Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry

'The Delaforce Family History' - Chapter 24
Sir Bernard - Ambassador for Four English Kings

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Chapter 24

Sir Henry Wooton 1568
'An Ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.'

Sir Bernard - Ambassador for Four English Kings

Family tree page - 1330 - 1630 1525 - 1883

In some ways Bernard was the most famous of the Delaforce family. (His life was well documented in Thomas Rymer's Feodora and the Harlejan Manuscripts). He was English Ambassador to Spain for the English Kings, Edward IV, V, Richard III and Henry VII.

Bernard was born in the Auvergne at one of the two La Force chateaux in 1446. Seven years later the Hundred Years War came to an end with a complete French victory at the Battle of Chatillon.

Possibly Bernard had a brother called Anthony. Certainly he called one of his own sons Anthony. The two names continue for another 300 years. He certainly had a brother John, Seigneur de la Fource, a merchant trader and probably another - Pierre/Peter. On 18th June 1463 Bertrando Fortete 'etiam dicte ville mercatoribus Aurillac' and Bernardus del Forn 'sutor' (probably sutler, army supplier) - father and son were shown in the records of Aurillac in the Auvergne.

The British government's exchequer "Warrants for Issue" (i.e. payments) p.104 showed a Treasury payment to Peter Tastano, dean of St.Severin, Bordeaux, English Ambassador from GuiennelAcquitaine in 1463 "for money given to Lewis de Brettaillis and Bernard de La Forsse for certaine secrete matiers". Aged 17 Bernard was now an English secret agent!

From August 1464, aged only 18, Bernard became envoy for King Edward IV, then English Ambassador and eventually Knight at the court of the King of Castile in Spain. His family had connections with Navarre. The merchant traders of Bordeaux and London had business with Spain. His missions and travels are well documented. He negotiated with two Spanish Kings, Henry and then with Ferdinand.

His main task was to negotiate the marriage of King Edward IV of England's daughter Katherine to John, son of King Ferdinand of Castile. He was given various titles, of Armiger or squire, Magistrate, Ambassador and Knight. His briefings by the English Kings are long and specific and can be seen in the published State Papers. His missions were difficult and not particularly successful. The young Spanish Prince John died aged 19, having made another political marriage.


9 Oct 1464 Bernard sent as Ambassador to King of Castile. His father being a Gascon Lord with extensive trading links with north west Spain, must have influenced this appointment.


6 Aug 1466 Power for John Gunthorp, the Kings Chaplain and Bernard to deliver the Kings patent of the Treaty of Alliance with Henry King of Castile and to receive his patent in return.


14 Mar 1470 Power for John Gunthorp, Chief Almoner, John Aliot and Bernard to treat with Henry, King of Castile. Bernard's title was Armiger or squire.


1473 Bernard as Magistrate went with William Packenham to Castile.


15 May 1474 Commission to Barnard de la Force & John Wyndesore Herald to exchange ratifictions of the treaty with Ferdinand as with Henry King of Castile.


1475 Again with John Wyndsore Herald to Spain.


28 Aug 1479 Power for John Coke and Bernard to negotiate a marriage between the Kings daughter Katherine and John son of Ferdinand King of Castile. John Coke was secondary in Office of Privy Seal.


2 Mar 1481 Bernard went with Henry Ainsworth and Arnold Trussell to Spain.


6 June 1481 Bernard went with Arnold Truffell to Goypuscoare N.W. Spain to negotiate trading agreements.


2 Mar 1482 Commission to Henry Aynesworth, Bernard and Arnold Trussell to conclude a marriage of Katherine with John.


12 July & 30 Aug 1483 Power for Bernard to treat with King & Queen for redress of injuries (not known whether these are personal or commercial injuries or State problems).

In his book "Richard the Third", Paul Murray Kendall has this to say about Bernard in 1483. "Richard III appointed Bernard de la Forssa (re Isabella's wish to renew the league of Edward IV and Henry of Castile) who had performed many such missions for Edward IV, to go to Spain on this very business. Since Forssa had apparently not yet sailed, Richard despatched him further instructions in which he outlined his reasons for desiring a renewal of the previous league but made clear that he was willing to agree a new Treaty if Queen Isabella so wished. He wrote a very friendly letter to the Queen herself announcing the arrival of the Spanish Ambassador and telling her that Bernard de la Forssa was on his way to complete negotitions. Spain was far from weak but Ferdinand and Isabella's chief interest in England seems to have been centred in the hope that by making war on France, she would leave them (Spain) free to complete their conquest of the Moors".

