Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, by Richard Hakluyt

A briefe discourse of the voyage of Sir Ierome Bowes knight, her Maiesties ambassadour to Iuan Vasiliuich the Emperour of Moscouia, in the yeere 1583.

Pheodor Andreuich Phisemsky the Emperors ambassadour. The Emperour of Russia that then liued, by name Iuan Vasiliwich, hauing deliberately considered how necessary it were for the strengthening of his estate, and that a sure commerce and entercourse of merchants should be againe renued betweene him and her sacred Maiesty of England, with such further immunities and priuileges for the honor and vtility of both their dominions, and subiects of the same, as with mutuall treatie of persons interposed on both sides, might be asserted vnto: sent ouer 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 Andreuich 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 deliuered by word of mouth, and the rest set downe in a letter vnder the Emperours signature, addressed to her Maiesty: he had in speciall charge to sollicit her Maiesty to send ouer 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 Maiesty 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 Ierome Bowes, a gentleman of her Court, ordinarily attending vpon her Maiesties person, towards whom was apparantly expressed her princely opinion and fauor by the credit of this negociation.

After he had receiued 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 leaue of her Maiesty at the Court at Greenwich the eighteenth of Iune, and with the other ambassadour, with their seuerall companies, embarked themselues at Harwich the two and twentieth of the same, and after a stormy voyage at the Sea, they arriued both in safety in the road of S. Nicholas the three and twentieth of Iuly next following.

The Russe 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 Island.

The Russe ambassador hauing reposed himselfe one whole day, took his leaue of the English ambassador, and departed towards Mosco.

The English ambassadour abode yet at S. Nicholas four or fiue dayes, when hauing made prouision of boats, and meanes to that purpose, he went forward vpon his iourney; towards Mosco, to a towne called Colmogro, about foure score miles distant from S. Nicholas.

The Hollanders intrude into our trade. You must here vnderstand that before the English ambassadors going into Russia, there were diuers strangers, but especially certaine Dutch merchants, who had intruded themselues to trade into those countreys. Notwithstanding a priuilege 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 woone three of the chiefest counsellors to the Emperour to be their assured friends, namely, Mekita Romanouich, Bodan Belskoy, and Andrew Shalkan the chancellor: for besides dayly gifts that they bestowed vpon them all, they tooke so much money of theirs at interest at fiue and twenty vpon the hundred, as they payed to some one of them fiue thousand marks yeerely for the vse of his money, and the English merchants at that time had not one friend in Court.

The ambassador hauing now spent fiue 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 vp the riuers towards Mosco, and to deliuer him prouision of all kinde of victuals necessary.

This gentleman being a follower of Shalkan the chancellor, was by him (as it seemed) foisted into that seruice of purpose, as afterward appeared by the course he tooke, to offer discourtesies, and occasions of mislike to the ambassador: for you must vnderstand that the chancellor and the other two great counsellors (spoken of as friends to the Dutchmen) had a purpose to oppose themselues directly against her Maiesties 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 vp the riuers of Dwina and Soughana, to a citie called Vologda, where receiued 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 maner.

At a citie called Yeraslaue vpon the riuer Volga there met the ambassador a duke well accompanied, sent from the Emperor, who presented him from the Emperor a coach and ten geldings tor the more easie conueying of him to Mosco, from whence this citie was distant fiue hundred miles.

Two miles on this side Mosco there met the ambassador foure gentlemen of good account, accompanied with two hundred horse: who after a little salutation, not familiar, without imbracing, tolde him that they had to say to him from the Emperor, and would haue had him light on foot to haue heard it, notwithstanding themselues would still haue sit on horsebacke: which the ambassador soone refused to doe, and so they stood long vpon termes, whether both parties should light or not: which afterwards agreed vpon, there was yet great nicenesse whose foot should not be first on ground.

Their message being deliuered, and after hauing embraced ech other, they conducted the sayd ambassador to his lodging at Mosco, a house builded of purpose for him, themselues being placed in the next house to it, as appointed to furnish him of all prouisions, and to be vsed by him vpon all other occasions.

The ambassador hauing beene some dayes in Mosco, and hauing in all that time bene very honorably vsed 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 vse: He was sent for to Court, and was accompanied thither with about forty gentlemen honorably mounted, and sumptuously arayed, and in his passage from his lodging to the court, were set in a ward fiue or sixe thousand shot, that were of the Emperors gard. At the entry into the court there met him four 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 vpon benches and formes in row, seuen 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 safe in his state, hauing three crownes standing by him, viz. of Moscouia, 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 vpon their shoulders ech of them a brode axe, much like to a Galloglas axe of Ireland, thin and very sharpe, the steale or handle not past halfe a yard long, and there sate about the chamber vpon benches and other low seats, aboue an hundred noblemen richly apparrelled in cloth of golde.

