Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part VI

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd:  Part VI

Elizabeth’s ability to have children would surface in all marriage negotiations no less those for her alliance to the Hapsburgs.  As early as December 14, 1558, de Feria’s diplomatic assessments to King Philip, the potential bridegroom, were determining that Elizabeth would be “more likely to have children on account of her age and temperament”, than Mary (Hume Simancas: December 1558 4).  Surprisingly, in a short amount of time—April 1559—the evaluation had changed. Now with Philip’s proposal rejected and an Archduke put forward as candidate, de Feria informed his king that

“If my spies do not lie, which I believe they do not, for a certain reason which they have recently given me I understand she will not bear children” (Hume Simancas April 1559 29).  Bishop Quadra continued this premise in January 1561 in a letter to Philip, where he disrespectfully referred to the Queen as ‘this woman’. He stated that he “must not omit to say also that the common opinion, confirmed by certain physicians, is that this woman is unhealthy, and it is believed certain that she will not have children, although there is no lack of people who say she has already had some, but of this I have seen no trace and do not believe it” (Hume Simancas January 1561 122).

A Hapsburg Archduke Should Do the Trick

Philip’s next move was to get Elizabeth to marry a Hapsburg archduke.  Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Count de Feria, was recalled to Spain upon his request but for several months in the spring and early summer of 1559 attended Court with his replacement.  For this particular assignment, Philip sent his newly-appointed ambassador, Alvarez de Quadra, Bishop of Aquila, to discuss the situation with the Queen.  As with de Feria, Philip received a detailed report of all that transpired. 

When approached by the Bishop, the Queen began to “talk about not wishing to marry and wanted to reply in that sense” to which de Quadra “cut short the colloquy” to assure Elizabeth he did not want an answer.  Talks continued with Cecil concerning the various marriageable candidates from Austria.  Cecil implied that had it not “been for the impediment of affinity the Queen would have married your Majesty [Philip], but the matter involved religious questions….” The Bishop had no qualms to stop this course of discussion either as “it would be fruitless now to discuss as the offer had fallen through” (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).  The Ambassador interpreted the message as being the Queen’s way to secretly show interest in marrying, despite protestations that she would remain unwed.

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William Cecil

He returned to the discussion with Elizabeth to encourage her to see that “in a matter of this gravity touching the welfare and tranquillity of their kingdoms and those of their neighbours kings and queens could not always follow their own desires to the prejudice of those of their subjects without doing great wrong and grievous sin, and therefore she should not consult her own inclination about her marriage but should look at the ruin that would come to her country by her doing so” (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).   He said he wanted “to clear the ground and find out whether all this means a desire not to marry at all or simply to avoid a Catholic husband…”  Holding on to his patience, de Quadra listened as the Queen “went back again to her nonsense and said she would rather be a nun than marry…. We continued at this for some time wasting words and at last she said she was resolved not to marry except to a man of worth whom she had seen and spoken to”  (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).

When Elizabeth had learned Philip had signed a marriage treaty with Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Henri II of France, she pretended to be annoyed.  After teasing Philip for being fickle and not being enough in love with her to wait longer for a conclusive answer to his proposal, Elizabeth herself was willing to listen to the Austrian proposal within a few short weeks.  The German and Spanish Ambassadors presented the idea formally to the Council.  Bishop Aquila reiterated an alliance between the Hapsburgs would please Philip not only “on account of the Queen’s own happiness and the welfare of her subjects, but also in the interest of the lasting alliance and union” (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).  Perhaps more to assure himself, de Quadra stated that “ so clearly is the need for her to marry being daily more understood by herself and her advisers, notwithstanding her disinclination to say yes, I need not despair of her listening to the proposal” or her councilors being receptive to it (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).  Despite this bravado, de Quadra could not definitively state her intentions.  He confessed to his King, “I am not sure about her for I do not understand her” (Hume Simancas May 1559 35).  She had him just where she wanted him.

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Elisabeth of Valois

Count de Feria, in one of his final letters to Philip, defended the queen in the negotiations concerning the Hapsburg match by saying he believed she approached the offer openly.  Yet, his confidence was not solid when he confessed, “although to say the truth I could not tell your Majesty what this woman means to do with herself, and those who know her best know no more than I do” (Hume Simancas April 1559 27).

