Simancas: March 1583

Pages 449-457

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

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March 1583

2 March. 320. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez.
I must confess that I am awaiting His Majesty's letters with more anxiety than I can say, as I am overburdened with maladies, and I cannot manage to throw off the effects of my late catarrh, from which I am obliged to convalesce as if it had been a great illness. The Queen cannot get on without marriage negotiations, and she is carrying them on now with the king of Scotland, in order to secure herself in the quarter she fears most.
The picture they sent from Flanders represents a cow, signifying the States, with his Majesty mounted thereon and spurring it till the blood flows. Orange is depicted milking the animal, whilst a lady, to represent the queen of England, is giving it a little hay with one hand, and holding out a porringer to Orange with the other, and Alençon is holding on by the tail.—London, 2nd March 1583.
17 March. 321. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 6th, as arranged, the Queen gave audience to M. de la Mothe Fénélon, receiving him alone in the privy chamber, the only persons in the room being the two ambassadors (i.e. La Mothe and Castelnau) and a few Councillors. When La Mothe approached to kiss her hand she showed great coldness, but ordering the ambassador to be covered at once, had a seat brought for her. She then addressed La Mothe very harshly and stiffly, and said that she was astonished that a man of his age with his white beard should have proceeded in Scotland differently from what he had promised her. (fn. 1) He had offered to the king of Scotland the forces of his master and every assistance, and had discussed the business of the association between the mother and son, which she (Elizabeth) would never allow. He replied with great submission that, when she received further information besides that contained in the letters that had been sent to her, she would see that he had not failed in anything he had promised, and had done nothing derogatory to his grey hairs or his master's instructions. He would presume to remind her that he had told her that his mission was to settle things in Scotland in quiet and concord, and if this were not feasible, then to offer his master's forces, which he had done. At the same time he had pointed out how beneficial it was to the King of Scotland to retain, not only the friendship of France, but also that of the queen of England, to whom he personally owed so much, and he could call Davison to witness whether he told the truth or not. With this the Queen told him to be covered and instantly tamed her anger, which was only make-believe. She then said she was glad for him to undeceive her as to the information she had received, to which she had not given entire credit, as she knew his disposition ; and then went on to converse with him about Flanders, saying nothing but ill of your Majesty, of the prince of Parma, of me, and of Spaniards in general. La Mothe, subsequently relating this, said that, if the Queen had a tenth part as much courage as she had malice, something good would still be done against Spain. When she dwelt upon her affection for the king of Scotland, and her desire that there should be perfect concord and friendship between the two kingdoms, La Mothe replied that the best way to effect it would be to liberate the mother. The Queen at once began to abuse the queen of Scotland and the "association," which, she said, was only for the purpose of upsetting everything that had been done in Scotland. I gave your Majesty an account of the answer La Mothe had received in Scotland, and since then I have learnt from a trustworthy source the exact proposals made by the King and his Council and his replies, of which I send a statement to your Majesty. It will be seen that his action was all toned down to suit this Queen, and, as I wrote on the 13th December, his embassy has been from the first only for the sake of appearances, and to force the Queen, out of fear, to second the French designs. As will be seen, also, nothing really was done in either of the points touched, as the alliances were not renewed and no settlement of the "association" of the queen of Scots and her son was arrived at, as the conspirators wish it to take the form of a simple renunciation.
During the verbal communications La Mothe had with the King he suggested one of two marriages to him on behalf of the Queen-mother ; first with the princess of Lorraine, which the King stopped immediately, by saying that he was not in a position to discuss it without the intervention of his Council and the consent of his people, whereupon La Mothe opened out no further on the point. La Mothe asked whether he would be glad for the king of France to send forces to his aid, whereupon he said, Yes, if it could be done without endangering his life, but he saw the conspirators had him fast. La Mothe avers that he treats the conspirators with far more dissimulation and artifice than could be expected from his years, as no one would guess but that they were the persons he loved most, instead of his hating them as he does. The earl of Huntly told him (La Mothe) that the best way would be to act in France without saying anything about it to the King.
