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Alien diplomat

Charles Meyers

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 39, 2004 Alien diplomat CHARLES MEYERS Dr Hector Nunes, a Portuguese physician who had received a bachelor's degree in medicine from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, on 7 July 1543,1 emigrated to England in 154?.2 Alone, a Portuguese alien in a strange land, it is my contention that as soon as he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London on 5 July 15543 he sought immediate acceptance from the social and political elite of Elizabethan London by using his medical skills to treat influential members of the government. Dr Nunes treated Lord and Lady Burghley between 1578 and 1585,4 Sir John Perrott, Lord Deputy for Ireland, in 1585s and Dr Thomas Wilson, a member of the Privy Council, in 1580.6 In addition, he utilized his overseas commercial connections and foreign trade to convey intelligence data to Lord Burghley, Treasurer of England, and his subordinate, Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary of Queen Elizabeth I, between 1578 and 1591. The intelligence focused on the Portuguese military disaster in Morocco in August 1578,7 Spanish military and naval activities,8 Don Antonio, Prior of Crato and Pretender to the Portuguese throne after Spanish annexation in 1580,9 and preparations for the Spanish Armada 1 Arquivo de Universidade de Coimbra, BA in Medicine, 7 July 1543. 2 National Archives, Kew. High Court of Admiralty (hereafter HCA) Exemplifications 1576, N. 148, 26 May 1576. In Latin. See also Lucien Wolf, 'Jews in Elizabethan England', Trans JHSE XI (1924-7) *-9. 3 William M?nk, The Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London I, 1518 to ijoo (London 1878)54. 4 British Library, Lansdowne MSS 27, N. 43, ff.88, 88r, 88v, 17 October 1578. See also Lansdowne MSS 33, N. 39, ff.76r, 76% 28 June 1581, and 43, ffi3ir, 132% 23 January 1585/6. For Lady Burghley's prescription, see Lansdowne MSS 40, N. 29, ff.64r, 65% 26 March 1583, f.65% 'A note how to make barley creame set down by Doctor Hector'. 5 National Archives, Kew. Calendar of State Papers (hereafter CSP), Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-September 1586, CXIX, N. 13, 5 September 1585. 6 T. Wright (ed.) Queen Elizabeth and Her Times I (London 1838) 110. 7 C. Roth, A History of the Jews of England (Oxford 1964) 283. 8 Historical Manuscripts Commission Reports, Part II, 1582, 513 N. 1185. 9 CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, July 1579-July 1580, 45. See also CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, May-December 1582, 386 no. 363, and State Papers 89/1, N. 89, 14 October 1582. 35</page><page sequence="2">Charles Meyers conveyed to Walsingham in June of 1587.10 However, none of these activi? ties helped secure the influence or acceptance that Nunes sought in Elizabethan England. In English eyes, Dr Nunes remained a Portuguese alien and enemy of England. It will be argued in this paper first that the alleged peace negotiations with Antonio de Castillo, beginning in the autumn of 1585, represented the final opportunity for Nunes' long-sought goal of acceptance and influence within the Elizabethan political establishment. Sir Francis Walsingham asked Nunes to begin corresponding with Castillo, the former Portuguese ambassador to England, concerning the Low Countries and continued Spanish rule. Secondly, I argue that Nunes' assertive tone and actions in his initial correspondence with both Castillo and Walsingham are in direct contrast to the historian Conyers Read's description of him as a mere English correspondent of Castillo. Thirdly, Nunes was able to act with greater independence initially, because of the precipitous decline in Walsingham's health beginning in 1585.11 However, the contents of a letter Nunes sent to Walsingham on 30 September 1586 effectively eliminated his freedom to act without direct supervision. Walsingham's issuance of a Memorial in March 1587 specified English policies and attitudes towards the Low Countries which Hector Nunes was to enunciate in his continued correspondence with Castillo.12 Finally, any remaining hopes for accept? ance and participation in Elizabethan society were effectively ended by Lord Admiral Howard in 1590. On 8 December 1590, in the midst of a commercial suit initiated by Nunes in the High Court of Admiralty, Howard declared that Peter Freire, his brother-in-law, a participant in all his intelligence activities, was a 'subject of the King of Spaine and a notorious instrument against her Majestie'.13 The end result was the classification of Nunes as an enemy alien. Conyers Read declared that in April 1582 Sir Francis Walsingham approached Antonio de Castillo, the departing Portuguese ambassador to England, with peace overtures. He urged him to 'broach the matter with Philip on his return'.14 Surviving official records do not indicate if this was done. 10 Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs (hereafter CLSP), IV, Elizabeth, 1587-1603, 221 no. 239. 