December 1, 1521 — January 9, 1522

Letter of Emperor Charles V to Bishop Bernard de Mezza,
his Ambassador to Henry VIII

(Ghent, December 14, 1521)

William Bradford, Correspondence of the Emperor Charles V. and his ambassadors at the Courts of England and France (London: Richard Bentley, 1850), 21-25:


Reverend Pere en Dieu cher et féal!

A notre arryvé en ceste notre ville de Gand, que a esté à ce soir, retournant de la Chasse, nous avons veu vos Lettres du XII'. de ce mois, contenantes beaucop de bonnes choses, ausquelles ne vous povons promptement fere responce, mais depechons ceste poste tout exprès pour vous envoyer Lettres au Roy notre bon Oncle et à Monseigneur le Legat, qui contiennent credence sur vous, par laquelle les advertirez de notre part du Trespas de notre Sainct Pere le Pape, selon ce que hier vous fut escript par notre grand Chancelier et que par votre bonne dexterité scaurez bien fere, afin qu’ils cognoissent que de notre costé le lui vouloir bien escripre, et ce que en a esté fait par notre dit Chancelier, a esté pour notre dite absence. D’aultre part vous direz de par nous à Monseigneur le Legat, comme nous avons toujours en notre bonne sonvenance son avancement et exaltation, et le tenons racors de propos, que luy avons tenuz à Bruges touchant la Papalité, ensuivaut lesquels et pour l’effect de ce, sommes deliberez l’ayder de notre pouvoir, tant en cestuy afaire que aultres, que luy pourroient toucher, parquoy le requerez qu’il vueille dire son advis, s'il y a quelque affection, et nous y employerons trés voluntier sans y riens espargner, combien que faisons doubte que la chose sera tardifve, et qu’il en soit desja bien avant allé et neant moins nous vouldrious bien estre plus près d'Italye que ne sommes, et nous luy demonstrerions efectuellement que vouldrions fere pour luy, plustot que pour nul autre et n'actenderions à luy, en demander son advis pour la bonne et grande amour et cordiale afection que nous luy pourtons.

Nous desirons que à diligence nous advertissez sur ce. de l’advis du dit Seigneur Legat auquel vous remonstrerez toutes ces choses de bonne sorte, comme bien scaurez fere par votre dexterité et prudence afin d'en gaigner sa bien vuellance, car nous ne faisons doubte que le Roy de France luy fera tout plain de belle oufert de son cousté, combien q¤’il est tout notoir que en jcelle ne pourroient porter grand fruict n'y ne luy scauroient ayder.

Nous escripvons aussi à notre Ambassadeur Don Jehan Manuel i Rome, que si d'aventure l’election du Pape futur estoit si hastée qu’elle fust tantost faite, et en cas il trèuve main pour le bien de la Chretienneté que le dit futur Pape ordonne ses deputez pour estre i la ditte journée de Suysse. et si l’election se retardoit que en ce cas soit dressé ce que dessus parle moyen du College des Cardinaulx.

Si vous requerons et neantmoins ordonnons de sur toutes les choses susdites fere bonne dilligence que auez acoustumés et au plustot que pourrez nous advertisser de la resolution, que le dit Seigneur Roy notre oncle, et monseigneur le Legat aurons prins sur le tout.

Notre trés cher et trés Amé frere l'Archiduc est arrivé vers nous en ceste notre ville de Gand.... de quoy sommes trés joyeux, et sommes venus icy pour mectre ordre en nos affaires et principallement pour haster notre allée d’Espaigne; quant à la response à vos dittes Lettres du 12' dessus mentionnée vous y fereis ample response de-dans deux jours.

Donné en notre ditte Ville de Gand le XVI'. jour de Decembre, XV'. XXI.



" Reverend father in God, dear and loyal!

On our arrival in this our city of Ghent in the evening, aûer our return from hunting, we received your letters of the 12 of this month, containing matter of much satisfaction, to which we are not able to make an immediate reply; but we hasten, this post, expressly to transmit to you letters to our good uncle the King, and to Monseigneur the legate. I send also your credentials, and desire you to announce on our part to the aforesaid, the decease of our holy father the Pope, as was yesterday made known to you by our Grand Chancellor. In doing of which, I entirely rely on your skill and address, being particularly desirous that they should understand, that we lost no time in acquainting them with this event; and that what our said Chancellor did in this behalf, was done only in consequence of our absence.

We wish you further to inform Monseigneur the Legate on our part, that we have never failed to have his advancement and elevation in view; and that we most willingly hold to the promise made to him at Bruges, respecting the papal dignity; requiring only to know his own wishes, and the measures he would advise, in order to use in this affair, and in every other which concems his interest, all the power and influence without any reserve, which we can command.

And although we are of opinion that this election is not likely speedily to be brought to issue, and that the Cardinal of York stands well already; we are nevertheless desirous of approaching nearer to Italy than we now are, to give the most effectual proof of our cordial affection; and in our eamest desire to do for him more than for any other person, we may thus apply ourselves the more readily to the accomplishment of his wishes.

It is our further pleasure that you should use your best diligence in acquainting us with the views which the Sieur Legate may himself entertain, to whom you will not fail with your accustomed prudence and dexterity fully to make known these our sentiments, that we may secure his good will, nothing doubting but that the king of France will make him all sorts of fair offers, fruitless, as it is well known, they are likely to be.

We write also to our Ambassador at Rome, DonJohn Manuel, that, if it should so fall out that the election of a new Pope should have been so hastened as already to have taken place, he should take occasion to represent how necessary it would be for the good of Christendom, that his Holiness should send deputies into Switzerland there to meet those which we also send: and if the said election has been retarded, we have given instructions that this matter should be urged through the College of Cardinals.