I hear that La Mothe has written to the queen of Scotland about her ambassador, but the letter is really filled with praises of her son, and saying how many adherents she had. He says that they had made themselves known to him, asking him to beg of her to order their pensions to be paid, which it was thought better should come from her, in order to pledge them the more to her. He says, moreover, that he gave some more pensions there from his King, which, if it be the case, can only be on paper, for La Mothe himself is so short of money that when he returned hither he was obliged to ask an English gentleman to lend him 300 crowns, payable in three months, on his return to France. La Mothe and the French ambassador also spoke to my second confidant, whom they told they had received fresh orders from the king of France to offer him a pension of 2,000 crowns a year, on one of the blank grants which La Mothe brought, it having been a mistake on their part, they said, to offer him 1,000 before. They earnestly begged him to accept the pension, but he refused in the same way as he previously had done, whereupon they prayed him to indicate some person upon whom it could be conferred through his intervention, but this he also refused. I have confirmation of this, besides what he tells me, as La Mothe related it to the gentleman from whom he borrowed the 300 crowns, who is a friend of mine and one of the channels through which I communicate with the queen of Scotland. He is a good Catholic, and informs me of all he learns from the French, with whom he is in constant communication.
Since the arrival of La Mothe, letters have been received from Scotland, reporting that a general meeting of the nobles has been held, whereat the earls of Mar and Argyll are much displeased, and complain of the earl of Gowrie, who is one of the principals of the conspirators, for not having informed them when he proposed it to the King and persuaded him, as some of them affirm that he did. The King, at the instance of the conspirators, is sending hither, on an embassy, Colonel Stuart, who formerly served the rebels in Flanders, and it was also said that, although the King would not give formal permission to Méneville to have mass celebrated in his house, he had told him that he would make no inquiries as to whether he had it or not, and with this Méneville was allowed to do as he pleased.
Robert Bowes, this Queen's ambassador, and Davison have informed the King, on behalf of Leicester and Walsingham, that if he will marry Dorothy, (fn. 2) daughter of the earl of Essex (who, they say, was poisoned by order of Leicester so that the latter might marry his wife, the present countess of Leicester), and will assure them that he will not change religion, on his being acknowledged by the English Catholics, they, Leicester and Walsingham, will have him declared by the judges to be the heir to the crown of England. Notwithstanding this offer, Leicester still perseveres in the marriage I mentioned, of his son with the grand-daughter of the countess of Shrewsbury, who, after the queen of England, they say, is the nearest heiress. With Walsingham's aid he is thus trying to get his son (fn. 3) made King in right of his wife. His relatives and friends have possession of the ports of entrance of the country, the only thing wanting, as yet, being the control of the sea forces, which the Queen has promised, after the death of the earl of Lincoln, who is more than 70 years of age, to Lord Howard with whom Leicester has made an arrangement beforehand, to exchange the office of Admiral for that of Master of the Horse, which Leicester holds. The queen of Scotland has earnestly pressed the French ambassador, by some means, to let the Queen know of this design of Leicester's in connection with the marriage of his son, as she is certain that it would arouse her womanly jealously, and make her very indignant. The ambassador, however, has refused.—London, 17th March 1583.
322. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
In addition to the discourse which I described to your Majesty, between the Queen and M. de la Mothe, at his leave taking, he asked her, on behalf of the Queen-mother, to indicate the number of ships she would contribute to the fleet which she (the Queen-mother) was raising in favour of Don Antonio. She said that, when Don Antonio was in a position to raise a fleet, she would give four great ships of her own, and eight merchantmen. They have also said the same to Don Antonio's agent. M. de la Mothe affirmed here that the Queen-mother was only waiting for Alençon's affairs to be settled, and he had no doubt that, until that was done, Don Antonio's business would slumber.
They report from Flushing that two armed ships had gone to Dieppe to carry Don Antonio to Antwerp, but I have no confirmation of it.
The ships I have mentioned, that Humphrey Gilbert was fitting out with the design of taking Catholics to the coast of Florida, are now getting ready to sail, as the two ships they sent last summer to explore seem a long while gone.—London, 17th March 1583.
323. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Darcy, who I said had been sent to the duke of Alençon, returned hither on the 12th, and instantly sent to tell Walsingham that he was in London with the French ambassador. He said, not only had Alençon failed to come to terms with the rebels, but there was not the slightest hope of his doing so. Darcy told Alençon how sorry this Queen was, and pointed out the trouble that might result, to which the Duke replied that the States had given him good cause for doing much more than he had done, and that the only evil was that he had not succeeded, and consequently there was no more to be said about it. Darcy also represented to him how grieved his mistress was that Norris and the Englishmen were so much opposed to him, and said that he had instructions to tell them so, in a way which Alençon would understand if he sent someone with him to hear what he said. Alençon accordingly sent with him six gentlemen of his chamber, and in their presence Darcy told Norris in the name of the Queen, his Sovereign lady, that she ordered him and the rest of the Englishmen to leave there instantly, this being preceded by a great preamble. Norris had already been made acquainted with the Queen's message, and answered that he was a second son, (fn. 4) and had not an inch of ground in England ; that he was in the service of the States, to whom he and his men had sworn allegiance, and that until he had fulfilled that oath he would not be justified either in honour or duty in abandoning them. For the satisfaction of his honour he begged Darcy again to lay the matter before the Queen, and pray her to send a written general order that he was to leave the service of the States. In accordance with this, Alençon desired Darcy to beg the Queen, since she so greatly desired his welfare, and held to his side against all the world, that she would at once order all the Englishmen to leave the States, as he would be able to agree perfectly well with the rebels if he were alone with his Frenchmen. Darcy also brings with him from Alençon various conditions for the Queen to consider and influence the rebels to accept, and press those which may be most convenient. The last conditions proposed to him by the rebels were, that he should restore the fortresses of Terremonde, Villevorde, and Geestemunde, and that he should go to Brussels, not only with the Switzers who had been previously specified as his guard, but with such escort as he might choose ; and when this was done, a settlement might be discussed. Alençon tore up these conditions in a furious rage, saying that he was duke of Brabant and Gueldres and count of Flanders, and as such their Sovereign, who could dictate terms to them instead of their doing so to him. He refused to give them any answer in writing, and pleaded illness, which caused Orange and the Antwerp people to think that he was gaining time, either to go to France or to await the succour which was said to be coming from there. They had therefore withheld the victuals, which had previously been sent to him by land and water from the rebel towns.
Darcy says that, whilst he was at Terremonde a gentleman came from the prince of Parma, (fn. 5) to whom Alençon at once gave audience, and was with him for over four hours, which greatly offended St. Aldegonde and the other rebels there, as he did not give audience to them.
They report from Antwerp that, as Orange saw that the province of Flaners and the people of Antwerp had made up their minds on no account to come to an arrangement with Alençon, he had told them that if they submitted to your Majesty they would all be burned, hanged, or martyred, and it was, therefore, desirable that they should seek some good leader to govern and advise them ; the object of it being that they should choose him (Orange) as duke of Brabant, which was being warmly advocated by his faction. He had prevented the populace from listening to the letters sent by some of the personages about the prince of Parma, by saying that no arrangement was ever made between two enemies directly, but that if some German or other neutral person were to intervene he might be listened to. This was coupled with his usual artifice, of spreading fictions amongst the people, and raising ill-feeling against the reconciled provinces. By order of the Council, the so-called bishops here, the ministers, and companies of merchants, have been asked to grant money for the relief of Geneva, and although the demand is ostensibly for voluntary gifts, they really are almost obligatory. Two aldermen and two other persons, who were deputed to manage it, summoned the persons separately, and made them a long harangue ; after which, if the sum given was small, they frightened the givers by saying that the Queen and Council would be very angry at their conduct in refusing to help generously so charitable a work. They keep secret the amount they have collected, and although some people really think it is for Geneva, others believe, with better reason, that it is to send to the apostate bishop of Cologne, whom they had promised to assist. The Queen has sent a gentleman to Sweden, it is believed on the affairs of Muscovy. She wishes to be arbitratress of a peace there.— London, 17th March 1583.
324. Bernardino de Mendoza to Juan de Idiaquez.
I cannot help expressing to you my daily increasing sorrow at receiving no despatch from his Majesty withdrawing me from here, and as my own letters are at present so long, with their many enclosures, I will not tire you with much here.
From the proposals about Scotland and La Mothe's bold action, you will judge whether I was right in my forecast of his mission and aims. The moment I heard from my friend that La Mothe was asking for money, I had his secretary approached and sounded as to whether, in return for a present, he would be willing to show his master's instructions, because I concluded that if the master was in want, the servant would not be too well off. He agreed to the proposal, in return for a present of a hackney, the cost of which I paid. He delivered the instructions signed by the king of France himself, which I have had in my own hands, as well as his other papers, which I have had copied ; although I could not get a copy made of the instructions, for fear La Mothe should miss them, but they are to the same effect as the proposals, and leave La Mothe to use his discretion, according as he may find affairs here and in Scotland. (fn. 6) I am delighted to have taken this step, because, not only has it enabled me to be sure about Scotch matters, but it has fully proved the trustworthiness and honesty of my second confidant, who had minutely informed me, verbally, of La Mothe's designs, the information being exactly confirmed by the papers which I have seen.—London, 17th March 1583.
