Dr Alistair Duke’s talk ‘There’s scarcely a day that my heart doesn’t weep’ – letters from Flemish and Walloon Women to their families in England
Jacqueline Leurent to her husband Jean Dambryne. Valenciennes 3 February 1570 (n.s.)
Jehan Dambryne, I very affectionately beg to be commended to you. I am very astonished that for the past two years I have received no news from you, which amazes me; I do not know if you are angry with me or not, that you do not write to me. If you thought it suitable to leave me behind, that was not because of me and I regret it very much. I am troubled nightly that I have no news from you, although I have written to you several times; I long to be with you, but if so, I must know what we shall do with our children. As for the little girls, I shall find a way to put them somewhere, but as for the others you need to instruct or write to me your intention and if you will have the means to sustain us together and where you will need me. I also have business with you. For this reason, Jehan Dambryne, consider seriously what you will have to do and about the few goods we have at the moment, which have caused me enough trouble, that is, whether I shall sell everything with your tools or shall entrust them to some friends while waiting for better times. For I hope, that we shall not always be in this misery and the matters will go well with the aid of God. For this reason, Jehan Dambryne, I ask that you think on it and let me know your intention and the most fitting means by which I can be with you. I ask that you do not please fail to write me your final intentions, following which I shall conduct myself. And I do not know how I will be able to find myself with you because of the offence that I have done you. I have written and sent a letter to you, which is en route.
As such, Jehan Dambryne, my husband, I pray that God may protect you and that you do not fail to write me by your own hand.
From Valenciennes, this 3rd of February 1569.
Your dear wife, Jacqueline Leurent
Endorsed: To be given to Jacques Gellee and addressed to Jehan Dambryne, in Londres [London].
Inventory of Goods found on Messenger
Then follows the inventory, made by Loys de Moncheaulx, squire and captain of Hennewin, of the items found in the possession of one called Henry Fléau, as he was making his way to England.
First, several letters found on him as well as in a false bottom inside a pannequin.
Also, a box with metal objects and eyelets to the number of forty.
Also, two and half ells of blue cloth
Also, 4 smocks for a small boy
Also, 2 smocks for some girl
Also, 3 smocks for men
Two dishes with jam
Two ells of white cloth
[Coin to the value of] 21 livres 10 silver sous, to wit 5 angelots, a daalder of 32 sous and an ‘esseilliet’ worth only 24 sous, and 2 coins of 7 sous
A hollow iron rod with a Spanish reed filled with brass wire.
The widow Jonneviel to Nicaise Frappes 30 January 1570 (n.s.)
Nicaise Frappes, my hearty commendations to your good graces and to your wife. After all my commendations, this letter is to inform you that we are all in good health, thanks be to God, and hope that you are as well.
This is to tell you that concerning what you have of mine, that is my money, that I would like to have it with me, for it has been a long time since I asked it of you. And if I never received any response from you, that seems to be a mockery, for, Nicaise, you know very well that I do not have the thousand écus, [and] you should also know that I suffered the misfortune of a fire, not through my own fault, but I suffered from it as well as the others. For which reason, when considering my affairs, you can imagine my affliction even more. You are the reason that my daughter has refused a good marriage, for if there had come along a good husband, indeed a prince, it would not have been possible to marry him, for the fashion is such that they do not ask for girls for their knowledge, but for their money. For which reason, I ask you that you write back about your intentions to me, for it has been long enough and, by doing so, you will please me.
I have nothing else to tell you at the moment, except may God be with you.
Written in haste, this 30th of January 1569
By me the widow Jonneviel
Endorsed: This present letter to be given to Nicaise Frappes
Mother of Benoît de le Court to the same: 3 February 1570. (n.s.)
Benoit, my hearty greetings to you and we – and each and every one of us and to your little daughters – to your wife and to her sister, soon to be married whom I hope is still with you, God willing, and for whom I cry many times each week, for I am wasting away. And may it please our good God that you would very soon be near us, for that would be all my joy, for I have a very strange husband. And I would comfort myself sometimes with you and now I don’t have anybody and it always seems to me that I will never see you again, nor my two daughters, nor your children, for whom I grieve so much that I would not know how to write to you about it. And still my longing is greater than it ever has been, for I do not have any news from you since last month, except that Francois de Lingne gave me your greetings, but I very much want to know if your wife’s head is completely healed and if you are benefiting a bit from your labours, for I would be very happy to hear it.
But only write me a few words when you can so that I may know if all your household is in good health for I am not at all, and so that [I may know about] your sister who is in your house but do not reply to us on the back of this [letter], but to my discreet friend near our house. And my greetings to my godmother and to all our friends and tell her that her sister Jeanette has died, as a result of which I [feel] very forsaken. And may it please our good God that I may safely be with you in a month and for that I would be very happy.
And the little creature is a great burden to me as I do not sleep day or night and she is the most beautiful child that you would ever see in a thousand, for I had her in September.
Making an end to this, I pray the Creator to grant you his holy grace and that you pray God for us. And if our good God gives me grace, I will pray God for you. I pray to him many times each day, when I am well enough.
Written, the 3rd day of February
By your very wistful mother.
Endorsed: To be given to Benoit de le Court.
Philippe Caulier to Jacques de le Haye 16 February 1570 (n.s.)
Grace and peace in Jesus Christ.
For a long time, my companion and good friend, I have wanted to learn about you and to write to you and [but?] inasmuch that I did not know how to find a propitious means and an opportune time to do so, I delayed until now, having found a suitable messenger to do it. For this reason, this is to inform you that by the grace of God, the creator, to whom I give thanks and praise, we are all up to now in good health. And, praise God, up to now he has given us food and, despite our enemies, has made us rest in grassy pastures and led us along tranquil waters, by whom we hope that at the end of our days we shall have the joy of salvation, which is gained for us by Jesus Christ. And our greatest lack is that we have been deprived of the word and nourishment of our souls.
My good friend, to write to you of the lootings, of their pillaging and of the danger to our persons would be [too] long to write. Nevertheless, up until now God has always sustained us and held us in his holy protection, for which may there be praise and glory.
My companion, your sister and I send you our commendations, and to your wife, my good friend, and your daughter; we had heard that my friend was about to deliver an English boy or girl; if that is so, I pray that the Creator may grant that he may grow in virtue and good habits. I beg you to send my greetings to all those of the country and in others, M. Anthoine, clerk of the goods, Ernoul and to all those of the country. I have written some sort of dream [songe] which I have put into lame verse in order to draw it to the attention of the bearer of it so that he wants to take it with him.
I beg you when you have the time to let me know your news, which will be the end of this.
Praying God that it may please him to bring the shepherd and his flock together in [their] country.
This 16th of February, by
Yours entirely Philippe Caulier
Endorsed: To my good friend Jacques De Le Haie