The ambassador being thus brought to the Emperor to kisse his hand, after some complements and inquirie of her Maiesties health, he willed him goe sit downe in a place prouided for that purpose, nigh ten pases distant from him, from whence he would haue had him to haue sent him her Maiesties 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 haue taken his letters: to whom the ambassador sayd, that her Maiesty had directed no letters to him, and so went on, and deliuered them himselfe to the Emperors owne hands.

And after hauing thus deliuered her Maiesties letters and what he had els to say at that time, he was conducted to the Councell chamber, where hauing 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 vnto him, and all his company at another boord, 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 vsed many fauors to the ambassadour and about the midst of dinner (standing vp) 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 diuers times raised many iarres: and in the end, after sundry meetings, the Emperour finding himself not satisfied to his liking, for that the ambassadour had not power by his commission to yeeld to euery thing that he thought fit, as a man whose will was seldom 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, and being very vnwilling (how dangerous soeuer it might prooue to his owne person) to giue way to the Emperor, to derogate ought from the honour and greatness of her Maiesty: and finding also that to subiect himselfe to the angrie humour and disposition of the Emperour was not the means 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 in Christendome, equall to him that thought himselfe the greatest, well able to defend herselfe against his malice, whosoeuer, and wanted no means to offend any that either shee had or should haue cause to be enemy vnto. 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 against France.

This answer 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 reuenged of any iniury that should be done vnto him. Whereupon the Emperour in great sudden bade him get him home. And he with no more reuerence then such vsage 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 deliuered to his councell that stood about him many commendations in the fauor of the Ambassador, for that he would not indure one ill word to be spoken against his mistresse, and there withall wished himselfe to haue such a seruant.

The Ambassadour had not beene much more then one houre in his lodgings, but the Emperour imagining (as it seemed) by the extraordinary behauiour of the ambassador (for he wanted not wit to iudge) that he had found what was the Emperors case, sent his principall secretary vnto him, to tell him, that notwithstanding what had past, yet for the great loue that he bare to the Queene his sister, he should very shortly be called againe to Court, and haue a resolution of all the matters in question: and this secretary was now further content to impart, and sayd to the ambassadour that the Empereur was fully resolued to send a greater, noble man vnto him in ambassage to the Queene his sister, then euer 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 vnto 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 counceller that he had, a man most in credit with him: this man examined all matters wherewith the ambassador had found himselfe grieued, 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 Sauio Frollo. This diet was so great, as the ambassadour oftentimes sought to haue it lessened, but the Emperour would not by any means.

The scroule of the new diet was this:

One bushel of fine meale for three dayes. One bushel of wheate meale for a day and a halfe. Two liue geese for one day. Twenty hennes for the day. Seuen sheepe for a day. One oxe for three dayes. One side of pork for a day. Seuentie egges for a day. Ten pound of butter. Seuenty peny white loaues of bread. Twelue peny loaues of bread. One veather or gallon of vinegar. 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 Malynouomead. 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. Fiftene 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 cloues. Three sollitincks of sinamon.


One bushell of oats. One load of hay. One load of straw.

Now he began so much to discouer his purpose and affections towards her Maiesty and her countrey, as he sent to the ambassador, intreating him that his preacher M. Cole., and doctor Iacob his English physician, might set downe the points of the religion in vse in England, which the Ambassadour caused to be done accordingly, and sent them vnto him, who seemed so well to like them, as he caused them (with much good allowance) to be publikely read before diuers of his councell, and many others of his nobility.

Now he drew hotly againe in question to marry, some kinsewoman of her Maiesties, and that he would send againe into England, to haue some one of them to wife, and if her Maiestie would not vpon 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 vnderstand that the yeere before this ambassage, he had sent to her Maiesty by his ambassador to haue 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 fauor, and his affection so great to England, as those great councellors that were the Ambassadors great enemies before, were now desirous of some publike courtesies at his hands for their aduantage to the Emperour: neither durst they, now any more interpose themselues twixt the Emperour and him: for not long before this, the Emperor for abusing the ambassador, had (to shew his fauour towards him) beaten Shalkan the chanceller very grieuously, and had sent him word, that he would not leaue one of his race aliue.