11 C. Read, Mr. Secretary Wahingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth III (Oxford 1925) 446. See also CSP, Domestic Series, Reigns of Elizabeth and James I, Addenda, XII, 1580-1625, 71 no. 105 and 73 no. no. 12 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 63, f.i4or, March 1987. See also CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586, 508. The date in the printed version is March 1586. 13 HCA 14/27, N. 69, 8 December 1590. 14 C. Read (see n. 11) 125. 36</page><page sequence="3">Alien diplomat In the late autumn of 1585, Read stated, Walsingham decided to 'renew his former suggestions to Castillo'. According to Read, Walsingham utilized the services of 'Dr Hector Nunez, a Portuguese physician in London who was one of Castillo's English correspondents'. Walsingham requested that Nunes write a letter to Castillo encouraging him to 'take up the matter of peace with the Spanish King or some one of his council'.15 In November 1585 Nunes wrote a letter to Castillo concerning the issue of peace between both countries. Conyers Read said that the letter 'had the desired effect'. Castillo acqui? esced, brought the matter to the attention of the king, and wrote back to inquire 'under what terms the Queen would be willing to treat'. His reply did not reach London until late March 1586. Furthermore, Walsingham directed Nunes to answer that the 'Queen would be prepared to negotiate for a peace upon condition that Philip would grant to his Dutch rebels toleration in religion and such other concession as had been embodied in the Pacification of Ghent'.16 Nunes was also to suggest that Castillo should come to England for the 'ostensible purpose of treating about Portuguese affairs and should open direct negotiations with the Queen'.17 In contrast to the statement made by Read, a different perspective will be argued here, based on a review of the contents of State Papers 94/2, N. 60, ff. i34r and 134V, March 1586. Nunes told Walsingham 'with my man [Geronimo Pardo, a kinsman] I did write unto Antonio de Castillo, answered another letter of his which he had requested me to send such tidings as I could write to him, in my hand'. Furthermore, Nunes told Walsingham that he had responded in the following manner: 'I made a brief discourse in which I did touch upon the pretence of the Low Countries (as is declared by the discourse made and published in Your [Her] Majesty's name) not to be bold and possess the country to her use. But only for the security of her estate and the relief of the poor people there exacted and tyrannical dealt withall by the King and Officers, which thing had been declared here by Her Majesty's Council unto Don Pedro de la Villa Real at his going away.'18 In addition Nunes declared that 'Briefly, I touched [on] how many good means her Majesty hath used to purchase the King's good? will and amity and what ill offices and pretences the King and his ministers did use for to countervail the same and that it were fit that the King's Majesty should commit the dealings of such matters unto other men (if he 15 Ibid. 16 Ibid. 126. See also P. Geyl, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555-160Q (New York 1958) 131 and 161. 17 C. Read (see n. 11) 126. 18 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 60, ff.i34r, 134% March 1585/6, Nunes to Walsingham. See also CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586,472-3. 37</page><page sequence="4">Charles Meyers means to be quiet and live in peace) and not to such as were dealers in it before, the which the colour and name of ambassadors and agents were factors and deputies to the devil, spreading dissensions and discords among the princes.'19 Nunes' comments not only contradict Read's image of Nunes as a mere English correspondent of Castillo, but clearly reveal that he was unafraid to repeat these frank comments to Walsingham, his mentor and superior. Nunes' level of comfort was based on years of gathering intelligence on his behalf and possible medical treatment of Walsingham in August 15 83.20 The self-assurance and direct participation of Nunes and his immediate family is evident in the contents of a letter Antonio de Castillo sent to Walsingham dated 23 March 1586: 'Sir, I am very glad of the good answers which, I understand [from] Jeronimo Pardo of your health and also of the understanding by the same of the good intent and purpose of Her Majesty concerning the new attempt that she took in the States of the Low Countries, for all that was tending to good amity and peace whereof I am good witness to the good offer that I made to the King's Majesty and by means of others in the Low Countries'.21 Castillo concludes his letter with remarks that clearly indicate close personal ties with the Nunes family. First, he asks Walsingham for a favour in returning a ship and goods belonging to Peter Freire, Nunes' brother-in law. The vessel had been seized by English pirates in the port of Betanzos in Galicia, Spain. Secondly, he told Walsingham that if the English govern? ment made a favourable reply to his efforts, 'you may freight presently a bark and send her in commodities of that country. Send away Jerome Pardo, bearer of this and I will take upon any account of his safeguard.'22 It is in a letter dated 30 September 1586 that Nunes clearly reveals his assertive and independent personality. The only deference and respect shown Walsingham appears in the first sentence when he addresses him as 'your honour'. Thereafter Nunes took on an assertive tone as his equal, masked by advice offered with little deference to his position. He told Walsingham: 'And Castillo will have safe conduct from Her Majesty, either for him or for any other gentleman that shall come hither in the King's name. The sooner this is done, the better it will be, for there is a great preparation made in Portugal of men and ships and they look for more men 19 Ibid. 20 Sir Harris Nicholas, Memoirs of the Life and Times of Sir Christopher Hatton (London 1847) 340. 