Simancas: October 1571

Pages 339-349

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

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October 1571

13 Oct. 281. Guerau De Spes to the King.
I have not written to your Majesty since the 19th (29th ?) ultimo, in consequence of the difficulty of sending letters, the English courier himself having been stopped although he carried a passport.
The French ambassador with Guido Cavalcanti had audience with the Queen last Sunday, and I am told, conveyed to her his master's thanks for the kind reception given to M. de Foix, respecting which he gave her a new letter of credence from the King, and assured her that the duke of Anjou would accept the marriage treaty with the modification of one of the clauses which had been sent from here after M. de Foix had left, to the effect that the Duke's foreign servants, although they were ordered not to exercise any other religion here than that of this country, should not incur any personal or pecuniary punishment if they did so. He told the Queen therefore that she could now send to France the personage she had promised to send when the King should have agreed to this clause, and the whole of the questions submitted to the Council by M. de Foix could then be discussed. He then said something about the severity with which the queen of Scotland was being used, but the Queen burst into a most furious rage at this and dwelt very strongly upon the evils which she said were being brought upon this country by the queen of Scotland. She afterwards went on to speak of the plots which she and the duke of Norfolk were weaving jointly with your Majesty to turn her (the queen of England) off of her throne, and afterwards to make war on France. She screamed all this out with so much vehemence that almost everybody in the palace could hear her. She said also that she would have the king of France to know that some of the principal members of his Council were offering great sums of money to her officers to prevent the marriage of the duke of Anjou and the projected alliance ; by which it is conjectured that she referred to Cardinal Lorraine. The end of it was that she promised the ambassador to let him know shortly the name of the person whom she intended to send to France, and the same night the Queen had a private interview with Cavalcanti and afterwards discussed with some of her Council the means to be adopted to get me out of the country.
On the same day also Lord Cobham and his brother Thomas were arrested at Court and lodged in the house of Secretary Bernard Hampton. Fresh prisoners are being brought to the Tower every day and Lord Burleigh and four or five other Councillors have been here for some time past taking their declarations. Yesterday the Chancellor convoked a meeting of the Lord Mayor, aldermen and principal merchants in the Guildhall, and told them to give thanks to God for having preserved them from infinite danger, as a plot had been discovered to murder the Queen which had been in preparation for the last three years, and that recently, through good friends which she had in all parts of the world, the Queen had obtained possession of a letter written by the Pope to the duke of Alba urging him to take in hand the conquest of this island, towards which he promised great help, and enclosed him a full list of all the people in this country who would co-operate with him. He said also that the Queen had obtained a copy of the duke of Alba's reply to his Majesty (Holiness ?) with a draft of the agreement to be made, the plot being to hand over the island to a certain foreign prince whose name he, the Chancellor, did choose to not mention. In order to alarm them the more he told them that six Englishmen had been captured who had agreed to set fire to the city at various points simultaneously on a certain day, with artificial fire, and at the same time to raise the people and sack the houses of the richer citizens He said that the plot had been mysteriously discovered, and he had no doubt that it was connected with the bills which had been found in various parts of the city lately at night, calling the apprentices to arms and denouncing the imprisonment of so many noblemen by the Council, who were characterised as tyrants. He therefore gave them this account of the need that the Queen had found to arrest the persons who were now in prison, for her own safety, the welfare of the public, and the preservation of their common religion. He advised them not to send their merchandise in future to the dominions of suspected enemies, either openly or under cover of others' names. He also set forth the endeavours that the Queen was making to satisfy the Hamburg people relative to the recovery of the plunder taken from them by the pirates. This speech was listened to with pleasure by the Protestants, although some of them and the Catholics know well that it was only a device to bring the people round to their view and incense them against your Majesty. In the meanwhile the city is being guarded strictly and no one dares to walk the streets without being obliged, the people fearing even to speak to each other.
