Simancas: February 1579

Pages 642-655

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

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February 1579

7 Feb. 549. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
As I have had no safe opportunity until now I have not previously sent the chart and ore, about which I wrote on the 15th November, when speaking of Frobisher's voyage. I now forward them with specimens of all the kinds of ore he brought. They are of but little value, as the Englishmen and assayers themselves confess, and no matter what heat is employed they cannot smelt them satisfactorily, owing to their great crudity, which is a certain sign they are not rich. To remedy this, it occurred to the Germans (fn. 1) who are managing it, that it would be advantageous to mix the ore with powdered pyrites, of which they ordered a cargo from Plymouth. This proves conclusively that the assays last year were exaggerated in order to increase the fame of the business. It is not thought much of now as the sailors have not been paid, and the merchants who took shares in it have failed, so that people are undeceived. (fn. 2) The ships which, I wrote on the 8th December, had been taken out by Humphrey Gilbert and Knollys, have been driven by bad weather into Ireland, where they are victualling to continue their voyage.—London, 7th February 1579.
550. Bernardino de Mendoza to Zayas.
There is a German silversmith here who has hit upon the idea of making drinking vessels of novel designs. The vice of drinking appears to be so firmly established, that men are not contented now by satisfying it with the variety of their liquors, but must need further excite their appetites by new caprices in the cups themselves. The one I now send, in the form of an owl, has taken my fancy, as it is so natural and may please you. I beg you will accept it, with the goodwill with which it is sent, and I shall be delighted if I have succeeded in my choice. It has a further peculiarity, namely, that the maker being so cunning an artificer, I asked him whether he was a Catholic, whereupon he answered that he had not heard mass for fifteen years, and believed nothing, except that God was in heaven and the devil in hell.—London, 7th February 1579.
8 Feb. 551. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Since I wrote to your Majesty on the 27th ultimo, Casimir has informed the Queen of the reason of his visit, and the details of his commission, but he has done nothing hitherto towards reconciling himself with the Frenchmen, although Leicester and Walsingham brought the matter forward, they being the only persons with whom Casimir is negotiating. The Frenchmen, however, did not reciprocate, and in view of their lukewarmness Leicester and Walsingham conferred with the Queen about it, and said how important it was that they should be brought together. She thereupon sent to Simier, by the earl of Leicester, a ring as a token, to request that he would be friendly with Casimir and visit him often. She said it would be a proof of M. D'Alençon's regard for her if he accepted her friends as his own. Simier had audience of the Queen next day, and afterwards went to visit Casimir at an hour when he was not at home. As Simier was to go next day with Leicester to see some of the Queen's houses, where he was to be entertained with hunting, he and the ordinary ambassador returned to Casimir's lodging in the morning, where they were kept waiting for a long time in the garden, on the pretext that Casimir was not up. I have not been able to discover whether this was done on purpose or not, but the Frenchmen did not pay the visit very willingly and were much annoyed at it, so that the interview they had with Casimir was very short, as also was the conversation they had when they were together with the Queen, witnessing some jousts. I cannot hear that anything passed except generalities, and to judge from appearances, when anything important has to be discussed, it will be done privately with Alençon himself, because, although Simier is the guest of the ambassador here, they do not agree very well, and Simier has sent off despatches without informing the ambassador. Casimir had the Queen informed that I was arranging with M. de la Motte (fn. 3) to have him captured on his return if possible, which the French ambassador would not hinder, as he had come to see me secretly with a single servant. The Queen replied that, so far as I was concerned, she had nothing to complain of, as I was acting well, but she would never trust M. de la Mauvissiàre and the French again, seeing that they had treated him (Casimir) so kindly in her presence, and yet tried to injure him when he left her country. She said that she would do her best to prevent such a thing being done, and complained bitterly to the ambassador about it.