"We further require and command that you employ all your wonted care and diligence in all the aforesaid particulars, and apprize us as quickly as possible, of the resolutions which the aforesaid King my uncle, and Monseigneur the Legate may take in each and all of them.

Our very dear and beloved brother.... the Archduke is just arrived to visit us in our city of Ghent, which gives us the greatest pleasure. We are making all necessary arrangements to prepare for our Speedy departure into Spain.

With regard to your letters of the 12th, above mentioned, you will receive our answer at large within a couple of days.

Given at our said city of Ghent the 16 day of December, l52l."



It must be remembered that both Charles V and Bishop Mezza expected that their correspondence might be intercepted and read. Indeed, either party might frame his correspondence specifically so that it might be shown to the King or to Wolsey.

The editor, William Bradford, remarks about Charles V's correspondence on the matter of Wolsey's candidacy for the papacy, "The sentiments and conduct of Charles the Fifth, as shewn in the foregoing extracts from dispatches to his ministers, must remove all reasonable ground of suspicion that he was insincere in his professions in Wolsey's favor, with regard to this important election.  that he was ready enough to employ dissimulation in his policy, is sufficiently declared in a former letter;  but wre Wolsey's surmises well founded with respect to Manuel, the Emperor's ambassador at Rome, and were this minister, on a contingency so little anticipated as the death of Leo, for which it cannot be presumed that he had received any instructions, doing his best to promote the advancement of de Medicis, no blame can on this account fairly attach to his master.  Neither the Courier, nor Pace, who was charged with full and implicit directions, had at that time arrived.  The Imperial party was certainly favorable to this Cardinal from his known hostility to the French; ad it is evident from the diplomatic ruse with respect to two letters, one of which was to be delivered, and the other suppressed according to circumstances (as referred to in the dispatch of Mezza) that the success of de Medicis would be far from unpleasing either to the Emperor or King Henry.  But setting aside every other motive than those of interest and expediency, we may conceive Charles sincere in seeking the elevation of Wolsey, as the most solid link for securing the alliance of Henry, and of attaching the new Pope indissolubly to his cause."

Bradford seems unaware that Wolsey had spent the entire Fall of 1521, negotiating with the Emperor, the King of France, and the Pope, for a treaty which would benefit England.  His object was to keep the Empire and France divided against one another (and he manipulated all sides toward this object), and to make sure that the Pope included England in whichever treaty he was pleased to agree to.  If the Empire and France should achieve a peace, then England would be kept as a second-rate power, while it was Wolsey's object to make England a first-rate power, in alliance with one of the two major powers and with the Pope.   In 1520, he French were promising the Pope the territory of Ferrara if he would sign an alliance with the French [Bergenroth, pp. 328-329, no. 312].  The treaty with the Emperor was signed by Henry VIII on June 16, 1522 [Bergenroth, pp. 434-435, no. 427].

Ambassador Juan Manuel informed the Emperor of the death of Pope Leo X on the day that it happened, December 2, 1521 [Bergenroth, p. 382, no. 366].  On December 19, he informed the Emperor of the postponement of the opening of the Conclave due to the capture of the Cardinal of Ivrea, Bonifacio Ferrero. [Bergenroth, p. 384, no. 389].   On that same day he informs the Emperor that he had spoken to Cardinal Colonna about voting for Cardinal de' Medici, promising him that the Emperor would reward him;  Cardinal Colonna did not send Manuel a reply, but publicized the fact that Juan Manuel was soliciting votes for de'Medici  The French cardinals along with Colonna were threatening a schism.  On December 24,  Juan Manuel informed the Emperor that he had entered into an agreement with Cardinal de'Medicis. that if his election proves impossible, Medici will cast his vote and those of his supporters for whomever Juan Manuel will designate; a list was given to Medicis.  In the case that the Cardinals appeared willing to elect a cardinal who was not present, Juan Manuel suggested Adrian Florensz Dedel, the Cardinal of Tortosa, to Cardinal de'Medici [Bergenroth, p. 385 no. 370; p. 386 no. 371 (December 28, 1521)].  As of that date, Juan Manuel had received no replies to his announcement of the death of Pope Leo;  by January 6, he had.  On January 11, Juan Manuel wrote to the Emperor that as good a pope has been elected as the Emperor could wish; but having obtained a Pope of his own choice, his duties toward the Church are increased thereby [Bergenroth, p. 393 no. 376].   The news of the election of Pope Adrian reached the Emperor at Ghent on January 18, and it was confirmed by Juan Manuel, whose letter arrived on the 21st [Brown, p. 201, no. 395]

The Emperor knew of the Pope's death by December 17.  The Venetian Ambassador to the Emperor, Gaspare Contarini, reported on that day that the Imperialists hoped and trusted that their Ambassador, Juan Manuel, would do his utmost to obtain the Papal Tiara for Cardinal de' Medici [letter of Gaspare Contarini, Venetian ambassador to the Emperor, in Brown, p. 192, no. 376].  On the 18th the Emperor was told by the Bishop of Palencia, Pedro Ruiz de la Mota, that Medici himself could not be elected, but that someone whom he favored had a good chance.

One must conclude, therefore, that the Imperial candidates—as was known to all, both in Rome and at Ghent—were Medici and Dedel.  Wolsey was being deceived, or was deceiving himself.  One should not set aside motives of interest and expediency.



J. A. BergenrothCalendar of Letters, Despatches, and State Papers, relating to the Negotiations between England and Spain, preserved in the Archives at Simancas and elsewhere, Vol. II. Henry VIII. 1509-1525 (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1866).

Rawson Brown (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. III (1520-1526)  (London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1869)



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