20 March. 325. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I enclose a letter from the queen of Scotland, which was the one I thought was missing. (fn. 7) The long delay in its delivery was owing to the gentleman who brought it having been in hiding, as an attempt was made to arrest him as a Catholic one night in the house of a friend with whom he was lodging.
The constable of Dumbarton Castle replied to the demand made of him by the conspirators (which I mentioned in my former letters) that he held the castle for the King on behalf of the duke of Lennox, to whom he was pledged by oath. He could not, therefore, surrender his charge except into the hands from which he had received it. The Queen's ambassadors and the conspirators have informed her of this, and say that, as all their efforts to obtain possession of the castles of Dumbarton and Blackness have failed, it was advisable that she should get possession of them by any means. A great council thereupon was held here, where it was decided to raise troops in the county of Leicester (?) and its neighbourhood to send to Carlisle, one of the principal keys to the Border. I do not know whether the intention is to enter Scotland, or only, by arousing the fear of it, to help the conspirators to obtain the two fortresses by means of money and promises.
The Queen's two ambassadors there say that the king of Scotland's demeanour towards the conspirators is pure artifice, and that he speaks much more spiritedly since the departure of M. de la Mothe than before. Méneville was secretly approaching the Scots, and was daily getting more friendly with them. Walsingham, speaking of this with a friend, said that the Scots were not much to be trusted now, for they always remained French in their sympathies, and were more than ever so at present. Leicester recently sent a son of the countess of Shrewsbury to prompt his mother to sound the queen of Scots as to her feeling with regard to the marriage of her son in England. I have informed her of it.
Several ships have come from Antwerp, reporting that the people there are not reconciled with Alençon, and that Orange was pressing the rebel States urgently to send money to the men at Alost who have mutinied, although this was only a pretext for giving it to Alençon. They report the marriage of Orange with a daughter of Admiral Coligny who was executed (justiciado) in Paris. Her age is 30. Two ships were being fitted out in Flushing to bring her from France.
The Council here have been meeting daily to discuss the papers brought by Darcy, but have not yet arrived at a decision. This Queen's physician, Dr. Lopez, has gone to Dieppe with letters from the Queen to Don Antonio.
The English ship I mentioned, which was going to Tripoli in Syria, was detained in an English port by contrary winds. I managed to ship on board of her an English gentleman named Giles Porter, who is married in Seville and is a good Catholic and faithful adherent of your Majesty. He had made a vow to go to Jerusalem, and I have instructed him to learn the negotiations the English are carrying on, and report them on his return to any place where there may be a minister of your Majesty. The collection of money I spoke of, as being made from the Bishops, Ministers, and Merchant Companies, is being continued all over the country.—London, 20th March 1583.
28 March. 326. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Since my letter of 20th instant the Queen has received letters from Alençon, which caused the Council to delay a decision on the documents brought by Darcy. Alençon writes that he is at a loss to imagine on what grounds of conscience, reason, love, or gratitude she could leave him in his present state of misery and extremity, considering that he had embarked in the war solely on her account and to prove his desire to serve her. If, he says, she loves him as well as she has so often professed, she will again send to Norris decided orders. This she has done, telling him that he is to oppose the duke of Alençon in nothing, and that if he finds he cannot consistently act thus he had better resign. She has used some very ill words of Norris, both publicly and privately. The Councillors have been much surprised that she should take such a course as this, even if it only be for appearance sake, and say that she might well have avoided it, because Norris' oath to serve the States relieved him of the obligation of obeying her in matters appertaining to their service. They have decided that the communications on the matter with Norris and the rebels shall be carried on by private persons, and they will not again send a formal representative. The man they have sent for the purpose is also to suggest to Orange that, even if they (the States) make friends with Alençon again they should on no account give him the title of duke of Brabant. If he (Alençon) proposes to return to France on their giving him a sum of money, leaving the French troops under Huguenot chiefs, the Queen says she will help them with part of the amount required, as it appears impossible now for him to fraternise with the Flemings, in view of past events. This they think would be the best way, rather than to keep the fire smouldering, and would relieve the Queen of the risk of Alençon's finding himself utterly abandoned, oppressed, and powerless, and making terms with your Majesty. The course they suggest would also avoid the sending of a large French force to the Netherlands by the King, which they suspect might bring war to their own doors, whilst if Alençon returns to France they will be more secure on Scotch affairs, as the Huguenots will divert him (the King of France) from any enterprises of the sort, and he will be in greater need than ever of the friendship of the Queen, in order to keep his brother in awe of him. This will enable them to continue, as heretofore, to foment the war and draw matters out, unless your Majesty be driven to make peace, conceding liberty of conscience, which is one of the aims they have in view.
