Simancas: July 1597

Pages 646-648

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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July 1597

2 July.
B.M. Add. MSS. 28,420.
667. Pedro Lopez De Soto (to the Council of War?). (fn. 1)
At this season there are usually a large number of German and Flemish hulks loaded with wine, oil, and salt, in Portugal and Andalucia. As the English fleet is being increased, and Spanish produce is very necessary for them (the English), it would be advisable to embargo all the hulks, letting go the Germans, which go round Ireland, and are therefore safe from the fleet, but detaining all the others. The object of this would be twofold, first and principally, to prevent the enemy from making use of the ships and stores, and, secondly, to make use of them ourselves, if necessary. If this be done it must be executed by trustworthy persons, swiftly and resolutely, because the Governors in Portugal, and my master the duke in Andalucia, will not like it, so that persons must be sent specially from here, or the matter must be committed to disinterested and faithful men on the spot. (fn. 2) It is not to be imagined that the English fleet will come to Spain this year, even though they had 20,000 soldiers to land, besides 12,000 soldiers and sailors for the ships, and ample supplies for all purposes. But it is nevertheless very desirable that a show of preparation and arming should be made on our side (which seem to have stopped as soon as the news came that no fleet would be raised in England) ; and that forces should be collected sufficient, both to gain a footing in England and to defend this country. Thus, if the attack against England is successful, we shall be able to reinforce our men, and if it be not successful we should have a reserve.
As your Lordships are carrying on everything secretly, no one is sure whether he is fully informed, so that I have no means of knowing whether the opinions I express will be apposite or not. Time is thus frittered away. I, for my part, have taken the plunge, and plainly say what I think, seeking the best way out that I can find. The only way out of all this confusion that I can see, is to gain a footing in England this year. This is striking at the trunk ; all the rest is simply climbing in the branches. All difficulties disappear before resolute, courageous, and timely action. The stores and men we can get together between now and the 10th August will be sufficient to effect a landing during that month, and I feel confident that if we go to Wales, which is only 40 leagues further from Ferrol than Plymouth, and is a better place to land, we can manage to avoid the fleet. This is borne out by all practical seamen. Even if 300 (English) ships go to Milford, 15 days after we are established there, and land 10,000 men, they will find the mouth of the port defended, which can be done in two days, and the place ready to repel attack from the sea. It is not to be expected that they, the English, could, on such short notice, land a force capable of battering the place on the land side, as we shall be strongly placed and on the defensive. Besides this, the disposition of the land is in our favour, so that the only thing to be feared is our delay in deciding to take this course.
In any case it will be well to press forward energetically the supplying of the fleet with stores, and to send constant instructions to the places whence the stores are to come. Especially should the guns from the Lisbon foundry be hurried forward, because with the 40 pieces (ordered?) we can arm the new galleons.
The council of war should consider and decide upon all points that have been submitted about the fleet, and the Council of State should take necessary action to provide the money, the troops, the siege artillery, the cavalry, and especially to resolve upon the point where we should land. This should be kept strictly in the breasts of your Lordships, and that of the Adelantado.
Postscript.—If it is decided to land at Milford, it will be very easy to send two regiments of Germans from Germany during September, without the enemy's fleet being able to hinder us, if proper arrangements be made. Munitions and stores can also be brought from the Sound with great facility, in spite of the English. —2nd July 1597.
Further postscript, dated 4th July 1597.
Don Cristobal (de Moura) told me yesterday, on the occasion of his seeing the Count de Palma, that the Adelantado said that there was no fleet or any possibility of going out and facing the enemy. I promised his Lordship (Moura) to send him a true statement of the fleet as it at present stands. It is sufficient for the purposes I have proposed.
The Adelantado's general statement that he lacks everything, is only his usual style of putting things. I set forth exactly what there is, and what we can do. Of course, if we could re-inforce it (i.e., the fleet) so much the better, but if we cannot, we must make the best use we can of what we have got. The Adelantado knows well how to do this, and will do it if he is given what is necessary. —4th July 1597.
Note.—The statement of the Spanish fleet which accompanies the above, contains the following particulars :—
The fleet will be ready to leave Ferrol by the middle of August, and should effect a landing by the 8th September.
There are 93 ships, namely, 23 of 600 to 1,000 tons, 25 of 300 to 600 tons, 26 of 100 to 200 tons, and about 20 galley-pinnaces, &c., of 50 to 100 tons.
Particulars are given of the supplies of biscuit, &c., available, and the total number of men which the writer proposes to send in the fleet, namely, 20,000 soldiers and 4,000 sailors. The total number of ships proposed to be collected before the fleet sails is 110, of an aggregate tonnage of 32,000 tons, with 70 pinnaces to land soldiers rapidly. The writer refers to the accompanying letter with regard to the question of the place of landing, and urges activity in execution, and great liberality of expenditure, which he says will ensure success.
26 July.
B.M. MSS. Add. 28,420.
668. Pedro Lopez De Soto to the King.
Gives particulars of a new sort of galley which he has invented, capable of making long voyages to the Indies or Flanders, with water for six weeks, bread for three months, and 17 pieces of artillery. They will live through heavy weather as well as high-built ships, which they will be able to accompany anywhere. They will go much faster under oars than galleasses, but less than fast galleys ; but as there are no enemy's galleys at sea to compete with us, speed is not of so much consequence if they be as seaworthy as great ships. If your Majesty had 30 of these galleys, you would be entire master of the coast of France and England, as 4,000 men might be thrown on shore unexpectedly at any point, and any place, however large, may be sacked by such a force as that, if surprised. Twenty might be kept at Calais, and dominate the whole Channel, stopping the passing of Flemings, closing the traffic from Boulogne and Dieppe, (i.e., to England), destroying the herring fishery, &c.
The writer offers to construct a specimen galley to demonstrate the truth of what he says, if the King will lend him 7,000 ducats, returnable within a year if the invention be not approved of.— 26th July 1598.


