Simancas: May 1581

Pages 103-119

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

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May 1581

1 May. 85. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Arnaldo Burcaut, a subject of your Majesty and a lawyer in Antwerp, who was ordered by the magistrates to leave the country as a suspicious person, he being a Catholic and a zealous adherent of your Majesty, as well as a man of spirit, communicated, jointly with another gentleman subject of yours, namely, Henry Court of Breda, with two Dutch friends of theirs, from whom they heard that a treaty might be arranged in the most important place of the Isle of Walcheren ; in consequence of the great discontent of these two Hollanders, who had served the rebels at sea and had been neglected by them, and their remuneration not paid. They consequently expressed a desire to render some great service to your Majesty, and Burcaut carried on the negotiation, as he thought they would be fit men to effect the projected arrangement. As soon as Burcaut left Antwerp he went to give an account of the matter to the prince of Parma, who kept him three months in Mons, and at last told him that the business was a difficult one but would be considered. As Burcaut had given hope to the Hollanders that a reply should be sent to them, and had advanced them money out of his own pocket to keep them in the meanwhile, he came to Calais, from which place he had arranged to write to them, and sent word that means would be found for them to carry out their good intention. He and Court specially came hither in September last, to lay the matter before me and to ask me to expedite it. As I heard from them that the two Hollanders were ready and the place itself well disposed (I having news from there every week), and consequently that the enterprise might be effected easily, I wrote to the prince of Parma by one of the men, saying that from my experience of the Netherlands, I judged the matter to be very important, and as it could not be undertaken in any other way, I begged him to consider it deeply and not to lose sight of it. The prince of Parma answered, saying that he quite agreed with me, and would leave the matter to my management ; and caused the Hollanders to be sent hither that I might satisfy myself about them and decide whether the matter should be undertaken. They came before Christmas, and I found them well disposed and men of spirit and understanding ; they telling me that they had a ship in which they sailed for plunder under letters of marque from the prince of Bearn, and that, consequently, they might carry out their design the more easily. They proposed to raise from 80 to 100 men who had served under them before, and who, they were certain, would be glad to undertake the enterprise, and had, indeed, many times suggested to them to seize Brille or some other port of importance to deliver to your Majesty, as they were so poor and ill treated. They said that if they had money to keep these men, not a large amount but about enough for two months, they would change their ship for a larger one and would enter the town, where they would have a hundred men already distributed amongst the various taverns. At the same time four or five hundred men might be embarked at Gravelines in large boats, such as usually ply between St. Omer and Antwerp with wheat, and these might be introduced in the course of one or two tides, without the least suspicion, and moored alongside the quay, as there is no examination of ships that enter the port. On the signal being given, as agreed upon, by the first boat, the men on shore would seize the landing-place, killing the guard, which only consists of eight men, as well as the sentry at the gate. They would then hold the gate until the men in the boats were landed, whilst the rest of the hundred men they had on shore would seize a breastwork near the gate, which is armed with twelve cannon and has only one sentry to guard it. This would give them possession of the place, and, in order that I might see their sincerity, the principal of them said he would leave his son in my hands, and did not ask in advance of the service more money than was necessary to keep the hundred men ; the reward to be given after the enterprise being that the first of the men should be made Admiral of the island and his friend Vice-Admiral.
I advised the prince of Parma of all this, and he sent me two patents for the Captains in accordance therewith. With regard to to the payment of the money, he requested me to hand them what I considered necessary, and he would have me repaid at once, whilst he left in my hands the arrangement of the whole of the details. He said he had ordered the raising of two companies of Hollanders, who were accustomed to the sea, who would be sent to lodge in a convenient place near Gravelines to be ready to embark. This despatch of the Prince, which was brought by Burcaut himself, did not agree with the message that he had been entrusted to convey to me verbally. By a special mercy of God I therefore did not act until I got confirmatory letters from the Prince, and I did not hand them the money as I otherwise should have done. The weather has been so stormy that it is impossible that they could have carried the business through without discovery, but this delay necessitated my again writing to the Prince, and the matter was therefore kept pending until the end of last month, thus giving time for the Hollander to come with his son, whom I now have in my house. I handed them the patents from the Prince, and they brought me a plan of the place, assuring me that there was no change either in the matter of the guards and sentries or in the examination of ships ; the garrison of rebels only consisting of a company of 150 men.
I advised them of the principal matters to be borne in mind, and particularly as to the form in which it had to be spoken of to those who were to aid them, and that it should be disclosed as little as possible, in order to diminish the risk of its discovery. They replied it would only be known to eight men, in whom they could trust, as all the rest depended upon them, and it was unnecessary to say anything until the actual execution. I gave them many directions, which I will not tire your Majesty by repeating, only that I enjoined them that when they killed the guards they should raise the cry of "Liberty and down with the French," as this would prevent the townsmen from resisting, especially as the matter had to be done in daylight, after the gates were open. I gave them 630l. sterling, besides 49l. which I had given them in small sums for their expenses. They told me they would be ready within twenty days or a month after they arrived at the place, whereas with this money they could, if necessary, keep the men for two months until the five boats came ; and if for any reason it were necessary still further to delay the business, they could keep the matter pending for any length of time without suspicion if I sent them money.
