Simancas: March 1571

Pages 294-302

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 1571

2 March. 238. Guerau de Spes to the King.
Three detachments of ships, in all seven or eight, are now being equipped here for the Indies Some of them belong to William Winter, others to Hawkins, which will shortly leave, and two others belong to Bartolomé Bayon, who takes but little notice of my persuasions. To judge by the goods he is taking, there is no doubt that he is going to ship negroes and sell them at the Indies. The Council at first promised to prevent the expedition, but now says that it is unjust to prevent people from making voyages, especially as they are informed that no damage will be done in your Majesty's territory, and they have no intention of preventing trade. Although I persisted in the matter, I believe all these ships will go on the Indian voyage, and if they are well punished that will be the only way of preventing other people from doing the same.
In the meanwhile the delay in the arrival of the commissioners who are expected from Flanders has caused the discharge of the eight or nine ships which recently entered the ports, although the English commissioners and the Judge of the Admiralty agreed with me that the valuable ship carried by English pirates to the Scilly isles (?) should not be discharged. M. de Lumbre, with other pirates, took it away from them and brought it half sacked to the Isle of Wight. Some French vessels have arrived from Andalucia with oil, which was much wanted here, but they have now an abundance of spices and other merchandise which have come from these prizes.
The tendency of these folks is anything but peaceful. They have had printed the apology which I send enclosed, and some of the Council have hinted to me that we are not alive to the negotiations which are being carried on from here in Flanders. I believe that they are shameful, and will some day produce effect.
The Queen has made Cecil a lord, so that he may be able to be more useful in Parliament, and about the queen of Scotland. Although the commissioners on both sides are here, they have done nothing yet excepting to prolong the truce in Scotland for this month. The queen of England says that she will consider what can be done in the whole business when she is at Greenwich, whither she now goes.
They are still talking of the marriage of the duke of Anjou, but not so warmly as before, (fn. 1) although it is said that the matter will be discussed in Parliament favourably.
The Queen has ordered the viceroy of Ireland to go and capture the castle of Dingin, (fn. 2) which Captain La Roche and other Frenchmen are holding. This is in accordance with the Christian King's wish.
He (fn. 3) went in disguise through here towards Dover in order to escape into a Catholic country, and he was captured, although he was only known by Catholics. He escaped from prison at mid-day, dressed as a porter, with some wood on his shoulders. He has taken refuge in my house, and I will try to get him out of the country. Your Majesty will see by the letters from Dr. Storey to me how he is suffering in the Tower.—London, 2nd March 1571.
4 March. 239. Document headed : "Contents of Five Clauses issued by the Queen of England touching the irregularities on the Sea Coast, 4th March 1571."
1st. That no pirate of whatever nation shall enter any of her ports or the Downs, under penalty of losing the ship which he brings, and imprisonment for himself.
2nd. That no subject of the Queen, or other inhabitant of her realm, shall send or supply any victuals or stores of any sort to the said pirates, and shall not receive goods from them, or deal with them directly or indirectly.
3rd. That it is the Queen's will that these clauses shall be obeyed, and that any infraction of them shall be punished by the arrest of the offenders by the Governors of the ports, to be held until further orders from the Queen and Council.
4th. That any person found culpable, after the publication of this, shall be punished as a disturber of the Queen's peace.
5th. That any subject of the Queen who may have offended in this way, and will make confession of the same, and declare those whom he knows to be guilty, shall be himself pardoned.
10 March. 240. Guerau de Spes to the King.
In conformity with your Majesty's orders of the 30th January, I await here the arrival of the commissioners to be sent by the duke of Alba with the decision on the points discussed by him with the English Commissioners relative to the restitution of what remains of the merchandise seized from your Majesty's subjects, and the other points if they have been settled, although the Duke does not write that any arrangement has been made, excepting for the restitution. During the negotiation in Flanders the robberies and seizures have been going on as usual, and these people are now so obstinate in them that it will be very difficult to reform matters. The same bad tendency is shown in their desire for liberty of conscience in the Netherlands, and it is absolutely necessary to watch them closely, as they proceed with this intention with great vigilance, astuteness, and dissimulation, the object of it all being to diminish the greatness of your Majesty. This is most certain. The servants of the prince of Orange have manned their ships with two or three Flemings in each, the rest being Englishmen, and they have already taken much valuable plunder. News from Rochelle comes that a Flemish ship-master had surrenered a valuable cargoe to Count Ludovic, and that many ships were being armed there. Letters that I have seen say the number exceeds thirty, the captain of which is to be Ludovic himself. They think here that they are coming to molest the Netherlands, and these people are dreaming at the same time of attacking Dunkirk. They are talking also or the Indies and Scotland, but I will persevere in my efforts to stop the ships from going to the former place. I have not been able to settle anything with the Council, and still less with Bayon. When I sent to summon him hither, he was already in agreement with a Portuguese doctor here and certain Flemish exiles to fit out two ships, and he refused to come to me, but wrote to me that he would not touch in your Majesty's territory. I do not believe him, but I am not abandoning the matter and profess great affection for him, although he presumes a great deal more than he has any right to do. The Council are willing, however, that he should go. I will do my best and report to your Majesty.
