Sir Charles Cornwallis in his valley of misery

The first English Ambassador in Spain post-Elizabeth, Sir Charles Cornwallis, got bit of a rough deal. English trade with Spain had just been opened up again (in 1604), but relations were still somewhat strained, and many English merchants found themselves in trouble in Spain – some of it their own causing, but much of it not. These merchants naturally sought redress by going to the Spanish Court themselves, but more frequently through contacting the English Ambassador and asking – if not demanding! – his help in pursuing their suit. Cornwallis did his best, but received flak equally from importunate English merchants who put much more effort into complaining than actively trying to sort their matters out, from local nobles at the Spanish Court who felt Cornwallis demeaned his post as Ambassador by acting as a solicitor for the English merchants, and also somewhat from the Lords of the Privy Council of England who perhaps did not fully appreciate Cornwallis’s situation.

In this light, the following closing of a letter written 16 November 1607 (Old Style), is not particularly uncommon:

And so my good lord, trauayling on in this vale of mysery,
with none other earthly hope, & comfort, then to serue my
master & my cuntry with myn vntermost [sic] dilligence, & deuty, I
recommend myn humble seruyce & affection to your lordship to
whom I wyll neuer be other then

one of your faythfyllest
seruantes, and truest poore
frendes ./

Charles Cornwaleys

Madrid 16o Nouember 1607
stilo veteri ./

(TNA SP 94/14 ff. 212-213)


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