Simancas: April 1583

Pages 458-463

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


April 1583

4 April. 327. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
As I said on the 28th ultimo, the Queen has again sent Somers to the Netherlands (he is the man who was with Alençon at the relief of Cambrai) with the object of his treating secretly both with him and the rebels, without either party knowing that he is dealing with the other, to persuade each of them, if they wish to settle the matter on favourable terms, to send envoys here to beg the Queen's intercession, and place the decision in her hands. The Councillors think that this will be the best way to consolidate her position in the affair and to pledge Alençon not to make terms with your Majesty. It will also give them time to learn from the king of France how far, and to what extent, in men and money, he intends to help his brother in the war, and the Queen has sent instructions to Cobham in furious haste to learn clearly the King's intentions on this point. No reply has been received from Somers, and, as the weather is contrary, he probably has not gone across yet.
I enclose copy of the terms negotiated between the States and Alençon, which have been printed at Ghent, but as will be seen by the enclosed letters from Antwerp, nothing has yet been concluded.
The meeting of nobles in Scotland decided that they should all endeavour to live together in peace and quietness. The Queen is informed that Father William Holt of the Company of Jesus, who was there, has been arrested by means of Colonel Stuart, and Alexander Seton, brother of Lord Seton had also been taken. Two cipher letters were found on Holt, written by the duke of Lennox, one to the Earl of Eglinton (?) and the other to the said Alexander Seton, by which it appeared that he was in communication with the Pope. The moment the Queen learnt of this she sent courier after courier, entreating the conspirators to sent Holt hither, and they write that the French ambassador Méneville was pressing the King to surrender the priest to him, as he was an Englishman, in order to send him to France. I have given notice to the queen of Scotland's ambassador through Juan Bautista de Tassis, so that he may press the King earnestly to write to the king of Scotland and Méneville about it. I have also changed the cipher I had with Dr. Allen and the priest who went from Scotland, (fn. 1) which was the same cipher as Holt had, to avoid danger in case he (Holt) had not burnt his copy. If God should decree that he be brought hither, it may be concluded from his good life that he will meet death as firmly as the others have done, and gain the crown of martyrdom without confessing anything to the prejudice of others.
I am informed that His Holiness is being much urged from France to appoint the bishop of Glasgow a Cardinal.
Some of the Councillors here have affirmed that the Queen has intelligence of Méneville's having ratified the treaties between France and Scotland, the king of Scots having accepted a regular pension. I cannot confirm this, my communications with Scotland being stopped by Holt's arrest.—London, 4th April 1583.
15 April. 328. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
In my last I gave an account of the state of the negotiations between Alençon and the rebels. He has now come to terms with them, and the articles which I now enclose were published in Antwerp with great ceremony, by which a new arrangement was inaugurated. The Queen has made every effort to direct the affair into the channel which suited her best, whilst keeping Alençon always dependent upon her and inflaming the war in the Netherlands. She has rejoiced exceedingly that Alençon has accepted the conditions and gone to Dunkirk, and she sent word to the French ambassador the moment she heard the news. She is anxiously awaiting the return of the private agents she sent over, and particularly Somers, so that by the light of his information she may know how best to proceed. Her ambassador Cobham writes that the health of the king of France is very doubtful, as his strength continues to diminish, and his mother will therefore do her best to please Alençon in all things. She will shortly leave for Calais, in order to close more strictly still the passage of victuals to the Netherlands, and to be able to confer with Alençon with greater ease. Appearances still favour the undertaking of some enterprise by the house of Guise.
Cobham also writes that Simier had seen the king of France, and had been so well received that there was no doubt that he would be sent hither as ambassador to replace the present man.
Marchaumont writes from Dunkirk that his master's affairs were proceeding very well, and that the Councillors of this Queen would soon repent of having slighted him. Leicester and Walsingham have suggested to the Queen that she should ask the rebels to pay her interest on the money she has lent them. She has refused to do so on her own account, but has authorised them to arrange with the rebels to pay 8 per cent, per annum, and if they can obtain it they, Leicester and Walsingham, are to enjoy the revenue. They are sending a Lucchese heretic, an exchange-broker of Antwerp, to negotiate it.
The Portuguese, Dr. Lopez, (fn. 2) who I said had gone to Dieppe, has returned hither bringing news of the misery in which Don Antonio is. I understand that Diego Botello embarked there two days since for Flanders, and that five ships are being armed at Havre de Grace to take troops to Terceira ; the principal provisions they carry being wine and cider, as there is a great lack of drink in the island. Men who were on board these ships a week ago assure me that, although they profess to be ready, even if the troops were on board, they could not sail until the end of this month. Don Antonio declared that he expected seven hulks which were to come for him from Denmark and Holland. I have no news from Zeeland of any ships being fitted out for him, the only rumour being that certain pirates are asking him for letters of marque.—London, 15th April 1583.
329. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Since writing the enclosed letter I hear from Scotland that two gentlemen had formed the plan of releasing the King from the hands of the conspirators, and, in order that he might not be exposed to any danger by being ignorant of the intention, they informed him thereof by means of one of his favourites, who was in the secret. When the King heard of it he feared that it might cause increased personal risk to himself, and told Colonel Stuart, the captain of his guard, to increase the strength of the guard in the place where the attempt was to be made, but without divulging who were the persons involved. The conspirators were more annoyed than pleased at this, in the belief that the King's action is all artifice, and with a different aim to that which suits them.
The meeting of nobles had been prorogued, after many complaints had been made of the proceedings of the new government. These complaints had been listened to by the King, who had proceeded impartially between the two parties. The French ambassador had again urged the renewal of the treaties between France and Scotland by common accord, and also that the King should be set at liberty and allowed to govern in his own way. As regards the first point, the King replied for the third time as before ; and they write that, on the second point, although most of the nobles wished the King to be set at liberty, they did not dare to declare themselves openly, out of fear of the guards and armed men, at the disposal of the conspirators. When the ambassador saw this, he replied that the men-at-arms and new guards surrounding the King should be dismissed, whereupon the conspirators said that they were necessary for the King's safety in the altered and disturbed state of the times. In order to prevent the ambassador from following the matter up, the conspirators immediately afterwards incited the populace to assault his house and kill his priest, on the ground that mass was said there. The ambassador then went and complained to the King, who promised that the disorder should be put down ; but he dissembled, and nothing was done.
The earl of Gowrie, finding himself the object of much intrigue in consequence of his having appointed himself treasurer, offered his resignation of the office to the King, in the expectation that the King would confirm him in the post and that he would thus be free from attack. The King, however, accepted his resignation and kept the office in his own hands.
I hear, also, that this Queen's ambassadors (in Scotland) write that Father Holt had been tortured, but that he had not confessed anything prejudicial to others.
