A briefe discourse of the voyage of Sir Jerome Bowes
knight, her Majesties ambassadour to Ivan Vasilivich
the Emperour of Muscovia, in the yeere 1583.
THE Emperour of Russia that then lived, by name Ivan
Vasiliwich, having deliberately considered how necessary
it were for the strengthening of his estate, that a sure
commerce and entercourse of merchants should be againe
renued betweene him and her sacred Majesty of England,
with such further immunities and privileges for the honor
and utility of both their dominions, and subjects of the
same, as upon mutuall treatie of persons interposed on
both sides, might be assented unto: sent over into this
realme, in the yeere of our Lord 1582, as his ambassadour
for that purpose, an ancient discreet gentleman of his
householde called Pheodor Andrevich Phisemsky, accompanied with one of his Secretaries, for his better assistance
in that expedition: and besides his many other directions,
whereof part were to be delivered by word of mouth, and
the rest set downe in a letter under the Emperours signature, addressed to her Majesty: he had in speciall charge
to sollicit her Majesty to send over with him to his maister
an ambassador from her, to treat and contract of such
affaires of importance as concerned both the realmes,
which was the principall end of his imployments hither.
Whereupon her Majesty very graciously inclining to the
Emperors motion, and at the humble sute of the English
merchants trading those countreys being caried with the
same princely respects, to satisfie his demands in that
behalfe, made choice of sir Jerome Bowes, a gentleman of
her Court, ordinarily attending upon her Majesties person,
towards whom was apparantly expressed her princely
opinion and favor by the credit of this negociation.
After he had received his commission, with other
speciall letters to the Emperor, with all other instructions
apperteining to his charge, and that the sayd Russe
ambassadour was licenced to returne home to his maister,
being honorably entertained and rewarded, the English
ambassador being attended upon with forty persons at
the least, very honourably furnished, whereof many were
gentlemen, and one M. Humfrey Cole a learned preacher,
tooke his leave of her Majesty at the Court at Greenwich
the eighteenth of June, and with the other ambassadour,
with their severall companies, embarked themselves at
the two and twentieth of the same, and after a
stormy voyage at the Sea, they arrived both in safety in
the road of S. Nicholas the three and twentieth of July
ambassador lodged himselfe at the abbey
of S. Nicholas: and the English ambassador was lodged
and well intertained by the English merchants, at their
house at S. Nicholas, standing in an Island called Rose
ambassador having reposed himself one
whole day, tooke his leave of the English ambassador,
and departed towards Mosco.
The English ambassadour abode yet at S. Nicholas
foure or five dayes, when having made provision of boats,
and meanes to that purpose, he went forward upon his
journey towards Mosco, to a towne called Colmogro,
about foure score miles distant from S. Nicholas.
You must here understand that before the English ambassadors going into Russia
, there were divers strangers, but
especially certeine Dutch merchants, who had intruded
themselves to trade into those countreys. Notwithstanding a privilege of the sole trade thither was long before
granted to the English merchants. These Dutch men
had already so handled the matter, as they had by chargeable meanes woonne three of the chiefest counsellers to
the Emperour to be their assured friends, namely, Mekita
Romanovich, Bodan Belskoy, and Andrew Shalkan the
chancellor: for besides dayly gifts that they bestowed
upon them all, they tooke so much money of theirs at
interest at five and twenty upon the hundred, as they
payd to some one of them five thousand marks yeerely for
the use of his money, and the English merchants at that
time had not one friend in Court.
The ambassador having now spent five weeks at S.
Nicholas and at Colmogro, there came to him then a
gentleman sent from the Emperor to enterteine him, and
had in charge to conduct him up the rivers towards
Mosco, and to deliver him provision of all kinde of victuals
This gentleman being a follower of Shalkan the chancellor, was by him (as it seemed) foisted into that service
of purpose, as afterward appeared by the course he tooke,
to offer discourtesies, and occasions of mislike to the
ambassador: for you must understand that the chancellor
and the other two great counsellors (spoken of as friends
to the Dutchmen) had a purpose to oppose themselves
directly against her Majesties ambassage, especially in
that point, for the barring of all strangers from trading
into the Emperors countrey.
