Simancas: May 1578

Pages 578-587

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


May 1578

5 May. 492. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
On the 22nd ultimo, I wrote to his Majesty and yourself the letters of which I enclose copies, by which you will learn what passed at the audience with the Queen. I also sent a separate letter to the King on another matter which I thought required attention. I beg you will communicate about this with the King and the Duke, whom I also address on the subject. If it is his Majesty's wish to continue this negotiation it will not be bad to apply to its promotion the jewels or money which you said his Majesty had signified that I should have brought hither. The opportunity is a good one, and I have taken much trouble to forward it as I thought it was desirable. (fn. 1)
The Queen has urged me very strongly to obtain the release of the men mentioned in the memorial which I send to his Majesty and, particularly the two especially indicated. Her minister have also signified that they are desirous of coming to some agreement with regard to the punishment by the Holy Office of Englishmen who go to Spain to trade. They say that, although the matter was discussed when Sir John Smith was there, nothing was effected, and that some of the men are punished for exercising their religion on board their ships whilst others are not. They therefore desire to have some settled rule about it, so that it may be laid down what is legal and otherwise. Your worship may mention the matter to the King if you think well.
When I left Paris Juan de Vargas gave me a very small cipher in which to correspond with him as he said he did not use the general cipher. As my letters were so closely watched here I did not use it, but wrote to him in the general cipher, giving him a full account of everything that passed here. He simply replies acknowledging my letter, without referring to any particulars or giving me an account of affairs in France. I do not know whether this is caused by my not using his cipher, but I learn from him by a note of the 5th ultimo, which I received through the French ambassador, that he was sending an express courier to Domingo de Iralta. (fn. 2) I am very vexed at this as the ambassador's secretary forgot to send forward a packet of mine for Domingo de Iraltawhich consequently remained behind at Calais ; this blunder, although it was not my fault, your worship will please carry to the account of the others which are committed by a light cavalryman who is a new ambassador.
The Scotch parliament will open on the 7th July but there are very few men here upon whom I can depend for trustworthy information about things in that country, as the Flemings who reside here are so obstinate that they are the worst enemies I have and are simply spies for the English, to whom they tell everything that passes with me, particularly to Walsingham. It will be necessary to send some person specially to Scotland, and to have others in different parts of the country to report what is going on, which will only be possible at a heavy cost. The same also may be said with regard to sending my letters, as the only way is by Calais, and Englishmen cannot be trusted with them at all. I beg your worship in consideration of this to remind the cofferer Garnica about the provision for my extraordinary expenditure.
A gentleman of high position living near Milford, the principal port in this country, whose name is Edward Stradling had an unsigned letter delivered to his house the other day, saying, "Sir, we have regarded you as a good Catholic and worthy gentleman, and beg that you will be minded to show yourself as such when need shall arise." He at once brought the letter to the Council fearing that it might be a trap, although it probably was not. Walsingham has ordered a man named Smeaton, who is considered very bold and fit for any daring enterprise, to embark at Rochester and go to Scotland.
M. d'Havrey left apparently in great contentment and fully satisfied with the result of his negotiations with the Queen. Antonio Fogaza has begged me to remind your worship of his need and long service, respecting which, as your worship is no doubt very fully acquainted with them, I have nothing more to say.— London, 5th May 1578.
493. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 22nd ultimo that I had requested audience with the Queen but, in consequence of illness, I was unable to see her until the 29th. At this time Thomas Wilkes had just returned from his mission to Don Juan, and the first words she uttered to me were to the effect that she was very sorry that he had not accepted her mediation. She told me what his Highness had replied to Wilkes upon the subject, and when I spoke to her about troops leaving this country to serve the States, she said that there were so many people leaving and arriving in so large an island that she could hardly prevent men from leaving without permission, as these men had done. As regards arms and powder, she said the Flemish merchants had sent them, and as license had been given to them to bring merchandise from the Netherlands she could not prevent them from trading in her country, they not being her subjects. This and other excuses of the same sort she gave with much more suavity than seriousness, and afterwards showed me copies of two letters written by your Majesty to M. de Selles on the 16th of February and 15th of March which had been sent to her by the Archduke Mathias, and when I had read them she said that the quietude of the Netherlands depended entirely upon your Majesty's granting them the edict of pacification.
After this she begged me earnestly to write to your Majesty asking you to release certain subjects of hers who are in the galleys of the Inquisition, as they had already served part of their sentence, and the rest might be respited on account of their being her subjects and one of them a servant of hers. I enclose the memorial.