Casimir delivered a letter to the Queen from Orange in credence of the States of Holland, Zealand, Flanders, and Brabant, setting forth the need in which they were, by reason of their separation from the rest on the question of religion, and that they could not even hold their own unless she aided them next month with 100,000l. to pay foreign troops to protect their towns, as the burghers themselves could not be trusted. As a security for the proposed loan and the advances previously made, they offer to deliver to her Bruges, Neuport, Dunkirk, and all that coast as far as Gravelines. They also ask to be allowed to put a tax of 40 reals on every piece of cloth entering Flanders from England, which, they say, would not prejudice her subjects at all, as they would sell the cloth so much the dearer to those who used it. With this tax and the 100,000l. loan, they say they can continue to provide for the war, and that your Majesty, unable to carry it on, will be obliged to give way to them, not on the point of religion alone but also on the rest of their claims. No reply or decision has yet been given to this proposal, because, although Leicester and Walsingham alone have been appointed to deal with Casimir's affairs, one of the questions now broached touches the Treasury, and the other point will have to be communicated to the merchants here, so that they cannot be kept very secret. After the audience in which Casimir discussed the above points with the Queen, he had another audience almost secretly, the same councillors being present. He then told her that the States had not completed the payment to him of the three months' wages which she bad guaranteed, and begged her, in view of the want his troops were suffering, to take steps to have him paid. She replied that if he did not get the money from the States she would not fail to fulfil her promise.
All the bishops in the country have been summoned, it is believed, for the purpose of raising money in some way, by taxing their property and that of the ecclesiastics, as they call them here.
The Queen is conferring the garter on Cassimir, and it is said that the ceremony will take place to-day, and that he will get a pension. The amount will not be known until he departs, which will be soon. (fn. 4)
The Frenchmen are having many audiences, and the whole burden of their negotiation is the coming hither of Alençon, which they announce, and the more to carry conviction they assert that he will soon be out of the Netherlands, which news also comes from there. He had again taken an oath to the Frenchmen that follow him that he would never return to the Court of France whilst his brother lived. The secretary despatched by Simier has not yet returned, but is expected every day.
Some of the lords have spoken to the Queen about the marriage, and she replied that, although M. d'Alençon might well come hither, she would give them her word she would not marry him. Of that they might be sure. The Queen is daily growing more suspicious about Scotch affairs, and Thomas Randolph has been appointed to go thither to find out what the French are about, and to negotiate, if necessary, for Scots troops to go this summer to serve in the Netherlands.—London, 8th February 1579.
552. Bernardino de Mendoza to Zayas.
I wrote on the 27th by a servant of mine, and consequently have not thought necessary to send a duplicate.
Richard Light (or Tighe), the English gentleman respecting whose release I wrote to his Majesty as soon as I arrived here, has now arrived in London, with two other Englishmen who were imprisoned with him. Their arrival at the present time has been very pleasant to me for several reasons, and especially because it has given the lie to what that importunate scamp has been saying ; (fn. 5) as the Englishmen themselves assert that, when they embarked on an English ship at Cartagena, they heard of the efforts you had made to get them released, which I learnt of by chance before they arrived here, and as it was a business in which Sussex and other councillors were interested, I had it announced, so that it might reach their ears, that you had written to me and that they would soon arrive. The day after they arrived, Richard's mother, who is a person of position and wealth, sent to me, to say that your worship had well fulfilled your promise, and her son had come home. Although the Catholics here are dreadfully persecuted, there are still in this country many whom God has not abandoned, such is the rejoicing with which they go to martyrdom or lifelong imprisonment for His sake with His name and faith upon their lips. Amongst others in the Tower is the archbishop of Armagh and another priest, and many faithful ones in other prisons, who confirm the others in the faith by their exhortations and their writings. They are, however, in dire need, and I pray you, since the work is so pious a one, to ask his Majesty to grant them some alms ; for, verily, those who are here, suffer in their own persons many of the persecutions of which we read in the lives of the Saints of the primitive Church. The English nuns, who were in Bruges and Malines, whence they were expelled, were at once cast into prison when they arrived here.
