Simancas: August 1580

Pages 44-51

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

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August 1580

7 Aug. 37. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Since I wrote saying what the Queen-mother had written for this Queen's information about the coming of Simier and the Commissioners, the Queen has received letters from France saying that they were not coming so soon, but would be preceded by a gentleman sent by the king of France, and another from Alençon. In consequence of intelligence she receives from the Huguenots she has written to the king of France about his coming to an agreement with them, and has urged Alençon earnestly to insist upon a settlement. She told me when she saw me that she had done so, and said she had no doubt that the siege of La Fère would be raised and peace made, although the news from France is not so confident. She will do her best to pacify matters. I enclose the answer from the king of France to the document the Queen sent him from Bearn, Condé, and the Huguenots.
The Queen has ordered 500 men to go from the province of Winchester (?) to Ireland, in addition to those who left here to embark at Plymouth. It is thought that she will exert greater efforts now, because the new Viceroy is pressing for fresh reinforcements and news comes that an insurgent Viscount had brought his troops against Dublin itself, and would have taken possession of the city but for a woman who gave notice of their coming. This has caused great anxiety to the Queen, as the Irish have never undertaken such an enterprise before, and it is thought that they must be well backed up to attempt it.
They also say that O'Neil (fn. 1) with 3,000 men has refused to declare himself on either side, which has caused the Queen even greater suspicion.
The earl of Desmond has been closely pressed by the English in a skirmish and Desmond had to fly to refuge in a forest on the coast ; Dr. Sanders being carried on the shoulders of the men.
The king of Scotland has returned from his progress to the castle of Stirling and M. D'Aubigny is still in his place near the King, enjoying more power in the country than Morton. The Queen has ordered a gentleman named Bowes (fn. 2) to make ready to visit the king of Scotland and to learn the position of affairs there after the King's progress. The Councillors here have been discussing the selection of a castle or stronghold in every county, in which the principal Catholics of each may be imprisoned. No order to this effect has yet been dispatched, but those Catholics who had been released still continue to return to prison.—London, 7th August 1580.
38. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have received your Majesty's letters of the 10th ultimo, and saw the Queen to give her the account of Portuguese affairs (fn. 3) as your Majesty orders therein. She had already received intelligence by a special courier from France and was much grieved at the news, as I was informed before I saw her. It appears that she said "It will be hard to withstand the king of Spain now." When I saw her she interrupted me at the beginning of the conversation ; which she does cunningly, in order to understand the intentions of her interlocutor, when she is not informed beforehand respecting the subject upon which she is to be addressed. She said that, in consideration of her alliance and friendship with your Majesty, she was sorry that a matter had been carried so far which it would be difficult to maintain. Knowing her character and object, and that the only thing necessary to bridle her is to treat her with spirit and get her to contradict and countermand some of the advice given by her Councillors, I replied that, not only had God given your Majesty the heritage of that crown, but the great power with which she was acquainted, not only to maintain it, which was easy, as all the Portuguese were rejoiced to be your vassals, but also to punish the Portuguese who assisted those who dared to resist a right so clear and just, or attacked you in any way. This reply impressed her so much that after I had proceeded further and she had heard me with much meekness, she replied that I could bear witness that she had said from the first day that she would not mix herself up in the Portuguese question nor help anyone whose right had not been acknowledged. She said that she had been glad to hear of your Majesty's recognition and the success of the entrance of the army. Her rejoicing was natural, considering her friendship and alliance with you ; and your friends might look upon it as a matter in which they themselves were benefited, all of which she asked me to convey to your Majesty.
After she had given me this reply, she kept me talking for more than four hours, in the course of which she begged me to tell her my opinion on the matter, and what would be done in Portugal ; not as a minister, but in my private capacity. I replied that the affair seemed now clear, but I could only say in either capacity that your Majesty's right was so undoubted and manifest, that it would be a most scandalous thing for any Portuguese to oppose it or to countenance others who did so. If even this were not so, I said, as a matter of State policy she would be obliged to act in the same way and not to offend a King who had so strong an arm and so long a sword, especially as the business was one which in no case could bring any profit to her, but rather the contrary, as the Portuguese, both people and nobles, had nearly all voluntarily surrendered to your Majesty, and Don Antonio had no following of importance, even amongst the common people. I said, for these reasons, she would see that it was more important for her than for anyone that great vigilance should be exercised to prevent a single man, ship, or a grain of powder leaving any part of her kingdom for him, and thus to banish the suspicion which otherwise might be entertained of her. I forced this point, for the reasons I have mentioned in other letters.
