Simancas: May 1582, 16-31

Pages 370-379

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 1582, 16-31

18 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1559.
266. Juan Bautista De Tassis to the King.
Two or three days ago two Jesuit fathers came to see me, one an Englishman and the other a Scot. (fn. 1) The latter told me that, more than a year since, he was at Rome to attend a meeting or chapter of his order, and by command of his general, gave to His Holiness an account of the state of affairs in Scotland, and the good hopes that existed of success attending the attempts to restore the Catholic faith in the country if the task were undertaken in earnest. His Holiness liked his discourse so much that he sent him hither and gave instructions to the Nuncio, and to the Scots ambassador here, to consider what steps could be taken in the matter, evincing a desire to aid it effectually if there seemed to be an appearance of hopefulness. The Nuncio and the ambassador decided to send him to Scotland to inform M. D'Aubigny, duke of Lennox, a Frenchman and a kinsman of that King, of the Pope's favourable disposition, as he (Lennox) had the principal influence over the King and exercised great authority in the country, and was known to be a Catholic. They therefore expected to find him very willing to assist, and the Jesuit was instructed to encourage and exhort him to this end, bearing a letter of credence to D'Aubigny from the ambassador, founded on the Pope's instructions. He (the Jesuit) had gone thither and with great difficulty (seeing the suspicion in which the godly live there) had seen D'Aubigny once, after secret communications had passed between them by letter. The interview took place in a castle belonging to D'Aubigny, whither he had gone on the pretext of other business, and another Jesuit, an Englishman and companion of the man who came to me, was present. This Englishman appeared to arrive at the same time with a similar mission on behalf of the English Catholics and carried a letter of credence from Don Bernardino de Mendoza for D'Aubigny. After hearing what both of them had to say D'Aubigny decided to give the support desired by His Holiness and your Majesty to the project, if he were furnished with the things set forth in a statement which he handed to them. He gave me this statement to read and delivered to me a letter from D'Aubigny, copy of which I enclose. (fn. 2)
The demands contained in the statement are substantially tha 20,000 men shall be placed in Scotland during the coming autumn, their wages paid for 18 months, composed of Spaniards, Italians, Germans, and Swiss, a certain number of footmen, and a large quantity of war material and artillery. He asks also for some money to raise native troops if necessary, and 20,000 crowns to be provided immediately here, for which he will have a similar amount paid to him in Scotland to enable him to begin the fortification of certain places, which in any case will be necessary. He indicates the ports where the troops may disembark and demands that his King should have supreme command of the army, and in his absence that he (D'Aubigny) should have sole control over the troops of all nationalities. If the attempt fails and he should lose his estate in consequence, he demands that His Holiness and your Majesty shall give him property of equal value in some secure place, and he lays it down as a condition that the object in view should be declared to be the restoration of the Catholic religion and the liberation of the queen of Scotland. He is confident that his King will assist the enterprise and proposes to come hither to make preparations for it as soon as His Holiness and your Majesty decide upon it.
This, unless I err, is a summary of the statement or memorandum ; and when I said to the Scotch jesuit that the demands were high, he said that when he himself made the same remark to D'Aubigny the latter replied that, although he asked for so much, he left that point and the whole question to the discretion of the Duke (of Guise) here, whose relative he also is, (fn. 3) and who doubtless will have been concerned in the business from the beginning.
I asked the jesuit what was the state of things in Scotland when he left with regard to religion. He replied that publicly it was bad, as the ministers (i.e. clergymen) dominated as much as ever, but that secretly many persons of influence wished to bring about this change, and would join D'Aubigny when he declared himself. The Prince, still quite a lad, was under the influence of heretic ministers, and continued in their religion, but hopes were entertained that if this enterprise succeeded he would very soon be converted to the good path.
He said that the young King was in constant danger to his life by reason of the plots which were being carried on against him by the queen of England, and it therefore behoved us the more to seize this opportunity, because if the queen of England was beforehand hand with us and had her way, the whole affair would be ruined and could never be restored.