I have tried to convince the merchants of London and other personages of this country, how prejudicial it may be to the tranquillity of the realm for the Queen to lend so much money to the States, in which loans Leicester is so deeply interested. I have pointed out to them also how they personally might suffer to an even greater extent, as well as the Queen. The whole sum has therefore not been placed, and if my hints have not been instrumental in this no doubt the Queen of Scotland's affairs have tended thereto because, as I wrote, two ambassadors were coming from Scotland hither and were due here on the 23rd, a servant of theirs having already arrived to provide lodgings for them here, when the Queen sent a secret order for them to stay twenty miles this side of York, as they had entered her country without a passport. Some people assert that by the treaties in force no passport is required for them, and that the reason of their delay is that one of the ambassadors is ill. The principal cause of their coming, besides giving the Queen notice of a change of Government, is to claim the inheritance of the countess of Lennox, grandmother of the king of Scotland, and when this is obtained the King would claim to be the heir to this throne. It is asserted that his succession is barred by a law made by Henry III. or Henry IV., and confirmed by Henry VIII., by which an alien cannot inherit property here ; but as the words used in the Act are "in partibus ultramarines" it appears that Scotsmen are not debarred, as they are born in the same island, and the kings of Scotland formerly possessed the county of Huntingdon.
Jeronimo Gondi (fn. 3) was to have gone to Scotland with an embassy from the king of France, as well as addressing this Queen on behalf of the Queen-Mother, as I wrote. The Queen, however, has delayed seeing him for ten days, and signifies that she will not give him a passport to go to Scotland, as the treaties she has with France forbid any Frenchmen from passing through her country to Scotland without her leave, although the Queen cannot refuse it according to the treaty if she be asked. It is not known whether Gondi will go to the length of standing upon the letter of the law and demand his passport.
I am told that the duke of Arschot has sent a gentleman to beg the Queen to succour the States, and an Englishman tells me that he has seen a letter from Davison in Antwerp, written to Walsingham officially, saying that Orange had summoned him to tell him how pressed they were for money and men, which would cause them to lose Maestrich, notwithstanding that he, Orange, had done everything in his power, even sending thither certain jewels and money for their help. He said that, in addition to this, it was necessary to provide for fifty places and begged Davison to write to the Queen representing to her the state they were in, and her obligation to help them, as they had undertaken the war on her persuasion. Davison also said that the Englishmen who had come over had been placed in a fortress which they could hardly hold, as it was very large and they were in poor case. They tell me here that this fortress is Lire, the desire of Leicester and intention of Orange being to place all the other Englishmen in Antwerp to make sure of the place. This seems probable as the English have already been brought into the neighbourhood.
The Queen had fixed the 28th for my audience with her, but as she was walking in the garden that morning she found a letter which had been thrown into the doorway, which she took and read, and immediately came secretly to the house of the earl of Leicester who is ill here. She stayed there until ten o'clock at night and sent word that she could not see me that day as she was unwell. I have not been able to learn the contents of the letter, and only know that it caused her to go to Leicester's at once.
M. D'Alençon wrote to the soldiers at Gravelines with great caresses on hearing that they were in favour of the States, and it is believed that the same thing has been done with other towns, as he is in close negotiation with Orange and has a secretary of his with Lalaing, through whom the communications are carried on.
After Gondi had been here for ten days the Queen received him, but with less ceremony then is usual with ambassadors. She told him loudly in the audience chamber that she know very well he had come to disturb her country and to act in the favour of the worst woman in the world, whose head should have been cut off years ago, although she was sure that his coming was not by the wish of the King, but that of some of those who surrounded him ; to which Gondi replied that the queen of Scotland was a sovereign, as she was, and a kinswomen of her own, who was a prisoner, and it was not surprising, therefore, that efforts should be made on her behalf. The Queen answered him angrily that she should never be free as long as she lived, even though it cost her (Elizabeth) her realm and her own liberty. The Queen-Mother, she said, must surely know what she (Mary) had attempted against her.—London, 5th May 1578.
8 May. 494. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
There are so many changes here from hour to hour that I ought to be sending despatches all day long to keep pace with the fickleness of these people in their decisions. Whilst Gondi, who takes these letters as far as Paris, was taking his leave, the news which I write in his Majesty's letter arrived, and we have news from Antwerp of the 27th ultimo that Philippeville had surrendered and Casimir was killed. (fn. 4)
The Queen left yesterday from Greenwich on a progress which will last about a fortnight, she being about to hunt at various gentlemens' seats, and will return to Greenwich to stay, as the plague is increasing here. They are talking at Leicester's house of killing his Highness under cover of the war and, although there is not much in the matter, I write about it to Prada.—London, 8th May 1578.
495. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After I had written the accompanying letter, Gondi took leave of the Queen, and in the course of a long conversation with him of over four hours, she told him that the common enemies of his King and herself were trying to breed discord between them, and asked Gondi to warn his King not to listen to them or to be drawn into a war.
The earl of Leicester sent to the French ambassador and to Gondi before he took leave of the Queen, to say that the earl of Morton had taken the prince of Scotland out of the keeping of his opponents and now had him in his own power, and, although it is not accurately known whether this is true, it is certain that they (i.e., the Catholic party in Scotland) are much weakened and Morton in better case than before. He has (as I wrote to your Majesty on the 22nd ultimo) been temporising until a good opportunity presented itself. This he arranged by incensing the earl of Mar, whose father had the care of the prince of Scotland from his birth, and on the late Earl's death, his son being under age, the prince remained in the hands of the widow until the Government was changed, when he was confided to Erskine, the uncle of the present Earl, who is not yet 18 years of age and too young to take charge of him. By the diligence of Morton, who urged that the Prince was being alienated from the Earl and his mother, the Earl went in force to the castle where he was and captured it, a son of Erskine being strangled in the entrance and the earls of Athole and Argyle taking to flight, although it is not known for certain yet in whose hands the prince remains. It is much feared by many Englishmen that if he is in the power of Morton he will kill him, as orders and money had been sent by this Queen to Morton.
Six ships of two hundred tons each are ready fully equipped in the west country, Cornwall, to carry a hundred and fifty seamen each, with master Stockwell, a servant of the Queen, as Commander. Rumours says they are going to a certain island discovered by Stockwell, other than that of which I wrote to your Majesty whither the twelve ships are going ; but I have heard that his real intention is to rob the ships on their way from your Majesty's Indies. This may well be true as Stockwell has been on similar voyages before with other corsairs and his ships are well adapted for this purpose, and without any of the equipment for discovery such as the other ships had.—London, 8th May 1578.
16 May. 496. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 22nd ultimo I wrote to your Majesty and sent the duplicate on the 8th. As regards the voyages to be undertaken by these Englishmen, I am every day getting more information, and I learn that, although the assays of the ore, which they brought, have produced large quantities of silver, as has been announced, they tell me that this has been brought about by those who smelted the ore putting in a quantity of silver, so as to improve the result. This may well be believed, as the assays show also the presence of gold, which it is against reason to believe can be found in such a cold land as that, so far north as it is. Notwithstanding this, the ships are being fitted out with great diligence and supplied with all that is necessary for the expedition.
Humphrey Gilbert, with a son of Knollys, treasurer of the household and member of the Council, has four ships in the river, which he has bought with his own money and fully armed, and intends to take out with other gentlemen. It is said that he is to accompany master Stockwell with his six ships now ready in the west country, on a voyage of discovery, but the design of Humphrey Gilbert is understood to be to land on the island of Santa Genela, and he is therefore to take with him a man of the Chaldean nation, who is here and well versed in that navigation and language.—London, 16th May 1578.
497. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 5th and 8th instant I wrote to your Majesty and sent duplicate by way of Rouen. The rumours of the troops which are being raised in France with the intention of seuding them to the Netherlands, have moved this Queen to send Lord Cobham, governor of the province of Canterbury, and Secretary Walsingham, to negotiate with Orange and the States, as she fears that the warm communications between Orange and Alençon may cause the former to turn his back on her friendship and bind himself to the French. This suspicion has been greatly augmented by the fact that the English who went from here have not been sent into Antwerp, which had been the design of Leicester and Walsingham in accord with Orange, in order that the latter might make sure in any case of keeping the town in his hands and incorporating that place with the rest of Holland and Zealand. This is all the more remarkable towards the English, because Orange cannot trust the others ; and the design was not carried out because the burgers of Antwerp said they would not receive a garrison at all. The English write also that they have had a very poor reception, in consequence of which not so many have left here as was expected, and they fear that it may be all a trap and a piece of deception on the part of Orange. It is believed that Cobham and Walsingham will leave on the Queen's return to Greenwich, where she is expected on the 18th from her hunting visits.
