Simancas: November 1580

Pages 63-69

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.


November 1580

13 Nov. 52. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
The Queen has news from Portugal by way of Antwerp by two sloops which had arrived at Flushing from Portugal in twelve days, that Don Antonio, after having taken possession of the castle of Feira, and being reinforced by a large number of troops, had sacked Aveiro and captured the town of Viana, from which he had taken twelve pieces of artillery. With these he had reduced the city of Oporto, and this has so greatly elated the Queen, that both she and her ministers have declared it in the most exaggerated manner, besides sending to tell me of it. Although the news is groundless, these people are so evil-minded that they think it will embarrass your Majesty, and they have discussed whether it would not be well to lend part of Drake's money to Don Antonio for his support.
Directly the news was received the Queen sent orders to Bristol for four ships to sail, on the pretence of going to Ireland, with harquebusses, powder, iron artillery, and corselets, for Oporto, to help Don Antonio. It is said that the Queen discussed secretly with Leicester whether it would be well for a thousand foot soldiers to quietly leave the various ports in England, without orders from her, to serve Don Antonio, to which end certain captains have been appointed, and I am told that some of them are making inquiries as to whether the voyage will be safe, and if they can depend upon finding a port in Portugal where they may land. They say also that notwithstanding the orders that no ships were to sail for Spain, Portugal, or the Levant, permission is to be given to any ships that may wish to go with victuals and munitions to Oporto.
As soon as the Queen received this news, she dispatched Souza, who was here for Don Antonio, to Antwerp, with a letter for Orange, asking him to assist Don Antonio with men and munitions in conjunction with her. She gave Souza a chain of 400 crowns and Leicester gave him another worth 130. Souza, thinking now that Don Antonio will be able to hold out until help reaches him, abandoned his intention of going to Brazil, which he had arranged to do in one of the ships which was to sail thither with merchandise, called the "Miguon" of London. She has now sailed, bound direct to the Port of St. Vincent consigned to an Englishman named Ventidal (?) who is married to the daughter of a Genoese named John Baptist Malio resident in that port. This Englishman has been the instigator of the voyage in conjunction with another Englishman in Pernambuco.
The Queen has summoned Morgan, one of the English Colonels who served the rebels in the Netherlands, with the object of sending him with the thousand men I spoke of, to Portugal and if this falls through, he will go to Ireland where things are daily growing worse. News comes that the ships that brought the Pope's people had safely returned to Santander. In order that people here should not know what is going on in Ireland, the Queen has ordered that no one from there is to be allowed to go beyond the English port where they land, but must send on dispatches from there. Confirmation has arrived of the rout which I mentioned in former letters, excepting that Ormond had not been killed, although the statement that he had been slain arose from the fact that he was missing, hidden in a wood for four days. O'Neil has again laid down his arms on the terms offered to him by the Viceroy on behalf of the Queen.
These conditions are that all Englishmen in castles in his country are to be withdrawn, and the castles surrendered to him, as is also the person of a son-in-law of his, who had repudiated his wife and entered the service of this Queen. Great suspicion still exists of Kildare, who, however, was in poor health. The Queen has ordered 800 more men to go from Bristol in consequence of news from the Viceroy that he needed more men and victuals, the latter being so scarce even in Dublin, that the keep of a soldier, for each meal, costs twelve pence.
They write to the Queen from the Isle of Wight that 800 Frenchmen are being shipped on the coast of Brittany in small vessels ; their destination being, according to some, Ireland, to others, Holland and Zeeland, and to others, Portugal for Don Antonio. Letters to me from the same coast confirm this ; but as I have no news of the arrival of any of the ships in Holland and Zeeland, and it is not likely that they are for Ireland, their provisions, moreover, not being sufficient for the voyage to Portugal, I am under the impression that these Frenchmen are going to seize the ports of Dunbar and Dumbarton by order of D'Aubigny, who is greatly feared by the English, and with good reason, as most of the Scotsmen who were in France have left there lately.
An ambassador from the king of Denmark has arrived here to warn the Queen that, in consequence of the war with the Muscovite he cannot assure the navigation of the English to Muscovy as he formerly did.
Another ambassador from Scotland has come hither about some robberies committed by English pirates ; and an ambassador has also arrived from Constantinople, who, from his language, should be an Italian renegade. He brings a letter from the Turk to the Queen assuring her of the good reception extended to Englishmen who go to trade in his country and persuading her to help the Portuguese in preventing their country from being added to your Majesty's dominions. He declares also that he, the Turk, has made peace with Persia and that he would certainly make a descent with his fleet on some place in Italy.