The time agreed upon expires at the end of the month, and the business is to be carried through at the beginning of next month, as the weather will be fine and most of the townsmen out fishing ; besides which the coast people of Holland and Zeeland are most wishful to submit to your Majesty again, as they are now awake to the tricks of Orange and his gang. Until this business was all arranged and on the point of execution I have not ventured to give an account of it to your Majesty, but I have striven to conduct it with all possible secrecy and caution, both for the purpose of pledging the two Hollanders, and in order to satisfy myself of their good faith. I can only say with regard to this, that one of them has entrusted his son to me willingly, which is the greatest pledge he could give me, and I cannot doubt that if the troops are secretly and cautiously shipped and God blesses them with a fair wind, the business may be looked upon as done. I have written to the prince of Parma, begging that all care should be used and that the sailors should be beyond suspicion, and have asked him, in addition to Burcaut and Court who offered to go, that he should send two or three officers of tried trust and bravery. Nothing is necessary but this, as the place is not in a position of defence. I am so convinced of this that my only sorrow is that I cannot go myself ; and I tell the prince of Parma that, as it is an affair which cannot be tried again after failing once, and can only be successfully accomplished by such people as I indicate, he should try only to employ in it men whose sole object is to serve God and your Majesty without thought of themselves.
When the two Hollanders took leave of me, they said they sought no reward until the service was done, but if one or both of them died in the enterprise, they asked me to promise that your Majesty would give some reward to the widows. I thought this so reasonable that I promised in your Majesty's name to do so. I have paid already in the business 2,263 sun-crowns, besides the cost of some couriers sent to Mons, and 400 crowns which Burcaut and Court gave to the Hollanders before they communicated with the prince of Parma. The sum is not large, but if it were three times what it is, it would be well spent in making such an attempt as this, which I cannot help thinking is a special boon from the Almighty. I have received all this money from a Fleming here named Joost Van Erpe, who, as a good subject of your Majesty, willingly supplied it when I told him it was for your service. He has assisted me so much that I have written to the prince of Parma, that if this affair succeeds he might provide for him in your Majesty's Treasury in the island, which I humbly beg your Majesty to confirm.—London, 1st May 1581.
4 May 86. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have continued to give your Majesty accounts of affairs in Ireland as ordered. Latest advices only say that the Viceroy has not been able to prevail upon any of the Irish to lay down their arms, notwithstanding the promises that have been held out to them. He says that, unless the Queen will send him six thousand men, as he asks, he cannot hold the island. I am told that the Queen has ordered four thousand to be raised at Leicester (?), but in this levy, as in the rest I have mentioned, she seems to proceed slowly, with the desire of assuring herself as to whether the news the French give her, that the Pope will send troops to Ireland this summer, is true or not. In my opinion it is only to urge her into the marriage. I also hear that the Council has decided that the Queen shall send a free pardon to Ireland, to see whether any effect can be produced in that way. The arrest of Catholics and the severe laws against them passed in this Parliament have not yet stirred up disturbance, nor has the enforcement of certain other Acts passed in it, which threatened with the rest to cause trouble, as they endanger all the nobles of the North and the Scotch border, where they are mostly Catholics. For this reason the earl of Huntingdon, who is a great heretic, prevailed upon them in Parliament to pass these Acts representing to the Queen that the common people of those parts were not able to take up arms fittingly to resist the Scots or invade Scotland, because the nobles let their lands at such high rents that the husbandmen could hardly live, much less keep horses and arms necessary to serve her with effect. This, he said, was a danger to the country unless it were remedied by an order that no gentleman should let his lands there at above a certain very low price. This was done, and Huntingdon has endeavoured thereby to oppress the nobles of the country, whilst gaining popularity with the common people, in order to have them on his side, in case the Queen should die, he being one of the claimants to the crown. At the same time he has weakened there the cause of the queen of Scotland, who had most adherents in those parts. It would appear that either of these enactments should have been resisted by the Catholics, but, for our sins, God is allowing their spirits to fail them, whilst, on the other hand, each new change raises still more the courage of the heretics and confirms them in their blindness.
Your Majesty's orders with regard to the enforcement of the edict relative to the loading of foreign ships in Spain will be of the greatest advantage to your interests and the best bridle which can be put upon these Englishmen.
The man who came with letters from the Turk took back no reply, as he went to Orange, and thence straight to Venice, where he shipped on a galley provided by the seignory. The object of his mission was to offer friendship to this Queen in consideration of her alliance with France, and to beg her to send persons to arrange a treaty of commerce for the English in those countries. The Queen has made no reply yet, and the merchants are not pressing her to do so.