The Queen has appointed commissioners to reconcile the Hamburg people. They have gone to Dover and have detained on the coast some of the pirates, and others who have purchased the stolen property. They have seized, in the name of the Queen, all the plunder which still remains on hand, but they confine their claims to merchandise purchased after the 4th December last, which I think was the time that cardinal Chatillon died, he having had authority granted to him for these pirates to rob in his name.
I send your Majesty copy of the letters given to the commissioners, and you will see that something is said in them about the license recently given to M. de Lumay to arm ships. He will leave shortly with five or six ships and M. de Lumbres will surrender to him the post of Admiral, as he wants to go back to France and buy a barony, he having become very rich on his spoil. Frobisher also has left, under license from the Court, with four well found ships after having given some sort of security as a matter of form.
Beside the ships captured which I recently reported, there are many more vessels seized and now in the Downs. The Portuguese property in some of them is claimed by Christmas in virtue of the letter of marque under which he has taken so much Portuguese merchandise, and he has now gone to the Downs to urge his claim. All this goes to the profit of the earl of Leicester.
The French ambassador has not yet received information as to the person to be sent by this Queen, but it is said that when Lord Burleigh can finish the process against the duke of Norfolk with which he is busy the answer shall be given. In the meanwhile they are professing great friendship for the French ambassador and Killigrew is making ready to go to France. He is a person of inferior rank but a brother-in-law of Burleigh, a badly inclined man and a strong Protestant. I sent to tell the French ambassador that ships belonging to French subjects were being captured in the mouth of the Seine daily with great quantities of merchandise, mostly the property of your Majesty's subjects. He replied that, besides having reported this to the Council, he had written a report of it to his King, who had answered him that he had spoken of the matter to Admiral Chatillon, and the latter had promised to exercise his authority if the King would allow him to redress the evil complained, of as regards ships taken into Rochelle and the French ports. The King had thereupon authorised him to carry out his office, but I do not believe that any redress will result from this. There are now two French war-ships off the Isle of Wight, which it is announced, are going to the Indies, the master of one is called Poitier and the other Nicolas de Lavals.
There is much mistrust here about Ireland as they see that Fitzmaurice is gaining strength every day, whilst the Queen will not find money to pay the captains that have come from there or those that are going thither.
They are coining money in the Tower with great haste from the cash belonging to your Majesty.—London, 13th October 1571.
282. Document labelled in the handwriting of Zayas as follows :—
"This contains so perfect a representation of all the matters brought by Ridolfi, that, without doubt, it has been declared by someone connected with the discussion of the business."
Salutem in Christo.
The godly and the evil-minded delight in opposite things ; the godly in seeking and maintaining truth, the wicked in concealing it. It follows therefore that the declaration of the truth pleases the godly and displeases the wicked. I, understanding that the majority of people at this time do not know for certain the cause why the duke of Norfolk and many others are prisoners in the Tower, and being sure that the godly will be glad to know the truth which the wicked are trying to hide and destroy, I could not conscientiously refrain from setting forth what I will now say for the satisfaction of the godly and the stopping of the lies from malicious tongues of seditious people.
First it is known that the duke of Norfolk for some years past has been negotiating for his marriage with the queen of Scotland without the knowledge of our lady the Queen.
It is also known that the queen of Scotland has been the most dangerous enemy in the world to our Queen, as she tried to deprive her of the crown immediately after the death of Queen Mary.
Item.—It is known that, when she found that strength and craft were alike powerless to compass this, she solemnly promised to acknowledge the right of our Queen to the crown as the legitimate daughter and heiress of King Henry VIII. her father, and as such, entitled to succeed her brother Edward and her sister Queen Mary, as fully as any other sovereign of England of past times, besides being a Princess so worthy for her clemency and goodness. It is also known that the queen of Scotland has not hitherto kept her promise, but has rather delayed doing so by vain excuses, nor is her promise of any value even if she did fulfil it, as no act of hers could improve the perfect title of our Queen, particularly as she, the queen of Scotland, could not obtain this country when she claimed it, nor keep her own in peace when she had it, besides which, no promise of hers could be looked upon as sincere but rather to be kept or broken, as she might consider desirable.