This gentleman conducted the English ambassador a
thousand miles up the rivers of Dwina and Soughana, to a
citie called Vologda, where received him another gentleman sent from the Emperor, a man of better countenance
then the other, who presented the ambassador from the
Emperor with two faire geldings well furnished after their
At a city called Yeraslave upon the river Volga
met the ambassador a duke well accompanied, sent from
the Emperor, who presented him from the Emperor a
coach and ten geldings for the more easie conveying of
him to Mosco, from whence this citie was distant five
Two miles on this side Mosco there met the ambassador
foure gentlemen of good account, accompanied with two
hundred horse: who after a litle salutation not familiar,
without imbracing, tolde him that they had to say to him
from the Emperor, and would have had him light on foot
to have heard it, notwithstanding themselves would still
have sit on horsebacke: which the ambassador soone
refused to doe, and so they stood long upon termes,
whether both parties should light or not: which afterwards agreed upon, there was yet great nicenesse whose
foot should not be first on ground.
Their message being delivered, and after having embraced ech other, they conducted the sayd ambassador
to his lodging at Mosco, a house builded of purpose for
him, themselves being placed in the next house to it, as
appointed to furnish him of all provisions, and to be used
by him upon all other occasions.
The ambassador having beene some dayes in Mosco,
and having in all that time bene very honorably used
from the Emperor (for such was his will) though some of
his chiefest counsellors (as is sayd) had another purpose,
and did often times cunningly put it in use: He was sent
for to Court, and was accompanied thither with about
forty gentlemen honorably mounted, and sumptuously
arayed, & in his passage from his lodging to the court,
were set in a ward five or sixe thousand shot, that were
of the Emperors gard. At the entry into the court there
met him foure noble men apparelled in cloth of gold, and
rich furres, their caps embroidred with pearle and stone,
who conducted him towards the Emperor, till he was met
with foure others of greater degree then they, who guided
him yet further towards the Emperor, in which passage
there stood along the walles, and sate upon benches and
fourmes in row, seven or eight hundred persons, said to
be noblemen and gentlemen, all apparelled in garments of
coloured satins and cloth of golde.
These foure noblemen accompanied him to the
Emperors chamber doore, where met him the Emperors
herald, whose office is there held great: and with him
all the great officers of the Emperors chamber, who all
conducted him to the place where the Emperor sate in
his state, having three crownes standing by him, viz.
of Moscovia, Cazan, and Astrakan, and also by him 4
yoong noblemen of about twenty yeres of age, of ech
side twaine, costly apparelled in white, holding upon their
shoulders ech of them a brode axe, much like to a Gallogals axe of Ireland
, thin and very sharpe, the steale or
handle not past halfe a yard long, and there sate about
the chamber upon benches and other low seats, above an
hundred noblemen richly apparelled in cloth of golde.
The ambassador being thus brought to the Emperor to
kisse his hand, after some complements and inquirie of
her Majesties health, he willed him to goe sit downe in a
place provided for that purpose, nigh ten pases distant
from him, from whence he would have had him to have
sent him her Majesties letters and present, which the
ambassadour thinking not reasonable stept forward
towards the Emperor: in which passage the chancellor
came to meet him, and would have taken his letters: to
whom the ambassador sayd, that her Majesty had directed
no letters to him; and so went on, and delivered then
himselfe to the Emperors owne hands.
And after, having thus delivered her Majesties letters
and what he had els to say at that time, he was conducted
to the Councell chamber, where having had conference
with the councell of matters of his ambassage, he was
soone after sent for againe to the Emperour, where he
dined in his presence at a side table, nere unto him, and
all his company at another boord by, where also dined at
other tables in the same place, all the chiefe noble men
that were about the Court, to the number of an hundred.
And in the time of this dinner, the Emperor used many
favors to the ambassadour and about the midst of dinner
(standing up) dranke a great carouse to the health of the
Queene his good sister, and sent him a great bowle full of
Rhenish wine and sugar to pledge him.
The ambassadour after this, was often called to Court,
where he had conference both with the Emperour and his
councell of the matters in question, touching both ambassages, which divers times raised many jarres: and in the
end, after sundry meetings, the Emperour finding himselfe
not satisfied to his liking, for that the ambassadour had
not power by his commission to yeeld to every thing that
he thought fit, as a man whose will was seldome wonted
to be gainsayd, let loose his passion, and with a sterne
and angry countenance tolde him that he did not reckon
the Queene of England to be his fellow: for there are
(quoth he) that are her betters.
The ambassadour greatly misliking these speeches, &
being very unwilling (how dangerous soever it might
proove to his owne person) to give way to the Emperor,
to derogate ought from the honour and greatnesse of
her Majesty: and finding also that to subject himselfe to
the angrie humour and disposition of the Emperour was
not the meanes to winne ought at his hands, with like
courage and countenance to answere his, tolde him that
the Queene his Mistresse was as great a prince as any was
, equall to him that thought himselfe the
greatest, well able to defend herselfe against his malice
whosoever, and wanted no meanes to offend any that
either shee had, or should have cause to be enemy unto.
