Simancas: December 1679

Pages 706-711

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

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December 1679

27 Dec. 610. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The Queen received an express post on the 2nd, from the Magistrates of Nuremburg, and from her agent in that place, advising her to make ready, as they were sure that your Majesty's fleet was being armed for the purpose of coming to this country. She, at once, sent to ask them to tell her by what means they had learned this, and on the same day, after nine at night, she sent to me by the earl of Sussex to say that, although there might be no matters which obliged her to see me, yet she would be glad to do so. I had been purposely holding off from her for some time, without requesting audience, because I was told she wished to see me, and I thought that, as she was so close with the French, it would be best to make her jealous by raising the idea that it did not concern us to take any notice of the marriage, of which attitude of ours she had, and still has, very great mistrust. I went to see her the next day, being informed beforehand of the letter she had received, which, as I understood, was the reason she summoned me, and she confirmed this by her conversation. She began with many caresses and endearments, and complaints that she had not seen me for so long, after which all her talk was directed towards discovering from me particulars of the fleet. She repeated the various news and discourses she heard about it, trying to find out whether I knew anything, to all of which I replied as commanded, and, so far as I could judge, she was more distrustful about it at the end of the interview than she was before. I am told that the advices received from Italy by certain Genoese residents here confirmed the news from Nuremburg, and the Queen has therefore ordered the Governors of Provinces and the Marches to be at their posts in four days, and to exercise much vigilance to prevent disturbance. Although the excuse for this step is the news about the fleet, many people believe that it is caused by fears about the marriage.
I had been assured that she sent a verbal message by Simier to Alençon, to say that, although the conditions might be looked upon in France as a little hard, he was not to be distressed about that, as she would remedy it. I suspect this was for the purpose of undermining what she heard the opposing councillors had said, to the effect that they should be very much surprised if the French accepted the conditions which they had sent. I got her to converse upon the subject, and she referred to it so tenderly as to make it clear how ardently she desired it.
The Portuguese ambassador has arrived here, and saw the Queen on the 29th. All the talk was of how glad she was to learn that your Majesty had agreed with his King, (fn. 1) since there were no preparations for defence in Portugal, and if your Majesty should wish to take the country by force they could not help it. This is the means which, since Wotton's return, she and her Council have adopted, as they have failed in the other suggestions they made to the king of Portugal to listen to the desires of England and France. They think that by this means they can the better move the Portuguese themselves, saying that they do not hinder only because they are not able. The ambassador replied that the arrangement was founded on justice, and he did not believe, therefore, that your Majesty, being so Christian a Prince, would need to appeal to arms.
News has arrived here that Don Antonio had fled from Portugal, and as soon as the Queen heard it she publicly said that she would be glad to receive him in her country to entertain him and give him what help she could, which was listened to by the fickle Portuguese who were here, and who have written it to Portugal.
Morton insisted in the Scotch Parliament that they should confirm the decrees published against the House of Hamilton, and as soon as the Queen knew this, she sent a person to dissuade the King from it, as she learned that it would cause disturbances in the country and that the French might aid the Hamiltons. The business was therefore settled in the following way : the property of the Hamiltons is to be confiscated until they have cleared themselves of the murders laid to their charge, without the matters being made a crime of high treason. By this means, the Queen and Morton get their way, as they keep the Hamiltons oppressed, and yet with hopes of recovering their estates without taking up arms or being driven to desperation. The queen of Scotland has been given more liberty than she had recently. I have not been able to learn whether this is by order of this Queen or at the pleasure of the earl of Shrewsbury, although some consider it very strange at the present juncture.—London, 27th December 1579.
