(France: 23 October 1556). 305 x 205 mm. (12 x 8"). Single column, 29 lines in a lovely cursive hand.
SIGNED BY HENRI II AND JEAN DU THIER (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs) in bottom margin. Verso addressed to the recipient, with additional notes in a different contemporary hand. Paper gently toned, edges slightly worn and with a couple small chips, light creases from folding (as expected), verso with a little soiling, but in unusually fine condition, the paper clean and crisp and generally in an excellent state of preservation.
This letter draws us into the middle of the Italian Wars (also known as the Habsburg-Valois Wars), the complicated political and religious struggles and switching alliances among France, Spain, and Italy that lasted for 65 years, beginning at the end of the 15th century. The present message from Henri II to Raymond de Fourquevaux informs the king's diplomat-general of plans to help defend the Papal States against the recent Spanish invasion under the Duke of Alba. The consequences of joining the fray to help defend Pope Paul IV against Spain were significant: France's intervention would break the 1556 treaty of Vaucelles, in which a truce was established between Henri and King Phillip II of Spain, ending many years of aggression between the two countries. As indicated in this letter, the pretext for breaking the treaty resided in Henri's allegiance to his uncle, the Duke of Ferrara, who, with Pope Paul IV, was fighting the Spanish (at least until he made a separate peace agreement in 1558). King of France from 1547 until his death, Henri II (1519-59) was heavily involved in the various skirmishes and shifting alliances that made up the Italian War of 1551-59. He was also known for his particularly harsh treatment of Huguenots, as well as raising Mary, Queen of Scots at his court in the hope that a marriage to his son would ensure a French claim to the Scottish throne. Henri died following a jousting tournament in celebration of the marriage of Philip II to his daughter, Elisabeth of Valois. (The conflict between Henri and Philip had subsided sufficiently enough three years after the time of our letter for the Spanish king to marry Elisabeth following the death of his first wife, "Bloody" Mary Tudor of England.) Despite the talents of royal surgeon Ambroise Paré, one of the fathers of modern surgery, the king expired on 10 July 1559--just a little over three months after the signing of the Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, which marked an end to the Italian Wars. Raymond Beccarie de Pavie, Baron de Fourquevaux (1508-1574) served diplomat-general to the King of France in Italy from 1550-1557. He also served as Master of the Pantry, Magistrate to Toulouse, and Governor of Narbonne, as well as Ambassador to Spain under Charles IX, and was the author of a treatise on warfare, "Instructions sur le fait de la guerre," first published in 1548. Fourquevaux seems to have been a skilled soldier and diplomat who was loyal to Henry and trusted by the King; other extant letters between the two even include the use of ciphers to pass along the most sensitive information. (CRS2201)
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PJP Catalog: 81.060