As regards the queen of Scotland's affair, this Council now wishes to draw up a complete case, pro and contra, as to whether the deposition of the Queen was legal, and if the oath to the Prince can be revoked. It is nothing but dissimulation ; these people think they can deceive everybody.
The queen of Scotland, the duke of Norfolk, and the heads of the Catholics have wisely resolved to send a gentleman to your Majesty, who will also see the duke of Alba, without the knowledge of the French. I have tried to obtain copy of his instructions, and after great difficulty send herewith a copy of them.—London, 10th March 1571.
14 March. 241. Guerau de Spes to the King
The day on which I wrote my last letter to your Majesty, the 10th instant, Captain George, an Englishman sent by the English ambassador in Paris, arrived with news that your Majesty had ordered the arrest of a certain English gentleman in Spain who was giving reports of the proceedings of Thomas Stukeley, and that the latter, with your Majesty's support, was fitting out an expedition for Ireland to be accompanied by Major-General Julian Romero with a good body of Spaniards. This news, together with certain sinister information given by an English gentleman named Smith who was formerly in your Majesty's service in Flanders, and the delay in the arrival here of the commissioners from Flanders, has caused the Queen to order the seizure of all the ships on the coast, the immediate arming of three of her own and the preparation of five more. Lord Grey is leaving for Ireland, and the Council sent word that they wished to see me. They accordingly met on the 12th at Durham Place, there being present the earls of Leicester and Sussex, lord Burleigh, as Cecil is now called, and Walter Mildmay. Burleigh set forth the information that the Queen had received from various quarters, and said she was much surprised at it after the letters your Majesty had written to her and a milder one from the duke of Alba. The Queen, he said, was forced to defend her birthright, and even to act on the offensive towards those who wished to injure her in her dominions, with such strength as God had given her. They therefore gave me notice of this as a minister of your Majesty in order that I should not be surprised at her preparations, and that the reasons of them should be conveyed to your Majesty. I assured him of your Majesty's continued good will to preserve your friendship with the royal house of England, and I called them to witness this in view of the great moderation your Majesty had displayed in the discussion of the differences arising from these seizures. I said I had heard nothing about Stukeley, although my letters from Spain were recent, and I said I did not believe it, but that spies had exaggerated matters Lord Burleigh, for instance, had been told that your Majesty had given Stukeley 500 reals a day, which was not a usual thing. I would, however, report what they said to your Majesty. Burleigh said he would give it me in writing, and after this they made many excuses to me about past affairs, to which I replied with great courtesy. The earl of Sussex took me aside and said he was a good Spaniard, but if he were forced he should be driven to go on to the other side. I said that he might well believe that it would indeed be a great force which would make Spain take up arms against England, and they all seemed somewhat tranquillised with this, particularly when they heard at the same time that the commissioners had arrived. They said that the Queen wished to send Henry Cobham to your Majesty to give you an account of these suspicions. I said no doubt your Majesty would receive him and listen to him willingly, and asked whether he would go by Flanders. They said I should have full information before he went. They are still continuing to bring barquebusses, pikes, and corselets out of the Tower ; part of them, apparently for the Queen's ships and part of them for Sandwich for the Flemish rebels. They await the arrival of Count Ludovic. I told them the steps they should take to stop the piracies and the expeditions to the Indies, and as regards the first point, they said they could not stop them unless the merchants paid the cost. I replied that they paid customs dues for security of the channel, but was very moderate in my expressions, in order that it might not appear as if I was saying what I did as an excuse for similar armaments being fitted out in your Majesty's dominions. As regards the Indies they asked me whether, if assurance were given that no injury should be done to your Majesty's dominions, there would be any objection. I said it was impossible as your Majesty's edicts fozbade the voyage, and the matter so remained without any further assurance being given to me.
