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Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Ermgard's letter to Kenau, from the port of Dover, 1572

May 1572, Dover, England      

Dear Kenau, 

I must say that you write an amusing letter on some counts, but an equally gloomy one on all others. 

The family Hoogarten found us after a deal of searching, and we spent a good evening of drinking some fine Dutch beer and eating a host of worst that tasted of home. Anke’s brother Hans fetched them from here in Dover, and they all left for the city of Norwich yesterday. Ah, Kenau, the long faces of her daughters were a terrible sad sight, for they cannot speak a word of the English tongue, or even understand it. The little ones wept as they climbed into the wagon, and though Anke said she shall one day return to Haarlem, I doubt it very much. I am saddened to see so many families torn apart so wretchedly. 
Kenau, we are held captive in the port of Dover. It has rained down hard on us every day of our incarceration, like God is furious at us silly people. Yes, I did write ‘incarceration’, as we are not allowed to leave from this place without paying a ridiculous English tax that the Queen Elizabeth has conjured up for the cheating of all Dutch merchants, it seems. We have all our money tied up in a heavy cargo of kersey fabric, so we are quite stuck in this place. We are not allowed to wander about the town of Dover (a fact that we have managed to get around quite well, due to our ingenious Sea Beggar friend that I shall not name for reasons of security). I shall refer to him as Z form this time onwards. 

There is rumour upon rumour about whether the Queen Elizabeth shall come to Our Prince of Orange’s aid against the Spanish invasion. The sensible amongst us know this to be impossible for the queen, due to her keeping of good relations with King Phillip. Whilst harbouring a personal and deep resentment for her policy, indeed I cannot imagine the enemies she has at her court, and turning against Spain at this point could be a deadly act that leads to war between Spain and England. I shall say no more about it, except that these are wicked times we live in, and God is busy indeed.       

I am truly sorry to hear about Don Pedro, though not in the least surprised. I recall that he lent you a good sum of money to invest in timber, and I cannot imagine a more honourable fellow in Haarlem. But Junius is right, Kenau, and as much as it hurts your pride (and your money pouch), fraternising with a Spaniard right now is tantamount to treason, for which they could hang you. Such acts are avenged all the time, Kenau, so I pray you have indeed severed all ties with Don Pedro, though I should not fancy his chances of a clean escape back to his own country right now. 

Z has told me that the relief of Brielle was a bloody affair, and one that he shall never forget. He said that the admiral Lumey is a fellow to be reckoned with, and was a hero in the retaking of Brielle, though he has spared us the details, again, for reasons of our country’s security. Lumey has, since that time, gone into hiding, though we are assured he is well and alive and reloading his pistols. 

The comical part of your letter put a broad smile on our faces for a good while after reading it, and not least because you are so convinced of your own poverty! Kenau, I shall write nothing more than thank you, dear sister, for a very entertaining evening!

Now Z has arrived and is in a hurry for this letter, for her must catch tonight’s tide. I can say nothing more of his leaving. 

I urge you to send us some money, Kenau, which I trust shall be interest free. I have a good supply of buyers, so your investment would be safe. 

Finally, those geldings sound splendid. However, if you believe you can win a race against me then you should take a good, long lie down to recover your senses. 

I hope to hear from you soon. 

I am sending this with the love of us all. Take great care, this war will only gather speed.
Your dearest sister Erm. Aelbert sends his love to you all, and wishes you fortitude.

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