It is to be regretted that the series of Letters is not continuous. They extend from 1475 to 1488, but are more frequent in 1480, 1481, and especially 1482. In 1483 there is very interesting, but obscure, reference to the revolution which set Richard III upon the throne. Otherwise, the politics of Flanders are of more interest to the writers than those of England. The Cely family, the writers of these Letters, were merchants of the Staple doing business in London, in the latter part of the fifteenth century. The family was, perhaps, Cornish in origin, but at this time they owned land in Essex at ‘Brytys Place,’ later called Bretts, in Alveley or Aveley parish, Essex. The head of the family was Richard Cely, who died either quite at the end of 1481, or very early in 1482. He was alive and well in November 1481, and his death is referred to in January 1482. His three sons were Richard, Robert and George. Richard was the eldest son. He administered his father’s estate after his death, set up his ‘twmbe,’ and resided at ‘Brytys Place.’ It is not clear if Robert or George came next. Robert appears as being in London and writing business letters in 1477, when George was at Calais, the usual post of a junior member of the firm. But Robert, as we shall see, was a ne’er-do-well, who dropped out of the business altogether, and was befriended by George with more generosity than wisdom, in Richard’s judgement, in a way which suggests that George was the elder. We hear of a John Cely, who, writing to George, speaks of my sister, your aunt; whence we should suppose he was old Richard’s brother, though George also calls him cousin. Old William Cely is also mentioned — perhaps another brother of the elder generation. After old Richard’s death, a William Cely is the agent in Calais, not a brother to Richard and George; he writes to them as his masters. He was presumably a cousin, son to old William or John. One William Maryon is also, apparently, a member of the firm or at least accustomed to act with them. He was godfather to Richard the younger. He has a nephew,1 Robert Eyryk, who was George’s godson, as we gather from himself. He prays George to be ‘my god godfader’ in a certain matter, that is, of lending him 40l without security. ‘Nihil for the xlli of Robert Erykkes,’ notes George.
The whole family and their connexions were continually passing backwards and forwards between England, Calais and Flanders, except old Richard, who at the date of the Letters confined his journeys to England. It was the business of one junior member to superintend the business in Calais, and to travel thence, with more or less peril in time of war, to the various marts in Flanders. In England there was need of frequent journeys to buy wool and fells, generally down to Gloucestershire. The mention of the family is hardly complete without adding their trusty servant, Joyce Parmenter, whose name suffers peculiar indignities from the cacography of his betters, and becomes Goos sometimes. Parmenter was, no doubt, an Essex man; it is an Eastern Counties name.
There is no trace in the Letters of any connection with Staple Inn in Holborn. The London residence and place of business of the Celys was in Mark Lane. Their wool was weighed for the assessment of custom and subsidy at the Leadenhall. Mark Lane is indifferently spelt Mark, Marke, Martte, Marthe or Martt. Mark is a corruption, no doubt. ‘The Mart’ also existed in Calais and at Bruges, and elsewhere in the Netherlands. It is near the river and under the shadow almost of the Tower that we must place the centre of the English wool trade, not in a distant suburb. We can even settle approximately in what part of Mark Lane they lived. The northern half of Mark Lane is, or was, in the parish of All Hallows, Staining; the southernmost quarter, about, in that of All Hallows, Barking. The remainder is in that of St. Olave’s, Hart Street; and this was the church to which the Celys gave offerings, though they conceal the fact by writing of it as ‘Sent Tolowys scryssche.’ They lived, therefore, probably rather south of the middle of Mark Lane.
Richard Cely, jun., who wrote ‘Sent Tolowys,’ also writes ‘Sent Telen’ and Sent Tanys’ for St. Helen and St. Anne’s and buys ‘a nox’ for sixteen shillings.
Nevertheless, with many eccentricities of spelling, Richard, jun., and George write and spell better and use better English, than their father, Richard, or than most of the casual correspondents whose letters are included. The spelling is usually fairly phonetic, but certain passages of evidently careless writing and omission of words defy any but conjectural emendation. Perhaps the worst writer of all is Sir John Weston, Prior of the Hospitallers. Only one letter of his is printed. References to him are very numerous. He, ex-officio premier baron of England, seems to have usually resided on his Essex estates close to the Celys. To them he is ‘My Lord,’ though their land was not held of him. It is significant of the state of society that they had coats made of his livery. It extends our view of the evil, against which Henry VII set himself successfully, to find well-to-do merchants becoming the dependents in that way of a nobleman, and to see a quasi-spiritual peer providing a following, as any Neville or Stafford might have done. Liveried retainers of this stamp were worth a hundred grooms or yeomen, being as times went distinctly rich men.
The Merchants of the Staple, the corporation to which the Celys belonged, were the most notable trade association of England. From the time of Edward I, after an abortive attempt by Edward III to let trade find its own channels, English Governments successively pursued the policy of establishing Staples for the sale of English produce, forcing export trade into certain centres for distribution. In 1363 the only Staple for the chief English goods was fixed at Calais; ‘no wools, skins, worsteds, cheese, butter, lead, tins, coal or grindstones’ were to be exported from England, except to Calais. The Staple was removed several times from place to place: it was re-established in England, it was removed to Calais again, then back to England, and finally established at Calais in 1423 (2 Hen. VI. c. 4). By statutes 3 Edw. IV. c. 1, and 4 Edw. IV. c. 3, the Staple at Calais was confirmed. All staple produce, wool, fells, lead, tin &c., were to pass directly from England to Calais. From the four northern counties, Richmondshire and Northallertonshire, they were to go to Newcastle, and thence to Calais alone. The Merchants of the Staple were practically incorporated by the Ordinance of the Staple, the joint work of the Council of 1353 and the Parliament of 1354, embodied in 27 Edw. III. cc. 21 to 28. A mayor and two constables were to be chosen yearly in every staple town, ‘having knowldege of the Law-Merchant, to govern the Staple.’ Correctors were to be appointed to make and record bargains, two merchants aliens were to be chosen as associates in judgment to the mayor and constables, and six mediators in questions between buyers and sellers. ‘We will, grant and ordain that all the said things be firmly kept and holden, in all points, notwithstanding franchise, custom, privilege, exemption, judgements or other grants made to Cities, Boroughs, Towns, Commonalties, people of the Five Ports, other Ports, or any other singular persons whatsoever… Saving in other things to the Prelates, Dukes, Earls, Barons and other Lords, their Fairs, Markets, Hundreds, Wapentakes, Leets, Jurisdictions, Courts, Franchises, and Priviliges, and all other things to them pertaining in the places where the Staples be.’2
So long as the Staple was occasionally fixed in English towns the rights of the lords in the fairs might clash with the privilges of the merchants. When, as for a time under Edward III, it was fixed in Flemish cities, local rights could not be overridden. But there were no fairs or franchises in Calais which could interfere with the control of trade there by the Staplers. There was a corporation in Calais apart from them. We learn in the Letter of February 24, 1483/4, that aldermen of Calais who are also freemen of the Staple have been compelled by the Court of the Staple to give up one position or the other. But the functions of the municipality must have been purely parochial. The royal authority in Calais, apart from trade matters, was vested in the military offices of the Captain of Calais and his Lieutenant. The Court of the Staple drew to itself all civil business in which Staplers were concerned. A recognisance ‘in the nature of a Statute Staple,’ upon real property in England was executed in the Calais court. Spiritual cases were, of course, under the jurisdiction of the Bishop’s court. Calais was attached to the See of Canterbury. But it was practically only the royal authority, and royal licenses granted to individuals for special trading, which overruled the administration of the Staple. Royal convenience was, of course, the most obvious cause for the fixing of the Staples anywhere.3 So much of the royal revenue was drawn from the subsidy on wool and wool fells that the convenience, and probably the profit, of the Exchequer were concerned in concentrating of the trade. Half the price of wool at Calais was commonly paid in bullion, which was supposed to be recoined in the Mint at Calais. Practically, it appears clearly from the Letters, passim, that foreign money circulated there. It appears (Letter, May 8, 1478) that the soldiers were not always paid in sterling. One great item of royal expenditure was the payment of the garrison at Calais. The garrisons of Calais and of Berwick, when in English hands, were practically the only standing military forces kept up by the Crown, and the collection of revenue in Calais was a convenience for paying the soldiers; which (Letter, May 8, 1478) seems to have been done sometimes directly through the merchants. Possibly also, the price of wool being somewhat increased by its transport to Calais, the subsidy, of so much a sack, did not appear to the merchants so large a proportion of the cost as it would have done if levied in the country of origin. We find the Celys paying, or owing, such sums as 93l/ 4s. 11d. and 75l. 13s/ 1-1/4d. for Customs and subsidy.
From the Letter of July 11, 1480, it appears that the Custom and subsidy was paid in the first instance by the Fellowship of the Staple, and repaid to them by individual merchants. This was an obvious convenience to the Exchequer, which dealt directly with a wealthy corporation, instead of with several individual members.
But other reasons also governed the policy of the establishment of staple towns generally. We are inclined to see in them a grievous hindrance to trade, and a certain means for raising the price of goods. But trade, apart from Staples, was in the nature of things not free in the Middle Ages.
The insecurity of roads, even in peace time, the greater insecurity of the seas, illustrated continually in these Letters, the frequency of wars, the existence of local privileges, tolls and restrictions, rendered any unprotected trade very irregular and uncertain. Fraudulent trading and dealing, the recovery of debts, the settlement of any personal disputes between merchants, were more easily dealt with if merchants were incorporated, and did their business only in certain places. Specially, their persons and goods were far more easily defended. Africa and the South Seas afford abundant illustrations of the mischief done by irresponsible private traders in those days. Though England and Flanders in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries were not quite on a level with the Niger territory and New Guinea, yet they were probably rather nearer to the former in social conditions than they were to the England and Belgium of to-day. Restrictions of individual liberty are the natural penalty of an imperfect civilisation, and the imperfectly civilised, in the fourteenth or any other century, usually admit it. It does not appear that the establishment of the Staple was contrary to the general wishes of the age.
