Jacques de la Brosse

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Jacques de la Brosse, (c. 1485–1562), cupbearer to the king, was a sixteenth-century French soldier and diplomat. He is remembered in Scotland for his missions in 1543 and 1560 in support of the Auld Alliance.

Mission of 1543[edit]

After the death of James V, Scotland was ruled by Regent Arran. His regency was challenged by David Beaton and Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox. Lennox even threw doubt on Arran’s legitimacy. His grounds were the complex legal circumstances of Arran's father’s second marriage. Into this troubled situation Francis I of France sent a diplomatic mission and military aid to support the alliance between France and Scotland. The Auld Alliance was threatened by an agreement, the Treaty of Greenwich, which would lead to Mary, Queen of Scots marrying Prince Edward. The French envoys, Jacques de la Brosse, with his colleague, the lawyer, Jacques Ménage, seigneur de Caigny, and the Papal Legate Marco Grimani, Patriarch of Aquileia, brought money and munitions to Dumbarton Castle on 6 October 1543, and unwittingly delivered them to Lennox.[1] According to the later narratives of Claude Nau and John Lesley, they arrived in 5 ships with 60,000 crowns. Nau and Lesley wrongly give the name of the legate as the nuncio, Pierre Francis Contareni, Patriarch of Venice, but mention another colleague, 'James Anort', meaning James Stewart.[2] There were seven ships and James Stewart of Cardonald, a Scots Guard officer who escorted La Brosse and Ménage, told Beaton that the envoys were, "na grett personages" who had brought, "sellvar and artellyery monesyzonis pekes and halberdes."[3]

La Brosse and Ménage then met with Arran, Mary of Guise, and Beaton, mostly at the Palace of Stirling Castle. On 24 November 1543, they sent a report of their mission to Francis I of France with 23 articles detailing what they had seen, heard and resolved.[4] Much of this concerns the activities of Lennox, who was to be humoured in his ambition to marry Mary of Guise.[5] La Brosse and Ménage undertook to search the registers of the Scottish Parliament in order to find a loophole to invalidate the Treaty of Greenwich.[6] Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador, has no comment on these proceedings, he had taken refuge at Tantallon Castle and Arran sought his expulsion from Scotland.[7] Mary of Guise's mother, Antoinette de Bourbon recommended he should become the tutor of Mary's son, Francis, Duke of Longueville.[8] Jacques was still in Scotland in December 1545, and left on Scottish business to meet Francis I at Saint-Germains in February 1546. Jacques said Antoinette was there, with nothing to occupy her except hunting and designing buildings.[9]

Mission of 1558 - 1560[edit]

Jacques de la Brosse served as a soldier at Metz, in Italy and at Calais. From 1558, during the Scottish Reformation, Jacques was stationed in Scotland as a captain of French troops. He was made a knight of the Order of Saint Michael. Jacques and Nicolas de Pellevé, Bishop of Amiens, wrote letters summoning the rebelling Lords of the Congregation to attend the Queen Regent in October 1559. As there was no response by 13 November, Francis II of France and Mary instructed them to offer a pardon to all who would submit and punishment to those remaining obstinate. (A similar commission which also included Jean de Monluc, Bishop of Valence, was issued on 1 April 1560)[10]

When the English were preparing to intervene in the Scottish Reformation crisis in January 1560, Jacques wrote to the Duke of Norfolk, saying that he could not believe a rumour in Edinburgh that Norfolk was lieutenant-general to attack the French and aid the Protestant rebels. An English fleet, commanded by William Winter began to harass shipping in Firth of Forth. An English herald, Chester Herald, William Flower denied all knowledge of the raider to Mary of Guise on 16 February 1560. Jacques and Henri Cleutin spoke in defiance to Flower, and he asked if Jacques would be an envoy into England. Jacques replied he had heard the English army were coming into Scotland and he would then "give them the looking upon." At the conclusion of hostilities on 15 July 1560, Jacques signed a guarantee for the French evacuation of Leith.[11]

French troops had invested the town of Leith and it was besieged by a Scottish and English army. A French journal of the siege and events from 22 January 1560 to 15 June, by an anonymous author, mentions the activities of Jacques de la Brosse in passing. La Brosse advised Henri Cleutin, sieur d’Oisel, on tactics on 6 April,[12] and Guise on diplomacy.[13] The journal, edited in its original French and translated by Gladys Dickinson in her Two Missions of de la Brosse is an important source for the Siege of Leith and corroborates details found in English letters and Knox’s History of the Reformation.

Jacques married Françoise de Moussy-la-Contour-de-Puybaillard, their children included a daughter Euchariste.[14] Jacques became a knight of the Order of Malta.[15] He was killed at the battle of Dreux in 1562. Pierre de Bourdeille, seigneur de Brantôme wrote that Jacques was the most graceful and gracious man-at-arms that was ever seen.[16]


  1. ^ Dickinson, Gladys, ed., Two Missions of de la Brosse, Scottish History Society (1942), 3-9.
  2. ^ Stevenson, Joseph, ed., The History of Mary Stewart by Claude Nau, Edinburgh (1883), 333: Cody ed., Leslie's History of Scotland, vol. 2, STS, (1895), 270-271.
  3. ^ Sanderson, Margaret HB., Cardinal Beaton, John Donald (1986), 194: Cameron, Annie, ed., Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, SHS (1927), 34.
  4. ^ Dickinson (1942), 47.
  5. ^ Dickinson, (1942), 39.
  6. ^ Dickinson, (1942), 43.
  7. ^ State Papers Henry VIII, vol. 5 part 4 (1836), 348-350: cf. Letters and Papers Henry VIII.
  8. ^ Wood, Marguerite, Balcarres Papers, vol. 1 (1923), 113-114 and note.
  9. ^ Cameron, Anne, The Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine, SHS (1927), 159 and note: Balcarres Papers, vol. 1 (1923), 124.
  10. ^ Labanoff, A, Lettres de Marie Stuart, vol. 1, 72-75, (in French): Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 344, (English summary)
  11. ^ Calendar of the State Papers relating to Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), 208, 253, 263-264, 288, 322, 344, 449-50.
  12. ^ Dickinson, (1942), 99.
  13. ^ Dickinson, (1942), 103.
  14. ^ Dictionnaire de la noblesse, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Paris (1771), 373.
  15. ^ Histoire des Chevaliers hospitaliers de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem, vol 7, 180.
  16. ^ Oeuvres, mentioned by Merriman, Marcus, (2000).
  • Bain, Joseph, ed., Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland, vol. 1, HM Register House, Edinburgh (1898)
  • De la Brosse, Jules, Histoire d’un capitaine bourbonnais au XVIe siècle, Jacques de la Brosse, Paris (1929)
  • Dickinson, Gladys, ed., Two Missions of de la Brosse, Scottish History Society, Edinburgh (1942)