Outcome

Formal introductions of Alvarez de Quadra, Bishop of Aquila as future Spanish Ambassador to England were part of the 12 April dispatches to de Feria from Philip II.  Included was the news that although Philip did not marry the English Queen, the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand I (Philip’s uncle) was interested in putting forth one of his sons as candidate.  Philip agreed to “promote and favour” either nephew. Believing that it would be “very good for all parties” (Hume Simancas April 1559 25).  Count de Feria was to get an audience as soon as possible with the Queen to let her know that Philip agreed to the idea of her marrying a Hapsburg Archduke.  The Ambassador was to “tell her that as the love I bear her is that of a good brother, I am always thinking of what will conduce to her welfare and the stability of her kingdom…”  (Hume Simancas April 1559 25).  Still not letting go of the possibility of the English making a complete conversion to Catholicism, Philip was adamant for his Ambassadors to ensure she accept the proposal and gave multiple reasons for the “good feeling which have prompted me to propose it” (Hume Simancas April 1559 25).

Philip was persistent in expecting the English to continue to see him with gratitude and as rescuer.  He instructed de Feria on April 24th to deliver a letter to Elizabeth telling him that its purpose was so that “they may understand thoroughly that they are ruined unless I succor and defend them…when you have frightened the Queen about this …you will assure her from me that I will never fail to help her in all I can to preserve her realm and settle her own affairs exactly the same as if they were my own” (Pryor 31). 

Philip’s message was clear in the letter written to Elizabeth.   As seen in the translation from the Spanish of line 11, he wrote, “…this business affects nothing less than the safety of your kingdom, and you may be assured that in this as in any other matter which affects you I shall be as attentive as I have been in the past…” (Pryor 31).

Feria letter

Letter to Elizabeth from Philip II in Spanish from 24 April 1559.

Elizabeth acquired the letter on the 28th and very soon after de Feria sent off a dispatch to his king assuring him that he “tried to frighten her” and that she had “answered amiably” and “she thanked your Majesty for your message.”  Then the Count was told by the Queen that England would pass Protestant settlement legislation.  A dispirited de Feria grumbled, “It is very troublesome to negotiate with this woman, as she is naturally changeable, and those who surround her are so blind and bestial that they do not at all understand the state of affairs” (Pryor 31).

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part V

Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd:  Part V

Already in December of 1558 Gómez Suárez de Figueroa, Count de Feria was plotting how to approach Elizabeth on marrying King Philip.  He knew that she was convinced that a foreigner was too divisive for the realm.  Added to this he had to persuade her not to marry an Englishman by pointing out that she would not want to “hold herself less than her sister, who would never marry a subject” (Hume Simancas: December 1558 4). His strategy included telling her it would look bad for her to marry a subject where there are so many worthy princes.  “After that we can take those whom she might marry here and pick them to pieces one by one, which will not require much rhetoric, for there is not a man amongst them worth anything” (Hume Simancas: December 1558 4).  The Count would stress the need for an alliance with Spain against the French threat and add the argument of maintaining the Catholic faith to secure her throne.  Okay, he had the strategy, now to implement it.

Philip’s Decision to Propose Marriage

Philip’s instructions to his ever-faithful ambassador, de Feria, on 10 January 1559 were to propose marriage to Elizabeth Regina when de Feria could obtain a private audience with Elizabeth.  The ever-cautious king did stipulate that Count Feria was not to propose any conditions until he ascertained “how the Queen is disposed towards the matter itself” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).  Philip did struggle with his conscience and “many great difficulties” but he “decided to place on one side all other considerations which might be urged against it” and was “resolved to render this service to God, and offer to marry the queen of England”  (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).  He wrote to his Ambassador in England that he believed as a faithful Catholic he had “to sacrifice my private inclination” and if “it was not to serve God, believe me, I would not have got into this… Nothing would make me do this except the clear knowledge that it would gain the kingdom [of England] for his service and faith” (Somerset 107).

The difficulties Philip envisioned with the marriage included his obligation to be in his other dominions and therefore could not be in England; Elizabeth’s lack of sincere commitment to the Catholic faith; the French perceived threat to their interests; and, Spain’s exhausted treasury.  Despite these and “many other difficulties no less grave,” Philip admits that he “cannot lose sight of the enormous importance of such a match to Christianity and the preservation of religion” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).   Philip did not think he could, in all conscience, risk the loss of England, and put neighboring countries in danger, to the Protestant faith.  

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Philip II by Anthonis Mor Van Dashorst, 1549-1555

Philip figured that as Elizabeth would have to be Catholic to marry him, it would “be evident and manifest” that he was “serving the Lord in marrying her and that she has been converted by his act” (Hume Simancas January 1559 8).   Not so astonishingly, Philip wanted to portray himself with having the upper hand, being seen as the benefactor of as many things as possible and to once again force a sense of obligation on Elizabeth.

