Simancas: March 1580

Pages 16-23

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

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March 1580

12 March. 11. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 28th ultimo I wrote to your Majesty, and on the 7th instant, there arrived here a gentleman of Alençon's named Captain Bruc, and his coming has again given rise to a great deal of gossip about the marriage, he having brought letters for the Queen in which Alençon says, with many fine words, that he only awaited the reply to be sent by this man to dispatch hither Marshal de Cossé The Queen told him to rest here for a few days when she would give him the answer. On the 10th instant, in the morning whilst she was in her barge on the river accompanied by two or three lords and ladies, she visited the ambassador at his house and was talking with him for an hour in the presence of Alençon's gentleman. On the same night the ambassador hurriedly sent off a courier. It was considered a great innovation for the Queen to go to his house, and it is looked upon by some as a sure indication that the marriage will take place ; besides which Walsingham and others who opposed it are now declaring that it is necessary, in order to avoid troubles which otherwise might befall them as a consequence of disagreement with France at this time. So far as I can ascertain, this is the reason why they are carrying on the affair, as they are in fear of your Majesty's fleet and of Alençon's desire, which I have already mentioned, to take advantage of the position to force the Queen into helping him in the Netherlands, as the Ghent people are making great efforts to get him to come to their assistance.
This gentleman brought letters from Alençon to the Earl of Sussex, Leicester, Cecil, and Hatton, captain of the guard, the purport of which is to say, in general terms, that if the marriage is not to be effected by the unanimous consent of the Council he would not be satisfied. The letter to Leicester is the most emphatic on this point and is written by Alençon himself. Leicester sent, to the ambassador saying that for his part, he would forward the business, though neither the king of France nor his brother has sent him anything, although they knew that he was selling his possessions in order to pay his debts, in consequence of his having spent so much in serving them.
The preparations of which I wrote your Majesty have now for the most part ceased, as I understand, from the fear of some disturbance in the country as a result of raising so many troops, the people in general not being in favour of the marriage. The Catholics have helped in this direction, as it was said that the preparations were all owing to the fear of our fleet, and that it would be the best opportunity for the Catholics to rise. This the Government thought best to prevent, and consequently published that there was now no need for armament, since the king of Portugal had died and the duchess of Braganza had been crowned Queen, and your Majesty would therefore be obliged to employ your fleet there. This was not only said by the Ministers, but was also publicly repeated by the Queen herself to a Portuguese as she was coming out of chapel, in order that he might repeat it to the Portuguese ambassador. The latter, however, is so sensible, clever, and well-disposed towards your Majesty, that he answered that although they might write this to the Queen, he did not believe it.
They are fitting out with great diligence four ships to send to Ireland, whence the news comes to the Queen that some of the rebel soldiers had been paid with money that had come in a small vessel from Spain ; and that Dr. Sanders affirmed that 3,000 Spaniards and Italians were being sent to their aid by your Majesty in the name of the Pope. For this reason they are sending the ships under Captain Winter, Lord Howard remaining with the rest of the fleet, which is being fitted out, but with less haste.
This Queen, as I wrote to your Majesty, being suspicious of Scotch affairs, now that D'Aubigny (fn. 1) is in such good repute, was desirous of obtaining possession of the King's person, and I sent to tell his mother of this. D'Aubigny, however, taking advantage of the raising of so many troops here, persuaded the heads of the Council there to make ready ; and that the King, as he was now growing up, should visit his fortresses. They agreed to this and carried him to the castle of Dumbarton where he now is with D'Aubigny. This is one of the strongest places of the country, and vessels can come up to the walls of the fortress. The Queen is much annoyed at this move and at Morton's not being so favourable to her as he used to be. She told the treasurer, with whom she was discussing the matter, that he, the King, would be a Scotsman after all. He replied that it was her own fault for not having got the King into her hands before, to which she answered with a great sigh that it would have been better. She has news from France that the Queen-mother is trying to arrange a marriage between him and her grand-daughter, the daughter of the duke de Lorraine.
Captain Santa Cilia has again asked me to beg your Majesty to pardon him, and is so pressing upon the matter that I see clearly that he now desires to serve your Majesty as a good vassal should, and submit to the Roman Church. I therefore humbly beseech your Majesty to extend to him your usual clemency and allow him to end his days in his own country, Majorca, and fulfil his duty as a former ecclesiastic.—London, 12th March 1580.
