Simancas: March 1578

Pages 561-573

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 1578

4 March. 479. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I arrived here on the 26th ultimo, and Juan de Vargas Mejia requested audience for me which their Majesties granted on the 2nd. They received me very well and were pleased to hear of the good health of your Majesty, the Queen, the Prince, &c. I visited the King, the Queen, and the princess of Bearn, but the QueenMother is not here, she having left for Angers to see M. D'Alençon when he fled, and is still there. Juan de Vargas spoke to the King in my presence respecting the flight of M. D'Alençon, and he replied that he was sure your Majesty would be sorry for the trouble, but that his brother had sent him a gentleman with a letter assuring him that his departure from this place would not cause him to be other than his very obedient brother, and he might take the letter as a pledge of this. The King referred to this twice with pleasure, apparently desiring that your Majesty should know of it. He seemed to have been alarmed and not yet to be entirely reassured.
I learn from the English ambassador here and other sources that the Queen has been pressing the Seignory of Venice to send an ambassador to her, she being desirous of having one in the Republic, in order that she may be better informed upon Italian affairs, notwithstanding the intelligence she has on all sides. The Seignory not having responded favourably to this, the Queen, I am told, has taken away the privileges enjoyed by the Venetians who went to England to trade. She has treated them so badly that she wants to stop trade with them altogether, as a Venetian shipmaster who recently came from England told the ambassador here.
They tell me also that the Queen is much alarmed at news from Florence that Stukeley had left Civita Vecchia with six hundred men in a galleon, and this alarm has been increased by her being told that his leaving Rome with these forces could only have been with the consent of your Majesty, and that, as your Majesty is busy with the war in Flanders, you would not have countenanced this rebel subject of hers without an understanding with the king of France, whom she has so much offended. This idea has alarmed her so that she has made great preparations all over the country, both to raise men and to reinforce the guards in the ports as well as ordering the equipment of a large number of ships. She summoned the Council, at which the magistrate and heads of the City of London were summoned, which is a great innovation. In view of the matter I have mentioned and the victory of his Highness, the subject of the best course to be taken by the Queen was considered. Opinions differed greatly, and the Queen ended by saying that it was clear to her that the majority were desirous that she should take the worst step, namely, to break with your Majesty, which she would not do as she owed her life and throne to you. Some people think, however, that this was only a stratagem, as there were a large number of people at the Council, and she wanted this expression to get abroad.
She has sent a lord to Scotland to try and steal the King who, as he is now growing up, says that he cannot help being sorry that his mother is in prison and wants to get her released. This lord was sent on the 12th ultimo, and she has since sent two ambassadors hither as she learns that the Scotch people are discontented with their governors.
Thomas Wilkes arrived in England, and it is reported that he told the Queen that your Majesty was resolved to be friendly with her if she pursued the same course towards you, but if the contrary was the case and she failed in anything, you would at once declare war.
The English ambassador here, as soon as he learnt that I had arrived, sent a courier to England, and, although I found no instructions from Don Juan here, I will leave to-morrow morning, so as not to lose time. I sent your Majesty's letter to his Highness on my arrival here, and wrote him that, when I had fulfilled your Majesty's instructions here, I would leave on my voyage but would tarry on the road until I received news from him as to the state of things in the Netherlands, for my guidance.—Paris, 4th March 1578.
480. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I wrote on the 26th ultimo when I arrived here, and since then have had an audience of the King on the 2nd, as I report to his Majesty. I give to the King an account of my proceedings here in fulfilment of my commission and, as for the rest, I can assure your worship that there are plenty of people here who were only too anxious to send any news that I may have omitted. I beg your worship to overlook any shortcomings in this respect as I am only a beginner and his Majesty has changed my mount.
I shall leave to-morrow for Calais where, with God's help, I shall take ship as soon as I arrive, if there be no news of pirates. I bear a letter from the Christian King to M. de Jordan, but if I hear that the pirates are about and there is any danger in passing over, I will wait until the Queen sends a ship to take me, as I shall request her to do.
I have received no reply from Don Juan and it will be awkward if it is longer delayed, as it will not be well if I have to wait very long after landing at Dover before speaking with the Queen.
People at Court here took a good deal of notice at seeing me so finely tricked out on the day that I had audience, and your worship's advice seems to have been good.
The Nuncio and other ambassadors resident here have visited me and it has not been a bad lesson for a diplomatic chicken, such as I am, to mix with so many ministers, each one of whom sought to draw me.—Paris, 4th March 1578.
