Simancas: March 1569

Pages 132-138

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 2, 1568-1579. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1894.

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March 1569

10 March. 87. The Duke of Alba to the King.
Since my last I have received the enclosed letters from Don Guerau and D'Assonleville, by which your Majesty will learn all that is passing. I think this business is getting more serious than at first was believed, as I notice that the Queen has been complaining lately of the alleged bad treatment of her ambassador, and those who are disposed to forward such movements have gained her ear by this means. I am awaiting D'Assonleville, and, when he arrives, I will make myself acquainted with his action in England in order to send a statement to your Majesty, as I think that, saving better information, your Majesty should act in conformity with that which we write to you from here. In the meanwhile I think it will be well to tell your Majesty what my own tendency is, so far. I do not know whether an open rupture with England at the present time will be advantageous, considering the state of the treasury, and these States being so exhausted with the war and late disturbances, and so bereft of ships and many other things necessary for a fresh war, and it would certainly be a grave loss of dignity, with your Majesty's power, to again return to the old negotiations. All things considered, I think it would be best to adopt a gentle course, writing to the Queen that, seeing the close friendship and alliance that have so long existed between the countries, particularly between her father and the Emperor, and your brotherly affection for her, even though she should desire to quarrel, you will not consent to do so, and that it shall never be said that the knot that binds you together has been loosened. She should be asked to say in what way she considers herself aggrieved, and your Majesty will be ready to give her every satisfaction in consideration of your tender love for her, and will not pursue towards her the same course that you would pursue with any other prince under similar circumstances. I thought well to set this forth to your Majesty in case she should send anyone to you before the definite opinion is forwarded to you from here, and you can thus go on temporising, and can, afterwards, adopt the course you think best. There will be means for fully satisfying your Majesty by-and-bye if your desire it. I much fear that the Italian who is writing to Don Guerau about that affair is deceiving him, and that he is suborned to tempt him in this and other things, he being a new man. (fn. 1) —Brussels, 10th March 1569.
12 March. 88. Guerau De Spes to the King.
By many letters I have advised your Majesty that this Queen, on the 19th December last, siezed the money in Lope de la Sierra's ship in Southampton, notwithstanding her repeated promise, and her passport and letters already granted for its safe despatch. I advised the duke of Alba, and tried to gain audience of the Queen, in order to signify to her the injury she was doing. I found her very hard and harsh, full of falsehood and fictions to avoid returning the money, and I understood at once that her intention, and that of many of her Council, was to retain it, thinking thereby to inconvenience the duke of Alba and, by this means and others, to give succour to the French and Flemish rebels. Your Majesty will have heard how the Duke also placed a general embargo on English property, of which I received news here on the 3rd January by a courier who came over with four others, despatched by Englishmen and others there. They quite expected here that the Duke would do this, for, before the news arrived, they had taken all the ships belonging to your Majesty's subjects in the west country and had landed the whole of their sails and rigging. In Southampton they told Lope de la Sierra that the pirates would certainly attack him in port and that they were in league with the captains of the (Queen's?) ships. By this means they got him to discharge the greater part of his cargo of wool and afterwards arrested him. They then seized all the letters I wrote to your Majesty, to the duke of Alba, and to Don Francés de Alava, and, on my sending to request secretary Cecil to return them, he began to abuse the duke of Alba as if it was his business to punish him, and threatened me greatly. His threats were not entirely in vain for, on the 8th January, he and the Admiral arrested me in this house with great insolence, sending away all my English servants excepting one, and putting me under strict guard. They divided the guard into four parties, for whom they made three wooden houses in the garden, and posted the fourth detachment in the lodge at the principal gate. At the river gate they stationed two armed boats with many harquebussiers and archers, and left three gentlemen with a large suite in the house. They took one of my servants to the Chancellor's house, and, under threats of torture, made him give information about a courier who had already left, and the road he had taken, which courier they at once brought back and siezed the letters. Cecil used very harsh words against your Majesty, signifying that this insult to me was partly in payment of what their ambassador had to endure in Spain. This severity with me lasted many days, during which the duke of Alba sent Dr. D'Assonleville hither. They placed guards over him when he got to Rochester, and detained him here in this manner for a long time, without allowing him to communicate with me, feigning many reasons, all false, which the Queen had for being offended with the Duke. Neither the Duke, nor any other minister of your Majesty, has ever done her any dis-service or disrespect, not even complaining of what we and all persons know she has done to injure your Majesty's States, but it is the fear and remorse of a bad conscience which make her uneasy. They