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The denunciation of Peter Freire

Charles Meyers

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 43, 2011 The denunciation of Peter Freire CHARLES MEYERS In a letter, dated 13 January 1585, to Sir Francis Walsingham, Principal Secretary of State and the head of Queen Elizabeth's domestic and foreign intelligence operations, Antonio de Castilho, the former Portuguese ambas? sador to England, wrote that Pedro (or Peter) Freire, who was Dr Hector Nunes's brother-in-law, was 'brought up in England by your citizens'.1 This may explain the loyalty to England which he repeatedly displayed. In February 1569 prominent London merchants, including Thomas Starkey and Thomas Pullison, had sent a petition to the Privy Council seeking 'per? mission for Peter Freire, a Portuguese merchant dwelling in Lisbon and Bernard 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 trouble, some times aiding their persons and conveying their goods out of the country.'2 Freire's positive relations with English merchants continued beyond 1569. In May 1586 English merchants in Lisbon petitioned the Privy Council for the 'granting of liberty to Peter Freire and Barnard Luis, his brother, resi? dent here and in London'. They claimed that the two men had protected their 'goods and persons from arrest and spoils . . . during the time of inter? ruption of trade and commerce between England and Spain', and declared that Freire, in his 'own name, to their use, conveyed their goods, stocks and merchandise to safety. This was done without gain or interest.'3 Therefore, the petitioners sought Council approval for Freire and Luis to trade 'freely here within the English kingdom as they did before the troubles ... to carry commodities out of the realm and to bring in and return out of Portugal such other commodities as have been heretofore accustomed without let or inter? ruption'.4 The Privy Council granted the petition, stating that 'Freire and Luis have the liberty to traffic within the realm, by transporting and bringing in such 1 National Archives, Kew (hereafter NA), State Papers 89/2, f. 19, 13 Jan. 1585. See also State Papers 89/2, ff. 45, 45r, N. 19, 13 Jan. 1586. 2 NA, State Papers 15/14, f. 149,1 Feb. 1570. See also Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, Addenda, 1566-1579, 72, and NA, State Papers 15/14, f. 149. n. 68,1569. 3 NA, State Papers 12/189, N- I0&gt; 8 Mav 1586 4 Ibid. 43</page><page sequence="2">Charles Meyers merchandise and commodities in the same way as before the interruption of trade. Both men and their factors have permit, paying all duties and customs to her Majesty to ship and load within the realm upon ship or ships, English or strangers, any kind of commodities of the growth of the realm.'5 Their ability to use non-English vessels in commercial shipping was a significant honour. Elizabethan maritime regulations did not readily allow merchant strangers or aliens to ship English goods in foreign vessels.6 This English love affair with Peter Freire did not last long. Despite his conveyance of intelligence data concerning the 'warlike preparations being made in Spain', in June 1587/ he was not rewarded but condemned. In 1590 Dr Hector Nunes represented his brother-in-law, Pedro Freire, and other Portuguese merchants in the High Court of the Admiralty as he sought to recover a cargo of Brazilian hides aboard Our Lady of Good Voyage. The vessel had been seized by George Bassett and William Holliday with a com? mission from the Lord Admiral, Lord Howard, authorizing the seizure of enemy vessels based on their claimed losses in the Iberian Peninsula.8 Dr Nunes's counsel argued that the 'arrest of the goods should be relaxed since they belonged to a denizen of this kingdom'. Nunes had received this privi? lege from Queen Elizabeth at Westminster on 4 June 1579.9 However, the defendants' counsel dismissed this contention and countered with the claim that 'Peter Freira is of Spain or Lisbon outside the privileges of the Queen of England but under the rule of the king of Spain. Therefore, previously, the goods had been arrested.'10 It was at this critical juncture in the court proceedings that Howard chose to intervene. On 8 December 1590 he sent a warrant from the royal court in Richmond to Dr Julius Caesar, the judge of this Admiralty Court, stating that 'Dr. Hector ... as I am informed hath commenced certain actions against the Sea Dragon (seized Our Lady of Good Voyage) on behalf of one Freire a Portingall... is known to be a subject of the Kinge of Spaine and a notorious instrument against her Majestie'. He ordered Caesar to 'dismiss all these said actions soe entered in his name or behalf and suffer the owners of these said goodes anie more hinderance'.11 Howard's action was not an isolated occurrence of interference in cases 5 NA, State Papers 12/189, N. 10, 8 May 1586. 6 Lawrence A. Harper, The English Navigation Law (New York 1939) 25 and 23. See also State P:apers, 1 Elizabeth, c. 13. 