Simancas: February 1568

Pages 3-12

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

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February 1568

— Feb. 4. The King to Guzman de Silva.
On the 26th January three of your letters arrived together, dated 1st, 7th, and 15th November, and although they were stale, in consequence of long delay at sea, I was glad to read the details contained in them. Whilst the road through France is obstructed, it will be well to write to me by any ships that may come from England to Spain, directing the letters to the commissary Juan Martinez de Recalde, with instructions for him to send them on by special courier. Write to me all you hear about Flanders and France, as you have done now. If I learn the news from other sources no harm will be done, and if I do not I shall be glad to get it from you and shall value your diligence in sending it. It appears from your remarks and what they write from Germany, that the negotiations for marriage with the Archduke Charles are being carried on with more warmth than previously, although I cannot bring myself to believe that my cousin, for any worldly interest, will agree to anything that could injure his good name as regards religion. Continue to advise me of what occurs in this matter, and if you think there is any hope of the Queen some day coming to her senses and recognising her error, and also whether, in effect, there are any persons about her or in her Council who may be able to lead her to this with credit and dignity. If there are any such persons, let me know their names and who they are, and tell me what you hear from the Queen herself ; because, so far as we can judge here by her words and actions, she seems so wedded to heresy that it will be difficult for her to free herself from it, but if I could in any way profitably help to this end I would do so with all my heart.
Tell me what you feel about it in full detail, and let me know also how Scotch matters stand as regards religion, both as to the government, the nobility, the clergy, and the people, as we are especially anxious to understand the question from the bottom.
With regard to what the Queen said about having heard that my voyage to Flanders was for the purpose of invading her country, you answered so exactly in accordance with my wishes that if I had instructed you you could not have done better. The fact is that what you said was the simple truth, and it will be well in any future conversations on the subject to entirely dissipate the shadow and leave the Queen thoroughly assured that, for my part, friendship and kindliness shall always be maintained towards her.
I am very sorry for the trouble they have given to the Archbishop of Armagh, as I look upon him as a good servant of God, and, as such, I hope you will help him in the way you think best. With regard to the Prince, my son, I have nothing to add to what is contained in the other letter, (fn. 1) except that I am still in sorrow about it as may be imagined.—Madrid, — February 1568.
2 Feb. 5. Guzman de Silva to the King.
I have already written that Catharine, the wife of the earl of Hertford, was indisposed (fn. 2). The illness took such a turn as to prove fatal, and she is dead. She leaves two sons, aged six and four years respectively. The heretics mourn her loss, as they had fixed their eyes on her for the succession in any eventuality. The Catholics are pleased, and are already beginning to say that the children are not legitimate owing to Catharine's having married against the law. I am told, however, that in her will she has again left the necessary declarations to prove her marriage. The Queen expressed sorrow to me at her death, but it is not believed that she feels it, as she was afraid of her, so that both on this account and on the Scotch side, she is now without misgiving. I take every opportunity of trying to convince the Queen how important it is that she should refuse to lend an ear to base and biassed councillors and others, who would seek to divert her from the policy of living in peace and harmony with her neighbours ; and this is very necessary from what I hear they are telling her in order to incense her and get her to make some movement in Flemish or French affairs. Having engaged her in conversation on this subject, and pointed out how inconvenient to her would be any disturbance here, I mentioned what was being said about the attempt of her Ministers to force the oath of supremacy on many persons, in accordance with the orders given in the first parliament after her accession. This I did to stop, if possible, the forcing of the oath on the lawyers of the College of Arches, as I wrote to your Majesty they were doing.
The Queen answered me that the reason they had taken the matter in hand was to frighten many people who were talking with more freedom than was conducive to the pacification of the country, but that compulsion would only be used to a few of those who talked loudest, as an example to the others. I do not know how this will be, because, although generally when I talk to her she seems full of good resolutions, they soon disappear, thanks to the crew she has around her, all composed of these sectaries, who have become more shameless than ever with recent events in France, and have been giving as much trouble as they can to the Catholics. As they do not find the Queen quite so ready to help them as they could wish, they are more wary of me than ever, and are continually trying to alarm the Queen with all kinds of inventions about me, as they think no doubt that I am warning her against them.
On the 25th ultimo a Scotsman arrived here from the earl of Murray. The Queen tells me that she has refused him audience because the earl of Murray and the rest of them would not let her ambassador see their Queen when he was in Scotland. She says his object in coming is to propose an alliance between her and the regent against France, and she intends to let him know that she will not agree to it or enter into any negotiations except with the Queen, and if they reply that the Queen herself will send messages and letters on the subject, she (Elizabeth) will say that before she can believe them their Queen must be set free, and in some place to her own liking ; otherwise she will give no credence to anything said or done in her name.
