Simancas: April 1580

Pages 23-28

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

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April 1580

7 April.
Paris Archives (late) B 51. 192.
17. Juan De Vargas Mejia to the King.
I have seen the Scots ambassador, and told him what Don Bernardino de Mendoza had written to me. (fn. 1) He thanked me, and said that the Hamilton who has been in London and has seen the Queen is a brother of the one here, and had crossed the Border when his brother came hither. He (the ambassador) is well aware that he has been tempted several times by the queen of England to deliver the King into her hands, but that he had always refused. It is believed that the Queen had sent for him again to press him on the same subject, and as he was a fugitive from his country he could not refuse to go ; but they are quite confident he will do nothing of the kind. The ambassador has letters from Scotland dated 8th ultimo reporting that when the prince was at Lisleburgh, one day before Shrovetide, in full council, he told the earl of Morton that he had been informed that he (Morton) was going to attempt to poison him or deliver him to the queen of England. Morton knelt before him and declared that he was a good and loyal subject, and prayed him not to believe such a calumny which had been invented by his enemies in order to ruin him. He prayed the King to tell him who had made the accusation, and to have a full investigation made so that the guilty might be punished. The prince at once replied that those who had said it were the earl of Argyll and M. D'Aubigny, who were present, whereupon Morton replied, "Would to God that there were no more truth in their plots to deliver your Majesty to the French than in the accusations they bring against me of wishing to surrender you to the queen of England." Shortly afterwards the Prince summoned all the nobles to meet on the 22nd or 23rd ultimo at Stirling, and especially Morton and his friends. The King himself had suddenly gone to Stirling, whereupon Morton and his followers had retired to one of his castles on the English border, and it was expected that he would not go to the meeting.—Paris, 7th April 1580.
9 April. 18. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 30th I wrote to your Majesty, and on the 4th instant the Portuguese ambassador saw the Queen, and delivered a letter from the governors. I am told that the man who translated it into English said it was a credence for the ambassador, and also said that if necessary, they, the governors, would appeal to her for help to defend the liberties of their country jointly, if your Majesty tried to deprive them of them by forbidding them to nominate the successor to the throne. They wrote to France in the same way, and some of the councillors here say that the king of France therefore ordered the stoppage of all ships in his ports. The Queen has given fresh instructions that no vessels are to leave here for Spain, and the licenses are withheld from those which have not sailed ; but I do not see any appearance of an intention of sending aid to Portugal, although they say they will do so, wishing to prompt the Portuguese to act in a way which shall make your Majesty employ your forces against them. They have published this to-day, saying that they have news that your Majesty had ordered 50 galleys to enter the river at Lisbon and an army to go overland.
The Queen has advice from Ireland that the insurgents are constantly increasing in numbers, and as soon as they arrive at any place which acknowledges her they burn it. The Englishmen she has there are urgently begging for reinforcements of men and all other things, for they are short even of stores.—London, 9th April 1580.
17 April. 19. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Since my last writing to your Majesty, the French ambassador, in addition to his ordinary despatches, received a packet in great haste with a letter for the Queen. The substance of it was to say that, although it was most important to both nations to prevent the aggrandisement of your Majesty, and that Portugal should not he added to your dominions, it was especially important to her as he, the king of France, was sure that as soon as your fleet had finished in Portugal it would come hither or to Ireland. He assured her that this was so, and that the fleet had been raised for this purpose. He urged her therefore to be beforehand in breaking with your Majesty, and not to give any chance for Spanish soldiers to set foot in this island, as in such case she could hardly defend herself, nor could he help her. If, on the other hand, she would join with him and declare war at once, he would have the means of cutting your Majesty's claws in union with her, so that you should not even be able to get Portugal. This was contained in the letter in these very terms, and it continued that if she did not accept the suggestion and at once declare herself an enemy to your Majesty, he would not do so. The Queen was referred to the ambassador for particulars, and the latter had orders from the King to broach the subject first to Cecil alone. This he did on the 14th, and afterwards saw the Queen, He delivered some grand speeches and harangues to her urging the business upon her, to which she replied with very fair words, and afterwards discussed it with Leicester. She ordered the matter to be kept secret, as she desired that no one but himself and Cecil should hear of it. She said that she had no reason for breaking with your Majesty before the king of France, and even if what the latter said was true, she had sufficient forces to protect her country. It was nevertheless an important proposal which must be deeply considered. Although, as I have written frequently to your Majesty, the matter has often been discussed, the French have never pressed it so earnestly before, and it may be suspected that much will depend upon the negotiations which the envoy Giraldo (fn. 2) is to discuss with them and the offers he makes from the Portuguese, as I know that letters come from him in the Queen's packets and not through Antonio de Castillo, the resident ambassador here. I gather from this that he is working to the same ends. I also have heard that a Portuguese had arrived at Rouen by sea, and had gone to Paris shortly before the arrival of the king of France's letter here. Thinking that it is important that your Majesty should know this, I send a special courier with the news.