Very stringent regulations were made to guard against fraud in the packing of wool, or in its description. No grower of wool was to mix earth, hair, sand, or other rubbish with his wool.4 No collector of wool was to suffer any wool to be packed outside the limits of the county from which it came, or, in the case of Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, outside the riding or part of the county to which it belonged. He was to be sworn in before the Exchequer to exercise his calling uprightly, and was to seal each package with a seal appointed by the Crown, in such a manner that the package could not be opened without breaking the seal. The collectors of Customs in the various ports were to make entries in their books of the names of merchants shipping wool, its quantity and description, and were to return the entries within a month to the Lord Treasurer. Wool was taken to Calais in or before the February of any year, and remaining unsold by April 6 following, was classed as old wool. We must remember that it must have been shorn in the previous summer; none would be cut in autumn or winter. The great winter shipping was, in fact, of fells (skins with the wool on them) of sheep killed in the autumn. In the absence of root crops and of winter feed of any kind, a great slaughter of cattle, large and small, took place before Martinmas. The flesh was salted down for the winter.
One sarpler of such old wool was to be sold with every three of new, but such old wool was to be inspected in Calais, and no buyer was to be forced to pay more for it than for new of the same kind or county, nor more than it was valued on first coming to Calais. If any fraud were discovered in connexion with this old wool, it was to be adjudicated upon by men appointed by the Captain or Lieutenant of Calais, but not by the same men who had been concerned with its prior valuation.
No merchant, or clothmaker, accustomed to buy wool of only one place or quality was to be compelled to buy another kind. But a merchant accustomed to buy various kinds was to be compelled to buy old wool of the kinds he usually bought, if it remained unsold in the market, subject to an examination of the quality.
At Calais royal officers (commissarii) were appointed to exercise superintendence over the working of these rules, and the conduct of packers, clerks of the Customs, and others. They were, moreover, charged with the inspection of all wool brought to Calais, in order to see if it were properly described and labelled in England; and they employed two skilled packers, sworn to faithful discharge of their duty, who were to examine, repack, reseal, and describe all packages.
Finally, the same commissarii were to make a report to the Treasurer and the Barons of the Exchequer upon the wool brought to Calais, which would serve as a check upon the report of the Customhouse officers in England. If any official were caught in delinquency, his punishment was to be such as to be a warning to others. If any merchant trangressed, his wool was forfeited to the king.5
The precautions appear ample. But that wool was misdescribed, that it was adulterated, that it was sometimes practically bought in England, not at Calais, amply appears from the Letters.
The Staplers, our writers among them, of course complained of bad times. The wars in France of the fifteenth century, and the consequent insecurity of the seas, the wars between Burgundy and France, and the civil wars in England, all hit them severely. In spite of the often repeated fiction that the Wars of the Roses were hurtful only to the nobility and their retainers, the consequent lawlessness and state of insecurity must have interfered with the collection of the staple produce in England. The prosperity of graziers and sheep farmers was not promoted by the march of armies, especially of the Lancastrian border thieves. This trouble, however, was over when these Letters begin. The produce gathered in England was paid for by bills due at six months, usually. To honour these the merchants had in turn to receive the money due to them from the foreign buyers, and there were often delays in their payments, which affected the payments in England. The Cely Letters show us continually how the principals in London depended upon consignments from Calais for money to satisfy their Cotswold wool dealers. The rate of exchange abroad between English and foreign coinage was another fruitful source of trouble. But at the period when the Letters were written, from the latter part of Edward the Fourth’s to the earlier part of Henry the Seventh’s reign, it appears that the Celys, at all events, were prosperous men. They own land, they buy hawks and horses, they give rich presents, they turn over 2,000l. worth of wool a year, and negotiate with rich gentlemen for their daughters in marriage. The Spanish wools had not yet come into serious competition with the English in the markets of Flanders, and in political affairs it is only the Flemish civil wars, and the progress of French agression which give them cause for uneasiness.
The great customers for the wool at Calais were, of course, the Netherlanders. Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, Mechlin, Middleburgh, and Delft seem to have been the places whence the principal dealers came to the Celys. The Venetians and Lombards — the Florentines are once named also — did some trade. The political relations, therefore, of England with the Flemish towns, or with their nominal rulers, not always by any means allied parties, became of the highest consequence. It is scarcely too much to say that our relations with Flanders were the dominant influence in English foreign politics for the whole of the fifteenth and most of the sixteenth century.
Calais, the gate of English trade with Flanders, was itself a Flemish town in origin. Baldwin IV of Flanders, overlord of Boulogne and Guines, had begun the port in the early part of the eleventh century, when the decay of the harbour of Wissant, the Roman Portus Itius, the ancient harbour of that coast, had become serious, from the encroachments of the sand. But it was not till 1228 that Philip, Count of Boulogne, fortified Calais, and turned it from a village into a walled town with a castle. It was in the county of Guines, which had passed from Flanders to the direct overlordship of France, under Philip Augustus. The king’s natural son Philip married the heiress of Boulogne, and the overlordship of Guines was granted to him. In 1282 Guines was bought by the French Crown, but was regranted to the descendants of the original counts, to be held of the Crown directly. In the fourteenth century the inhabitants of Calais were notorious for their piracy in the Channel, and it was, perhaps, chiefly with a view to the security of the seas that Edward III made such efforts for its reduction. But once in English hands, settled by English people, and made an English town, its advantages became obvious as a part of the defences of the Channel and a port of communication with Flanders. It was easily defensible on the land side, from being surrounded by marshes which were readily laid under water. It was the best harbour, though not a first-rate one even then, east of Cape Grisnez and west of Ostend, in the days before the port of Dunkirk had been improved. It was rather less dangerous of approach, from sandbanks, than any of the Flemish ports to the eastward, Ostend included. It was accessible from Dover or Hythe in the prevailing south-westerly Channel winds, when the square-rigged mediæval ships, which could sail with the wind abeam, but would have had great difficulty in beating to windward, could not get past Grisnez to Ambleteuse, Wimereux, or Boulogne. While an east or south-easterly wind, which would keep the Cinque Port ships at Sandwich or Dover in harbour, would allow ships of war to get out from Calais and to run down or across the Channel. Calais had a subsidiary use as a gate of entrance into France. Edward invaded France by it in 1355 and 1359, and John of Gaunt marched from Calais to Bordeaux in 1372. But the invasions of Edward’s reign as often proceeded directly to Normandy, as Henry V did afterwards, or marched from Guienne. With Flanders as an ally, which was usually the case in our serious French wars, the English did not really need Calais as a base of operations.
As a consequence of these wars Calais became isolated from France altogether. By the Treaty of Arras in 1435, between Philip of Burgundy and Charles VII, when the former left the English alliance, Boulogne and the county of Artois were ceded to him, in full sovereignty, for his life. Thus the town and territory of Calais became entirely cut off from the immediate neighbourhood of the French territory, and were surrounded by the possessions of the Duke of Burgundy. The Duke certainly intended to round off his dominions by its acquisition, and immediately undertook operations against it. The motives of the Flemings, if not of the Duke, are by a letter under Privy Seal, sent to the city of Salisbury, and preserved in the City Book or Register called Ledger A. 1.6
The English Government told the citizens that they had sure information from Ghent that the Flemish towns had agreed to help the Duke to take Calais, on consideration of certain concessions at home, and on consideration that no Englishman should be allowed to sell any English cloth at any mart in the dominions of the Duke; and that the wool in Calais should be freely divided among the Flemish towns, without the Duke or his officers sharing. If these were the genuine demands of the Flemings, they say a good deal for the development of the English cloth-making, which clearly competed with the Flemings in their own markets. But the immediate plunder of what wool might be in Calais would have been a poor compensation to the Flemings for a possibly lasting breach with England. The exact articles of agreement made in Flanders were translated as follows by the English Government for the benefit of their people:–
Second Article: ‘Yt non Englishman shal be suffrid to selle non Englissh cloth at non mart wythinne ye lorshipes of ye seid Duyk.’
Fifth Article: ‘Yt ye Tounes of Flaundres haue ye Wollys of Calys departid among hem withoute lettyng of hym or his officers, yf mowe gete yaym.’
See reference in the Salisbury book, as above. Surely the last clause of the fifth article was added by the English translator!
However, the attempt on Calais was unsuccessful, and without a prospect of making this conquest any immediate cause for hostility on the part of Burgundy against England ceased. A truce for three years between England and Burgundy ensued in 1439, which was renewed in 1442. The permanent interests of England and of Flanders, bound together so closely by trade, resumed their sway. Philip was much more anxious to keep his turbulent Flemish towns in good humour than to aid his nominal liege lord in turning the English out of Normandy and Guienne. But the consequence of the new political arrangements was that Calais ceased to be for England a place of arms in France. It became a fortified depôt of goods in Burgundy, whence trade was carried on with Burgundian subjects.
The French Crown, always anxious to readjust the almost ruinously hard bargain by which in its extremity it had purchased the withdrawal of Burgundy from active co-operation with England, still cast longing eyes on Calais. Its acquisition would have strengthened France and injured both England and Burgundy. Consequently in the days of need for the House of Lancaster, when the policy of a dethroned dynasty was chiefly directed by a French queen, in 1462, Louis XI supported Margaret of Anjou on condition of receiving Calais.7 The Lancastrians had actually given up Berwick to the Scots the year before. Only their want of success prevented the surrender of Calais to the French. But the aims of the French drove the Duke of Burgundy perforce upon the Yorkist side. Philip the Good was married to Isabella of Portugal, a granddaughter of John of Gaunt, but his successor Charles made a treaty with Edward IV in 1467, and 1468 married Edward’s sister Margaret. His aid enabled his brother-in-law to invade England and recover his throne in 1471, overcoming the Warwick-Lancaster combination, which was supported by Louis XI.
Everything seemed to point to a continued close alliance between Charles and Edward. Charles was working, in blundering fashion, for the restoring of the ‘Middle Kingdom,’ reaching from the North Sea to the Alps, and meanwhile for the acquisition of all he could get on the Somme, or on the frontiers of the Duchy of Burgundy. Edward’s enemies were still supported by Louis, and the English kings had never formally laid aside their absurd claims to the French Crown, nor their legal claims to lands in France. But herein lay one cause of difference between England and Burgundy. By the Treaty of Peronne in 1468, Charles had acquired the county of Ponthieu, which England claimed. Other English claims were far too extensive to suit the policy of Charles; and Edward, on his part, was probably statesman enough to know that if England and Burgundy, combined together, made great conquests in France, Burgundy would not be content to let England take the lion’s share. His real interest was the strengthening of his throne in England, and the Burgundian alliance was useful to him so far as it imposed a check upon France, and upon the malcontents whom France might support. That Burgundy and the English market in Flanders were in danger from French invasion scarely appeared credible before 1476.