21 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 61, f.i36r, 23 March 1585/6. See also CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586,473. 22 Ibid. See also CSP, State Papers 89/2, N. 19, f.45, 13 January 1586, and CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586, 474-5. 38</page><page sequence="5">Alien diplomat still as my man and others understand, but it is now known for what place.' Nunes concludes this portion of the letter by stating that the planned Armada 'will be longer a doing'.23 In the second portion of this letter Nunes told Walsingham that because of the build-up of the Spanish forces, Pardo had to return quickly to Lisbon and Castillo. He told Walsingham that 'Pardo shall wait a day or two to have an answer'. In addition, Nunes wrote that Pardo had obtained a safe conduct from the Marquis de St Cruse, a prominent Spanish nobleman.24 At this point in the letter Nunes seems to dictate the pace of the activity without any resolute direction and action by Walsingham. Nunes' manipulative nature and self-assurance in dealing with Walsingham as an equal is clearly revealed in the concluding portion of the letter. He is seeking aid from Walsingham for a friend: 'I am very much troubled and importuned by my friend in Italy ... for, at first when I did move the matter unto your honour ... and it is in your custody still and that all this I did advertise unto him saying that I was soon to obtain so much favour'. Furthermore, Nunes told Walsingham that his friend had criticized him for being 'slack in the fulfilling of his request for his need is great...'. Nunes' friend urged him to 'contact some friend with the Lord Ambassador to England, resident in France, that he should get a letter from the Queen Mother in his favour to the said Duke'. However, Nunes told Walsingham that he had 'no acquaintance with the ambassador, and must humbly beseech your honour to maintain my honesty and credit with my friends'. Nunes did, however, attempt to end the letter on a positive note, saying that he would 'not trouble your lordship any longer wishing you health and prosperity long to continue the Lord's pleasure'.25 Walsingham read this letter very carefully. He finally realized that Nunes was not a lowly Portuguese alien fit only to be used and discarded with disdain. The statesman was confronted with an ambitious and assertive individual who had to be reined in and closely supervised in the ongoing peace negotiations with Castillo. This was a difficult decision to make since Walsingham had been personally and professionally involved with Nunes for many years. Nunes had been sending him intelligence since 1578; they lived within blocks of each other in Elizabethan London26 and in 1585 Walsingham had provided debtor protection for Nunes.27 Above all, Nunes had personal knowledge of Walsingham's medical problems. 23 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 71, ff.i55r, 155% 30 September 1586. See also CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, June 1586-June 1588, 98-9. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Nunes lived in Marke Lane, Walsingham in Seething (Sithing or Sything) Lane. 27 CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586, 712-15. 39</page><page sequence="6">Charles Meyers It is my further contention that at least from August 1583, when Walsingham complained to Sir Christopher Hatton of 'extreme pain in my right side' and told him 'and therefore I mean to use both Gifford's and Hector's advice',28 Nunes was perfectly cognizant of the ailments plaguing him - his friends at court, including Thomas Heneage of the Royal Household, kept him abreast of personal developments affecting members of the Elizabethan government. Therefore it is highly likely that Nunes knew that Walsingham in autumn 1585 'was once more forced to retire from Court and was very sick the following winter but pulled up again in February 1586'.29 Possession of this knowledge enabled Nunes in the initial stage of his correspondence with Castillo in autumn 1585 and March 1586 to speak for Walsingham and Queen Elizabeth I without prior consent or supervision. He knew that Walsingham was too ill to enforce direct super? vision of his correspondence with Castillo. Despite these chronic physical ailments, which led to his being 'driven from the Court in the Spring of 1587',30 Walsingham knew that he was confronted with a highly ambitious Elizabethan physician, who sought to enunciate his own personal