Fernihurst, a confidant of the duke of Lennox, had been arrested, and Colonel Stuart was shortly coming hither with an embassy from the King. The ambassadors say that his principal mission is to thank this Queen for her maternal care for the King's safety and the quietude of the realm, and to say that the King and his subjects desired to conclude a binding accord and friendship with her, and would willingly accept the conditions which she considered would be most conducive to a lasting harmony.
He is to represent that the whole country is urging the King to marry, and in this, as in all things, he desires to have the advantage of her opinion, begging her to intimate where she thinks he should look, in order that he may not forfeit her friendship, which he hopes to enjoy for ever. He also asks her to surrender to him the person of his vassal, Archibald Douglas, whom she is detaining, and to restore to him (the King) the lands possessed in England by his late father. This point has been discussed for years past, the sum claimed being 1,200l. a year charged on lands belonging to his father, which the king of Scotland demands in accordance with English law. The Queen replies to this that, when it is established that she is his guardian (a law of Parliament making her guardian of all minors in her realm), she will deliver the property to him.
The earl of Ormond has written telling the Queen that he has arrived in his territory in Ireland, and had taken away from the earl of Desmond 300 men who were his (Ormond's) vassals, and a great quantity of cattle. Desmond in view of these losses had been forced to ask for terms, and the news was at once made the most of here. The very reverse is the truth, however, because although some of Ormond's vassals who had followed Desmond in their lord's absence, have now left him, Desmond has done more harm to the English than they to him, he having slaughtered a whole company of them, only twenty men of which were saved. The Queen has secretly sent a servant of James Crofts', the controller, to sound Desmond, as if of his own accord, as to whether he is willing to submit. Two martyrs have recently suffered death here, with invincible constancy, and I send enclosed a statement of the event. The lists of Catholics imprisoned in the country which have been furnished to the Queen compute the numbers to be nearly 11,000, two-thirds of whom are women. Many converts are gained daily to the Roman church, and priests assure me that this is evidently the result of this shedding of martyr's blood, together with the good example and virtuous life of the priests who go about the work, who, although they are young men, are granted special grace by God for their task. May He be praised for all things.—London, 15th April 1583.
19 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1561.
330. Juan Bautista de Tassis to the King.
Three or four days since Hercules sent to tell me that he had communicated with the duke of Lennox, who had informed him that he had left the castle of Dumbarton, which, they say, is a very important one, held in his interest, but on condition that within three months the captain of it should be furnished with certain supplies he required, without which he might be obliged to go over to the other side, which would be a great drawback to the projects they have in hand. He (Guise) therefore considered it necessary that the castle should be supplied with all speed, and asked me to give him 5,000 crowns for the purpose. I made no difficulty about this, but instantly promised to provide the amount, in the first place because I thought it really important to maintain the footing at Dumbarton, and secondly in order to prove to him, in effect, that the whole affair is left to him, and so to bind him the more. Last night, accordingly, I handed to one of Lennox's men, who had been indicated by Hercules, 5,000 sun-crowns. He is going to ask the nuncio for a similar amount, but has not done so yet, as the nuncio has been ill in bed. I went and saw him before I paid the money, in order to show that I did not wish to take any steps without his knowledge. He (the nuncio) told me that he intended to follow the same course, and provide the sum they requested, with the same alacrity as I had shown. I beg your Majesty do not forget the horses for Hercules. I have promised him they shall be sent, and he is expecting them anxiously.—Paris, 19th April 1583.
22 April. 331. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Since I wrote on the 15th a gentleman named Bex has arrived from Dunkirk with letters from the duke of Alençon to the Queen, the purport of which is to ask her for the 25,000l., balance of the sum she promised. He also complains of Colonel Norris, who, not contented with the injury he had already done him, had now refused to obey the States and surrender the territory he held in the Vast country, unless he were paid 200,000 ducats. He will not on any account serve Alençon and would rather go to Cologne. The Queen has replied to Alençon's first request by saying that her own need will not allow of her giving him any money ; and, with regard to the second, she promises to write ordering Norris to prefer the service of the duke of Alençon to any other. No doubt, however, secretly they will send him orders, as they so often have done before, as to how he is to reply, and that the talk about going to Cologne really came from the Queen.
Alençon also writes that he may assure her that the troops being raised by Casimir, ostensibly to aid the apostate bishop of Cologne, are really for the purpose of going to Friesland, and, on the pretext of recovering the money owing to him by the States, seizing the province and selling it to your Majesty. During the audience with Alençon's gentleman, Bex, the Queen complained of certain words used by the Queen-mother, not only injurious to her (Elizabeth), but also to Alençon, who ought to resent them. Speaking of the Antwerp affair the Queen-mother had said that neither she nor her son, the King, understood anything about the matter, as Alençon had embarked in it, compelled by the queen of England, who had sent him to the Netherlands for her own pleasure. The Queen exerted all her blandishments on Alençon's gentleman to discover whether his master was carrying on any negotiations with the prince of Parma, but the man swore emphatically that such a thing had never entered his head. Bex assures intimate friends of his that if the Queen-mother had pressed Alençon very earnestly to continue the war, he would not have been reconciled (with the States). When the Commissioners from the rebels had arrived at Dunkirk he would have complained of the way in which he had been treated, and have demanded the payment of the money already disbursed, with a clear assurance for the payment of future amounts, as well as the possession of places from whence the war could be carried on. He says that, to judge from the behaviour of the rebels and Alençon's resentment against them, he thought it would be difficult for both parties to come to a stable settlement.
For the last two days the rumour is current here that the Holland and Zeeland people have given to Orange the title of Count of those two provinces, and lord of Utrecht.
The queen of Scotland has written to this Queen, complaining of the way in which she is treated. She says she is no longer a prisoner only, but a slave, and requests permission to send her secretary to the Queen, with proposals for an agreement which will be safe, honourable, and salutary for her realm and for both Queens. This Queen has replied in general terms, to the effect that she is very sorry for her troubles, and, with the object of alleviating them, she was sending Beal to see her, to whom she might give an account of the other matters she spoke of. On his return the Queen would consider the question of her release.
The king of Denmark has sent a gentleman hither, to signify to the merchants belonging to the Muscovy Company that, if they intend to continue their trade, they must pay him his dues as formerly, or he will compel them to do so. The Council has discussed the matter, and has recommended the merchants to send a person to Denmark to offer the King the payment of a part of the dues, if they are allowed to continue the trade, and no doubt the Dane will accept the offer. This Queen has sent to Cologne, to stir up affairs there, one Herll, a great spy, who was formerly in Antwerp. I have advised the prince of Parma. They say here he is going to Mayence.
The Palatine Lasqui, of Poland, is expected here, but the reason of his coming is not known. (fn. 3) —London, 22nd April 1583.


