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Letter #2974

Binche, 1546-06-12*

English register:

De Schepper is happy about the arrival of Dantiscus’ long-awaited letter [IDL 6698 (letter lost)]. He received it in London near the end of Lent. He analyses the reasons why its delivery was delayed. He sees its content as being unfavourable towards the English and their King [henry VIII]. He thanks Dantiscus for accepting his apology [for the three-year break in his letter-writing].

He lists recently deceased people whose integrity is worth copying in these difficult times: René [de Châlon], Prince of Orange, Godschalk [Ericksen] and [Cornelis van] Zegherscapelle.

De Schepper reports the return of his stepson Matthias Laurijn from Constantinople. Following Dantiscus' request he characterises imperial envoy and secretary Gerard Veltwijck.

De Schepper responds to Dantiscus' request that he send him books directed against Martin Bucer's doctrine. He writes that after the doctrine’s official condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church and an imperial ban on bringing in books containing it, no one in the Low Countries is dealing with the subject any more. Therefore he is only sending Dantiscus De restauranda religione by the Parisian theologian Herman Lethmaet, who presents the topic in two volumes though he had announced there would be as many as thirty-six.

De Schepper describes the juicy details of the anonymously published biography of Bucer, lamenting the heretic’s long time of hiding among Christians [i.e. Roman Catholics] and his destructive influence on Hermann von Wied, Bishop of Cologne. He thinks that if Hendrik of Nassau were still alive, he would be shocked by the Nassau family’s connection to the Wied family. In De Schepper’s view, Bucer is all the more harmful because he has more followers than Martin Luther himself.

De Schepper expresses his delight with Filippo Archinto’s theological books. He knows about the Cracow edition published under Dantiscus’ patronage. De Schepper met with Archinto in Milan and in Nice. He intends to write to him, all the more so since Dantiscus wrote to him about the support Archinto provided to Dantiscus’ cousin in the case against the former Canon of Ermland, Alexander Sculteti. De Schepper criticises Sculteti’s conduct in reading of banned and frivolous books. He notes a similarity between Sculteti and members of the Łaski family, who have a bad influence on the inhabitants of Frisia and on some of De Schepper’s compatriots.

De Schepper reports that Maximiliaan van Egmond-Buren has regained his health and is due to arrive from Frisia at Queen Mary’s court. The rumour that he had been conducting levies for the King of England turned out to be false, because England and France are readying for a peace treaty.

De Schepper sends Dantiscus greetings from his friends, who were glad to hear that Dantiscus was still alive. Among them he lists Claude Bouton, Hendrik van Witthem, Petrus Clericus, Pierre de Boissot, Lord Silly [Jean III de Trazegnies] and Ioannes a Loven.

With reference to the congratulations that Dantiscus extends to his homeland for achieving peace, De Schepper is concerned as to whether this state will last in view of the envy of the country’s neighbours, especially the French. He is glad it is the Habsburg Netherlands that rule over the mouth of the Rhine, and the Duchy of Guelders from where enemies armed by France usually attack. After the defeats of the last war, the people of the Low Countries fortified the Duchy of Luxembourg, which was regained with some difficulty, and the County of Hainaut. The Emperor [Charles V] has also taken care of the previously neglected military training of the Low Countries’ young men.

De Schepper notes that the enemies of the state and religion who spread the false rumours which Dantiscus heard about the situation in the Low Countries have been subdued.

De Schepper responds to Dantiscus’ doubts as to whether the Emperor is still able to establish peace in view of the escalating conflict between France and England over Boulogne-sur-Mer. He agrees with Dantiscus’ view that all the spoils plundered both from the tomb of St. Thomas in Canterbury and from the monasteries would not satiate the soldiers’ greed. He outlines the negotiations concerning a joint military operation by the Emperor and England against France, in which he participated as an envoy to England. As a result of these, the Emperor made peace with France with the consent of England, which is still at war. De Schepper does not yet know the results of the missions which were sent by the German Protestant princes to the Kings of England and France with the aim of establishing an alliance against Emperor Charles and King Ferdinand. De Schepper encountered the envoys, Johannes Sturm and Johannes Sleidanus, who pretended not to recognise him and did not want to exchange greetings. De Schepper criticised them publicly.