Yea (quoth he) How sayest thou to the French king, and
the king of Spaine? Mary (quoth the ambassadour) I
holde the Queene my Mistresse as great as any of them
both. Then what sayest thou (quoth hee) to the Emperour
of Germany? Such is the greatnesse of the Queene my
Mistresse (quoth the ambassadour) as the King her father
had (not long since) the Emperor in his pay, in his warres
This answere misliked the Emperor yet so much more,
as that he tolde the ambassadour, that were he not an
ambassador, he would throw him out of the doores.
Whereunto he answered that he might doe his will, for
he was now fast within his countrey: but he had a
Mistresse who (he doubted not) would be revenged of
any injury that should be done unto him. Whereupon
the Emperour in great sudden bade him get him home.
And he with no more reverence then such usage required,
saluted the Emperor, and went his way.
All this notwithstanding, the ambassadour was not
much sooner out of the chamber, and the Emperours
cholar somewhat setled, but he delivered to his councell
that stood about him many commendations in the favor
of the ambassador, for that he would not indure one ill
word to be spoken against his Mistresse, and therewithall
wished himselfe to have such a servant.
The ambassadour had not beene much more then one
houre in his lodging, but the Emperour imagining (as it
seemed) by the extraordinary behavior of the ambassador
(for he wanted not wit to judge) that he had found what
was the Emperors case, sent his principall secretary unto
him, to tell him, that notwithstanding what had past, yet
for the great love that he bare to the Queene his sister,
he should very shortly be called againe to Court, and
have a resolution of all the matters in question: and this
Secretary was now further content to impart, and sayd to
the ambassadour that the Emperour was fully resolved to
send a greater noble man home with him in ambassage to
the Queene his sister, then ever he yet at any time sent
out of his countrey : and that he determined also to send
to the Queene a present woorth three thousand pounds,
and to gratifie himselfe at his departure with a gift that
should be woorth a thousand pounds: and tolde him also
that the next day the Emperour would send a great noble
man unto him, to conferre with him of certaine abuses
done him by Shalkan the chancellor, and his ministers.
And so the day following he sent Bodan Belskoy the
chiefest counseller that he had, a man most in credit with
him: this man examined all matters wherewith the
ambassador had found himselfe grieved, and supplied
him with what hee wanted, and righted him in all things
wherein hee had beene wronged.
Not long after the returne of this noble man, the
Emperor caused to be set downe in his owne presence,
a new and much larger allowance of diet for the ambassador then he had had before, and shortly after sent the
same to the ambassadour by his principall Secretarie Savio
Frollo. This diet was so great, as the ambassadour often
times sought to have it lessened, but the Emperour would
not by any meanes.
The scroule of the new diet was this:
- One bushell of fine meale for three dayes.
- One bushell of wheate meale for a day and a halfe.
- Two live geese for one day.
- Twenty hennes for the day.
- Seven sheepe for a day.
- One oxe for three dayes.
- One side of porke for a day.
- Seventie egges for a day.
- Ten pound of butter.
- Seventy peny white loaves of bread.
- Twelve peny loaves of bread.
- One veather or gallon of vineger.
- Two veathers of salt cabiges.
- One pecke of onions.
- Ten pound of salt.
- On altine, or sixe peny woorth of waxe candles.
- Two altines of tallow candles.
- One fourth part of a veather of cherrie mead.
- As much of Mallynovomead.
- Halfe a veather of burnt wine.
- One veather of sodden mead called Obarni.
- Three veathers of sweet mead.
- Ten veathers of white mead.
- Fifteene veathers of ordinary mead.
- Foure veathers of sweet beere.
- Fifteene veathers of beere.
- Halfe a pound of pepper.
- Three sollitincks or ounces of saffron.
- One sollitincke of mase.
- One sollitincke of nutmegs.
- Two sollitincks of cloves.
- Three sollitincks of sinamon.
- One bushell of oats.
- One load of hay.
- One load of straw.
Now he began so much to discover his purpose and
affections towards her Majesty & her countrey, as he sent
to the ambassador, intreating him that his preacher, and
doctor Jacob his English physician, might set downe the
points of the religion in use in England, which the ambassadour caused to be done accordingly, and sent them unto
him, who seemed so well to like them, as he caused them
(with much good allowance) to be publikely read before
divers of his councell, and many others of his nobility.
