A nostre treis Chere &
As straungers we late landed were within this fertyle soyle,
and rested had our werryed lymes from longe and tedyous toyle.
Reporte at laste that wandringe flyes throughowte the worlde soe rounde,
with flickeringe fame flowe vnto vs, and in our eares dyd sounde,
with trumpe of brasse your noble name, and further did declare
that straungers all what ere they be to yow moste welcome are,
whiche moveth vs with currage bowlde our selves to represente,
to yow this nighte, not meaninge harme but even to this intente
to trye our treasure that is leafte, and prove howe beste we maye
increase the same, or else with losse goe emptye quyte awaye
At Basingstoke we nowe abide but sone we will you see
and try thadventure of our happe whether good or bad yt bee
meane tyme we humblye take our leaves and yow to god comende
Take in good parte we yow desire this message that we sende
Andrewe la vandelowe
Brian de la meare
Nicholas de lacure
Burnard de Bonvylde
Guilliamo de Bandaloshotte
The Paulet family was resident at Freefolk.
The maskers' letter indicates that they are waiting at Basingstoke for a chance to visit Paulet, so it is likely their letter was delivered at Paulet's residence at Herriard House, which is much closer to Basingstoke than is Freefolk.
The French salutation and apparently French names of the signatories might mean this group of performers was genuinely French, but it seems at least as likely that the performers were English and the French names were part of their masking performance. Unfortunately, none of these individuals can be identified, either as professional performers or as local Hampshire men who might be friends or tenants of Paulet's. None of the names appear in Kathman's Biographical Index (http://shakespeareauthorship.com/bd/), or in the personal names index at the Hampshire Record Office. The one hint the letter gives as to what the performers intended to do for Paulet comes when they announce that they wish 'to trye our treasure that is leafte, and prove howe beste we maye/ increase the same, or else with losse goe emptye quyte awaye.' The 'treasure' may refer to some tangible objects, whose value could be increased or lost in some form of gambling or gift-exchange with Paulet. If so, they had in mind a very old form of masking like the mumming of London's city fathers before Richard II at the palace of Kennington at Christmastide 1377. Wearing vizards and 'disguizedly aparailed' as the pope, cardinals, knights, and the like, they gambled with the king, using loaded dice to ensure the king would win the gifts they had brought. The mummers then danced on one side of the the hall, while the king and his entourage danced on the other (Chambers, Medieval Stage, vol 1, pp 394–5 and n 4).
Record title: The Maskers' Letter to Sir Richard Paulet
Repository: Jervoise of Herriard Collection, HRO
Repository location: Winchester
Sir Richard Paulet (c 1558–1614) was the grandnephew of William Paulet (1474/5?–1572), first marquess of Winchester and longtime lord treasurer under three Tudor monarchs. Richard Paulet inherited estates at Herriard, south of Basingstoke, and Freefolk, near Whitchurch. He served multiple times as sheriff of Hampshire and in parliament for Whitchurch. For further details see the section on Hampshire families in Historical Background.
Only the endorsement gives the date of the document and what the letter writers intended to do for Paulet. The endorsement, 'The Maskers lettre 1586,' is in a different hand from the text of the letter but appears to be contemporary with the document. The hand of the endorsement is likely to be Paulet's own, as also in that hand on the dorse is a note of monies loaned and borrowed, identifying individuals concerned as 'my mother,' 'my sister,' and so on.
1586; English and French; paper; single sheet; 210mm x 205mm; endorsed: 'The Maskers lettre 1586,' the HRO shelfmark is in pencil on p 2, as well as '2,' which is not pagination but perhaps identified this document within a bundle before the collection was calendared in detail, blue inked stamp – round, with coat of arms surrounded by 'HERRIARD COLLECTION' – appears once on p 2, twice on p 1, which also has in pencil: 'M.P.5' and 'FS – 6.'