Simancas: April 1569

Pages 138-144

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


April 1569

2 April. 90. Guerau De Spes to the King.
I have given advice of all that has happened here as best I could, writing mostly by way of the Captain of Calais without any superscripture or other due form, so that the letters which I sent to the duke of Alba might be forwarded to your Majesty. An Asturian sailor, also, called Pedro de Rugala, who had his boat at the extreme point of England, offered to take a despatch which I gave him on the 12th ultimo. In future, I shall not be able to write so much, in consequence of the strict orders given to prevent any letters leaving the country, unless they pass through Cecil's hands. The impudence of these people has reached such a pitch that the Queen's ships publicly attacked a flotilla of sloops on their way from Spain three days ago and captured seven of them, which they took into the port of Hull. These people are well prepared, although they are downcast at the news of Condé's rout. (fn. 1) I have already advised how the duke of Norfolk and the earl of Arundel wish to serve your Majesty. They have many friends and adherents in this country, and, when they hear that your Majesty will accept their goodwill, they will declare themselves more openly at a convenient opportunity. The duke of Alba, on due consideration, has written, ordering me to entertain and caress them on your Majesty's behalf, and said he expected shortly your Majesty's own decision as to what was to be done. Secretary Cecil pretends to be ill, so that the Councils are held in his house. He and five or six others are getting very rich with robbery of your Majesty's subjects, and they think that, even though no war may break out, they will still be able to keep what they have stolen. They capture all the boats loaded with wine and salt they come across, and say that they will pay for them but never do so. On the 28th ultimo, the Queen ordered a muster of her pensioners and their servants, who turned out to the number of 200 horse, not very good. The muster was in the park of the palace, and the Queen was present with Cardinal Chatillon and the earl of Leicester. She was very free and joked much with everybody. The other musters of infantry have been postponed, and they have suspended the preparations on the fleet which they were fitting out for Rochelle. Captain William Rivers (fn. 2) (Winter?) is to go in command. The ships for Hamburg are already loaded, and, on the return of a pink which they have sent thither, they say they will sail with four of the Queen's ships in their company, as well as two Venetian vessels which are fitting out in Norwich. There are three Easterlings who they say they are going to fit out four more, but they have great lack of sailors. Captain Jones, with four ships of the fleet, it is said, will sail shortly for the Azores. Hawkins is reported to have brought back twenty-eight thousand dollars in gold, and a box of pearls. Some silver was also brought in a ship of his which was thought to be lost, but which has arrived in Ireland and has on board, as a prisoner, a gentleman of Alava called Don Juan de Mendoza, son of Señor de Mariota y Mendoza. He was in one of the islands of the Indies, and, out of friendship for the English, had them supplied with water and victuals. Going on board one of their ships, they sailed away with him in payment for his simplicity. He is now in Ireland and thinks Hawkins will liberate him, in which I believe he is mistaken, as they are guarding the prisoners here very closely, besides which, many of the Spaniards are very badly treated and kept in chains. The money from Southampton was brought here on the 26th ultimo, and has been weighed and put up like the rest without any discharge yet having been given to those who brought it. They showed Lope de la Sierra everything in the Tower, but he saw nothing of the money they had brought from the west. It is therefore suspected that they have melted all or part of it, as they are coining money with frantic haste, which is unusual with them. The Secretary of Lord James has arrived here, and the Councillors now publicly state that James and the duke of Chatelherault have agreed that the former shall remain at the head of the Government and the latter be declared the successor of the prince. The Parliament is to be called together for this purpose. I doubt the truth of this, because not a day passes without some new tale being made up to comfort the people ; just as, recently, they cried up the rising of the Moriscos of Granada, as if it were some great thing. This Cardinal Chatillon goes so far as to say now, that if the news of Condé's death be true, which they do not yet believe, he will go to sea as captain of all the corsairs, although if the intention of his doing so is to commit more robberies, I do not see how that is possible. Many Catholics write letters secretly to me saying that the moment they see your Majesty's standards raised in this country they will all rise to serve you, and it is certain that if your Majesty commands measures to be taken for the conversion of the kingdom and the punishment of these insolent heretics and barefaced thieves, I do not think it will be difficult to bring them to subjection, or, at least, to change the Government and religion. If, on the other hand, the matter is passed over, in addition to other great evils, Flanders will be in continual unrest. Your Majesty will have it all considered and will decide for the best. I am still in durance but not so horribly closely kept as before. It looks as if they were trying to make it up with me somewhat, but as regards any principal points, I will do nothing until I receive orders from your Majesty or the Duke. In the meanwhile, I am sending complaints of the assaults and robberies, although I do not hear of all of them. Some of these people are under the impression that they will get great concessions from your Majesty, and amongst others, that, if the English are friendly, they will be exempt from the power of the Inquisition whilst in your Majesty's dominions. As soon as these gentlemen who guard me come with their hints of this, I tell them that in your Majesty's dominions a heretic, whoever he may be, will be punished, and they need not think that we change our religion there as they do here.—London, 2nd April 1569.