When the Scotch father had said all he wished to say, the Englishman commenced, assuring me that the English Catholics were extremely anxious for this design to be carried out, and that arms should be taken up in Scotland for the restoration of the Catholic faith and the release of the queen of Scotland, because if the business were seriously undertaken and success rendered probable, they would do the same and join the army when necessary. They had great facilities for doing this, as the whole of the country adjacent to the Scotch Border was full of Catholics ; and the territories of the earl of Westmoreland, whom your Majesty maintains in Flanders, are in the neighbourhood, as well as a great bishopric, (fn. 4) to which they wish His Holiness to appoint some person of spirit who will be able to raise the people. They think also of summoning the earl of Westmoreland for the execution of the business. He assured me that England was incredibly full of Catholics, and I asked him what assurance they could give me for all this, and whether any persons of position had met and mutually pledged themselves in writing, as is usual ; to which he replied that they knew all he told me through the confessions and spiritual confidences of so many people, and that matters were so far advanced that no doubt whatever need exist, as it was quite certain that things in England were very propitious for such a movement to be attempted.
He said they had communicated with regard to this project lately in secret with the duke of Guise, the Scots ambassador here, and with Dr. Allen, who is an English ecclesiastic of great esteem, director of the English seminary at Rheims, and doubtless has had the matter in his hands from the beginning. It was evident to me, from his words, that they had remarked on the large demands made by D'Aubigny, which demands they thought could not be complied with, and they considered 8,000 men would be ample, if money were provided for the raising of what other troops might be required in the country itself at the time of the execution of the project. They thought that the majority of these 8,000 men should be Spaniards or Italians. I asked him whether it was intended to admit the Christian King into the enterprise. He said not by any means, as they thought that the business would be ruined by the humours current here, which would be more likely to resent than aid such a project, and it is certain that the queen of England would immediately be informed of it from here. I could see also that the jealousy the business might arouse in this King (of France) had been pointed out to them, and this is a sign that it is being considered in all its aspects.
He told me at last that the Duke, the ambassador, and Allen, were to meet again in a few days to decide definitely about the business, and that afterwards the Scotch father would immediately start for Rome, and he (the Englishman) for Madrid (fn. 5) in order to give a full account to His Holiness and your Majesty, respectively.
Before these fathers came to see me the matter had been mentioned to me by the Scots ambassador, and since the interview he has again spoken to me about it. I see clearly that they have gone very deeply into the matter amongst themselves, because he told me that the duke of Guise, being of opinion that on no account should D'Aubigny come hither, as he said he intended to do, they had already advised him not to stir. He (Guise) was determined to take part personally in the enterprise, and throw himself into England in the part opposite the Normandy coast, where the number of Catholics is large, at the same time as the movement was made in Scotland, so that by this means the whole country would be thrown into confusion. He thought he could easily do this as he has a port of his own in Normandy, where he can prepare the expedition secretly. He (the English jesuit) told me also that the Duke took some exception to the employment of Spanish troops, as he feared that if he had anything to do with an enterprise in which they took part, it would be looked upon as a confirmation of the idea that already exists that he is completely Spanish. I expect the two fathers will depart for Rome and Spain respectively next week, as the Duke is expected here on his return from Fontainbleau to-morrow or the day after.
I have thought advisable neither to divert nor encourage them in any of these projects, as I am not sure whether I should be doing right, but as the design is so Catholic a one, I listened to them sympathetically, and expressed a wish as a Christian that all might succeed as they designed.
The English father who is going to your Majesty will be accompanied by a countryman of his, who came to this country perhaps a month since. (fn. 6) He has been all the while with Allen at Rheims. Don Bernardino wrote to me very emphatically about him, asking me to caress and make much of him, as he was a person of very high position, which I have done. He is doubtless a member of the party, as he is going on the same business.— Paris, 18th May 1582.
20 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1447. 140.
267. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Yours of 16th, 25th, and 26th April received and noted. Nothing could be better than your letters to the queen of Scotland and the duke of Lennox, and the instructions you give to the priests who go thither. It is all entirely in accordance with my wishes, and you have anticipated the orders you will since have received in urging them to win souls by conviction, and so strengthen the Catholic party when the due time arrives rather than precipitate the business from lack of patience. You will continue in the good course you have commenced.