Leicester is deeply offended with the French and has taken an opportunity of sending a message to me saying that, since his enemies, in order to ruin him, had embraced the French cause, which he formerly favoured, he would in future be on the side of your Majesty, both to revenge himself upon them and upon the French, who not only had failed to thank him for his services of the last twenty years, but had sided with his enemies to ruin and totally undo him. He asked me to let your Majesty know his intention and he would prove by his acts that he would serve you in every way. As it is advantageous at this time to have him in hand and learn whether his offers are sincere, as well as to keep myself informed through him of the French and Portuguese intrigues, I answered him that I had foreseen for months past that a great and generous spirit like his could not for very long brook the way in which the French were treating him, but I told him that to write clearly to your Majesty what he said might be productive of more harm than good, and might appear mere fickleness, as the change was so sudden. I said I told him this, prompted by the affection I bore him, and that I had better merely signify to your Majesty that he was much more favourably disposed towards your interests than formerly. The business could thus be initiated and would gain solidity as time went on, with the gradual change of the appreciation in which he had formerly been held. I said that I did not want to chop words with him like the French, and he was delighted at this, accepting my advice with many thanks. Your Majesty will order me whether I am to go any further with him. Although I think it would be hard to make sure of him entirely, it is most important just now ; because, besides my anxiety for information about the French and Portuguese plans, I really think I see signs of sincerity, as he professed himself willing if I wished, to declare himself openly against the French. I told him that it would be better not to do so but to temporise with them as before.
The negotiations for the Queen's marriage still go on although more slowly. She is advised that M. de Vray, Alençon's secretary, is coming with letters for her, he having left after the arrival of the Queen-mother in Anjou. Amongst other things, they say that the object of his coming is to mollify Leicester, for which this man is thought to be the best instrument, as he was here with Simier, and being a great Protestant, he advised Leicester that Simier and Castelnau were acting falsely towards him and trying to injure him.
News comes from Scotland that Morton had rejoined the Hamiltons, who were formerly his deadly enemies ; and that there had been a plot to kill D'Aubigny, who had raised troops for his protection and for the defence of Dumbarton.—London, 17th April 1580.
20 April.
Paris Archives, [late] B. 51. 185.
20. Juan De Vargas Mejia to the King.
I have little to say to your Majesty in this letter, except with regard to the queen of Scotland and her son. I went to see her ambassador as soon as I received your Majesty's letter of 28th March, and gave him the message contained therein, which he was anxiously awaiting. He was naturally grateful for it, because as he is very warm in the business, it was just such a reply as he could have desired. I said this to him, and told him that now the rest lay with them, and he must consider deeply the methods by which the affair may be successfully carried through secretly and promptly, seeing the danger which may attend it. He undertook the task and assured me that he would cipher his letters with his own hands, as the Queen would do with hers and the matter would not go beyond them.
He asked me confidentially, as if satisfied with the position, whether he should give an account to the duke of Guise. I replied that he was a better judge than I on that point, and knew Guise better than I did, and how much trust could be placed in him. To speak frankly, however, if it were my own case and I were he, I should take care not to give an account of such a matter to any living man until I had communicated with my Queen and had her express commands to do so. He was extremely pleased at this advice ; which he said he would follow implicitly. So far as can be judged, the matter is really on a solid foundation and has been maturely considered with every intention of carrying it out. Whether circumstances change, or the project is possible of execution, can only be proved by events.
Balfour of Burleigh has not spoken plainly yet, although the ambassador was to tell him to do so. He is a keen cautious man, who has the means and power to get the Scots to retire from Flanders, especially the larger body under his kinsman Colonel Balfour. The ambassador is a more straightforward man, who deals quite confidentially and frankly with me ; and he tells me that Balfour is shy of visiting me, in order not to arouse suspicion, and to enable him the better to perform the service in question. The ambassador has told him that the Queen approves of it, although seeing the calamity she is in, she does not wish her name to be mentioned. Balfour has agreed to go to Flanders to arrange the matter personally, and, if he succeeds, to return hither and give an account of how and when it is to be executed, and at the same time formulate his own claims. I understand these to be that, if the affair is successful, your Majesty will grant an allowance in Scotland to the Colonel and his soldiers, whilst they serve the Queen, either there or against England or Ireland, as they may be ordered. As regards the other Colonel, whose name is Stuart, and the men under him, he is a friend of the ambassador's, and is more influenced by him than by anyone else. We have therefore agreed that he shall be sounded by hints to the same effect, and I am to be informed of the result ; it being understood that not only are they to be urged to retire, but also to do some notable service at the same time. I can say no more about it than this, but will continue to report all that occurs.