There is an Englishman named Walker at San Lucar, dressed as a merchant, who is a servant of Leicester's, by whose orders he is there to report what happens ; and they have in Madrid a Florentine called Juan Bonius who was here two years ago. These men are salaried as spies, and lose no time in advising what they learn. Such an enormous quantity of snow has fallen here in the last five days as has never been seen by anyone living. The city is consequently quite isolated, and the people from the neighbouring villages, even, cannot come in. The loss of cattle in the country is estimated at a great sum, as the snow has been general.
We are without news from Flanders for some time, owing to the bad weather, but a sloop has managed to run over in two days, in which, fortunately, one of my men came, bringing the enclosed intelligence.—London, 8th February 1572.
Postscript : Casimir was not far wrong in what he conveyed to the Queen, (fn. 6) for certainly, if he had not been so well attended on his way over some attempt would have been made to shoot him, without the French knowing anything about it. The scamp took the step he did in order to get the escort.
I have just heard that Alençon has passed near Rouen on his way to Alençon, which confirms the news received from Antwerp.
Begs for another clerk, as Segasti, his secretary, wants some months' leave of absence, owing to the death of his mother. Begs for favour for Segasti, in return for his good services with his (Mendoza's) brother, Don Antonio, in Lorraine and Genoa.
553. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I have to thank you for your three letters of 28th December and 10th and 14th ultimo, received together on the 29th, and am much pleased with the favour shown to William Bodenham, who well deserves it. I am anxiously awaiting his arrival, as he is bringing the present of needlework from the duchess of Alba to this Queen. This is both a favour to me, and will make it easier for me to negotiate with the Queen in his Majesty's interests.
Leicester was extremely opposed to me when I first arrived here, not only in the private councils, but also in the conferences where I was present. He made no secret of it, but I did not think proper to resent it, as he is the manager of affairs, and I thought best not to irritate him more than necessary, but to proceed by suavity. I therefore signified to some of his people how sorry I was that his occupations did not allow me to meet him and assure him how great was my desire to serve him. With this and similar lenitives I softened him, so that he came twice to speak to me at Court, instead of running away from me, as he formerly did, to avoid doing so. I made much of him and accepted all his excuses, and the result of it was that he gave me to understand that he wished to have a long interview with me, and to prove by his acts how mistaken was his Majesty in the bad opinion he had formed of him from interested information. I, nevertheless, consider it very difficult to bring him round or hold him for any great length of time, however much we may give him, unless he is forced by circumstances. In the meanwhile, I will entertain him with trifles.
He has given me some hints about the matter of the seizures, and, as I understand, has already told the Queen that if the question is to be dealt with it should go through his hands ; a sure sign that he does not intend to take them out empty.
As to what Juan de Vargas wrote to his Majesty and his communications with the Scotch Ambassador, whom I know well, although the zeal and fidelity of the latter may give good hope of success in the business, it is nevertheless so important, that these qualities are not of themselves sufficient, and I am therefore surprised that Juan de Vargas has made so much of it to his Majesty, without going more closely into the details, respecting which I will give my opinion as requested.
In the first place, it must be considered whether the 4,000 soldiers, whose pay for three or four months has to be provided, are to be foreigners or not, because, if they are, certainly this number will not be sufficient. If foreigners are sent into the country under any pretext, other princes will impede it, and we shall be obliged to break with them. Many examples to prove this, and the probable inconveniences which will arise, might be adduced even in times when the affairs of Scotland were not in their present state, and the point is of the highest importance, from the probability of the present king or his mother uniting the two crowns.
If Scotch soldiers are to be paid, it would be necessary to learn whether their leaders are persons of influence or not, and what security would exist, not only for them, but for the people in general, as they are naturally fickle and faithless, and might go over if a larger price than ours were offered on the other side. It would be well also to know, for certain, what they expect to do in the time named, and their mode of operation, and whether they have the assurance of obtaining any important places or ports which would be necessary for success.
