Simancas: January 1580

Pages 1-4

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 3, 1580-1586. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1896.

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January 1580

1580. 13 Jan. 1. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 28th ultimo. On the previous day the Queen had sent to the French ambassador to come and see her, as she had received three dispatches from Stafford, enclosing letters from the King of France, his mother, and Alençon. The latter told her that he was making ready for his departure, and would come as she pleased, either with or without a company, and either before or after the signing of the capitulations. He said he was very sorry they had cut off the hands of the men concerned with the book, (fn. 1) and he would indeed be glad if he could remedy it, even at the cost of two fingers of his own hand ; but as that was now impossible, he entreated her to pardon the men and award them some recompense, so that they might understand that they owed their lives and her favour to his intercession. He was equally grieved to learn that she was not showing so much favour as formerly to the earl of Leicester ; and also that Simier had not carried out his (Alençon's) instructions in making friends with the Earl, whom, if he (Alençon) came to England he would regard as a comrade and a brother. He entreated her not to bear ill-will to Leicester and the other councillors who had opposed the match, as they no doubt did so, as they thought, in her interests. He said he had now his mother's blessing and his brother's permission for the marriage ; and the King's letters were to a similar effect, adding, however, that if it was necessary to alter any of the conditions they (i.e., the English) who had drafted them, might do so. This greatly gratified the Queen and she loaded the ambassador with caresses. On the 1st instant Stafford arrived here, having been sent by Alençon with a letter to the Queen, in the sealing-wax of which was embedded an emerald worth 400 crowns. The purport of it was to confirm, with many fine words, the letters previously sent ; and Stafford said that Alençon would soon be here ; two persons of rank, however, would precede him. Alençon gave him a chain of a 1,000 crowns and as much more in jewels and buttons. The Queen sent a post to Alençon on the night Stafford arrived, and told the latter to make ready for his speedy return to France.
The French ambassador had high words with Leicester the other day about his trying to persuade him to confess to the Queen that he was married, as Simier and he, the ambassador, had assured her. (fn. 2) This is one of the grievances that Leicester has against him, and the ambassador in his desire to be reconciled with him sent word by a confidant of his to say that he, Leicester, might see by what Alençon wrote, the good offices which he, the ambassador, had effected, and that the French were as friendly with him as ever. Leicester replied that he knew all about it, and that it was nothing but French chatter. When Alençon came to marry the Queen, he said, he would be obliged to treat him as his master. He said besides, that he wanted to have no more to do with Frenchmen and would never trust them again. At this time Stafford arrived, and on his coming Leicester no doubt repented of what he had said, seeing the business settled ; and sent for the man who had brought him the message and told him that if he had not already seen the ambassador he was not to repeat his answer ; but, as if on his own account, was to recommend the ambassador to write to France, urging the great importance of gaining Leicester over if the marriage was to be carried through. He has also caused the same thing to be written to M. de la Mothe, (fn. 3) who was formerly French ambassador here, for him to represent the same in France. One of these letters has fallen into my hands, and I send it to your Majesty. I am told the ambassador has written to the same effect. Amongst the other indications that the marriage is settled, although both parties are holding off, not the least is that Leicester is making warm efforts in the direction I have mentioned.
An English captain whom these folks have with the Prince of Condé has arrived with letters from him to the Queen, addressed to Leicester and Walsingham, whom he has seen. They tell him they will dispatch him shortly and that he will take a present to Condé. They have ordered three captains to raise six hundred Englishmen, four hundred of whom have already slipped across to Flanders, as the rest of them will do. These are the men I told your Majesty had been promised to Condé to help his entry into the Netherlands.
Leicester has a ship ready to sail on a voyage for plunder on the route to the Indies. It will leave in ten days and they have collected the most experienced English sailors for the voyage. Although I understand the main object to be robbery if opportunity offers, the design also is to aid Drake if they can come across him, and strengthen him with their vessel, as Leicester and his party are those who are behind Drake. (fn. 4) With a similar object, three ships of 100, 80, and 70 tons, are being fitted out in Plymouth, in the name of John Hawkins, the pretence being that they are taking merchandise to the coast of Brazil. In fact some goods are being shipped in them ; and this is to the direct prejudice of the crown of Portugal, although the treaty for three years which expired in November has not been confirmed. This treaty did not distinctly prohibit trade in this direction nor with Barbary, the English having simply undertaken not to go either to Mina or the coast of Brazil.—London, 13th January 1580.
2. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After writing the enclosed I sent to ask audience of the Queen to give her an account of certain robberies that had been committed by pirates. She sent to say that, although she wished that affairs necessitated her seeing me more frequently, she would be glad if I would go at once, in order that I might enjoy an entertainment they had prepared for her. This was one of those which are customary here, in which bears are baited by dogs. As it was rather a novelty for her to give me audience so quickly, I suspected she wanted to hear something from me about the French business, she having received a packet from France the previous day. She asked me if it was true, as was said, that your Majesty's Italian fleet had seized Genoa. I replied that I had no knowledge of such a thing, but if your Majesty had done so it would be for the purpose of restoring it to the Genoese, whose liberty and commonweal you would thus defend and prevent their being assailed by others. After this she could only talk about the great forces which she heard on all hands that your Majesty was raising. She said that she had just heard that 6,000 Spaniards had been ordered to be levied, as well as a large additional number of high-decked vessels, and that this would be the greatest fleet ever collected by a Christian prince. After many other things she said with great emphasis "Ut quid tot sumptus"? I replied, "Nemo movit nisi cui pater revelarut." Whereupon she said that I had been something more than a light cavalry-man. (fn. 5) She said that, although many people told her that the fleet was to come to England and Ireland, which she did not believe ; even if it did, it would doubtless be sent by your Majesty in a brotherly spirit, and she would receive it in the same way. I replied that I could say no more than I had done on that point as I had no part in the revelation. I can see that she was alarmed about affairs in Ireland, whence she has news that Desmond is daily becoming stronger and has most of the principal people on his side.—London, 13th January 1580.


  • 1. This was Stubbs' book "The discovery of a gaping gulf," See Note, p. 700, Vol. II.
  • 2. Some months previous to the date of this letter, Leicester had seen that the Alençon match, which he had pretended to favour, was assuming too serious an aspect under the guidance of Alençon's agent, Simier, who had entirely captured the good graces of Elizabeth. Two attempts were made, almost certainly at the instance of, Leicester, to murder Simier ; and the latter, determined at one blow to avenge himself, and remove from the road the permanent obstacle to the Queen's marriage with his master. Secure in his possession of the Queen's favour, he did what no other person had dared to do, namely, tell her Majesty of the private marriage of the earl of Leicester with the Countess of Essex. Castelnau de la Mauvissière, the French ambassador, had aided Simier in the revelation.
  • 3. La Mothe Fénélon.
  • 4. Drake had suiled on his first voyage round the world more than a year before the date of this letter. As related in the last volume of the Calendar, Winter had returned from the Straits of Magellan with one of his ships bringing bad news of the expedition, and great apprehension for its safely existed in London, notwithstanding rumours which were already arriving of the great depredations which had been committed by it on the Spaniards in South America.
  • 5. Mendoza, previous to his appointment as ambassador, had greatly distinguished himself in the Netherlands as captain of a squadron of light horse. Mr. Froude seeks to explain the above allusion by saying that Mendoza was master of the horse to Philip, which is incorrect.