Simancas: June 1580

Pages 33-39

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

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June 1580

11 June. 27. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The rebel States have sent some of their English captains hither for troops to reinforce their companies, and to beg the Queen's permission for more captains and soldiers to go. As soon as I learnt this I asked audience of the Queen and Council, and pointed out to them that they well knew the evils which I had often told them might come to them if they gave help to these rebels. I said I would not repeat these arguments, as no doubt they were fully alive to them, but I was forced to state that the Queen was ignoring the alliance with your Majesty, and not only helped the rebels with whole regiments of Englishmen, of which there had been no lack in the Netherlands since the beginning of the war, and against whom I myself had often fought, but she had also supported them even with loans of money, against your Majesty's jewels ; and now, I said, fresh levies of Englishmen were being sent. If the Queen did not remedy this and recall the soldiers already in Flanders, I must inform your Majesty of it, and must represent to them also that it was most pernicious in any Prince to support rebellion, and much more so in the case of the Queen, who had herself a rebellion in Ireland and many refugees from her own country, some of the inhabitants of which were not very well satisfied, and if help were extended to any of these, it would give her enough to do. The Queen and Council replied that as soon as she succeeded to the Crown, although the alliances between England and your Majesty referred only to the House of Burgundy, she had greatly desired to continue the ancient amity, and had sent Lord Montague to confirm the treaties. This your Majesty had neither accepted nor refused ; and it was therefore considered that the Queen was free from any obligation under the treaties, and was at liberty to help the Netherlands and prevent the French from taking possession thereof. As to the jewels, she had them in her possession, and would surrender them when your Majesty wanted them. The Queen also referred to the rising of the duke of Norfolk and the pensions your Majesty gave to those whom she had declared rebels, and she mentioned the capture of the fifteen Spaniards in Ireland, which I spoke of in mine of the 30th April, and complained that she was being threatened on all sides by your Majesty's fleet. I replied in the same way that I have often done, according to your Majesty's orders, and upon the Queen and Council asking me two or three times what I had to say about your Majesty's not having confirmed the treaties, I said that I could not enter into any reasons as to what had happened so many years ago, but it was my duty to tell them that it behoved them, for their own safety's sake, to remedy the present state of affairs. By the urgent requests of the Queen and Council that I should write to your Majesty about the confirmation of the treaties, I perceive that they greatly wish to discuss this point.
Not only has the earl of Leicester communicated with me that he wishes to serve your Majesty, but says he desires to bring about a new secret alliance between the Queen and your Majesty. I have answered, putting him off and saying that the most important thing was that he should do his best that existing treaties should be respected, and that no help should be sent to the rebels.
I sent to tell the queen of Scotland what your Majesty ordered, to which she replied that she welcomed with gratitude your desire still to help her in her troubles. She asks me to inform your Majesty that she thought of negotiating with this Queen to set her at liberty ; although she expected that it would be refused on the advice of Leicester and Walsingham, who persuaded her that she, the queen of Scots, had no object but to plot with other Princes to destroy her. This, she said, was a reason for treating her worse than ever. She wrote two letters on this matter to the Queen and Council, and sent them to the French ambassador that he might use his influence for her.—London, 11th June 1580.
28. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 29th ultimo I wrote to your Majesty. Since then the negotiations for the Queen's marriage, which had been almost dropped, have been again revived. A council was consequently held on the 5th instant, in which it was decided that the Queen should send word to Alençon, that Commissioners might come to agree upon the capitulations. They were unanimous in this and when the Lord Chancellor was spoken to by the Queen about it she said to him, "How is it you have changed your opinion, for you thought differently before?" He replied that his inexperience in such affairs, he being new in his post, had caused him to err on the matter. He now thought that a person should be sent to France speedily. Although the people think the marriage is now certain, my own belief is that the great outcry that they have raised about it at this time has no other object than before, on both sides, namely, to make use of the negotiations for the purpose of maintaining the war in the Netherlands and, if possible, exacerbating affairs in Portugal ; because after Alençon's secretary's departure with the last subterfuge, I was told that Alençon had written to the Queen that it was desirable to him that people should not think that the marriage negotiations had quite fallen through, and he begged her to allow them to continue, which she did. At the same time I heard both from Antwerp and here, that Orange was making great efforts through his confidants here, to discover whether the marriage and other negotiations with the French were going forward. He was told that they were considered to be still in progress, and he thereupon sent Plessy, who, as I wrote, was at Antwerp for the prince of Bearn, who told Walsingham that if the Queen married Alençon, the rebels would maintain the war in the Netherlands, but not otherwise, since most of them after the rout of La Noue (fn. 1) were inclined to peace, as they saw that their force was insufficient with Alençon alone. For this reason the States in Antwerp were not inclined to effect the agreement with Alençon, and the result of this has been the holding the Council I have mentioned and the publication of the decision arrived at by them.
Plessy has been dealing with the Ghent people for them to surrender the lordship of the towns held by Bearn's father in that province, (fn. 2) and I am privately informed also that Plessy has been negotiating for the election of a magistrate in Dunkirk in the interests of Bearn, the hope being to place there a French governor for the purpose of having a port whence the Huguenot ships may sail on their plundering voyages, and make another Rochelle of it. The French heretics have begun this already by taking a Genoese ship which was anchored in the Downs awaiting the wind, but the weather did not allow them to take it into Dunkirk, and they were obliged to enter Flushing, where I am told they were arrested, although they had letters of marque from Bearn and Condé, authorising them to seize property of subjects of any of the Princes of the Holy League.—London, 11th June 1580.
29. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
After sealing the enclosed letter I have been informed that a French ship has arrived at Plymouth with 1,000 harquebusses, and a quantity of powder, in consequence of which she was arrested and intelligence sent to the Council, who, understanding that the arms and powder were intended for Portugal, have ordered that the ship may depart without hindrance. It was sent by Giraldo, in accordance with the letter I mentioned from him to the Queen, saying how much more willing the king of France was to assist Portugal than she was, as he had given them stores and munitions. No doubt he referred to these.—London, 11th June 1580.
18 June. 30. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have received to-day two despatches from your Majesty, dated 16th ultimo, and in conformity with your instructions that I should report the preparations being made by the Queen, I beg to say that they are confined to the four vessels which have been sent to Ireland, the calling out of the militia, which had been under orders to muster for the last four months, and the vigilant watching night and day from the beacon-towers, which has hitherto only been done in time of war.
The Queen has also ordered artillery, harquebusses, powder, bowstrings, and other warlike stores to be taken out of the Tower, and sent to the arsenal at Rochester, where her ships are, to be in greater readiness. In addition to this, she has sent to-day to the Guildhall for the London companies to raise four thousand infantry, a thousand pikeman, and three thousand harquebussiers. It is not known how she intends to employ them, and as these folks are so unstable, not much dependence can be placed on such orders, which are given one moment and changed the next.
The intelligence which your Majesty ordered to be conveyed to me as having been given by Augustine Clerk, the English captain whose ship had arrived at Bayona, respecting the men who were to be sent from here with arms to Portugal, is nothing but a fable got up by Walsingham, who sent this men as a spy to Spain, as I wrote to Don Juan de Idiaquez. I said that he was in constant correspondence with these Councillors, and that his pretended revelations were simply to gain him more credit with your Majesty's officers. I am quite certain of this, because there has never been any discussion about sending arms or ships to Portugal in this way, and if any attempt is made to employ those which have been sent to Rochester, I have a man there to inform me. On the other hand their constant fear (which I take care to increase) of your Majesty's fleet, causes them to keep the Queen's ships in port, and there is great difficulty in getting license for ships to go to Spain and Portugal particularly, which licenses the merchants can only obtain by heavy payments.