8 March. 481. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I wrote from Paris on the 4th, saying that I was leaving there on the following day. I arrived here on Thursday evening, but the weather was so contrary for the passage to Dover that I have been obliged to wait all to-day, but now at sunset the weather may change, and in that case I hope to be at Dover at daybreak to-morrow, as I shall embark at high tide after midnight to-night. I have been helped by the Governor of the town, M. de Jordan, for whom I brought letters from the Christian King, and he has been as careful in keeping me secret as if he had been a minister of our own King. I have thought well to let you know this in order that his Majesty may see that I do my best to hurry forward on my voyage where obstacles are not insuperable. I have no answer from Don Juan.— Calais, 8th March 1578.
11 March. 482. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I wrote from Calais news of my arrival there and the cause of my detention. I embarked the same night and God blessed me with fine weather, so that in four hours I arrived in Dover where the Governor of the County (fn. 1) sent me word to proceed on my voyage. I therefore came on hither where I will tarry, for the reason explained in my letter to the King, and also to recover from the fatigue of the passage, during which I was furiously sea-sick. In addition to this I have no news at all of my servants who embarked more than a month ago. Whilst I have been idling at this inn several friends have come to me and I have learned what I write.
The Queen sent a gentleman to visit me with many kind expressions, and others are to come to take me to London.
Antonio de Guaras has been more strictly confined since my arrival, and one of his servants who was free has now been shut up, so that no one is allowed to communicate with them. Orders have been also given to capture a man who was in Don Juan's service and for the seizure of all letters for him. I should be very sorry if I did not receive a reply from his Highness during the next two or three days, as it appears to me that things are in such a state here as to make it impossible for me to defer my interview with the Queen.
I am informed from Bruges that the intention of taking the plate from the churches and trade guilds was already very far advanced, and that Don Juan has surrendered Diest.—Gravesend, 11th March 1578.
19 March. 483. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 11th instant from Gravesend, and departed the next day, a gentleman having been sent from the Queen at Greenwich to bring me to London. Another of her pensioners met me on the road thither to salute me from her and told me that she would give me audience when I pleased. I replied that I was travel-worn and unwell, but that, as soon as I was better, I would request audience.
I made this my excuse for a day or so in the hope of receiving a reply from his Highness, but as I heard that part of the hundred thousand pounds had been raised, which the Queen had agreed to lend to the States when M. d'Havrey was here, through the Fuggers of Cologne and other merchants, on the guarantee of certain citizens here, and also, as I was told, that Havrey was coming back, I resolved to ask for audience, being greatly pressed thereto by Smith and others who came to see me from the Queen, and were curious to know why I did not do so. I thought, moreover, that there would be no great harm in my seeing her before I had letters from his Highness, whilst, if I delayed doing so, the doubts already entertained by her at the instance of the rebels here might be augmented. They tell her that I am only here to entertain her with words, whilst I try to stir up strife in Scotland and disturb her own country.
The Queen gave me audience on the 16th, and received me in privy chamber, where, after I had saluted her in the name of your Majesty and the Queen, I told her that I would convey to her the message your Majesty had given me before you received her letter by Thomas Wilkes, and afterwards would give her your Majesty's reply to that letter. She said that was a very good way of proceeding and that she would hear me with pleasure. I then represented to her the various shortcomings of the States towards Don Juan as regards the arrangement made by him with them, but said that, in order not to tire her, I would state the matter at length to her Council, or to her when she thought best. She was full of complaints of his Highness, saying that it was he who broke the agreement and caused the new trouble, by seizing Namur and arranging with the Germans not to leave the country, which, she said, was proved by letters of his Highness which had been intercepted. I replied by showing her the absolute need which had occurred for his Highness to retire as he had done to Namur, and told her how often he had begged the States from there to be tranquil, on his promise to fulfil the agreement made with them. She replied that she would be glad if this were so, and dwelt upon her efforts in the same direction, with a view of bringing the States to submit to your Majesty. She said that the States had written to M. D'Alençon and he had replied to them, as she would prove to me by seven or eight letters signed with his own hand. She had, she said, recently sent word to the king of France through her ambassador that she could not allow him or his brother to take possession of the Netherlands.