I am told by the Queen and others that the news from Scotland is, that five of those who were executed for the murder of the King have confessed that the Queen knew of it, and it is considered certain that these statements will be brought before the (Scotch) Council and proceedings taken against the Queen herself. This Queen (Elizabeth) and others greatly fear this will be the case. It is said that the Scotsmen who had entered Ireland by the country of the late Shan O'Neil have returned home. No decision has been arrived at here yet about Ireland.
Since writing the above, I have been informed that the archbishop of Canterbury summoned the collegians (i. e., of the Arches) and presented the oath to them in accordance with the enclosed statement in Latin (fn. 3) which was given to me by one of those present. Efforts are being made to prevent the molestation of those who declined to take the oath, and the earls of Pembroke, Leicester, and Ormond have promised their good offices. It is believed that the Queen had no special knowledge of it, but that it was done by the man they call Archbishop, and even by the advice of his wife, who fittingly performs the office of primate.— London, 2nd February 1568.
7 Feb. 6. The Same to the Same.
On the 2nd instant I wrote your Majesty what had been done respecting the tendering of the oath to the collegians of the Arcubus, (fn. 4) and that it was believed that the Queen was not aware of the Archbishop's proceedings. This appears to be the case from what she said to me about it, and what afterwards happened, which was that she was angry with the Archbishop and rated him on the subject, although subsequently the earl of Bedford and Knollys and Cecil pacified her and gave her to understand that it would be unwise to be severe on the Archbishop for fear of encouraging the Catholics too much. Before the Queen spoke to the Archbishop on the subject he had already summoned the officers of his court for a given day in order that they might take the oath before him, as the lawyers had done, but when the day arrived, the Queen having spoken to him in the interim, the oath was not tendered, and the officers were told that as it was a question of conscience he would give them until after Easter to think the matter over and decide the course they would take. He said he thought that the lawyers would have asked for a similar time, only that some were so ready to make up their minds to swear and the others to refuse. It is believed therefore that the matter will be hushed up, and I am convinced that if, when I was discussing it in general terms with the Queen, she had been told exactly what the Archbishop had ordered, she would have stopped it. Both I and the persons interested did not, however, think this advisable, as the Queen and her Council are so suspicious that great caution has to be used with them in religious matters, and they might have thought that I was speaking on behalf of some of the collegians, which would perhaps have been worse for them later on. The Queen went out hunting yesterday and I accompanied her, so as not to lose any chance that might occur of urging her to stand firm in her good intentions with regard to these disturbances in Flanders and France. She told me, when I arrived, that she had just received a post from the earl of Sussex, but she had only been able to look at two of the letters so as not lose the day's pleasure. If there was anything of importance she would let me know, but the Emperor had detained the Earl and would not let him go. I said he did quite right to hold him as a pledge of her making up her mind. She has not sent me any further news. I suppose she will not have had time to read the despatches until to-day as she did not return till night.
From what M. de Chantonnay tells me, it appears they are still trying to put off the Emperor with words, and this was the object of the answer taken by Cobham which, Chantonnay writes, was to the effect that the Queen wished to confer with Sussex on certain points when he returned hither, and that, as the question of religion was subject to Parliament, nothing definite could be settled until Parliament met. This was no doubt the letter the Queen mentioned to me and respecting which I wrote your Majesty.—London, 7th February 1568.
16 Feb. 7. Guzman de Silva to the King.
I was with the Queen yesterday. She is well, but much surprised at what her ambassador (in Spain) writes to her, under date of the 19th ultimo, namely, that at 10 o'clock on the night of the 18th your Majesty entered the room of our lord the Prince and arrested him with your own hands, and, it was believed, had ordered him to be conveyed to Toledo. She said that your Majesty had acted in the matter with the dignity and consideration due in a great prince by arresting your son with your own hands, but she had not been informed of the reason for the arrest. However, both she and Lord Robert and Cecil have given me to understand that they learn by letters from France that it was on account of some plot against your Majesty's person, a thing so hard to believe that only heretics could imagine it, and such they must have been, children as they are of the devil who was a murderer from the first.
I hope to God, as I told the Queen, that the cause was very different, because, although his Highness is not lacking in spirit and courage, which in later years may serve for great things, he has hitherto shown no bad intentions, disobedience or disinclination to accept humbly your Majesty's commands. The matter has made great noise here, as no doubt it has done elsewhere, and I trust your Majesty will have ordered instructions to be sent as to the course I am to take in the interests of your service.
