January 1578


Institute of Historical Research



Martin A. S. Hume (editor)

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'Simancas: January 1578', Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 2: 1568-1579 (1894), pp. 552-560. URL: Date accessed: 17 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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January 1578

1578 472. The above letter is enclosed in another from Juan De Aguirre to Zayas, dated London, 2nd January 1578, saying as follows :—
As I have written on several occasions, Antonio de Guaras, my master, is in close imprisonment, with guards over him, and is now more strictly kept than ever. If some redress be not found I am sure that they will keep him there for the rest of his days, and he has already been almost on the point of death, but, thank God, is now better. I therefore humbly beg you to find a remedy, in order that he may be delivered from the hands of his enemies, who are many, as he is a good and faithful servant of the King, who, I hope, will not allow so good a vassal, as my master Antonio de Guaras, to be kept in such peril.—London, 2nd January 1578.
473. Autograph Document in the handwriting of the King, manifesting his displeasure at the manner in which Thomas Wilkes, the English envoy, presented himself, dated Madrid, 12th January 1578.
As regards the first matter, I believed the Englishman has deceived us, as you will see that he is not called Legatus but Nuncio, and is only a secretary of the Council, so that much of that which we may arrange with him may be repudiated. The first thing he did was to salute me on behalf of the Queen, and then requested me to read her letter at once. I did so, although I did not understand a word of it, and he then said some words to me, which I did not understand well, and asked me to read the other document which he brought, saying that, if there was anything in it which was not clear, he was instructed to declare fully the meaning of each clause. He said he was to be here for this purpose for a fortnight. It seems to me that, both upon this matter and the subjects contained in the documents, the Queen wishes to lay down the law for us here ; and, if I hare understood well, I can see no good to come from the matter, and no doubt this man lied to you, the same as he did on the first point (i.e., his standing), respecting which in good truth he was abashed. 1 refer to the style which as been given him. He is no doubt one of the men they call clerks of the Council. Let the document be translated at once, and copied as clearly as possible, for it is rather obscure to me, and let it be considered in the Council It will be well to send the man off long before his fortnight is up, and this before he commits some impertinence which will oblige us to burn him. If it (the document) is not translated in time for the Council to-morrow, let it be read in Latin, and the following day in Castilian.
474. Petition of Antonio de Guaras, begging for a grant of twenty thousand crowns, the proceeds of forfeited goods in London, which had been promised to him by the Grand Commander prior to his death, as a recompense for his services.
Antonio de Guaras says that since the death of the bishop of Aquila he has served his Majesty in England, in fulfilment of the orders sent to him by Madame de Parma, and subsequently whilst Diego de Guzman de Silva and Don Guerau de Spes were there he continued to assist and accompany them, and, to the best of his ability, helping and favouring your Majesty's subjects when molestation was offered them. Since then, for more than seven years from the beginning of the troubles, he has served and still serves your Majesty. Although the Marquis Vitelli, Fiesco, Zweveghem, and others were sent thither to negotiate treaties at great cost, but were unable to do so, he, Guaras, by his diligence and industry was able successfully to settle matters to the surprise of everyone.
475. Draft of Instructions from His Majesty to Don Bernardino de Mendoza, dated Madrid, 8th of January 1578. (fn. 1)
The King.
The things which you, Don Bernardino de Mendoza, my captain of light horse, are to do in England, whither we now send you.
Affairs in my Netherlands States having, since the last disturbances there, arrived at a state which again demands an appeal to armed force in order to pacify them, and maintain therein the Roman Catholic religion, and my authority, it has appeared advisable to us to inform the queen of England thereof as our ally and neighbour. We have therefore decided to send you, post, with this commission, both on account of the knowledge you have of my Netherlands dominions, where you have served for so many years, and because I am convinced of your intelligence and good understanding, and believe also that you will be as acceptable to the Queen as you were when you were sent to negotiate with her in my name certain things then pending, by the Grand Commander of Castile, my former Governor of the Netherlands. You will bear in mind the following points.
That notwithstanding my concession to the States of all the favours and advantages which they could rightly ask or desire, and my having sent my brother Don Juan of Austria there to reside as my Governor and Captain-General, he having made these concessions punctually, and withdrawn the Spanish and other foreign soldiers, delivering the fortresses to the natives, and signed the pacification, as is known, when it was thought that they would be satisfied and peaceful as they ought to have been, they proceeded in such a manner towards my brother as to make it necessary for him to retire to the castle of Namur for his safety, and thence to provide for the government of the States. All this was related fully in the instructions borne by M. de Gate, one of my gentlemen-of-mouth, who was sent to England by my brother, in order that the Queen might be informed thereof, and be requested not to allow any help to be sent from her country to the rebels, but that she should rather aid me, in accordance with our friendship and alliance, and for other reasons which you will also adduce. A copy of the said instructions will therefore be handed to you, in order that you may convince the Queen, in conformity therewith, that everything that my brother has done has been entirely justified, and that the people of the States have strayed from the straight path, as will be acknowledged by any one who understands the true state of the case, it being notorious that they made fresh and exorbitant demands of my brother, in excess of the conditions set forth in the agreement which he made with them on the 12th February last year, as will be seen by their address to him of the 25th of September, a copy of which, together with that of the agreement, will be handed to you.