When Henry Tudor seized the English throne after the battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, Bernard was in Spain and stayed there for some time. At this time he was probably involved with negotiations to renew the Treaty of Alliance (the oldest alliance of all, that of 1386) with Portugal. In 1489 as Henry VII's ambassador, Sir Bernard was welcomed at Medina del Campo with much ceremony in connection with the proposed marriage of the English Prince Arthur to Catalina (Catherine of Aragon), age 4, Isabel and Ferdinand's daughter.

In the Egerton MS 616 folio 6 in the British Museum, Richard of York (Perkin Warbeck) writes from Edinburgh 18th October 1496 to Sir Bernard. The Calender of State Papers Henry VII 1485-1509 record the same letter. "Richard has been creditably informed that he (Bernard) had shown great love, favour and kindness to King Edward IV, his father, and rendered him signal services. King Edward on the other hand held him in high esteem. Begs him to use his influence with his friends in Spain. "To our Trusty and right entirely beloved Bernard de la Forse, Knight at Feuentarrabia in Spain". This letter is the one shown in the last chapter.

Bernard must have been a very able man. Not only did he maintain a position in London as a politician and trader, and make frequent visits to Spain, but in 1479 as Bertrand de Fers, Seigneur de Lapayrie (2km. from Fourcès in Gascony) he was counted amongst the "noblesse d'Armagnac". In 1484 he and brother Johanne de Forcesio were witnesses at Auch to Charles d'Armagnac being made Comte de Fezensac. They greeted the French King Charles VIII at Auch in 1491, who granted Bernard permission to rebuild the castle in Fourcès, "his ancestral village", see chapter 27. Bernard's younger son Anthony was already well-known to the French King and court through his visits with Richard of York (Perkin Warbeck) to Paris.

In the Chancery Early Proceedings of 1467-85 Vol.2 p.166; 1485-1500 Vol.3 p.28 there are two references to Sir Barnard. Both were civil actions in front of the Mayor and Alderman of London. "John Dort (The same man who asked King Edward IV in 1471 for a grant for prayers for Lord De la Forse, Bernard's father) and William Horton, sureties for Bernard de la Forca in action Colyns against the said Forca. F. is in Spain in the Kings business and suits against him are postponed by letter missive of the King". "Various merchants of Spain are sureties for Bernard de la Force".

Petitions by Thomas Randyll of London, tailor, Diego de Castro and Peter de Salamanca, merchants of Spain, to the Bishop of Ely, Chancellor "Bernard Delaforce was bound by his obligation to John a Wode, Treasurer of England to Richard III for £280. The debt being now due, a John barker of London, Goldsmith, pretends that £200 of it was assigned to him by John a Wode for a debt made by the King Richard III and has affirmed a plaint before the sheriff of London against Bernard Delaforce. The case was removed to Chancery but in the absence of Bernard and the petitioners the case was granted to London where John Barker, having great favour and being brother-in-law to the mayor, intended to condemn Bernard. As now Bernard, "for certain matters concerning the league between the King and the King of Spain, is beyond the sea in Spain and will be here in this land soon by mid-summer and that he should be in time charged for the said £200, if the said John Barker should recover against him," the petitioners ask the Chancellor to issue a writ of "certiorari" to the mayor and sheriff of London "to have before the King in his Chancery at a certain day the plaint or action there to be examined and directed according to right and conscience and this for the love of God".

Bernard was honoured with titles and grants by Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII.

(a) On 3rd March 1479 Buckden in the Calender of Patent Rolls records a Grant was made to Bernard de la Force by the government of "40L (pounds) yearly from Michaelmas last at the receipt of the Exchequer until he shall be provided for life with lands to the same value".

(b) In the Harleian MSS 433, the record of writs and letters of authority issued by John Kendall, Richard III's secretary from the Signet office over the royal sign manual, there is authority for annual payment of fees of £20 to Sir Bernard. Also recorded were his detailed instructions as to his embassy at Fuenterrabia to the Kings of Castile and Spain.

(c) In 1490 Bernard de la Fers 'by way of reward' was granted C(100) Marks (Pounds) by King Henry VII.

(d) on 6 June 1490 King Henry VII wrote 'Licence to Barnard de La Forse of Spain to ship goods in Spanish ships to England and that the same ships having discharged their cargoes may return to safety". Permission to use foreign ships was most unusual. Bernard probably earned a Fortune in Spain.

There are many source references to Bernard. T. Rymer Feodora Xii p.193/8/200 and 228. Harleian MSS 433 f.235. Original letters 2nd series 1 pp.152/4. Letters and papers 1 pp.21-23, f.241 pp.23-25, f.244b1 pp.48-Si.