Things here are quiet. News comes from Scotland that some of the principal people have risen against the Regent and the Government, and when I asked the Queen whether it was true, she said it was, and they even wanted to throw the blame on to her, as some malicious people also had tried to do respecting the disturbances in France, and even those of Flanders, which, she said, was entirely unfounded, as she is opposed strongly to such proceedings of subjects against their rulers, and particularly in the case of your Majesty and your dominions, which should never be molested by England, at least whilst she was Queen. I said that she was quite free from any such suspicion, seeing the loving goodwill your Majesty bore her, and she, like the great princess she was, could not fail to reciprocate it, as I had constantly advised your Majesty she did. As the malice of the heretics is continually exercised in arousing her suspicion, no opportunity must be lost to dissipate it.
Irish affairs quiet. The Viceroy, after much entreaty, has consented to go back to the Government, and they will let him have Wales as well, which he had before and wanted still.
The Queen expects the earl of Sussex to arrive here next week. She has said no more to me about the Archduke's affair, as she would have done if there had been anything of importance.
They say here that French affairs are going badly, and, in conversation with the Queen on the subject, she gave me to understand that she blamed the queen of France for not stamping out the business at the beginning. She is not the only person who thinks so.
About a week ago they discovered here a newly invented sect, called by those who belong to it "the pure or stainless religion." They met to the number of 150 in a house where their preacher used a half a tub for a pulpit, and was girded with a white cloth. Each one brought with him whatever food he had at home to eat, and the leaders divided money amongst those who were poorer, saying that they imitated the life of the apostles and refused to enter the temples to partake of the Lord's supper as it was a papistical ceremony. This having come to the ears of the city authorities, they, in accord with the Queen's Council, sent 40 halberdiers to arrest the people. They found them meeting in the house and arrested the preacher and five of the principals, leaving the others, and have appointed persons to convert them.—London 16th February 1568.
21 Feb. 8. Guzman de Silva to the King.
I received your Majesty's despatch of 23rd ultimo the day before yesterday, with duplicates of those of 10th and 18th from the duke of Alba to which I have replied.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 16th the report the Queen had received from her ambassador of the seclusion of his Highness in his apartments by order of your Majesty and the various comments and discussions to which this had given rise here, and what I had replied to the Queen about it. For this reason I at once requested audience of the Queen and delivered your Majesty's letter yesterday. I related the affair in substance as your Majesty ordered me to write to her, for her better understanding and recollection, and then showed her a copy of what had been written to me about it so that no word should be overlooked as they are all weighty. After the Queen had read her letter and listened very attentively to what I said, as well as going over slowly what I had written, she thanked your Majesty, first for your kindness in advising her always of all that happened in your affairs, which well deserved her thanks and good wishes that all should prosper with you ; and, although as she had told me before, she was very sorry for the news, on account of the trouble it gave your Majesty and the cause from which it arose, yet it was satisfactory to hear what I said about it. She could wish, however, that more detail were given in order to banish the suspicions of people and not leave so large a field for imagination and gossip, in a matter of so much importance.
I told her that no father liked to confess the excesses of his son so readily, and what your Majesty had had written was quite enough to prove that there was no excessive harshness or extraordinary action, and that, in order that the cause of the trouble might not be lasting, it was necessary for the blow to be a heavy and decisive one. The rumours about it have greatly calmed, now that it is shown not to be a matter of disobedience or anything of that sort ; but heretics interpret everything that happens in their own favour, in order to make people think they have many on their side, and so they not only assert but publish that his Highness' arrest was owing to some such cause as this.
I have several times written to your Majesty about the suspicions these heretics are constantly sowing in the Queen's mind, to the effect that a league has been formed against her by your Majesty, the Emperor, the king of France and the Pope, and how I have always tried to reassure her. She told me yesterday that she had the previous night received letters from some of the German princes and from other quarters, again asserting the truth of the statement. I told her that it was nothing but an invention to alarm her and get her to declare herself on their side and back up their weak and falling cause, as they saw ruin before them, as I had told her before. I again assured her of your Majesty's friendship for her, and how desirable it was to her for many reasons that the friendship should continue and no cause for its rupture should be given by her. I pointed out how your Majesty had striven to save her life and keep in good brotherhood with her, and much to the same effect in order to quiet her. She thinks, however, that your Majesty may be persuaded to change your views by people who make you believe that, whilst religion here is different from that of your Flanders States, inquietude will constantly result, and that your Majesty's policy may be changed for this reason. I said, since it appeared that all my good assurances joined to the deeds that she had always had to confirm them were not sufficient to dissipate from her mind the suspicions engendered by malicious people, I begged her to tell me some way in which she might be satisfied and made proof against these insinuations. She said she would be quite satisfied with a single letter from your Majesty saying that you had heard that such rumours had been spread and you wished to assure her that they were not true. She swore that she had not communicated to her Council what had been written to her about it lately from Germany, although she had told me, and I said I would do my utmost to satisfy her, as I was quite clear as to your Majesty's good will and love towards her.