On the 12th the Lord Keeper gave an answer to the bishop of Ross and the queen of Scotland's commissioners, to the effect that the queen of England would not release the queen of Scotland without first having her son delivered to her, with six nobles and six of the Scotch fortresses, to be chosen by the queen of England ; that Morton and his party were to govern in the Queen's name, she renouncing all alliance with other princes ; so that the business will all come to nothing. I will advise your Majesty of what happens. M. de Zweveghem brought me the duke of Alba's letter which I will follow. They have appointed an audience for him on the 16th.—London, 14th March 1571.
23 March. 242. Guerau de Spes to the King.
I have previously informed your Majesty of the fears entertained by the Queen of the coming of Stukeley to Ireland, and that I had tranquillized the Council about it as well as I could. Four of the Queen's ships are ready, but the crews have not arrived. A large quantity of arms have been brought from the Tower, some of which have been sent up the river, on the way to Bristol. Many remain, for the ships at Rochester and others have been given to the Flemish rebels. The note which Lord Burleigh was to give me saying what they wished me to convey to your Majesty on the subject, has not yet been sent to me, nor are they decided yet as to the going of Henry Cobham to Spain. No doubt the whole object is to delay in order to see what decision is arrived at with M. de Zweveghem and the commissioners from Flanders. Zweveghem had audience on the 18th, and on handing his letter of credence to the Queen, she said that she did not consider the matter settled as the duke of Alba said, and used other doubtful expressions of the same sort. She promised to send him her wishes upon the subject which she did yesterday by Leicester and Burleigh in the presence of the English commissioners. They pointed out six amendments they required in the agreement, all of them of the greatest importance, which amendments are sent to the duke of Alba to forward to your Majesty. They wish to commence the restitution from the 28th of December 1518 (1568?), or, as it is worded in the agreement, from the winter of that year, and by this means there will be a difference of two hundred thousand ducats against your Majesty's subjects. Another injurious point is that they wish to exclude from the restitution all inhabitants of your Majesty's dominions who are not your subjects, and they also wish to take advantage in the, matter of the valuation, and, in fact, to undo what has already been agreed upon. They will not agree to consider the money that they hold, as a security for the reciprocal restitution of goods in your Majesty's dominions which is to be made after restitution here, and they also wish to cheat us of the restitution of the missing portion of the goods by punishing the defaulters personally without enforcing the restitution itself. There are other points of the same sort which your Majesty will consider. All this is atrocious, especially as the treaty has been under discussion for a year and a half at the request of the Queen herself.
M. de Zweveghem has, I believe, done his duty very well, and I have advised him to speak to the merchants and commissioners, pending the arrival of the duke of Alba's reply, with regard to their own wishes upon the subject. My opinion is that these people wish to drag the matter on until the summer is over, which is their usual trick, and your Majesty's subjects the while are suffering.
The affairs of the queen of Scotland are in a bad way, and I think that Morton is returning to Scotland on the excuse that he bears no authority to deliver the Prince. The queen of Scotland is sending a gentleman to your Majesty and his Holiness with a credence from many Catholics. He leaves in a couple of days for Flanders and thence will continue his journey by post. She writes to me saying she desires to follow your Majesty's wishes in everything.
Manuel Doria has arrived with a letter from the king of Portugal for me, although he travels with a letter of credence from the King. He and Antonio Fogaza tried to obtain audience of the Queen, but she would not grant it, saying that they must first produce letters from the King. There are many Portuguese goods here, and they have granted a delay of twenty days before proceeding to the sale of them at the request of certain merchants. The man who holds the letter of marque asks a great sum for it, although he has already profited ten-fold. Some of the councillors are asking for forty thousand ducats to buy up the marque and release the rest, offering henceforward not to allow any privateers to be fitted out against that King's Indies. Doria is returning to Antwerp to consult the Portuguese merchants there upon these points. I will report to your Majesty what happens in this respect, and I now enclose a copy of the reply I have sent to the king of Portugal.
Winter's three ships, with one that is said to belong to the Admiral, have sailed for the Indies. Bayon is still under embargo, but efforts are being made for his release. He is to be joined by another ship and a pinnace. He sends to tell me that if I will give him four thousand ducats he will not go, on condition that he is allowed to take the cargoes of the three ships to Spain. It has been impossible to bring him to decency, as he is a great scamp. If weather do not prevent him, I understand he will go to the river Senegal and thence all these pirates hope that the winds will carry them to the coast on the north of the island of Hispaniola where there are good ports and opportunities of profit.
Lord Burleigh (Buckhurst?) has returned from France, but I do not know what decision he brings. I have just heard also that Cardinal Chatillon has died at Canterbury which may well be true as he was very ill.—London, 23rd March 1571.