It is also of importance to be quite sure whether the claims and intentions of all parties are identical, and whether they are moved by simple zeal for the Catholic religion, which must be the first motive, and the second the release of the Queen. If this is not so, and they are not completely united, little success can be expected. From what I have seen since I have been here of the action of the Scotch lords and the information I have obtained, it is difficult to believe that they would be so, because in the various meetings and parliaments they have held they have hitherto made no effort for the exercise of the Catholic religion or for the release of the Queen. When they proclaimed her son as King without any need, as he was not of age, there was no one who made a protest on her behalf, or alleged that she, as legitimate sovereign, could not be deposed except ad interim in consequence of her being a prisoner and unable to administer the government, and that, if power was given to her son, it should only be to endow him with greater influence to seek her release. It will be seen from this that the party opposed to Morton, even though they may be much the more numerous, with whom the ambassador wishes to act, are not united for one end, but that some wish for the Catholic religion, some for the release of the Queen, and others simply to satisfy their own private rancour, and revenge themselves upon their enemies.
In addition to these points, and until we know also that the Catholies are more numerous than the Protestants, there are many other difficulties. The ambassador himself is a good Catholic and faithful to his mistress, but, as he is paid and entertained by the French, it is a great drawback that the matter should be arranged through him, as he will, of course, inform the French, and they will either help or hinder, as they think best for themselves, although it is most probable that they will oppose the matter with all their strength, as they have heen always inimical to the power and grandeur of Spain. They also show little desire to preserve the Catholic religion, even in their own country, much less to aid its establishment elsewhere. Indeed, in my judgment, one of the greatest difficulties presented by this poor lady's affairs is that she is so given up to the French connection, that nothing can be done without their hearing of it. To get over this difficulty, I can assure you that the only way will be to manage to unite her friends here with those in Scotland, so that together they may arrange to release her, and make her mistress of both crowns when the opportunity may arise. If his Majesty will consider this point, which is of so great an interest to his service, it would be well that these people should be very carefully and gently approached without delay, and should be given hopes of aid when necessary, and entertained in the meanwhile with some reward. We must work with muffled tools, as otherwise the whole affair will be ruined and the Queen's life sacrificed.
Donna Anna has written to me that you have been good enough to promise your help in my private affairs at Milan. I thank you for this, although the man who has them in hand is pressing upon the Marquis (Ayamonte) the carrying out of his Majesty's order to pay me the 500 and odd crowns due before my pension was transferred. I beg you will, if necessary, mention it to his Majesty that he may speak of the matter in his official letters to the Marquis, to whom I have continued to write news from here, but from whom I have received no reply.
You were very good to inform me of the departure of the Duke from Court. It was the first news we had received in this country for a fortnight, but the intelligence has since reached here with other glosses. I am much grieved that anything connected with the Duke should have caused his Majesty to take such a step, but I am all the more certain of the reward that God reserves for him in the life to come, as, in this world, where the sons usually suffer for their father's sins, he, the Duke, has been an exception, and is assailed by all sorts of troubles through his son. God rescue him from them all, and send him long life. (fn. 7) —London, 8th February 1579.
18 Feb. 554. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 8th and sent a duplicate by Rouen on the 13th. Casimir left here on the same day, the Queen having given him the Order of the Garter on the 8th in the evening, handing him the collar with her own hand. He was knighted by Leicester and has been granted a pension of 100l. a month under the Great Seal which is an assurance here for pensions being duly paid.
In addition to the oath of the Order, he has sworn as a pensioner of the Queen never to take up arms against her or any sovereign of these realms. He undertakes to serve her against any prince but the Emperor, the king of Denmark, the dukes of Bavaria and Saxony, the Landgrave, and certain other rulers with whom he has treaties in Germany.
He has also renewed the agreement entered into by this Queen when he took his troops to the Netherlands at her instance, in case of opportunity arising.
Leicester has done all he could by means of caresses to confirm the friendship which had been formed between them by their letters, and all his friends have done the same, making him many presents, as they thought it well, not only that he should be a pensioner of the Queen, but that he should belong to the Leicester party, although the other side are well aware of it. When the Queen was in Council the other day she twice asked for Leicester and was told that he was with Casimir. When he came she said : "You have quite forgotten us all and business too, apparently, since we cannot get you here for the discussion of it ;" words which were not at all displeasing to Sussex and Cecil, who smiled at them.