7 NA, Calendar of Letters and State Papers Relating to English Affairs, IV. Elizabeth, 1587-1603, 221. 8 NA, High Court of Admiralty (hereafter HCA) 24/58, HCA Libel N. 95 1591. 9 NA, Court of Chancery 66/1176, 4 June 1579 (Latin). See also Court of Chancery 66/1176, Patent Roll M. 2, 21 Elizabeth 1579,4 June 1579, Part 2. 10 NA, High Court of Chancery 13/21, 1590-1592, and HCA Act Book, 1590-1592. 11 NA, HCA 14/27, N. 69, 8 Dec. 1590. See also HCA 24/58, HCA Libels N. 95, 1591. 44</page><page sequence="3">The denunciation of Peter Freire before Judge Caesar.12 Robert Wayne Kenny's 1963 doctoral dissertation, entitled 'The Political Career of Charles Howard Earl of Nottingham, Lord Admiral of England, 1585-1618 with Emphasis on the Reign of Elizabeth P, was more explicit in describing Howard's devotion to the accumulation of wealth. In particular, this stalwart and patriotic admiral viewed the approaching war with Spain as an opportunity to fill his coffers. Kenny pointed out that 'England could cut the sinews of the Spanish empire and enrich itself in the bargain by capturing Spanish commerce'. He declared that the 'idea must have occurred to the Lord Admiral that war would be particularly rewarding to him, since it was sure to be a stimulus to privateers with every ship brought home paying him its due share of the take'.13 Personal greed, however, cannot fully explain Howard's negative actions, because a number of other factors were clearly at work. First, hostility towards aliens was condoned by local and national officials in England.14 This persistent suspicious attitude toward all aliens and foreigners was amplified during the Armada. Nigel Goose and Lien Luu contend that the Spanish ambassador to France, Bernardino de Mendoza, reported in September 1588 that the Queen did not care to admit other foreigners into her country except those that came from Holland. Furthermore, during the time the Spanish Armada was in the Channel, 'all foreigners in London were forbidden to leave their houses and the shops were to remain closed'.15 Paranoia and insecurity caused England to withdraw behind her island defences in a military context. Subjects of Spain were viewed with suspicion and hatred. The mindset of Elizabethan officials was defensive and edgy at best. 12 Kenneth R. Andrews, English Privateering during the Spanish War, 1585-1603 (Cambridge 1964) 27-8. 13 Robert Wayne Kenny, 'The Political Career of Charles Howard Earl of Nottingham, Lord Admiral of England, 1585-1618 with Emphasis on the Reign of Elizabeth', PhD, University of Chicago, 1963, II, 28-33 and 72-4. 14 Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Reigns of Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth, 1547-1580, 99; Acts of the Privy Council, XIII, 1581-1583, 277, 344, 364, 370-1, 373; Acts of the Privy Council, XIV, 1586-1587, 25; National Archives, Lansdowne Mss. 88 (Burghley Papers, 1585^), n. 16, ff 34r, J5r- 4jr, St Martins le Grand, 1 November 1585; British Museum, Lansdowne Mss.4J (Burghley Papers, 1585) n. igir-ig2r, 28 May 1585 and British Museum, Lansdowne Mss. 43, ff. i93r, i94r, 29 May 1585. Ian W. Archer, The Pursuit of Stability: Social Relations in Elizabethan London (New York 1991) 1, 2, 5, 7, 32, 52, 58, 62, 131-40, 145-6, 259-60, 170, 172, 176, 177; Edward Smith, Foreign Visitors in England(London 1889) 42 and George Unwin, The Gilds and Companies of London (New York 1964) 129. See also: Laura Hunt Yungblut, Strangers Settled Here Amongst Us: Policies, Perceptions of Aliens in Elizabethan England (New York 1996) 36-7,44,46; Robin D. Gwynn, Huguenot Heritage: The History and Contribution of the Huguenots in Britain (London 1985) 43. 15 Nigel Goose and Luu Lieu (eds) Immigrants in Tudor and Early Stuart England (Brighton 2005) 194. 45</page><page sequence="4">Charles Meyers Lord Howard had already switched from a defensive posture to a mili? taristic one before 1585. He was an acknowledged member of the 'war party' on the Privy Council, whose members included the Earl of Leicester (Robert Dudley) and Sir Francis Walsingham. However, unlike Walsingham and Leicester, who had aligned themselves with Puritans and their sympathiz? ers, his membership was not based on religion. Kenny insists that Howard considered religion as the 'affair of theologians; he was always a politique'.16 He would not be drawn into a war with Spain over the Low Countries based on religion. Kenny states, however, that Howard was seriously concerned that England would be the 'final victim of the great international conspiracy involving the Pope, the Netherlands, English expatriates, and the financial and military power of the Hapsburgs'.17 The conspiracy thesis does not fully explain Howard's march to war. It is my contention that the actual impetus was Spain's mistreatment of English merchants in the Peninsula. Kenny supports this argument by insisting that the 'indignities suffered by English merchants in Spanish harbors were an affront to him as Admiral, and those injured looked to him for