To round off Bernard's unusual history, after receiving King Henry VII's trading permit in 1490 and a reward of C Marcs, he returned from N.W. Spain (Fuenterabbia) to the town of his ancestors - Fourcès in Gascony. There in 1491 as Bertrand de Fourcès 'restitution' was made of 'un tiers de Fourcès et de la Rocque-Fourcès, et creation de foires à Fourcès pour Bertrand de Fourcès seigneur de lieu". Two government Arrets were published to this effec; Registers JJ222, 34 folio 11 and 292 folio 134, signed by King Louis XI from Montils-Lez-Tours.

In 1492 "Les heritiers universels de Pierre Fores, sartre (tailor) de Concots (halfway between Cahors and Montauban) devront far las nossas e la festa - le festin (feast) apres la premiere messe (Mass) de leur frere Bernard, Clerc/Magistrate". This might imply a form of Will by Peter Force, tailor and Sir Bernard's brother, that his successors will have a feast for Sir Bernard.

On 14th January 1498 Bertrand de Forcez rendered homage to Louis XII King of France and Navarre as "Seigneur, était acquitte des me mes devoirs feodaux (feudal duties) en 1494". "The King is dead, long live, the King". Sir Bernard was correctly making sure that the new King knew where Bernard's loyalties lay. His son Sir Anthony was a member of the Paris Parlement at the time.

Benard's family consisted of three sons: Peter (de) Force baptised 1472 who became a Goldsmith of Canterbury and Faversham, Kent, and died in 1523. A long line of goldsmiths, 'bankers', silversmiths, pawnbrokers and stockbrokers followed throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

Anthony, the younger son, born 1475, has a chapter to himself. The eldest son Bernard, was born about 1470, and there are several mentions of him. 1509 Bertran de Forc(e) paroisse de Len (Lelin) near Gotz/Auch, Castelgelons, was given permission to return to his lands 'charge' de femme & plusieurs petits enfants'.

1512 Bernard de Forsans was in Montpouillon in Gascony, and in 1519-22 Bertrand Du Fousse/Defosse shipped cargoes from Bordeaux to Bilbao in Spain. Bernards continued until at least 1725, appearing in London and Paris either as goldsmiths, traders or politicians or a combination.

2073/24/1 British Museum Library

Edward IV brief to Bernard "Relations with Spain" (MS.Harl.433,f.241.)

A.D. 1483. July.

Instrucctions geven by the king to Barnard de la Forssa to be shewed and opened to the kinges cousyns, the king and quene of Castelle.
FIRST, after the presentacion of the kinges lettres to his said cousyns with recomendacions in suche case accustumed, he shall shewe and remembre the said king of the trendre love, trust, and effeccion that the king oure brother now decessed (whome God pardon) had and bare towards his said cousyns, latting them wit that his highnes is and evere entendeth to be oflike disposcion towardes them in alle thinges that he may conveniently doo to their honnor and pleasure. And in likewise by alle meanes convenient the said Barnard shalle shewe that the king trusteth that his said cousyns wolbe of like benevolence and disposicion towards him

Diet agreed to by Edward IV., and Ferdinand and Isabella.

And where in the yere last passed the kinges said brother sent his ambassiate to hjs said cousyns for diverse maters then not fully concluded, and amonges other for then treteignyng of the peas, liguc, and amyte passed and concluded betweixt his hignes and Henry late king of Castelle, against which many attemptates have be and daily be committed; whereof, if due reformacion were not had, the said peax, ligue, and amite cowd not long contynue: it was therfore appoynted and concluded with his said cousyns to have had a diette in Spayn at Midsomer then next following, or afor, to the which the kinges said brother was fully agreed.

But for asmoche as it pleased Almighti God to call him out of this miserable worlde unto his mercy afore the tyme appoyned for the said diette; after whose decesse no gret maters might conveniently be appointed afore the king coronacion and ordering of his realme:

A new day to be named

The said Barnard shall, for that and other causes suche as shalle best serve after his descrecion, excuse the tarying ofcomyssioners that shuld have come to that diette, and, by the auctorite and power to the said Barnard comitted by the kinges comission, agree and appoynte sic in MS. with the kinges said cousyns or their commissioners to a new day of meting for reformacion of the said attemptates, suche as shall pleas the kinges cousyns aforesaid.

A.D. 1483. July.

