Simancas: February 1583

Pages 443-449

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

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February 1583

13 Feb. 315. Bernardino De Mendoza to Don Juan De Idiaquez.
Many thanks for first and second bills of exchange for 2,000 crowns and 1,200 crowns. I am very anxious for them to arrive before the end of this month, which is the term fixed by the drawers for their acceptance. The Portuguese were favoured with a fair wind, but unfortunately three of them who had gone for a walk on shore were left behind, and were arrested and taken to Dover. I have sent thither an order from the Council to liberate them, but I do not know whether it will have arrived in time for them to catch another Levant ship which sailed after their vessel. I cannot close the account until I have some trace of them.
The weakness you said the duke of Alba was suffering from, considering his age, had made me apprehensive, but nevertheless the news you send, now that God has been pleased to take him to himself, has caused me great grief, as you may suppose. His Majesty has lost a great Minister, and the public loss overshadows the private sorrow of those who, like myself, owed so much to him. From the tenour of his life I can well imagine that his end was enviable. (fn. 1) —London, 13th February 1583.
Précis of letter accompanying the above.—That news had arrived there (i.e., London) that the inquisition in Milan had arrested on his way from Venice Edward Unton, (fn. 2) a man of 6,000 crowns income, a kinsman of the Queen ; and Leicester and Hatton at once spread the announcement that if he were not released he (i.e., Don Bernardino de Mendoza) would be arrested. They asked him (Mendoza) for a passport for a person they were sending to Milan to request Unton's release, which passport he had given for six months.
14 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1561.
316. Juan Bautista De Tassis to the King.
The malady of the duke of Lennox is increasing to such an extent than the physicians now fear for his life. (fn. 3) For this reason, the Scots ambassador tells me that he has only been able to communicate with him very briefly, and has given me this statement of affairs. (fn. 4) In accordance with this, any fresh attempt is postponed for the present, and, in my poor judgment, the affair may now be looked upon as ended, for apparently this isolated prince (i.e., James VI.) will gradually bend to the inevitable, and even, if need be, forget Lennox in his absence.—Paris, 14th February 1583.
Without date. Paris Archives, K. 1561. 317. Document headed "Scotch Affairs."
After those of the faction that captured the King had carried him to the capital town of Edinburgh, they threatened that if the duke of Lennox raised forces to rescue the King from their hands ; and if he did not at once retire to France, they were resolved to carry through what they had commenced, as it was too late now to repent, and they would adopt the most open road ; by which they meant that they intended to send the King to England, or put him out of the way by some other method. This was the reason of Lennox's coming hither, as he saw that the King was so strictly guarded by those of the faction that all chance of his (Lennox) doing anything advantageous was frustrated, and the person of his Majesty exposed to evident danger. He therefore embarked at Dumbarton, after having put his affairs in order as best he could, and left the fortress well provisioned in the hands of one of his most faithful adherents. After he had set sail with the intention of landing in Britanny, he was driven back twice or three times by storms. This gave him the opportunity of making an attempt, whilst he was thought to be awaiting a favourable wind to sail, and the enterprise for the King's release undertaken by him and other lords was not discovered until six hours before it was to be executed. He was obliged, therefore, in order to disguise the matter, to say that, as the wind was still contrary, he had approached to where the King was for the purpose of obtaining a passport to go by way of England. He was constrained to depart on this pretext, as the King had given his promise to the English ambassador, before Lennox first embarked, that he should be sent away, this having been much pressed upon him by the faction, whose greatest wish was to see Lennox gone. He left, however, in the good graces of the King, who sent a man secretly to him on the day of his departure to say that he hoped soon to get rid of these people who were detaining him against his will, and with this object he had determined to summon all his nobles for the end of January, so that, by their assistance, he could the more easily withdraw himself. His Majesty also had given to Lennox a certificate, sealed with the Great Seal, testifying to his good conduct and faithful service during the time he had been in Scotland, and also some very affectionate letters in his favour to the Christian King and the queen of England. He assured him that, by God's help, he would soon have him back, and would never change in his kind feelings towards him, nor rest until he had been avenged on the traitors.
21 Feb. 318. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
It was recently stated here that the rebel States had become reconciled with Alençon, and Walsingham spread the news diligently, as did the other councillors. It was, however, groundless, as will be seen by the reports I send herewith from Antwerp and all the rebel towns. The intelligence from all quarters, Catholics and Protestants alike, is to the effect that they only want peace. I take every possible means of letting them know that their best way to get it is to submit to your Majesty.