As I was closing this letter I learnt that the Queen had received letters from Don Antonio, through France, begging her earnestly to send him powder, cannon, and arms, but no men, as he had as many as he wanted.—London, 13th November 1580.
14 Nov.
Paris archives K 1447. 20.
53. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
By your letter of 29th September we learn of Drake's arrival at Plymouth, and that he was at first ordered to remain in the port and afterwards to discharge his ship and land the silver. We also note the freedom with which the Queen spoke of the matter, and that you had requested audience for the purpose of demanding restitution of the plunder and taking such action as might be necessary ; of all of which, so far as you are concerned, I approve, and trust you will have dealt with it as energetically and strongly as a matter of such great importance demands, the offence being without justification. Proceed with all diligence and promptitude, in order to recover the booty and punish the corsair. Do not fail also to point out the outrageous nature of the case.
Pedro de Zubiaur has written about the matter to some of our councillors of the Indies, saying that, as he has been in England for some months on behalf of the prior and consuls of Seville, if they will send him particulars of the property stolen by Drake when they are received from Peru, together with powers and instructions, he has hopes of being able to recover a considerable proportion, with my support and assistance, and he hoped, yours also. In addition to the sureties he has already given in Seville he is willing to give further security for 100,000 crowns, if necessary, in England. It has been considered advisable that the instructions should be sent to him through you, so that you may deliver them if and when, you think fit. If, therefore, you are of opinion that Pedro de Zubiaur can be of any use, you may deliver the instructions and employ him in the matter, taking care first to obtain the security he offers, which must be approved of by you. I again press upon you most urgently, either by this or some other means, to make every possible effort in favour of this business, informing me continually of what is done and the result attained.—Badajoz, 14th November 1580.
24 Nov.
B. M. MSS. Add. 28,420.
54. Memorandum (of Cardinal de Granvelle?) upon letters from Bernardino de Mendoza, London.
Letters arrived yesterday from Don Bernardino de Mendoza containing advices of importance, both as to the negotiations with the French and the manner in which the Queen is treating him in the matter of granting audience. He reports also upon the plunder brought by Drake the corsair, and upon the determination they show of troubling the Spanish and Portuguese Indies.
With regard to the French negotiations there, they depend upon the success of the attempts to reconcile the Catholics and the Huguenots. It is probable that the Queen-mother will do all she can to sustain the Huguenots, but I do not know whether the Catholics will be so lax as to neglect the advantage they possess, and fail to influence the King against this agreement. It will be well to write to Juan Bautista de Tasis to come to an understanding about this with M. de Guise, and other Catholics, and to encourage them to keep their attention fixed on the point, and not to be deceived by vain hopes, at a time when they have their opponents so hardly pressed. If peace be not effected between Catholics and Huguenots there will probably be little to fear, either from France or England, but if they come to terms and find some means of raising money, of which they now stand in need, it is evident that they will do their worst. In this uncertainty it will be necessary to look ahead and be prepared what to do, in either eventuality.
It is a shameful thing that the ambassador should be denied audience, and although his stay there may be the means of supplying a certain amount of information, the loss of prestige by reason of his treatment is so great that it would be better to get this information through secret agents rather than maintain an ambassador there under such undignified circumstances. Don Bernardino should be instructed again to request audience and to complain of the way in which he is treated, as well as of the injuries done to us, for which he will demand reparation. If audience be not granted him he should, as if of his own accord, ask for leave to depart. If they allow him to go he should return hither, in order to terrify the Queen the more, and encourage the Catholics with the hope of a rupture, which might perhaps enable them to decide upon doing something, especially if they see the Irish affair going on prosperously. In any case it will be necessary to succour the troops there by January at latest, by sending a fresh force. An answer from Rome to the Nuncio's communications on the subject cannot much longer be delayed.
I revert to the recommendation that no English ships should be allowed to load on these coasts as the point is of such immense importance. It would be more likely to cause disturbance in England than anything else. All vessels coming from Flanders also, except from places loyal to your Majesty, should be seized, in order to arouse the people against the prince of Orange and to alarm them with the apprehension that the trade with Spain and Portugal will be quite closed to them. If any large number of English boats should be seen on the coast, they should be closely watched, in order that they may all be arrested, in case the ambassador should be detained there against his will. This may well be done, because, as has been seen on other occasions, there are no vessels belonging to loyal subjects of his Majesty in England. Their fear is now evident, as is also the evil intention of the Queen. They will certainly do their worst against us, as if they were at open war, and it behoves us, therefore, to strike hard and on all sides without any further declaration, depriving them of this advantage (i.e., of trade) and crippling the power of the lieges to help the Queen. The Queen cannot be very well supplied with money, unless it be the plunder brought by Drake, and as there are so many persons to divide this, her share will not be very large.