With regard to Drake's robbery and your Majesty's orders with regard to Zubiaur's letter to the consuls, saying that the plunder could be more easily recovered if the Queen was asked to restore first that which belonged to private merchants, I have spoken to Zubiaur and he assures me that he did not write any such thing, and he has sent to tell the consuls so. He says that he was always of my opinion, which I have written to your Majesty. I can say no more on the matter until I have seen the Queen.
The English in Seville have written giving an account of the fleet of twelve ships which your Majesty has ordered to be raised to protect the coasts of the Indies, and I have also made it public in order to restrain them somewhat from carrying out their intention of sailing thither for plunder. I have declared that the fleet is extremely strong, and try thus to increase their fears of these voyages.—London, 4th May 1581.
87. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote in my last letters that Randolph had arrived at Berwick. He has now arrived here, and the details of his fright from Scotland are known, as well as the substance of the plot which he had made with Archibald (?) Douglas, a great friend and councillor of Morton's. They had agreed to set fire to the castle and town of Stirling and to kill D'Aubigny in the confusion. By aid of their accomplices they had obtained false keys of the gates of the castle and of the King's apartments, and they intended to seize him, or kill him ; murdering D'Aubigny, Mar, Herries, and the rest of Morton's enemies. They had agreed with Lord Hunsdon to come from Berwick on the same night with a force of horse and foot to aid them in the execution of the plot. One of the accomplices was a brother of Douglas called Whittinghame, who divulged the plot to the King and D'Aubigny. This caused the escape of Douglas to Berwick, and the retirement of the earl of Angus, Morton's nephew, to Carlisle. Randolph also fled at once. Whittinghame likewise divulged the place where Morton had hidden his money, which has now been seized by the King, to the amount, it is rumoured, of 40,000l. sterling.
The king of Scotland sent John Seton (?), who they tell me is a gentleman-of-the-mouth to your Majesty, to give an account of Randolph's proceedings and to complain of them to this Queen. He arrived at Berwick on the 12th ultimo, and was badly received by Hunsdon who would not let him pass, whereupon he reported his arrival to the Queen. She replied that he was to inform the King that she was pleased with the embassy but not with the ambassador, and he had better send another person. The King therefore recalled him and appointed Lord Herries, who is now expected here.
At this juncture the Queen summoned Lewis (Claude?) Hamilton, to whom as I have already mentioned, she had granted a pension, to persuade him to get his kinsmen to take up arms in Morton's cause.
When he was given some of the money for this pension he replied to the earl of Leicester, who first spoke to him upon the matter, that he would on no account take up arms against his King, but would serve the Queen against anyone else. She herself spoke to him afterwards and had long conversations with him, as she was informed that both he and his younger brother in France were strongly attached to the queen of Scotland. The Queen told him that the enmity of the English would injure the king of Scotland much more than the king of Spain's money would benefit him, whereupon he replied that, as he was an exile from his country he could give no opinion about it. Walsingham afterwards told him to send word to Scotland that if the King had any communication with your Majesty he would lose all chance of succeeding to the crown of England, as the Parliament would immediately declare him not the heir. Before Hamilton returned to the border, where he lives, he pointed out to the Queen that for many years past she had promised him and his brothers that she would cause them to be reinstated in the possession of their property in Scotland, which had been confiscated ; which promise originated in the following circumstances. It will be necessary for me to be somewhat diffuse as I have to go back for some time. The Hamiltons are three brothers, the first being the earl of Arran, the second this Lewis, the third brother being in France. They have all followed the queen of Scotland's cause, and when she left the country they went to France.
In order to assure herself of Scotch affairs (she at this time not having yet gained over Morton), this Queen, thinking that the best way to do this was to entirely crush the Catholic religion there, sent Thomas Randolph secretly to treat with these Hamiltons in France, and to offer the eldest brother that, if he would promote a change of religion in Scotland, she would marry him, this being the ordinary lure with which she baits her traps, as she did with Arundel and Norfolk. It was represented that the King, who was then very young, could easily be killed and the countries united, he, Arran, being one of the nearest heirs to the crown ; and he was promised that this Queen would maintain and support him and his brothers in their claim to enjoy their revenues and offices in Scotland. This promise of the Queen to marry Hamilton influenced him so much that it caused him to forget his religion and his loyalty, and he resolved to go with his brothers to Scotland, where his great influence enabled him to do away with the exercise of the Catholic religion. By this time the Queen had gained over Morton, who was Regent, and, as this enabled her to do as she liked, she took no more notice of the Hamiltons. On the contrary, in order that they might not be strong enough to resent her treatment of them, she persuaded Morton to oppress them, on the pretext that their great following made them dangerous. When the Hamiltons insisted that the King should not take possession of the government, as was urged by the Guises, Morton joined hands with D'Aubigny and besieged the castle of Hamilton, where the brothers were. Two of them fled, Lewis coming hither and the other going to France, the eldest alone remaining in the hands of Morton ; he being idiotic and out of his mind in consequence of the Queen's treatment of him. He was kept prisoner by Morton until the latter was arrested, when the King released him and appointed a guardian for him. As this Queen now sees that all her efforts to bring about a civil war in Scotland and overthrow D'Aubigny have failed, and that Morton is in such desperate straits, she wishes to take the opportunity of sending these Commissioners to inquire why the property of the two brothers Hamilton is confiscate ; not so much because she wishes them to obtain possession of it, as for the purpose of raising dissension and giving a pretext for an appeal to arms, in order to overthrow D'Aubigny. This is her way—to sustain civil war everywhere without declaring herself.