Postscript :—I have heard that Peter Wolschart, the agent of the King of Poland in Madrid for a long time past, reports to a brother or kinsman of his, who came hither with John Man and remains here, all that passes. As they correspond in Polish, their secrets are very safe. He is a well-known man. (fn. 3)
They have raised the embargo from the goods of all Flemings here who have declared themselves of the Anglican faith ; I mean the merchants who were here at the time of the Queen's proclamation. Many of them have therefore joined the Church and go to the meetings of the Flemish refugees, who have separate ministers, as have also the French refugees. There is one minister here, the son of a Spaniard, born in Holland, who was a friar in Spain and fled from the Inquisition, against which he has written a blasphemous book which is current here in three modern languages. He afterwards went into Bridewell to preach to the Biscayners, although some of them told him that he had better go to Calahorra (fn. 4) to preach such stuff as that. He gave them a "Christian doctrine" in Spanish, composed, it is stated on it, by Dr. Juan Perez. It is printed here, although it bears the imprint of Venice and is very artfully written to conceal the heresy. I am told that many copies of these books have been sent to Seville. (fn. 5) I have had him (the minister) brought away from Bridewell by main force. He preached that he disapproved of the robberies that were being committed, and Cecil has ordered him not to preach again without a fresh license, saying that he had been informed that he was an Arryan. Robert Etienne's (fn. 6) little book in French is also current here, printed at Antwerp in the year '67. It is terribly blasphemous against the holy sacrament and all the articles of the Catholic faith, with a curious device of writing certain discourses about Herodotus.
The other night some heretics handed it in at my door and it was presented to me. I at once had it burnt, and it would be well to have it served in the same way in Flanders and wherever else it may be found. I have just been informed that in agreement with the Queen, Cardinal Chatillon has requested to be allowed to go with the fleet to Rochelle, where he would help her against the common enemy. The Queen answered that she could not allow him to go against the King her brother. They at once let the French Ambassador know of this, and they think they can deceive both sides with such tricks as these.—London, 2nd April 1569.
2 April.
91. The Duke of Alba to the King.
My letters of the 11th, and enclosures will have informed your Majesty of the state of affairs in England and the issue of Councillor D'Assonleville's mission, which was that the Queen had finally declared that, for the present, she would not grant or refuse the restitution of the money which she had arrested until the questions pending between your Majesty and her, in Spain and elsewhere, have been considered and arranged. She was determined that this should only be done with envoys bearing your Majesty's power, and refused audience to D'Assonleville. I thereupon instructed D'Assonleville to report to me in cypher the circumstances and manner in which everything had occurred, in order the better to understand the Queen's designs and enable us to consider maturely the whole matter, and advise your Majesty, The roads both ways being, however, so insecure, D'Assonleville had left before my letters arrived. He gave me verbally an account of his reasons for leaving and made a statement to the Council here, which he afterwards handed me in writing and which I now enclose.
We have commenced the discussion of the whole matter in order to grasp it thoroughly, but as we have received news of Condé's defeat, which appears very important, we defer the decision of the English business until we learn whether it is true or not.—Brussels, 2nd April 1569.
4 April. 92. The Duke Of Alba to the King.
As regards English affairs, I beg your Majesty will read the despatch in French, D'Assonleville's report, and the decision arrived at by the Council and myself. It is all as full as I can make it, and notwithstanding what Don Guerau writes, I am not yet convinced that they are not deceiving him. I thank your Majesty very humbly for the confidence you place in me, and whenever I see that an opportunity of serving you may be missed by waiting to consult you, I will presume to act as you order. I will not otherwise dare to break with anybody, as I fully recognize that your Majesty's confidence in me is greater than my parts deserve, and I will not trust arrogantly to my own judgment. I have thought well not to send to Don Guerau the statement of what passed between Don Martin Enriquez and Captain Hawkins until they broach the subject in England.—Brussels, 4th April 1569.