But whatever his ulterior designs might be, Edward in 1473 began apparently serious preparations for a great invasion of France, in conjunction with the Duke of Burgundy. In 1473, 1474, 1475, a Parliament, completely under the King’s influence, voted tenth and fifteenths, and in the second year an additional sum of £51,000. The King also raised money by Benevolences. In 1474, he concluded an alliance with Charles for the deposition of Louis XI. In 1475 he crossed from Dover to Calais with the finest army which an English king had ever led into France: 1500 men-at-arms with mounted attendants, 15,000 mounted archers, and foot soldiers besides. The Duke supplied him with 500 scuts, vessels from Holland and Zealand suitable for transport; but it nevertheless took three weeks to convey the whole expedition to Calais. An advance into France was only possible through the Burgundian territory, and the Duke himself came to welcome his ally. He brought, however, no army with him. His troops had suffered heavy losses in his unsuccessful attack on Neuss, and the bulk of the survivors were pursuing other objects in Lorraine. He probably meant the English to fight the French King for him. Edward had no intention of doing anything of the kind. Louis, for his part, had no intention of fighting if he could help it. He bought off Edward. Seventy-five thousand crowns down, a payment of 50,000 crowns a year — which the French called a bribe and the English a tribute — procured Edward’s retreat. The treaty of Pecquigni stipulated for a peace between the kings for nine years and the marriage of Edward’s daughter Elizabeth with the Dauphin. Edward had probably secured all the objects which he had proposed himself. He had made a demonstation of his power as a make-weight in the contests of France and Burgundy; he had strengthened his dynasty by the French treaty and had filled his pockets. The proceedings were not glorious nor honourable, scarcely dignified, but all legitimate objects for the crown and realm of England were really secured. In September of the same year (1475) Charles made a truce with Louis for nine years at Soleuvre. He turned to push his schemes in Lorraine; and Louis, truce or no truce, continued his steady policy of stirring up enemies against him.
In 1476 a rapid and startling change came over the politics of Western Europe. Events move faster in the nineteenth than in the fifteenth century, but the effect of the collapse of the military power of the French Empire in a month in 1870 scarcely made a more profound and sudden impression than the successive defeats of the Duke, within a few months, by the Swiss and other Germans, at Granson in March, at Morat in June, and finally at Nancy, where he was killed, January 5, 1477. The great check on French power was suddenly removed, and a girl was left to hold together as best she could the disjointed dominions of the late most formidable prince in Europe. A great part of those dominions almost at once fell into the hands of Louis, and the preservation of the Netherlands from French influence became again a pressing subject for English care.
French and Imperial fiefs held by the young heiress of Burgundy were at first indiscriminately seized by Louis. Subsequently knowing that he could not hold all, he prudently kept every French fief which by force or treachery he could win. The county of Boulogne and most of Picardy and Artois passed into his hands in 1477, and Calais became again nearly surrounded by territory immediately under the French Crown. Flanders itself was an ancient appanage of the Crown of France. The Gantois practically held their Duchess a prisoner, murdered her ministers, and dictated her policy. They were scarcely likely to throw themselves knowingly into the hands of Louis, but by their action they were contributing to the general break-up of the Burgundian dominions, which might well result in the acquisition by France of a real supremacy over Flanders, which would be fatal to English commercial interests. The occasion seemed undoubtedly to call for a vigorous English interposition in the aid of the Duchess.
But Edward was no longer the enterprising warrior of Barnet and Tewkesbury. Idle and voluptuous habits had undermined his energy. His court was divided by the factions of his brothers’ and his wife’s parties. The inglorious end of the great expedition of 1475 perhaps rendered another great effort difficult to manage. He suggested a marriage between the Duchess Mary and his own wife’s brother, Earl Rivers. But the greatest heiress in Christendom would not agree to a match with a parvenu, and so the chance of enlisting the strongest interest of the King in favour of war was lost. Louis’ ‘tribute’ still continued to arrive, and he did not spare bribes among Edward’s courtiers. So though the promised steps for the marriage of the lady Elizabeth with the Dauphin were not taken, England continued merely to negotiate and to be fooled.
One Englishwoman, the dowager Duchess Margaret, ‘myn howlld Lady’ of the Celys’ Letters — she was about thirty-two — exerted herself vigorously in her step-daughter’s cause. Her first idea was a marriage between Mary and her own brother Clarence. When this appeared to be considered impossible by all parties at the English Court she exerted her influence elsewhere.
Already, before the death of Charles the Bold, a negotiation had been set on foot for a marriage between his heiress and Maximilian of Austria, son of the Emperor Frederic. The dowager Duchess warmly espoused his cause. The young lady herself despatched an emissary to the Emperor and his son at Frankfort, and affirmed that in her father’s lifetime she had already accepted the Archduke as her future husband. They had never met, and when they did it appeared that Maximilian could speak no French and she no German. But Maximilian in his youth was well fitted to engage her real affection. He was shifty and unstable, always in want of money, and, like the proverbial empty bag, unable to stand upright; but he had in him a touch of romance and knight-errantry, and was not without noble aspirations. A marriage with a rich heiress was attractive to himself and to his avaricious father, and a marriage with a damsel in distress appealed to his feelings of chivalry and adventure. He was not yet twenty. The Flemings were sensible that an alliance with the imperial overlord of half the Burgundian inheritance was a safeguard for them against French aggression; the dowager Duchess supported the scheme, and the marriage was hurried on. Maximilian arrived at Ghent on August 18, 1477, and the marriage was performed next day. The bride, slenderly attended, still wore mourning for the death of her father, and the union, so fraught with consequences for the future political arrangements of Europe, was celebrated without any of the pomp for which the Court of Burgundy had become famous. Louis had to make the best of what seemed for him a bad business: St. Omer and Valenciennes were stubbornly resisting his arms. He had been unable to hold what he had seized in the county of Burgundy, and he agreed to a truce with the Dukes, as they were now called, at Lens in 1477. Hostilities were renewed in the course of 1478, but in June of that year another truce for a year was concluded, by which Louis agreed to evacuate the Imperial fief of Hainault, and all that he still held in the county of Burgundy, but kept his grip upon the duchy. He reverted to the policy which he preferred to war, to bribery in England, at the Imperial Court, in Liège and in Flanders, confident that the Flemings and Maximilian would not permanently agree.
In the breathing time allowed to them the Dukes were anxious to come to an agreement with England, which should keep their Flemish towns in good humour by safeguarding their commercial interests. The regulations under which the trade of the Staple was carried on at Calais afforded them just grounds for complaint. In July, the English and Flemish envoys met at Lille for their consideration.8 The agreement made and their negotiations throw a good deal of light upon the conditions of trade and the regulations of the Staple. Free intercourse by sea and land, freedom from molestation for merchants, sailors, and fishermen of the two countries, liberty for ships to enter any port under stress of weather, and to leave again without interference or payment, the forbidding of the purchase of goods from pirates, all appear as the ordinary rights of civilised neighbours. But that these rights required protection is abundantly evident from the expressions used, or facts recorded in many of the Cely Letters. Pirates, especially, were a constant danger. Reprisals and letters of marque, to right any alleged miscarriage of justice, had to be forbidden for six years. Englishmen were to be allowed to sue their debtors in the Flemish courts without hindrance, and in case of anticipated flight demand security or the arrest of the defaulter. Similarly, Flemish creditors might proceed in England before the Court of the Chancellor, of the Constable, or of the Magnum Counsilium,9 in despite of all local ordinances and customs to the contrary, for the recovery of debts due in Flanders. English merchants might also export bullion from Flanders, after obtaining what we may call certificates of origin. The Flemings also complained that the English were in the habit of buying a big pound and selling by a small pound; and that at Antwerp and Bruges, and other fairs, they made ordinances forbidding their merchants to buy except on the last day, whereby the Flemish sellers, anxious to get away, parted with their goods for insufficient prices. These practices were to be forbidden for the future by the English.
The English merchants of the Staple complained that Flemish subjects sometimes carried appeals from the ducal courts to the French courts, to their manifest injury. That quoedam astutia was sometimes practicised by Flemish debtors. When an English merchant was attempting to recover a debt in a Flemish town his debtor would advance a small sum more to one of his debtors, who would go to Calais and buy wool from the agent of the English creditor, partly for the ready money provided, partly on credit, and would bring the wool to the place where the English creditor and the original debtor were. Then the latter would seize it, as the property of his debtor, and satisfy the Englishman with his own wool. The Englishman was clearly swindled, but to make the transaction profitable to the Flemings the second debtor must have been a man of straw, with probably a fictitious debt and no property to distrain upon. The practice was, however, to be guarded against.
The Staplers also complained that wool which had not paid the subsidy, nor passed through their hands, found its way to Flanders. This was to be carefully guarded against also. It appears probable that the Celys were not quite ignorant of how such wool sometimes got to Flanders (Letters of April 28, 1484).
Further complaints by the subjects of Burgundy were considered and partly remedied. They alleged that if they offered less than the price for wool fixed by the ordinance of the Staple, they were compelled to buy, presumably at the regulation rate, from the person to whom they had made an offer of less; that the money paid for wool went into the hands of the treasurer of the Staple, and was by him distributed among the merchants in proportion to the amount of wool which they had had in hand, not necessarily in proportion to the quanitity sold; a grievance to both English and Flemish merchants; that the Staplers raised the price if they could not receive it in bullion; a not unnatural precaution; that washed and unwashed wools were mixed together. On all these points the English promised to give satisfaction.
On certain other matters, however, the English would not give way. The Flemings complained of fraudulent packing of wool, and of false descriptions of its origin being affixed to packages; to which the English only answered that their regulations made this impossible.