afterwards told D'Assonleville that he could see me, but must not speak with the Queen, either in my presence or otherwise, on any account. They said if he had anything to say he must communicate with the Council, and both D'Assonleville and myself thought best that the Duke should be consulted. When his reply was received, D'Assonleville insisted on his request for audience and the Queen in her refusal. The Duke wrote that if the Queen would give him, D'Assonleville, audience, there was no great objection to his telling any members of the Council, sent for the purpose by her, what was the substance of his instructions, and D'Assonleville, tired out, did so. The next day a decided reply came from the Queen, by the marquis of Northampton and Cecil, saying that the Queen would return this money to your Majesty, but not through the duke of Alba, but that first all the points left open at Bruges, and others pending here and in the Netherlands, should be settled, and your Majesty should confirm all treaties now existing ; and further, that satisfaction should be given mutually for the treatment extended to both ambassadors. There are other things that D'Assonleville will write about fully to your Majesty, all of which I believe are so many falsehoods to gain time and see how German affairs turn out for them. M. de Bourdeille has come hither, paid by Condé and the admiral of France to effect an offensive and defensive league between this Queen and themselves and with certain princes of Germany, and they seem very much set on this with the cardinal Chatillon, whom they have lodged in a house in the garden of the palace. When D'Assonleville received his reply they offered him his passports, and those who were to accompany him were in such a hurry to get him gone that, although he had orders from the Duke not to leave and had sent, with my approval, a courier to inform his Excellency of the reply given to him, saying that he ought not to remain here longer in the interests of the business, he was obliged to travel slowly to Dover, where he hoped to meet the courier, whose return had been expected for some time. This courier had been sent in the name of the French ambassador. In the meanwhile they are busy here in persecuting the Catholics, and all those who have attended mass or who are suspected of it. They put them in prison, and have lately issued a harsh decree against tho3e who may introduce Catholic books into England. They have also ordered that vacant lands are to be cultivated, and have placed heavy burdens upon the towns to see whether the people who were occupied in the wool industry can be thereby diverted to agriculture. They have forbidden, under heavy fines, trade with your Majesty's dominions, and are preparing a fleet to send to Hamburg with large cargoes of cloth, of which the Duke has been advised. Chance has brought them so many vessels on their way from Spain that they are made more obstinate than ever, and most of the other vessels passing off the coast on their way to Flanders have been pursued by armed ships of the Vice-Admiral, and have been forcibly brought into the ports and detained. Others have been obliged to take shelter in Plymouth to escape pirates that assailed them ; others, again, have been taken into and robbed in Rochelle. In this way there are in this country, belonging to subjects of your Majesty, 25 or 26 very valuable sloops, of which the Vice Admiral and other officers have plundered most, and the pirates themselves have boldly entered the ships lying in the ports and stolen great quantities of property, as even M. de Bourdeille did as soon as he arrived. On the 16th ultimo 91 boxes of money were brought hither from the west and put in the Tower, Hawkins accompanying them with four or five boxes of gold brought from the Indies. During his voyage he has lost at the rate of 50 per cent., besides the loss of his sailors, not 15 persons having survived. They said that he had left in Florida some of his men, but they tell me now that he left them in Panuco. I have already written to your Majesty how the French and English pirates, together and separately, have sallied forth from the ports of the west to plunder the vessels of your Majesty's subjects, and have brought them into the ports, selling and distributing their booty as they pleased without any measures being taken to prevent it. Indeed, many of the Council receive great presents from the pirates. This Queen thinks that your Majesty should send some person here to treat with her, without considering how badly she and her people have behaved ; but, really, considering the way things are going on here, it will not be conducive to your Majesty's dignity to send anyone, but rather to punish these people in a way which shall make them realize their offence. It is disgusting to hear Cecil talk about his Queen being a monarch, and that no other Christian prince is a monarch but she. I have even heard that they are going to publish a decree ordering every person to take an oath of allegiance to this effect, which will mean a butchery of Catholics if God in His mercy does not prevent it. They do not treat the Flemings on board the vessels very badly, but they have treated the Spaniards worse than the Turks would do, taking from them everything they had on board the ships, and they even kept them for days without food. The Spaniards came hither, but they were not allowed to approach my door for a long time, although secretly many contrived to enter the house. and I provided for the others as best I could. They have put 200 of them in Bridewell, and have had a Spanish heretic minister to preach to them, which has been extremely difficult to prevent. They have now somewhat lightened my guard, and, although by means of the French ambassador, D'Assonleville, and the gentlemen who guard me, I have endeavoured to get the Queen to hear me, she has replied that it is not fitting that she should do so until she receives a reply from