With regard to your inquiry as to what you can reply if the queen of England and her ministers should go so far as to prohibit you from exercising the Catholic religion in your own house, and thus force you out of the country, which you believe was the sole object of what Walsingham said to Antonio de Castillo when the latter took leave, about the liberty in religion allowed to you whilst the Queen's ambassadors were not allowed the same privileges here, you may in such case tell them, as they have been told before, that my ministers in her Court have never changed, and never will change, the religion professed by their fathers, and have always been received by kings of England hitherto. As, therefore, no innovation has been made on their part, they claim to stay on the same footing in religious matters as before, a footing confirmed by long prescription and never called into question. Her ministers, on the other hand, have changed their faith, and want to exercise their new one in my Court, where, thank God, no alteration has ever been made, nor will I consent to any being made in all my dominions. They want me, therefore, to change the established order of receiving her ambassadors at my Court, and to introduce fresh and objectionable innovations. This should prove to them that they cannot detract from or alter the ancient religious freedom allowed you in exercising our holy (Roman) Catholic faith, nor can any such bad example be permitted here, as the introduction of the novelties of their sects. With these and similar arguments you will endeavour to keep matters on their present footing.
As your absence at present might injure Scottish matters, which you are managing so well, your departure now must not be thought of on any account, as you yourself admit. But we are looking out for a fit person to send on Drake's business, who after you have well posted him may be appointed to succeed you. From your letters to which we are now replying, it is easy to see that the Queen is getting jealous of Alençon and of the French gaining a footing in the Netherlands, and the step you were recently ordered to take in this respect may have found her well disposed. It will be advisable in every way to increase these suspicions, and open their eyes to the danger that threatens them (the English) from this quarter, and the advisability of their avoiding it. As the ministers thought that, after the proposed taking of Flushing, the Queen would be in a position to come to terms with me, it would be well for you to discover whether it is possible for the Queen herself to intervene for the purpose of reconciling me with my rebels, seeing the danger that threatens her from the vicinity of the French, owing to their natural enmity and the tricks she has played upon Alençon, which, if the marriage fall through, they will naturally wish to avenge. If they succeed in this it cannot be doubted that he (Alençon) will seize both her realm and her person. All these are great and imminent dangers, such as are not to be feared from me, even though the trouble in my Netherlands be settled. It is true we have no reason to trust or to expect much from such an intermediary, and she is much more likely to continue her former arts for the purpose of incensing my subjects against me, yet as the rebels themselves may see they are going to become the prey of the French, they and the English may choose the lesser of two evils, so in any case it will be well to sound this ford. You will do so with all your usual delicacy and dexterity ; and as one of the most powerful levers may be to give a sum of money to some of the Councillors and Ministers, a customary thing in that country, you may open the way by promising presents to such as you think fit if they will arrange for the Queen to intervene and aid in the settlement of a fair peace with my rebel States. I give you authority to promise and divide amongst them in exchange for this 40,000 crowns, and will have the amount supplied to you in the form you desire, so that it may be distributed by you if the affair is successfully arranged. If, for the attainment of the object, it is advisable to give a hint to the Queen on my behalf, you may do so in virtue of the new credence sent you recently, although it would be much better that the business should be broached by one of the Ministers to be gained, and that they should urge her to it as for her own interest. You will manage it with your usual dexterity, and I refer it entirely to your discretion, which I am sure will not fail to be exercised for the best, according to the circumstances of the moment. Report fully to me. You have been requested to advise what had better be done for Lord Harry (Howard), but if it be necessary to pledge him at once before replies can be received, you may pay him the sum you think advisable out of the money now sent you. (fn. 7) —Lisbon, 20th May 1582.
21 May. 268. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 15th I wrote to your Majesty by special courier, but as his passport was only signed by a Councillor they thought it was forged and stopped him at Dover, taking his packets away from him to send hither. The moment I heard of it I sent to Secretary Walsingham, and my messenger arrived at the same time as the mail with my letters, which were immediately handed intact to my servant. I am sure they have not been tampered with, as I have examined them with the utmost minuteness. Seeing the multitude of Englishmen who are daily passing over to Flanders, and the impudence with which expeditions are being fitted out here for the Moluccas and Florida, I sent to ask for audience, in accordance with what I wrote to your Majesty. As the earl of Sussex, who is the person who has charge of these matters, was not at court. Secretary Walsingham opened the letter, and said that he would speak to the Queen about it. My servant returned the next day, and was told that the Queen was going hunting for two days, and on her return, on the 19th, she would give me audience without fail, and that it would be much better that I should speak to the Queen rather than to the Council, because after the Councillors had listened to me they would still have to come to her as she was the mistress. I have since come to the conclusion, from what has happened, that this decision to give me audience was settled in the Council. In the afternoon of the 18th a rumour became current here that I had asked for audience and that the Queen had refused to give it to me ; and on the morning of the next day when a man, who sometimes comes to my house, went to see Walsingham on private business of his own, the Secretary came out of his room, and in the courtyard of the palace cried out loudly that he was going to send a message to me by one of his own servants, but since this man was there he might take the message, which in short was that I must put up with it, as the Queen could not give me an audience, for the sake of her own honour, until your Majesty had given her some satisfaction about Ireland, as I was your Majesty's minister, but as for the rest she must thank Don Bernardino for the very good offices I had constantly exercised.