The meeting of bishops which I mentioned in former letters has been held, thirteen of them meeting here and thirteen in Norwich, the country being divided into two provinces. The precedent observed has been the meeting held when Montgomeri came hither for the succour of Rochelle when the ecclesiastics, as they call them gave over thirty thousand pounds. Nothing has yet been fixed upon, and I am assured that, apart from the jewels, Casimir does not take more than five thousand pounds in money, given to him by private people for their own satisfaction and to please the Queen. The man who made the boxes assures me of this as he saw the money put into them. He takes twenty barrels of powder and twenty of bullets, and having informed the Queen that there was need of victuals in Flanders, she has ordered an examination to be made in the province of Norwich of the quantity of wheat there is, in order to discover how much may be sent to Flanders.
She has also secretly ordered that, on no account, may any victuals or munitions be sent to Gravelines, and that all Englishmen going thither to serve are to be seized. On the night of the 8th instant a great search was made in London by her orders to discover letters said to have come from Spain to certain Catholics and people of position. It was suspected that some of these letters were for Lord Montague.
Her agent in Antwerp advised her some time ago of the disunion amongst the States. He wrote lately that some of them wish to submit to your Majesty and told her the way they spoke of her which has greatly annoyed her. Speaking of it in the Council she said that if that was the way the States thanked her for what she had done she was determined she would not help them any more. She would get back what she had lent them when she could. She had said similar things before to cover up her real intentions, but she will not fail to help Orange and the Ghent people if they are opposed to peace.
These States as a whole and certain towns have, on different occasions, purchased quantities of cloth from the English merchants, undertaking to pay for it. As the sums to be paid by some of the towns were over-due the English seized certain Flemings here at the time of M. d'Havrey's visit. He spoke to the Queen about it and she released them, assuring him that no more should be seized for similar debts. They have now again seized certain property belonging to Flemings in English ships on account of these obligations, and the Flemings have addressed a complaint to the Queen, to which no reply has been given. They have also written to the States and request that some one should be sent to aid them with this Queen, they would prefer Buiscot, Fiscal of the Chancellerie of Brabant, to represent them, both in the matter of this seizure and of the tax, which I wrote they are now making them pay.
The French continue to assert the coming of Alençon, now that he has left the Netherlands, and have agreed that, if the marriage is effected, it shall be on the same conditions as were settled when the match was discussed with the king of France, before his accession, the principal points being, first, that he and his household shall exercise the Catholic religion ; that the style shall be Elizabeth and Francis, Queen and King of England ; if there should be children they will succeed to the crown, the father being protector and governor of the realm, In case of the Queen's death without children, Alençon is to leave the country, receiving a pension for life of twenty thousand pounds (livres?) a year, and if Alençon should die without children the Queen is to have a hundred thousand crowns a year. After these terms were settled the French, not being very hopeful of the business and wishing to avoid delays and the great expense which would be incurred if Alençon came, they determined to speak to the Queen and try to get her to agree that if he came the marriage should take place on the conditions arranged. They communicated with those who are favourable to the business who told them that, on no account should they attempt such a course as it would spoil the whole thing, and they ought to be satisfied with what had been done. If Alençon came, they could always find an excuse to avoid the marriage on the ground of religion if the parties were not pleased with one another. It is all procrastination, because, after their terms are agreed upon, there is still the difficulty of the coming of the suitor ; and, after that, the marriage itself.