It was also the practice of the Staple to compel the purchaser of four lots of wool to take three of new and one of old, even though he only wished to buy new. If he were prepared to buy none but old, he was allowed to do so. The Flemings offered a compromise, and were willing to be compelled to take one of old to five of new. The English answered that the existing arrangement was itself a concession, and that formerly they had insisted on old and new being bought in equal quantities. The old was sold at the price at which it had been valued when brought to Calais. The English were clearly anxious to avoid the practice of the sales of surplus stock at an alarming sacrifice, which tempt modern country customers. If the wool was found after its removal by the buyer not to answer the descritption, the English insisted that it should be brought back to Calais in order to have the fact established in the courts there. The Flemings vainly urged that it might be less of a loss for the buyer to put up with a bad bargain than to carry so bulky an article back again, with the uncertainty of after all obtaining justice. The English answered that if their sellers had to go to Flemish courts the wool might have meanwhile been tampered with in Flanders. They conceded, however, liberty to repudiate a bargain, and to return the wool if it were found to be below the stipulated quality.
It was ordained and established by law of old (ab antique statutum et ordinatum) that the pound for which wool was bought and sold should equal 22s. 8d. whereas the English sellers now demanded 24s. for the pound. The English answered that the regulation rate of exchange should be certainly kept if the Flemish Government would keep their standard money fixed; but that if not, it was impossible, and the rate of exchange must enter into the calculations of merchants making bargains. For once, perhaps, the English were reasonable.10 With regard to a last complaint they took a high tone. The Flemings said that the King sent fine wool into France, paying no subsidy and not through the Staple, and that they had no opportunity of buying good wool cheap in like manner. They only got answer that the King was superior to all laws and ordinances, that he had done it once for his own convenience, and that his Highness would not do it again unless he saw cause. Which was, indeed, probable. Qua responsione Oratores Dominorum Ducum non fuerunt contenti.
The English answered generally to all complaints that their trade was extremely well looked after, and that the subjects of the Dukes could see as much in the ordinances of the Staple, which they submitted to their inspection. The Oratores Dominorus Ducum made the general answer that with regard to these regulations, credere se ita fuisse ordinatum, sed non omnino obervatum.
The whole course of the negotiations shows us England conscious of holding the upper hand. The Flemish towns were forced to take the English wool, having no other sufficient supply to fall back upon, and the English knew it. Neither was the Government of the Dukes in a position to do anything to irritate that of England during the existing crisis of their affairs.
It was of vital importance to Maximilian to secure the co-operation of England and of Bretagne. It was of equal moment for Louis to retain their neutrality, especially that of England. The Bishop of Elne was sent as an ambassador to propose the prolongation of the treaty of Pecquigni for a hundred years, with the accompanying payment of 50,000 crowns a year. One important point of the treaty had not been executed. No steps had been taken for the marriage between Elizabeth of York and the Dauphin and the English suggested that the lady was now twelve years old and of an age to be married, and that as the delay was not of their seeking, the 60,000 francs which were to be her marriage portion from her father-in-law should be paid at once. Louis professed himself eager for the marriage, but the Dauphin was too young. It must perforce wait, and if Elizabeth should die her younger sister, Mary, would be accepted instead. The treaty was accordingly prolonged on February 15, 1479, and the marriage project remained in abeyance.
On the other side the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy was urgent to draw her brother into active alliance with Maximilian and Mary. She had a private ground of enmity against the French King because he occupied part of her dower-lands near Cassel. She wrote urgently to her brother for redress, and though Edward would not commit himself to war, she persuaded him to allow 500 archers to pass over to the aid of Maximilian. A closer alliance was mediated. At Guilford, in August 16, 1479, a treaty was concluded by which Edward undertook that for three years he would not make any other marriage contract for his daughter Anne than with Philip, the heir of Maximilian and Mary, provided that during those three years he was equally bound. The lady was four years, the gentleman about fourteen months old. One obstacle to any closer understanding was the poverty of Maximilian. He was quite unable to offer Edward any equivalent for the ‘tribute’ from the French King, which he would lose by a declaration of war.
Meanwhile the truce had been broken on April 26 by the Burgundians, who attacked the Château of Selles, near Cambrai, and war was resumed in the Netherlands. At Guinegate the French, venturing upon a pitched battle, contrary to the wishes of the King, were defeated, August 7. Five hundred English were engaged in the Duke’s army. But the Burgundians lost heavily, and the Flemish militia returned to their towns after the battle, thinking that they had made their country safe from invasion. At sea the French managed to cut off the herring fleet to Holland and Zealand. The county of Burgundy, also again was overrun by them. A war broke out in Guelders, which further involved Holland. The French attacked Luxemburg, and the Flemish towns entirely refused to grant money to the Dukes for its defence.
Indeed, Maximilian was becoming more and more an object of indifference first, then of dislike to the Flemings. He was unable to enlist the forces and influence of the Empire in their favour, and was continually demanding money.
England was his chief reliance, and to keep England from active interference was Louis’ chief aim. In May his ambassador in England, the Bishop of Elne, incurred his serious displeasure by negotiating a prolongation of the peace with Edward, in which the King included Maximilian.11 Louis recalled his ambassador, refused to treat with England about the affairs of Burgundy, but as usual managed to send the English envoys, who came over to confirm the treaty, well satisfied away.
Nevertheless, in 1480, events seemed to be leading up to a rupture between France and England. Another truce, as ill-observed as usual, had been made between France and Burgundy, but the French were threatening St. Omer and Aire. The Dowager Duchess came over to England to see her brother. On August 5 the projected marriage between the infants Anne and Philip was confirmed by treaty.12 On August 14 Edward undertook that if Louis did not desist from his threatening attitude upon the Flemish frontier, nor accept his mediation, he would assist Maximilian with 6,000 men. As open war would mean the loss of Edward’s French pension, Maximilian undertook to make it good. His known inability to pay was glossed over by the stipulation that Edward should give a dower of 100,000 crowns with his daughter, which was to be set against the payment due from Maximilian. The Dukes were to settle property equal to 8,000 livres of Artois a year upon the bride. On August 24 Dr. Langton, Treasurer of Exeter,13 and Sir John Weston, Prior of the Hospitallers in England, ‘My Lord of St. John’s’ of the Letters, were appointed ambassadors to France to urge the long-delayed marriage of the lady Elizabeth with the Dauphin. Richard Cely went with them (Letters, September 2 and September 6, 1480). Sir John Middleton was empowered to raise troops for Flanders. Finally, the Dowager got her private reward. She was given the privilege for life of buying 1,000 oxen and 2,000 rams a year, and of exporting their skins, free of any duty or subsidy, to Holland, Zealand, or Flanders.14
The usual results followed. Louis was lavish of fair words and of money, and Maximilian practically threw over his ally, and his agent, the Duchess, by prolonging the truce with France without consulting them.
In 1481 the embarrassments of Maximilian increased. Louis continued the war in Luxemburg, and enlisted the help of Ladislas of Bohemia, who had claims on the duchy. Maximilian was embroiled with the faction of the Hooks in Holland and Utrecht. The attitude of the Flemish towns became more and more refractory. He offered Edward Boulogne, Ponthieu, the towns on the Somme, Peronne, and Montdidier as the price of active help. But a diversion had been made which helped to keep Edward employed elsewhere. The French had urged the Scots, never loath to attack England, to hostilities upon the Borders, and a Scotch war had broken out in 1480. Attempts at accommodation failed, a Scotch embassy being stopped at Newcastle (Letter, January 23, 1481), and in 1481 a fleet and army were prepared against Edinburgh and Berwick. In 1482 the war continued. The Duke of Albany came from France to England, and accompanied the Duke of Gloucester, who may be considered the head of the war party, to Scotland. The two Dukes occupied Edinburgh, but Albany was then reconciled with his brother, the King, and the English withdrew with the one solid acquisition of Berwick.
These affairs, however, tended to keep Edward from war abroad. In March, 1481, Louis had an attack of apoplexy, and Edward assured Maximilian that he would only have to wait a short time before death would relieve him of his formidable adversary.
So matters went on through 1481, with war in Luxemburg and Guelderland, and an ill-observed truce on the Flemish border. In 1482 death claimed an unexpected victim. On March 27 the Duchess Mary, died from an accident — a fall from her horse. The one tie between her husband and the Flemings was removed. The Gantois deprived him of the custody of his own children, governed the province in conjunction with other towns over his head, and drove him to maintain himself as best he could in the rest of his son’s dominions by aid of some of the nobility and German mercenaries. The Flemings began to treat with France; Louis conscious of failing health, desired to confirm his acquisitions by a peace.
France was exhausted, and the neighbouring countries were all in confusion and distress. In the formerly well-tilled fields of Flanders, Hainault, and Artois land was going out of cultivation, and wolves increased alarmingly.15 An event occurred in this summer which showed the consequences of the prolonged war in the Netherlands. William d’Aremberg, called the Wild Boar of the Ardennes, a notorious freebooter, murdered his former benefactor, the Bishop of Liège, on August 30, tried to make the Chapter elect his own son as bishop, and began to draw together a formidable power in the bishopric. The neighbouring nobility and towns, with some of Maximilian’s troops, united against him and quickly overcame him. But it was openly said that he was incited by the French, because the Bishop refused to join them. In William Cely’s letter from Calais of September 12, 1482, the murder is directly attributed to the French. In one way it told in their favour, for it made a farther diversion of the Duke’s forces from the Flemish frontier. The provinces were all tired of war, and united to press upon Maximilian the necessity of peace. Want of success, or means to continue the war, and the uncertainty of English help, forced him to concur.