De Schepper is happy about Dantiscus’ praise of his stable, almost homely lifestyle at Queen Mary’s court. He claims that he has to be ready to undertake diplomatic duties, especially dangerous and poorly paid ones, but admits that there are fewer of them now and they are less fatiguing than they used to be. He declares that he will make every effort to serve Christianity well.

De Schepper reciprocates Dantiscus’ greetings for his children by sending his best wishes to his friend’s nephews. At the request of Dantiscus’ acquaintances from the imperial court (including Lord of Courrières [Jean de Montmorency], the Marshal of Silly [Jean III de Trazegnies] and Hendrik Stercke), De Schepper intercedes for Dantiscus’ daughter [Juana Dantisca] and extensively outlines the situation of her husband Gracían [de Alderete], briefly writing about her mother [Isabel Delgada]. He criticises Dantiscus’ lack of interest in his daughter’s fate.

To Dantiscus’ remark that, contrary to the horoscope that foretold he would live a short life, De Schepper is now a grandfather, he replies that the prediction was based on an incorrect date of birth. To satisfy his friend’s curiosity, he declares that since he started serving rulers in other ways, he has completely abandoned astrology.

De Schepper agrees with Dantiscus’ negative opinion of Jan Łaski jr., who is active in territories across the River Ems. He has dared to spread his false teachings in Cologne and its environs, but does not go across the river [i.e. to the Habsburg Netherlands] for fear of punishment – a year earlier some Frenchmen from Strasbourg were burned at the stake there. Despite this, some from among the Netherlandish nobility (a.o. eldest son of Charles of Burgundy, whom Dantiscus knew) have been deluded by them and together with their families have emigrated to Strasbourg, Geneva and Zürich. De Schepper also describes two wealthy noblewomen from Twente in Overijssel who preferred to be burned alive rather than abandon the teachings of Menno Simons.

De Schepper points out that apostates, especially those infected with Anabaptism (including Polyphemus [Felix Rex] and Gnapheus), are fleeing from the Low Countries to Prussia, seeking the protection of the Duke [Albrecht]. In the person of the Duke, in De Schepper’s view, the Poles have raised a snake who is harming the German nobility.

De Schepper outlines the religious situation in France where, in his view, atheism is spreading. He seeks the reason for this in France’s frequent alliances with pagans, in wars against Christians and in the corruption of morals. He describes the overwhelming influence of the King’s mistress, Lady d’Estampes, on state affairs. He praises, as being just, the sentencing to death by burning at the stake of godless Frenchmen, including the scholar Étienne Dolet who slandered the Emperor, the Germans and the Spaniards on many occasions. He mentions that many Frenchmen are emigrating to Germany for religious reasons. He notes that the way in which the King of France [Francis I] treats Lutherans depends on his current relations with the Pope [Paul III], the Emperor and the German princes from the Schmalkaldic League.

Regarding the religious situation in England, De Schepper notes that although religious ceremonies have not been changed, he agrees with Dantiscus that church discipline and the primacy of the Pope have been rejected.

De Schepper reports on the worsening situation in Scotland. England’s supporters have killed the Cardinal of St. Andrews [David Beaton], who had ruled the country since the death of the King [James V Stuart].

De Schepper responds to Dantiscus’ explanations regarding his stay at the royal court for the wedding [of Sigismund II Augustus and Elisabeth of Austria]. He advises his friend not to regret the hardships this involved because, despite suffering illness and the disfavour of “Juno” [Bona Sforza d’Aragona], he gained the favour of the old King [Sigismund I]. He also suggests that Dantiscus bid the court farewell for good and devote himself exclusively to the affairs of Prussia, his true homeland.

De Schepper describes the failure of his peace missions in England. He reports that he passed on Dantiscus’ greetings to Bishops Cuthbert Tunstall and Stephen Gardiner but did not meet with Archbishop Cranmer, who leads a different life from the other two and is of a different faith. Therefore Schepper is not surprised at how he treated the boy from Lithuania [Georgius Rogenellus] and that he did not reply to Dantiscus’ letter.