They are very sorry here at the services rendered to your Majesty by M. de la Motte whom they have tried to put wrong with the States, and to thwart in various ways, as they look upon him as the principal instrument that has prevented the Ghent people from carrying out their resolution. Walsingham and others have lost no opportunity of trying to separate them from M. de la Motte and they have agreed with the Fleming here called Pascasio, a great heretic born near Flushing where he has a brother-in-law, to get up a plot in that town (i.e. Gravelines) as follows. Certain large and small ships of light draught are to come from Flushing and are to approach as near to shore as they can at high tide. Their arrival (at Gravelines) will cause an alarm and a call to arms, and during the confusion they may kill M. de la Motte with a musket shot, and will then appeal in the name of Orange and the States to certain soldiers who are now being won over by this man's brother-in-law, whose name I will discover, who is authorised to spend a thousand pounds for the purpose. Even if they do not get possession of the town, they say, at all events, they will be able in the confusion to save the man who fires the shot, and he will therefore be all the more ready to do it. They think of carrying out this plan in the month of March, and although it will be a difficult thing for them to take the place in the way they have planned, they might easily kill La Motte whose person is so important just now for your Majesty's service. I sent a special messenger to him at once giving him notice of it, and reminded him of the coming and going of the Englishmen who serve in the place and have secret connections with Walsingham, which is a sufficient indication, together with the present plan, that they are up to some wickedness, particularly as they are the same men who conceived the plan of laying hands on Don Juan. I recommend him to be careful of his own safety, and as for that of the fortress, I need say nothing to one who is so good a soldier as he.
News comes from Scotland that the earls of Mar and Argyll, who are those that have control of the person of the King, are very friendly.
The Portuguese ambassador is continuing the efforts I mentioned before, both with the Queen and her ministers, particularly Leicester and Walsingham, to prevent the union of that country with your Majesty's crown.—London, 18th February 1579.
22 Feb. 555. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I do not know whether it is my unluckiness or that of Antonio de Guaras that every day some fresh obstacle appears to prevent the settlement of his business. Casimir's visit was a great hindrance, and as soon as that was ended I saw Leicester to ask him to have the business dispatched. He promised me that it should be settled without fail in two days, as Secretary Walsingham and Wilson were going to see him the same day. They themselves sent me word to the same effect, and said that if he (Guaras) was not his own enemy he would be free on the morrow. The result of the visit, however, has been that he is kept more strictly than before. I told his brother of this and sent him to speak to him alone, and tell him the best course to pursue. He has been with him from nine o'clock this morning until now, seven at night, and says that they have administered an interrogatory of twelve points to him, copy of which will go in my next. They have changed his guards and threaten to proceed against him with the utmost rigour. You may judge from this the state in which he is, and I beg you not to fail to favour him as usual, advising me with all speed if it is advisable for me to take any fresh steps. So far as I am able to judge, and to the extent of my power, no efforts shall be wanting.
Postscript : This letter was written in the presence of Guaras's brother. I can assure you I am doing every thing in my power to help the man, but the coming of this brother of his, as I have said before, has been of no service to him, with the renown of his being so wealthy. He has taken it into his head lately to go about offering money to people to release his brother.—London, 22nd February 1579.
556. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
You will have seen by mine of the 18th what I wrote about Antonio de Guaras's business at the request of his brother, who came raving to me, crying out they would certainly cut off his head if I did not help him. He said Antonio Guaras had told him to assure me of this, as he knew it by the questions they had put to him. Although I could not believe it I sent to ask audience of the Queen to obtain information. I saw her on the 21st, and when I asked her again to release him, and conversed with the ministers, I gathered that the affair would speedily and favourably be disposed of. The Queen was very gracious to Gombal (de Guaras). I have thought well to advise you of this, and again to assure you that the only effect of his brother's stay here is to delay his release. The man commits ten thousand absurdities and has lately gone about offering money to people to get his brother out of prison, begging them at the some time not to let me know. All this only hinders matters, because the money is offered in such a way and in such small sums that people think that, by delaying my operations, they will put the screw on more. I am doing my best, and was much aided by the fact that the Queen asked me about the punishment of the Englishmen at Namur, and gave that as a reason for the prompt release of Guaras, which she promised me, and I have no doubt that we shall very shortly see him at liberty. Of the other points touched upon in the audience, and the reasons I had for requesting it, apart from the matter of Guaras, I cannot inform his Majesty in this letter, as it is being taken by a French merchant who is leaving hurriedly.—London, 22nd February 1579.