Two days since Secretary Cecil told me on the Queen's behalf that she had heard from a servant of her ambassador in Spain, who had arrived here, that the household were not allowed to perform the services of their religion in their own house, and, moreover, that they were forced to hear mass, of which she had not previously been informed by the ambassador or anyone else. She asked me, since the ambassador's households were always privileged and free, as mine is here, to write to your Majesty to be pleased not to allow her ambassador's servants to be maltreated or forced to hear mass, and that they be permitted to perform their own service in a way not to cause scandal, as had always been done formerly in the Emperor's time. If this were refused she should have no alternative but to recall her ambassador, and she added that if your Majesty replied that you did not interfere with the inquisitors in matters of this kind, but left them full liberty to act as they liked, this was understandable, so far as your own subjects were concerned, but not with the household of an ambassador. She had sent instructions to her ambassador to take an opportunity of referring the matter to your Majesty, as she was sure you did not know of it. I replied that I had heard nothing of this but would do as the Queen desired, being certain that no innovation would be made with the ambassador or his household, and that your Majesty would have the matter seen to when you were informed of it. Cecil tried to emphasise somewhat the liberty I enjoyed here, but I was able to appear not to understand him in order to avoid discussing that point. The Queen subsequently told me that, as she did not expect to see me so soon, she had sent Cecil to speak to me about it, and ask me to write to some one on the subject, and exert my own influence to prevent her ambassador or his household from being troubled. She thought that would be enough, without importuning your Majesty, especially just now when you are annoyed about his Highness. She said she would not have mentioned the matter, only that it was a point of honour which she could not overlook. She spoke much more moderately than Cecil had done, and it is quite possible that she may not have heard of the matter before, as Cecil again assured me she had not, nor he either, he added, until Lord Robert mentioned it ; but I do not believe him, for in affairs of this sort they are vigilant enough for anything. They think, no doubt, that the present troubles in France and elsewhere give them a good opportunity of gaining ground, their own affairs being favourable, so they have begun to look out more keenly and to trouble the Catholics, summoning some and arresting others, and warning them to obey the present laws. I have spoken to the Queen several times about it, hinting that it was unadvisable for her to do this, and she has thanked me kindly for the advice, but still they continue to a certain extent, although with more leniency, in the same course. I reverted to the subject again yesterday, and she reminded me of what she had done with the archbishop of Canterbury about the oath. But they soon change her, and all their efforts are directed to making her shy of me, now more than ever, and neither suavity nor a show of simplicity and frankness, which I have hitherto adopted, suffices to disarm them, as their consicence disturbs them, and they are lovers of change, although they do not show it, for they are false in everything. I do not wonder that they are discontented with me in religious matters, as I am with them, and this is a grave inconvenience for those of us who live here, on account of the danger to which it exposes our households, who are exposed for a long time to the consequences of so much freedom and bad conversation. This gives great and constant anxiety to those who are responsible for them, because the failure to attend regularly at church and perform the sacred offices and duties, cools devotion and causes thereby a greater fall still, and, for this reason, the long continued residence of the ministers in this country is a matter to be deeply considered.
I have therefore decided humbly to pray your Majesty, if there is any other place where I could serve you, even though the care and labour be greater, you will deign to send me there, since things here being quiet, the friendliness of the Queen undoubted, and Flemish commercial affairs arranged, another person could easily fill my place. In case, however, that it should appear advisable for any reason that I should continue here for some time longer, although the country does not agree with my health, I will hold that and my life of small account in your Majesty's service ; but it will be necessary to let me know, in order that I may replenish my means from my private estate, which will be needful if I am to stay here and fittingly fill my office. That this is so is evident from the fact that my predecessor died deeply in debt, although your Majesty granted him 100,000 ducats soon after his arrival and 300,000 aid in Naples, the expenses having been greater in my time than in his. It is true I have had larger private means than he had to spend, but I am coming to the end of them, although not to my spirit, encouraged as it is with the hope of the favour with which your Majesty's munificence rewards your servants.