Catholics here assure me that they have news of the entrance of Scotch priests in Scotland disguised as laymen, as the priests are here. Amongst them are members of the Society of Jesus, who are beginning to produce great fruit. God grant that it may continue.
The queen of Scotland has written to me, full of gratitude for the message I sent her. She says that in view of the interest your Majesty shows in her affairs and those of her son, she is making every effort to bring the latter to submit to the Catholic Church. With this end she has sent him a Papal brief and some Catholic books to read, which, she is told, he begins to like. She says that an English gentleman named Liggons, formerly a servant of the duke of Norfolk, and to whom she is under great obligations, has been deprived of the favour your Majesty formerly showed him, since the departure of the Spaniards from Flanders. For this reason he has retired to Paris, and she asks me to pray your Majesty, with your accustomed munificence, to grant him a pension for his maintenance. She also intercedes for William Paget, son of Secretary Paget, (fn. 1) who was a faithful and attached servant of your Majesty, and secretly acted for the queen of Scotland. In consequence of this, and because he was suspected of being a Catholic, he had to escape from here to save his life. She says she dare not support them out of the property she has in France, as it would reach the ears of this Queen.—London, 4th May 1581.
88. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
In former letters I advised the arrival at Dover of the Commissioners from France. A day before their coming hither, the Queen summoned the Treasurer, the earl of Sussex, Leicester, and Secretary Walsingham, and told them that for some time past, she had felt repugnance at the marriage, as she was a woman of middle age, and the ardent desire of so young a man as Alençon to marry her must give rise to grave considerations. She told them to discuss the matter, and if they thought she should not marry, that they should try to satisfy the Frenchmen. The latter heard of it and wrote to France, saying that this did not at all agree with the Queen's written undertaking. They arrived here on the 21st, coming from Dover with a great company, and were received here with grand ceremony. The Prince Dauphin comes to represent the King, the Duc de Bouillon and his brother the Prince de Sedan, both of whom are very young men, come only for ostentation, whilst the business is to be managed by M. de Lansac, M. de Crévecour, M. de Mothe Fénélon, formerly ambassador here, Secretary Pinart, and President Brisson of the Parliament of Paris. In representation of Alençon come Marshal de Cossé, Marchaumont, and M. de Vray, his secretary. They are all followed by trains of gentlemen, to the number in all of 500. The Queen gave them audience on the 24th and received them with great ceremony. On the following day she invited them to a feast, and on the 27th some of her councillors went to visit them, namely, the Treasurer, Leicester, Sussex, Bedford, Hatton, and Walsingham, these being the men whom she had chosen to manage the business. They asked the Frenchmen what commission they brought, and the Treasurer made them a long speech, in which he said that he, at first, had not been an advocate of the marriage ; but, at the present time, in view of the state of the country and eventualities that might occur, he thought that nothing was of so great importance for the preservation of the Crown as that the marriage should take place. President Brisson answered with another oration to the same effect, producing the commission, which was in French, empowering them to arrange the marriage, and nothing else. After the Englishmen had seen this, they said that they had no written commission from the Queen, but only verbal instructions, as they thought the Frenchmen were only going to bring letters, but they would now request the Queen to give them powers corresponding with those of the French.
Every day since then, when they were not banqueting, they have had constant meetings, and the French have signified to the Queen their opinion that, as she had so deeply offended your Majesty in various ways, it was advisable for her to marry Alençon in order to gain the support of France, which it was most important for her to obtain. They enforced this by saying that your Majesty's money was being employed to raise trouble in Scotland and Ireland, to all of which the English replied that, if the Queen married, she would do so out of pure affection, and not from necessity, and if the marriage did not take place they suggested that the conclusion of an offensive and defensive alliance should be considered against your Majesty, whose power naturally aroused the suspicions of both nations. They said they ought not to allow the opportunity of the Flemish disturbances to slip through their fingers, nor miss the chance of troubling your Majesty in Portuguese affairs. The French replied to this that their King would not enter into an alliance against any Christian prince. If the Queen married Alençon and the latter was king of England, he might attempt what he pleased against the Netherlands, and he, the king of France, would not fail to help his brother. In the meanwhile no formal commission has been given to the English Ministers, by which it is clear that the Queen is simply procrastinating about the marriage, in order to draw the French into an offensive alliance, without burdening herself with a husband, whilst the French wish first to make sure of the marriage.