Coming to the point of her being made a party to the fresh capitulations which the States now demanded, she told me that the reason why they had introduced her name was that she had lent them monies to pay the amounts stipulated, without which they could not make peace, and in this it might appear that she had failed to fulfil her treaties with your Majesty, as she had not advised you of it ; but the reason of her not doing so had been that there was no time, and she thought she was complying with her obligation by informing his Highness of what she had done. When I pointed out to her how improper it had been to make her a party, she told me that it had been done without her knowledge or consent, and that she was very sorry.
With regard to the seizing of the Castle of Antwerp and the bringing of the Archduke Mathias, she said nothing, and did not speak of his retention of the Government, only saying that he, being of the blood royal, as the Governor would have to be, they had summoned him after having written to your Majesty their letter of 25th. I offered her a copy of this letter and your Majesty's reply thereto, but she declined it, saying that she knew nothing of it as your Majesty wrote many letters that never reached the States at all, for which she blamed his Highness. I said in this case that point did not arise, as M. de Selles had taken the letter direct to Brussels without seeing his Highness. She said she approved of what your Majesty had promised them in the letter, which was in accord with her recommendations, and, if they remained obstinate after that, it would be well to punish them. She was glad that M. d'Havrey was to arrive that night and she would tell him her opinion on the matter.
I carefully made the representations to her which your Majesty ordered me, the Queen being seated on a low stool, and another being brought for me, in order that she might listen to me at ease. She ordered the chamber to be cleared of people and summoned thither the members of the Council who were at Court, to the number of six, to whom she repeated very fairly what I had said, to the effect that your Majesty, in your accustomed clemency and goodness, had made offers to your subjects who, if they did not accept them, ought to be punished. When she dismissed the Council I noticed that the earl of Leicester left in a great hurry, I understood for the purpose of writing to M. d'Havrey, because when I asked for him they answered me significantly that he had gone out. The Queen again spoke to me and said she was glad to see me again in her country, although she had been told that the object of my coming was to plan many things to her prejudice. I answered her that the best proof I could give her that this was not so would be my actions and proceedings whilst here. She said that, even if I were not a minister of your Majesty, she did not think that I should try to do her any harm or disturb her country. She entertained me with this and other things of a like nature for a long while until I took my leave. The next day she sent her Secretary of State, Thomas Wilson, to me to ask me to give him in writing what I had said, in conformity with your Majesty's instructions, and that her Council wished to speak to me, fixing the 20th after dinner for the interview. I went accordingly, Cecil having come to London to attend this Council, he having been absent from Court for some days. There were eight members there, and the earl of Sussex, speaking for the rest, said that the Queen and Council had considered my verbal and written communications and requested that I would answer the points which they would submit to me arising therefrom. I send enclosed a copy of their document and my answer thereto, which they requested in writing, after I had given it verbally to the Council. They said that this was the form in which they usually proceeded with ambassadors.
After much conversation with me, Cecil spoke about the violation of the agreement entered into by the States with his Highness, upon whom they cast the blame. The Queen had submitted to your Majesty four remedies for the tranquillisation of the States, as to three of which your Majesty had replied that you had already promised them, whilst as to the fourth, with regard to the fulfilment of the terms of pacification, no answer had been given excepting that they (the States) must observe the edict. The Queen could not force them to submit to your Majesty, but if the terms were offered to them and they refused them she would take arms against them. At this point Walsingham took the earl of Leicester apart, and, together with Cecil, seemed to be urging something very forcibly upon him. So far as I could understand, it referred to one of the articles providing for the departure of the Spaniards and foreign soldiers, the Queen having told me in our first conversation that she did not want the Spaniards so near to her. I replied that the States had requested of his Highness new conditions contrary to the edict, which signified that they were not satisfied with it. I said, moreover, that your Majesty had frankly offered them in your letters the two other points, and I supposed that was the reason why the particulars to which he referred had not been answered by your Majesty. Cecil said that the Queen was desirous of making every effort to tranquillise the States, as she had offered your Majesty and his Highness by her ambassador, and she had also sent to the Grand Commander word to the same effect, the answer having always been that your Majesty would settle matters with your own subjects. She therefore did not know if your Majesty would be willing to accept her mediation, although your Majesty replied that you had offered, and were still offering, to your subjects the terms she recommended ; which was repeated to me at every conversation, with the expressed opinion that the first step towards an agreement should be a suspension of hostilities. By means of this talk, between Cecil and the rest of them, they tried to draw me out, and to learn whether I had been authorized by your Majesty to treat for peace, and whether I was to remain here as ordinary ambassador, or had come simply on this errand ; my answers on these points being ambiguous.