The French ambassador tell me he has leave to return home as soon as the disturbances in France are at an end. I am informed that a nephew of his, a Calvinist, will remain here, who, his uncle tells me, is being converted. The ambassador says he has urged the Queen to use her good offices in favour of the Queen of Scotland, his King having been informed that her person was in danger, and having written very pressingly about it, saying that, although he is fully occupied at present he is anxious for her (the Queen of Scots) and is determined to have satisfaction if any excess is committed on her. The Queen said to me, "It is a fine thing for the ambassador to come and ask me from his master to help the Queen of Scotland, when he himself refused to do so when I asked him some time ago." The Queen tells me that she does not know the position with regard to the union of certain (Scots) lords against the Government of which I have already written, but she has received news that the Queen (of Scots) is ill, although not in danger, but yet she cannot be out of danger even if she is quite well, seeing the pass at which things are.
Although they are collecting the last payments of the taxes amounting to 400,000 crowns, they have raised fresh money and have deferred the payment until August of the 80,000 crowns the Queen owes in Antwerp.—London, 21st February 1568.
28 Feb. 9. Guzman de Silva to the King.
The Queen is well, and all here quiet awaiting news of French affairs, which now principally interest them. As regards the part of France nearest to England, Britanny, and Normandy, it remains calm, as does also Ireland. It was said here that the Queen of Scots was ill, but she is now reported to be better, and that the earls of Argyll and Huntly are still estranged from the Government party, although no rising is spoken of. The second son of the duke of Chatelherault passed through here on his way to France some days ago and visited this Queen, who received him well. He left Scotland without permission of the Regent.
It is reported that the castle of Dumbarton on the banks of the river Leven, which issues from Loch Lomond, four or five miles above its junction with the Clyde, is in the hands of a gentleman who refuses to obey the Regent. By this way, and by the isle of Arran which lies in the bay at the mouth of the Clyde, an entrance could be effected into the country, if the French wished to liberate the Queen. The place is therefore looked upon as of importance. Arran is in the hands of the Hamiltons. Nine or ten of the Queen's ships are being fitted out here. They are being overhauled, the sails and gear got into order, and 44 sailors have been put into them to prepare them for sea, so that they can sail directly the crews are shipped.
I wrote to your Majesty that a new sect had been discovered ; people who call themselves of the pure or apostolic religion, and that a houseful of them had been found, and six of them arrested. Another of their meeting places has been found, and six of the principal members of this congregation, too, have been arrested. I am told by a well-informed Catholic that he is certain there are 5,000 of them in this city alone.
I learn by letters from M. de Chantonnay of 31st ultimo that the earl of Sussex had left Vienna the day previous, but that he had gone to where the Archduke Charles was, intending to come from Gratz to Salzburg, Ratisbonne, and Nuremburg. No news from the Earl has, however, arrived here. He said to Chantonnay, about the marriage, the same as he told me before he went, and, as I had already advised Chantonnay, he was answered there in a similar way to that in which I replied to him here. I do not repeat it, as your Majesty has been informed, but I again say that the Earl knows that, not only did I do all that could well be done, but I also acted in accordance with the desires of Sussex, the duke of Norfolk and their friends, when they asked me to act, always avoiding, however, placing your Majesty in a position of being affronted with the Queen or pledging you more deeply than the position of the business and their proceedings warranted. The Earl is wrong, and I will tell him so. In former letters I wrote that the earl of Leicester had leave from the Queen to go to his estates and meet the duke of Norfolk on the road, but his departure has been put off from day to day. It is now said that he will leave here in five days, and that in Northampton the Duke and the Earl will meet together with the earls of Warwick and Huntington and other nobles, in order to arrange a new friendship. Cecil and Leicester will also be reconciled, and they will discuss the succession in consequence of Catharine's death.
Postscript : The archbishop of Armagh is closely imprisoned in the Tower, and as the matter is a suspicious one, being connected with Ireland, I have not ventured to speak of it, except very cautiously to a Catholic who is one of his judges, suggesting that, as the Archbishop is imprisoned for religion's sake, and is so worthy a person, I recommended his case very sincerely. They have, it appears, accused him of high treason, but they have no legitimate cause to do so.—London, 28th February 1568.


  • 1. This letter is not in the Archives.
  • 2. Catharine Grey, eldest surviving sister to lady Jane Grey, daughter of Frances Brandon, Duchess of Suffolk, and by the will of Edward VI. next heir to the crown. She had secretly married in the Tower the earl of Hertford, the eldest son of the Protector Somerset.
  • 3. (In original.) This statement was not enclosed.
  • 4. (In original.) Vulgarly called the Arches which is a tribunal or court of the archbishop of Canterbury.