means of recovering their losses'.18 Bassett and Holliday had suffered at the hands of Spain. Howard's action aided these men, enriched his coffers, and punished Spain by attacking her commerce. Control of wealth derived from her possessions in the New World enabled Spain to maintain her dominance in Europe and to build a large navy to invade and seize England, a Protestant country in 1588. The indignities suffered by English merchants in the Iberian Peninsula may have played a role in shaping Howard's attitudes towards Spain and her subjects. However, I would argue that by-products of England's victorious naval victory, illness and infection among the mariners, had a direct impact on the emotional wellbeing of Howard. This in turn intensified his growing hatred of Spain and her subjects. On 22 August 1588 Howard wrote a series of letters to the Queen, Privy Council and Sir Francis Walsingham, concerning the sad plight of English mariners. He told the Queen that 'with grief he informs her that the fleet is suffering much from the infection that has broken out. Those that come in fresh are soonest affected; they sicken one day and die the next.'19 On that same day he wrote to the Council declaring that the 'infection in the fleet is so great that many of the ships have hardly enough to weigh their anchors'.20 Also, Howard informed Walsingham of 16 Kenny (seen. 13) 1:166. 17 Ibid. 168. 18 Ibid. 19 Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Reign ofElizabeth, 1581-1590,445, 534. See also Kenny (see n. 13) 1:258 and John Knox Laughton, State Papers Relating to the Defeat of the Spanish Armada Ano 1580 (London 1894) IL167. 20 Ibid. 46</page><page sequence="5">The denunciation of Peter Freire the 'mortality in the fleet'.21 Howard's correspondence to Mr Secretary did not end that day. Howard wrote to Walsingham on 25 August 1588 with new complaints concerning the plight of the mariners. He told him that Tt is difficult to dis? charge the ships the men being unpaid, and not a penny to relieve them'. Also, 'It is pitiful to have men starve after such a service'. He concluded by stating, 'As we are like to have more of such services, the men must be better cared for'.22 Howard strove to maintain a navy with limited resources in the face of a potential new Spanish invasion. His austere personality could no longer hide the emotions welling up within him. He became receptive to the patriotic, religious and vitriolic literature spewing forth from London printers. Lord Howard had a wide range of reading materials from many printers, especially John Wolf, a former fishmonger who printed patriotic and reli? gious literature in great quantity. Several publications offered graphic illus? trations of support for Queen Elizabeth I and the English realm: A true discourse of the armie which the king of Spaine caused to be assembled in the haven of Lisbon, in the kingdom of Poretugall, in the yeare 1388, against England'2^ Joy full sonnet ofthe Redines of the shires and nobilitie ofEngland to her majesties service on August 1, 1588'24 The Queen's visitinge the campe at Tilberye and her enterteyment there the 8 and 9 of August 1588'25 and on 27 September 1588 a patriotic celebration of the Spanish fleet's disarray and destruction off the coast of Ireland entitled, The late wonnderfull dystres which the Spanishe Navye sustainedyn the late fyghte in the Sea, and vpon the west coaste of Ireland in this moneth of September 1588 26 In terms of vitriolic and virulent anti-Spanish literature, Wolf could not compete with other purveyors of hatred. Thomas Orwin and Thomas Gubbin printed Thomas Deloney's ballad entitled, A new ballet of the straunge and most cruell whippes which the Spanyards had prepared to whippe and torment Englishmen and women: which were found and taken at the ouerthrow of certaine Spanish Shippes, written after the Spanish defeat in 1588. Deloney described 21 Ibid. 538. See also Kenny (see n. 13) 1:259-61. 22 Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1581-1590,467, 508 and 534 no. 42 23 Edward Arber (ed.) A Transcript of the Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1660 (New York 1950) 2:498. 24 Ibid. 25 Ibid. 26 Ibid. 501. See also: M. A. Shaaber, Some Forerunners of the Newspaper in England, 1476?1622 (New York 1966) 129; Arber (see n. 23) 2:497,499; Charles Harding Firth, 'The Ballad History of the Later Tudors' Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, series 3 (1909) 51-124; Harry R. Hoppe, 'John Wolfe: Printer and Publisher, 1579-1601' The Library, fourth series, n. 3 (December 1933) 241,243-7,249-53, 25?-8. 266-7, 209 and Joseph Lowenstein, 'For a History of Literary Property: John Wolfe's Reformation' English Literary Renaissance, XVIII (1998) 389-412. 