As requested by Dantiscus, he explains the marital affairs of the King of England, listing his progeny and describing the background, connections and ultimate fate of all six wives.

De Schepper reports in detail on the actions of Stanisław Lasota, a courtier of the young King of Poland [Sigismund II Augustus], at the imperial, Netherlandish and English courts; Lasota introduced himself as a royal envoy and tried to arrange a marriage for the young King and organise international trade relations, while in reality he was a semi-private person without any credentials, a fact which was finally discovered.

De Schepper states that the English are not interested in an alliance with faraway Poland (which would be strengthened by an appropriate marriage). He asks to be recommended to the Polish king [Sigismund I] and for information about the new chancellor [Tomasz Sobocki], whom he does not know.

De Schepper is worried by unfavourable news from the Kingdom of Hungary, including the downfall of the powerful families there and the Hungarians’ readiness to submit to Turkish rule. The situation in Poland seems to him to be much better, as long as the old King lives. However, he is worried by news of Polish youths being sent off to study in Wittenberg, widespread trafficking in lay and religious offices, spreading hatred of the clergy, and favourable attitudes towards the Duke in Prussia and supporters of the Turks in Hungary. All this is leading to the Christian Republic’s doom. Polish diplomatic efforts in France and Italy, of which De Schepper has been informed from Rome, seem silly because he knows well how fickle the French and the Italians are.

He repeats (enigmatically) rumours of Bona’s efforts to regain her Italian income.

He thinks the proposal to call the Royal Prussian Estates to the Polish Crown [with the aim of incorporating Prussia], as presented to the King [Sigismund I] at the assembly, is harmful and introduces discord in the country. On the other hand, he favours the idea of Prussia supporting the Crown in the defence against the Turks.

Regarding the information from Dantiscus about newly appointed bishops, De Schepper writes that of the people listed, the only one of whom he has heard is the late [Primate of Poland, Piotr] Gamrat, whom he initially took for an Italian on the basis of his name (Gamaratini) and his being a protégé of the Queen [Bona]. He writes very unfavourably about him while extolling (based on Dantiscus’ description) the current Bishop of Cracow, Samuel [Maciejowski].

He comments on the news Dantiscus sent him about the situation in Hungary. Ferenc Bebek and Brother George [Utješenović], who are fighting a civil war with each other, are known to him and he considers them to be devious criminals. He recalls the well-founded concern about Brother George once felt by King John [Zápolya]. He notes the difficult position of Isabella Jagiellon.

De Schepper discusses the political consequences of the death of the Duke of Orléans [Charles II of Valois]. His birth gave the French hope that he would rule Hungary and destroy the Turkish Empire. De Schepper had also been told this by the Bishop of Tarbes [Antoine de Castelnau]. However, the Duke of Orléans’ achievements were limited to supporting the Lutherans and seizing part of the Duchy of Luxembourg for a short time. De Schepper guesses that when he wrote of certain plans that the Duke of Orléans’ death had destroyed, Dantiscus meant his intention of marrying the widow [Isabella Jagiellon] of King John [Zápolya] and obtaining Hungary from the Turks as a fiefdom; since the Turks were allegedly supposed to hand over Buda to the son of King John (though this ultimately did not come to pass), this would have been an effective way of taking power in Hungary. Though the Poles had been told that he aspired to this in order to turn them against the Emperor, in fact he coveted the power over Italy or the Low Countries.

De Schepper notes that everyone who wants peace among Christians mourns the death of Queen Elisabeth [of Habsburg], as her marriage was a guarantee of friendship between Poland and the Kingdom of Bohemia and Hungary. He asks about the cause of Elisabeth’s death.

De Schepper explains that the source of his concern over the negotiations between the Polish Queen [Bona Sforza] and the King of France relates to the benefits which stand to be gained from these talks by the Protestants who are forming a league against the Emperor and the Roman King [Ferdinand Habsburg]. He questions the sense of Bona’s efforts to secure the hand of the French princess for her son, since the King of France is vying for the hand of the Emperor’s son for his daughter.

