France and Elizabethan England

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France and Elizabethan England Author(s): Charles Giry-Deloison Source: Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Sixth Series, Vol. 14 (2004), pp. 223-242 Published by: Royal Historical Society Stable URL: Accessed: 05/11/2010 07:32Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use. Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed page of such transmission. JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

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TransactionstheRHS 14 (2004),pp. 223-42 ? 2004 Royal HistoricalSociety of DOI: Io.IOI7/Soo80441oo4oooI43 Printedin the United Kingdom

FRANCE AND ELIZABETHAN ENGLAND* By Charles Giry-DeloisonABSTRACT. Descriptionsof Tudor Englandby Frenchvisitorsare scarce,but in the

I56os and I570S a renewedinterestin 'all things English'is perceptibleamongstthe Frenchelite. The new religion,parliament,the eventualityof a royalmarriageand genuine curiosityin such a strangecountry contributedto distractthe attentionof a few Frenchmenfrom Italy and Spain. In the I58os, a majorchange was to occur: more books on Englandwere being publishedin French,but their sole purposewas religiouspropagandaand many were translationsof Englishpro- or anti-Catholic pamphlets.

in Elizabeth'sreignwas to witnessa majortransformation Anglo-French relationsin the sixteenth century,to which only the PerpetualPeace of1527 might be compared.' Seen from a French standpoint, from I564 onwards (treaty of Troyes, I April), England, the old enemy, slowly and more than once with some reluctance (notably after the Massacre of St Bartholomew on 24 August I572),2turned into a critical but staunch ally, with whom a royal wedding was actively sought, and, more dramatically, without whom Henri de Navarre would probably never have become Henri IV, king of France. Henri himself recognised his debt to Elizabeth. Learning of the queen's death, he wrote to Sully: 'Mon ami, j'ai eu avis de la mort de ma bonne sceur la reine d'Angleterre, qui m'aimait si cordialement, a laquelle j'avais tant d'obligations', adding 'elle m'6tait un second moi-meme.'3 Though one may like to think that this was only a return of the favour that Charles VIII of France had done for Henry Tudor before Bosworth, the words ring true. AsJean-Pierre Babelon has pointed out, one has only to look at the number and the quality of thefor * I would like to thankMrs PatriciaBurkard her kind help. 'See Charles Giry-Deloison, 'A Diplomatic Revolution?Anglo-FrenchRelations and Court England, David Starkey(I991), in ed. the Treaties of I527', in HenryVII: A European 77-83, and idem,'Une alliance contre nature?La paix franco-anglaisede 1525-I544',in de r (1515-1547), ed. Charles Giry-Deloison Franfois et HenriVIII.Deuxprinces la Renaissance (Lille,1996),53-62. 2 See, for example, WallaceT. MacCaffrey, and Elizabeth theMaking Policy Queen 1572of F et Lepouvoir la 1588 (Princeton,1981),164-70, and Michel Duchein, Elisabethed'Angleterre.seduction (Paris, 1992), 425-9. 3 Quoted by Duchein, Elisabeth 723, followingJean-Pierre Ire, Babelon, Henri IV(Paris,1994), 929-30.




Henri IV sent to Elizabethbetween 1589and 1603to realise ambassadors the importancethe king bestowedupon his relationship with the queen4 even though, in SeptemberI6oI, he politelydeclinedan invitationto visither.5

relationsduring Peace broughtimportantchanges to Franco-English Elizabeth's reign. The most notable was the political rapprochement which allowed the establishmentof permanent reciprocal diplomatic in representations the two kingdoms.This, among other things,involved an almost uninterrupted flow of dignitariescrossingback and forth, not only to discussthe queen's marriageto a Frenchprince (whichbecame more and more elusiveafter the late I57os),but also to resolvethe many and deep-rootedmisunderstandings, disagreements fearsthatstillmarred relationsbetweenthe two governments the earlystages(particularly in on the English side), as the dramaticevents in Franceblurredthe political scene, preventingany plausibleforecast,and renderinglong-termpolicy hard to sustain. Nevertheless,the final outcome was the strengthening of the political alignmentbetween the two countriesagainst Spain and its ultra-Catholic alliesin France.This resultedin direct Englishmilitary interventionin Normandy in August 1589 to aid the new king, Henri IV, and which was to last until the peace of Vervins on 22 April/ 2 May I598.6Another majoraspect, inseparablefrom high politics,was the steady arrivalof FrenchProtestantsseeking safe haven in England. The barbarismof the Massacre of St Bartholomew put a particular strain on Anglo-Frenchrelations,but it did contributegreatly to open England to the persecuted Huguenots.7Though precise numbers are difficult to ascertain, the French refugee communitiesin London and the south-east of England grew rapidly during the I57os and I58os.8 Not only did they financially contribute to England's involvement in the Netherlandsin I572,9but they also acted as facilitators(particularly throughimportingand printingof books and pamphlets)in the diffusion of Frenchpoliticalthought amongst the Englishelite.10 Beyond the pale4