  • 1. Mendoza's agent there. See pages 359, 388, etc.
  • 2. This was Dr. Rodrigo Lopez, the Queen's physician, a Portuguese Jew professing Christianity. He was house physician at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, and was hanged at Tyburn early in 1594 for attempting to poison the Queen.
  • 3. "E Polonia Russisæ vicina hac æstate venit in Angliam, ut Reginam inviseret, Albertus Alasco, Palatinus Siradiensis, vir eruditus, corporis lineamentis, barba promisissima, vestitu decoro et pervenusto, qui benigne ab ipsa, nobilibusque magno honore et lautitiis, ab Academia Oxoniensis cruditis oblectationibus atque variis spectaculis exceptus, post quatuor menses, ære alieno oppressus clam recessit."— Camden, Eliz. He arrived in England early in May, and the French ambassador writes that the English were very suspicious of him and could not understand what was the purpose of his visit, as he appeared to be a devout Catholic and heard mass. The Queen, however, was making much of him and had gives him a good lodging. Alasco claimed to be of English blood and allied to the earls of Lincoln, of which house, it was said, a cadet had married in Poland, and whose arms he bore. A seventeenth century Polish historian says that the family descended from an English baron, constable of Chester, who fled to Poland in the time of King John, but there is no confirmation of this. The family arms were an ancient ship bearing a tower. The Palatine was presumably the nephew of the famous reformer John A'Lasco, who lived in England for a time.