Simancas: July 1571

Pages 321-325

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

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July 1571

12 July.
B. M., Add. 26,056b. Transcript.
262. Guerau De Spes to Zayas.
The bad conscience of these people and their bitter malignity prevent them from ever doing anything good. I care little what they may say of me personally, the more especially as his Majesty is so prudent a prince and knows so well the humour of these people with all their tricks and artifice, for truly it is needful to be for ever on the watch with more eyes than Argus to guard against them. As all of Lord Burleigh's jests have turned out well for him hitherto he is ready to undertake anything and has no fear of danger. They and the French together make great fun of our meekness, and in order to arouse the indignation of the French ambassador they told him that the house of M. de Fourquevault had been assailed in Spain. La Mothe asked me whether I knew anything about it, and I answered that it could not be anything of which Fourquevault could complain, seeing the close friendship existing between our King and his Christian Majesty. (fn. 1)
I may say that I am in pawn here, but I have no doubt my tribulation will be borne in mind by his Majesty who will recollect that I am not a rich man, and should not lose in his service, but quite the contrary. Up to the present time I am much out of pocket.
In any case I will serve him in such a way as to prove my goodwill and determination that he shall be acknowledged everywhere for the great Prince he is, and his interests respected by friends and enemies alike, but, as I have said, one must dissemble here and at times be a very Proteus. I will, however, try to bring due punishment on the heads of these people for their insolence.— London, 12th July 1571.
12 July. 263. Guerau De Spes to the King.
I received yesterday your Majesty's letter of the 20th ultimo, with copies of that sent to you by this Queen, the reply of your Majesty thereto, and statements of what had passed with Henry Cobham at your Court. Cobham arrived here on the 6th, and his letter and verbal statement have made the Queen very sad, and Lord Burleigh not over boastful, as they are more alarmed than they were. Nothing has been said to me from the Queen, and Cobham's visit to me was very short. He brought another pensioner with him, as a witness, and did not enter into business matters at all. He said that they were pressing Englishmen in Spain more than usual to submit to the Catholic Church, to which I replied that there could not be very many English there whom they could oppress as they were all Catholics. He well sees that he has been treated in conformity with his sinister object, whereat all your Majesty's servants in this country rejoice exceedingly.—London, 12th July 1571.
12 July.
B. M., Add. 26,056b Transcript.
264. Guerau De Spes to the King.
There is no doubt at all that Ridolfi's affair is serious, both on his own account and also because of the queen of Scots, the duke of Norfolk, earl of Arundel, and lord Lumley, being concerned therein. It will be extremely advantageous for the restitution of the Catholic religion in this country, the change of government and the safety of the Netherlands. It was a most extraordinary piece of good fortune to save the packet taken by Carlos, the bishop of Ross' servant, which Ridolfi unsuspiciously entrusted to him at Brussels, knowing that he was the Bishop's secretary. It was written in a difficult cipher, and Carlos took an alphabet with him in order the more easily to decipher it in future. All of this was recovered through me by the good offices and help of Thomas Cobham before lord Burleigh heard of it, and another packet was made up with the same cipher characters ; Burleigh has had a secretary at work upon it for days and has sent copies to France and Italy, but without effect for there is nothing in it. They are trying to cajole Carlos by means of the good Dr. Storey. This Queen had some idea that Ridolfi was writing to certain personages here and that the duke of Alba was going to send aid to the queen of Scots, but Carlos did not declare who these personages were for he did not know. I have no doubt I shall be able to throw them still further off the scent. The Queen has had the lawyers consulted about it, but cannot inculpate the duke of Norfolk. I was informed of her intention by one of the lawyers and that they can get no further than a general suspicion, which will put them on the alert for the future as to who communicates with the queen of Scots. The bishop of Ross is a prisoner although he can be communicated with and is, so to speak, master of the house where he is confined. This Queen, however, will make him suffer when she has a chance for this suspicion about Ridolfi. I heard from Rome that his Holiness thought very well of Ridolfi's proposal, and the latter will no doubt are this have fully informed your Majesty of everything. I expect also Fitzwilliams will have arrived in Madrid. I have had no intelligence that casts any doubt upon him or his proposals. He and Hawkins have always been looked upon as Catholics, and Hawkins is ambitious and expects to rise to great things if the Government here is changed and he serves your Majesty. This, I think, is his motive for entering into such affairs, which may result in great profit, particularly if he allows your Majesty's soldiers to out-number Englishmen in the ships. The only fear is lest Burleigh himself may have set the matter afoot (fn. 2) to discover your Majesty's feelings, although I have seen nothing to make me think this ; but Hawkins and Fitzwilliams were very busy with Burleigh about the going of Fitzwilliams to Spain, and Burleigh asked me to give him a letter of recommendation in favour of the liberation of the English prisoners in Spain.