I also told her in the course of the conversation that it was just as important for her to change her aspect towards the affairs of the Netherlands, as seeing the state of things there and in France, and that the king of Scotland, whom some looked upon as her heir, was growing up, she would understand that it was of moment to her not to offend your Majesty in any way, but rather by deeds to blot out the past. She replied that she desired greatly to see those countries pacified, accepting very amiably what I had said, for not only did she thank me, but went afterwards to walk in the garden, where she said, in the presence of some ladies and gentlemen, that I had spoken very sensibly about Portugal.
She asked me if your Majesty had replied about the fifteen Spaniards who had been taken in Ireland. I told her that there was nothing to answer about that, as it was a matter of no importance, and it was not even true that any of them were Spaniards.
The day before I saw her she had a letter from the duchess of Braganza sent by Giraldo through France. He wrote at the same time to Leicester, and the purport of both the letters was to complain that no answers had been sent to the letters from the Duchess. He has been informed that answers were sent by sea.
Before I received your Majesty's despatches, news had arrived here of the proclamation of Don Antonio as King, and I took the opportunity of pointing out to the ministers here how weak his party was, and how small a following he had throughout the kingdom. In conformity with your Majesty's orders, as many Englishmen have asked me what news I have from Portugal, I have given many copies of the information to them, and by this means, without appearing to force it, the intelligence of the small chance he has of making resistance has been spread broadcast, and has also been sent to Antwerp, where I am told they are still arranging to send arms to Portugal on account of some merchants.
Some French corsairs have captured two English ships, and ten or twelve English pirates have consequently left the ports here. I think of speaking to the Queen about it, and have told the merchants who trade with Spain to press the Council on the subject, as otherwise their goods in Spain may suffer for it, and their ships, unless they go with certificates and recommendations from me, may be refused entrance on the ground of piracy.
They write from Flushing that Orange was pressing for ships to put to sea. And, if their object be not to go to Portugal, both these ships and those above mentioned may do much damage on the route to the Indies when the fleet is homeward bound, which is a matter that some of these people are on the look out for.— London, 7th August 1580.
15 Aug. 39. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty on the 7th, and on the 10th there arrived here by sea a Portuguese named Juan Rodriguez de Souza, a man 32 years of age, a knight of the Order of Christ. He comes from Don Antonio with letters for the Queen, the earl of Leicester, and Secretaries Walsingham and Wilson. (fn. 4) He also brought a letter from Don Antonio himself to Antonio de Castillo, which he sent to him saying that his master the King had ordered him to deliver it and to tell him verbally that it was desirable for his service that he, Castillo, should at once leave here for Portugal. The envoy added that he was unwell and consequently could not perform his mission in person, but asked Castillo to send him a receipt for the letter. Castillo refused to receive it, and replied that he was astonished that a letter should be sent to him from the king of Portugal without saying who the king was. He said that he had come hither in the time of King Henry, and since his death he had represented here the crown of Portugal by order of the five Governors. Until he saw by a letter from them, whom they acknowledged for king, he should recognise no one as such. The other man replied that his master was the King Don Antonio, to which he was answered that when he, Castillo, left Portugal, King Henry had proclaimed Don Antonio as illegitimate, and, as such, having no right to the crown, and he, Castillo, could therefore not receive a letter from him as king, without the instructions of the Governors. He could only recognise Don Antonio as the son of an Infante of Portugal and as such wish him well. (fn. 5) The Queen's Ministers consider Castillo's reply to have been a good one, and I can assure your Majesty again that, since his arrival here, he has behaved with much good sense and prudence, loyally serving the interests of Don Henry whilst he lived, and since the King's death he has failed in no point to protect the interests of his country, and as a good Portuguese, to strive for its quietude. In consequence of this, and his refusal to negotiate with the Queen without orders from the Governors, from whom he has not heard for six months, and for not having consented to be mixed up with the plots and intrigues which Giraldo has been planning here and in France, the latter has been writing a thousand slanders about him and has even warned the Queen to beware of him, as he was a Castilian and attached to your Majesty ; even after Giraldo himself had written to him many times asking him why he did not help him and press the Queen to send arms to Portugal, to which Castillo had replied that he could not act without the instructions of the Governors. As I was assured of the honesty and straightforwardness with which he has acted since he has been here, I thought that I should not be doing my duty to your Majesty if I did not say so ; particularly as I am sure that he will now serve your Majesty, whose subject he is, with the same fidelity, and I beg humbly that you may be pleased to reward him as he deserves.