Your Majesty's order that Clerk should serve in Don Pedro de Valdés' fleet will only be bringing an enemy into it, wherever he is. (fn. 3) He came from Gravelines with a little ship which was serving there, under the pretence that he was forced hither by the weather, and after having communicated his plans to Cecil and the Queen's secretaries they told him to obtain my help in asking the Queen to allow him to sail with a larger ship. I refused to do this, because I suspected double dealing ; whereupon he came and told me that he had obtained power to take out the ship secretly and would go with it to M. de la Motte, and asked me for a letter. This I gave him, but in general terms, as my suspicions of him had been confirmed, in consequence of certain letters I gave him for de la Motte not having been sent, as well as my having heard of his scandalous talk with some of these Councillors. I advised de la Motte of this, and told him to revoke the man's commission. I then learnt that his ship was being fitted out at Plymouth by the Queen's orders to go to Spain, and a week since de la Motte wrote to me saying that he had received a reply from the duke of Alba acknowledging the information of Clerk's departure, and that he had ordered the marquis of Santa Cruz to capture him, as he deserves punishment.
Very little hopes are now entertained of Drake's return, as he has been so long delayed.
A Portuguese recently arrived here by sea who has been lodged in Secretary Wilson's house. I am told that he brings letters for the Queen and some of the Councillors, and has gone to-day to deliver them. I suspect that they are from Don Antonio, prior of St. John, as he was in loving converse with the Englishmen who are in his favour. He avoids Antonio de Castillo, who represents the Governors here. I will report to your Majesty the reply that is given to him, but hitherto the Queen shows no desire of mixing herself in the matter by sending troops thither.
A captain has come from Ireland to entreat the Queen to send thither men, stores, and victuals. He says that the earl of Glencarn has again declared himself against the Queen, and he assures the Queen that if he, Glencarn, and the rest of the rebels, receive no foreign support, they cannot stand out for many months, if she will send the force now requested. She is in some fear that the French may seize the king of Scotland, as she is advised that he is going on a progress in the North, where it is thought the French may take him with the connivance of d'Aubigny, who still retains his position with the King, and is popular with the Scots. —London, 18th June 1580.
26 June. 31. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The Portuguese, who, as I wrote on the 18th, had come addressed to Secretary Wilson, saw the Queen and gave her a letter from Don Antonio, dated the 10th ultimo. He also brought some letters for the Councillors. The purport of them all was to state generally his right to the Crown, in virtue of the Bull granted to him by the Pope. He pressed upon the Queen the obligation she was under to help him, in consideration of the good understanding which had existed between the countries, and referred her for information to the bearer, who had full authority to speak in his name. In the letter to the earl of Leicester there was also a request that he would help the gentleman in getting audience of the Queen and advise him as to the best way of proceeding. He told the Queen that, not only was Don Antonio legitimate, as would be seen by the proofs, but all the Portuguese people were in his favour, and wished him for their King, they being armed on his behalf to resist your Majesty's entrance into the country. They would however need aid in munitions, and begged that they might be sent in order to strengthen Don Antonio. She replied that as she had many times told Antonio de Castillo, the representative of the governors here, it was not for her to help any person whose right had not been acknowledged ; and the man is therefore seeking license for the Antwerp merchants to export on their own account some powder from here, in the certainty that they will make a profit on it. He is being helped in this by Secretary Wilson to whom Don Antonio sent a bezoar stone worth 80 crowns. If I see any signs of powder being sent I will speak to the Queen about it, and will find out the quantity. These people are well aware that Don Antonio has not the slightest right, and that what he says is all lies ; besides which they think he must have very few followers, since he has sent hither as his envoy a man whom they well know as having been a common servant of Giraldo when he was here. The Queen received letters two days since from the duchess of Braganza, which were sent through France by Giraldo. They only said that she would on no account renounce her right, but if she could not get justice she would obey the King, whoever he was. Giraldo also wrote in favour both of the Duchess and of Don Antonio.