On December 23, 1482, the treaty of Arras handed over his daughter Margaret to the custody of the French King as the future wife of the Dauphin, and gave as her dower the duchy and county of Burgundy, Artois, and much besides, to be administered in the name of the Dauphin. The long-promised match between the Dauphin and Edward’s daughter was completely thrown over. The friendship of England was no longer of any particular value to Louis, at least not in comparison with his advantages by this second treaty of Arras, more than compensating by its gains for the losses sustained by the first, forty-seven years before. Yet up to the last he had cajoled the English King. On Palm Sunday, March 31, another French embassy, which had come to London, had been enterained by the mayor and all the crafts ‘worschyppefulley’ (Letter, April 2, 1482). They came three days too late to witness a disastrous experiment. ‘The same day (March 28) ‘whos the grehyt new gone of brasse shott at Mylezeynde at who mad in the Towyr and hyt braste awll to pessys'(Letter, March 29, 1482). This embassy cannot have been despatched in consquence of any new turn of affairs following the death of Mary, the news of which came to England simultaneously with the ambassadors. It is reasonable to suppose that the object of the mission was merely to keep up the humouring of Edward in the usual fashion. It probably concluded the treaty of 1482, of amity between France and England for the lifetime of both kings and for one year after the death of the prior deceased,16 which the French King published in September to his subjects. Whether this treaty said anything about the Dauphin’s marriage we do not know. At all events Edward saw himself at last by the treaty of Arras thoroughly duped and betrayed, and began warlike preparations in earnest. The noise of them breaks out in more than one of our Letters. But in April 1483 Edward himself died. On August 30 of the same year Louis followed. Richard III had far too much trouble on his own hands at home to care to make war abroad. But France was hostile to him in fact, fearing him as a warlike king, honourably distinguished above other Englishmen as having never been bought by French money. Indeed, France overthrew Richard by supplying the means by which Henry VII could invade England. ‘Le Comte de Richmont fut couronné et institué Henri VII, par le confort et puissant subside du roi de France.’17 On April 14, 1484, William Cely wrote from Calais that Flanders was likely to break with England. This can only be attributed to the influence of the Dowager Duchess, who would be bitterly opposed to Richard as the murderer of her nephews and the supplanter of the children of her favorite brother Clarence. Margaret was still more the enemy of Henry VII, both as a Lancastrian and a Frenchprotégé. How she aided and abetted the Yorkist schemes against him is matter of common knowledge, but the Celys say nothing of it. Maximilian had become King of the Romans in 1486, and in December Henry received an embassy from him, and concluded a treaty with him and his son’s council,18 for a renewal of the old treaties of commerce. They had interests partly in common against France; but the tangled skein of the affairs of Bretagne need not detain us here. Maximilian never counted for so much as his title and position seemed to imply. Throughout the years he was still at variance with the Flemish towns, and their open hostilities, as in 1483 and 1484, referred to in the Letters, sorely vexed English merchants. He was again at war with the French also. In 1488 he made his famous attempt to secure Bruges. He rashly entered the city with a small force of German mercenaries and Burgundian followers. He intended to have a larger force admitted. But suspicions were aroused, the citizens flew to arms and secured the gates, and Maximilian found himself a prisoner amid an exasperated population, who made no delay in killing those suspected of sympathising with him. We learn from the Letters of January 22, February 19, and March 12, 1488, that Sir James Tyrell had been at Bruges on a mission from England, and had been well received by both the towns and Maximilian; and that the expectation was that Maximilian would soon be master, if not that he ‘muste flee hys weye owte of the contray or be destroyed,’ and that he would grant England all that she could desire. Also we gather, contrary to the common account, that many of the more wealthy inhabitants of Bruges were considered as a rule friendly to the King of the Romans, but that the rabble of Bruges, allied with the men of Ghent, were in power, and making overtures to France. The ambassadors who were to have gone to England, had fled to Sluys, and the more substantial inhabitants of Bruges were daily stealing away to Middleburg, fearing violence, not without reason. A reign of terror was established at Bruges. The Sire de Ghistelles, formerly Burgomaster, Pierre Lanchals, and many other citizens known for their support of the House of Burgundy perished on the scaffold. Ghent was more violent than Bruges. The citizens of Ypres alone were distinguished for their moderation, and their advice not to exasperate quarrels by reckless bloodshedding. All trade was dislocated in the consequence of the troubles. The government of Bruges was revolutionised. The eight members of the trades chosen by the ducal commission to sit as part of the thirteen échevins who governed the city were replaced by eight others, apparently popularly elected (February 19, 1488). However, in 1489, Maximilian, by aid of a German force and help of the other provinces, overcame Flanders, and for a season exercised some real authority as guardian to his son. Charles VIII of France was more occupied with schemes in Bretagne and in Italy than in the Low Countries. Intent on marrying the heiress of Bretagne, he at last in 1493, returned his affianced bride, the child Margaret, to her father, and restored Artois and the county of Burgundy with her. With small thanks to her own policy, England had still a Burgundian dominion, free from French control, as her customer; and the territory of Calais still marched with Burgundian Flanders and Artoia, as well as with French Boulogne.
The Letters mostly deal with a period when war was going on, or at best when truce was badly kept between France and Burgundy. But the state of insecurity prevailing at sea is very strikingly revealed by them. Piracies, or hostilities at sea, were not confined to subjects of powers nominally at war, and it is abundantly manifest how very necessary it was for a Government to be strong and respected abroad if its subjects were to trade with any reasonable safety.
On May 14, 1482, William Cely writes to George at Bruges that an English ship was chased by two Frenchmen off Calais, but escaped. The Frenchmen were taken by ships from Calais. One of them was brought into Calais, the other taken to England. On June 23, 1482, we hear that Robert Eryke was chased by the Scots between Calais and Dover. Scotland, however, was at war with England. On October 19, 1482, William Cely writes to George from Calais to London that it was a false report that his ship with his ‘chamberyng’ on board had been rifled by Flemings; it was another ship in her company. On March 25, 1484, we are told that the goods of Englishmen have been arrested at Nieuport to pay for the goods taken at sea by Englishmen from Ostend men. In Calais they wished to arrest Gyesbrught, a Fleming, in retaliation, but were dissuaded by the lieutenant. There was an agreement as old as Philip the Good’s time, and confirmed each subsequent Duke, that goods of either nation should be free from arrest in answer to depredations committed by fellow countrymen of the owners. A deputation was to go to the Council of Flanders at Ghent to remind them of this. On February 10, 1484, certain Flemings came to Calais en route to England to complain that their goods had been seized and carried to Sandwich, while the King (Richard III) was there. They asked for the co-operation of the Staple in their recovery, because the Flemings had restored Engish goods illegally seized.
On March 27, 1484, we read of a deputation from the Staple to Duke Philip and his Council of Flanders on the subject of Englishmen and Flemings being made answerable, in Flanders and Calais respectively, only for their own misdoings and not for those of their countrymen.
On February 24, 1484, it is ‘certain banished Englishmen’ who have taken five or six Spaniards laden with wine, bound for Flanders. February 29, 1484, a Frenchman has chased an English passenger ship into Dunkirk. On March 17 of the same year is reported a curious story of apparently combined piracy and passenger carrying. William Cely writes to Richard and George:
‘Item Syr on Fryday last past Richard Awray
‘that was master of my lord Denmanis schypp zede forthe a warfare in a schypp of hys owne and toke in merchauntes and sett them alond at Dower and at Dower toke in passage to Callez wardd agayne and as he came to Callez ward ii men of warre of Frensche mett wt hym and faught with hym and theyr he was slayne and diversse moe of hys company they saye viii or ix persones oon whos sowlles Iesu hawe mercy.’
France was in fact an enemy to Richard III, but there was no formal war, and we are not told how far Richard Awray had provoked his fate by his private warfare. Shortly afterwards (April 14, 1484) two Frenchmen chased passenger boats into Calais, and nearly took them. On January 22, 1488, ‘My Lord of St. John’s,’ the Prior of the Hospitallers, could not venture out of Calais because of the Danes lying before the harbour.19 On November 19, 1487, William Cely wrote that owing to the war between Ghent and Maximilian he had got away with difficulty from Bruges, had been stopped two days at Nieuport, and only allowed to proceed because he had passage in a ship on board which Sir James Tyrell, the English ambassaor, had goods. He advised his principals to leave this trade as too dangerous, and layout their money in madder, wax, and fustian, and ship it in Spanish bottoms. Castile, perhaps, was more respected than England, while the Tudors were not yet firm in the saddle. Already, September 18, 1487, before setting out for Bruges, he had expressed a fear of being stopped by Dunkirkers on the way back. Some suspicion is aroused that the Cely connexion knew something of capturing ships, holding crews for ransom, for there is an undated letter by which Thomas Dalton begs ‘Brother Jorge’ to pay a bill of 80l. for him in London, ‘for I loke yevery day for tydynges owt of Holand for my schypp and my prisoners and brother this payment lyeth my pore onestie upon.’ It looks very much as if, notwithstanding his ‘pore onestie,’ he was expecting ransom money with which to discharge his lawful debts.
The shipping by which the Celys’ wool was conveyed to Calais was provided exclusively by the ports of east and south-east England and of Calais itself. Sometimes we hear of the fleets of London, Ipswich, and Boston. These, of course, need not have been composed exclusively of ships owned in those ports, but represent the place of sailing of ships combined together for safety, and bringing the result of the great summer clip, or the skins of the autumn killing of sheep. The Cinque Ports had quite dropped out of this trade, only one of their many ‘Limbs’ is represented, Brightlingsea in Essex, now a mere village. Of the other shipping ports, several now exist no longer, except as villages. Hull, Colchester, and Calais are ports which still flourish more or less. Redriff (Rotherhithe) is merged in the port of London. Walberswick, on the Suffolk coast, might now muster a few fishing boats. Rainham, in Essex, is not much better.20 Bradwell, in Essex, is scarcely so considerable as these. It had a more renowned past as the Roman station Othona, on the Litus Saxonicum. Most noticeable is the flourishing trade of Kent, shown here by the abundance of shipping owned in Medway. Maidstone we scarcely think of now as a port, but there is a barge trade on the river, and if the dock near Allington on the Medway, called Gibraltar Lock, were removed, the tide would now run up to Maidstone Bridge. The Thomas of Maidstone, however, then appears several times voyaging to Calais. More remarkable still is it to find the Mary of Malling and the Barbara of ‘Malwin,’ which we can only conjecture to be Malling again. There is a South Malling on the Ouse close to Lewes, but the Mary and the Barbara appear in close connection with Medway shipping. Though the parish of Malling does touch the Medway, Malling is perhaps intended for Halling, a very possible error for one who would write ‘Lyll’ for ‘Hull.” The village of Malling was never a port. Other ships belonged to Milton in Kent, and to New Hythe and Milhall, inconsiderable hamlets now, on the Medway. The Grâce à Dieu and the ‘Tywe’ are the two ships mentioned belonging to Calais. There must have been a wider diffusion of the influences springing from foreign trade when shipped was thus dispersed among many small ports, and not concentrated in large centres. We can readily understand the ease with which, in the next century, foreign religious opinions from the Low Countries penetrated into Kent and Essex, through these many little gates of intercourse.