As soon as Castillo heard that Don Antonio had been proclaimed king, and that the Governors had gone to salute your Majesty, he said that he was no longer a minister, and I have consequently not taken any steps to get the Queen to refuse to acknowledge him, he having anticipated the need for it. I have sent to ask for audience in order to renew the offices your Majesty has commanded in view of the coming of this Portuguese. I am to see the Queen to-morrow and will advise the result of the interview. Hitherto no notice has been taken of the man (i.e., Rodriguez de Souza), nor has he stirred from London. Besides the ship which I advised some months ago left here with arms and munitions for Portugal, two hulks have left with munitions, but they are still detained off the coast by contrary weather.
Augustine Clerk, as I have written several times, corresponds with the Council here, he having been sent by them as a spy, and I am now told by a man who has seen his letters that he says your Majesty has employed him and given him 1,000 crowns, ordering him to stay with the fleet to be raised in Galicia, whence they were to go with 800 Italians to Ireland, and that he would try to get possession of one of the best of the ships and go over with it, and with his own vessel, to the Queen's side. He also gives full details of your Majesty's fleet and forces, and of everything that is being done in Galicia.
Stafford came three days since from France, only bringing news that the commissioners from Alençon would come ; but he does not say when, nor who they are to be.
As I was closing this letter, I have been put into possession of a letter written by this Portuguese (Rodriguez de Souza) to Leicester, asking him to get him audience of the Queen. I send a copy. He has been told that the only information they have here is that your Majesty is king of Portugal, and until they learn to the contrary, the Queen was not disposed to receive him. I have, however, spies to tell me whether he gets a secret interview.—London, 14th August 1580.
15 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1448. 16.
40. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Six letters of yours have been received, dated 29th May, and others of 11th, 18th, 26th, and 29th June. Thanks for advices contained therein. Such points as require answer are dealt with below.
I approve of the steps you took with the Queen when you heard of the arrival in England of the English captains who are serving in Flanders, with the object of raising men to take thither. Please keep me informed on this matter. You gave a good answer to the complaints made to you relative to the same subject. The remarks of the Queen and Council with regard to the confirmation of our old treaties shall be considered. If they ask you anything further about it before you hear from us, say you have received no reply. Your reply to the earl of Leicester on the subject is approved.
Inform me with what object the Queen was sending the munitions from London to Rochester arsenal ; and what was done in the matter of the troops they were raising, ostensibly for Ireland. Let me know also about the ships they intended fitting out. We note what you say about Clerk, and will take care now that he plays us no trick. His ship is in our hands and his crew dispersed.
We are expecting news from you as to the reply given to the Portuguese who had arrived there with letters from Don Antonio to the Queen and certain councillors. Let me know when the man left and whither he went and for what purpose. What person was it who took the letters from the duchess of Braganza to the Queen, and what answer was given to them.
Keep me well informed about Ireland, and all you can hear of Drake.
Try to get to the bottom of the reasons for the new persecution of Catholics in England and inform me thereof, and say whether it is calculated to provoke disturbance or allay it. When did the prince of Condé leave England, what was his errand, and what did he arrange there?—Badajoz, 15th August 1580.
