Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 04.djvu/340

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

remarkable talent as a decipherer, interpreting more than twelve ciphers of exceeding difficulty, with which the Spanish archivists were themselves unacquainted, or the keys to which they withheld from him. Their persistent obstruction compelled him to have recourse to the English embassy at Madrid; but his energy triumphed over every obstacle, and in 1862 he was enabled to publish a calendar of the documents in the Simancas Archives relating to English affairs from 1485 to 1509, with additions from the repositories at Brussels, Barcelona, and other places. This calendar was introduced by a fascinating preface, describing his difficulties and successes as a decipherer, and including a brilliant review of the relations between England and Spain during the period. A second and larger volume appeared in 1868, analysing the documents from 1509 to 1525, and accompanied by another striking preface, which, however, gave much offence by harsh and irrelevant criticism of his fellow- labourers, and betrayed a strong tendency to sensational and melodramatic views of history. This lack of sobriety was still more glaringly evinced in his last publication (1868), a supplemental volume treating of Queen Katharine of Arragon as a Spanish princess, and of the projected marriage of Henry VII with Queen Juana of Castile. In dealing with the former subject he cast groundless reflections on Katharine's chastity before marriage, and in the second part, disputing the reality of Queen Juana's madness, concocted a ghastly history of her wrongs, which more exact research has shown to be a mere romance. While labouring indefatigably at the Simancas records, he was attacked by an epidemic fever, of which he died at Madrid on 13 Feb. 1869. He left the reputation of a most vigorous and indomitable labourer in history, of unsurpassed acumen in the pursuit of isolated facts, but he was deficient in the faculty of combination, and was continually misled by his appetite for the picturesque and dramatic. His style is pregnant and animated, and many of his remarks indicate great sagacity. Bergenroth's calenders of the Simancas papers have been continued by Don Pascual de Gayangos.

[Cartwright's Gustave Bergenroth, a Memorial Sketch, Edinburgh, 1870; Pauli, in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Bd. ii. For appreciations of Bergenroth's historical labours, especially his theory of the insanity of Queen Juana, see Pauli in Sybel's Historische Zeitschrift. Bde. iv. xi. xxi.; Gachard, Sur Jeanne la Folle, Bruxelles, 1869; Rösler, Johanna die Wahnsinnige. Wien, 1870; Edinburgh Review, vol. cxxxi.; The Month, vol. iii. N. S.]

R. G.

BERGNE, JOHN BRODRIBB (1800–1873), numismatist and antiquary, was descended from a family originally of Auvergne, France, but settled in England since the French revolution. He was born at Kensington in 1800, and having entered the Foreign Office in January 1817 was for some time attached as clerk to the treaty department, of which he became superintendent in 1854. This part of the office was then, to some extent, remodelled, in order that the secretary of state might avail himself of Bergne's special knowledge and ability. No one, probably, could have occupied this post more efficiently than Bergne, who for many years was a trusted adviser of successive secretaries of state, and whose reputation as an authority on all matters connected with treaties extended far beyond English official circles. In 1865 he was a member of the commission appointed to revise the slave trade instructions. He remained the head of the treaty department till his death, early in 1878. Although Bergne's name did not come prominently before the general public, the sterling services which his remarkable memory, accuracy, and judgment enabled him to render during the long years of his life in the Foreign Office were universally and cordially recognised by his colleagues, Bergne will be remembered not less as antiquary and numismatist than as an important public sentint. He was one of the founders of the Numismatic Society, of which he was treasurer from 1848 to 1857, and was several times afterwards elected a vice-president, He was also a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. As a numismatist Bergne devoted his attention chiefly to Roman and English coins, his collection of which was dispersed at his death, when many of the most valuable examples were purchased for the British Museum. The following are his contributions to the 'Numismatic Chronicle' from its first publication in 1838: 'Pennies of William the Conqueror;' 'Additions to Mr. Walpole's Account of the Family of Roetiers;' 'Irish Penny of Edward I;' 'Remarks on the Pennies of Henry with the Short and Long Cross;' 'Half-crowns of Charles II of Uncertain Mints;' 'Unpublished Exeter Half-crowns of Charles I;' 'Numismatic Sermon preached in 1694;' 'Unpublished Coins of Guthred, Baldred, and William the Conqueror;' 'Coin of Cerausius of a New and Unpublished Type;' 'Another coin of Baldred;' 'Denarius of Pescenninus Niger;' 'Coin Pedigrees;' 'Unpublished Coins;' 'Foreign or Counterfeit Sterlings.'

[Private information; Proceedings of the Numisimatic Society.]

A. A. B.