De Schepper describes the Emperor’s travels, the state of his health, and his meetings with the princes of the Reich (the Landgrave of Hesse [Philip I der Großmütige] and the Elector Palatine [Friedrich II of Wittelsbach]) on the eve of the Diet in Regensburg. He is counting on an agreement being reached and on a joint operation against the Turks.

The Duke in Prussia’s four-month stay in Germany does not bode well, in De Schepper’s view.

De Schepper presents different opinions on the imprisonment of the Duke of Braunschweig [Heinrich II]. Some blame the Protestants, others claim that Heinrich’s gullibility was his downfall, and others still accuse Moritz, Duke of Saxony.

De Schepper outlines the Emperor’s difficult position in Germany. He states that the Protestants are striving for civil war, disregarding both the supremacy of the rulers and the danger of an attack from France and the Turks.

De Schepper has no fresh news about Spanish affairs, Hernán Cortés, Philipp von Hutten or the others who travelled to America.

As requested, De Schepper lists those progeny of rulers who are as yet unmarried: still living is the Emperor’s grandson [Carlos of Asturias] born of Philip’s wife [Maria Manuela of Portugal] who died in 1545. After the death of Madeleine [of Valois], the King of France is left with one daughter, Margaret [of Valois]. Madeleine’s late husband, the King of Scotland [James V Stuart], had another daughter [Mary Stuart] by his second wife [Mary of Guise], and she will probably reign in Scotland after Edward [VI Tudor]. The Emperor has two daughters. The elder [Mary of Austria] is to marry King Ferdinand’s son, while the younger [Joanna of Austria] has been promised to the eldest son [João Manuel] of the Portuguese king [John III of Portugal]. The King of Portugal has two eligible daughters and one son. The Dauphin of France [Henry II of Valois] has a three-year-old son [Francis II of Valois] and a six-month-old daughter [Elisabeth of Valois].

Georg [of Austria], Bishop of Liège, was pleased to receive the letter from Dantiscus that De Schepper gave him after returning from England, and promised to provide a reply, but their contact was interrupted when De Schepper was sent on a mission to Zeeland in connection with rumours that French ships had arrived at Walcheren Island. De Schepper sends reciprocated greetings and best wishes from the Lord of Praet. He has not met any more of Dantiscus’ former companions from the imperial court.

[Francis van der] Dilft is in England and suffering from gout and a cold.

Like Dantiscus, De Schepper wrote the present letter in parts, during breaks between household and court duties. He extends greetings to Dantiscus’ brothers and sisters as well as his nephews.

De Schepper is overseeing the construction of the castle in Ghent. The building served as a Benedictine monastery for hundreds of years.

De Schepper sends news of Dantiscus’ acquaintances and friends: his former landlord in Ghent [Arendt Sturm], Michiel De Vriendt, the Lord of Schardauw, the Lord of Heule, Karel Utenhove, the abbot of St. Peter’s Monastery, Dantiscus’ servant Triest, Iacobus de Scorisse, Adolphus de Scornaco, and Levinus Panagathus [Algoet], and also Wolfgang Haller, the Duke of Aarschot [Philippe II de Croÿ], Antoon van Bergen, the Archbishop of Köln [Hermann von Wied] and the Cardinal of Mayence [Albrecht von Hohenzollern].

He describes the prosperity of the Duchy of Guelders, loyal to the Emperor, and the organisation of the army in the area. He informs Dantiscus that there is peace in the Duchy of Milan, which is governed on the Emperor’s behalf – after the death of the previous governor, the Margrave del Vasto [Alfonso d’Avalos] – by Ferrante Gonzaga.

De Schepper does not know what to expect from the Imperial Diet or the Council of Trent. It is said that several French bishops have made their way to Trent, and from the Low Countries the Bishops of Cambrai [Robert de Croÿ] and Tournai [Charles de Croÿ].

De Schepper has no news of Margrave Johann Albrecht [of Brandenburg-Ansbach]. As for Mariangelo Accursio, he has heard that he was at the imperial court as an envoy from l’Aquila and that he has started a family.