Now whilest the ambassador was thus strongly possest of the Emperours fauor, he imployed himselfe in all he might, not onely for the speedy dispatch of the negociation he had in hand, but laboured also by all the good means he might, further to benefit his country 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.

Priuate sutes obteined of the Emperor by the ambassador.

Leaue 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 leaue for Richard Elmes an English man one of the Emperours surgions.

He also got leaue for Iane 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 merchants.

He procured for the merchants promise of recompence for certaine goods taken from their factors by robbery vpon the Volga.

He obtained likewise the payment of fiue hundred marks, which was payd for ten yeeres before his going into Russia (into the Emperors 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 yeeres left out of their accounts, and by the opinion of them all, not thought fit to be dealt with, for too much offending the Emperour, or impeaching his other businesse, which was thought at least otherwise sufficient, and was therefore left out of his instructions from her Maiesty.

He obteined that all strangers were forbidden to trade any more into Russia, and that the passage and trade to all the Emperors Northern coasts and countries, from the Wardhouse to the riuer of Ob should be onely free to the English nation.

Lastly, of a great desire he had to do the merchants good, without motion either of themselues 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 remooued, as now it was agreed, amounted to two thousand pounds yerely.

All these were granted, some already payd before his comming from Mosco, the olde priuilege ratified, newly written, signed and sealed, and was to be deliuered 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 haue growen a great man with the Emperor, what for the loue he bare to her Maiesty, and the particular liking he had of himselfe, he now fell into the hands of his great enemies, Mekita Romanouich and Andre Shalkan the chanceller, who, after the death of the Emperour, tooke the speciall gouernment upon themselues, and so presently caused the Ambassadour to be shut vp a close prisoner in his owne house, for the space of nine weeks, and was so straightly guarded and badly vsed by those that attended him, as he dayly suspected some further mischiefe to haue followed: for in this time there grew a great vprore 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 speciall man in the old Emperors fauor: 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 gouernment, fiue hundred miles from Mosco, where he hath remained euer since, and neuer 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 haue his dispatch, and to take his leaue 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 vsed 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 chancellor had already done, but offered him a letter to carry to her Maiesty, 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 interpretor, being yet vnwilling (as it seemed, and suspecting the ambassadours purpose) that the Emperor and other should know how dishonourably he had beene handled: The great friendship of L. Boris Pheodorouich. for there, was at that time, in that presence a noble braue gentleman, one Boris Pheodorouich Godenoe, brother to the Emperor that now is, who yet after the death or the Emperour did alwayes vse the ambassadour most honorably, and would very willingly haue done him much more kindnesse, but his authority was not yet, till the coronation of the Emperor: but notwithstanding he sent often vnto him, not long before his departure, and accompanied his many honourable fauours 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 Maiesty, so there might be loue and brotherhood twixt him and the Ambassadour. Sauing from this man, there was now no more fauour left for the ambassadour in Moscouia: 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 iourney, onely one meane gentleman appointed to accompany him to the sea side, expecting daily in his passage some sudden reuenge to be done vpon him, for so he understood it was threatned before his comming from the Mosco, and therefore with resolution prouided by all the meanes he might, by himselfe and his seruants for his defence (for now was his danger knowen such, as the English merchants did altogether leaue him, although he commanded them in her Maiesties 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 perceiued was thought to make his passage the safer. So afterward being driuen to disgest many iniuries by the way, at length he recouered S. Nicholas, where remembring his vnfortunate losse of the old Emperor and his ill vsage 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 disgraceful 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 Maiestie and himselfe, determined now to be discharged of some part of them in such sort as he could, and so prouiding as he might to preuent 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 vncourteous gentleman that brought him thither, by three or foure of the valiantest and discreetest men he had, he sent to be deliuered him or left at his lodging, his maisters weake letter, and worsse present, and so afterwards happily (though hardly) recouered his ship in safetie, although presently afterwards, there was great hurly burly after him, to force him to receiue the same againe, but failed of their purpose. So came the ambassadour from S. Nicholas the twelfth day of August, and arriued at Grauesend the twelfth of September following, and attended her Maiestie at the court at Otelands, where, after hauing kist her Maiesties hands, and deliuered 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 hornes: they in her Maiesties presence drew a sled and a man vpon it, after the maner of the Samoeds, a people that inhabite in the Northeast from Russia and were that yeere come ouer the sea in the winter season vpon the yce, in their sleds, drawen with these deere into Russia, where the ambassadour bought of them seuenteene, whereof he brought nine aliue into Kent.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55