IV. The end of Nonsuch

With Elizabeth resenting the fiscal commitments still required by the treaty of Nonsuch and impatient for a return on those already expended, and the States General no longer willing to share executive authority with the Council of State, Bodley’s task as negotiator was ‘a novel and difficult one’ (Wilson, 251).

The States General increasingly delayed their response to the demands and entreaties made by a frustrated Bodley and the Council of State. The treaty’s clauses concerning the devolving of power to the Lieutenant-General and the Council of State were flagrantly ignored. Oftentimes they were not informed of decisions, musters and intelligences, let alone actively consulted. Bodley debated with the States extensively on this matter, which culminated in a formal declaration of their obligations being presented to the States General, though this had little effect.

A revised treaty was clearly required, and one of Bodley’s tasks was to raise support for this. Along with Lord Burgh and George Gilpin, he was also to look to the financial aspects of the alliance, examine accounts on both sides, and ensure the future repayment of Elizabeth’s grudgingly spared loans. Bodley’s negotiation of these economic and military matters was set against the backdrop of threatening naval attacks, an abortive English campaign to seize Portugal from Spanish control, and a Spanish offensive against France.

The original financial and military assistance offered by Queen Elizabeth under the terms of the treaty of Nonsuch, namely an annual subsidy and the support of English garrison troops in the cautionary towns of Flushing (Vlissingen) and Brill (Briel), was tempered by the English requirement for increased military representation at home during periods of imminent attack, and for strategic deployment elsewhere.

Profitable discussion between Bodley and the Council of State was made more difficult with Elizabeth’s insistence on an embargo on trade with the enemy, coupled with the added incentive that any ship caught illicitly trading would be seen as fair game for English privateers. Considering Dutch merchants’ reliance on trade with Spain, this did not aid cordial relations.

In terms of countable diplomatic successes, Bodley made few concrete gains, and was primarily involved in continuous reportage to the Privy Council, the collecting of intelligence, and the ongoing complex negotiations and relationship management between the dissatisfied English and the intractable Dutch. He complained of ill health several times, no doubt in part due to the frustrations inherent to his position, and by 1597 he had repeatedly pleaded to be permanently recalled. As a result of the difficulties Bodley encountered and the complexity of the international political situation he was obliged to navigate, the corpus of letters which survive from his diplomatic posting offers a tantalisingly rich insight into the politics, religion, networks, geographies and people of this fascinating period of history.