They have signified that their commission was limited in duration, and they consequently could not waste any more time in banquets, but must come to business, after which there would be time for banquets and good cheer.
M. de la Mothe Fénélon, who, when he was ambassador here, was very intimate with Leicester, has sent to beg the latter earnestly to meet him privately, which Leicester has hitherto refused to do. La Mothe says he does not look upon this as a good sign for the success of the marriage. Things are therefore in this state with no resolution taken, and I have thought well to explain fully the position.
With these Frenchmen there came a Portuguese to press for aid for Don Antonio, who is said to be in Mazagan, and to have in his interests some of the isles of the Azores, which is confirmed by letters to me from the islands, and particularly from Terceira.
At the last fair at Frankfort a large number of heretic books were bought, with the intention of sending them to Spain, and as the heretics are thus busy in sowing their poisonous weeds, it will be much to the interests of God and your Majesty that great vigilance should be exercised in all the ports. Before the arrest of the heretics who were discovered in Genoa, I wrote to Don Pedro de Mendoza to report to the seignory that certain Genoese here and in Antwerp were living in such a way that, if they were not watched they might infect Genoa. I also wrote to Abbot Brizeño (fn. 2) to inform his Holiness, because these people serve as spies, which of itself would not much matter, if they did not try to transmit their errors to those with whom they correspond.—London, 4th May 1581.
89. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
A week before the arrival of the French envoys in England the earl of Leicester and the Queen's Ministers endeavoured to discover whether I had any instructions from your Majesty to see her. This they did by means of persons who they knew would convey it to me at once. One of these persons told them that he had not heard that I had any such instructions, but that it was quite possible, even if I had, that I might not think fit to see her until after the Frenchmen had left. To this Leicester replied that, on the contrary, it would be much better that I should see her whilst they were here. I heard this before I received your Majesty's last despatches, and, as I know Leicester's character so well, he frequently resorting to such tricks as these in order to discover things, I thought well, after I had received your Majesty's last letters, to seize the opportunity thus offered, but without appearing to be very desirous of it. I simply said that if the Queen could spare time from so many ambassadors, perhaps she might receive me. This was said in the course of conversation with a confidant of Leicester's, with the knowledge that it would reach him, thus opening the door for them to seek me if they desired it. They understood this move, however, as I expected they would, saying amongst themselves that, even if I were to ask for audience of the Queen, it would be better that she should not grant it, but that I should get myself gone, as there was no English ambassador at your Majesty's Court. The people interested in Drake's plunder have been urging this.
The French ambassador heard from the French courier who brought me your Majesty's despatch that he had been specially enjoined at Calais to deliver it into my own hands, as it was from your Majesty. The ambassador informed the Ministers here of this, and asked whether, if I requested audience in view of my fresh letters, the Queen would grant it. They replied that, even if I was to ask for it, it was quite possible that she would not receive me, and the ambassador divulged this. Perhaps this may have been done with the same false intent as before, thinking that they will thus pledge the French to agree to what the Queen wishes. In order to uphold your Majesty's dignity, whilst at the same time keeping myself informed as to the best way of treating them without swelling their insolence by seeming to seek them, I am feigning illness, whilst spreading the report that the Ministers have been throwing out feelers to me to learn whether I had your Majesty's instructions to see the Queen. I give out that, even if I had such instructions, my poor health would not allow of my seeking audience, and I am thus gaining time until I see what success attends the French attempt to relieve Cambrai, and I discover how the Queen gets on with the Commissioners. Your Majesty will see by the other letter I write that they are not very close friends, which makes me think that, if they continue in their idea of refusing me audience, it may after all be a special mercy of God to harden their hearts, in order that affairs in Scotland and Ireland may become more and more strained. Most Englishmen are not well pleased with the marriage negotiations, the very heretics saying that, if the match takes place, there will be a revolt in the country. I am losing no opportunity of urging this view, although I do not see the Queen, but am moving secretly in every possible way to promote your Majesty's designs, although really it demands more prudence than I possess to deal with people so evilminded, cautious, and fickle. I thank your Majesty humbly for granting me leave ; and although the necessity for my remaining here until matters are put into train may mean the sacrifice of my health, life, and what little sight is left to me, I reflect that all these have been granted to me by God only to be devoted to your service. I have received none of the remittances your Majesty has ordered to be sent for use, if necessary, in your service.