The manner of ships they were we can partly gather from the accounts of the purchase and fitting out of the Margaret Cely, which the brothers Richard and George bought at Penmarch in Bretagne, and employed on voyages to Zealand, Flanders, and Bordeaux. Her tonnage is not given. She cost 28l., exclusive of rigging and all fittings. She carried a master, boatswain, cook, and sixteen hands on her return voyage from Brodeaux, two of them Bordeaux men. One is described as ‘Calker,’ but it is not clear whether it is his name or his function. She was, of course, armed with cannon and bows, bills, and V dossen dartes.’ She was, by her complement of men, a decked ship, with two masts, and probably the ships usually employed were decked, at least fore and aft. But one mast only is spoken of in them, cargo being described as lying for or aft of ‘the mast.’ As, however, they were probably square-rigged, it is hard to conceive of them as single-masted; in that case they would hardly steer. There was probably a small mizen-mast set far aft, as in what was, and perhaps is, called a Dutch ‘Dogger.’ The Margaret Cely was victualled with salt beef, salt fish, bread, wheat, and beer. It is impossible to do more than guess her tonnage, but from her complement it was probably about 200 tons. The ships from the little Medway ports could scarcely have been of thirty tons to navigate the river safely. The Thomas of Maidstone can have been only a barge, if she had to pass Aylesford Bridge.
The bulk of the wool exported by the Celys was from the Cotswolds. The principal person with whom they had dealing was one Midwinter, of Northleach, in Gloucestershire. Midwinter is still a Gloucestershire name. He was a wool dealer, not merely a farmer. They also bought from John Busshe, of Northleach. Relations with Midwinter were not always smooth. He wrote to Richard Cely on September 20, 1482, that he has sold wool to him cheaper than he can buy it, and is ‘barr wytthe howte money,’ and wishes to be paid. Again, with no date given, Richard writes to his brother George from London that Midwinter is come to town. ‘God ryd we of hym.’ As Richard is enumerating some unpaid debts in the same letter, it is possible to read these two together, and to suppose that Midwinter had come for his money.
The Cotswold wool and fells no doubt came on pack-horses (compare Letter of March 12, 1486) by the ancient trackways over the Wiltshire and Hampshire Downs, which had been used before the Roman conquest, and thence through Surrey and Kent to the Medway ports by the Pilgrims’ Way. Milhall, New Hythe, Halling, and Maidstone are all within a few miles of where it cuts that river. The Boston and Ipswich fleets would bring the wool of the Lincolnshire Wolds and of the Midland Counties, in which the Celys do not appear to have dealt, as a rule, though we do find them buying from the Midlands. The London and Essex ships would convey that which came through London. How long a time would elapse before the Cotswold clip was safely stored in the Calais warehouses we cannot tell. But the intercourse across the Channel seems to have been fairly rapid and regular for the days of sailing ships. Now and then there were great delays. A letter, for instance, written from Antwerp on October 1 reaches London on the 17th. But a letter from London on November 9 is answered at Calais on November 12, with no initimation of its arrival that day only. Three or four days seem an ordinary post. On September 2, 1480, Richard Cely wrote from Dover to George at Calais, telling him to be at Boulogne to meet him and Sir John Weston on September 3, and he was there. Richard must, of course, have known of a packet just sailing, with a fair wind, or he would not have ventured on so short an appointment. A journey, even in England, was a serious matter. ‘Holy Trinity speed us both,’ says Richard when he is departing from London to Gloucestershire, and his brother from Calais to Bruges.
At Calais the merchants and their agents seem to have lived in licensed lodgings, under the regulation of the Mayor and Court of the Staple, as undergraduates of Oxford and Cambridge can only live in lodgings licensed by the University. But they had liberty to change their quarters. On December 5, 1483, William Cely wrote to Richard and George, who presumably paid for is board, that a difference had arisen ‘betwyxte owre oste Thomas Graunger and the fellyschypp of owre logyng.’
‘Owre oste’ had raised his terms from 3s. 4d. to 4s. (Flemish) a week for the high table, and from 2s. 8d. to 40 oence for the side table. Whereupon all the ‘fellyschypp’ had gone to other lodgings, except the writer, who was awaiting instructions. This was economical housekeeping. One particular occasions a feast was indulged in at much heavier expense. Ten friends went together to Boulogne. The bille for their entertainment was 5s. 3d. for ‘te denar unto the koke;’ 4s. ‘for the whyne at that dynar;’ item there as whe lay all nyght for ‘whne bedys and horsse 4s. 10d.;item gaven the mynstrell’ 4d. Summa 15 s. 8d. There was a good deal of sack to the ha’porth of bread, perhaps, and those who lay all night only wanted more ‘whne,’ but no breakfast. The minstrel was a necessary adjunct to a feast. They came away in a cart which cost 9s. There is a commission from Richard Cely to his son George, June 14, 1479, to buy a ‘Calais Carthe,’ and he is to take advice, being himself no judge of such ware.
The letters are full of commissions for the purchase of goods abroad, of various kinds. Goshawks, onion seed, Gascon wine, pickled Maas salmon, fur of ‘boge’ (lambskin), mink and other furs, ‘chambering’ (i.e., chamber hangings, tapestry) Holland cloth, saddles, stirrups, horse-furniture generally, armour, sugar loaves, salt fish, ginger, saffron, Louvain gloves, Calais packthread. For the purposes of their trade they bought Arras, Bergen (Mons), Elron (in Bretagne) and Normandy canvas for packing wool.
Not only did the Flemish merchants come to Calais, but the Engilshmen were constantly at Bruges and Antwerp and at ‘marts,’ or fairs, at Barrow, Balling, Cold Mart, ‘Synchon’ Mart in Antwerp, and Bammys Mart. They did business with people from all parts of the Low Countries. A social distinction may be noticed between the Flemish merchants and those from Holland and Zealand. The former are nearly all ‘Van der,’ with territorial names: they represent mercantile families of old standing who owned estates in land. That latter are all known merely by patronymics.
History has been miscalled a record of human crimes. But is is unfortunately true that we do not thoroughly know men till we have discovered their weakness and temptation. The English in Calais did not always lead a harmonious life, nor was their commercial integrity always above suspicion. An undated latter, which from internal evidence belongs to January 1482, from Joyce Parmenter, servant to the Celys, to his master George records a mischievous brawl. ‘Also I lat you wyt that Bottrell hathe brok up a wyndew of the west syde off your wolhowse & ther he hathe caste in horsse donge upon your sellers I dyd mak a man wt a donge fork in his hande to caste the donge asyde Botrell cam in & tuk the forke fro hym & bete hym well inthryftyle I seynge her uncurtiss delynge I prayd John Ekynton Robert Turney John Ellybek & William Hyll wt moe to breke faste in your chamber for this entent to see the hurtes & harms he dyd you uppon your goddes.’ John Dalton, writing on January 19, refers to Bottrell as “uncurtesse in her dedis.’ However, retribution followed, and it would seem that Bottrell was only one of a gang, uncourteous or worse, for William Cely writes on August 20 that the servants of the porter of Calais are expelled the place and Bottrell is in prison on the same matter, and is to leave the town, and marches on peril of death. On the 29th we hear that Bottrell is gone and his wife is to follow. There was something here worse than throwing dung in at the warehouse window and an assault with a dung-fork. It was probably some form of illicit trading by collusion of the porter’s servants. It was not dealings with the French, or he would not have got off so cheaply as to be only threatened with hanging.
But the Celys themselves were probably not innocent of irregularities in trade. There evidently were attempts made to drive bargains in England for wool; to sell here, contrary to the regulations of the Staple, and even possibly to avoid paying the subsidy. On October 29, 1480, we hear that there is a report that Cotswold wool is being bought in England by Lombards. It is mentioned as a complaint apparently by Richard Cely the elder. But on April 28, 1484, William Cely writes from Calais to Richard the younger and George in London that Wyllykyn, John Delowppys’ man, is in England, and that he and Peter Bale are trying to buy in England. He recommends that Peter Bale should be made to pay in Calais according to the Ordinance, for illegal dealing is suspected, and forfeit will be levied in Calais on those guilty of it, ‘but as for youre delynges knowyth noon man wtowte they serche Peter Balyes bokes as I thyncke grett serche schall be made for the forfett ys lewellyd oon some persones all redy but they be nott yett openly namyd and as for youre wull I trust to God hytt schall be sold and have redy mony for hyt wtyn thys month.’
It appears from William Cely’s letter of February 29, 1484, that had he had been dealing with Wyllykyn. This man and Gyesbryght, a frequent customer, had got a promise in London of the wool, so, though William Cely had promised it to ‘anoder man,’ he took of them ‘a Goddes peny’ to clinch the bargain.21
But on September 12, 1487, we have a record, which Richard and George ought certainly to have burnt, of a downright piece of swindling. The ‘sarpler’ taken out by the Lieutenant to test the quality, No. 24, was poor wool; so faithful William tells his principal that he has cast out No. 8 instead, knowing it to be ‘fayre wull,’ and changed the labels before inspection. On September 18 he writes with satisfaction: ‘Yowre wull ys awarddyd be the sarpler that I cast owte last.’ Following immediately on the announcement of the success of the fraud comes the news that George, who profited by it, is elected one of the eighteen to assist the Mayor of the Staple now ‘at thys parliament tyme,’ to protect, no doubt, the honesty of the trade among other duties — ‘all-myghty Jhesu preserve you.’ This is only the current language of the day, but commercial dishonesty and pious expressions seem ever to go hand in hand.
