Simancas: October 1578

Pages 618-623

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 1578

7 Oct. 532. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 11th ultimo I wrote to your Majesty by way of Seville, sending a marine chart of the voyage made by the English. The ships with Frobisher their captain have already returned from the voyage. They say he discharged at Portsmouth, for which reason I have not been able yet to get particulars of the success of the voyage, and have received no news of the man I sent with the expedition. All that I learn is what Frobisher, who has arrived here, himself relates, which is that he went in a very short time from Ireland to that coast which they call Cathay, which he found colder than when they were there two years ago, and he lost a ship in the ice and another was prevented from following him by tempest, and returned to this country bringing with it most of the wood destined for, the building of houses. He went forty leagues higher up the Strait than on his former voyage, and without leaving any men behind him on shore, he simply loaded his vessels with the same sort of ore as he had previously brought. They are not much pleased with his return, nor are the merchants interested in the business satisfied with the voyage, although Frobisher promises great things in the voyage he says he must undertake thither next summer.—London, 7th October 1578.
533. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 23rd ultimo I wrote to your Majesty, and on the 28th I saw the Queen at Richmond ; in the first place because she had approached so near here, and in the next, because I was told she was much surprised she had not seen me for so long, and thought that I must have gone back to Spain, from which I gathered that she wished to see me. After having welcomed me with much warmth and kindness, she gave me to understand that she was much grieved at what Don Juan had told her ambassador, namely, that he had orders from your Majesty not to treat for peace with anybody excepting the Emperor, and although it was right and proper, seeing the Emperor's position, that other princes should place their affairs in his hands, yet she had made so many efforts that she thought she deserved at least to be adopted as one of the mediators. I replied in conformity with his Highness' instructions of the 6th of May, which said, "As regards the intervention of the "Queen as mediator when peace negotiations are commenced, nothing of the sort must be entertained, as it is not desirable on any account ; but on this matter you must act but not speak." I told her that as it was some time since I had letters from his Highness I could not say anything decided upon the point, but I pretended to have heard from private sources that the States themselves had desired the commissioners who had been appointed and that his Highness would willingly approve of them, and by this means justify more than ever, the cause of your Majesty, since a father never quarelled with a son, nor a prince with his subjects, who was not willing to refer the matter to a judge of their own choosing, the more plainly to demonstrate their error. I told her she might be assured that the States were not dealing so straightforwardly as some of her ministers tried to persuade her. She told me that I was right, as she received the same information about the commissioners, and she was sure I was telling her the truth. She said that she was convinced of this, moreover, from the mode of procedure of the States, and by the documents which were being divulged, particularly by a letter written to St. Aldegonde. She said that some of her Council were very much surprised that she allowed me to remain here, as your Majesty did not admit an embassy from her in your Court. To which I replied that I myself was there when she had sent Wilkes and that your Majesty had admitted him as ambassador, as also you had done with Cobham and Smith. She said that she took no notice of what they said on this point as she knew me and liked my manner of proceeding, which did not inspire her with suspicion, and if a favourable peace were made in the Netherlands, by any means, she would have been quite content not to have been a mediator in the matter, being perfectly satisfied with my explanations.
After this she turned the conversation on to the marriage with M. D'Alençon, and when I asked her when it was to be, she said she did not know, but asked me whether I thought she ought to marry him. I replied that I thought in this business, as in everything else she had done, she would act with prudence, as she had so many reasons for knowing that the French were trying to prevent the aggrandisement of her crown and the quietude of her realm. She thanked me for judging of her actions so favourably, and said that she hoped that I would approve of them when I saw the end. I gathered from this conversation that what had passed between the Queen-mother and the prince of Bearn (fn. 1) had aroused some suspicion in her mind, as twice within the last few days she has refused to see the French ambassador, on the excuse that she was ill, although she went to dine with the earl of Leicester.
The French and Flemish heretics here have received letters from those at Rochelle and elsewhere telling them of the suspicions aroused there by the treaty, and the fears entertained that the going of the Queen-mother to the prince of Bearn would cause war to break out, as the king of France had written to his brother to hold himself in readiness to return to France if necessary, and sent him for this purpose three hundred thousand francs which the Paris merchants had given for the purpose of building a certain bridge. He was to pay with this money ten thousand of the troops he had with him, and was warned not to undertake any enterprise of importance from which he could not extricate himself easily.