Spain. They have ordered that all persons here should have their arms ready for a general muster, which is being obeyed, especially by the Catholics. The other people, although heretics, are most unwilling to enter into this war, for they know their weakness. The duke of Norfolk and the earl of Arundel have been in close communication with me through a trustworthy person during all this, and they write that they well know the offence committed by this Queen and Council against your Majesty, but that hitherto everything has been over-ridden by Cecil and they have not dared to resist him, or even to point out to the Queen his bad government, until they have felt their way with the other nobles and with the people. They have now done this and have many sure pledges. They say they will cause this money and all the goods to be returned, and will change the Government in such a way that there shall be no more pirates in this country who will offend your Majesty's subjects. They will respect all alliances and treaties, and will even restore here the Catholic religion. They only ask that your Majesty should stand firm in the stoppage of trade, as well as the king of France, so that the English shall have no commerce with either country. The people are already beginning to murmur, and these gentlemen will find means to raise them and punish the evil doers. To add strength to the enterprise, they sent me the draft of a proclamation for me to forward to the duke of Alba for publication. It contains a statement of the motives which they desire the public to know, which are similar to what I have already written about the tyranny of some members of the Government, of the non-fulfilment of the passport given, of the favour shown to pirates and the support given to rebels. I have sent it to the duke of Alba, and assured him of the goodwill of these gentlemen and their power here. They wish the affair to be conducted very secretly for the present, for the Queen and Cecil are suspicious, even of the birds of the air. They have put Thomas Cobham and many other gentlemen in the Tower for a simple word in favour of the duke (of Alba). These gentlemen desire that the Duke should sieze the ships which are being loaded for Hamburg, which will carry 20,000 pieces of cloth, and detain them on the same grounds as those alleged for the detention of the sloops here. This would be of such great interest to the merchants and people of London that, immediately on the news becoming known, these gentlemen would begin their movement. I have written all this to the Duke, so that he may in his discretion decide what is best for your Majesty's service, and I have also written to your Majesty a letter, of which this is the copy, by the sailor who offered to take it in a boat starting from the extreme point of this island for Spain. I also advised how Mildmay, one of the Council, summoned Francisco Diaz, who came with the money sloops from Spain, and, after much beating about the bush, asked him at what season of the year the fleet from the Indies usually came, and what ships came with it as a convoy. He also asked him about the riches of the Rio de la Plata, and if the country was populated yet by Spaniards, and many other questions about the gold and silver mines there. From this it may be believed that they intend to attack the fleet when it comes, because, besides the ships which they are loading for Hamburg, they are fitting out the ships in the west, and have sent captains to raise troops, which they say, however, are for Rochelle. They have moved the queen of Scotland to Tutbury and keep her very close, so much so that the guards are placed on the roads for three miles round. The bishop of Ross is kept similarly elsewhere. I wrote to your Majesty that the queen of Scotland had signified to me that she would find means to have her son delivered to your Majesty to be brought up in your Court in the true religion with every virtue and accomplishment, and she wishes to know if your Majesty will favour her in this way. She also begs you, as a magnanimous prince, to consider her in her trouble. The duke of Chatelherault, since he has been in Scotland, has grown more powerful than the regent James, who is already asking for aid from here. I also sent to your Majesty the message that the queen of Scotland had conveyed to my servant, who was sent to her at her request whilst she was at Bolton, to the effect that Cecil's servant (Alleyn?), who was in the habit of inspecting the guard occasionally, was consoling Vice-Chamberlain Knollys and Captain Reid who guarded the Queen, for the victories of the duke of Alba in Flanders, and told them that, though your Majesty was destroying their religion, they might rest easy, as an arrangement had been made, through his master (Cecil), with some natives of the Netherlands, who would soon give poison to your Majesty, which God forbid. As this was known by me only a few days before I was arrested the plan formed for discovering the details of this business could not be carried out fully, especially as the bishop of Ross is in his present strait.—London, 12th March 1569.
19 March.
B. M. Cotton, Galba, C. III. Original.
89. Document Headed : Clauses of His Majesty's Letter of 19th March.
Encloses an edict that he has published allowing the introduction of breadstuffs into Biscay and Asturias, in consequence of the short harvest. The ambassador is to show this to the Queen, and to beg her, in conformity with their mutual friendship, to allow wheat, &c., to be brought to Spain from England by the inhabitants of either country in accordance with the conditions set forth in the said edict. If her permission be free and unlimited, he would prefer it ; but, if not, the ambassador is to get a license for the largest quantity possible.—Madrid, 19th March 1569. (fn. 2)


  • 1. Rodolfo Ridolfi.
  • 2. The letter of which this appears to be an extract is referred to on page 23 and was doubtless written in 1568 and not 1569.