  • 1. In the B.M. MSS. Add. 28,420, there are a considerable number of letters referring to the details of the preparations on the fleet to be sent to Ireland in the summer of 1597. They consist mainly of the correspondence of Pedro Lopez de Soto, secretary of the Adelantado of Castile, who was to command the expedition, and Esteban de Ibarra, secretary of the council of war. Throughout, Lopez de Soto reveals himself as petulant, discontented and fractious, complaining in most intemperate language, of the want of confidence reposed in him. He insists first upon his receiving the appointment of secretary of the King, or he will serve no more. Then he threatens to retire unless he is entrasted with the destination and objects of the fleet ; he will, he says, have nothing kept back from him. Why should not he know as much as others? Mere orders are sent to him and he is never consulted. He then tries to pick a quarrel with Ibarra for not informing him what orders have been given for wheat, biscuits, &c. At last, after weeks of alternate violence and sulkiness on the part of Lopez de Soto, Ibarra loses patience, and on the 28th June 1597, sends a grave and sharp rebuke in the form of a marginal note on one of Lopez's own letters, which is sent back to him. He had been told, says Ibarra, as much as it was meet for him to know and he is to carry out orders without more ado. The answer to this is a fresh series of complaints. 30th June.—Everything, he says, is in confusion, uniforms for the men are lacking and the cavalry unfit for service. There is no money to provide anything, no wine, no meat, no siege artillery, hardly any guns for the ships themselves, and so on. These reports, with clamorous demands for reward continue from day to day. Only such letters as are necessary to explain the strength and condition of the expedition are printed in this Calendar.
  • 2. The duke of Medina Sidonia, who was greatly interested in shipping and selling the produce of his vast estates in Andalucia, would, of course, object to any measure which destroyed or impeded commerce, and the Portuguese merchants and nobles would be similarly affected