Although Antonio de Castillo is clever and learned, and properly zealous as a good subject in your interests, which has enabled him to render to me a good account of the business with which he was entrusted relating to Portugal, he would nevertheless be unfitting to attend to your Majesty's interests here as he is quite ignorant of the affairs of France and Flanders, and especially so of warlike matters, both of which subjects are most important for the minister here. Even if he were able to make himself acquainted with French and Flemish affairs, he could only do so after a delay which would greatly injure your Majesty's interests. Besides this, he does not speak French, which is very necessary here for Flemish affairs, whilst Latin and Italian are needful for English. He has, moreover, no knowledge at all of military matters, and could not, therefore, judge of the opportunities offered by affairs in the Netherlands for curbing or loosening the rein on this Queen. This can only be done by a man versed in warfare. It was this knowledge which allowed me to present a bold front to the Queen on many occasions after I saw how abashed she was when I gave her smart answers, and it has been of advantage in making her more modest than if I had treated her softly. Castillo will be very fitting to serve your Majesty in the legal affairs of Portugal, and it will be advisable to accede to his desire and withdraw him at once from here, sending him a letter for the Queen that he may request permission to leave as your Minister. I say this because he left my house in consequence of illness, and the English have already begun to gossip about it, saying that your Majesty cannot be very sure of Portugal, since you have a separate ambassador here for that country who does not live with me. These discourses are aided by the fact that there is no business to be done, and by the bad offices of the naturalised Portuguese Jews here, who were friendly with Castillo at first and now are spies on his actions.—London, 4th May 1581.
7 May. 90. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Since I wrote on the 4th the only news is that the Queen has signed the commission for the Ministers who are to treat with the French, which is, word for word, the same as the French commission, it having been copied from the latter. Lansac and La Mothe Fénélon have secretly seen Leicester, who pointed out the services he had rendered to France, the only reward for which had been that Simier had set the Queen against him. They threw the blame on Simier, and urged Leicester to continue his good offices, they making him many fine offers, and holding out grand hopes.
On the 5th the Queen, in conversation with La Mothe, at a supper given to them by the earl of Sussex, said she was glad that they had spoken to Leicester, and undeceived themselves of the false opinion which was held of him in France. She said he had done his best to promote the marriage, and to maintain a good understanding between the countries, of which he saw the necessity. La Mother replied that it depended entirely upon her when the marriage was concluded. The Queen answered that, as for the marriage, that was in the hands of God, and she had nothing to say about it until she had received a reply from Alençon, to whom she had written, but in the meanwhile they might discuss other points. La Mothe said that he had no instructions to discuss anything but the marriage, whereupon the Queen appeared annoyed, saying that it was necessary to await the reply from France. This procrastination and suspense on the part of the Queen is beginning to annoy the Frenchmen, notwithstanding that she tries to cajole them with feasts and hunting parties to extend their stay here. The business is reduced to what the Queen has written to Alençon, which has only been communicated to Marchaumont and Sussex, and this naturally serves to increase the annoyance of the Frenchmen. I do my best by secret means to exacerbate this feeling, working under the current, as I see that that is the best way to bring the English to seek me and try to prevail upon me to listen to them. Your Majesty's wishes may thus best be carried out, because when they find me stiffnecked it piques them the more. By merely saying that I was ill and avoiding them, I know I have made them think that I am in treaty with the French, whose object they believe is to throw upon the Queen the blame for the failure of the marriage, in order to take advantage of it for Scotch affairs.
I have been informed that Leicester says that Casimir's having accepted a pension from your Majesty, was by his consent and advice, and that if France broke with your Majesty, as might be expected, you would employ Casimir, who would then be better able than ever to help the Protestants, repeating what Maurice did at Metz. He forgets that if it suits your Majesty you may hold him tightly, instead of employing him.—London, 7th May 1581.
91. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After I had written the enclosed despatch, advising the arrival on the west coast of ships from the Azores, a Portuguese arrived here, a tall mulatto, whose name I have not learnt, to beg of this Queen to send aid for the holding of the Isle of Terceira, in the interests of Don Antonio. He assures her that if she aids them the rest of the islands will side with them. They offer to pay for all the arms, munitions, and stores, which may be sent to them.
The bishop of Angra writes to Antonio de Castillo a letter, of which I send copy, and I have therefore kept back the despatch until I see what the Queen will decide about sending the aid sought. It is a very old project, as I wrote to your Majesty on the 20th December, reporting that the islands had sent a ship hither about it, and that the vessels then ready to sail to the Indies for plunder were kept back in respect thereof.