These are the actions of upright merchants. George, it is true, does not seem to have been fully trusted by his father as a good business-man, as we may suspect from letters from the latter of August 17, 1478, April 30, 1479, June 14, 1479, and January 2, 1480. George was a sportsman, whose horses were his chief interest, and he also was perhaps not in strong health always, to judge from the letter of November 11, 1479. But Robert was the black sheep of the family. After a letter from London of November 19, 1477, in which he mentions the death of his uncle, the Dean of York, and speaks with evident pride of the references to him in a sermon at Paul’s Cross, ‘and there sate that tyme V. bochoppys at Pollys Crosse;’ and after an ordinary business letter or two we only hear of him in difficulties. For instance, in 1478 Richard was minded to stop Robert from leaving Calais for England, but forbore at the prayer of Thomas Adam. Robert had borrowed thirty shillings to pay his host, but lost it all at dice. So Thomas has prayed Master Lieutenant to pay Robert’s passage money. Such as Robert are better not helped, as Richard points out very sensibly to George on April 9, 1479, for he hears that George has been helping Robert and intends to help him further, but he counsels him to do no such thing, but to leave him alone. ‘Ze knowe the onsted fastness of hym.’ Robert seems to have been still in Calais; perhaps Master Lieutenant had not paid his passage. He has debts, too, of 15l/ and 10l. Of course he has a wife, or a reputed wife, and she refuses to join him, possibly for good reasons, but alleging the dangers of the sea from so many Frenchmen and Flemings being about. ‘Robert’s childe’ in this letter is his servant, not his son. But Robert’s matrimonial relations appear clouded on April 7, 1480. ‘Ther is a devysyon fawllyn betwen our brother Robard and sche that schoulde abe hys wyfe and he as gevyn hyr ower.’ This probably is the wife of the previous year; they may have been contracted, but not married. On May 3, 1480, his father says Robert is at Bruges, and will not come to Calais ‘for fere of fytyng at Caleys in to Beeschepys Cort for the lude mater of Jonne Harthe.’ Joan Hart’s relatives were trying in vain to get money out of old Richard Cely, and swore Joan should keep all that Robert had given her, and threatened an action in the Bishop’s Court. However, on May 15, it appears that Joan had consented to be quit of a bad bargain, and had returned some of Robert’s presents, to wit, a girdle of gold with buckle and pendants silver and gilt, a gold ring with a little diamond in it, and a damask carpet; a fair sample of the presents we should expect an impecunious scamp to give his young woman. Richard tells George to entertain Robert at Calais, to give him five shillings, and send him home. Their father understands Robert’s “chyldysche’ dealing. Finally, the prodigal himself writes to George, who clearly was not so hard-hearted as Richard, on September 6, 1480, to say that he has been sick and sore, and still goes with a staff, and will George pay William Barwell, mercer of London, 14l. 15s., which he has lent to Robert to save his plate? Of course Robert will repay the money. It is safe to surmise that he did not, if George was fool enough to lend it.
But it scarcely seems that George’s life in Calais was quite regular. His servant writes to him, apparently in January 1482, from Calais, ‘Also I lat yow wyt ther ye go & ete puddynges the woman is withe child.’ He is also told of it by his friend Dalton. In August he is told that ‘Margary’ wants raiment against her churching, ‘as sche hadd the toder tyme.’ He is told on August 29 that Margaret’s daughter is dead. He was curiously interested in her. Richard we can follow on a lawful matrimonial quest. After his father’s death, at the end of 1481 or beginning of 1482, he immediately set about finding a wife, and offers were made to him from several directions. He was a good match. In 1484, these negotiations having come to nothing seemingly, William Cely writes that a lady has been making inquiry in Calais about the comparative wealth of Richard and George, and of another merchant, and he can assure the brothers that they have sold 2,000l. worth in the last year. With a fair mercantile profit of 10 per cent. this would be an income of 200l. between them from business. That is a sum equal to the household expenses of a knight and double those of a squire, according to the reckoning in the ‘Black Book of Edward IV.’ Richard, too, had an estate in Essex.
The story which he unfolds to brother George, May 13, 1482, is idyllic, in contrast with the dry business details of his ordinary letters. He has been three weeks in the Cotswold country buying wool, and when his business was done Midwinter the dealer began to move him to go a-courting. He told him of a ‘Zuenge genttull whoman hos father ys name ys Lemryke and her mother ys deyd and sche schaull dispend be her moter XLli ze [re] as they say in that contre.’ Her father ‘ys the gretteste rewlar as rycheste mane in that conttre,’ and great gentleman had been to court her. He had spoken to the most influential man about her father, and both father and daughter were well inclined to the proposal. The father sent to say that if he would tarry till Mayday he might have a sight of the young lady. The father prudently kept out of the way. He was to have sat for the King as a Justice of the Peace that day at Northleach, but sent one of his clerks instead, and rode to Winchcombe. The young lady and her mother-in-law, as they call her, this is, her step-mother, came over to Northleach Church. There, in the fine decorated fourteenth-century church, which still stands, Richard and William Bretten were hearing Matins — it was on a Thursday — when the young lady and her step-mother came in. When Matins were done the ladies went to ‘ kynnys whoman of the Zuenge gentty woman and I sent to them a pottell of whyte romnay and thay toke hyt thankefully for they had cwm a myle a fote that monyng.’ He and William Bretten stayed for Mass after Matins. When Mass had been said the ladies invited him to dinner. ‘I ascwysyd me,’ but they made him promise to come and drink with them after dinner. They exchanged good cheer; he sent them a gallon of wine, they sent him a roast heronshaw. Then after dinner — all this about nine o’clock in the morning, and throws light upon the reasons for Mass being said very early — they met, the three ladies, two of whom had already had the ‘pottell of whyte romnay’ after their fatiguing walk of a mile, Richard and his friend, and discussed what was left of the gallon of wine, and what more the ‘kynnys whoman’ might provide. Acquaintance naturally ripened rapidly. The young lady pleased him much. “Sche ys zewnge lytyll and whery whell favyrd and whytty.’ The father was to come up to London to settle the business part of the affair so auspiciously begun with piety and potation on that May morning. But, alas! we hear no more of the ‘whell favryd and whytty’ Mistress Lemryke. Ten days after he wrote, before the Justice of the Peace had ridden to town, Richard was inquiring about another young woman. It does not appear that he married either.
A characteristic of the whole family, which perhaps they shared with other well-to-do merchants, was their love of sport. The idea that there was anything incongruous between such tastes and the life of a citizen is the growth of another age. When all travelling was done on horseback, men who were continually going long distances on business were as much at home in the saddle as their descendents are on a train. There was no town in England, London included, which was not as near places where game abounded as a Norfolk country house of a Leicestershire hunting box are now. George was a great sportsman. When he was abroad there is scarcely a letter to him which does not contain news of his great horse, or his young horse, his horse Bayard, or his horse Py, their health, ailments, or bills for their keep, or prospects for their sale. ‘The horse ys fayre God save hym God send you a schapeman for hym,’ writes his father, after saying that Richard has sold his sorrel for four marks. The tragic news is conveyed to both George and his servant, that his grey bitch has had fourteen fair whelps and died suddenly. When he writes himself he is nearly as much interested in the price of hawks as of wool, and he dabbles in horse dealing with the usual morality. He at last sells ‘Py’ for five marks, and the buyer thinks himself ‘full begyllyd.’ Good hawks were sometimes more than half the price of five nobles each, but so dear that only my Lord Chamberlain buys them. In some of the correspondents’ letters, not their own, it is interesting to see the plurals horsen or horson survive.
Even the grave father and Richard — George being absent in Calais — become involved as sportsmen in a scrape, which may have been merely a misfortune, but which may have been a serious poaching affair. On November 5, and again on the 26th, 1481, Richard wrote to George that he and his father, and ‘Brandon’s men’ he says on the 5th — “Loulay’ he says on the 26th, perhaps one of Brandon’s men — were indicted for the ‘scleyng of an hartte,’ which was driven over the Thames from Essex, and slain at Dartford, and for the killing of two hind calves. He declares that Brandon informed against them, but that he did it himself, and much more, and is now indicted for killing two harts and certain calves. As to the hart which took to the river, ‘th qweche whe nevyr se ner knew of,’ the Celys were very anxious not come into court. Richard had been to Sir Thomas Montgomery, of the King’s Privy Council, and Steward of the Forest of Essex, ‘to have we howt of the boke hevir hyt be schewyd the kyng.’ He had given to Sir Thomas a hundred shillings, ‘the whalew of a pyps of whyn,’ and one of his gentlemen three shillings and fourpence. So Sir Thomas became their ‘spessial good master in thys mater,’ and promised to continue his protection, for which George is to wait upon him and thank him, and probably bribe him again, when the great man presently comes to Calais. So the Celys were freed from the charge, and the King’s justice was perhaps hoodwinked. It rather suggests a counterpart to ‘the knave is mine honest friend, Sir, I pray you let him be contenanced.’ Richard Cely’s greyounds were probably accessory tot the death of that hart. When George has come to England, and is departing again to Calais, he is to bear off Hector and the others, greyhounds evidently, for himself and the Lieutenant of Gravelines, ‘for he [Richard the elder] wyll kepe no mo grewandes a whyll be greabyll to kepe a hawke and spaynellys,’ which last could not run a hart.
The interviews with Sit Thomas Montgomery cost Richard something, and he would be glad of the remittances from Calais. As a consolation, however, he found that he had bought entrée into good society. ‘I am cwm in qwaytans of dyvars whowschypfull men that wyll myche for ws for hys sake’: and he does not add for the dake of the ‘whalew’ of a pipe of wine. When the King pocketed a bribe yearly from Louis XI, what virtue could be expected of his councilors?
Taken for all in all, the life revealed is not worse in point of morality than that of the same class in other times. It is more vigorous and manly than commerical life is now. The modern young business man has his holidays devoted to sport. The Celys, besides occasional relaxations — and Richard rode down to buy in Gloucestershire hawk on fist, ready to let fly at heron or partridge as he journeyed — had a continual experience of roughing it in their working days. In peril of robbers by sea and land, in peril of bogs and stones on the English apologies for roads, among the contending troops in Flanders, tossing smacks across the Channel, they probably became men, more natural and tougher-fibred than those who have to cultivate their manhood by sport and games in the intervals of business. There is very little sensibiliity about them, but plenty of sense.
Richard Cely the younger died in 1494,22 leaving three co-heiresses — Margaret, Isabella, and Barbara — aged only four and three years, and six months respectively. Margaret married John Kettleby, and died childless. Isabella married Robert Warham and Antony Cook, and left descendents. She inherited Brytys Place at last from her sisters, for Barbara seems to have died unmarried. The property was sold in 1531.
- See Letters of April 18 and 20, 1482.
- Ordinance of the Staple.