47</page><page sequence="6">Charles Meyers whips for men as possessing 'wyerie knots', and those for women, 'sharp brass pieces'.27 In addition, Cressy, provides readers with another acidic example of anti-Spanish literature. The author in question was Anthony Marten. It is entitled, An Exhortation to stirre up the mindes ofall her maie sties faithful sub? jects to defend their Country in this dangerous time, from the invasion of enemies. It may have been written to stir the patriotic souls of Englishmen, but the fol? lowing words add an incendiary touch: 'Though the Dragon be driven into his den, yet his sting and poison still in force. Though they be chased and repelled for a time, yet their malice and fury abideth.' Cressy concludes by emphasizing that one benefit in Marten's eye was that it 'hath stirred up our minds to look to ourselves and to put England on a war footing'.28 Returning to the fray, Fox in 1590 published a textual version of a work entitled, The coppies of the Anti-Spaniard, made at Paris by a Frenchman, a Catholique. Wherein is directly proved how the Spanish King is the onely cause of all the troubles in France.29 The other example can be found in A. Ryther's translation of a work by the Italian historian, Ubaldini, entitled, A discourse concerning the Spanish fleet, invading England: in the year 1388, and ouerthrown by her Majesty's navy, under the conduct of the right honourable the lord Charles Howard, high-admiral of England. Ubaldini, in the preface of his book, accused the pope and the King of Spain of planning the destruction of the (English) monarchy by assassinating Queen Elizabeth I. Howard charged that a Spanish priest was the instigator behind Parry's attempt to kill her. In addition he accused the Spanish ambassador to France, Bernardino de Mendoza, of instigating 'Ballard and Babington' of attempting to 'betray the land to Spaniards'. His glowing account of Howard's tactical naval skills caused this writer to wonder if the admiral had an active role in its compila? tion and publication. Howard's participation in the anti-Spanish propaganda literature of the period is evident in a book printed by Wolf on7 October 1590, bearing the imprint of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chamberlain and Lord Admiral: The Tables and mappes of the Spaniardes pretending invasion by Sea together with the description thereof?? The publication occurred thirty-one 27 Zera Silver Fink, Anti-Foreign Sentiment in Early Tudor and Stuart Literature (Evanston, Illinois 1931)88. 28 David Cressy, Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England (Berkeley, California 1989) 116-17. See also William S. Maltby, The Black Legend in England: The Development of Anti-Spanish Sentiment, 1558-1660 (Durham, North Carolina 1971) 82-3; Arber (see n. 23) 2:498 and Shaaber (see n. 26) 127. 29 Clifford Chalmers Huffman, Elizabethan Impressions: John Wolfe and His Press (New York 1988) 181; Short Title Catalog 1584-1590 &amp; IU, RBC, Film UM 6015 (London 1590). See also Robin Myers, Lives in Print: Biography and the Book Trade from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century (The British Library 2002) 196-8, 31. 30 Fink (see n. 27) 87. 48</page><page sequence="7">The denunciation of Peter Freire days before Howard's vicious denunciation of Peter Freire, a patriotic Portuguese alien residing in Lisbon. Peter Freire, however, did not allow Howard's denunciation to deter him from his patriotic duty. Thomas Meade, an English mariner from Devon, reported being approached by Freire in Lisbon in December 1591. He asked him to transport information concerning a new armada being planned. Freire emphasized that Milford Haven, a port in southwest Wales, and Ireland, 'might be well guarded'.31 Mention of Milford Haven should have set off alarm bells for Elizabethan officials. In 1485 Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, landed there and proceeded to defeat Richard III at Bosworth in August of that year. Freire's information was quite important in light of con? tinued threats to Ireland's security in the 1590's.32 Surviving documentation does not indicate that Peter Freire had any further contact with English merchants after 1590. We do know that based in Lisbon, he had an Angola slave contract between 1594 and 1602.33 By 1602 financial reverses brought him to the edge of bankruptcy.34 Whether he sur? vived his monetary reversals is not known at present. Peter Freire's efforts were unappreciated in the emotional maelstrom that followed the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Fears of new invasions, particu? larly in Ireland, coloured the English government's image of any Spanish subject. He never returned to England. 31 Arber (see n. 23) 2:564 32 R. B. Wernham, The Return of the Armadas: The Last Years ofthe Elizabethan War Against Spain, 1595-1605 (Oxford 1994) 22. See also Shaaber (see n. 26) 44; Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, Reign of Elizabeth, 1595?1597, 88; Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, Reign of Elizabeth, 1598-1601, 46, 147, 157 285 and Brigden, 326, 342-3, 353~4 and 358. 33 Enriqueta Vila Vilar, HispanoAmerica Y El Comercio De Esclavos: Los Asientos Portugueses (Seville 1977) 24-5. 34 Ibid. 49</page></plain_text>