Leicester and Walsingham, who have charge of the business, have discussed it with the Queen, apparently in accord with Count Vimioso in France, as an Englishmean who was sent with Souza has returned. The Queen has decided that six of the ships, which are in Plymouth ready to sail for plunder to the Indies, shall leave by the first fair wind, under Drake, who has volunteered to conduct the succour in person, on the promise of the island to reimburse him the expenses. He will stay there until the rest arrive, and will be joined by the ships from France, when they will try to invest your Majesty's fleets, in co-operation with the other pirates. I am told that in Havre and Dieppe alone there are four armed ships ready to leave on the first spring tide, taking a large quantity of muskets and supports, which is a sign that the intention is to go to the Indies, as the persons who have fitted them out are private individuals, and it cannot be believed that they are being sent by the Guises to Scotland. Three private pirate ships have left here for Barbary, besides the ships which are being fitted out in Bordeaux and Nantes, of which Tassis will send an account to your Majesty. These Councillors are calculating that after the succour has been taken to Terceira the ships may go and fetch Don Antonio from Barbary to the Azores ; where, if he can be maintained with help from here, they may be able to continue to prey upon the commerce of the two Indies, without having to make such a long voyage for the purpose as Drake undertook, the intention being to make their raids under letters of marque from Don Antonio, and to disturb all the Spanish coast and your Majesty's subjects. It may be feared that, even if the people at Terceira do not willingly welcome so many thieves in their island, the latter may invade the place by force, in order to establish Don Antonio there ; and although I can only treat of the matter generally, as I have no particular knowledge of the Azores, I am of opinion that it will be well to take the matter in hand with all energy, and I send a special courier with the news, so that there may be time to provide for the security of the Indian fleets, as the ships that go to meet them leave Portugal at this season.
I have also taken steps in another matter connected with this. A Portuguese of Terceira, who was in communication with Antonio de Castillo before Don Antonio's rising, but who broke with him afterwards, and became intimate with Souza, has died here. He had two thousand crowns worth of cloth at Lyme destined for Terceira. In order to prevent those who may come from the island from getting hold of the property, and employing it in munitions or in fitting out ships for the succour ; I have sent to have it embargoed, on the plea that the duties payable to your Majesty on the woad, which this man exported, have not been paid, this being 13 per cent., for which Antonio de Castillo informs me they give security, to pay after their return and the sale of the merchandize.
This will prevent them from laying hands on the 2,000 crowns, and will secure your Majesty's dues, which I have proved as a debt, because if I were to have dealt with the property otherwise, and claimed it on account of rebellion, these people would not have given me the embargo.—London, 7th May 1581.
12 May. 92. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The Portuguese who I informed your Majesty by special courier on the 7th had arrived from the Azores, have gone to France to convey to Count Vimioso the decision arrived at by the Queen and Ministers respecting the succour of Terceira, which is being pushed forward with frantic haste. I have news that there is a ship loaded with munitions in the port of Lyme, but the weather is against them, and none of the ships can sail. Although I do not speak to the Queen, I have pointed out to some of these Councillors the danger they run in not remedying this matter. I have reported the departure of these Portuguese to Juan Bautista de Tassis, in order that he may take necessary steps in your Majesty's interest.
On the night of the 7th, Marchaumont, by order of the Queen, dispatched M. de Vray with a letter written by the Queen herself in the sealing-wax of which was embedded a diamond. Vray's departure was not communicated to the other envoys, who are murmuring thereat. I am told that Marchaumont sent a document signed by Leicester, the Treasurer, Sussex, and the rest of the Commissioners, saying that they are of opinion that the Queen should marry Alençon. Marchaumont managed this, understanding that it would be the best means of bringing Alencon hither, which is what the Queen wishes. I cannot help thinking, however, that this sudden resolution of the Queen's to send de Vray (the French after having almost given up the marriage having now made up their minds that it will take place) may indicate rather that some great disagreement exists between Alençon and his brother, and this demonstration of the Queen's may be for the purpose of preventing the decline of Alençon by proving that she is prompted only by affection for him, and makes no account of the King or his Ministers here, thus pledging him (Alençon) in a way which may prevail upon him to come hither, when, if she please, she may marry him ; and if not, may satisfy him (as she told Leicester she could) in a way which would prevent his being offended ; which he probably would be if the thing was done through Commissioners.
She has also arranged for Marchaumont to go and live in a house adjoining her gardens, and in one of the rooms they are making an appearance of having a man hidden, taking in his meals, and so forth. The Queen herself has twice come alone, to the garden ; and this has given rise to the belief that there is some great personage there : some say Alençon, others Don Antonio, or Count Vimioso. They are so certain about this, indeed, that I have thought well to report to your Majesty, in case it should come to your ears by other channels, but it is nothing but a cunning trick of the Queen's to learn how the people would accept the coming of Alençon, and also, in case he should come, to have a place ready where she can see him without his being known. With the same end she has deferred from the 7th to the 15th some great entertainments which were to be given to the Commissioners.—London, 12th May 1581.