foreign policy in the Low Countries without any supervision. In the midst of his illness, Walsingham sent Nunes a Memorial in March 1587 that dictates Nunes' actions and choice of words in his correspondence with Castillo. There are four aspects of the Memorial with a direct bearing on the negotiations with Castillo. First, concerning the issue of freedom of religion in the Low Countries, it declares that 'unless the King shall consent in some sort to yield in religion, there is no hope that any treaty will take place'. Secondly, the Memorial confirms English knowledge of plots against Queen Elizabeth I and her realm by Bernardino de Mendoza, the Spanish ambas? sador to France, and the 'rest of the Catholic princes to deprive Her Majesty of this Crown and to set up the Scottish Queen'. The third compo? nent of the Memorial seems to have come directly from Walsingham with? out prior consultation or approval from the queen. It declared that the 'subjects of this realm do find themselves so strong in the possession of Holland and Zealand that they greatly desire that Her Majesty will make herself a proprietary of their countries'.31 These words did not reflect the original intention of Queen Elizabeth's actions in the Low Countries: she did not aspire to any proprietary role in the Low Countries.32 The fourth 28 Sir H. Nicholas (see n. 20) 340. 29 C. Read (see n. 11) 446. 30 Ibid. 446-7. See also British Library, Cotton MSS, Galboa D. I, f.248. 31 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 63, f.i4or, March 1587. See also CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586, 508. 32 Ibid. See also John Bruce (ed.) Correspondence of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leycester during his 40</page><page sequence="7">Alien diplomat aspect of the Memorial also deals with continued English control of the Low Countries. It is couched, however, in religious terms: 'If God should call her Majesty out of this life, no successor of hers would ever consent to the rendering up of their countries'. Despite the religious severity injected by Walsingham, a strong Puritan with an intense dislike of Spain, the Memorial's contents did not preclude continued negotiations with Castillo. The concluding portion states: 'Mr. Antonio de Castillo may be employed here about this treaty, under the colour of dealing for Portugal causes'.33 These words are truly ironic, because in reality the Spanish viewed Castillo's intrinsic value solely in a Portuguese context.34 Walsingham, however, did not care how the Spanish government viewed Castillo. He had entered negotiations with Castillo at the alleged behest of Queen Elizabeth. The negotiations would maintain his position within the Elizabethan government. There is no indication that Nunes utilized the Memorial. Surviving offi? cial documentation does not indicate any continued correspondence with Castillo. How to explain why the negotiations with Spain suddenly ended? There are two basic reasons for the cessation of the correspondence with Castillo in 1587. First, Walsingham's medical ailments. On 5 September 1587 Lord Burghley told Walsingham T wish you good success in your intended labor and pain with your physicians'. Furthermore, according to Read, Walsingham 'seems to have been ill during most of the autumn of 1587 and the early spring of 1588. But he was fortunately in good health when he was called upon to face the crisis of the Armada.'35 Secondly, in June 1587 Pardo arrived in London in a 'ship with a little salt, spices, cochineal, a large sum of money, and two packets of letters in cipher giving a full account of the warlike preparations which were being made in Spain'.36 He translated and brought them promptly to Walsingham. Negotiations with Castillo concerning the Low Countries or any other alleged attempt to maintain peace effectively ended with Pardo's news. The end of the correspondence with Castillo did not cause despair in Nunes. He continued his commercial and medical activities in Elizabethan Government of the Low Countries in the Years 1585 and 1586 (London 1844) vii, and R. B. Wernham, 'Elizabethan War Aims and Strategy', in S. T. Bindoff (ed.) Elizabethan Government and Society (London 1961) 345-6, and CLSP, Elizabeth, 1580-1586, 346. 33 CSP, State Papers 94/2, N. 63, f.i4or, March 1587. See also CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, September 1585-May 1586, 308. 34 CLSP, Elizabeth, 1580-1586, 72-3 no. 59, Bernardino de Mendoza to King Philip II, January 1581. See also ibid., 113 no. 89, and CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, January-June 1583 and Addenda, 401 no. 368. 35 C. Read (see n. 11) 447. 36 CLSP. Elizabeth. 1*87-1601. 221. 