9 November 1670

9 November 1670


His Majesty having accidentally heard of some dispute between you and the Resident of Sweden, to prevent any further inconvenience that may happen, has by my Lord Arling-ton Principal Secretary of State signified his Pleasure to me, to require you neither to send any challenge to the said Resident of Sweden, nor to accept of any from him; But that as soon as you receive this you immediately attend the Lord Arlington.

I am, your most humble Servant

M Wren

Pepys seems to have fallen out with the Swedish ambassador in late 1670. The disagreement was bad enough for the possibility of a “challenge” between the two men. Duels were a serious matter. In 1662 a Colonel Giles Rawlins was killed in a duel, and Pepys hoped it would lead to “good laws against it” (Diary 19 August). Sweden had mediated in the peace negotiations that brought about the end of the Second Dutch War as part of the efforts to organize an anti-French coalition. Since Charles II was in debt to Louis XIV for French support during the Interregnum and in other more practical ways, and the English also resented the terms of the peace, the relationship with Dutch and Swedish representatives was necessarily liable to some tension. It is possible that Pepys’s loyalty to the crown led him to express a partisan view, or to take offence on behalf of Charles II. In June 1670 Charles II had signed the Treaty of Dover with Louis XIV. This secured for Charles two ports on the mouth of the Scheldt but in a secret version of the same treaty he and the Duke of York agreed to convert to Catholicism and eventually to restore Catholicism to England. Charles II, unlike the Duke of York, kept his own conversion secret. Lord Arlington, secretary of state 1662-74, encouraged this and was himself converted to Catholicism on his own deathbed in 1685. However, there is no clue in this letter from Matthew Wren, secretary to the Duke of York, of what the row was about.

Unfortunately we have no idea what the outcome of the incident was. Pepys seems to have avoided ever making the challenge, which is not wholly surprising as there is no evidence at all to suggest he had any proficiency or interest in the use of weapons himself, though on 2 February 1662 he had started wearing a sword “as the manner now among gentlemen is”.

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