The Queen continues to approve of Alençon's actions, and although, as I said, Orange wrote assuring her that Alençon had always displayed an inward desire to revenge himself upon her for the marriage slight, he, Orange, has now changed his tone and informs her that, after examining the French prisoners and Alençon's papers, he can find no evidence that the latter was acting in collusion with your Majesty or the prince of Parma. His only desire in saying this is to pledge the Queen more deeply to aid Alençon, and reconcile the latter with the heretics, as he sees how bitterly the Netherlanders hate the French, and that it will be difficult for him to carry on his detestable rebellion unless he can reconcile them. In this he is helped by Walsingham, who told the Queen it would be advisable to send a special envoy to Antwerp for the purpose of examining Alençon's papers. The Queen and and Council approved of this, and entrusted the business to Walsingham, who sent a servant of his own. When he returned, he reported in accordance with the wishes of Orange and Walsingham. The French Huguenots who are at Antwerp, and Orange also write to the Queen, saying that, whether Alençon is reconciled or not, it will be impossible for the French to maintain themselves unless a sum of money be sent speedily, and that, if she did not want to see the States again fall into your Majesty's hands, it behoved her to lose no time in sending the 20,000l. she had promised months ago, as otherwise it would undoubtedly lead to the commencement of a war in her own dominions. They are awaiting the return of Darcy whom the Queen had sent to Alençon.
A week since the Treasurer sent, by his secretary, a document to the Lord Chancellor (fn. 5) to be sealed with the Great Seal, as it had to be sent to France immediately. The Lord Chancellor read the paper, and told the secretary who had brought it to tell his master that he (the Lord Chancellor) did not consider that it was a desirable course to take. When the officer who has charge of the seal was ordered to seal the document, he began to read it, when the Lord Treasurer's secretary snatched it from him so that he might not learn the contents. The officer therefore refused to seal it, and they both went before the Lord Chancellor again, who relieved the officer of all responsibility for sealing the document without reading it, which he then did. I am told this by a person who was present but was unable to discover the purport of the document ; whether it was an undertaking from the Queen to the king of France to find money for the Flemish war, if Alençon would remain there, or pardon to some of her subjects whom she had declared to be rebels, I do not know. I report to Juan Bautista de Tassis the sending of the document so that he may be on the alert to discover the contents, if possible.
M. de Meneville, who I reported had been sent from France to Scotland, has arrived there, with the determination of residing there as ordinary ambassador. For this reason, he took a priest with him, greatly to the surprise of the conspirators, and the King asked him why he had brought him? He replied, that the ambassadors who resided at the court of the queen of England had mass celebrated in their houses, although the Queen was of a different religion, and that ambassadors were free. He therefore asked to be allowed to exercise his religion in Scotland. The King replied that he was not obeyed in his country as the queen of England was in hers, and he therefore could not allow him the liberty he requested. They write also that, although M. de la Mothe had proposed the renewal of the alliance and friendship with France, they had again replied that the King greatly valued the old and advantageous relations between the countries, but it was not considered desirable formally to renew them until the King was older. It is expected he (M. de la Mothe) will shortly leave the country.
Postscript.—Whilst closing this, I hear from Scotland that Lord Herries, a great adherent and servitor of the queen of Scotland, and a person of prudence and influence in her interests, had been found dead in his house at daybreak, some say stabbed, but the manner of his death is not certain.
I have also just learnt that Cobham has written to the Queen that the king of France and his mother had sent a sum of money to Alençon, telling him to use every effort to stand fast in the States, and try to reconcile himself with the rebels on any terms If Juan Bautista de Tassis do not send this news to your Majesty, it may be concluded that the King and Queen-mother will have told it to Cobham in order to draw this Queen more towards Alençon again.—London, 21st February 1583.
28 Feb. 319. The Queen Of Scotland to Bernardino De Mendoza.
I have received your three last letters of 20th, 27th, and 29th January, and it was a great consolation to me to learn, by the report of your conference with the duke of Lennox, the condition in which he had left Scotch affairs, and how he had proceeded with the queen of England. In his letters you have forwarded to me, he could only give me a very brief account of this himself, but he assures me in general terms of my son's entire obedience and duty towards me, and of the fidelity to our cause of most of the gentlemen of the country. He presses me, more strongly than ever, to the execution of our enterprise, and is convinced that, with the least foreign support, he will be able to crush the entire opposing faction in a fortnight. He says it could not stand at all but for the help of the queen of England ; and our party would already have attacked them, as we are the stronger, but for the fear that they would endanger the life of my son or cause him to be carried out of the country. It is my intention to use every effort to get him out of their hands, in which case I pray you will represent to His Holiness and the King that war cannot fail to break out in the country, and that the aid requested, or a part of it pending the arrival of the rest, should be in readiness. As my son cannot be consulted beforehand, the duke of Lennox will not fail to return to Scotland with the foreign forces, which he assures me will be safely received at Dumbarton, according to the arrangement he has made with the captain there.
