This series has three easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Phillip II Attacks France.
Across the Channel from the white cliffs of Dover, Calais remained the last English remnant from the Hundred Years War. The town and the surrounding territory was English for two centuries from 1347 to the year this story culminates, 1558. It starts with the the man who was to become England’s worst enemy, the King of Spain, Phillip II, only now he’s the Queen of England’s husband.
This selection is from The Popular History of England by Charles Knight published in 1862. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Charles Knight was a publisher, editor, and author.
Place: Calais, France
In March, 1557, Philip returned to England. He came, not out of affection for his wife or of regard for his turbulent insular subjects, but to stir up the old English hatred of France and to drag the nation into a war for his personal advantage. The fiery Pope, Paul IV, panted for the freedom of Italy as it existed in the fifteenth century; he wanted to accomplish his wishes by an alliance with France; he would place French princes on the thrones of Milan and Naples. The Spaniards he pronounced as the spawn of Jews and Moors, the dregs of the earth.
When there was a question of temporal dominion to be fought out, the Pope did not hesitate to wage war against that faithful son of the Church, King Philip; nor did King Philip hesitate to send the Duke of Alva, the exterminator of Protestants, to enter the Roman states and lay waste the territories of the Pope. Frane and Spain were upon the brank of open war when Philip arrived in England. He urged a declaration of war against France. There were grievances in the alleged encouragement which had been given in Wyat’s rebellion, and in the lukewarmness with which Henry II met Queen Mary’s desire that he should afford her the means of vengeance upon the exiles for religion who took shelter in France.
The most recent complaint was that France had connived at the equipment of a force by Thomas Stafford, a refugee, who had invaded England with thirty-two followers and had surprised Scarborough castle. This adventurer claimed to be the house and blood of the Duke of Buckingham, who was beheaded in the times of Henry VIII. The proclamation which he issued from his castle of Scarborough, which he held only two days, was addressed to the English hatred of the Spaniards, rather than directed against the ecclesiastical persecution under which the country was suffering: “As the duke of Buckingham, our forefathers and predecessors, have always been defenders of the poor commonalty against the tyranny of princes, so should you have us at this juncture, most dearly beloved friends, your protector, governor, and defender against all your adversaries and enemies; minding earnestly to die rather, presently, and personally before you in the field, than to suffer you to be overrun so miserably with strangers, and made most sorrowful slaves and careful captives to such a naughty nation as Spaniards.” Stafford and his band were soon made prisoners; and he was beheaded on Tower Hill, and three of his followers hanged, on May 25th. Seizing upon this absurd attempt as a ground of quarrel, war was declared against France on June 7th; and Philip quitted the country on July 6th, never to return.
An English force of four thousand infantry, a thousand cavalry, and two thousand pioneers joined the Spanish army on the Flemish frontier. The army was partly composed of German mercenaries; the lanzknechts and reiters, the pikemen and cavalry, who, at the command of the best paymaster, were the most formidable soldiers of the time. But the Spanish cavaliers were there, leading their native infantry; and there were the Burgundian lances. The army was commanded by Emanuel Philibert, Duke of Savoy, who had aspired to the hand of Elizabeth. Philip earnestly seconded his suit, but Mary, wisely and kindly, would not put a constraint upon her sister’s inclinations. The wary Princess saw that the crown would probably be hers at no distant day; and she would not risk the loss of the people’s affection by marrying a foreign Catholic. She had sensible advisers about her, who seconded her own prudence; and thus she kept safe amid the manifold dangers by which she was surrounded.
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