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Lord Burleigh's support in the Privy Council for Dr Hector Nunes and his commercial ventures

Charles Meyers

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 40, 2005 Lord Burleigh's support in the Privy Council for Dr Hector Nunes and his commercial ventures CHARLES MEYERS This paper will demonstrate that Lord Burleigh, Lord Treasurer of England, took especial care to influence positively the commercial affairs of Dr Hector Nunes, a Portuguese physician who had emigrated to England by 1546.1 Burleigh's involvement with the Nunes family lasted from approximately 1569 to 1587. Lord Burleigh's favourable commercial actions were based on two factors: medical care and intelligence. First, Dr Nunes gave medical care to Burleigh and his family between 1578 and 1585.2 The second was intelli gence information concerning Portugal, Spain and the Low Countries between 1578 and 1591.3 The most important information conveyed to the Elizabethan government was confirmation of Spanish Armada preparations in Lisbon in 1587 by the Nunes family.4 In February (?) 1569-70 the first official example of Burleigh's support to Nunes and his family can be seen in the Privy Council's warm reception of a petition sent by merchants trading in Spain. The merchants sought permis sion for Peter Freire and Bernai Luis, his 'brother and agent in England, to enjoy their debts, goods, and merchandise here; the said Peter is a good friend to the English in this troublesome times aiding their persons and National Archives, Kew, High Court of Admiralty (hereafter HCA), Exemplifications 1576, no. 148, 26 May 1576. British Library (hereafter BL), Lansdowne MSS 27, no. 43, 17 October 1578; National Archives, Kew, Calendar of State Papers (hereafter CSP), xii, 126-12; BL, Lansdowne MSS 40, f. Ô4r, 26 March 1583; Lansdowne MSS 43, no. 55, 28 January 1584; ibid., ff I3ir, 132V, 23 January 1584/5. Cecil Roth, A History of the Jews of England (Oxford 1964) 283; CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, July 1579-July 1580, 45; Historical Manuscripts Commission Reports Part II, 1572 1582, p. 513, no. 1185. CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, May-December 1582, 386, no. 363; CSP 12/204, f. 66, no. 33,16 October 1587; see also R. B. Wernham (ed.) Lists and Analysis of State Papers, CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, July 1590-May 1591, 391, no. 694. CSP Relating to English Affairs, IV, Reign of Elizabeth, 1587-1603, 221, no. 229; 253, no. 255; 326, no. 331.</page><page sequence="2">Charles Meyers conveying their goods out of the country'. The petition was signed by thirty-one merchants.5 Three of them, Thomas Massam or Marsham, Thomas Pullyson and Thomas Starkey, became prominent in London poli tics.6 Further proof of Burleigh's direct involvement in Nunes's burgeon ing commercial career can be seen in the Council's actions on 25 March 1573. It granted him a Letter of Assistance so that he could recoup goods worth 1500 ducats seized in the Canaries by Spanish officials. The Queen's officials were ordered to assist him in the 'discovery of such Spanish goods as have not byne revealed unto the commissioners, whereby he may be satisfied for such goods as were taken by the King of Spain in the Isle of Canaria.'7 Two years later, however, the actions of the Council were unsuccessful in helping Nunes: in 1575 he sent a plea for assistance to Dr David Lewis, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, and the Commissioners for Spanish Causes, requesting that goods of Spanish subjects be 'arrested in England and the realm in order to recoup his losses totalling 2500 ducats'.8 Their assistance proved to be of little consequence. The English government responded with a grant to aid Nunes. It directed the Commissioners for Spanish Causes to 'search out concealed goods by English, French, Germans or others'. Furthermore, the said Dr Hector should have 'allowance of his foresaide losses upon such goodes wares and commodities of the subjectes of the King of Spaine as by his industrie .. . and diligence shalbe hereafter discov'ed .. . brought to knowl edge wch before were concealed and not revealed to anie appointed in commission'. The Crown's officers were further directed to be 'assyant upon the said DH with . . . lawfull favores and healpe for the discoverie findinge out of soche goodes as have ben so concealed'.9 The grant did not alleviate Nunes's substantial losses in the Canary Islands. This contention is substantiated by the Council's actions on 23 January 1575. They sent a letter to the Commissioners on behalf of Nunes for the 'restitucion of Spanishe goodes' arrested before the renewing of commercial trade between England and Spain.10 Their efforts failed once more. 5 CSP, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, Addenda, 1566-1579, 72, no. 65. National Archives, State Papers 15/14, f. I49r, 1 February 1570. 