He moves on to replying to the postscript attached to Dantiscus’ letter. As requested, he recommended Dantiscus to Queen Mary and read her excerpts from his letter.

He states that the abuses (insolentia) of Spanish soldiers are well-known everywhere, but this is normal for troops and nothing can be done about it.

He has learned from Gerard Veltwijck that the Turkish expedition against Georg Utješenović’s supporters (Georgiani) has been postponed and that the Sultan [Suleiman] seems to be striving for peace. The Sultan has concluded a one-year truce [with the Emperor] because Veltwijck did not consent to a longer one.

De Schepper is surprised that the young Polish king is striving to take over the annates. Perhaps he was encouraged by the example of the King of France, but the Pope will not let his income be taken from him. De Schepper sees this kind of idea as dangerous.

De Schepper has not yet met with Count [Maximiliaan van Egmond]-Buren; he has only sent him a letter. He hopes to speak with him in person soon. He confirms receipt of the booklet by Archinto together with the items placed inside, and sends thanks on behalf of his wife, children and cousin. He is not sure if the appearance of the piece of silver conforms to that of the original silver coins for which Christ was betrayed. He asks Dantiscus to explain the matter. When he has a free moment he will compare the coin’s weight with that of other specimens.

De Schepper praises the lamentations (naeniae,) written by Dantiscus in German, as combining scholarly knowledge with the spirit of Christian piety and being quite different from specimens of this type of work written by the renegade clergy who have taken refuge with Albrecht, Duke in Prussia. He disagrees only with Dantiscus questioning the loyalty of the people of Guelders to the Emperor. De Schepper surmises that this deeply unfair opinion is based on a single example of an ex-priest who fled Guelders for Ducal Prussia.

De Schepper mentions that he has not received Piotr Gamrat’s encomium from Gdańsk. He asks to be sent this piece, as he is curious to know some details about the deceased archbishop, whom he compares to Sardanapalus.

De Schepper calms Dantiscus’ anxiety at news of the Emperor’s sickness – it was only a mild attack of gout.

De Schepper justifies his delayed reply to Dantiscus’ letter with the fact that after returning from England he journeyed across the Low Countries. He found Queen Mary in Binche, which had been given to her by the Emperor together with adjacent lands. The Queen has built a fortified residence and intends to spend the rest of her life there. Being situated in the [borderland] Hainaut province, Binche was not fortified earlier, making it an easy target for French attacks during the last war, to the extent that it was suggested that the residents should transfer the relics of St. Ursmar elsewhere – something which, however, they refused to do. Today in the Low Countries people are waiting for news from the Diet of Regensburg, where it is said that few princes are to be present.

De Schepper describes the terms of the peace concluded recently between England and France, though these have not been officially announced. Boulogne-sur-Mer is to remain in the possession of England for eight years. After that the King of France may buy it back for 2,000,000 crowns, in the meantime paying England a tribute and calling upon Scotland for peace. The King of England has sent a cardinal to France to substitute for him as godfather to the King’s granddaughter [Elizabeth of Valois]. However, from the fact that the King of England continues to fortify Boulogne-sur-Mer and is building new strongholds in its vicinity, De Schepper concludes that he does not intend to return this territory. De Schepper describes a duel that took place in France between two Spaniards, one serving the King of England, the other serving the King of France. He reports that Queen Mary has built the fortified town of Mariembourg in Hainaut, right on the border with France and opposite a French stronghold.

            received 1547-01-08

Manuscript sources:
1fair copy in Latin, autograph, UUB, H. 155, f. 119-137
2copy in Latin, 18th-century, LSB, BR 19, No. 64
3register with excerpt in Latin, Polish, 20th-century, B. PAU-PAN, 8244 (TK 6), a. 1546, f. 34-51
4register with excerpt in Latin, English, 20th-century, CBKUL, R.III, 30, No. 163

1POCIECHA 1960 p. 75-76, 83 (excerpt)
2DE VOCHT 1961 No. DE, 471, p. 281 (reference)
3DE VOCHT 1961 No. DE, 471, p. 388-396 (English register; excerpt)
4CEID 2/2 (Letter No. 85) p. 516-575 (in extenso; English register)
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