When I saw not only the rudeness of the terms of the message, but of the mode of its delivery, coming after the report of the previous day, I thought I would give them an opportunity for softening it by sending the same messenger back again to say that such important results might arise from the message that I could hardly believe it was intended unless I saw it in writing. The reply was that he (Walsingham) would not have ventured to send it to me excepting by orders of the Queen. I at once informed the Treasurer of the reply, saying that, as a war might well be the result, I had resolved to write to the Queen upon the point. He replied to my servant in the following words : "Cela est une bien laide réponse. I cannot believe that Walsingham can have given such a reply, but that the messenger must have made a mistake, because when I left the Queen's Court she had decided to give audience to the ambassador, and he will do well to write to the Queen on the subject, and you may tell him so from me." In accordance with this, and in order that the matter might not be passed over, or their rudeness proceed to greater lengths, I wrote to the Queen a letter, of which I enclose a copy, which was delivered by my Secretary, who after he had been delayed for some time by Sussex was taken to the Queen for the purpose. Before she read it she said that she would be pleased to receive me as a private gentleman, and she would be sorry that I should imagine she bore any ill-will towards me, but she could not listen to me as a minister of your Majesty's until you had given her satisfaction on matters which had been mentioned, and respecting which she had sent a message by Antonio de Castillo. Thereupon she read the letter, and when she came to the part about the harquebussiers she became uneasy, and said God forbid that she should ever break with your Majesty, to whom she bore nothing but goodwill. She dwelt at length upon this, and said that she hoped, therefore, that I should not leave here, and I might communicate my business with her in writing until she received from your Majesty the satisfaction she desired.
I have seized this pretext of her having sent a message by Antonio de Castillo for avoiding to demand my passport and leaving here, pending the receipt of your Majesty's instructions. I am quite at a loss to devise any means by which I can agree with these people, as they are not only changeable but perfectly scandalous in their mode of proceeding, and no artifice of mine will enable me to temporise with them. I therefore humbly beg your Majesty to send me orders as to what I am to do. I do not consider it decorous in your Majesty's interests to make any fresh approaches in view of this new reply, which is the same as was given to me two years and a half ago. She continues to claim satisfaction from your Majesty about Ireland, in the face of the message I gave her from your Majesty on the subject, and of the multitude of offences she has committed against you, and yet on my asking for audience to complain of the raids of the English in Galicia, she thinks she has given full satisfaction if Walsingham sends a paper saying that they were the work of Frenchmen and not of Englishmen. I understand that Leicester and Walsingham have prevailed upon the Queen to alter her mind and to refuse me audience.
There are letters here from Antwerp of the 13th, but no mention is made of Orange's having been seen, although they say that he was alive. His wife was buried. I can assure your Majesty that neither the Queen nor her ministers have received any letter from Orange for the last five weeks, and many people still continue to assert that he is dead. I send these letters by special courier to Dover, to be taken by my man who is there, to Paris, from whence I have begged Tassis to send them in the same way.—London, 21st May 1582.
22 May. 269. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I hear from Antwerp of the arrival there of a sloop from Madeira bringing in her a certain Manuel Serradas one of the Governors of the island. He reports that Friar Juan del Espiritu Santo was a prisoner, he being the man I advised had gone with letters from Don Antonio. This Manuel Serradas went to lodge with Francisco Antonio, who is Don Antonio's factor, saying that he was going thence to France. One of my men there writes to say that he believes he comes on no good errand, but in the interests of Don Antonio, seeing his intimacy with Francisco Antonio de Souza.—London, 22nd May 1582.
29 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1559.