26 Feb. 557. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
The haste with which I wrote on the 22nd prevented me from giving an account of what passed in my audience with the Queen, which I now write to his Majesty. She was as gracious as usual with me, caressing me much and entertaining me for three hours, during which I did not fail to repeat my approaches to her on many subjects, as she was so very friendly and gave me opportunities to do so.
A matter has come into my hands lately in so strange a fashion that, for this reason alone, it would seem that it might be successful. On the 23rd in the morning a man came and told me that he brought a letter for me from Calais written by a very well known Spanish merchant there named Baltasar de Burgos, to the following effect. "The bearer of this is a gentleman of this country who has informed me of certain things of great importance to the service of God and the King, and has asked me to address him to a person with whom he can speak more fully. I have told him to do so with your Lordship. Calais, 20th February 1579."
When I had read this letter the bearer told me that he desired to speak with some Spanish minister of his Majesty about a business which was of importance to the King, and particularly he desired to address a person who wished the Flemish war to be ended, which was not the case with every one. He begged me to promise that I would communicate his business to no one who did not desire this. When I had promised him he said that he had wished to see me for some time, but that the bad weather had hitherto prevented him, and he had brought the letter in order that I might see that his sole object in coming was to speak to me and return, which could be confirmed by Baltasar de Burgos, to whom he would bear a reply to his letter. The service he was resolved to do, in union with three friends of his who were fully prepared, was to kill or poison the prince of Orange. I replied that his Majesty was so great, christian, and powerful a prince, that it was not necessary for him to punish rebels in that way. He replied that he knew that very well, and that the only reason why he came and told me was to declare his intention in order that I might bear witness to that effect, and he asked me to give him a token, so that when the business was done he could produce in. He intended to carry out the plan within two months and did not seek any payment or reward until it was done, in the confidence that I would afterwards advocate his being fitly rewarded for the service. I had a long conversation with him and he showed me four or five letters from the abbot of Gertrudenberg, whose signature and seal I know. From their tenour, although the words themselves were unintelligible, I take him for a man whom Orange and the States kept in the court of France to advise them of what went on. He is in their confidence and well understands French and Flemish affairs. He informed me of things on both sides, and about the negotiations which the French have been carrying on with the States, and also those of this Queen. He speaks French and Italian (as he said he was a Savoyard) as well as Latin, all of them very fluently. He is a gentlemanly person, although dressed as a merchant. After I had talked for a long while with him, I deferred the matter until the following day and set spies on him who found that he lived where he had told me and confirmed his statements as to the persons with whom he associated, as well as the subject of his discourse. I ended by cutting a Spanish pillar-real into three pieces, giving him two and keeping one myself, as a token that I could not deny that he had informed me of his intentions. He then took his leave, asking me to write to the prince of Parma to the effect that if a man with two pieces of a real asked him by that token for favour, or some man whom he could trust, that he should entertain him until I could confirm, by the description, if he was the same man as had addressed himself to me.
The poison which he intended to employ, he told me, was a certain thing he could get in Paris, which, if it were concealed in the hat or cap, would dry up the brain so as to finish a man in ten days ; and at the waxing of the moon much more rapidly. Even if they opened the body no indications of poison are found. He said he knew that various people had been put out of the way in France by this means, and from my discourse with him I cannot believe that he intended to deceive me, although he may try to get credit for what others may attempt. When he left he said that he thought he should be forced to post in England and he had not brought more money than he actually needed and consequently was short of four or six crowns for his return journey. I gave him very little more, but many fair words, encouraging him in his good intentions to which extent he may have deceived me.
He assured me that Orange had poisoned Bossu because he understood he was going to declare himself on the side of the Artois people, and that he had tried to arrange the escape of the Count de Buren as a Francisian friar, for which purpose he had sent people to Spain and had a forged order from the General. The heretic Spaniard called Casiodoro, of whom I wrote, has been boasting, I am told, of having brought hither number of Spanish bibles he has had printed in Germany to send to Spain. [will try to discover in what ships they go.
The Lord Keeper, chancellor, is dead. The interests of the Catholics and of his Majesty will not suffer by this as he was a great Protestant.
