ELIZABETH I (1533-1603), Queen of England and Ireland. Autograph letter signed (at the foot, 'Vostre [t]res asseuree bon[n]ê Soeur et Cousine Elizabeth R') to Henry of Navarre (later Henry IV of France), n.p., n.d. (probably the summer of 1585), in French, the text written in a sprawling cursive hand, the subscription and signature in her upright italic script, 1¾ pages, folio, autograph address leaf, contemporary and later endorsements (the address leaf worn in 3 folds, lightly browned). Provenance: Christie's New York sale, 17 December 1983, lot 474; the Spiro Family Collection.
'THE NETS WHICH ARE PREPARED FROM DAY TO DAY TO TRAP THE FEET OF INNOCENT BIRDS'
The Queen reassures the King of Navarre of her support, and her appreciation of the report given by his envoy (Monsieur Ségur de Pardaillan), absolving Henry of blame for the failure of the princes of the Protestant faith to combine to protect themselves, and gratified that her own predictions were correct.
'Monsieur notre bon frere La singuliere prudence & raris iugement d'ont dieu vous a rendu Capable me donnent assurance que n'attribueres a nonchaillance le peu de nouvelles que revenes de mon Avis plus tot Croyres que pour Couper chemin de soupcon & oster scrupules qui vous pourront nuyre m'ont retenu de vous representer l'infinite de Soing que J'ay tousiours garde de vostre Seurte & honneur Oui Je vous jure n'avoir ou [eu] jamais quelque refroidissement ... Le Sieur Segure m'a bien au Longue discouru de sa charge par ou Je voy que ce ne sera vostre faulte que les princes de notre Foy ne s'accordent en meme volonte de s'entregarder de retz qui se lisment de Jour a aultre pour surprendre les pieds des Oiseaux innocents ... Il me plut extremement que Les princes d'Allemagne entendront que mes presages ne furent sans raison qui leur ay souvent mande le mesme qu'Astour Vous faictes & Leur response fust telle que Le Sieur Pardeillan vous dira qui me faict refrener de leur mander ne voulant trop m'abbaiser'
[Sire, our good brother: The exceptional wisdom and rare discernment of which God has made you capable give me confidence that you will not attribute to indifference the little news which reaches you of my counsel. Rather believe that [it is] in order to close off the path of distrust and to remove uncertainties which could harm you that I have been restrained from showing you the infinite care which I have always maintained for your safety and honour. Yes I swear that I have never taken offence ... The Sieur Segure has spoken to me at length of his mission whereby I see that it will not be your fault if the princes of our Faith do not agree with the same will to protect themselves from the nets which are prepared from day to day to trap the feet of innocent birds ... I am exceedingly pleased that the princes of Germany will learn that the warnings which I often sent them, as you do in your turn, were not without cause, and their response was such as the Sieur Pardeillan will tell you which makes me refrain from sending word to them, not wishing to demean myself ...]
The Queen concludes by advising Henry, with fulsome expressions of regret, not to visit her, for fear of 'the sharp eyes of your watchful enemies who would have [made?] of your absence a wide open door to give free admission to their designs to ruin your plans, confident of establishing your ill-wishers'.
Elizabeth I's dealings with the United Provinces and the German princes, whom she hoped to shore up against Spain and France, were extremely complex. Her main objective was to thwart the Duke of Guise's declared aim of excluding the Protestant Henry of Navarre from the French succession. The King of Navarre's envoy, the Sieur Segur de Pardaillan, is often mentioned in official correspondence. He was despatched to Germany and as emissary to Elizabeth in 1584 and again in the summer of 1585, when -- despite the tone of her present letter -- he protested loudly that she had not honoured her promises. In fact she covertly subsidised Henry to enable him to pay German mercenaries.