- The incorporation of the merchants was perhaps intended to strengthen the King’s power of negotiating with them for grants of money, apart from the rest of the commonality. They formed almost a separate estate of the realm, and, as was the case with the clergy, the Crown could offer them privileges in return for subsidies behind the back of Parliament.
- Hodie, the burrs in wool, are the great difficulty to the manufacturer. Messers. Harmel Frères, and Holden of Rheims and Bradford, have adopted a ‘burring’ machine, which partly overcomes it, but carelessness, much more fraud, in allowing foreign matters to be mixed with wool, very seriously damage it. See Burnley, History of Wool and Wool-combing, p. 96. &c.
- Rymer, xii. 80, &c.
- Salisbury Ledger A. 1., fo. 105 ß.
- According to De Commines, Louis always had in view the possibility of recovering Calais, but on his deathbed warned his son not to attempt it. He knew that it would, if attempted, make England the active ally of Burgundy.
- Rymer, xii. 66 segg.
- Does not this throw light on the disputed origin of the powers given to a Committee of the Council by Act 3, Hen. VII. 5? It was a Committee of the Magnum Concilium, not of the Concilium Ordinarium.
- In 1480 the fixing of the comparative value of English and French money was made the subject of an agreement between Edward and Louis (Rymer, xii. 115). Edward had plenty of opportunity of appraising the value of French money.
- Rymer, xii. 113.
- Rymer, xii. 128.
- Subsequently Bishop of St. David’s in 1483, then Bishop of Winchester 1493-1501.
- Rymer, xii. 137.
- Kervyn de Lettenhove, Histoire de Flandre.
- Engish Hist., R., July 1897. ‘An Unknown Treaty between Edward IV and Louis XI.’
- Chroniques de Jean de Molinet.
- Rymer, xii. 320.
- The Danes had a grievance against England, because English ships visited Iceland. A treaty had been made in 1479 forbidding this intercourse without license. (Rymer, xii. 100).
- Rainham in Essex apparently, close to the Celys’ country seat, not Rainham in Kent. For the Mary of Rainham took over an Essex cheese to Calais (Letter, October 31. 1481). But Rainham on the Medway was a small port under Elizabeth.
- A God’s penny, money paid to ratify a bargain.
‘I draw you to recorde lordes all;
With that he cast him a God’s penny.’
Ballade of the Hier of Linn.
- Inq. P.M. 9 Hen. VII. Sept. 20.
There are many references in these Letters to the various coins current, or we should perhaps say circulating, for they were not all current, in Calais. The rate of excahange was a continual subject of calculation or of dispute among the merchants. The number of potentates of all kinds who claimed the privilege of issuing their own coinage, and the frequently suspicious character of what they uttered as gold or silver, made the matter of adjustment of values difficult for the Celys, who were evidently obliged to take what they could get. English money was, as a rule, much finer than foreign. The pound was not an English coin, but, as a measure of value, it was reckoned as worth more than the Flemish pound, in varying proportions.
The case was the same with the English and Flemish shilling. The English groat was sometimes worth sixpence Flemish. But the rates varied.
For example, Sir John Weston, going abroad on July 31, 1481, desires to have 100l. or 200l. English changed into Flemish money at seven shillings Flemish for the English noble of six shillings and eightpence. On May 10, 1484, however, one pound English was worth thirty shillings Flemish.
The following is a list of foreign coins, with an English value assigned to them, generally by George Cely. That I have identified most of them, and can make a conjecture about some of the others, is owing to the courtesy of Mr. B.V. Head and of the other officials in the Coin Department of the British Museum, whose kind help I gladly acknowledge.
- Andrew, Andre, or Andrew Gylder, a Scots gold coin of James II and James III; reckoned as worth five shillings English.
- Arnoldes, the Arnoldus Gulden of Arnold Duke of Gueldres, 1423-1473, made of debased gold; reckoned as worth two shillings and fourpence English.
- Carolas Groat, the groat of Charles of Burgundy.
- Crowns or New Crowns, probably the French Ecu; reckoned as worth five shillings and eightpence English. The English Crown was not coined till later than this.
- Crowns, Old, perhaps the Ecu coined by Henry V or Henry VI in France; reckoned as worth five shillings and sixpence English.
- Davyd, or Dawethe, a gold coin of David of Burgundy, Bishop aof Utrecht, 1456-1498, made of debased gold; reckoned as worth four shillings English.
- Falewe, a gold coin of the bishopric of Utrecht, bearing the mint mark of Veluwe, a district in the Bishopric; reckoned at six shillings and twopence English.
- Hettinus, Hettin, or Hekyn Groats, perhaps the coins of the county of Marck in Westphalia, the Counts of which had also lordships in the Netherlands, bearing the mint mark Hattin: as being coined at Hattingen. However, only pence, not Grochen, are extant coined at Hattingen. Groschen were largely coined at Oettingen in Bavaria, but the geographical want of connexion with the Netherlands makes a difficulty in supposing these to be meant.
- Hettrytus, possibly the Gulden of Utrecht marvellously misspelt; reckoned at four shillings and fourpence English.
- Lewe, the French Louis d’Or; reckoned at seven shillings English.
- Lymmyr Groats, Groschen of Limburg; reckoned at sixpence or sevenpence Flemish.
- Milleyn Groats, silver coins of Milan; reckoned at two shillings Flemish.
- Nemyng, Hemyng and Renyng Groats, Groschen of Nimuegen; worth about fourpence.
- Phellypus, the Philippe d’Or of Brabant, struck by Philip the Good of Burgundy; reckoned as worth three shillings and fourpence English, or the half-noble.
- Plalkes or Plakes, perhaps the Plaques of Utrecht. The value is far above that of the Scots Placks, billon coins of James III, but perhaps the name Plaque, a thin piece of metal, might be applied to various coins. These are reckoned as worth about eightpence or ninepence English, or three to two shillings and twopence. The ‘old sengull plack’ was only twopence.
- Postlates, coins of debased gold of Rudolf, Bishop of Utrecht, 1423-1456, but also the name of other episcopal coins; reckoned as worth two shillings and eightpence English.
- Ryall, the English Rial, worth ten shillings. The value given by George Cely, fourteen shillings and sixpence, is probably the valued in debased Low Country money.
- Rydar, and coin bearing the figure of a man on horseback might be so named. The Scots Rider of James III, gold, was of eighty grains weight, the same as the English Angel of Edward IV, worth six shillings and eightpence. The gold Rider of Philip of Burgundy was of the weight (sixty grains) of the half Rial of Edward IV, worth five shillings. The value assigned to a Rydar by George Cely, six shillings and fourpence, may express some distrust of the Scots coin, or more likely is the value of the Burgundian Rider in debased Low Countries silver.
- Rynsche, the Florin Rhenau, of the Bishopric of Cologne; reckoned as worth four shillings and tenpence English.
- Setillers, coins of uncertain origin. A coin with a seated figure upon it was sometimes called a Chaise, and Setillers suggests Sedilia. Setillers appear elsewhere to be mentioned as coins of small value; in the only place where they are valued in the Letters, October 31, no year, they are reckoned at four shillings and fourpence each Flemish, which would be rather under four shillings English.
In addition to this llist, we have in the Letter of August 29, 1482, an official valuation of foreign coins for custom and subsidy, made in Calais. The values are a trifle lower than in the private list. One other coin appears, the Gyhellmus, at four shillings.
There was a coin, gold, called a Willelmus, struck by William Count of Hainault and Holland 1404-1417. This was perhaps meant, though it seems to be worth more than four shillings, if the gold was pure. William Duke of Guildres, 1377-1393, struck gold coins of about the right value, but the name does not appear as applied to them. In the official list the Falewe mentioned above appears as the Salew with nearly the same value, five and sixpence. The official rate of exchange was fixed then at twenty-six and eightpence Flemish for one pound sterling. The other official values are:
- The New Croune, five and sixpence; the Olde Croune, five and fourpence.
- The Lewe, six and eightpence; the Andrew Gylden, four and sixpence.
- The Ryder, five and eightpence.
- The Olde Nobull, eleven shillings.
- The Ryall, thirteen and fourpence.
The last two are puzzling for the Noble (English) had been current for six-and-eightpence, and the Rose Noble, or Rial, of Edward IV, was ten shillings. The latter, indeed, corresponds to the rate of exchanges, if the shillings are in Flemish; but the former is far from doing so.
The names of places mentioned in the following Letters have been annotated and identified where possible, with certain exceptions. It has not been thought necessary to explain English place names, the spelling of which preserves the sound of the modern pronunciation, even though the form be slightly different; such as Darteford for Dartford, Cottyswold, &c. for Cotswold. Neither have certain places of obvious interpretation, Dover, Calais, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, which occur very frequently, been explained. A number of ‘marts,’ fairs, or markets are named, the annotation of which in every place would have necessitated the repetition of sometimes doubtful explanations. These marts seem to be certainly or possibly allocated as follows:
- In London the Mart means Mark Lane, which is a mere corruption of Mart Lane.
- In Calais there is also a Mart, where the Staplers lodeged and did business.
- In Bruges the Mart is represented now by the Rue des Laines. Synchon, Synschon, or Synssen Mart was a fair at Antwerp, held on St. John the Baptist’s day; as appears in the Letters.
- Bammys, Bammes or Bamnys Mart was probably at St. Rémy in the Bishopric of Liège. Bamis is a local Flemish name for St. Rémy. This fair was held on August 8.
- Balling or Balyng Mart was perhaps at Baelen in the Duchy of Limburg. M. Warnkoenig, ‘L’Histoire de Flandre, Civile et Politique,’ vol. ii., Appendices X, XI, XX, gives forms of safe conduct from the Duke of Limburg for Flemish merchants proceeding through Liège and Limburg towards the Rhine. Baelen is on the road towards the frontier of the Duchy of Juliers.
- Cold Mart would seem to be Cortemarck, near Thourout, or Torholt, in West Flanders. At Thourout a great fair was established as early as the thirteenth century.
- Barrow, or Barow Mart, most frequently mentioned, is the most difficult to identify. It appears from the Letters to be within two days’ journey of Calais. Near Hazebrouck, in what was lately French Flanders, M. Warnkoenig marks in a map of Flanders, as it was in A.D. 1300, the village of Borre; near it is Stapele. They are about thirty miles from Calais as the crow flies.