28 Dec. 611. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I handed your Majesty's letter of 11th April, about the seizures, to the Queen on the 10th of May, and she, in conformity therewith and in fulfilment of the treaty of Bristol, ordered a commission to be issued, that your Majesty's subjects might claim their property, which by fraud and deceit had been concealed. The issue of this commission was delayed from day to day for two months, until the vacations, so that nothing could be done until the middle of October. I lodged a request with the commissioners that they should hear my claims, which they did, acknowledging your Majesty as Plaintiff, and I then demanded that the offenders should be brought up. They summoned them and gave them copies of my charges, which, in due course, were replied to, and the case proceeded with. When the decision was to be given, the commissioners informed my lawyers that they were not to present any more documents, since the property could not be claimed by your Majesty but only by the owners. I therefore addressed the Council, saying I was astonished, after they had seen your Majesty's letter, and the Queen had issued the commission and the commissioners had heard my claim, by virtue of such appointment, that when sentence had to be delivered this answer should be given. I desired to know if the agreement of Bristol was valid or not. They replied in general that they knew nothing of the commission, nor when it was issued, but they would make inquiries and give a reply. They did so a month afterwards, and, after recapitulating many of the pros and cons of the case, they said that the goods could not be demanded in your Majesty's name. To this I replied that your Majesty had made the agreement with the Queen ; property on both sides having been seized from your respective subjects, and no particular owner was mentioned. It was therefore clear that, if any fraud or deceit had been practised, it was only to the prejudice of the parties to the agreement. Even if this were not so, they well knew that "Gentiam princeps maritus, Rex publievœ Pater subditorum suorum," and also, "Quod interes principiis ne subditi perdam bona sua," and your Majesty had ordered me to deal with this business in answer to the complaints of your subjects, out of consideration for them, to prevent their having to come here, losing their time and money, to claim their property which had been concealed. I said that this would have happened was proved from the fact that they had delayed the matter with me for eight months, and I should like to know how a private person would have got on, since they were so tardy even with me, a minister. I said the owners, moreover, could not claim their goods specifically, as they had all been bulked here, the packages undone, and the marks lost. They replied that this was all very well, but they had no security that the owners themselves would not come and claim the property delivered to me, and it was necessary that I should have special power in addition to your Majesty's letter. Your Majesty will pray send me instructions. (fn. 2)
What I understand is that they are seeking to delay as much as they can, because of the impossibility of bringing to book those who are interested, namely, the principal councillors. Leicester and Hatton started the matter and assured me that justice should be done, but as they are now in disgrace, especially Leicester, the rest of them are terribly hard upon them. They think, moreover, that I might unite all the claims which have been ascertained during the delay and might continue to produce fresh ones. Seeing, however, how cautiously they proceeded I ordered only two clear and distinct demands to be made until I saw their mode of proceeding. This is the ordinary mode of never telling the truth, for the same men who told me, when I delivered your Majesty's letter, that the commission should be issued, afterwards said they knew nothing about it, besides which the commissioners twice contradicted themselves before the Council, and I proved them to have lied by their own documents. The design of them all is to make profit in any possible way, and when they say they will do justice it is only with this object. I presented proofs that Knollys, a kinsman of the Queen, had taken a Spanish ship and put his plunder in one of the Queen's castles, where he sold it, and they told me that when this was established, they would have the property returned to the merchants ; and yet afterwards they said it was necessary to prove the facts again, with the sole object of frightening away the witnesses, and making this an excuse for keeping the property. As the councillors themselves are the principal supporters of the pirates they have anticipated the arrival of Drake by appointing men in every port in England to assist him in concealing his booty, if he arrive safely with it.— London, 28th December 1579.
612. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