As your Majesty said some months ago that you approved of the information I sent about Lord Hamilton, and on the first opportunity would send a credit for the sum of money your Majesty had granted him for his present requirements, I have done my best to keep him in hand without telling him anything, but he is pressing me very much, and I see that he is in sore need. I understand he has recently sent some Scots of his house with a letter to your Majesty. Your Majesty will order for the best. In the meanwhile I am putting him off with the fairest words I can find.—Paris, 20th April 1580.
30 April. 21. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The Queen has received a letter from Francisco Giraldo, Portuguese ambassador in France, setting forth the many occasions upon which Portugal has supported and aided this Crown, and pointing out the poor return she is making for it at this time when her help is needed, in consequence of your Majesty's attempt to usurp the throne. He says that the king of France has shown a much better disposition towards them, and has given them all they wanted, namely, artillery and munitions. When the Queen read the letter she said, as did her Councillors, that Giraldo was not strong enough to have written such a letter himself, and it was doubtless prompted by the French, Giraldo having acted at their dictation rather than at that of the Governors. She therefore decided not to answer the letter, and Leicester, who at the same time received another letter from Giraldo asking for his support, will act in the same way.
The Queen summoned me on the 6th and told me that she had received a letter from the Governors of Portugal, informing her that they were quite agreed, since the death of the King, to give the Crown to the person who was the rightful heir to it ; and if any force was brought to bear upon them they would defend themselves. With this end they asked for her aid and support in consideration of the friendship between the countries. Answer was sent that the Queen rejoiced to know that they were agreed to proclaim as their king the rightful claimant, and she did not believe that any prince would try to use violence, especially your Majesty, who was so sincere a lover of justice and so benign and christian a prince. She said she wished to convey this to your Majesty through me, and as Giraldo was very busy in France, and she believed the king of France was writing to your Majesty on the matter, she thought it well that she also should not neglect it, and asked me to favour her by writing as soon as possible. I promised her to do so, although, I said, by the information I received, I learnt that nearly all the Portuguese were unanimous in acclaiming your Majesty as King.
She afterwards told me that, when the four ships she had sent to Ireland arrived with the battery of artillery, the English had taken a redoubt or small fort, in which were some rebels and fifteen Spaniards, who said that they had gone thither at your Majesty's orders. They had all been killed but the leader, whose name was Julian, who had been ordered to be brought hither. She did not know what she had done to deserve that your Majesty should support her rebel subjects. I replied that, even if fifteen Spaniards were there, there was no reason to suppose that so small a number had been sent by your Majesty's orders. I told her to cast her eyes on the Netherlands, where there were whole regiments of Englishmen who had been serving the rebels for the last three years, sacking towns which owed allegiance to your Majesty. I said that if this were not remedied, and the alliance with your Majesty respected, she would not only see fifteen Spaniards, but many thousands of them, and so near, too, that she would not have time to repent of what she had done. To this, and other things of the same sort, she only answered by saying that she was being threatened on all sides by your Majesty's fleet.
The prince of Bearn and Condé recently sent a gentleman to the Queen to give an account of the reasons why they were moved to take up arms, the king of France having broken his word and the peace by trying to betray Condé. They begged her not to let the idea that she needed the king of France and his brother as a protection against your Majesty, force her into marrying Alençon, as the best thing for her was to remain free, she having men and resources which were more powerful than those of the king of France. She replied with many thanks and promises to them of her usual friendship. Two days after this gentleman had left she herself dispatched another envoy to them.
Alençon's secretary, who I wrote was expected here, has not arrived, and the marriage negotiations are being rapidly forgotten. The Queen has news from France that a marriage was spoken of between Alençon and the sister of the prince of Bearn.—London, 30th April 1580.


  • 1. About an alleged plot of Claude Hamilton's to seize or murder the king of Scotland at the instance of Queen Elizabeth. See letter No. 15 on preceding page.
  • 2. Giraldo, who had formerly been the Portuguese Minister in England, was now accredited to the king of France and was inclined to oppose the succession of Philip to the Portuguese throne.