Simancas: March 1581

Pages 86-90

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 1581

6 March.
Paris Archives, K. 1447. 31.
71. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
We note from your letters that, partly owing to the coolness with which the Queen is treating you by refusing you audience as my Minister, and partly owing to your ill-health, you are desirous of leaving England. It has been considered whether it would be well to send you leave to do so at once, but as it has been decided that the withdrawal of my representative at that Court might cause the veil to be completely torn from the evil intentions of those people, and might drive them to closer union with the French, I am obliged to request and order you to stay there for the present, if you can do so without loss of dignity. As soon as you receive this you will demand audience in the usual way as my Minister, and let the Queen's advisers know that if she refuses so to receive you, it will be taken as a clear indication of their desire for you to leave the country, and you intend to do so. Only that it will befit them to consider whether it will serve their interests thus to arouse my just resentment. If they persist in refusing you audience as my Minister, you can leave as soon as you like, using for your journey the credits recently sent you, and instructing Antonio de Castillo to keep us informed as to what passes. It is, however, necessary to avoid this course if possible, and you will try to manage dexterously for the audience not to be denied you, in which case you will stay. You will represent to the Queen and her Ministers the danger they incur by irritating me and causing me to look to my own affairs by troubling theirs ; whereas if they do not provoke me further, they need have nothing to fear from my forces. In short, you will do your best not to snap the thread of negotiation, as you will do if you leave, and will plunge me into obligations which at present are best avoided. You will intimate to them all I say here, so that fear of my forces may somewhat bridle them from further offending me ; whilst at the same time they may not get desperate and lose hope of being forgiven for their past misdeeds, and thus be driven into new and pernicious leagues to the prejudice of Christianity and the public peace, and perhaps into plotting new evil in Flanders. You will manage with your usual dexterity to fulfil my intention in this very important matter. In order that you should not think that I am unmindful of your health and wishes, I request you in reply to this to report to me what passes in the matter of the audiences, and if all go well a successor shall be sent and you can return. Advise me in such case whether you think Antonio de Castillo would be a proper person to stay there in charge of affairs, since you report so highly of him. Keep all knowledge of your proposed departure secret until you hear further.—Portalegre, 6th March 1581.
6 March.
Paris Archives, K. 1447. 32.
72. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
You gave a good answer to the two gentlemen who were sent by the Queen to tell you that Drake's robberies had not been committed on subjects of mine ; as you proved by the papers you showed them that the contrary was the case. You also did well in declining the private audience they offered you, as you were not to be received as my Minister. Your answer to the earl of Leicester, and the other Ministers who tried to tempt you in the matter of Drake's robberies, is likewise approved. You will conduct the business as you have begun, availing yourself of the public fear that a declaration of war may be the result of it, and that those who have no share in the plunder may unjustly suffer for those who have. When advisable you may make use of the instrumentality of Pedro de Zubiaur, whom you will support and aid in his attempt to recover the property of individuals. The whole matter is left entirely to your discretion.
I thank you for the relation you send of the ships that tried to sail to Cathay by the north, and of the events of the voyage, which would appear, as you say, to be impracticable. You did well, too, to advise of the ships which Drake was fitting out to sail again to the Straits of Magellan, or to reach the Moluccas from the Cape of Good Hope. What you say on the subject is very apposite ; both as to the treatment which should be dealt out to the corsairs that are taken, and the necessity for our boats and fleets to be forwarned and prepared. I have accordingly ordered the formation of a fleet of 12 ships well armed and found, with 1,500 soldiers on board, besides the seamen, of whom there will be another thousand. The fleet will be fully armed with artillery and will carry stores for a year and a half, and will sail to the Indian seas for the purpose of keeping them clear and defending the coasts. We send you this advice for your information, and leave to your discretion, according to circumstances, whether to publish it or keep it secret. If they knew of it they (the English) might refrain from sending the ships they were preparing, but if you think it may put them on the alert and cause them to increase their own force do not tell them. You know the temper of those people so well that the question may safely be left to you.—Portalegre, 6th March 1581
6 March.
Paris Archives, K. 1447. 33.
73. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The loss of the troops that his Holiness had in Ireland has grieved me much, and particularly the bad way in which they behaved, both in the matter of their choice of a location and in their defence of the fort, which was so well provided with arms and munitions. The sorrow is increased by your news that, if they had only held out a little longer, they would have been re-inforced by a larger body than that of the English. You will continue to report all you hear in this respect, and of the condition of the Catholics in Ireland, as well as the spirit in which they are, since receiving this blow.
Advise me also of the result of the persecution of the Catholics in England, with the object of depriving them of their property ; what effect this has had, whether it has caused murmurs, and also if the arrest of so many people of high position will give rise to any disturbance, and what will be the outcome of the parliament which was about to be convoked. The news from Scotland of the imprisonment of Morton is of the highest importance ; and the step you took with the queen of Scotland as soon as you heard of it was well advised, as also were the steps you were continuing to take for the purpose of helping the Scots and Englishmen who favour her party. You will persevere in this course with due dissimulation. You did well in taking the steps you did, both with the Queen and the Portuguese consuls in Antwerp, about the woad ship from the Azores which you learnt was on the way. Advise the result. Your remarks against allowing English ships to load in Andalucia are approved of. I have consequently ordered the decree to be strictly enforced in all parts and the present excesses put a stop to. With regard to giving special licenses for cargoes to be loaded, the matter will be taken into consideration from time to time, and decided according to circumstances and the news you may send. Antonio de Castillo's services shall not be lost sight of. —Portalegre, 6th March 1581.