As soon as the prince of Condé came to La Fère, (fn. 3) in Picardy, he informed the Queen of it, and her ambassador in France, Paulet, arrived at the same time. He is not only a heretic, as I have said before, but a terrible Puritan ; who, although he publicly said that the king of France and his brother were so disagreed that he thought they would break with each other, secretly impressed upon the councillors, and particularly upon Walsingham, how advantageous it was to have brought Condé there to embarrass your Majesty, and to have again encouraged the war in the Netherlands by means of the troops who went to the aid of La Noue and the succour of Ghent, which, he said, would give plenty to do to the people of Hainault and Artois, even though the States were to help them, and De la Motte would soon have less reason for satisfaction. The councillors were particular in their inquiries, in the presence of Paulet, from some Englishmen whom they had brought over, from serving at Gravelines. They were especially anxious to learn whether the river which divides that place from France could be forded, and if boats were necessary, what sort they should be, and whether they could be found there or would have to be sent ; with other questions of the same sort. From this it may be gathered that they had designs in that part and I have sent a special post to De la Motte to inform him thereof.
Besides the ships I advised, there have recently left the west coast for the Levant, ships with great quantities of planks, and another, called the "Providence," of two hundred tons, which goes direct to the Isle of Chios carrying bell-metal and tin to the value of twenty thousand crowns.
A ship has left Zealand for Portugal with four thousand gun flints and some powder. And several other ships are going to the same place with powder shipped by Flemings. I have not been able to discover whether these munitions are for the King or for a private person.
The Portuguese ambassador is negotiating with the Queen and ministers respecting the confirmation of the agreement entered into three years ago, which expired on the 15th ultimo. The principal point of it is that the English are prohibited from voyaging to the Mina. I do not hear that he is authorised to treat on any other matter, but he has letters ordering him not to see Don Antonio if he comes hither, and to ask the Queen not to receive him.
The Scotch Parliament ended without giving to M. D'Aubigny the earldom of Lennox, but they conferred an abbey upon him which belonged to the Hamiltons, and was the richest in the country.
The number of Catholics, thank God, is daily increasing here, owing to the college and seminary for Englishmen which your Majesty ordered to be supported in Douai, whence there has come in the last year (and from the college of Rome) a hundred Englishmen who have been ordained there, (fn. 4) by which means a great number of people are being converted, generally persons who have never heard the truth preached before. These priests go about disguised as laymen, and although they are young men, their good life, fervency, and zeal in the work, are admirable. They exercise their duties with great good sense and discretion, in order not to give the heretics a chance to impede them. God's grace is clearly witnessed in the way they are led on by His hand in this ministry ; and in the joy and fortitude with which they offer themselves for martyrdom, whenever they are called upon to suffer it for the Lord's sake. Some have suffered thus with invincible firmness and ineffable content, following in the footsteps of so many of their predecessors. Of the old ones very few now remain, and they are imprisoned strictly. This was a cause for the great decay of religion, as there was no one to teach it, and none professed it, excepting those who had special grace given to them to persevere in it out of pure zeal. This is being remedied by means of those who have recently come hither, who pray continually for your Majesty ; recognizing that God has been pleased to make you His principal instrument in this great work. During the last three months they have converted five of these (Protestant) preachers, which conversion they believe will bear rich fruit, as they (the converts) have begged to be sent where they may study and confirm themselves in the faith, in order to return hither and preach it. God give them grace to do so.—London, 28th December 1579.


  • 1. Don Cristobal de Mora, Philip's ambassador in Portugal, finding it impossible to prevail upon the Portuguese Cortes to adopt his master as heir to the crown, had influenced the aged Cardinal-King to defer the whole question of succession, which was a decided point gained for Spain, as it gave Philip time to prepare and dispose of a force which could, when the moment arrived, effectually prevent the Portuguese from formally adopting any other pretender than himself.
  • 2. The opinion of the English Commissioners to this effect is in the Record Office. It was sent on the 10th December to the Council by Dr. D. Lewis, Judge of the Admiralty, in a letter to Secretary Wilson. See Calendar of State Papers (Domestic) of that date.
  • 3. La Fère had been seized by the prince of Condé on the 29th November, acting independently of his cousin, Henry of Navarre.
  • 4. The French historian Martin asserts that Pope Gregory XIII. sent a hundred Jesuit priests to England from Rome alone in this year.