23 March. 12. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote on the 12th announcing the arrival of a gentleman from Alençon, and the dispatch of a courier by the Queen as soon as she had seen him, which courier bore an autograph letter from her, but no decided answer. When Captain Bruc begged her to dispatch him she replied that she could not do so until the return of the courier she had sent. The latter brought her a letter from Alençon himself, who wrote at the same time to the French ambassador telling him not to treat of the marriage with any one but the Queen alone ; and when it was necessary to communicate anything to her Ministers, he wished it to be done through Velutelli, a Lucchese resident here, who has always served the French. When the ambassador learnt of the return of the Queen's courier, he went to tell her of the instructions he had received, and begged her to dispatch Captain Bruc. She told him that, judging from Alençon's letter, he did not appear to have understood hers, which she said was probably caused by his having lost the cipher which she had given him. The ambassador replied that there was no need for any cipher in the business ; all they wanted was simply yes or no.
On the 20th she dispatched Bruc, to whom she gave a chain of 200 crowns, with one letter only to Alençon, which she had written and sealed with her own hand, in order that no one should see it. From this it may be inferred with confidence that there was nothing in it but a desire to keep the matter open with gallantries of this sort. It is to be supposed that she would not dare to decide definitely about the marriage without the concurrence of the Council, nor about the aid Alençon wants in Flanders, since aid could only be sent in men or money, and the affair must be carried out by her Ministers, with whom she must discuss it. The French have set their minds on this, of which I have every day more evidence ; besides which Leicester emphatically assured a confidant of his that this was the case. I took the opportunity of Leicester's being ill to visit him, and see how the land lay, and drew him out by saying that his enemies were pushing forward the affair of the marriage only to spite him. He replied that he knew that very well, by the position in which it now is, and that the French were continuing it in the interests of the Flanders business. The French ambassador, he said, had told him the previous day that this was no time for a personage like him to be ill ; he ought rather to be on his way with 10,000 Englishmen to aid Alençon in dominating Flanders. He said that he would advise the Queen not to forget her alliance with your Majesty, and I gave him many thanks and fair words, although I knew full well, from what had passed, that it had only been his artfulness which had made him tell me about the intentions of the French. They have sent hither the son of La Noue, pretending that he had been driven to England by contrary winds ; although he told Protestants here that this was what his father told him to say, and to give out that he did not wish to see the Queen until she sent for him. He was with her for three hours before he left, but I am told that he took nothing back with him but hopes, wherewith he had to be satisfied. Leicester and Walsingham loaded him with presents and caresses. (fn. 2)
The Portuguese ambassador has received a letter from the five Governors ordering him to inform the Queen of the King's death, and that they had consequently taken charge of the Government. She gave him a private audience, to which he entered by a secret door, in order that people might think that he was begging her for help, and this was at once publicly stated.
The rebels in Ireland have been making some very successful raids and have much damaged the English. The Queen is informed that the earl of Westmoreland who served your Majesty in Flanders, had arrived in the island and had joined the rebels ; and that Ormond, who is one of the greatest men in Ireland, was not to be trusted, although he had not declared himself against her. They are quite right in this, as I am assured by Englishmen that he has sent word to them that if they make any movement or foreigners arrive in Ireland they may be certain that he will rise with the rest.
With regard to the message which I mentioned had been sent from here to the rebel States and Orange, about the 1,500 Englishmen they wish to engage, Orange has replied that he would undertake to pay the wages and give them quarters in very good places, but the Council have decided that it will not be advisable to send these men together at this time and openly offend your Majesty ; whereas if they go over separately the rebels will at once send them to the front and will not place them in any important fortress as they are short of foreign soldiers. The consequence has been that the Captains have been ordered to suspend recruiting. For the last week I have been informed that the Queen receives four or five times a day, and at night, a man who is brought in by secret doors, his face being covered by a taffety. I have not been able to find out to what country he belongs, nor what he comes about, only that he has been in close conference with Cecil and other Councillors, and I suspect therefore that it must be some business connected with Scotland, the Queen being much alarmed at the King's visit to Dumbarton.