Plessy, who I said had come from Antwerp, told the Queen that the prince of Condé considered it advisable in the interests of revolution in France for him to come hither and give her an account of affairs, and begged for a passport, which the Queen granted. Condé thereupon came by way of Germany, and arrived here secretly on the 19th from Flushing. He saw the Queen who was gracious to him, but I do not know whether they will favour his pretensions, which are to take money or credit from here to raise cavalry in Germany, as the Queen told the Council how bad it was for them that the Huguenots should have appealed to arms at this time ; whereas it would have been better for them to have been free to help Alençon in the Netherlands, thus encouraging the Portuguese and keeping your Majesty busy on all hands, which is the object they always have in view.
For the last few weeks they have proceeded with much more rigour than formerly against the Catholics ; those of them who had been imprisoned and were released on bail having been sent back to prison again. In the county of Lancaster they have arrested sixty men for attending mass. When the order arrived the people in the neighbourhood said that if the Queen was going to punish them for that, she would have to imprison all the country. I understand the cause of this is that one morning lately certain Latin papers were found about the streets of London in the form of a Papal Bull declaring the Queen schismatic, although many people think that this is nothing but a trick of the heretics themselves to sound the Catholics. By God's mercy the latter are increasing daily in numbers, thanks to the preaching of the clergy who come from the seminaries in Spain and Portugal.—London, 26th June 1580.
29 June. 32. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 26th I wrote to your Majesty of the arrival of Condé here and of his going to see the Queen. After she had seen him two or thee times she sent Stafford to France to see Alençon, whom she wishes to have on her side, so as to be more secure against his brother. She promises that she will not fail to help him as he desires. By these means she will keep him in suspense and prevent him from declaring himself with his brother against the Huguenots, and she and her Council think that they will thus be able to tranquillise affairs in France, which is their object.
She also sent to say to the French ambassador on the day that Stafford left, that she had heard that the prince of Condé had arrived, but that she would not speak to him excepting in his, the ambassador's, presence, and asked him to come the next day. (fn. 4) He did so, and whilst he was with the Queen, Condé, whom she had lodged in the garden, came in. She ordered the room to be cleared and they remained together, the three of them alone for four hours. Condé repeated his complaints against the King and the reasons why the Huguenots took up arms. The ambassador replied and pointed out how the King had borne with them, the Queen closing the colloquy by saying that she wished to reconcile them. With this object the Queen gave the ambassador a document, of which I enclose a copy, saying that it contained the exculpation which Bearn and the Huguenots had to offer. The substance of it is the same as the letter addressed by Bearn to the nobles of France to be sent to the King. Until she hears in what disposition Stafford finds Alençon, I am told that the Queen will not decide how she will act towards Condé and the Huguenots. As soon as Condé arrived he sent a man to La Fère giving an account of his arrival and assuring them that they would receive aid. A gentleman from Casimir came with him.
The 4,000 infantry raised here were mustered yesterday and to-day, it being asserted that they and some of the others from elsewhere, to the number of 8000, would go to Ireland, and they also say that they are going to arm some ships, but I see no signs of it.—London, 29th June 1580.


  • 1. La Noue had been routed and captured near Courtrai a month previously by the Marquis de Richebourg, and was kept a prisoner for some years afterwards. The loss of so trusted a commander threw the Netherlanders into great discouragement.
  • 2. These Flemish lordships had descended to Antoine de Bourbon by his ancestor, Robert de Claremont's, marriage with the daughter of John of Burgundy.
  • 3. It would appear that the King was fully alive to this possibility, and with characteristic caution wrote from Badajoz to Cardinal de Granvelle in Madrid on the 17th June (the day before the above letter was written in London). "As regards the English Captain Clerk, it will be advisable, whilst not offending him, to put it out of his power to play us any tricks. Don Pedro de Valdés should therefore be informed that if he employ him he is to make sure both of him and his ship, until news shall arrive about him from Don Bernardino de Mendoza, and he can then be treated as he deserves."—B. M. Add. 28,702.
  • 4. French historians have assumed that the Queen was sincere, and that she had not seen Condé before.