M. de Quissé, who I wrote to your Majesty had gone to Flanders, has pressed Casimir, on behalf of the prince of Bearn, to hasten his return in respect of the regiments of French, Gascons, and Lorrainers who were attached to him. For this reason, and as Casimir says that he must return to Germany at the end of a month when his three months are up, it is suspected that he will go to France, where he expects to make a larger profit with less risk, having Bearn and the Huguenots behind him. He will thus recover what is owing to him in France. If he does not go there it is understood that the Frenchmen who are with him will join Alençon, although I hope to God that they will not go back again until they have all tasted turpentine and got their heads well broken, seeing the vigilance, which they themselves say, is being displayed by Don Juan. In accordance with the Queen's instructions, Cobham and Walsingham, seeing that the States were not coming to terms with his Highness, have returned hither much dissatisfied with this mode of proceeding and conduct. They have seen the Queen, but have not yet given a formal account of their embassy to the Council. I am told that Walsingham has come back much elated because some of the churches in the States were knocked down whilst he was there. They say there are very few English and Scots now serving in the States, on account of many having returned in consequence of their bad treatment and a number having died of the plague.—London, 7th October 1578.
11 Oct. 534. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Since I wrote to your Majesty on the 7th, this Queen has sent orders to Dover and the neighbouring ports for the Englishmen with their baggage, who wish to go over to Gravelines, to be allowed to do so. I have heard that Captain Jones has nearly three hundred men ready and ships at Rochester to take them across, which he will do on the 13th. I have thought well to advise his Highness of this by a special courier, as it is suspicious for so many Englishmen to be going to the town at once, particularly as they are of a sort not much to be depended upon and the force a considerable one. I knew some time ago that Captain Moffet had gone over with some men, but that was done quietly, and the present expedition is of more importance. I have let M. de la Motte know, and wrote to him some time ago, telling him that Orange was sending soldiers to him dressed as countrymen that he might enlist them, and that prying Englishmen were leaving here under the pretence of being Catholics to take wages from us. He replied saying that your Majesty thought it was a good thing that this should be so, as the place had to be reinforced with troops, and it was impossible that they should be Spaniards, and undesirable that they should be all Walloons or other natives of the States, so that the natives who were in the fortress might be counterbalanced by foreigners. Although these men may not be admitted into the citadel, still, as these captains who are going over and their men are not dependent upon anyone whom I know or have any confidence in, it may be feared that some plot is brewing, either in Gravelines or elsewhere, since nothing is planned here excepting to your Majesty's prejudice. My suspicions have been aroused moreover by the fact that the Queen did not mention the matter to me for communication to your Majesty, together with the sudden opening of the passage in this way, whereas previously gentlemen were arrested after they had embarked with the intention of going to France on the mere suspicion that they were on their way to serve your Majesty. The people who are going across now are of a kind open to any sort of plot, and I can assure your Majesty that Englishmen come to me every day, men who I know to have served the rebels, offering to hatch plots in the rebel towns, whilst others ask for license to capture the Flemish traders who come across in their vessels and ransom them in your Majesty's dominions, saying that they will by these means take some good prizes, for the one idea of these people is to seek means of making money at any cost. I write to M. de la Motte generally, and to Alonso de Curiel privately, in cipher about the going of these Englishmen, telling him to keep his eyes open and let his Highness know what is going on. If M. de la Motte thinks well to have English troops and will let me know, as he has done on other matters, I could see that the men who went were people in whom some trust might be placed, which is not the case with those who are now going.
M. D'Alençon has written to the French ambassador here that he is going to send M. de Simier to the Queen about the marriage, and asks him to assist him as he did Bacqueville, and, if necessary, to supply him with funds in the same way.—London, 11th October 1578.
15 Oct. 535. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Your letters and duplicates have been received, and also the marine chart you sent by William Bodenham through Seville, and Zayas has also informed me of some details which you have written to him not contained in my letters. I am glad to hear everything, but have nothing particular to answer, except to enjoin you to continue in every respect as you have begun, both as regards Flemish affairs and Scotch. It is very advantageous in all respects that the Queen and her ministers should have desisted from their intention of seeking your recall, as it is highly desirable that you should remain there until they bid you be gone, which I do not think they will do, considering the favourable way in which you bear yourself towards them.