The arrest of the ships ordered by the Queen has now been raised, on condition that they may go anywhere excepting to Spain or Portugal. The London merchants are much grieved at this, both on account of the prohibition itself, and because they had paid for licenses for five ships, four or five hundred crowns each, and the ships have sailed only half loaded. The Queen has since received such great complaints from all the other ports, saying that the trade of this country will be ruined if they are prevented from going to Spain, that she has given so many licenses that it is almost equal to raising the prohibition. This is another proof of how important it is to the English to carry on this trade, and that they should be allowed to load merchandise in Spain, inasmuch as their having been prevented for a month from doing so in the slackest time in the year has caused them to raise this outcry with regard to the damage they suffer thereby.—London. 23rd March 1580.
13. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The ship I mentioned in mine of the 12th of January Leicester had fitted out to search for Drake, and plunder on the way to the Indies, was driven by contrary winds into a port in Ireland in possession of the insurgents, and the earl of Desmond has seized the ship and ill-treated the crew. Leicester is much grieved at this as the ship was well fitted.
The London merchants trading with Muscovy and Persia have fitted out two small ships to try and discover a road to the kingdom of Cathay by the northern coast of Muscovy, the exact opposite of the voyage attempted last summer by Frobisher, in which he found so much difficulty. No doubt this attempt will encounter similar obstacles, as no passage has been found in that direction beyond the River Obi. This is the river that Strabo, Dionysius, the poet, and Pliny believed ran out of the Caspian Sea, and according to all arguments of astrology and cosmography, the sea there must be impassable in consequence of the excessive cold, as much as 70 or 80 degrees, the nights lasting, as do the days, for many months.—London, 23rd March 1580.
14. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Since writing to your Majesty I have seen the Queen to inform her of the happy delivery of our Queen, whereat she exhibited the pleasure which is felt by all your subjects. She asked me what I heard about Portuguese affairs, and I told her that the late King, having before his death caused your Majesty's right to be declared in the Cortes, the nobles and clergy being of the same opinion, the matter was clear, and there was nothing more to say about it ; although some portion of the populace and some Lisbon people were against you. She asked me whether there would be any appeal to arms, and I replied that as your Majesty's right was undoubted and had been acknowledged by the Government, not much force would be necessary. All her Ministers are sorry for this, and will not on any account admit that the Portuguese crown will be added to your Majesty's possessions. I therefore spoke to her in the sense I have indicated.
She told me that they had brought three men prisoners from Ireland who had arrived in the last ship, and who asserted that your Majesty would send aid to the rebels under cover of the Pope's name, and also that he had sent bulls to Ireland, which she had in her possession, declaring her schismatic, and ordering them not to recognise her as their sovereign. She had complained of this to the king of France, and would send a person specially to your Majesty with the same object. In the meanwhile she begged me in God's name (this was the expression she used) to write to your Majesty about it. I replied that I recognised the Pope as the vicar of Christ on earth and the head of the Catholic Church, in support of which I would lose a hundred thousand lives, if I had them, but that with regard to other actions he might perform as a temporal prince, I had no concern therewith. As Don Bernardino, however, I might say that inasmuch as all the ministers of her realm were constantly dwelling on the tyranny of the Pope, and those coloured pictures entitled "The Three Tyrants of the World" with portraits of the Pope, Nero, and the Turk, were publicly sold, she need not be surprised if attempts were made to enlighten them, and bring her country back to its former condition by means of the admonitions of the Church. She began to storm at this, saying that if the Pope or your Majesty sent any help to Ireland she would let out at Flanders, and get the French to enter at the same time. I replied that, having her interests at heart, I warned her that if your Majesty did extend your arm to make war upon her it would be with such a heavy hand that she would not have time to breathe, even in her present position, much less to do anything in Flanders. She was much upset at this, and I pointed out to her how important it is for her to maintain her alliance with your Majesty and not help the rebels. She has done so in every way, and has even advanced money against your Majesty's own jewels, which were found in Brussels and were brought hither. I told her this, and also that she was dealing with Alençon, who, it was publicly known, was trying to aid the States, on condition of their accepting him as sovereign.
She confessed that the jewels were in her possession but said she had taken them to prevent them from falling into worse hands ; and with regard to all the rest she was just as weak in her excuses. With respect to Alençon ; she said she had written to him to take care not to undertake any evil enterprise at the persuasion of no matter whom, and gave me to understand that if he entered Flanders it would mean an entire breach between the French and your Majesty. I replied that if they do attempt it I hoped to God that they would come back as well trounced as I had seen them on other occasions.