—London, 12th July 1571.
13 July. 265. The King to Guerau De Spes.
I have learned of the present position of affairs in England by letters from you that Zayas has shown me, dated 11th June, and copy of yours to the duke of Alba. It is most necessary, especially now, that you should continue to report by every possible way the progress of the pirates, their designs, and the understandings they have in France, England, and the Netherlands ; how Hawkins is behaving, what he is doing, where he is, how many ships he has, their quality and burden, and whether he has spoken to you in a way which proves that he will serve me loyally if he is welcomed and favoured. Roberto Ridolfi arrived here and gave me your letter of the 25th March, and those of the queen of Scotland, the duke of Norfolk, and a brief from his Holiness, exhorting me to embrace the business with which he is entrusted. As I most sincerely desire the success of this, not for my own interests or for any other wordly object, but purely and simply for the service of God, the welfare of religion and the happiness of the queen of Scotland and the Catholic party, I am discussing the matter with the hope of doing what is fitting and possible with all goodwill, and I will resolve very shortly. You may convey this information cautiously to the Catholic party, urging them to remain firm and in good hope, enjoining them strictly to secrecy. It may be that when they learn this and finding themselves so oppressed and ill-treated in England, with indignation and thirst for vengeance, they may want to break out prematurely, and take up arms before the time, but you must warn them that on no account must they make any movement until things are duly matured and arranged, as otherwise they will run the same risk as the earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland did, and the business itself will be ruined for ever, and the queen of Scotland immediately sacrificed, as well as all the rest of them that can be captured. I have therefore sent this special courier to the duke of Alba who will forward you this letter. The Duke will instruct you on other points, and you will proceed in conformity with his orders with great care, dexterity and all the vigilance which so great a business demands. It has been thought well that the said Ridolfi himself should inform the queen of Scotland, the duke of Norfolk, and the bishop of Ross of the details of the reception that he has met with from me, urging them not to move prematurely, and he therefore does so in the form which you will see by his cipher letters, copies of which are sent addressed to the bishop of Ross. (fn. 3) You will have the packet delivered to him with the utmost secrecy, and advise me of the receipt. A courier will presently go to the Duke with the decision as to what is to be done in the future, and he will take a letter for you with him.—San Lorenzo, 13th July 1571.
14 July. 266. Guerau De Spes to the King.
In my former letters I reported what had happened since the arrival here of M. de L'Archant and his return. I also advised the arrival of Henry Cobham, and the profound silence regarding your Majesty's reply which had been observed on the part of the Council. Montmorenci and other French gentlemen are expected, and if they are not in accord about the marriage, at least they will try to agree about the league to assail the Netherlands.
The marriage will not be broken off by the French, because it will cause very little trouble to them to change the forms of their religion, and in the end they will do as the Queen wishes, but many people still doubt that the Queen herself will decide to marry. She has around her Councillors so inimical to the peace of Christianity and the security of the Catholic faith that for this object they will run any risk, as may be seen in the affronts they are bold enough to offer to your Majesty without cause, to the damage and loss of your subjects. This is a subject which it is needful for your Majesty to weigh well, seeing how important it is for the future tranquillity of the Netherlands, which country these people think they are going to get as a marriage gift. I will report all that happens with the needful promptness and care.