Now he drew hotly againe in question to marry some
kinsewoman of her Majesties, & that he would send againe
into England, to have some one of them to wife, and if
her Majestie would not upon his next ambassage send
him such a one as he required, himselfe would then goe
into England, and cary his treasure with him, and marry
one of them there.
Here you must understand that the yeere before this
ambassage, he had sent to her Majesty by his ambassador
to have had the lady Mary Hastings in marriage, which
intreaty by meanes of her inability of body, by occasion
of much sicknesse, or perhaps, of no great liking either
of herselfe or friends, or both, tooke no place.
The ambassador was now so farre growen into the
Emperors favor, & his affection so great to England, as
those great counsellers that were the ambassadors great
enemies before, were now desirous of some publike
courtesies at his hands for their advantage to the
Emperour: neither durst they now any more interpose
themselves twixt the Emperour and him: for not long
before this, the Emperor for abusing the ambassador,
had (to shew his favor towards him) beaten Shalkan the
chanceller very grievously, and had sent him word, that
he would not leave one of his race alive.
Now whilest the ambassador was thus strongly possest
of the Emperours favor, he imployed himselfe in all he
might, not onely for the speedy dispatch of the negotiation
he had in hand, but laboured also by all the good meanes
he might, further to benefit his countrey and countreymen,
and so not long after wanne at the Emperours hands not
onely all those things he had in commission to treat for
by his instructions, but also some other of good and great
importance, for the benefit of the merchants.
Private sutes obteined of the Emperor by the ambassador.
LEAVE for Richard Fransham an English man and apothecary to the Emperour, his wife, and children, to come
home into England, and to bring with him all such goods
as he had gotten there.
He obteined like leave for Richard Elmes an English
man one of the Emperours surgions.
He also got leave for Jane Ricards the widow of Doctor
Bomelius a Dutchman, and physician to the Emperour,
who for treason practised with the king of Pole against
the sayd Emperour, was rosted to death at the city of
Mosco, in the yere 1579.
These following he obteined for the behoofe of the
HE procured for the merchants promise of recompense
for certaine goods taken from their factors by robbery
upon the Volga
He obtained likewise the payment of five hundred
marks, which was payd for ten yeeres before his going
(into the Emperours receit) for a rent of a
house that they had at Vologda.
He also got granted for them the repayment of fifteene
hundred marks, which had bene exacted of them the two
last yeres before his comming thither.
He got also for them order for the repayment of an
olde and desperate debt of three thousand marks, a debt
so desperate, as foure yeres left out of their accounts,
and by the opinion of them all, not thought fit to be dealt
with, for too much offending the Emperor, or impeaching
his other businesse, which was thought at least otherwise
sufficient, and was therefore left out of his instructions
from her Majesty.
He obteined that all strangers were forbidden to trade
any more into Russia
, and that the passage and trade to
all the Emperors Northren coasts and countries, from the
Wardhouse to the river of Ob should be onely free to the
Lastly, of a great desire he had to do the merchants
good, without motion either of themselves here, or their
Agents there, or any other of them, he obteined of the
Emperour the abatement of all their custome which they
had long before payd, and agreed still to continue, which
custome the Dutchmen and strangers being remooved, as
now it was agreed, amounted to two thousand pounds
All these were granted, some already payd before his
comming from Mosco, the olde privilege ratified, newly
written, signed and sealed, and was to be delivered to the
ambassadour at his next comming to Court, before when
the Emperor fell sicke of a surfet, and so died.
After whose death the case was woondrously altered
with the ambassador: for whereas both in his owne
conceit, and in all mens opinion els, he was in great
forwardnes to have growen a great man with the Emperor,
what for the love he bare to her Majesty, and the particular liking he had of himselfe, he now fell into the
hands of his great enemies, Mekita Romanovich and
Andre Shalkan the chanceller, who, after the death of
the Emperour, tooke the speciall government upon themselves, and so presently caused the ambassadour to be
shut up a close prisoner in his owne house, for the space
of nine weeks, and was so straightly guarded and badly
used by those that attended him, as he dayly suspected
some further mischiefe to have followed: for in this time
there grew a great uprore in Mosco of nigh twenty
thousand persons, which remembring that his enemies
reigned, somewhat amazed the ambassadour, but yet
afterwards the matter fell out against that great counsellor
Bodan Belskoy, whom I noted before to be a special man
in the old Emperors favor: who was now notwithstanding
so outragiously assaulted, as that he was forced to seeke
the Emperors chamber for his safety, and was afterwards
sent away to Cazan, a place he had in government, five
hundred miles from Mosco, where he hath remained ever
since, and never as yet called againe to court, at which
time the ambassador expected some such like measure,
and prepared himselfe aswell as he could, for his defence:
yet happily after this, was sent for to court, to have his
dispatch, and to take his leave of the Emperor: whither
being conducted (not after the woonted maner) and
brought to the councell chamber, came to him onely
Shalkan the chanceller and a brother of his, who without
more adoe, tolde him for the summe of his dispatch, that
this Emperour would not treat of further amity with the
Queene his mistresse, then such as was betweene his late
father and her, before his comming thither: and would
not heare any reply to be made by the ambassadour, but
presently caused both himselfe and all his company to be
disarmed of their weapons, and go towards the Emperor.