After this she asked me what had become of your Majesty's fleet. I answered that it had been sent to Gibraltar and Port St. Mary, whereupon she said, "Well, now that it is through the Straits, it behoves us to be ready," and referred to the preparations she had made. I have approved of these preparations in general terms, as I had done to her Ministers, thus plucking the antidote from the poison, which I thought was the best thing to do under the circumstances. I was moved to this by the consideration that if your Majesty sends the fleet to Flanders or hither, the warning of the militia will be no obstacle to success, as they are all at home, and will not budge until the foreigners have actually appeared. The ships she has prepared are insufficient to resist a quarter of your Majesty's powerful fleet and are of no use for Flemish affairs, because the rebels having all the ports, any help sent from here is easily carried by coasting vessels in safety, the voyage being so short. So that all these preparations are useless excepting for vain show, and to demonstrate to the world how weak are her resources, even with a supreme effort, and at-the vast expense she has been at, especially in the ships, which have cost her so much. This will probably be the greatest of all reasons why neither the rebels or the French will see anything of them. If they do get the help of any of them, it will be for a much less sum than they have cost her, she having now no need for them, Both the rebels and the French are trying this on, as ships are what they need most for the invasion of the States, and not troops, if they had money to pay for them.
One of the advantages of her having armed out of fear of your Majesty is the encouragement which this has inspired in the insurgents in Ireland to persevere, and the hope it has infused in the Catholics here, whom the Queen greatly fears. This has caused her recently to revoke the commission given to her bishops to ascertain who were Catholics. She told them with her own mouth that they were a set of scamps for they were oppressing the Catholics more than she desired.
She and her councillors are thus in dire confusion, as they admit to each other that they do not know in whom to confide, having offended your Majesty, in aiding the rebels, and affronted the King of France in so many ways. When some of them told her she might be sure that the fleet was coming to Ireland or hither, the Queen replied that whilst your Majesty maintained a minister in her Court she could not believe that you would break with her.— London, 23rd March 1580.
15. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After sealing the enclosed letter, I heard that the man who went in and out of the Queen's chamber with a taffety over his face was a Scotsman of the House of Hamilton, who had offered to place the King in the hands of this Queen, he having been bought over in Scotland for the purpose. He has now come for the reward they promised him, and it is pretended that the four ships that sailed, ostensibly for Ireland, have really left with this design. They take with them a small craft with oars which can be of no use in Ireland. Although I do not believe that the ships have really gone on this errand, I am certain that the Scotsman has offered to deliver the King, and I have advised the Queen, his mother, of it. I have also taken steps that the French ambassador shall hear of it through his friends, because if I were to tell him myself it would only result in putting me on bad terms with the Queen, as in accordance with his usual attitude towards me he would be sure to tell her, in order to serve French ends, that I had conveyed it to him so as to prevent mother and son from both falling into the hands of these folks. As this ambassador will not do much to prevent it, I have written to Juan de Vargas to tell the Scotch ambassador in Paris, and it is to be supposed that greater efforts will be made to prevent it when the king of France is informed of the project.—London, 23rd March 1580.
28 March.
Paris Archives (late) B 51. 69.
16. Secretary Idiaquez to Juan De Vargas Mejia.
With regard to the negotiations with the Scots ambassador on his mistress' behalf respecting the departure of his King from Scotland, you may tell him assuredly that his Majesty is as well affected towards his mistress' affairs as ever, and will help and support her with all affection. He will also lovingly receive and welcome the King either in Spain (which would be best) or any other part of his dominions, and treat him as his own son. In order, however, that all this may be successfully carried through, it will be necessary for the Queen to consider well the means she will employ, and that the King's departure should be cleverly and rapidly managed. You may assure him of absolute secrecy on our side, and that neither St. Goard, nor any man in the world, shall hear of it. This is all his Majesty can do in the matter at present, but he will help and assist the Queen when the time arrives. If the affair gets wind prematurely, it will be ruined and rendered impossible. In the meanwhile you will encourage them to continue in their project, and keep his Majesty well posted ; taking care that the business is based on a sound foundation, and that nothing is done lightly.—Madrid, (?) 28th March 1580.


  • 1. Esmé Stewart D'Aubigny, Duke of Lennox cousin of James VI.
  • 2. Odet de la Noue, Sieur de Teligny, La Noue's eldest son. He was then only 18 years old.