Count de Feria, so loyal to his country and king, could not contemplate that Elizabeth would not readily marry Philip.  Imagine his surprise when she thanked him for the compliments but requested time to think it over—which she did for several months. 

Perhaps de Feria would have done well to have remembered Elizabeth’s comments in November 1558 when she referred to the loss of the peoples’ affections that her sister Mary experienced upon marriage to a foreigner.  This topic was discussed more thoroughly in the blog entry, “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part IV” at http://www.elizregina.com.

Elizabeth told de Feria that she would lay the question before her Privy Council and Parliament.  The Ambassador certainly had an ear to the ground.  He heard the rumblings that Elizabeth’s First Parliament was going to push forward the issue of her marriage (this topic has been discussed in the blog entry “Heir Unapparent” at https://elizregina.com/2013/04/02/heir-unapparent/).  He advised his king on 31 January 1559 “to wait for Parliament to press the Queen to marry” which she did not want to have happen.  If she did declare her choice while Parliament was sitting, “if the person chosen is not to their liking they could use the national voice to stop the affair” (Hume Simancas January 1559 13).

Elizabeth assured Count de Feria that if she were to marry anyone it would be Philip. Of course, the councilors were against it, just as she probably suspected they would be.  Elizabeth understood the diplomatic responses she had to make.  She was holding out on giving a true answer as she waited for the international scene to unfold and she did not think it was politic to turn Philip down outright, as she needed Spain and his good will.

One objection Elizabeth raised to the marriage was the consanguinity of her relationship with Philip. As the widow of her sister, she walked the fine line as her father had married his brother’s widow.  Henry VIII divorced Catherine of Aragon based on the violation of the Book of Leviticus.  A dispensation from the Pope would tactically admit her illegitimacy by saying that she and Philip could marry; there could be no way to apply the objection of consanguinity to Henry and Catherine’s marriage because if they were legally married, Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn would have been bigamous.

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Elizabeth Regina, Coronation Portrait

By the time of his letter to his King on February 12th, de Feria was clued to Elizabeth’s responses and her delays.  He reported that at his audience with her the day before she “began to answer me by keeping to her old argument for not wishing to marry” but when he “cut short the reply” and pressed for an answer his exasperation could be felt.  “I soon understood what the answer would be, namely, that she did not think of marrying, and so to shelve the business with fair words” (Hume Simancas February 1559 14). So ended this conversation, yet, the Count’s optimism could not be curtailed.  He believed that even though he “would have no answer that was not a very good one” he “left the matter open” (Hume Simancas February 1559 14).

By February 12, Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador to King Philip’s Court was conceding that “the discussion about the Queen’s marriage to this King has in great measure ceased, and it seems that the whole of this negotiation will depend on the resolve of Parliament about religion” (Brown Venice February 1559 21).

Some flippancy could not be held back from a London writer in correspondence with Paulo Tiepolo. Tiepolo related that the Londoner revealed that “Parliament also sent a deputation to pray the Queen that she will be pleased to marry within the Realm” and although no particular candidate was mentioned “her Majesty, after having first made some verbal resistance to the first point, as becoming a maiden, replied that to oblige them she would marry; adding with regard to the second point, that she had well seen how many inconveniences her sister was subjected to, from having married a foreigner. Obviously, knowing Elizabeth fairly well, the correspondent continued “some persons are of the opinion that she will marry to please herself (as it seems to me that I also should do the like), and perhaps a person of not much lineage. Amongst those most frequently mentioned is a gentleman who is now in Flanders, and who is said to be ill there. Guess who he is!” (Brown Venice February 1559 19).  Robert Dudley never was out of peoples’ thoughts as Elizabeth’s possible consort.

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Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester 

One thing that discomposed the Ambassador was the suspicion he had over the integrity of his correspondence with Spain.  He wrote to his fellow ministers in a debriefing at the end of February 1559 that sometimes it seemed as if Elizabeth could read his thoughts.  He speculated that Elizabeth was “so well informed about this that it looks as if she had seen His Majesty’s letters.  This should be taken good note of” (Hume Simancas February 1559 17).