Much care should be taken of both French and English ships which may go to the Indies. In the Emperor's time the method described by Don Bernardino was adopted, namely, to throw overboard every man found in such vessels, not allowing one to survive. The flotillas that are to go to both Indies should be well manned in good time, provided with every requisite to cope with attack, and especial vigilance should be used at the points where the pirates generally pass.
I again mention the advisability of filling up the strength of the companies of Italian and Albanian light-horse in Flanders. The prince of Parma should be written to about this, as also should be Don Sancho de Padilla, in order that they may act in concert. This also might be the quietest and best way to increase our strength.—Madrid, 24th November 1580. (fn. 1)
26 Nov.
Paris Archives. K. 1448. 21.
55. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Circumstances have prevented replies being sent to your letters for some months past. Those of 10th, 16th, and 23rd July, 7th, 14th, and 21st August, and 4th September are replied to here.
With the first letter came the despatch from the Queen with the writing signed by Walsingham, which they gave you as their version of what the Qneen said to you, although you say it was different from that set forth. An answer could easily be given to it, but it is not considered to be worthy of it, particularly as you replied perfectly well. You also did wisely in appearing to take no notice of the Queen's information that the French were going to attack Flanders, as her reason for giving it is quite evident. Your reply to the complaints about Ireland, and the way in which, with obvious and excellent reason, you exonerated me in the matter, on the ground that it had been done by the Pope, is also fully approved, as are your remarks to the Queen in deprecation of the aid sent to my Flemish rebels. You can continue to answer in the same way if they speak about the loading of (English) ships (in Spain), which, as you know, I permitted as an exceptional thing and not generally. Notwithstanding this, and that, in good truth, the succour recently sent to the Irish Catholics was by order of the Pope, and consisted of troops raised and despatched by his officers, it will be well for you to keep me informed as to what is going on there, and what forces the Queen is sending. Report to me also what progress is made with the negotiations with France. I am informed from there that the Queen had sent Stafford to Alençon to treat, amongst other things, of this question of Ireland.
I thank you greatly for the care you take to learn what they write to the Queen from Portugal, and I especially praise you for the efforts you made to. prevent the reception by the Queen of Juan Rodriguez de Souza, who weut on behalf of Don Antonio. I am also pleased to learn how well Antonio de Castillo has behaved. From the favourable account you give me of him, I will gladly avail myself of his services as you will have learnt. The Portuguese matter being now all plain and straightforward, nothing more need be said about it, beyond what is written to you in a separate letter.
I approve of the steps you took to have a prohibition against going to the Indies given to the corsairs who were fitting out on the pretext of revenging themselves against certain other French corsairs ; and you will take a similar course whenever this danger appears.
I am greatly grieved at the persecution you report of the Catholics, by their being compelled to attend the heretical preachings and services, under pain of imprisonment and confiscation. If the Queen would only look at it dispassionately she would see that this fact alone proves how unreasonable are they who express surprise that I should refuse to allow any other than our holy Catholic faith in my Netherlands, seeing that they (the English) are obliged to resort to such means as this to sustain them in the blindness in which they live. But God may bring good even out of the affliction which is being laid upon the Catholics, as this persecution may awaken indignation and make the Queen more unpopular. God send His own remedy.—Badajoz, 26th November 1580.
28 Nov.
Paris Archives. K. 1447. 24.
56. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The victory of Oporto having completely crushed Don Antonio's rising, the Pretender has escaped. Use the most unceasing vigilance to learn whether he arrives in England. If so, give a full account of the circumstances of the rebellion to the Queen, and request her to arrest Don Antonio as a rebel and surrender him to me a prisoner. Assure her how deep will be my obligation to her if she does so, and how just, my cause of offence if she refuse, which I cannot believe she will.—Badajoz, 28th November 1580.


  • 1. This report appears to be from Cardinal de Granvelle, who acted as Prime Minister in Madrid during the King's absence on the Portuguese expedition.