'A discourse of the estate of Spaine' written by Sir Charles Cornwallis, 1607.
A discourse of the estate of Spaine Anno 1607 written by Sir Charles Cornwallis knight.
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 96 MS305
- Dates of Creation1607
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical DescriptionFolio, 22 leaves, 1 volume
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Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Cornwallis, Sir Charles (c.1555-1629), courtier and diplomat, was the second son of Sir Thomas Cornwallis (1518/19-1604), and his wife, Anne (d. 1581), daughter of Sir John Jerningham or Jernegan of Somerleyton, Suffolk. Cornwallis's father was a noted Catholic who had taken part in the coup which gave Mary I the throne, and under her was appointed a privy councillor and comptroller of the household. Despite his religion he raised both his sons as protestants; matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1566, and in 1578 he married Anne (bap. 1551, d. 1584), daughter and coheir of Thomas Fincham of Fincham, Norfolk, and widow of Richard Nicholls of Islington, Norfolk. Their union produced two sons, including Sir William Cornwallis the younger, essayist, before Anne died. In 1585 Cornwallis married Anne (d. 1617), daughter of Thomas Barrow of Barningham, Suffolk, and widow of Sir Ralph Shelton, of Shelton, Norfolk. Cornwallis pursued a life at court and he had a meteoric rise under the patronage of Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, to whom he was connected by marriage. On 11 July 1603 he was knighted. The following year he was elected MP for Norfolk, and he was allowed to retain his seat in the Commons even when, the next year, he was appointed resident ambassador to Spain. He had an uncomfortable trip to Madrid, being ill and confined to a litter for most of the journey, as well as quarrelling over precedence with the earl of Nottingham, who had been sent to Spain to ratify the 1604 peace treaty. Cornwallis's main task in Madrid was to oversee the provisions of the treaty which allowed the English to practise their religion in private and protected merchants from the harassment of the Inquisition. He was required to deal with many complaints from English merchants that their goods had been seized by the Spanish under the pretence of searching for forbidden protestant literature. While in Madrid he provided valuable intelligence on Spain for Salisbury and busied himself writing treatises on the state of the country, the history of Aragon, the structure of the Spanish court, and the wealth of the nobility (BL, Add. MSS 4149, 39853). From 1607 he petitioned to be relieved from his post, claiming poverty and harassment from English Catholic exiles. He was finally granted leave to return to England in 1609. Cornwallis resumed his place in the Commons when he returned and in 1610 was appointed treasurer of the household to Henry, prince of Wales. He was often in attendance upon Henry and found him an impressive figure, later writing `A discourse of the most illustrious Prince Henry, late prince of Wales' (1641). It was rumoured in 1612 that he would be made master of the court of wards but after the deaths of Henry and Salisbury the same year he received no further court or government office. In 1613 he was appointed a commissioner to investigate the elections to the Irish parliament and while there he set down his views on the people and the nation, describing them as `naked barbarians' (BL, Add. MS 39853, fol. 2v). Upon his return to England, Cornwallis sought election to the 1614 parliament for Eye in Suffolk but before he arrived there he learned that the election had already taken place. During the parliament John Hoskins bitterly denounced the Scots and their influence over James I and, when questioned, claimed that he was echoing the views of Cornwallis, whom he had met on the road to Eye. Called before the privy council, Cornwallis denied that he had suggested Hoskins attack the Scots but his guilt was seemingly confirmed when a letter was published in London in which he asked the king for forgiveness. He was committed to the Tower and on his release in June 1615 retired to the country to live at his ancestral home, Brome Hall, Suffolk, and at Harborne, Staffordshire. His second wife died in 1617 and three years later on 29 April 1620 he married Dorothy, daughter of Richard Vaughan of Nyffryn in Llyn, Caernarvonshire, bishop of London, and widow of Bishop John Jegon of Norwich. Cornwallis died at Harborne on 21 December 1629, survived by his wife.
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Entry compiled by J Caudwell.
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A dealer's catalogue entry claims that the MS. was formerly in the collection of Sir Henry Savile (1549-1622).