After they rose Cecil told me before all of them that the Queen and Council could not help being surprised that I brought no authority for the Queen to negotiate an agreement, since your Majesty offered your subjects the terms which she had advised. I replied, that although the Queen said the States would be satisfied, she gave no assurance that this would be the case, and, until this was done and there was a certainty that no new conditions would be demanded, it was not necessary to bring any such authority. Although I suspect that the Council will very shortly give me a reply as they have my written answer before them, I have thought well to advise your Majesty what had been done so far.—London, 19th March 1578.
31 March. 484. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
With my instructions I received the memorandum directing me to make inquiries with regard to a certain voyage undertaken by the English two years ago by order of the Queen. As the business is managed with great secrecy, and any person concerned in it who divulges the details is to be punished with death, I have had much difficulty in discovering particulars. I have, however, got a clue, by which I think I shall be able to learn the whole story from the beginning for your Majesty's information.
The captain who made the voyage is called Frobisher, and reached the country two years ago, whilst attempting to discover some of your Majesty's Indies by way of Chile, although in the opinion of some pilots no such way thither exists. By this road others assert that he was trying to arrive at Cathay, a land of vast population and trade, which is reached through Muscovy. This captain tried the first year with two little vessels of thirty-five tons, in which he sailed in May from London, going round the North of Scotland to Iceland by West-north-west, which, allowing for the variation of the needle, is equal to North-west by West. From Iceland he went West-south-west until, after having sailed six hundred leagues, he discovered land, two islands, in sixty-two degrees North latitude. These islands were very high, and consisted of enormous rocks which glittered in the sun, and were quite treeless. They were about five leagues long and three wide, the space between the two islands being some fourteen leagues, forming a small gulf. At a distance of some five leagues from the islands they discovered a coast from which flowed a great river of salt water into the gulf formed by the two islands. The mouth of the river was five leagues across and very deep, and although they sailed seven leagues up the stream, they could not ascertain for certain whether they were off the mainland, although they thought from appearances that they were.
The land they discovered, they say, is near the country called Labrador, which joins Newfoundland, where the Biscay men go in search of whales. This may well be believed, as they say the natives they saw are much like the savages found there, and dressed in the same way with the skins of seals. They caught one of the natives, and when the English complained much of the cold, he gave them to understand by signs that they should go up the river, where it was warmer. These people fight with bows, and three of them attacked thirty Englishmen and defeated Frobisher, who tells the story. On discovering these two islands they made some excavations amongst the rocks, digging a hole three fathoms deep, in which they found that the ore they discovered was finer and the lode thicker as they went deeper. They brought away with them a quantity of the earth, and when they returned to England at the end of September (fn. 2) the Queen had it reduced, and found that it rendered a great deal of silver. Frobisher was therefore ordered to return the next year, with the two small vessels and another of two hundred tons, orders being given that if any unauthorized person should attempt to make the voyage, or should divulge anything about it, he should be punished with death. He returned thither in the following May, and on his arrival at the islands captured a man, a woman, and a child, with the loss of some Englishmen. With fifteen or twenty men he excavated for twentyfive days in the island nearest the West, as before, and took two hundred and fifty tons of the earth, which he shipped on board his three vessels and brought to England, the three natives dying on the way. The Queen ordered this earth to be taken to Deptford, a league and a half from London, where it has been smelted with great secrecy, all persons concerned being threatened with death or confiscation if they divulge particulars. It is said that the ore differs, although all of it contains silver to some extent, one variety producing sixty crowns the quintal nett. I send your Majesty a very small piece of this and small specimens of the others, which I have obtained with very great difficulty, and, if it had been possible, they should have been assayed before sending them to your Majesty, but that was not possible to do with the necessary secrecy. It appears almost incredible that the ore can produce such a quantity of silver as this, but it is known that the Queeen pays the German who smelts it four thousand reals a year, as well as ten reals every day he works, all the other men employed being very well paid. The shipmasters who go on the voyage are paid three reals a day maintenance until they sail, and the sailors two reals a day. Much favour is being shown to Frobisher ; and all this proves that the business must be a