry IV would have to fight for his throne. Against him was not just the Catholic League, but also the most catholic monarch Phillip II, who had consistently bankrolled the League for years; about 1m crowns between 1582-1587 and another 2m in 1588-9. To set against this behemoth, Henry had his undoubted military flair and the support of the English minnow; Elizabeth sent him £20,000 in September 1589 and a contingent of 4,000 soldiers under the command of Roger Williams; the English arrived just in time to force the League to fall back from Arques, where Henry had been under attack; Henry was now able to go onto the offensive and together with the English he inflicted a heavy defeat on the League at Ivry in March 1590 and marched on Paris.

This was too much for Philip – this he could not accept, not a Prot as king of France, and he realised that despite the appalling breadth of his commitments, he would now have to add another one. He wrote to Parma

My principal aim is to secure the well-being of the faith in France and see that Catholicism survives and heresy is excluded…and so…you see it is necessary for my troops to enter France openly

On 27th July, Parma left the Netherlands with an army of 20,000; on 19th September he entered Paris to the delight of the Parisians, and Henry was forced to withdraw. Parma’s actions were highly significant – they ensured that the war continued, for if Henry had entered Paris and been crowned, it might well have been all over. But Phillip knew there’d be a price, and he knew what it was

The affairs of France create obligations that we cannot fail to fulfil because of their extreme importance and since we must not undertake too many things at once because of the risk that they will fail (and because my treasury will not allow if) it seems that we must do something about the war in the Netherlands, reducing it to a defensive footing

The war now entered a new phase; Parma was near the end of his tether, running between the Low Countries and France, sticking his fingers in the dykes as it were to stop his conquests being swept into the sea. The Dutch weren’t super quick to respond, but they had a very competent commander in the form of Maurice of Nassau, William of Orange’s son; so the city of Breda was captured by the Dutch, and the Spanish forced out of the towns they still held in the north east of the United Provinces. In 1591 and 2 Parma did his best to hold the line in the Netherlands, while rushing to France to raise Henry’s siege of Rouen. In the end it was all too much for him; he died in November 1592 at Arras.

Meanwhile. Elizabeth was continuing to send support to Henry; and in 1591 this included the brand new shiny favourite, Essex. Elizabeth had to be persuaded to give him his command, having sent more troops already under an experienced commander, John Norris. But Essex would have his day, and he arrived for service in Normandy at the head of 4,000 troops. Elizabeth wrote a letter to Henry IV about Essex which is revealing – dazzling favourite Essex might be, but the canny Elizabeth knew what she was dealing with, and also incidentally, it’s a nice early example of the English disease of self deprecation:

If, which most I fear, the rashness of his youth does not make him too precipitate, you will never have cause to doubt his boldness in your service, for he has given too frequent proofs that he regards no peril, be it what it may, and you are entreated to bear in mind that he is too impetuous to be given the reins. But, my God, how can I dream of making any reasonable requests to you, seeing you are so careless of your own life. I must appear a very foolish creature, only I repeat to you that he will require the bridle rather than the spur.

The war had entered a new phase in another sense – although imports of silver from the new world were higher than ever, the core of Philips domains, the kingdom of Castile was being reduced to a desert by the constant exactions and the impact of war on Trade. An exasperated advisor declared that:

The population is declining and in such a way that many reliable people who have come from various parts of the kingdom say that it is a marvel to meet anyone in the smaller villages so that sowing and harvesting are rapidly coming to an end

In March 1591 Castile, Sicily and Aragon all broke out in revolt over taxes and Phillip’s rather imperious imposition of unpopular viceroys. As it happens Philip had already gathered an army to go to France, and had overwhelming force available with which to crush the revolt; but the consequences of Phillip’s imprudence and refusal to scale back his commitments were bearing a fruit that would grow increasingly bitter in the following century.

Meanwhile in France Henry of Navarre, Protestant Champion was also considering a radical throw of the dice to bring to an end the conflict tearing his country apart.

And we will hear how he proposes to do that next week ladies and Gentlemen, girls and boys. Until then, have a fabulous time. Thanking you all for listening and so on I feel sometimes seems a bit like wallpaper, so let me specifically focus on saying that reviews I get on iTunes and Comments on my website are a joy, and really make a difference. So thank you.

OK, don’t forget the Anthony Nolan 50 mile slog, just go to justgiving.com/fundraising/shedcasters to donate or to the history of England Website or Facebook Group, see you all next week for a bit more zinging.

[1] Watkins, S-B Elizabeth I’s Last Favourite p94

[2] Borman, Tracy. The Private Lives of the Tudors: Uncovering the Secrets of Britain’s Greatest Dynasty. Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.