And that the said Barnard after thappoyntmentes of a day of meeting soo agreed, in allegoodlyhastacertain the king and his counsell of the same, to thentent that commissioners maybe sent thider sufficiently instructe and auctorized for due reformacion ofthe said attemptates to be had and made of their partie.

"Answer to the Message of Isabella of Castile". (MS.Rarl.433.f.244b.)

Intruccions geven by the king to Barnard de la Forssa whome his highnes at this tyme sendeth to his derrest cousyns the king and the quene of Spaigne.

First, after the presenting of the kinges lettres to theim of credence, with suceh recommendacions and good wordes as shalbe thought most convenient and acceptable to theim,he shall shewe his credence in manner and forme folowing:- That the king our soverayn lord hath recived a lettre of credence from his derrest cousine the quene of Spaigne by hir orator the bachiler de Sasiola, and by the same hath clerly understande the gret luff and singuler benevolence that hir highnes beres towardes his grace, and therfore thankes her in his hertiest maner, latting her wit that his highnes is of noo lesse good will towardes hir husband and hir, but woll in all convenient wises be as glad to do that, that my be to the honour and wele of theim and their realmes as any prince lyving.

A.D. 1483. August.

And forsomoche as by vertue of credence commited to hir said orator, and by him shewed to the king by mouth and also writing, his grace hath understande his said cousins to be utterly disposed to have with him good and ferme peace, lieges, athaunces, and confideractions, to thentent that they shuld be joigned, alyed, and confederate in perfite liege and confideracion as good and feithfulle cousins and cofiderates:

England proposes a renewal of the league made between Edward IV. and Henry IV. of Castile.

The said Barnard shall in that behalve say that the king therfore thankes his said cousins in his hertiest maner and is thereof as desirus as they be, and wolle to be perfeccion thereof intende by alle weyes and meanes convenient and resonable. And how that incontinent upon the said credence so opened the king, seing that the said orator whiche had no specialle commission in writing, nor instructions so large as shuld be requisite to the making ofso gretea ligue, made to be serched up the lique that was last taken betwene the late king Edward, his brother, and kingHenry of Castille, late brother of the said quene, whome God pardone. Wherby it was thought unto him and his counsaille that the beginnyng of the best intelligence betwene both parties shuld be grounded upon the articles of the said ligue, considering that by long and ripe advise and deliberacion the articles of the said ligue were practized and concluded.

And over this the said Barnard shalle shewe that the king our soverayn lord, not willing anny long tracte of tyme or other impediment of so goodly and behovefull entent shuld be on his partie, and specially when he is so instanced by the said orator to send thider in all goodly hast for full expedicion of the same,his highnes hath at this tyme sent thider the said Bernard to common of the best and spediest wayes.

A.D. 1483. August.

In which communicacion the said Barnard shalle by alle meanes ofpolicie dryve theim to conforme 1'the olde ligue without making of a newe; to the whiche if they can be founde by his wisdome agreable, than he shall now desire to have suche forme of commission made by the kinges cousins ther to suche as shalle please them to deliver to him their part ofthe ligue sealed as he hath to deliver the kynges parte also sealed, keping him close alwey from knowledging that he hath suche commission or ligue sealed unto suche tyme as he utterly understande their myndes of suche commission and delivere to be made by theim.
And in case they wolle in no wise agree to make any suche confirmacion ofthe ligue now made, but utterly insiste to make a new, either like or more large with some new articles, then he shall labor by his wisdome the wayes that suche orators may be sent with him into England, as may have of the kinges cousins their fulle auctorite and power to common, appoincte and conclude, as by theim the said mater may take good affecte and conclude -effecte) repeated in MS., and conclusion.
Morover the king is content that whethir the ligue shalbe desired to be alle new made, or any addicions to be had to the olde, the said Barnard speke frely with theim of suc he new articles as they desire, and that he common and debate upon theim in suche wise as by his discrecion shalbe thought best for the king and his land, avoiding as moche as he can any gret and certaine charges that the king might be put unto; provided alwey that by any thing so to be spoken, commoned, or treated the king be not bounden above the olde articles, but be at his hole libertie in alle suche new maters unto the commyng of thenbassate of Castille into England, and till they and the kinges commissaires have throughly passed in all poyntes.
Item, where the said Bernard hathe an other commission to treate and appointe upon attemptates aswele with the governors of the provinces as with the counsaille of the king and quene, and to appoincte a diete for the same; the king wolle that he doo and procede in thoos maters according to the said commission, and to suche instruccions as he had delivered unto him therupon afore.

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Contact: Ken Baldry for more information, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 but best to e-mail him
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