The Rejection

On 19 March, de Feria shared with Philip that during his audience with Elizabeth she told him “she could not marry your Majesty as she was a heretic. I was much surprised to hear her use such words and begged her to tell me the cause of so great a change since I last discussed the subject with her, but she did not enlighten me” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

By this time the international situation had shifted as she was in sounder diplomatic standing with France and she could not keep up the pretext that she would be a Catholic.  She and Parliament were pressing forward with religious changes as de Feria wrote to Philip on March 18th that she was “resolved about what was yesterday passed in Parliament, and which Cecil and Chamberlain Knollys and their followers have managed to bring about for their own ends” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

Feria was quite astounded by her response which he could only contribute to those heretics who “leave no stone unturned to compass their ends that no doubt they have persuaded her that your Majesty wishes to marry her for religious objects alone, and so she kept repeating to me that she was heretical and consequently could not marry your Majesty” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  Fearful of losing the objective Feria told his King that he assured her that he “did not consider she was heretical and could not believe that she would sanction the things which were being discussed in Parliament, because if she changed the religion she would be ruined” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).

Now we see the blend of religious policy, marriage policy and foreign policy. In Spanish eyes to balance all three was virtually impossible. Those Spanish eyes were not viewing Elizabeth Regina in all her determined glory.  Elizabeth was determined to return her country to the Church of Henry VIII if not Edward VI; she was determined not to marry; and she was equally determined to pacify French and Spanish demands.  Paulo Tiepolo wrote from Brussels on 19 March 1559 to the Doge that the Bishop of Aquila told him that Elizabeth risked “alienating herself entirely from the Catholic religion” but he also “bestowed on her as much praise for talent and ability as was ever given to any other woman” (Brown Venice March 1559 44).  High praise indeed.

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Lorenzo Priuli, Doge of Venice

Philip wrote to his Ambassador, Count de Feria, on 23 March after the negotiations for marriage to Elizabeth had failed expressing lukewarm regret.  “By your letters and by the bishop of Aquila I am informed of the Queen’s decision about the marriage, and, although I cannot help being sorry that the affair has not been arranged, as I greatly desired and the public weal demanded, yet as the Queen thinks it was not necessary and that with good friendship we shall attain the same object, I am content that it should be so” (Hume Simancas March 1559 19).

Elizabeth was to rely on Philip’s “friendship implicitly so that no opportunity shall be presented for the French to be appealed to in case of necessity.…”  The Hapsburg interests emerged in the direct mission for de Feria: “The main end and aim that you must have in view in all things is to obstruct and impede, by every way, form and means, any rupture between the Catholics and heretics in England, this being the best course for the pacification of the country, and for the welfare of our interests, as it will deprive the French of any excuse for putting their foot in the country, which is the thing principally to be avoided” (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).  Quite an assignment.

As always Philip needed to cover all his bases.  Worried that “the Queen might perhaps think I was offended at her rejection of the marriage,” he wrote a separate letter to de Feria that was to be presented to Elizabeth. For a man who approached the proposal feeling “like a condemned man awaiting his fate” (Somerset 107), he wanted to maintain the idea of friendship between them.  The letter Feria was commissioned to give to Elizabeth stressed to her that Philip was “quite satisfied with what pleases her.”  Feria was given a bit of leeway by his boss to give the necessary “complimentary words and offers of service…in accord with the contents of the letter” and Spanish interests (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).

It is good to see Philip acknowledge the diligence of his hard-working Ambassador by including in the letter praise for “the prudence, moderation and zeal” Count de Feria had shown in all his dealings with the Queen.  The King thanked his servant but could not help but send a not-so-subtle message that he expected Feria “to continue the same care, diligence and good will in the guidance of affairs touching my interests” (Hume Simancas March 1559 20).

The King wanted his ambassador to ensure the Queen understood that he would always be ready to assist her and cooperate with her government.  Philip did want to assure her that he would “preserve the good friendship and brotherhood that I have hitherto maintained.” Elizabeth was also to be advised that Philip would “render her any service in the matter of her marriage …with all the goodwill …ever shown in matters that concern her” (Hume Simancas March 1559 19).

Elizabeth took the chance to tease de Feria on his master’s inconstancy saying that if Philip would not change religions for “all the kingdoms of the earth” then “much less would he do it for a woman.”  Feria’s romantically diplomatic answer was that “men did more for a woman than for anything else” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  According to his report, Elizabeth shifted the line of the interview by discussing the large sums of money taken out of the country every year for the Pope and that she knew it must be ended.

Interestingly, Feria revealed a maneuver on the part of Sir Francis Knollys.  He said that about a half hour after they were talking, Knollys came to announce supper was ready.  Feria clearly thought this was “arranged by those who are working this wickedness, for there is nothing that annoys them more than that I should speak to her.”  He took his leave and informed Philip that he told her “that she was not the Queen Elizabeth that I knew and that I was very dissatisfied with what I had heard, and if she did what she said she would be ruined” (Hume Simancas March 1559 18).  Pretty courageous fellow.

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 Sir Francis Knollys

For references, please refer to the blog entry “Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: Part I.”