Notwithstanding all the show they may make about the marriage of the Queen and the Duke D'Alençon, it may be certainly concluded that it is nothing but pastime, and that she is not in earnest about it and will never take a husband. Nevertheless it is well that you should be on the alert to hear what their plans are, both in this respect and in the many other subterfuges which are taking place there every day.
This letter is taken by Gombal de Guaras, who is going to try to obtain his brother's release. As you know how sincerely I have desired this, I shall be very glad if you will help and favour the bearer with this object to the best of your ability.—Madrid, 15th October 1578.
31 Oct. 536. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
By your letters recently received I learn of the return to England of Frobisher's ships from the coast of Cathay, and the particulars you have obtained of the voyage. I have been glad to learn them, as I shall be to receive any statement respecting the voyage which may be brought to you by the man whom you sent in the expedition, if he should have returned.
Having regard to what you write respecting the arrangement made by Horatio Pallavicini with the people in the States, founded on the importation of alum, the conditions of which contract are manifestly prejudicial to my interests, I have ordered the detention of the ship at Cadiz, and that which is coming from Genoa to touch at Alicante, as well as the alum at Cartagena. I have also ordered the cargo books to be examined, and have caused the same steps to be taken at Milan, advising his Holiness to a similar effect, in order that he may take such measures with regard to the alum in his dominions as he may consider necessary, which, no doubt, will be the same as I have taken, as being those most advantageous to the service of God and the weakening of the enemies of his Holy name.
I note what passed between you and the Queen at Richmond on the 28th September respecting her regret that she had not been included by me in the agreement with the States, and you replied conveniently thereto. You will adopt the same course if she again refers to the subject, saying that if I had placed the matter in the hands of any other sovereign but the Emperor she would have had reason to complain, but as I look upon the Emperor as my son, and he being so prudent a prince, I have no doubt she will see that she has no ground for complaint or grievance.
I also see what she said to you in the same audience respecting her marriage with the Duke D'Alençon, to which also you replied very discreetly, and, although I feel certain that the present negotiations are merely feigned as before, you do well to keep your eye on them to see what will be the outcome, advising me always of what is being done so that we may adopt such measures as may be desirable.
You will act similarly with regard to Scotch affairs, and will let me know whether the treatment accorded to the queen of Scotland gets better or worse. You will also inform me what communication the Queen has with her son and those who have charge of him, and how the dissensions amongst them have ended, as Juan de Vargas reports from France that they had come to an agreement.
It was very necessary for you to advise M. de la Motte of the troops who were going over to Gravelines ostensibly on my service in order that he might not place too much trust in them. I have no doubt he will follow your advice and act straightforwardly, but if anything grave in this matter should occur, you will report it to me and to my nephew the prince of Parma, who, as I wrote on the 14th, has been entrusted by me with the office filled by my late brother. (fn. 2)
I have been able to obtain from a trustworthy source the substance of the instructions taken by the ambassadors whom the Queen sent to the States, and I have ordered a copy thereof to be sent to you that you may understand the more clearly their intention, and the underhand and unworthy manner in which they have proceeded there. This is in conformity with the opinion I have always formed of her (the Queen), but it was of the greatest importance that we should have this additional proof, and you may, if occasion demand, make use of the information without letting them know that you have the paper, but only signifying that you have your intelligence from a good quarter.—Madrid, 31st October 1578.


  • 1. Catherine de Medici, despairing of overcoming the Huguenot nobles by force of arms, had set out for the south of France shortly before this under the pretext of escorting her daughter Margaret to the house of her husband, Henry of Navarre. She was accompanied by what she called her "flying squadron" of one hundred and fifty beautiful maids of honour, by whose aid she hoped to soften the rigidity of the Bearnese Court. In this she had partly succeeded, and had won over her son-in-law to her side, the treaty of Nerac being signed in February 1579, the following year. Agrippa D'Aubigné, the historian, thus refers to this episode : "The court of the king of Navarre was renowned for its brave nobility and virtuous ladies. Idleness attracted vice to it as heat draws serpents. The queen of Navarre took the rust off their wits, and let it gather on their arms. She taught the King, her husband, that a cavalier was without a soul when he was without an amour." The pages of Brantome also are full of references to the moral deterioration of Henry and the Huguenot nobles by such means as those suggested.
  • 2. Don Juan had died shortly before the date of this letter.