See Lapaixde Vervins ed. Claude Vidal and Frederique Pilleboue(n.p., 1998). 1598, 7 The foundation of a formal Franco-DutchProtestantchurch in London had been achievedat the end ofJune I550 (the 'stranger church'as it was known).Though, technically, the Frenchand Dutch congregations werepart of one foundationand one church,they used separatebuildings:the Frenchrented the Chapel of St Anthony on Threadneedle Street. AndrewPettegree,Foreign Communities Protestant in Sixteenth-Century (Oxford, 986), 25, London 378 The only precise figurewe have for London is the I,200 Frenchmenrecordedin the Returnof Aliens of 1568,Pettegree,Foreign Protestant Communities, 255. 9 Ibd., 255. Io Lisa FerraroParmelee, Good Newes French in fromFraunce. Anti-League Propaganda Late Elizabethan England (Rochester, NY, I996), ch. 2.

5 Duchein, Elisabeth 715. F, 6

Babelon,Henri 929. IV,



(if not the reach) of governmental policy, and where the interests of merchants were concerned, Anglo-Frenchrelations were undoubtedly less easy and commercialrivalry,maritimedisputesand piracy,on both sides, remainedconstantduringthe whole of the period, probablyat the The lifting,in the I58os, of the threat of a Frenchinvasionor French participationin a Scottish coup or, more worryinglystill, in an international Catholic league against England, enabled, to some extent, the expansion of Elizabethan England. According to Jean Bodin, it also curbed the barbarityof the English, who, in consequence, became a more acceptable people: 'Et pour ceste cause les Anglois, qui par ci devant estoyent reputez si mutins et indontables... maintenant depuis qu'ils ont traittepaix et alliance avec la Franceet l'Escosse,et qu'ils ont este gouvernez par une Princessedouce et paisible, ils se sont bien fortapprivoisez.'12

same level as previously."

There remains neverthelessa question that historians have seldom asked:if Englandwas to be theirnew,and many stillsaidunnatural,ally,'3 how well did the Frenchknow their English neighbours?As one would has expect with regard to the sixteenth century,English historiography concentratedon the continentalinfluencesin England,I4 while the French have been more interestedin the Italian, Spanish and Dutch influences in France.To my knowledge,only one work in Frenchhas attemptedto cover this aspect of the bilateralrelations during those years: Georges Ascoli'sLa Grande-Bretagne l'opinionfranfaise, laguerre Cent devant de ans depuis which was publishedin 1927. Admittedly, lafinduXVFsiecle, before jusqu'a him WilliamBrenchleyRye had writtenEngland seenbyForeignersthe as in and but Elizabeth JamestheFirst(I865),'5 this book (thoughstillvery daysof valuable)only alludes to two sixteenth-centuryFrench 'descriptions'ofThis remainsa largelyunexploredareaofAnglo-FrenchrelationssinceMichelMollat's a maritime normandlafinduMoyen Etude d'histoire etsociale Age. thesis,Lecommerce iconomique (Paris,I952).

'2Jean Bodin, LesSix Livres la Ripublique de (Paris, Jacques Du Puys, 1576),ed. Christiane Fremont,Marie-DominiqueCousinet and Henri Rochais (6 vols., Paris,1986),v, ch. I, 51. 13 As late as I638 the duke of Sully,who had been an ambassadorto England in I603, noted in his Memoires: is certainthat the Englishhate us, and with a hate so strongand so 'It of general,that one wouldbe temptedto listit as one of the naturaldispositions thispeople', Relations the since Norman Anglo-French Conquest quotedby RobertGibson,BestofEnemies. (I995), 65. '4 There are severalstudiesof Frenchpoliticaland culturalinfluenceon