270. J. B. Tassis to the King.
As I have had no bad news of the letter I wrote on the 18th about Scotland, I hope it will have passed safely, and I am not sending a duplicate in order not to run any risk a second time with so important a communication. The following has happened since that letter was written. Hercules (i.e. the duke of Guise) has arrived and conferred at length with the priests, after which they summoned me at night to the (Scots) ambassador's house. Hercules informed me of his great desire to personally participate in so important an affair, with the sole object I have mentioned, and the plan of execution was subsequently discussed. His opinion was that His Holiness should have the enterprise carried out entirely in his name and should announce that the destination of the expedition was to be Barbary. On this pretext 6,000 Italians and 4,000 Germans could be raised, and when they were embarked the expedition should sail through the Straits (of Gibraltar) and proceed on its voyage, without touching at any port in your Majesty's dominions or bearing any indication that you were concerned in it, your Majesty's share being limited to secretly aiding His Holiness with money. The object of this is to avoid the jealousy which the sending of Spaniards would cause here, or the fitting out of the expedition in your Majesty's dominions and ostensibly under your guidance. The priests subsequently informed me that the principal reason why he (Guise) advocated this course was the oath he took when he received the order of the Holy Ghost, not to employ himself in favour of any foreign prince without the consent of his sovereign, and he thinks that if he engaged in this enterprise with forces belonging to your Majesty he might be breaking this oath. The priests, however, say that they have satisfied him upon the point, and have shown him that he may do so with a perfectly clear conscience, so that he is now resolved to take part in the affair in whatever form His Holiness and your Majesty may consider advisable.
Hercules for his own part proposes the adoption of the plan he detailed on a former occasion, on one condition however, namely, that there are no armed ships ready to oppose his passage, as his own vessels will simply be light craft suddenly taken on the coast, and unable to compete with ships of the fleet, if any such should oppose him. Some plan to obviate this difficulty will consequently have to be found when the time arrives. He also says that if the duke of Anjou marries the English-woman he cannot take part in the expedition, but I expect they themselves will save him any trouble on that score.
As I have remarked, he shows a great wish to employ himself in the matter, and I fancy that it will flatter him exceedingly if he is praised for so saintly an intention, and told how pleased your Majesty is thereat, particularly if perfect confidence is shown at any number of Frenchmen going, so long as he personally is amongst them. This should be expressed in such words as may be considered fitting to impress upon him your Majesty's trust and goodwill towards him. Even if the particular project in hand be not effected, this step cannot fail to be advantageous, as it will still keep him the more devoted to our interests.
The priests have left, the Scotsman for Rome four or five days ago, and the Englishman for Spain yesterday. The latter is so ardent and confident in favour of the proposal so far as regards England, that encouragement must be given to a man so full of divine zeal for the restoration of religion, and of our own in Flanders. God in his mercy guide it all and inspire your Majesty in what may be for his service. Amen.
They (the priests) are moderate in their demands, and are not in favour of Hercules' plan to effect everything by the hands of His Holiness alone, which they do not think feasible. They say it will be advisable that his name alone should be publicly employed, but that he should provide the money and the enterprise be secretly managed by your Majesty. They think that, under the present circumstances, all the men and ships necessary might be collected in Portugal, without arousing suspicion, and the navigation could be conveniently undertaken from there. They represent also the advantage of another course no less feasible, namely, that the ships that might be needed could be obtained in such places as Lubeck, Bremen, Hamburg, Denmark, Sweden, and even Dantzic, where very good vessels are to be found and equipped easily. The ships could be sought in various places, with as much secrecy as possible, and given a rendezvous within a given time in the river Ems ; and although the counts of Embden are usually neutral perhaps a little negotiation might induce them to admit the vessels into that port, and even allow some of them to be equipped there. As regards the troops, the Germans might be obtained as near the neighbourhood as possible, and 4,000 Italians or even double that number might be raised and sent thither to be embarked in due time. As there is so much occasion for war in Flanders, both by land and sea, it is certain that all preparations that might be made would be attributed to the state of things there, however great they might be. The fleet might probably be despatched from there without its object being perceived, besides which the navigation would be short and easy.—Paris, 29th May 1582.


  • 1. i.e. Fathers Holt and Creighton.
  • 2. See letter from Leunox to Tassis, 7th March 1582, page 316.
  • 3. The King has written in the margin against this, "I do not well understand this." D'Aubigny's relationship with the Guises was only an indirect one, through his first cousin Darnley's marriage with Mary Stuart. James the Sixth's kinship with the duke of Guise and D'Aubigny was in the same degree, namely, that of first cousin once removed.
  • 4. Durham, to which See it was proposed to raise Dr. Allen.
  • 5. Persons went to Madrid, not Holt as is here suggested.
  • 6. William Tresham see page 364.
  • 7. A credit for 3,000 crowns accompanies this letter.