Letter of Sir Lewes Lewknor to Lord Robert Cecil

TNA: SP 14/3/76

(21 September)

Right honorable

Although the Spanish Ambassadour doth now since the receipt of your Lordships letter rest pleased, and contented: yet I thought it my duty to let your Lordship vnderstand the apprehensions which hee had formerly conceived, from what grownd, or Intelligence, or whence I cannot learne: but the very same night after hee had written to your Lordship, hee sent for mee, causing mee to sit downe by him, the chamber dore being shut, telling mee directly that his patience endured much at this delay of his Audience, the same first redounding as it did, so highly to the dishonour, and Indignity of the king his Maiestie, secondly, so much to the blemish of his owne reputation, his Idlenes here being not onely turned to a matter of scorne, and scoffing in our Court, but serving to his masters Enemies as a subject of publike laughter, and derision euen in the streetes of Midlebourgh: while in the meane time the Frenche (as hee saide) possessed daily the eares of the king, and Counsaile, triumphing in the Court, and doing their business as they pleased.

To the first I aunswered (as in truthe I Iustly might) that his maiesties greate care had been euen from his first landing at Dover, to haue him honorably vsed in his way toward the Court, as by experience hee had founde; and presently vpon his repaire to Oxford to haue giuen him audience so soone as hee had taken a dayes rest, or two from his Iourney, the altering of which resolution first proceeded from the death of his Chamberlaine: secondly, from his owne request, which hee intreated mee to make to his Maiestie and to the Lordships of the Counsell, that hee might presently bee removed out of Oxford vnto some remote place, where hee might avoyde the daunger of this contagion that began already to take holde of his People; in which his Maiestie was so carefull to giue him satisfaction, that hee presently gaue order for his remooue to Southampton, being one of the healthiest, and sweetest townes in his kingdome, where hee, and his People hath beene by the Magistrates very gently received, and are very fitly, and commodiously lodged.


On Sonday in the afternoone having provided good Musicke, I invited him over to my lodging (the motion first proceeding from himself) where were Ladyes, and Gentlewomen the best of this Towne to accompany him; his Gentlemen and they spente the most parte of the afternoone in dauncing, in which hee himself also bare a parte, being taken out by my Lady Lambert, protesting hee had rather indaunger the reputation of his gravity, then of his Courtesye.

On Monday wee had bull-bayting, which hee beheld out of my chamber- windowe, and tooke greate pleasure therein. yesterday in the afternoone there went many Gentlemen, and Gentlewomen to see his howse, whome hee banqueted very roially in the middest whereof his messenger retourned with your Lordships letter, the contents whereof hee presently Imparted vnto mee with much contentment, and is now very busy, and Inquisitiue to knowe in what manner hee shall haue his audience, and how, and ‸⸢at what hower⸣ when hee shall come, and who shallbe sent vnto him for his conduction.


  • Footnotes
  • Document Description

    Record title: Letter of Sir Lewes Lewknor to Lord Robert Cecil
    Repository: TNA
    Shelfmark: SP 14/3/76
    Repository location: Kew

    Sir Lewes Lewknor was an expert in court protocol who had escorted the French ambassador during his visit to England in 1600. In the summer of 1603 a delegation from Spain and the Spanish Netherlands arrived in England to meet the new King James and attempt to negotiate an end to the long war between Spain and England. Lewknor, who had served with the Spanish army in the Netherlands, was assigned to attend on the Spanish ambassador, Juan de Tassis y Acuña, first count of Villamediana (d. 1607) (ODNB,; HPO, http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1558-1603/member/lewknor-lewis-1627; Green (ed), Calendar of State Papers, Domestic, James I, 1603–1610, pp 34, 40–1; xxiii–iv; Great Britain, Brown, Horatio F. (ed), Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts Relating to English Affairs, Existing in the Archives and Collections of Venice, and in Other Libraries of Northern Italy, Vol. X. 1603–1607 (London, 1900), xxiii–iv). Plague at London had kept the king away from London since his accession and in August 1603 the court began a progress from Hampton Court, reaching the marquess of Winchester's residence at Basing House by the seventeenth. A week later the king turned north toward Woodstock, only to find, as Lewknor's letter indicates, that the plague had reached Oxford. The court thus returned to Hampshire, staying in Winchester in early September, while the Spanish delegation lodged at Southampton. According to a journal kept by a secretary to Robert Cecil, the Spanish ambassador's repeated requests to see the king finally led to two audiences with James, held at Windsor on 25 and 28 September. The Spanish delegation still remained at Southampton, as on 30 September Cecil and several other lords went to Southampton to confer with the ambassador there (Howard Vallence Jones (ed), 'The Journal of Levinus Munck,' English Historical Review 68.267 (April 1953), 245–6; Leeds Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater: The Stuart Years (Ithaca and London, 1991), 106).

    1603; English; paper; bifolium; 276mm x 190mm; originally unnumbered; remains of 2 red seals on f [2v]; good condition, right side of f [2] fragmentary but repaired, no loss of text; originally folded twice and addressed: 'To the right honorable the Lord | Cecyll, Baron of Esenden, principall | Secretary to his Maiestie and Master of | his Maiesties Court of Wardes. etetera.| At the Court,' now mounted on a binding strip, stamped 132, and bound with other domestic state papers in a volume with red leather binding, title on spine: '[rule] | STATE | PAPERS | DOMESTIC| [double rules] | JAMES I | 3 | [double rules].'

Back To Top