25 Mar. 243. Guerau de Spes to the King.
The queen of Scotland and the duke of Norfolk, in the name of many other lords and gentlemen who are attached to your Majesty's interests and the promotion of the Catholic religion, are sending Rodolfo Ridolfi, a Florentine gentleman, to offer their services to your Majesty, and represent to you that the time is now ripe to take a step of great benefit to Christianity as in detail Ridolfi will set forth to your Majesty. The letter of credence from the Duke is written in the cipher that I have sent to Zayas for fear it should be taken.—London, 25th March 1571.
In a letter from Guerau de Spes to Zayas of the same date the following paragraph occurs :—"The bearer is Roberto Ridolfi whom the queen of Scotland and the duke of Norfolk are sending to his Majesty as I have mentioned in my other letters. It is necessary that he should have an audience of his Majesty with the utmost secrecy, as your worship will be able to arrange on so important a matter as this. I beg you will favour and forward him to the best of your ability, as he has been an agent of his "Holiness here, and is a person of great truth and virtue, and an intimate friend of mine, besides which, he is entrusted with a negotiation which well merits favour. He bears a letter for you and orders to follow your instructions in everything."
28 March. 244. Guerau de Spes to Zayas.
I wrote to your worship yesterday by way of Laredo, and Henry Cobham has been to see me since and to tell me that he is leaving, requesting me to give him an order to enter Spain as you will gather from the letter he takes with him. His intention is to make very light of the detention of ships and money and also of my arrest, perhaps even throwing the blame on to me for the purpose of excusing themselves. He will make out that they are the injured parties in the treaty discussed in Flanders, will make the most of the little restitution they promised, endeavour to get trade re-opened for their benefit and leave all the rest to be forgotten ; and if they can get security from his Majesty about Stanley (Stukeley?) and other points they will offer that an ambassador should go to Spain and the whole matter will be concluded to their liking without the intervention either to the duke of Alba or myself, although I am apparently neutral in the matter. Your worship knows well the craftiness of these people, and it is necessary to meet their craft with cunning, and so to dissipate their castles in the air and do our business for our own benefit, without loss of dignity on the part of his Majesty or material loss on the part of his subjects. We should not at present re-open trade and should cheat them in any way possible' in this point of the restitution. I, with this end, am all gentleness with them now ; mixing my words with honey until we can carry the matter through, although Henry Cobham tells me that it will not be undertaken until his return, which is most undesirable. He therefore should be got to write to the Queen here that the restitution should be carried out without waiting for new points of perfection to be given to the treaty, or else he should promptly be dismissed with gentle words in order that it may be done quickly. Let them send an ambassador if they like ; that will not hinder what his Majesty may subsequently decide to do. As I have said, the road is now clear and open, we are prompted to take it by the wickedness, thefts and knavery of these pirates ; all of whom were armed here, sell their booty here, draw their crews from here, and here obtain all they need for their evil deeds ; we are prompted to take it by the arrest of his Majesty's ambassador in a way of which the Turk would have been ashamed, and, by the seizure of the money, after the Queen's word had been pledged and her passport given, whilst by the very same post orders were sent to seize it under the fine excuse that it was to protect it against pirates. Send Cobham back with sweet words, unless need for other action should supervene, and if they blame me tell them to do so before my face. They will not dare to say anything in my presence, or I should tell them what they are and what they have done.—London, 28th March 1571.
245. Guerau de Spes to the King.
Henry Cobham has requested me in the name of the Queens Council to give him a letter enabling him to reach your Majesty's Court. I have given him the present letter with instructions to forward it from Burgos or other place in the interior of Spain to the care of secretary Zayas, and on receiving your Majesty's leave, that he should himself follow to explain his errand which, being as it is, on behalf of the Queen, cannot fail to be agreeable to your Majesty.—London, 28th March 1571.


  • 1. It appears that the Queen had been told shortly before this that one of the courtiers of the French King had stated at Court, before a numerous company, that she had an incurable malady in the leg, and that after the marriage a "French potion" could be given to her whereby she might be got rid of, and the duke of Anjou could then marry Mary Stuart, and reign over both England and Scotland. The Queen was greatly enraged at this, and treated the French ambassador very curtly for some time afterwards. She told him she greatly regretted his absence from the marquis of Northampton's ball, as he could have seen her dance there and could assure the Duke that he was in no danger of wedding a cripple.
  • 2. Dingle, Kerry. See letter from Norris to Cecil, 8th January 1571, Calendar of State Papers (Foreign).
  • 3. Note in original : "He does not say who this is."