Item.—It is affirmed with probability that the queen of Scotland was the principal cause of the rebellion in the north, by means of which certain nobles, some of whom, or their ancestors, had served valiantly against the Scots, were, by the cunning of this Scots lady, seduced, to the ruin of themselves and their houses, with many other English lieges.
Item.—It is a notorious fact that our lady the Queen is far from being vindictive, and that she endeavoured to restore the queen of Scotland to her throne, and, indeed, saved her life after the murder of her husband, by promoting an arrangement between her and the King, her son, and the Governors and people of her realm, in the hope thereby to finish the civil wars which were raging in it.
Item.—It is known that the queen of Scots, when the duke of Norfolk was first arrested, renounced in writing to the Queen all ideas of marriage with him, setting forth at the same time that she herself would never have conceived the project, of which she did not approve ; and the Duke himself, by means of many messages and letters to the Queen, humbly and penitently acknowledged his error in trying to marry the queen of Scots ; promising faithfully under his hand and seal never to treat of the matter again or to have any future dealings with that Queen.
It is now certain that the afore-mentioned plot between the Queen and the Duke has been formed in violation of their faithful promises and renunciations, and has been continued without interruption, secretly, through badly intentioned persons during the whole time that the Duke was first in the Tower, and subsequently whilst he was arrested in his house, until the present time, when he is again lodged in the Tower.
The danger which might arise from the continuance of these secret dealings and the intention to effect this marrying against the will of our Queen is best shown by the perilous negotiations which have accompanied the plot, which negotiations have been miraculously discovered by the goodness of Almighty God, for the safety of the royal person and the welfare of the realm.
It was decided that a new rebellion should be raised near London which should take possession of the city, and whilst this was being done a great force of armed foreigners would be brought by sea from the Netherlands to one of the principal ports of this country, and the two bodies of enemies and rebels would thereupon unite with objects which I think best not to mention at present.
These plans were not only discussed but were actually reduced to writing and agreed upon, and messengers were sent beyond the sea in Lent last with full authority and writings to testify to the determination of those who were to be the leaders of this rebellion ; so that, the whole arrangements being settled, were approved of there, and letters were written in all haste for the Queen (of Scots), the duke of Norfolk, and especially for that wicked priest, the bishop of Ross, who is the originator of all the Duke's calamities and the sower of treason in this realm. It was directed that this enterprise should be kept very secret, especially from the French, for reasons of great importance until the messenger should have gone post to Rome to the Pope for money, and to the king of Spain for orders and directions for troops and ships. The queen of Scotland, the Duke, and others, gave letters of credence to the messenger for the Pope and the king of Spain, and the man, after arriving in Rome, returned a reply from the Pope at the beginning of May for the Queen, the Duke, and others.
The letter to the Duke was in Latin commencing with the words, "Dilecli fili salutem," but truly the Duke might say that he sent no salutem to him but rather perniciem. The Duke received the letters and read them at the request of the said wicked priest, and the contents of them were to the effect that the Pope approved of the enterprise and would write to the king of Spain to help it, but that the present costly war against the Turk had made them short of money for that summer, but notwithstanding this, his unfortunate Holiness, in his usual manner, comforted them all and told them not to despair. It would thus appear, either that God inspired him to be so very zealous against the Turk, which was certainly good, or that the coffers of his Holiness are not at present so full of money as they are of bulls. We are thus brought to the conclusion that want of money was the cause of this perilous treason not having then been carried out, and it is to be hoped that by similar goodness of God future crimes will be diverted from us.
It was also decided by the inventors of these plots that the kingdom of Ireland should be assailed at the same time in order to weaken the Queen's forces and divert them from the defence of her loyal subjects.
Now it would be better that this tree of treason should be rooted up for once and for all, since it is certain that it has branches of its own growth in various parts, such, for instance, as the talk of the release of the queen of Scotland, sometimes disguised, sometimes by force and rebellion, with the object of raising her to the throne of England. It was also said that her son was to be stolen from Scotland and sent to Spain, and other inventions of the same sort were set afloat with the object of disturbing this country, which was, and is, praise God, quiet and tranquil.