4i</page><page sequence="8">Charles Meyers London with no clue that his long-sought goals of acceptance and influence had been thwarted in 1587. Thus he was totally unprepared when Lord Admiral Howard branded him an enemy alien through association with Peter Freire. In 1590 Nunes brought a commercial suit in the Court of Admiralty against the Sea Dragon of London. He accused the owners of the vessel, George Bassett and William Holliday, a former commercial colleague of Nunes,37 of seizing a cargo of Brazilian hides from Our Lady of Good Voyage belonging to Peter Freire and other foreign merchants. It was claimed that Bassett and Holliday had received letters of marque from Howard enabling them to seize Spanish vessels in order to recoup their alleged losses at the hands of Spain. During the lengthy trial Nunes' English counsel was confronted with a wave of anti-Spanish and foreign resentment due to the Spanish Armada in 1588. In order to counter these negative sentiments, he sought to establish Nunes' credentials as a loyal Englishman. Initially he argued that the 'arrest of the goods should be relaxed since they belonged to a denizen of this king? dom'.38 Next he referred the court to the special denization granted to Hector 'Nones' by a writ of Privy Seal, witnessed by Elizabeth I at Westminster on 4 June 1579.39 However, the defendants' counsel countered with the assertion that 'Peter Freira is of Spain or Lisbon outside the privi? leges of the Queen of England but under the rule of the king of Spain. Therefore, previously, goods had been arrested.'40 Damage to Nunes' civil and commercial reputation did not end with the verbal assault of the defence counsel. On 8 December 1590 Howard sent a warrant to the Admiralty judge, Dr Julius Caesar, from the royal court at Richmond. He told Caesar, 'Dr Hector ... as I am informed hath commenced certain actiones against the Sea Dragon on behalf of one Friere a Portingall ... the same Freire is known to be a subject of the Kinge of Spaine and a notorious instrument against her Majestic' Howard ordered Caesar to 'dismiss all these said actiones soe entered in his name or behalf and suffer the owners of these said goodes anie more hinderance'.41 Howard acted in an arbitrary and mercenary manner, seeking to preserve his one-tenth share of all prizes seized with letters of marque issued by him. 37 CSP National Archives, HCA 3/19, 13 December 1586. HCA Act Books Easter 1583-December 1586. 38 HCA Act Books 1590-1592, HCA 13/21,1590-1592. See also HCA Libels, 1591, HCA 24/58, 125, N. 95; HCA 13/21, 1 December 1590; HCA 13/21, 14 December 1590; HCA 13/21, 20 January 1591; HCA Libels, HCA 24/58, N. 51, n February 1591; and HCA 13/21, 26 April I59I 39 National Archives, Kew. Court of Chancery 66/1176, 4 June 1579. In Latin. 40 HCA 13/21,1590-1592; HCA Act Book 1590-1592. 41 HCA 14/27, N. 69, 8 December 1590. 42</page><page sequence="9">Alien diplomat Kenneth Andrews wrote about the frustrations endured by Judge Caesar caused by Howard's continual interference in court cases before him.42 Howard's actions were based on personal greed. He had no regard for the legitimate claims of merchants in his High Court of Admiralty. Nunes' reputation was sullied. Any remaining hopes for acceptance and recognition by the Elizabethan political and social establishment ended after Lord Howard's diatribe and negative actions. Yet the dedication and loyalty of Nunes and his family to England remained constant. Official documentation indicates that after Nunes' death in September 1591 Peter Freire, who had been restricted to Lisbon after Spanish suspicions were aroused by the transmission of the Armada information in June 1587, managed to entreat and bribe Thomas Meade, an English mariner from Devon, to transport news of a new Spanish fleet being planned. Furthermore, he warns in Meade's testimony of 13 December 1591, that Ireland and the port of Milford Haven in southwest Wales 'might be well guarded'.43 Freire's information was highly pertinent. Spanish troops had sporadically entered Ireland throughout Elizabeth's reign, and Milford Haven had been used by Henry Tudor successfully to invade England in 1485.44 Acceptance and influence may have been the primary goals of Dr Hector Nunes in Elizabethan England. However, Nunes had probably fled the Portuguese Inquisition after it had been established in Coimbra by 1536. Outwardly, he had acted and behaved as a Catholic throughout his earlier life. However, in the privacy of his home, he was a crypto-Jew who observed Jewish customs and holidays. By fleeing to England after graduating from the University of Coimbra, Nunes had obtained a safe refuge for himself without many questions being asked. His future wife and her family had also emigrated to England intent on securing a safe haven for themselves. The family chose to repay England for their safety by dedicating their entire lives and financial wellbeing to the maintenance of England's security in the face of continuing Spanish plots and intrigues, beginning as early as 1578 if not sooner. The actions of Lord Admiral Howard in 1590 did not deter their efforts. In fact, it may well have strengthened their resolve to provide addi? tional information to preserve England's security, if one can accept Meade's testimony.45 42 Kenneth R. Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering: English Privateering during the Spanish War, 1585-1603 (Cambridge 1964) 27-8. 43 CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1591-1594, 143. 44 Merriam-Websters Geographical Dictionary 3rd ed (Springfield 1997) 741. 45 CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1591-1594, 143. 43</page></plain_text>