In which passage there were such outrages offered him,
as had he not used more patience then his disposition
afforded him, or the occasion required, he had not in
likelihood escaped with life, but yet at length was brought
to the presence of the Emperour, who sayd nothing to
him, but what the chanceller had already done, but offered
him a letter to carry to her Majesty, which the ambassadour (for that he knew it conteined nothing that did
concerne his ambassage) refused till he saw his danger
grow too great: neither would the Emperour suffer the
ambassadour to reply ought, nor well he could, for they
had now of purpose taken away his interpreter, being
yet unwilling (as it seemed, and suspecting the ambassadours purpose) that the Emperor and other should know
how dishonorably he had beene handled: for there was
at that time, in that presence a noble brave gentleman,
one Boris Pheodorovich Godenoe, brother to the Emperor
that now is, who yet after the death of the Emperour
did alwayes use the ambassadour most honorably, and
would very willingly have done him much more kindenesse, but his authority was not yet, till the coronation
of the Emperor: but notwithstanding he sent often unto
him, not long before his departure, and accompanied his
many honorable favours with a present of two faire pieces
of cloth of golde, and a tymber of very good sables:
and desired that as there was kindnesse and brotherhood
twixt the Emperor and her Majesty, so there might be
love and brotherhood twixt him and the ambassadour.
Saving from this man, there was now no more favour
nor friendship left for the ambassadour in Moscovia: for
the chanceller Shalkan had now sent him word that the
English Emperor was dead: he had now nothing offered
him but dangers and disgraces too many, and a hasty
dispatch from the Mosco, that he might not tary the
coronation of the new Emperour: offences many in his
preparation for his long journey, onely one meane gentleman appointed to accompany him to the sea side,
expecting daily in his passage some sudden revenge to
be done upon him, for so he understood it was threatned
before his comming from the Mosco, & therefore with
resolution provided by all the meanes he might, by himselfe and his servants for his defence (for now was his
danger knowen such, as the English merchants did
altogether leave him, although he commanded them in
her Majesties name to accompany him) that if any such
thing should happen to be offered him, as many of them
as he could that should offer to execute it, should die
with him for company: which being perceived was
thought to make his passage the safer. So afterward
being driven to disgest many injuries by the way, at
length he recovered S. Nicholas, where remembring his
unfortunate losse of the old Emperor, and his ill usage
since then at the Mosco, he being forced to take a bare
letter for the summe of his dispatch, conteyning nothing
of that he came for, and the poore and disgracefull present
sent him (in the name of the Emperour) in respect of
that that was meant him by the old Emperor, knowing
all these to be done in disgrace of her Majestie and himselfe, determined now to be discharged of some part of
them in such sort as he could, and so providing as he
might to prevent his danger, in getting to his shippe,
furnishing and placing his men to answere any assault
that should be offered him, after he had bidden farewell
to the uncourteous gentleman that brought him thither,
by three or foure of the valiantest and discreetest men
he had, he sent to be delivered him or left at his lodging,
his maisters weake letter, and worsse present, and so
afterwards happily (though hardly) recovered his ship in
safetie, although presently afterwards, there was great
hurly burly after him, to force him to receive the same
againe, but failed of their purpose. So came the ambassadour from S. Nicholas the twelft day of August,
and arrived at Gravesend
the twelft of September
following, and attended her Majestie at the court at
, where, after having kist her Majesties hands,
and delivered some part of the successe of his ambassage,
he presented her an Elke or Loshe, the Red deere of the
countrey, and also a brace of Raine deare, Buck and Doe,
both bearing very huge homes: they in her Majesties
presence drew a sled and a man upon it, after the maner
of the Samoeds, a people that inhabite in the Northeast
, and were that yeere come over the sea in
the winter season upon the yce, in their sleds, drawen
with these deere into Russia
, where the ambassadour
bought of them seventeene, whereof he brought nine alive