Some people may say that many of these things are doubtful, or changed in the telling, either by malice or credulity, but, verily, all that I have said, and much more, has been reported to me so faithfully by persons of credit who are not in the habit of relating falsehoods, that I can confidently affirm that it is all true ; and if it be found otherwise, it is to be believed that some of the Councillors will reprove me for it when this relation is read. If so I will patiently suffer correction for my credulity. If these things are true, as I have said, although they be not all discovered yet, time will shortly confirm them, when her Majesty causes the prisoners publicly to reply to them according to the law, as she will no doubt do in the exercise of her benignity, and so God keep her under his special care, as he has miraculously done hitherto to reign over us in peace.
Since writing this I am induced the more to believe in its truth, because on this very day the Lord Mayor of this city, with many of the governors of the same, were before the Council, where I am informed by some who heard it, that the statement made to them by the Council respecting the duke of Norfolk were, in substance, the same as I have set forth here, with many other things which I have not related.—At London, 13th October 1571.
Your loving brother-in-law, R.G.
14 Oct. 283. Guerau De Spes to Zayas.
I sent yesterday to the duke of Alba a duplicate of the enclosed letter for his Majesty, and I cannot exaggerate the confusion which reigns here. They have just brought to the Tower three other gentlemen, inhabitants of the part of the country where the queen of Scotland is. The people are all astounded, and if there were only a leader, some great disturbance would arise, but as it is, Lord Burleigh triumphs over all. Perhaps they will aim a blow at me presently : patience!
I should like to see all our resolutions carried through with more expedition and we should succeed in our enterprises ; otherwise I certainly fear we shall have many evils to encounter, especially if the people in Flanders be not quieted from their apprehension about the tenths ; (fn. 1) but where the duke of Alba is I do not think there will be any want of council or prudence.—London, 14th October 1571.
15 Oct. 284. Guerau De Spes to the King.
In my last I wrote an account of the speech made by the Keeper to the Lord Mayor and aldermen of this city respecting the imprisonment of the duke of Norfolk and the other nobles, and attacking your Majesty and the duke of Alba respecting the invasion of the country. The Lord Mayor has to-day summoned the constables and many other citizens, to the number of nearly four thousand men, to the Great Hall for the purpose of speaking to them to the same effect, in order that each of the constables shall do the same in his own district to-morrow. The Council believes that, by such means as these, they will sustain their tyrannical government.
Burleigh arranged with the Mayor for some of the aldermen to go to the Queen and beg her to increase her guard, and this is being made an excuse for the palace to be protected by a large number of troops and the whole city to be very strictly watched.
It is said that Killigrew will be shortly sent to France, and they have arranged to-morrow for Burleigh and Leicester to see the ambassador to enter into details about the proposed marriage or league. I have been assured by a member of Burleigh's household that he has read a letter from the duke of Florence to the Vidame de Chartres, promising to enter into this alliance, as he considers it necessary to resist the greatness of your Majesty, which he says seems to increase every day. Since Burleigh has this letter he will certainly have others from the same Duke to a similar effect, and the English are now treating the matter without concealment. Guido Cavalcanti is here, very willing, as usual, to take part in anything directed to the prejudice of your Majesty and the injury of the Catholic religion. They have done nothing fresh to me yet, although I am told that they are seeking an excuse for doing something. My secretary has not left the house for ten days, in order to prevent their arresting him on some feigned excuse.
Lord Cobham has been taken to the Tower and the earl of Sussex is also in danger, being neither a prisoner nor free, for Leicester and Burleigh seem to be in accord, for once, that the enemies of both of them should be molested, so that there are people of both ways of thinking in prison.
They are already repenting having taken so many seamen from the pirates, and at the instance of M. de Lumbres, have determined to leave the rest of them on security. They are trying to calm the Easterlings by other means, being in great fear for the property they have sent, and are sending, to Hamburg.