14 May. 93. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
In conformity with the orders contained in your Majesty's despatch of the 17th, I have ascertained the price of wheat in this country, and whether merchants would be willing to send it to Lisbon, in consideration of the profit they would make. I find that the price has greatly risen recently, in consequence of the heavy rains of last month, and the fears of a poor harvest. The Queen has therefore ordered that none is to be exported. The quarter, which is equal to five Spanish fanegas, is quoted at 23 to 24 shillings equal to 45 to 48 reals, whilst in Lisbon, by last advices of the 10th April, the price was equivalent to 15 reals the fanega. English wheat, with cost and freights would stand the merchant in 26 shillings the quarter, or ten and a half reals a fanega, the rest being profit. They will not risk it at this time of the year with such a merchandise, as they are not sure whether the demand for it in Lisbon, arises from the continued westerly winds, which may have prevented the arrival of the ships which ordinarily carry wheat from France, Flanders, Holland and England, or whether from a short harvest there. I understand that if the scarcity there arises from the non-arrival of wheat ships, the loss the merchants would suffer is certain, as is the profit which would accrue if the scarcity is in consequence of short harvest. They will not therefore risk the export, having regard also to the Queen's prohibition, and the fact that this is not the time when a return freight could be obtained from there. I have secretly treated with a merchant, and pointed out to him that this is a business which might produce great profit, as I am convinced, that when the Queen learns that there is to be a short harvest here the prohibition of exports will be made much more severe, and that not a grain then could be sent, excepting to the enormous profit of the English themselves (in which case they would manage somehow to export it), and I have therefore asked this merchant whether, on the assurance being given to the English that a certain price shall be paid for all wheat placed in Lisbon within a given time, in good order, he would undertake to supply a quantity. He assures me that he will, if the payment is guaranteed by a private merchant. They are to deliver the wheat at their own cost and risk, and if it do not arrive within the time specified, they are not to be paid for it. I thought it well to give your Majesty an account of this, as if the scarcity arises from a bad harvest, provision might thus be made at a reasonable price, because the English, if the quantity required is a large one, will be encouraged by the amount, even though the profit per quarter is small. They will thus be sure of having a supply in Lisbon without depending upon chance cargoes sent from France, Flanders and here, as it is probable that both in France and here efforts will be made to prevent the exportation of food, in order that, by reason of famine the discontent in Lisbon may be increased, but I am assured by the merchants that if the guarantee of Diego de Marquina of Lisbon is given for the payment, there they will undertake to supply the quantity agreed upon. If your Majesty decides to make this agreement, it will be well to instruct me instantly, so that I may conclude the affair with the Englishmen and expedite the dispatch, which will be managed without the knowledge of the Queen and her officers, for certainly, if she hears of it, she will prevent it with all her strength. I have written to Flanders through another person, telling them to send wheat from there, and doubtless ships freighted by Portuguese will similarly sail from Holland and Zeeland.—London, 14th May 1581.
28 May.
Paris Archives. K. 1447,49.
94. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
Thanks for advices about England, Ireland and Scotland, contained in letters of 6th and 11th April, especially about the great French embassy.
I am pleased to learn of the zeal and fervour of the English catholics, as I am so anxious for the restoration of the country to our Holy Catholic church and obedience to Rome. I have therefore favourably considered the reasons they give for desiring the appointment of an English cardinal, and the benefit that might be derived therefrom, and have decided to support the request. I have ordered the Pope to be written to in recommendation of the persons of Sanders and William Allen, who are mentioned in your letter. You may inform the Catholics of this, for their consolation ; and it would not be bad for them to do as they suggest, and provide some portion of the money for the new Cardinal's fitting maintenance. I will not, however, for my part, forget to make a grant to them for the same purpose, and I hope his Holiness will do the same.
As regards the steps taken by Zubiaur on behalf of the persons interested in Seville to recover some portion of Drake's booty, you will have noticed that I have always left the matter entirely to your discretion. Your opinion as to the objections offered by the suggestion of allowing Zubiaur to come to terms with the English for. the restitution of a small portion of the plunder, has been referred to the Indian Council for their consideration. The decision shall be communicated to you.—La Cardiga, 28 May 1881.
[Note.—In a marginal note the King instructs Idiaquez to write the following letter to Mendoza.]
28 May.
Paris Archiven. K. 1447, 48.
95. Secretary Idiaquez to Bernardino de Mendoza.
His Majesty is replying to all your letters up to that of 11th April. He has resolved to accede to the petition of the English catholics, like the father and protector of all catholics that he is. With regard to the appointment of an English cardinal, I can assure you that we here are of opinion that, not only one should be appointed, but that both the persons you name should be elevated to the dignity, so that one might remain in Rome and the other in Flanders or here. By this means the sympathies of the Pope might be retained by the man in Rome, whilst a more intimate understanding and intelligence might be kept up with the catholics in England by the cardinal in Flanders.
As we are uncertain whether the Sanders you mentioned is the same as the Sanders (fn. 3) who is in Ireland, I shall be glad to be informed on that point and any other that may occur to you, for communication to his Majesty.—La Cardiga, 28 May 1581.


  • 1. In the King's hand :—"It will be right to do this, although I do not recollect who the first man is. The second one I do, or at least his father.
  • 2. The Spanish ambassador to the Pope.
  • 3. There is in the Paris Archives (Simancas, K. 1448), an extremely eulogistic report upon the career and qualities of Dr Sanders, in connection with the suggestion to raise him to the cardinalate. It is sent by the agent of the duke of Savoy in Madrid to Don Juan de Idiaquez and is undated, but was probably written shortly before this letter.