The Lord Chancellor said at the last council that it was more advantageous for the English that your Majesty should occupy the Netherlands than that the French should do so, which view was opposed by Leicester and Walsingham. The Treasurer silenced them by saying that there was no need to discuss the question, since the war was going forward, which was very advantageous to them.
Two nights recently three very shabbily dressed Frenchmen have been in the secret gallery with the Queen, on the first occasion only Lady Stafford and another being present, and on the second Frances Howard, a lady, and Mr. Sennet (?) of the Chamber. I have not been able to discover who these people are, but I hear that after the Queen had seen them, she asked the French ambassador to tell her truly whether any Frenchmen had come hither secretly, whereupon he replied in great surprise that he had not heard of any such. It may therefore be concluded that they come from the French Huguenots and the Queen asked the question she did in order to find out whether it was a ruse.
Cobham writes to the Queen that, as soon as the king of France learnt of the return of M. de la Mothe from Scotland, he said that as affairs there were in such a state as to be irremediable, this Queen would work her will and he would profit by it, and that the Pope was pressing him warmly for France to accept the Council of Trent.
On the arrival of letters from Antwerp, dated 21st, the Queen sent word to the French ambassador that Alençon had come to an agreement, but letters to the chief heretics here deny this. Orange and the rebel States, it is true, had agreed upon terms with him, but the people would not accept them.
I enclose copy of letter from the queen of Scotland. I am replying to her, as regards the (English) Catholics, that on no account should any declaration be made to them, and they should not even be sounded, as they are quite paralysed with fear, and no good end would be gained by doing so. When the business has to be carried into effect they will be obliged to embrace it, whereas if they heard of it now, the secret would not be kept.—London, 28th March 1583.


  • 1. See the Queen's letter to Bowes and Davison in Scotland, dated 30th January, instructing them to complain to the king of Scotland of La Mothe's proceedings, and to represent to him that, "finding La Mothe to be entered into so strange a course there, contrary to his solemn promise made on going thither, he would do well to despatch him thence so soon as he may."—Hatfield Papers, Hist. MSS, Com., Part 3.
  • 2. Lady Dorothy Devereux, who subsequently married Lord Rich. A curious communication from her and her brother the earl of Essex to James VI. in 1589 will be found in the Hatfield Papers, Part III., Hist. MSS. Com.
  • 3. Fontenay, writing to the queen of Scots, 15th August 1584 (Hatfield Papers, Part 3), speaks of Leicester's desire to seek the friendship of her and her son James VI., "especially since the death of the son whom he had promised to the countess of Shrewsbury for 'la petite Arbelle.'" In the same letter Fontenay assures the Queen that her son "will not further advance his cousin Arbelle."
  • 4. Sir John Norris was the seventh son of the first Lord Norris, but several of his brothers were dead at the date of this letter. It is curious that his father (then Sir Henry Norris) in February 1589 pledged certain lands to the Queen as security for a loan to Sir John. His mother writes to Sir Robert Cecil, September 1593, begging that her son may be granted the permission he craves to go to the Low Countries, apparently to enable him to pay off the debt, "for surely it is no small grief to my Lord and myself that our lands should be engaged in the Queen's hands, as that whatever it shall please God to do with us, we cannot dispose of them, and we are both old, as you know. And these parcels of land were reserved to be bestowed on our younger sons when my Lord and myself did bind our land to our eldest son." —Hatfield Papers, Part 4, Hist, MSS, Com.
  • 5. This was an officer named Hernando Acosta, who first approached Alençon through Mario Birague, Colonel of one of the French regiments.
  • 6. La Mothe Fénélon's instructions are printed in an appendix to Robertson's "History of Scotland," from Calderwood's MS.
  • 7. See letter queen of Scotland to Mendoza, 28th February, page 446.