From some time past the murder of his Highness has been discussed at Leicester's house, the war being an excuse for again bringing up the question. I have advised his Highness of it and have told him at the same time that, on the 10th instant, the Queen released Edmond (Egremont?) Ratcliff, the brother of the earl of Sussex, who was put into the Tower three years ago for his participation in Northumberland's rising. He has been secretly released by the Queen and exiled, and at once decided to go and serve his Highness. I have advised his Highness that he is a rash and daring young man, ready for anything, and his sudden liberation and decision to serve us may well engender suspicion.
News comes from Scotland that the Prince remains in the hands of the earl of Mar and his uncle, Lord Erskine, and three other personages, the castle of Edinburgh being in his possession. The Queen has sent Hunsdon, governor of Berwick, to his post, and is dispatching five hundred soldiers thither, where it is stated that a large force will be gathered in consequence of the flight of the earls of Argyle and Athole. The ambassadors from Scotland who were coming hither have returned, partly on account of events in their country and partly because the Queen stopped them on their road to prevent them from seeing Gondi.
The Palatine has sent a gentleman to the Queen, accompanying an Englishman, who had been sent to the Palatine by her. It is understood that they are coming about money matters and to ask for some further security on account of the troops which he has undertaken to raise, as the hundred thousand pounds of which I wrote have not yet been entirely provided.
The magistrates at Amsterdam on the 1st instant published a proclamation, after having received forty shiploads of wheat and a promise of others the next day, ordering all the inhabitants who had been exiled and had returned under the treaty of peace, to take the oath of conformity with their religion. They refused and asked for a week's delay that they might inform Orange of this. It is said that the Catholics had bought over the three captains recently elected for the defence of the place. The people of the Sluys were much aggrieved that the traffic which they enjoyed had now gone to Amsterdam, and have complained of it to Orange, whose party they have followed so faithfully to their great detriment in this.—London, 16th May 1578.
498. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I learn by your worship's letters, to my great joy, of the happy delivery of our lady the Queen, and am delighted to know that her Majesty and the infant are well. I will inform this Queen thereof on her return to Greenwich, which will be on the eve of Whitsuntide.
By the letters to his Majesty you will see what is occurring here. Although I have written many letters to Don Juan, I learn by his of the 23rd ultimo that he has only received mine of the 11th of March, and my letters are so long leaving Paris in consequence of these troublesome passports that I have no facility for advising his Highness of events by that way, and all others are so insecure that letters are very uncertain.
Last news from Brussels says that Orange had suddenly gone thither to meet Alençon's commissioners ; Dunkirk was being fortified with furious haste, and the English were lodged in the gardens of Antwerp. The wife of Orange, sister of the duke of Saxony, is dead.
The States have again imposed excessive taxes on everything, including wine, in addition to the former imposts. They have put eighteen crowns on every weapon.
As I am closing this I have heard that the people here have held a Council, and one who was present informs me that it was resolved that the Queen should dismiss me, as there is no business of importance which need detain me here. The thing has been discussed many times and has been pressed forward by Leicester and Walsingham, in order to take away the last hope entertained by their opponents in the presence here of a minister from your Majesty. They have been offended at the opposition they have met with from their opponents in consequence of the secret measures I have adopted, and they will, in my absence, be perfectly free to do as they like about the navigation to the Indies and elsewhere, as well as in furtherance of their own designs. I do not report this to his Majesty until I have confirmed it, but if you and the Duke (i.e. of Alba) think well you may tell him, and, if it is undesirable that our interests here should be abandoned, which is undoubted, it will be necessary for his Majesty to make some pretext of business for me as an excuse for my further stay.— London, 16th May 1578.
21 May. 499. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After writing to your Majesty on the 16th I was informed that the Queen desired to see me and that I was to ask for audience. I did so, and it was granted on the 20th. She said that she had intended to send two members of the Council to me, to inform me of the negotiations which were being carried on by the French in the Netherlands, but she was better pleased to see me personally that she might tell me by word of mouth, the matter being so advanced that they had already entered Artois. She said she had informed his Highness of these negotiations by Wilkes, but he said he did not believe them. She had sent to the king of France to tell him how badly he was acting in helping his brother to take your Majesty's dominions, in return for the aid you had given him to defend himself against his people, and she had told him that, if the enterprise were proceeded with, she would send to the States twenty thousand men, which she had ordered to be raised, and which would be ready in a few days, for the purpose of preventing it ; and if these were not enough for the purpose she would send over every man left in her country and avail herself of the forces of all her friends and allies. She also intended next week to send two Councillors to the States (whose names I mentioned in my last letter to your Majesty) to request them to fulfil the oath and promise which they had made not to summon or admit any foreign prince, but to observe their duty to your Majesty, in respect of which she had aided them. She asked me to write at once to your Majesty by special courier, and said much to the same effect praying to God that his Highness' ambition and high-handed proceedings might not spoil the whole business. I answered her that the proceedings of his Highness were in conformity with your Majesty's instructions and were the most appropriate, considering the obstinacy of many of those in the States, who should not be allowed to oppress the rest. She repeated two or three times to me afterwards that everything could be remedied if your Majesty would again grant them the treaty of peace, in the form of a ratification of the Edict, to which I did not reply excepting that I would convey to your Majesty what she said. She said she wished your Majesty was here now, to be an eye-witness of the good offices she was executing in her desire that your Majesty's dominions should be peaceful.