prosperous one to bear such heavy charges. Large warehouses are to be taken a mile from London, in which to store the earth which will be brought in October, the ships which are to go having been fitting out since* the 23rd of March. There are eight ships, six of a hundred and fifty to two hundred tons, carrying sixty or seventy sailors each, and the original two little vessels carrying five-and-twenty men each ; the commander of the expedition being Frobisher, as before. He also takes with him a hundred men under sentence of death, whom he will leave there to see whether they can exist in that climate, which is intensely cold, and he is accompanied by forty mariners with four boats to explore the river. He carries great quantities of picks and spades, with wood for building and fuel, the intention being, if these Englishmen can bear the climate, to take people next year from here to colonize the place and build two forts at the mouth of the river. It is understood that the Queen is carrying out this expedition in union with the Muscovy company in London. If this voyage is undertaken from Spain, I am told by a person who has seen the chart, that they must first make for Cape Clear in Ireland, and thence sail north-west, providing for the variation of the needle until the land is made. I have tried to get one of the six charts which the Queen has ordered for this voyage, or to have another made by the same man, but it has not been possible, probably in consequence of the penalty threatened by the Queen. The man, however, by dint of promises and other means, has begun to entertain the matter, and I will follow him up with all care until I can send a chart to your Majesty. (fn. 3)
I have also heard that six weeks before Christmas Captain Drake, with four or five ships left here for Nombre de Dios and the land of Camanones (Camaroons?) which voyage he made before with Captain Hawkins very successfully, and fought with Pero Menendez. These ships were fitted out here on the pretence that they were going to Alexandria for currants.—London, 31st March 1578.
485. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 19th that M. d'Havrey had arrived here and the Queen gave him audience on the 21st. He told her that the States were much grieved that the earl of Leicester had not gone over with the troops he had promised them, but that, since she had taken steps for so many soldiers to be raised here, and had provided the money which she was to lend them, they had taken fresh courage and hope. He said she was not to be anxious at so many places being surrendered to Don Juan as they were places of no importance, which they were glad to leave unprotected in order that his Highness might waste his force upon them. She would see by the middle of April what a powerful army they would place in the field to face your Majesty. She was not to trust in anything to my coming, as its sole object was to entertain her with words, and she was to beware of the Spaniards in the Netherlands, who were arriving so famished from Italy that all that the Netherlands contained would not satisfy them, and they would come over to her country as they threatened. The Queen received him, Havrey, in the Privy Chamber, five of her councillors being present, namely, Cecil, Leicester, Sussex, Walsingham, Hatton, and another Secretary. The day after Havrey arrived Leicester came to his house and was with him for more than two hours. He told him that the Queen had not sent troops, in consequence of the dissensions which she understood existed in the States, and the difficulty of her trusting them. She would, however, not fail to help them as she had promised if they would agree, and would use every effort to induce your Majesty to remove his Highness and the Spaniards. They have never been able to agree about the places which they are to hand to her on the arrival of Leicester with his forces, as she wishes that the places should be surrendered to her empty of troops, so that she may garrison them with English soldiers. The States know that this would probably end badly for the natives.
News comes from Scotland that Thomas Randolph, this Queen's ambassador there, is in prison, and that the earl of Crawford has murdered the Chancellor of Scotland, Lord Glamis, in consequence of a feud between them.
The Scotch captain that the French ambassador had sent to France, has returned and says that the King is rather luke-warm about sending help to Scotland, whilst M. de Guise is very discontended in Paris and his lieutenant is in Brittany looking after the ships which are there being equipped.
The Queen is very suspicious at the news she received from France that M. de Guise has had an interview with his Highness. She says that, for this reason, and in view of the fleet being fitted out in Brittany, where ten thousand men were to be raised, she knows that your Majesty was entering into a league with the king of France, and that Alencon's flight was not concealed in order the better to dissemble this understanding. The French ambassador here assures me that the Queen has frequently told him that she heard from many quarters that your Majesty, the Pope, and his King were in league to destroy her, and troops are being raised for this purpose in all countries, even some Englishmen being desirous of going over to his Highness.
M. d'Havrey is mixing with many English gentlemen and some of them offer to raise troops and take them to the States, although the number and commander are not known.—London, 31st March 1578.
486. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
On the 19th instant I wrote to your Majesty what had passed between me and the Queen and Council, and that the latter had sent the Secretary to request a reply to the points which had been presented to me, a copy of which I sent to your Majesty. They also said that the Council wished to see me. I took this opportunity of requesting audience of the Queen, which was fixed for the 25th, the Council, however, desiring to speak to me first. There were eight members present, Cecil being away ; and the earl of Sussex in a very long speech represented to me the efforts the Queen had made for the pacification of the Netherlands. For this purpose she had sent to your Majesty and the Governors of the States eight or nine ambassadors, the last of whom, Wilkes, took letters of credence in order that he might verbally execute his errand. He also took a long document which had been drawn up with great care, fully setting forth the state of things in the Netherlands, and the risk they were running, and proposing a remedy for the troubles. Of the four remedies suggested to your Majesty, one, namely, that touching the treaty of pacification, had not been answered, and she had also been informed that his Highness had signified to the States that the agreement for peace made with them would not be observed. The States had not mentioned this agreement in the letter they wrote to your Majesty, as they considered that it was a settled thing, it having been signed and sealed ; but now as they saw Don Juan with armed force taking and sacking places every day they were desperate and ready to deliver themselves to any one For this reason, and seeing also how far advanced were the negotiations being carried on with France by the States, which would be greatly to her prejudice and that of her country, she had decided to send an ambassador to his Highness to inform him of the fact and request that at least a truce might be entered into, whilst your Majesty was advised and your answer as to conceding the treaty of peace received. She requested that I would accompany the ambassador and negotiate the matter with his Highness, or, if that were impossible, that I would write, although she would be more greatly pleased if I would go in person ; and she begged me to do so most sincerely. If a truce were not granted she could not avoid giving resolute aid to the States and succouring them in every way, Havrey having come to tell her that, if she did not make up her mind in a week, they would give themselves over to France, which would be very bad for her and her country, and, even if she would consent to overlook it, her subjects would not do so. He said all this with great emphasis, and the Queen herself repeated it to me when I saw her afterwards. I replied to them that, as for the Netherlands handing themselves over to the king of France, even if they desired to do so, I did not believe that he would accept them, as they were subject to your Majesty and part of your patrimony. I said this was amply shown by the fact that the king of France had sent his soldiers in aid of his Highness, which was a much better proof than the doubts they raised when they told me that the States had sent private persons to ask M. de Alençon to come and help them and be their Prince, he on his part promising to do so with twelve thousand infantry and four thousand horse, which could not be believed ; but if he were to do so and the States were to give themselves over to him, your Majesty had power to recover them, however strong might be the Prince who held them. As regards my going with the ambassador, I said I had no instructions to do so, but would write to his Highness, as the Queen and Council told me that they were not sending to your Majesty about it in order to save time, which could only be to the prejudice of the States, as they were not armed and his Highness was. She could not wish that either side should be prejudiced as she desired to become the mediator. Respecting the question of the truce I replied that here the prejudice was distinctly on the side of your Majesty, as during the suspension the troops that had been raised might be brought by the States from Germany and the places fortified, as indeed they had already hurriedly commenced to do. To her reply that if Don Juan did not suspend the hostilities she would aid and succour the States, I said that this would be a violation of the treaties with your Majesty, and if the States were so obstinate as to refuse the favour held out to them by your Majesty, who graciously conceded what they had asked for in their letters, your Majesty would not desist from the course you had adopted until they were punished and brought into submission, for which purpose you would use against them and their friends all the force which was warranted by human and divine rights. After this, she raised some religious questions which I pretended not to understand, and diverted her from them by other subjects which I knew would interest her, such as saying how good she was, and so on. From what I understand, God has been pleased still to maintain some Catholics in this country, and I am told that many persons openly observe the religion, notwithstanding the penalties against it. They have been much encouraged by an event that happened this summer at Oxford, which was foretold by one of the men whom the judges sentenced to martyrdom three days before it happened. He said he hoped that God would punish those who condemned him as a testimony of his innocence and that of the other Catholics.
During the few days I have been here and in my conversations with the Queen I have found her much opposed to your Majesty's interests, as may be seen by the answers she has given me, and most of her ministers are quite alienated from us, particularly those who are most important, as although there are seventeen councillors with the two secretaries, Hatton and the new ones, the bulk of the business really depends upon the Queen, Leicester, Walsingham and Cecil, the latter of whom, although he takes part in the resolution of them by virtue of his office, absents himself on many occasions, as he is opposed to the Queen's helping the rebels so effectively and thus weakening her own position. He does not wish to break with Liecester and Walsingham on the matter, they being very much wedded to the States, and extremely self-seeking, as I am assured that they are keeping the interest of the money which the Queen has lent to the States, without counting the presents they have received out of the principal. They urge the business under cloak of preserving their religion, which Cecil cannot well oppose, nor can he afford to make enemies of them, as they are well supported. Some of the councillors are well disposed towards your Majesty, but Leicester, whose spirit is Walsingham, is so highly favoured by the Queen, notwithstanding his bad character, that he centres in his hands and those of his friends most of the business of the country, and his creatures hold most of the ports on the coast, so that your Majesty's friends have had to sail with the stream, and it will be a difficult and lengthy task to reassure them and bring them back again. This can only be done in the way that your Majesty knows of, as to attempt it by any other, whilst the general feeling is so much in favour of sending aid to the States, would make the business impossible altogether. It is very bold of me to say this, and I humbly beg your Majesty to forgive me, as my desire to serve your Majesty urges me to write upon subjects which I but little understand.
