I've always thought of a passport as something you needed to enter a country. In the sixteenth century you also needed crown permission to leave.

In 1572, the Earl of Lincoln was sent to Paris on a mission from Queen Elizabeth to Charles IX. Among the Earl's party was 18-year-old Philip Sidney, on his first trip abroad.

Philip's passport, issued in the Queen's name, was written to:

"her trusty and well-beloved Philip Sidney, Esquire, licensed to go out of England into parts beyond the seas, with three servants, four horses, and all other requisites, and to remain the space of two years immediately following his departure out of the realm, for his attaining the knowledge of foreign languages."

Philip stayed on in Paris after the mission was completed and was made a Baron and Gentleman-in-Ordinary of the Royal Bedchamber. He also had the good fortune to become a friend of the English Ambassador, Thomas Walsingham. Fortunate on two counts — one was that Walsingham later became his father-in-law, the other was that he was staying with Walsingham and under his protection on the night of the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew when thousands of Protestants were slaughtered.

From: Sir Philip Sidney