I have been informed that Cobham and Walsingham will be instructed to use every effort to get Don Juan to enter into negotiations with them to this effect, and that they will carry over fifty thousand pounds sterling which the Queen has ordered to be paid in the exchequer, and part of which is now ready packed in cases, twenty-seven thousand pounds being in money and the rest silver which is to be coined there. She afterwards repeated very carefully what had passed with Jeronimo Gondi, who had brought her a message from the Duke D'Alençon, to which she had replied that she was astonished that, after two years of absolute silence, he should wake up to her existence. She said she was informed that one of his gentlemen would come to see her within a week ; and she kept me more than two hours in this sort of talk, at the end of which time, she asked after the health of your Majesty and the Queen ; I told her that God had been pleased to grant the birth of another Infante, and she seemed much pleased at the news.
Affairs seem quiet in Scotland since the recent disturbances, and I hear that Lord Herries is coming as an ambassador to this Queen. I am told that two servants of the earl of Leicester and Captain Winch (?) are leaving in certain ships for Barbary in order to treat for peace with the King, who is at war with Portugal, and to request authority to sell in his country the Portuguese goods they may capture, in which case they will return in October with two ships for that purpose.
During the audience the Queen again asked me whether I had written to your Majesty about the release of her subjects who were in the galleys. I told her that I had, and she said she was very anxious for their release, particularly for that of Edward Tayler and Robert Williams, and asked me to write again.—London, 21st May 1578.
500. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I wrote on the 16th, and have since informed the Queen of the delivery of our Queen. I expect the resolution taken by the Council on the 16th, to the effect that the Queen should dismiss me, will not be carried into effect, as there was some difference of opinion about it. I can certainly assure you that the earl of Sussex is sincerely attached to his Majesty's interests, and Cecil also, although not so openly, but if he and Sussex, who is a man of much valour and understanding, are properly treated, they will both be favourable, and their good disposition will be much strengthened when they see it rewarded. It will be necessary, if they are to be entertained, to give them something more than jewels. His Highness writes to me on this subject, as follows :—
"I am always assured that it is possible for some of the Queen's councillors to be won over by money if the matter is treated dexterously, and as this would be of great importance in every respect, it will be to his Majesty's interests that you should attempt to do this by finding some means of gaining them. You will advise me and his Majesty in order that due provision may be made."
I have attempted, and am attempting, by every means possible to manage this, and the present is the best opportunity which has ever occurred, if his Majesty will be pleased to award something to Sussex, Cecil, and the Controller. (fn. 5) I have advised his Highness of this, as it is very necessary in the present position of affairs not to miss the chance. You will please speak to the Duke about it, and I, for my part, cannot help enlarging upon the desirability of doing this, and will try to carry it through with all my might. It will be well also to give some jewels or a horse to Leicester, as if it came from me, in order that he may not feel himself slighted or treated as an enemy, which would much offend him.
The Queen again spoke to me about the liberation of her subjects, especially of Edward Tayler and Robert Williams. I beg your worship at least to favour these two men, as all London is speaking to me about them, and it is most important to me to keep these people in a good humour, particularly as the Queen is so anxious about the matter.
In this audience and the last the Queen treated me with much consideration, because, in addition to the long interview she gave me on business, she ordered a seat to be brought for me in the presence chamber, where dancing was going on, and entertained me for a long time, saying how pleased she was that I was here on this occasion, and signified that she did not disapprove of my mode of proceeding. The presence of trouble, no doubt, has had something to do with it. The man who is coming from Scotland is called Montrose, and not Herries ; he will be here in three days.— London, 21st May 1578.


  • 1. This refers to the plan for bribing the Queen's ministers.
  • 2. The King's Postmaster at Irun on the Spanish frontier.
  • 3. Jerome Gondi, Count de Retz, referred to in a previous note.
  • 4. This latter intelligence, of course, was untrue.
  • 5. Sir James Crofts.