I spoke to the Queen with regard to the liberation of Antonio de Guaras, but she was very much irritated, and said that it was only because he was a subject of your Majesty that she had not hanged him, as he had been in correspondence with her rebel subjects and the queen of Scotland, and she had letters of his greatly prejudicial to the peace of her country. She said she would get rid of him in due time after she had got some more information from him. I will not fail to do my best to hasten his release, although they have kept him closer since I came.—London, 31st March 1578.


  • 1. Lord Cobham, Lord Lieutenant of Kent.
  • 2. Frobisher left Blackwall on his first voyage in June 1576, and returned to Harwich on the 2nd October. His second voyage lasted from the 26th May 1577 to the 28th September of the same year. An interesting account of the three voyages is given in Hakluyt.
  • 3. Sir Philip Sidney, writing to his friend Languet (Zurich Archives, Parker Soc.) on the 1st October, gives the following account of Frobisher's discovery :—"I wrote to you a year ago about a certain Frobisher, who, in rivalry of Magellan, has explored that sea which he supposes to wash the north part of America. It is a marvellous history. After having made slow progress last year so as only to pass in the autumn the Feroe Isles and an island which he supposes to be Friesland, discovered by the Venetian Zeni, he touched at a certain island for the purpose of recruiting himself and his crew. And there by chance a young man, one of the ship's company, picked up a piece of earth which he saw glittering on the ground and showed it to Frobisher, who, being engaged in other matters and not believing that the precious metals were produced in a region so far north, considered it of no value. But he returned home at the beginning of the winter. The young man kept the earth by him as a memorial of his labour (for he had no thought of anything else) till his return to London, and there, when one of his friends perceived it shining in an extraordinary manner, he made an assay and found that it was the purest gold and without any admixture of other metal. Wherefore, Frobisher went back to the place last spring under orders to explore the island and, should it answer his expectations, to proceed no further. This he has done, and has now returned bringing his ships, of which he had only three, and those of small size, fully laden, and he is said (for they have not yet unloaded) to have brought 200 tons of ore. He has given it as his decided opinion that the island is so productive of metals as to very far surpass the country of Peru, at least as it now is. There are also six other islands which seem very little inferior to this. It is therefore at this time under debate by what means these our hitherto successful labours can be still carried on in safety against the attacks of other nations, among whom the Spaniards and Danes seem especially to be considered, the former as claiming all the western parts by right from the Pope, the later as being more northerly and therefore nearer and relying on their possession of Iceland they are better provided with the means of undertaking the voyage." Sidney then urges upon his friend to send him information about the regulations for working silver ores in Germany, of which he says the English are as ignorant as of growing vines, in order that he may show his letter to the Queen, "as the thing may some time or other be of use to the professors of the true religion." Hakluyt says that Frobisher took on his second voyage the "Aide" of 200 tons and the "Gabriel" and the "Michael" of 30 tons each, and that the island whence the ore came was given the name of Hall after the Captain of the "Gabriel," the group of islands being doubtless those at the mouth of Frobisher's straits. Hakluyt's account of the ore is as follows :— "One brought a piece of black stone much like a sea coal in colour which by the weight seemed to be some kind of metal. This was a thing of no account in the judgment of the captain at first sight, and yet for novelty it was kept in respect of the place from whence it came. After his arrival in London, being demanded of sundry friends what thing he had brought them home out of that country, he had nothing left to present them withal but a piece of this black stone. And it fortuned a gentlewoman, one of the adventurers' wives, to have a piece thereof which by chance she threw and burned in the fire, so long that at length being taken forth and quenched in a little vinegar it glittered with a bright marcasite of gold ... and was found to hold gold, and that very rich for the quantity."