I have received no advices for the last five months from my ambassador (fn. 6) about the negotiations in France, Rome, and Spain, respecting the enterprise, and I am quite ignorant of the present condition thereof, although I have written firmly several times, and also have told him to keep up correspondence with you. I am much displeased at this, but in order to banish any suspicion you might be led to entertain in other quarters, I am obliged to tell you plainly that the whole fault proceeds from the ambition and bias of my said ambassador ; and unfortunately it is not in my power to make him agree with anything unless he has the entire direction and control of it. In order to be able to preserve this liberty of acting according to his own fancy, he would prefer that I myself should refrain from mixing in the business, although, up to the present, I fail to see any advancement of the negotiations which he has undertaken, as he will not allow any other person to intervene. Even in Spain I have been quite unable to get him to enter into communication with Sir Francis Englefield, who is a gentleman of great experience in English affairs, and has had the direction of them hitherto. He will not endure the bishop of Ross either, who has done me very great service, or any other of my special agents. I pray you, then, lay upon him the blame of my not being obeyed in my orders that he was to keep in touch with you with regard to what happened in France concerning me. In order to forward my affairs I have had communication with my cousin, M. de Guise, by an English gentleman named Morgan, and although my ambassador has done all he could to obstruct him, I have determined in future to communicate with my cousin only through this Morgan, who has served me long and faithfully there (in France). He enjoys an excellent reputation with my principal friends, and I should be glad if you can communicate with my cousin Guise through him, and so from time to time get fresh intelligence of what is going on there. I have therefore given Morgan orders to try to open up a correspondence with you, and I assure you he may confidently be trusted with the most important matters touching my interest.
With regard to your leaving for Spain, since things have reached a position when it is necessary that they should be managed from France, I have begged the king (of Spain), through Englefield, to appoint you to that country, and I pray you will second this request in the interests of the business, because not only have you a full knowledge of my intentions, and of the state of affairs here, which makes you more capable than anyone else to deal with these people, as will be necessary, but I will not, for my part, commit any of my affairs here to Señor de Tassis, as I have no confidence in or knowledge of him. I hope that the Catholic King will grant this just petition, and I pray you if only until you receive the reply, to defer your departure from here. I should be sorry that your health should suffer by a long stay, but I have great hopes of a prompt execution of our enterprise, to which your presence is so very necessary. I am quite of your opinion that, if the enterprise is carried though swiftly and promptly, no plans should be undertaken in England for fear of premature discovery, but if the Catholic King and His Holiness resolve to delay the matter, I do not think it would be unwise to approach the principal gentlemen here, with the object of gaining them over and getting them to make preparations themselves, without communicating the affair to others. I already have had some of them sounded, but until they know the foreign troops are embarked and on their way, there is no possibility of getting them to pledge themselves. They say that in the last northern insurrection the fine promises given to them and unfulfilled were the cause of their destruction, and of the cruel persecution they had to undergo. They consequently will make no engagement until they are quite assured of the intention of His Holiness, and the king (of Spain), your master, towards whom, at this time, I presume Fontenay will be travelling, after being so long delayed in Paris by my ambassador. You will favour me by recommending Fontenay and helping him with your influence at the Spanish Court, as I intend to make him my representative there.
Your testimony to Morgan is very agreeable to me, and I can assure you I am more deeply indebted to him than I can say, for without any obligation from him towards me, I have found him so zealous and affectionate for the restoration of my State and prosperity, and I pray you to trust him in all he may tell you as if it were myself. I will write you a word by Lord Harry, (fn. 7) to assure you that you may safely send by him any letters to me you may think proper, but do not trust him with anything of importance.
I cannot omit to congratulate you upon the recent accident in the Netherlands, (fn. 8) and hope that it will facilitate greatly the submission of the country to the Catholic King, and peradventure bring the duke of Alençon to seek his friendship.
The following letter is enclosed in the aforegoing :—
M. l'Ambassadeur.—At the urgent request of Lord Harry I write you a word by him, and say that it will be advantageous if you will show him the deciphering of this in order that he may see that I have fulfilled his desire. You told him that some time ago I had sent you this cipher key, without anything else, but we have not written in this cipher hitherto.


  • 1. ‡ The duke of Alba had died at Thomar, in Portugal, at the end of December 1582, at the age of 74 years.
  • 2. Sir Edward Unton had married the widow of John Dudley, earl of Warwick, Leicester's eldest brother. She was a daughter of the Protector Somerset, and consequently Sir Edward Unton was cousin by marriage of Edward VI., and thus indirectly connected with the Queen.
  • 3. Lennox died on the 26th May 1583.
  • 4. See the following document.
  • 5. Sir Thomas Bromley.
  • 6. Beaton, archbishop of Glasgow.
  • 7. Lord Henry Howard, Mendoza's "second confidant."
  • 8. The contention between the Flemings and Alençon's French forces.