21 Aug. 41. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote on the 14th that I was to have audience of the Queen. Before I could say a word she asked me if I knew a Portuguese who had come, and who had sent to beg for an opportunity of presenting a message from Don Antonio as king of Portugal, which she could not admit that he was, and would not acknowledge him as such. I replied that I did not know who the man was, and for the rest, since she was good enough to tell me beforehand the course she would take, I could only say that I agreed with her entirely, as nothing could be more important to her than to avoid opposing so just a right as that of your Majesty. I pointed out the dangers which an opposite course might bring upon her, without taking much notice of the promise she had made, as I found her in so yielding a mood. By this means I left the door open to renew with greater urgency the steps your Majesty orders me to take, in case she should alter her attitude. She agreed with me to send a clerk of the Council to learn from the Portuguese what he wanted. She therefore sent Secretary Wilson, and on the same day that I had been with the Queen, the earl of Leicester came to London to see the Portuguese, and invited him to supper at his house that night. They tell me that he brought some jewels as presents, and, amongst the best of them, a diamond, a belt, and collar, which were intended for Leicester, although I have not learned yet whether he gave them to him. No answer has been given to him, as they are holding off to learn what is done in Lisbon on the arrival of your Majesty's army and fleet.
They are expecting here a gentleman from France sent by Alençon to the Queen, and she is advised that the commissioners will be a brother of the prince of Condé, Marshal de Cossé, and M. de Piblac, although they do not say when they are coming, nor is any time fixed for Parliament to meet, it being intended that they shall attend during its sitting.
D'Aubigny, as earl of Lennox, is pressing to obtain the free custody of Dumbarton Castle, which has always been an appanage of his family. The man who has it now, one Brustel (Sir William Stuart?), who has held it for years past as lieutenant of the house of Lennox and has sworn not to surrender it until the King reaches 22 years of age, has been released from his oath, in order that he may deliver the fortress to D'Aubigny, who has great power in the country. He has however replied that he had received his charge from the King, with the consent of the Queen of England, and that he would not give it up without informing the latter and receiving her permission to do so. D'Aubigny therefore is sending a man to ask the Queen to allow Brustel (Sir William Stuart?) to give up the castle to him. I understand that the man is one of this Queen's pensioners there, and a friend of Morton's, who is greatly reduced, as well as being in the bad graces of this Queen for allowing D'Aubigny to obtain so much power.
This Queen has ordered letters to be written to the earls of Northumberland, Montague, Worcester, and Southampton, five barons, and three hundred gentlemen, who are held to be Catholics, and has ordered them to be imprisoned in the castles and strongholds, which, as I mentioned in a former letter, had been chosen for the purpose, in fear of a rising of Catholics here as well as in Ireland. The Viceroy (fn. 6) of the latter country is daily pressing for troops and money. When the Catholics here are summoned before the Council and are asked why they do not attend the preachings, they answer that it is against their conscience to do so, and they are then sent to prison. They have given the nobles who have hitherto presented themselves a month to make up their minds which they will choose, either to hear the sermons or to stay in prison, where they would like to keep them during the sittings of Parliament to prevent them from opposing a Bill which they are determined to pass against the Catholics. This is to the effect that any Englishman who will not openly attend the preachings shall be punished by a fine of 40l. sterling for the first month, 80l. for the second, and so on, doubling the fine for each month. This is Cecil's idea, who says that it is much safer for the Queen thus to deprive the Catholics of their property than to take their lives.— London, 21st August 1580.


  • 1. Tirlough Lenough O'Neil, chief of Ulster.
  • 2. Sir Robert Bowes, who for several years subsequently resided in Scotland as Elizabeth's ambassador.
  • 3. The Duke of Alba had crossed the Portuguese frontier with his army on the 27th June and had captured St. Ubes in the middle of July. The regents had gone to render their submission to Philip ; and Alba was rapidly marching upon Lisbon, which surrendered at the end of August.
  • 4. Dr. Wilson had been English ambassador in Portugal.
  • 5. Don Antonio, prior of Crato, the Portuguese pretender, was the illegitimate son of the Infante Don Luis, second son of the king Don Manuel, and consequently a first cousin of Philip II, whose mother the Empress Isabel was the eldest daughter of that King.
  • 6. Lord Grey de Wilton had entered Dublin as Lord Deputy on the 12th July, and gives an interesting account of the state of affairs in Ireland in a letter to the Queen, dated 2nd August (MS. Cotton, Titus, B. XIII., p. 305), in which he begs for money and victuals ; failing which he says "it will be beyond the industrie or reatch of man to performe any acceptable or expected service."