6 Alfred A. Beaven, The Aldermen ofthe City of London 2 vols (London 1908 and 1913)1, 11,48, 64,92, "5, 123, 139, 157, 192, 200, 208,218, 338, 344; II, lxii, 39, 40-1,43,48, 173,230. 7 BL, ADD MSS 32323, f. 56, 23 March 1573; see also Acts of the Privy Council of England, Nerv Series, VIII, 1571-1575, 92. 8 BL, ADD. MSS 48018, ff. 102V, 103,1575. 9 Ibid. 10 Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, IX, 1575-1577, 79.</page><page sequence="3">Lord Burleigh's support in the Privy Council for Dr Hector Nunes On 20 January 1576 the Privy Council issued a Memorial to the Commissioners for Spanish Causes. Based on their interpretation of Nunes's status as a natural subject of the realm because of his residence 'here above 20 years', they requested the Commissioners to allow him resti tution for his losses. In addition, through the efforts of Burleigh and Walsingham, they were told 'not to make any further claim upon Nunes for reimbursement of his proportion towards the restitution to be made to the subjects of the Low Countries'.11 Walsingham's part in this matter should not be a surprise, for in July 1573 he had sought to protect Nunes against the actions of his creditors.12 Lord Burleigh's influence in Nunes's commercial affairs continued unabated. In October 1578 Thomas Wotton, a gentleman from Kent, wrote to him seeking his support for an export licence enabling Nunes to ship 200 quarters of wheat to 'parts beyond the sea' (the destination remains unknown).13 Burleigh was a force not only in Nunes's commercial life but in his new political status. He was instrumental in Nunes receiving a 'special denization' from Queen Elizabeth I on 4 June 1579. Nunes was now considered a 'denizen and our true liege like one who originates within our kingdom'.14 However, even with this 'denization' his commercial status did not improve dramatically. Change in his commercial status did not occur until 7 May 1586, when the Privy Council sent Burleigh a letter on behalf of Nunes's brothers-in law. They authorized him to 'give order to th' officers of the portes for the suffering of Barnardes Lewes and Peter Freire, merchants of Portugall, to have free traffique and libertie to transport such merchandises as they shall from time buy within the realme of Portugal, and to retourne likewise hither the commodities of that countrie without interruption'.15 Lord Burleigh responded in a positive manner on 13 May 1586. His letter indicated that despite the existing embargo with Spain, 'Peter Frier and Bernardes Lewes', 'their servants and factorers imploied by them ... in bringing or carrieng out of merchandizes belonging to them ... maie be free from all arrests and molestaciones for their trading'. His concluding words, spoken in Queen Elizabeth's name, emphasized England's 'frendlie and favourable usage towards them ... their factours ... to suffer them to enter, lade, custome or discharge anie such goodes merchandize belonging to CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1575-1577, 230, no. 577. Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, VIII, 1571-1575, 128. CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1575-1577,230, no. 577. G. Eland (ed.) Thomas Wotton's Letter-Book: 1574-1586 (London i960) 28; see also Historical Manuscripts Commission Report, Hatfield, Series 9, Part II, p. 216. National Archives, Kew, Court of Chancery 66/1176, 4 June 1579. Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, XIV, 1586-1587, 96.</page><page sequence="4">Charles Meyers them or bought in or carried out by them . . . without your lett, state, or molestacion'. Burleigh also emphasized that 'none of Elizabeth I's subjects should cause any interrupcion on the sea .. . going out or retorne'.16 It was because of Nunes's influence with Burleigh and Walsingham that the Privy Council came to the aid of his brother-in-law Peter Freire, on 27 November 1586. His vessel, the St John, had been seized by a man of war of Barnstaple, Devon, with letters of reprisal. The Privy Council requested the Admiralty judge Dr Awberie (presumably William Aubrey, DCL, 1529-95) and other arbiters to provide a 'fair and impartial hearing of Frier's cause'. Based on these 'perfect examinacions', they were to 'set downe soche order as should be agreeable to equitie and justice'.'7 The Privy Council's actions are significant because they utilized infor mation derived from Burleigh's letter dated 13 May 1586 as a guide to aid Peter Freire. Furthermore, the Nunes family's influential status was a direct result of the active and favourable power of Lord Burleigh. He was aided in this ongoing endeavour by the support of Walsingham, Nunes's intelligence handler and supervisor.18 Burleigh and the Privy Council did not cease their support of the Nunes family in the Iberian Peninsula. On 26 July 1587 members of the Council, including Burleigh and Walsingham, reviewed a certificate