[3] Guy The Tudors p349

[4] Parker, G Imprudent King pp330-1

13 thoughts on “316 The Valois Extinguished

  1. I always get a little leap of excitement when I see an episode’s length exceed the 40 minutes mark, and this one was a doozy.
    I felt a wee bit emotional when I heard William Cecil’s comments on the death of his wife. It’s those little glimpses that remind us we are dealing with real people in these stories, even if they wore utterly silly things like ruffs.

    Incidentally, is there much evidence of how well Elizabeth and Henri of Navarre knew each other?

    1. Elizabeth and Henry IV never met, which is a tragedy almost as high as Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots never meeting. And yes; I thought it important to talk about Mildred Cooke, she was obviously a force in her own right, and very important to Cecil, and yet it’s so hard to really understand that kind of bond and mutual support so far away – but as you say it at least reminds us that these are human beings with all the limits all of us have

  2. I must admit I was waiting for this one almost as eagerly as the Armada episode! Obviously the events described are very well known in the french-speaking world (to the point where Henri’s possibly real-possibly not pre-battle speech at Ivry is the french version of the Saint Crispin’s Day Speech) and it is mighty interesting to see it from a different perspective!

    Incidently, I always felt that Henri IV and Elizabeth not meeting is just as much of a tragedy then the later not meeting Mary Stuart, altough in a different way. Both monarchs would grow to be downright legendary in their own ways and there were arguably the two main reasons why Spanish hegemony over Europe never came to pass (altough a mention of the House of Orange must be made too).

    1. How interesting! I must admit that I have often been tempted to dive wholeheartedly into a history of the French, but obviously I’d never get above ground; but its such a fascinating story of course, and we are so closely linked. I did not know about the speech; is this it:
      “Companions! If you today run at risk with me, I will also run at risk with you; I will be victorious or die. God is with us. Look at his and our enemies. Look at your king. Hold your ranks, I beg of you; and if the heat of battle makes you leave them, think also of rallying back: therein lies the key to victory. You will find it among those three trees that you can see over there on your right side. If you lose your ensigns, cornets or flags, do never lose sight of my panache; you will always find it on the road to honour and victory.”

      1. Of course, quite understandable!

        And yes, it is! For some context: Henry’s panache was a white paon’s feather he had on top of his helmet.

        IMO it was more or a less a way to tell his men that ”yes, what I am asking of you is very dangerous and difficult but I wpuld never ask you to go somewhere I am not willing to go and do something I am not willing to do. Your lives will be in danger but I will in the front line, exposing myself to the most danger out of anybody else!”

  3. Wonderful episode, highlighting one of the greatest pleasures to be gained from your work: showing how history is made outside of Great Moments with Great Men (sic). Yes, you defeat the Armada and here comes Philip back again, just as sure as before that God is a Habsburg. Very useful to place English history in its European context.

    Interesting how Philip used people and kingdoms up: having thrown away Antonio Perez, quietly murdered some Dutch noblemen and his own half-brother’s secretary, used up and disgraced Alba, worn Parma out with too many priorities, sent Medina Sidonia on a hiding to nothing, on Philip goes, destroying Castile etc. by demanding it pay for him policing the world. A novel I read once said: “She (Elizabeth) knows how many beans make five. He (Philip) will always try to make them six or seven.“

    Elizabeth pinched pennies because she knew how few she had, and, once she gave someone her confidence, with the notable exception of Essex, he/she kept it and often made their fortune.

    Also nice to hear more about Henry IV, a fascinating character, and one who also knew how many beans make five.
    Many thanks!

    1. Philip II strikes me as the type of intelligent, hard-working person who just cannot understand that others may see things differently, and therefore is constantly surprised when they eventually fail to support him. People like him make excellent engineers, lawyers, administrators, etc, but terrible leaders and managers. A fascinating monarch nonetheless.

      1. I think also that we find it difficult to understand the level of religious certainty and passion that drove our ancestors. Phillip was surely not alone in that; it’s just that he happened to be emperor of the most powerful entity in Europe at the time! I think Geoffrey Parker’s criticism of him is simply that he continually failed to focus.

        1. True, but it wasn’t just failing to focus; it was also a reliance on God to pull
          Philip’s chesnuts out of the fire (on the theory that God’s agenda was the same as Philip’s). As predicted by less messianic imperialists, God tired of working miracles for Spain or, rather, its king.

          1. Yes! In confident expectation of a miracle. On the other hand he wasn’t alone in that in early modern Europe…

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