Eustace Chapuys

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Eustace Chapuys
Born c. 1490
Annecy, Duchy of Savoy, Holy Roman Empire
(in modern France)
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Louvain, Duchy of Brabant, Holy Roman Empire
(in modern Belgium)
Resting place Chapel of the College of Savoy
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Title Imperial ambassador to the court of Henry VIII
Predecessor Íñigo López de Mendoza y Zúñiga
Successor François van der Delft
Children Césare
Parent(s) Louis Chapuys
Guigonne Dupuys

Eustace Chapuys ([østas ʃapɥi]; c. 1490/92 – 1556),[1] the son of Louis Chapuys and Guigonne Dupuys, was a Savoyard diplomat who served Charles V as Imperial ambassador to England from 1529 until 1545 and is best known for his extensive and detailed correspondence.[1][2]

Early life and education

Eustace Chapuys was the second son, and one of six children, of Louis Chapuys, a notary and syndic, and Guigonne Dupuys, who may have been of noble birth.[1][3][4] He was born between 1490 and 1492 in Annecy, then in the Duchy of Savoy.[1] Chapuys began his education at Annecy and from 1507, attended the University of Turin, where he remained for at least five years. Around 1512, having chosen law as a career, he continued his studies at the University of Valence.[3] In early 1515, he attended the Sapienza University of Rome, where he attained the degree of doctor of civil and canon laws, and received the Pope's blessing.[3]

Chapuys was a humanist and acted as both friend, correspondent and patron to men of similar interests. He enjoyed the friendship of the Annecy humanists Claude Blancherose and Claude Dieudonné, the German Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and English humanists such as Thomas More. He corresponded with Erasmus, with whom he shared a deep mutual respect and admiration, although they never met.[5]


During the next two years, Chapuys was ordained and in July 1517, he was made a canon of the cathedral at Geneva and dean of Viry. In August 1517, he became an official of the diocese of Geneva, deputising for the bishop, John of Savoy,[3] a cousin of the Duke of Savoy, in the episcopal court and subsequently served the Duke of Savoy and Charles de Bourbon.[1][3] In 1522 he was granted the deanery of Vuillonnex.[1]

By August 1526 he was the Duke of Bourbon’s ambassador to Charles V’s court in Granada and he first visited England in September 1526.[1][3] In the summer of 1527, following the death of the Duke of Bourbon at the sack of Rome, he entered the service of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, working under Nicholas Perrenot, seigneur de Granvelle.[1] He held the positions of councillor and master of requests by July 1527,[3] and at Valladolid on 25 June 1529, he was appointed Charles V's ambassador to England.[3]

Ambassador to England

After going to Savoy as ambassador, Chapuys arrived in England, in late August 1529,[2][3] to take over the post of resident ambassador from Don Íñigo de Mendoza,[2] a post that had been rather unstably occupied since the forced withdrawal of Louis of Praet in 1525. He was to remain in the post from 1529 until 1545, except for brief absences from 1539 to 1540 and in 1542.[3]

Chapuys' legal background made him an ideal candidate to defend Henry VIII's wife Catherine of Aragon, who was also an aunt of Emperor Charles V, against the legal proceedings, known at the time as the "King's Great Matter", which led, eventually, to the English rejection of Papal authority and break from the Roman Catholic Church. Catherine had specifically requested Chapuys as a replacement for Mendoza, because of his legal expertise and his proficiency in Latin.[6] Chapuys' attempts to defeat English machinations against Catherine eventually failed and Henry married Anne Boleyn. Catherine died in January 1536. It has been believed that Chapuys despised Anne and could never bring himself to say her name, referring to her only as the "whore" or "concubine".[7] However, historian Lauren Mackay argues that this is a myth, since his early reports concerning Anne and her family were of a positive nature.[8][9]

Chapuys was a faithful servant to Charles V, an astute observer of men, and although he spoke and wrote fluently in French, he was a staunch opponent of France and the French, whom he loathed because of their designs on his homeland, Savoy.[6] On one occasion, he threatened to disinherit his niece if she married a Frenchman.[1] Although it was to support Catherine in her cause that he first came to England, it was to her daughter, Mary to whom he rendered the greater service. Chapuys, who had been devoted to Catherine, strongly disapproved of the king's treatment of his daughter. He developed an affection for Mary, who trusted him and relied on him during some of the most difficult years of her life.[10]