Note in the handwriting of the King : "Tiznach has sent me a packet, which is no doubt this, but I have not been able to open it yet."
23 April. 93. Guerau De Spes to the King.
On the 14th instant I wrote your Majesty a long letter by way of Flanders, with a copy of a letter from the queen of Scotland, and of the agreement which is under discussion between the people of her country. I also send note of the ships which up to that date had been detained in this country, and the correspondence between the Council and myself respecting the robbery and piracies committed by the Queen's own ships. In order not to make this letter too bulky, I am not sending any further statement herewith. I have informed your Majesty that I had sent a letter to the queen of Scotland and I am still awaiting the reply. It is impossible to treat with this queen of England for the present, since the duke of Alba has forbidden trade with this country and given license to carry arms. The Queen at once obtained a copy of the duke's placard and Cecil wished to reply to it by another, which, I am told, was drawn up in very arrogant terms. In answer to the duke's assertion that the Queen's proceedings were against the will of the greater part of the nobles, Cecil wished to make not only the Councillors but all the principal people in the country sign approval of them. The duke of Norfolk and earl of Brauges (fn. 7) (Arundel?) refused to go to the Council, although many embassies were sent to them from Cecil. In the end, however, the Queen is satisfied with leaving the placard unanswered. The duke and the earl say that, in a very short time, they will make the Queen do as she ought to do, and will change the Government, restoring the property that has been stolen. It will certainly not be difficult for them, seeing how unpopular the present Government is ; but as they act in the usual cautious English fashion with one another, they will not declare themselves frankly, and the affair drags more slowly than it would elsewhere. They (Norfolk and Arundel) have sent to me to day asking me to send to the Council by a special messenger when the duke is there all the points proposed to me by Bernard Hampton on the 19th, and to which I gave him my answer at the time, as the Duke knows nothing of Bernard Hampton's coming, and it was all managed by Cecil, Leicester, and the Admiral. I will do this, as a means by which they may begin to fall out amongst themselves. All the replies that Bernard Hampton gave me were illusory. He said that all the goods detained were well guarded, which is untrue, that the 13 sloops brought into the port of Plymouth by the new ship were not brought in by order of the Queen, although her standard was flown. The five sloops that-were handed over to the French, also, he said, had not been delivered by her order. He wished to make out that the queen of England was sovereign of the sea with supreme dominion, and I told him that this element was a very inconstant one for the Queen to wish to rule over. I also justified the proceedings of the duke of Alba, and smoothed over John Man's affair which they only use now as an excuse for my detention. I also touched upon their complaints respecting the action of the Inquisition in Spain towards Englishmen, and gave him a general answer on all points, in the presence of Captain William Winter, and he did not dare to give me a written reply in order to prevent me from retorting in like manner. As, however, the Duke and the Earl wish me to present these matters point by point in writing, I will do so, and will send copy of my statement to your Majesty. The Hamburg fleet will be ready to sail in four or five days, well fitted and valuable, as your Majesty will see by the memorial I send. To take this fleet would be to take all England, and even the detention of it would be giving a grand spur to the action that these gentlemen here wish to take in your Majesty's service. News has been received here that Holland is arming, and, if the fleet is ready and strong, the departure of the Hamburg ships may perhaps be stayed. They have pilots from Hamburg here already. The French ambassador has promised Roberto Ridolfi that the king of France will issue a similar placard to that of the duke. I think, certainly, that if the Queen does not change her government voluntarily, there will be a rising here within a month, especially if any ill should befall these fleets for Hamburg or Rochelle, or if these people were distressed by our taking their ships as they do those of others. If any disturbance arises here, either by the action of these gentlemen or otherwise, the government can be overthrown, and if the matter is taken up vigorously the country may be mastered, or, at least, may be brought to what is desired. The Queen is abandoned by many, and hardly anyone really likes her. The Council only looks after its private ends. She is so poor that these gentlemen tell me that she had not 30,000 ducats before these seizures. Alleyn (?), a servant of Cecil, who, although he is not a Catholic, sometimes gives me private information, says that even if they do not keep this money, they wish to help the arming of the French and Flemish rebels, and have adopted the device of arming the followers of Cardinal Chatillon and the prince of Condé, together with those of three or four Englishmen, sometimes bearing the Queen's standard and sometimes that of Condé. With these they will plunder all the ships that come to this country, and they had already taken more than 200,000 ducats before these detentions began, nearly all from subjects of your Majesty. On the top of this came the windfall of the money, and Benedict Spinola tells me that the reason Cecil gave for taking it was that the Queen had no credit in Antwerp or Frankfort to enable her to aid her friends. They thought that affairs in Flanders would not go so well for us as they have done, and that your Majesty would dissemble with them and let them enjoy the money on their promising simply to pay interest. They imagine, no doubt, also, that these robberies would be treated as those of seven or eight years ago were treated, for which they have never yet been called to account. The rigorous action of the Duke in embargoing all their goods in Flanders has grieved them much, as they had expected, for the reasons I have mentioned, that things would have been allowed to drift without an open rupture, and that they might, with their usual deceptions, continue to help the rebels. With regard to the other points upon which your Majesty instructs me, especially as to Montague's brother-in-law and the caution necessary for similar negotiations with him or others, I will take great care, and must leave for my next letter further news, as the Hamburg fleet is now leaving.—London, 23rd April 1569.