written in Lisbon from English merchants there. They declared that it 'appeareth that Peter Frier, merchant of that cittie, hath greatly benefited, helped and relieved manie of her Majesties said subjectes'. Specifically, during the interruption of trade between England and Spain, he 'hath in his owne name to their use convaied their goods, stockes and merchaundizes to safetie by their appointment without gaine or interest. . .' Therefore, both men would be allowed to 'traffique freelie within the Realme as they did before theise troubles, and carrie commodities as have been heretofore accustomed to be brought out of that realme and other places by them, to make sale of the said commodities to their best bennefitt without lett or interrupcion'.19 This document also mentions a similar petition sent by the London 1 CSP, State Papers 12/189, f. 42, no. 16,13 May 1586. Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, XIV, 1586-1587, 257. CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, July 1579-July 1580, 45; CSP, Colonial Series, East Indies, China and Japan, 1513-1616, 67, no. 157; CSP, Foreign Series, Reign of Elizabeth, May-December 1582, 386, no. 363; CSP, State Papers 89/1, no. 89,14 October 1582; C. Read, Mr Secretary Walsmgham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth III (Oxford 1925) 125; CSP, State Papers 94/2, no. 60, ff I34r and 134V, March 1585/6. National Archives, Kew, Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs (hereafter CLSP), IV, Reign of Elizabeth, 1587-1603,221,00. 239. Acts of the Privy Council, New Series, XV, 1587-1588, 167.</page><page sequence="5">Lord Burleigh's support in the Privy Council for Dr Hector Nunes merchants to the Privy Council on behalf of Frier and Luis. They requested the granting of liberty to 'traffique within the Realme by transporting out and bringing in of such merchaundizes and commodities as by the lawes be permitted in as full and simple manner as in other times before the present interrupcion they have ben accustomed'.20 Petitions from the London and Lisbon merchants caused the Council to require Burleigh to 'suffer and permit the said Peter Frier and Barnard Lewes ... paying all duties and customes to her Majestie, to shippe and lade here within the Realme, upon shippe . . . English or straungers, anie kindes of commodities of the grouth of this Realme . . . and to returne againe in anie shippe of such forraine commodities . . . make sale thereof to their owne uses, and to their best benefit without anie disturbance or interrup cion of anie her Majesties subjectes'. In addition, they declared 'her Majestie' was 'pleased that they shall and maie laufullie recover such goodes and debtes as are due and owing unto them before the date hereof, or here after shalbe made by them by reason of their traffique'.21 The Council's permission for unrestricted usage of foreign vessels and mariners in the course of their trade in the Iberian Peninsula was based on the Nunes family's influence with English merchants trading there. In addition, the family's good relations with the Council gave them the privi lege of seeking legal redress in the High Court of Admiralty for ship and cargo seizures by English subjects. This was not trend-setting, but it was significant at that moment in history. Privy Council support of the Nunes family in 1586 and 1587 was due to Lord Burleigh. It can be argued that his actions were coloured by the medical services tendered his family as well as vital intelligence conveyed to him. However, this argument does not completely explain why he would expend energies aiding a Portuguese family. The actual answer may lie in the family's relations with English merchants in Lisbon and London during this period of economic turmoil, enabling such prominent merchants as Richard May to continue trading with the Iberian Peninsula in relative safety.22 These merchants applied commercial and political pressure to the Ibid. Ibid. CSP, State Papers 15/14, f. I49r, I February 1569/70; B. Dietz (ed.) The London Port Trade of Elizabethan London (London 1972) 11, no. 63; 28, no. 203; 28-9, no. 206; 35, nos 244, 245; 54, no. 358; 81, no. 515; 88, no. 541; no, no. 680; 124, no. 769; CSP, State Papers 12/146, 1580; Pauline Croft, The Spanish Company (London 1973) xxvii; see also National Archives, Kew, Court of Chancery 24/250, p. 12, 23 January 1596; Court of Chancery 24/250, p. 34, no. 1,6 February 1596; Court of King's Bench 27/1331, no. 313, 20 March 1588; CLSP, IV, Reign of Elizabeth, 1587-1603, 219, no. 229; BL, Egerton MSS 1512, f. 44b, 15 December 1593; National Archives, Kew, Court of Chancery 24/250, p. 4, 22 January 1596; ibid., p. 19, 26 January 1596.</page><page sequence="6">Charles Meyers Council to allow Freire and Luis to export and import goods despite the existing embargo. Under Burleigh's committed leadership in commercial affairs, the Council readily complied.</page></plain_text>