In 1539, Chapuys began to suffer from gout.[1] Nevertheless, he remained as resident ambassador in England, except for brief absences, keeping his master informed on English affairs, until May 1545. He was recalled to Antwerp, in April 1539, when diplomatic relations soured, where he remained until July 1540.[1] On his return, he worked to restore Anglo-Imperial relations and was involved in the negotiations for the alliance of February 1543, which led to Henry VIII and Charles V declaring war on France.[11] Chapuys accompanied Henry VIII’s men to France.[1] His health had continued to worsen in 1544 and he asked to be relieved of his post, but the Emperor allowed him to leave only after introducing his successor, François van der Delft, to the post.[1] Chapuys was then sent to Bourbourg, near Gravelines, to negotiate until July 1545, when he was finally released from service.[1]

Later years

After his retirement, Chapuys resided in Louvain, in the Low Countries, now Belgium and was, by 1545, a man of considerable wealth. His income was derived from his ambassadorial pensions, the inheritance of an estate at Annecy, and various ecclesiastical sinecures, which included the deanery at Vuillonnex, canonries at Toledo, Osma and Malaga, ecclesiastical posts in Flanders and the profitable abbacy of Sant'Angelo di Brolo in Sicily, which he acquired in 1545. He had increased his wealth over the years through prudent investments in Antwerp.[12]

Chapuys used his wealth to set up a college in May 1548, for promising students from his native Savoy.[12] This College of Savoy, in Louvain, of which now only the gateway survives, is incorporated into the city museum, Museum M.[13] He also founded a grammar school at Annecy in December 1551.[1][12]

During his retirement, Chapuys acted as an advisor to Charles V between 1547 and 1549. According to C.S.L. Davies, "His last known state paper is an acute analysis of the political situation" as Henry VIII was dying in January 1547. [1] He was subsequently asked to recall his negotiations, and the previous attitude of the regime of Henry VIII, on the issue of the betrothal of Mary I. In his reply, he wrote he was uncertain of the possibility of convincing John Dudley to agree to any proposed marriage. At the end of the letter, Chapuys wrote that Mary had "no other desire or hope than to be bestowed at the hands of your majesty." He felt nothing was more fond in Mary's mind than marriage.[14]

Chapuys had a son, Césare, who was made legitimate in 1545, and who died in 1549.[12][15] The death of his son ensured that the college and grammar school that he had founded would benefit from his vast fortune on his own demise.[12] In 1555 he decided that his English pension should go towards setting up a scholarship for English students at Louvain.[1]


Eustace Chapuys died 21 January 1556 and was buried in the chapel of the College of Savoy.[1][3] A portrait of Chapuys, which may be contemporary, is located at the musée-château d'Annecy at Annecy.[16]

Fictional portrayals

Chapuys appears as a character in William Shakespeare's play The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII under the name of Capucius. He is a major character in Robert Bolt's play A Man for All Seasons, though he is excised from the film version. Chapuys is portrayed by Edward Atienza in The Six Wives of Henry VIII (BBC TV series) and by Anthony Brophy in Showtime's series The Tudors. He figures largely in Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, and was portrayed by Mathieu Amalric in the television adaptation. Chapuys' role in Henry VIII's reign is dramatised in David Starkey's documentary, Henry VIII: Mind of A Tyrant.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 Davies 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Calendar of State Papers, Spain 4(1), pp. i–xxviii.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Fernández-Armesto 1985, p. 293.
  4. Mackay 2014, pp. 14–15.
  5. Fernández-Armesto 1985, pp. 294–295.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Porter 2007, p. 84.
  7. Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII 10, 908.
  8. Mackay 2014, p. 30.
  9. Calendar of State Papers, Spain, 4(1), 135, 160.
  10. Porter 2007, pp. 84–87.
  11. Fernández-Armesto 1985, pp. 293–294.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Fernández-Armesto 1985, p. 294.
  13. This gateway in Savoyestraat in Leuven was part of the former College of Savoy, founded in 1548, and is now protected as a monument. In 1858 the building was acquired by the future mayor Leopold Vander Kelen and his wife Maria Mertens. In 1917 the building was donated to the city of Leuven and turned into a museum. The recently restored gate is now part of the site of the Museum M.
  14. Erickson 1998, p. 253.
  15. Mackay 2014, pp. 18–19.
  16. Fernández-Armesto 1985, p. 295.


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