The more I see of Hawkins and the closer I watch him, the more convinced I am of his faithfulness in your Majesty's interests. The members of the Council would like to trick the queen of Scotland by means of him and Fitzwilliams. They have never given the latter permission to see her. Hawkins and Fitzwilliams are anxiously awaiting the decision of your Majesty, they having already incurred great expense in fitting out their fleet which is now nearly ready.
The Queen wishes to send to Ireland Captain Malby and the son of Secretary Smith. I could easily bring Malby round to your Majesty's service if I had orders to do so before his departure. There are many like him in office here, very desirous of serving your Majesty.—London, 15th October 1571.
21 Oct. 285. Guerau De Spes to the King.
As the duke of Alba has not yet sent me the despatches that he has received from your Majesty for me (keeping them, as he says, for certain good reasons), I have nothing to answer in this letter but only to report the great uneasiness in which this Queen and her Council are ; tortured by their own consciences more than by the actual proof that they have against the duke of Norfolk, and still less of the proposed invasion of which they are in fear. The only information they have to go upon in this latter respect are the declarations made by Carlos, the servant of the bishop of Ross, who was the first prisoner made in this business. Carlos is now in the Tower half crazy. To gain the people over they are still publishing the little books of which I send your Majesty a copy in Spanish, not very well translated for want of time. From this letter and copy enclosed of my letter to the duke of Alba your Majesty will understand the state of things here.—London, 21st October 1571.
26 Oct. 286. Guerau De Spes to the King.
Since my last advices I have to report that Killigrew left here yesterday with a servant of La Mothe, bearing powers to discuss the terms of the alliance proposed with France. On the same day the bishop of Ross was taken to the Tower, without any respect for his special safe conduct and his quality of ambassador. Lord Burleigh told him that his mistress was a Queen no longer, as she had abdicated in favour of her son and was a prisoner. He therefore could not be considered as an ambassador and would consequently be sent to the Tower and put to the torture.
I learn that the duke of Norfolk is very ill. I do not know whether in consequence of anything they are giving him in his food, but if so we shall soon see. It is understood that the proofs against him are of little weight.
The castle of Edinburgh was besieged on the 6th instant, and much ammunition has been sent from here to the besiegers.
The pirates are now off Dover, and in order to satisfy the Easterlings, they have not recently been so openly supplied with victuals as before, but they are secretly furnished at night with all they want, and, what is worse, they are now openly victualled from France, and consequently the pirates have recently returned to the French some of the prizes they have taken.
M. de Lumbres has gone to France with over a hundred thousand crowns in cash intending to buy a barony. Schonvall remains in his place. He has a brother of the habit of St. John in Antwerp and this might be a means of converting him and his fleet to your Majesty's service.
They have just brought an Irishman a prisoner to the Tower, who they say has come hither from Spain as a spy. They are incensing the people with this.—London, 26th October 1571.
31 Oct. 287. Guerau De Spes to the Duke Of Alba.
I believe your Excellency will have received my despatches carried by the courier on the 21st inst., and also those of 24th, and 26th. It will not be unadvisable to capture Hieronimo Salvago, a Genoese, who usually lives at Rouen. He left here from Spinola's house on the 8th, carrying a packet from M. de Zweveghem. He arrived safely at Antwerp and personally delivered Zweveghem's letter, but my letters of the same date (8th) taken by him had not been delivered on the 23rd to Leonardo de Tassis. If this packet of mine, which contained two letters in cipher, does not appear, we will see whether Spinola has stolen it, and if it was by comparison with my cipher that the queen of Scotland's letter was recently deciphered in the Tower. If it be so it is high time that such insolence were punished. Your Excellency, knowing how important it is to the service of his Majesty, will doubtless put your hand to the matter at once.
Besides the little books that I have sent to your Excellency they have brought out a long one, written in good Latin, against the queen of Scotland, (fn. 2) the most shameful thing that ever was seen but which I do not dare to send you in this packet. They have again arrested the earl of Southampton who came unsuspiciously to the Court and also the brother of the earl of Northumberland, although in the disturbances in the north he was on the side of the Queen and the principal cause of the others being lost. They have also captured a Catholic gentleman named Morgan, and it would seem that, without further reason, they mean to lodge all the Catholics in the Tower. They have also arrested Luis de Paz, although up to the present he is kept in a house without being allowed to communicate with anyone. They have ordered that no one shall come to my house, and threaten anyone who does so, even apothecaries and surgeons. The whole place is surrounded with spies without attempt at concealment. I attribute this to Burleigh's alarm at what little proof they have already obtained against the prisoners.