94. Copy of a Memorial given to His Majesty respecting English Affairs by Merchants interested.—Madrid, 28th April 1569.
Your Majesty already knows that the queen of England has ordered the seizure in her ports of a large number of vessels on their voyage from Spain to Flanders, and vice versd. By our advices we learn that they number already over 70, with great sums of money which were sent from here with your Majesty's license for Flanders to pay your Majesty's obligations there. The value of the property so detained, including money and goods, exceeds three million and a half in gold, and although it has not hitherto been confiscated, the delay that has taken place already makes us fear that it may be regarded as lost unless your Majesty promptly orders measures to be adopted for its recovery, inasmuch as we know that much of the merchandise is being sold and dispersed, and we fear that the same may be done with the money. The queen of England has declared that she will not treat with the duke of Alba on this matter nor with your Majesty's ambassador, for certain reasons which, although insufficient, influence her, and which will cause the business to go from bad to worse daily to the great loss and injury of your Majesty and your subjects unless redress be promptly provided. We therefore briefly set forth certain things that we consider might be done to remedy matters, for your Majesty's consideration and decision, in the hope that your Majesty will be pleased to approve of them. First, we would suggest that your Majesty should be pleased at once to send a member of your council of the treasury, of experience in affairs, to make some agreement with regard to the goods that have been sold and dispersed in England, and also with regard to the money, in case the Queen should not consent at once to restore it all.
Inasmuch as the sum taken is a very large, one, every month of delay means a. heavy loss for your Majesty's subjects and your royal treasury also. This is particularly so as regards the marine duties and customs dues on wool, which have all ceased in consequence of the stoppage of maritime trade, caused by the obstacles to navigation. It is certain that if your Majesty's subjects in Spain and the States, and others that have served you, lose this great sum of money, commerce would be nearly suspended, and many would be totally ruined and undone. Even though it be not lost but subsequently returned, the fact of its having been so long detained under embargo, will cause great loss of credit and suspension of payments ; besides which it will be almost impossible to provide money in Flanders for want of means of transit, and inasmuch as credit will be disturbed, it will not be possible to raise funds otherwise. The loss and damage to your Majesty's subjects and others that will be caused thereby cannot be exaggerated ; especially to those who have undertaken obligations in Flanders to provide money and who are not only prevented from entering into fresh commitments, but cannot fulfil their present undertakings. For this reason we presume humbly to beg your Majesty most urgently to promptly order measures to be taken for our redress, since every month of detention means a loss of over 300,000 ducats to your Majesty's subjects and other servants, except a very small portion belonging to the Portuguese, there being no other business at the present moment so important as this to your Majesty's interests and those of your subjects and vassals.


  • 1. The disastrous battle of Jarnac, 13th March 1569.
  • 2. Guillermo de Rivas.
  • 3. In the King's handwriting : "I do not know whether it is the man who left the other day."
  • 4. In some parts of Spain the grating whence bread was distributed to starving people in times of famine was called by the cant name of Calahorra (which is also the name of a town), and, as any doctrine might be made acceptable when accompanied by bread, it became a common expression to say that such a thing must be told in Calahorra to be believed, as one might say "Tell it to the marines."
  • 5. In the King's handwriting : "Take notice. Let the Cardinal know immediately on his arrival."
  • 6. Robert Etienne was printer to the King of France and sent a copy of his book to Queen Elizabeth by Norris, her ambassador, in August 1569, when he was expelled his country for his religious opinions.
  • 7. In the King's handwriting ; "He must mean Arundel."