The pirates have been forced by contrary winds to put back to this coast, and I am now informed that they were again setting sail for Rochelle, where perhaps they think to do more against the Indies than against the Netherlands. The forces they have are not large to attack territories with, but amply sufficient to assail the fleet from the Indies, and do some damage to badly protected places. They are arming three or four more pirates here, and they have recently brought to the downs two valuable smacks and another with fish, for there is not much left in the Channel now to steal.
Thomas Fiesco says that he has almost managed to pacify the English merchants who deal in Flanders, with regard to the prices of their cloths and other goods, but with those who trade with Spain, who for reasons which I have explained to your Majesty are asking for a great deal more than was taken from them, he is not yet in accord, as he can only get a reply after much delay. It was arranged to agree with regard to the valuation of the property of your Majesty's subjects, but they have not yet begun. All these are difficult points when dealt with by English commissioners and Councillors, naturally greedy, and in this case interested in the matter itself. I cannot therefore say for certain whether even they will come to the agreement which is now under discussion, unfavourable and unjust as it is for us. I should rather be inclined to believe not, and that if any terms be made at all, they will be more unfavourable to us than those we thought were already agreed upon in Flanders. I send a detailed balance of what merchandise still exists of ours.—London, 14th July 1571.
19 July. 267. Guerau De Spes to the King.
The pirates are delaying their departure for Rochelle, although Count Ludovic is urging them to go, and some few have left. I have just received news that three ships and a pinnace armed in Denmark have arrived in Dover, the captains of which are respectively John Sibarson, Jacob Simonson, Dietrich Cleys, and one Ville who, to judge from their names, should be Netherlanders. They bring an order from the prince of Orange that all pirates, under pain of death, shall gather at Rochelle and place themselves under the command of the Count. The Council here does not wish for all of them to go, as the port is well guarded by them and they have been recently supplied with seventeen fresh guns and a great quantity of ammunition.
The gathering of the ships under Ludovic is either for the purpose of going to the Indies, or else in order that he may raise his infantry and return in full strength to Flanders. It is more likely that the destination will be the Indies, although, in any case, he must get his troops in Rochelle as there is not the slightest sign of any being raised here. Brederode has had an interview with the Council here, but he seems to have gone back to the ships in poor health and with little stomach for fighting.
There are seventeen sail of pirate ships in the Downs and at Dover, as well as some at the Isle of Wight. They go ashore now more impudently than ever, banqueting with the Queen's officers. It is said that the king of Portugal's ships have captured an English vessel called the "Castle of Comfort" on her way to the Indies.
Although the Queen's favourites say how little desirous she is of concluding the marriage, yet demonstrations are still made that it will come about. The only person who is earnest in his efforts to this end is Lord Burleigh, who thinks in this way to undo the earl of Leicester, and in case he should fail in the French business, he is plotting to elevate the Hertford people, and with this object is persecuting the friends of the queen of Scotland, having recently cast into the Tower the second son of the earl of Derby and a Catholic gentleman named Garret, because they are powerful in the country where the Queen is detained, and some suspicions were recently afloat that they were endeavouring to release her.
Englishmen are going to Scotland three or four at a time to gradually reinforce their friends there, but the French are shutting their eyes to it all with the hope of bringing about this marriage ; although the Queen, it is said, has written to the Christain King, saying that she could take no husband who has not the goodwill of the Protestants in whom her principal strength lies. They expect to bring round the duke of Anjou entirely to their religion if he comes here, or to keep this point open, so that they may be able to break off the affair if it suits them to do so. When the gentlemen from France come (if they are to come, which I doubt), we shall see better what are the aims of both parties, which in any case certainly will not be favourable to your Majesty's interests.—London, 19th July 1571.


  • 1. Raymond de Pavie Sieur de Fourquevault had accompanied Elizabeth of Valois to Spain as French ambassador in 1560, and had remained there. He had commanded Hume Casle in Scotland under Mary of Lorraine, and accompanied Monluc on his mission to Ireland.
  • 2. This was actually the case.
  • 3. As will have been seen, the capture of Charles Baily, coming from Ridolfi. in Brussels, to England, and his declarations under torture, had discovered the plot before, these letters reached England.