14 March. 74. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
This Queen has received advice from Ireland that all the nobles and gentry who had not already declared themselves against her have now done so, with the sole exception of the earls of Kildare and Ormond ; the former because he was a prisoner in Dublin Castle, his wife and son being here ; whilst Ormond is regarded with suspicion, although he was in this Queen's service and is an enemy of Desmond. Lord Bernay (Barry?), who was taken with Kildare, has escaped from the Castle and has been joined by all Kildare's people. The greater part of Ormond's men have left him, so that, at this rate, he will be the only man to serve the Queen. She was greatly grieved at the news, as O'Neil declared himself against her at the same time, notwithstanding the great promises made by the Viceroy, who endeavoured to bring about an interview. The Queen has ordered 1,000 more men to be sent thither and some shiploads of stores and munitions.—London, 14th March 1581.
17 March. 75. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
But for the haste in which the duplicate of my last letter of 14th had to be sent, I would have given your Majesty an account of the reports sent to the Queen by Cobham about Don Antonio, which are repeated to me by a person who sees the letters, I having no other means of getting news. But for this I should not venture to write on the point, as so many different reports have been current about him. On the 5th instant, Cobham sent a courier post-haste to inform the Queen that Don Antonio's great friend, (fn. 1) who resides in France, had shown him letters, saying that after he had been routed from Oporto he went, on the 22nd of October, to Viana, where he was hidden for three days in a tavern or cook-shop. Three servants of Botello (fn. 2) himself were taken, and Don Antonio, the Bishop, and Botello subsequently escaped by night unnoticed on the road to Lisbon. On encountering some people on the banks of a river, fearing discovery, they separated, and remained hidden amongst the rushes, where Don Antonio and Botello lost sight of the Bishop de la Guardia. They arrived after great hardships at Lisbon and were there hidden all the time ; Don Antonio conferring with some of his friends by night, with the object of arranging for his escape to France by land.
After writing this, Cobham sent another despatch on the 7th, which arrived here yesterday, saying that the same friend had informed him that Don Antonio was already in France, at Angers, with Botello, in very bad case and without a real. He said Don Antonio did not wish to discover himself, as he did not think that his person was safe in France, but he would come to England as soon as possible and give an account of himself to the Queen, and of what had been arranged by his friends in Portugal. Cobham was of opinion that the Queen should warmly aid him to return to Portugal, and wrote her long discourses on the subject, to persuade her to trouble your Majesty by this means, since the Duchess of Braganza was now of no use for the purpose, your Majesty having granted her so many favours.
These reports are entirely credited here, and Leicester took Juan Rodriguez de Souza, who is still here, to speak to the Queen secretly, with whom he stayed two hours. Souza is constantly with Leicester, with whom he has arranged these matters, although no decided resolution has yet been taken, pending the coming of Don Antonio hither, as he promises to do, or his staying in France. They are somewhat cooler, however, at his coming in so poor a case, because Souza and Cobham affirmed that he brought away many jewels with him, and particularly the rich harness, which assertions Leicester believes. (fn. 3)
The Queen has endeavoured by means of her pensioners, the two Hamiltons, to gain over some of their party to her side, in case the English should enter Scotland, but last reports say that this has failed, and that the Scots, judging by the great muster of troops they have made, were in greater force than the English. The earl of Huntingdon and Lord Hunsdon have therefore asked for the Queen's permission to raise more troops.
A printed document was published here yesterday which, they say, was written by the King of Scotland, and of which I enclose an original and a Spanish translation. It is the most abominable and disgraceful thing that ever was written, (fn. 4) and many people think that it must have been forged here in order that it may be talked about by Parliament—men and the people at large. The opinion justly held here by many is that when the Scots desire to break with the English, it will be impossible for your Majesty or any Catholic Prince to help the King after he has made such a shameful confession, which will also turn the English Catholics against them, as there will be ample reason always to distrust people who could make such a declaration as this. It is therefore thought that it has been invented to break off any communication between the Scots and English Catholics, who are desirous of the liberation of the queen of Scotland.
Parliament had resolved to close three days since, without having done anything of importance, except to restore in blood the earl of of Surrey, who is now called of Arundel, the eldest son of the duke of Norfolk. His brothers and sisters refused a similar favour, which it is usual to extend to all members of a family.
It is believed that the object in deferring the close of Parliament is the opposition which exists to the passing of a Bill proposed by the heretics to punish, with much greater rigour than hitherto, Catholics who will not attend their churches. (fn. 5) —London, 17th March 1581.


  • 1. Probably the Queen-mother, who although nominally a claimant herself to the Portuguese throne, was actively helping Don Antonio.
  • 2. Diego Botello, one of Antonio's chief adherants, and afterwards his agent in England.
  • 3. This was true ; Antonio brought jewels of enormous value, as will be seen later.
  • 4. The National Covenant.
  • 5. The measure was proposed in a strong speech by Sir Walter Mildmay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reported by D'Ewes. It provided that reconciliation to the Church of Rome should be punished as high treason, the saying of Mass was to be punishable by a fine of 200 marks and a year's imprisonment, the hearing of it by half that fine and the same term of imprisonment. Absence from church was to be finable by 20l. a month. Unlicensed schoolmasters were liable to a year's imprisonment, and their employers to a fine of 10l.