I shall suffer great loss from another person who has just died here, as he kept me punctually informed of what was going on, with double assurance as he was a Catholic. As a certain proof of this he besought me to send my chaplain at night to confess him, but he died before he could arrive, to my great grief, in the interests of his Majesty, as I shall never find another so intelligent and faithful as he. He was employed in Walsingham's office.
Casimir left Dover, but the wind changed so that he could not arrive at Flushing and would not trust himself into Dunkirk, which shows that he does not trust the Flemings over much. He awaits fair weather at Dover. M. de la Motte writes me that he was fitting out a galley and a galliass to give him a shot or two. Besides the ships, which I said were to come from Flushing for him, he is accompanied by a well-armed ship belonging to the Queen, but M. de la Motte will have taken fitting steps as I have kept him advised.
Humphrey Gilbert and Knollys have returned to this country with all their ships and one of them is at Court. They have been content with capturing a French ship with merchandise. They have dismantled their ships and the man I sent with them has returned.
Antoino de Guaras's business was not settled on the day of St. Matthew, as Leicester was not at Court, but he sends to say that it shall be dispatched by Sunday. I am ashamed of all this delay, but it is the way these people proceed.—London, 22nd February 1579.
558. Bernardino De Mendoza to King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 18th. I sent to ask for audience of the Queen, first because she intimated that she desired to see me, and, secondly, because a gentleman who had been dispatched by Alençon had arrived for M. de Simier, and I thought it would be a good opportunity of finding out whether Alençon's departure from the Netherlands had made any difference in their negotiations here. I saw her on the 21st and she received me very well, saving how sorry she was that her many engagements in coming hither had prevented me from seeing her before. I replied that her engagements were necessarily such pleasant ones, as they related to marriage, that I did not wish to interrupt them. She answered that it was a fine idea for an old woman like her to talk about marriage, and assured me that the hopes she had expressed to me of being able to effect the marriage with Alençon had caused him to leave the States, which she had desired, as she did not want to see them in the hands of the French, although the Netherlanders did not deserve her care, seeing what they said about her. I pressed this view, pointing out how divided they were, which she much regrets. She assured me that nothing would be settled about the marriage until Alençon came. The French speak more coolly about it since they have learned of the Duke's arrival at Alençon, and they give out that nothing would be determined upon until fresh advice from the Queen-mother, whom Alençon perhaps may meet.
She then touched upon the Scotch negotiations, saying that one of the two men I had told her were being sent by the king of France with letters had had some of them taken from him by a Scotsman, who had brought them to her and she had seen that I was well informed. She said that the king of Scotland had written to her, saying that, although they were talking to him much about marriage, the match that would be most pleasant to him would be the one that she arranged for him, because the nobles of his country wanted to sell him like a bullock to the highest bidder. She dwelt much in connection with this, upon his wit, and said they were his own words. Although the King may have written thus, she does seem very much assured, because, not only does she keep the queen of Scotland as closely as I have written, but lately so much care is taken that any person who comes within three miles of where she is, is imprisoned and examined unless he be known.—London, 26th February 1579.


  • 1. Jonas Schutz was the German metallurgist who conducted the works. His assay of the gold and silver in 2 cwt. of ore brought by Frobisher is in the Record Office. Sec Calendar of State Papers (Domestic), March 1579.
  • 2. Several of the adventurers were unable to pay the amounts guaranteed by them, and there is much recriminatory correspondence in the Record Office on the subject, containing many accusations of bad management and malversation on the part of Frobisher and Mr. Lock, the treasurer of the venture. See Calendar of State Papers (Domestic), 1579.
  • 3. The Spanish governor of Gravelines.
  • 4. A full and very interesting account of the arrival, reception, and entertainment of the Duke Hans Casimir will be found in Nichols' "Progresses of Queen Elizabeth."
  • 5. See page 641.
  • 6. See page 643.
  • 7. This refers to the disgrace and banishment of the aged duke of Alba in consequence of the disobedience of his son, Don Fadrique, respecting a marriage which had been arranged for him, and other misbehaviour.