The pirates are better supplied now than ever. A man of mine has come back from where they are and says that M. de Lumbres went to France mainly to beg Count Ludovic not to allow M. de Lumay to take the first place, as there was great division amongst the gentlemen now at Dover upon the subject, and Lumbres complained that such an appointment would frustrate the agreement he had made for taking Sluys, some of the inhabitants of which place had come to offer to deliver it. M. de Lungatre of Artois, an exile, was awaiting near Boulogne with 1,200 soldiers ready for the enterprise, as well as to carry out a plot to buy or hire certain small houses adjoining the church of St. Gudule at Brussels, where a Fleming had promised to make a mine and blow up with powder your Excellency and all those who were hearing mass there.
My man said that when Lumbres was in Rochelle three gentlemen from Seville came to offer Admiral Chatillon the sympathy of many Spaniards with regard to religion, but my man did not dare to ask for more particulars upon this point. There are forty sail off Dover, 16 of them well-found ships. Lumbres was said to be expecting 15 more from Rochelle and Denmark. They are again saying here that Fiesco is a long while returning. Stukeley's servants who came from Spain are being interrogated every day and they are made to declare things that were never dreamt of there. When I have a surer messenger than this one I will write more at length.—London, 31st October 1571.
288. The King to Guerau De Spes.
On the 5th instant your letters of the 9th and 10th ultimo were received, reporting the imprisonment of the duke of Norfolk, which grieved us greatly, both because of his own danger and the evil which may result therefrom to the queen of Scotland, and also because it frustrates a matter of so much importance for the service of God and the advantage of religion as that which was being forwarded through him. The thread of the business thus being cut, there is no more to say to you about it, excepting to refer you to the duke of Alba for instructions. We are anxious for a newer letter from you to learn what has happened since, as we trust in our Lord, whose cause it is, to once more put it in such a position that I may help it forward in his service.
There is nothing more to be said about Hawkins, as that affair, too, depended upon the principal business. You will proceed with him as the Duke may instruct you.
I have not yet learnt what settlement has been arrived at as regards the restitution of the detained merchandise, since neither you nor the duke of Alba send me the statement of Thomas Fiesco's arrangement. Although no doubt it will have been sent before you receive this, it will be well for you to keep me well advised of all that is being done or hoped for in this business. It is being so much delayed that little result can be expected to come from all the negotiations that have been carried on, but in any case we must keep hammering away with these people.
Very evil and injurious to Christianity at large, and to my dominions in particular, would be the conclusion of the treaty which you believe is being agreed upon between the French and the Queen, as it is clear that the Protestants of Germany would enter into it. It is therefore most necessary that you should endeavour to learn thoroughly what there is in it and duly advise us. As regards the marriage of the duke of Anjou, I cannot believe that there is any reality in the affair and this is shown by the scanty message taken back by M. de Foix.
You will also try to learn from the bottom what understanding the Queen has with the duke of Florence with regard to the aforementioned matter, as I am of opinion that it is all artifice (fn. 3) and I cannot believe that he would bring himself to enter into an alliance with that Queen, seeing that the result might be so unprofitable to him. But in any case it will be well to see his hand and report what you hear.—Madrid, 31st October 1571.


  • 1. This was the oppressive new tax imposed by Alba in the Netherlands of one tenth of the value of all transactions effected.
  • 2. This was doubtless George Buchanan's book called "A detection of the doings of Queen Mary" which had recently been published. Buchanan was one of the first Latinists of his time.
  • 3. Note in the King's handwriting : "It is not well to express opinions about anyone or to put more in the letters than is necessary. They or the cipher might be lost and, in short, there is no reason for it and it serves no purpose."