I have advised my brother that I had appointed you for this commission, in order that he may send you such instructions as he may consider necessary, according to the state of affairs. This he will send to the care of Juan de Vargas Mejia, my ambassador in France. You will pass through Paris and salute, politely, in my name, the King, his wife and mother, the duke of Alençon, and Madame Marguerite his sister, informing them, in general terms, that I am sending you to England on affairs respecting which Juan de Vargas will inform them. You will stay in his, Vargas', house, and I have ordered him to accompany you and assist you to obtain audience. I wish you to tell the King and his mother that I do not write to them because I so recently did so by their Secretary, Julio Gassot.
When you arrive at the Court of the queen of England you will salute her from me and hand her my letter, and, in the best terms you can employ, you will give her to understand that I duly esteem her and hold her friendship in good account, saying that ever since her ambassador John Smith left here it has been my intention to send you to her, but your departure has been put off, in order that we might see how things went in the Netherlands, so that she might be informed of them through you with the more authority.
After this you will tell her that she will no doubt have learned from private sources, and also from M. de Gate, all that has happened in the States, both with regard to the forced retirement of my brother to the castle of Namur, and the other things which have happened, and it will therefore not be necessary for you to repeat them to her. We doubt not that she knows well how often the States were admonished and requested by my brother to come to harmony and concord, he assuring them of the fulfilment of the agreement that he had made with them, but that nothing sufficed to persuade them to adopt a course which was so advantageous to them. On the contrary, they started every day new and various demands such as could not possibly be entertained, or even listened to without offence, since, amongst other things, one was that the Queen should be included as a party to the treaty of peace. Say that this would have shocked me much, if I had not understood that the object of it was to raise up a feeling of distrust between us, and, if no other cause had arisen but this for your going, I would have sent you on this point alone. You will dwell upon this, and assure her of my goodwill and friendship in order to oblige her more to meet our wishes.
You will also call to mind the manner in which the States at the same time seized the castle of Antwerp and committed many insults and excesses, in direct contravention to the agreement to which they had only a few days before pledged themselves, it being clear, from their behaviour all through, that their intention was directed not to quietude and contentment, even if they had been granted everything they asked. Notwithstanding all this we, being a benign prince and desiring the peace and quietude of our States and subjects, did not desire to again appeal to arms, but have tried repeatedly to bring them to reason and tranquillity. Not only, however, have they refused, but, in return for our clemency, they have tried to bring foreign princes to their aid, and have attempted to adopt one of them as governor without our knowledge or consent. This has been so insulting an excess that the example cannot fail to be a bad one to the subjects of other princes.
Seeing this, and that the gentleness with which we proceeded was only hardening them and making them more insolent and obstinate, we determined, greatly against our will, to take up arras and go to the aid of the multitude of faithful subjects we have in those countries, in order to liberate them from the oppression in which these bad men hold them, In view of the aforegoing, and the gathering in Brussels which they call the "States General,' having written to us on the 8th September last year begging us to receive them into our favour, on condition that they observed the Catholic religion and acknowledged their submission to me in the same way as in the time of the Emperor, we accepted their offer graciously, as you will see by copy of the document which will be handed to you, sent to them by the hand of M. de Selles, lieutenant of our archers of the guard. They are assured therein that, if they comply on their part with their promises, arms would be laid down and everything would be again tranquil and peaceful, as we have always desired. You will show the copy of the said document to the Queen, and may leave it with her if she desires, as it is advisable that she and the Council should be well informed of its contents, and assured that my desire is as keen as ever that the promises contained therein should be fulfilled, and that, if the States do not demand or attempt to obtain fresh terms, as they always have done when they had obtained all they asked, we consider all cause of disquiet in the Netherlands to have been removed. You can confidently assert that this is the case, and that we never desired to gain any advantage or fresh power there, other than what was enjoyed by my father the Emperor, but rather to preserve and enlarge their privileges where possible to the advantage of the inhabitants, and the increase of their wealth and prosperity.
This will demonstrate clearly that it has been solely in consequence of the straying of evil-minded people in the States from the straight path, that the idea has been spread that my wish was to oppress them and treat them differently from the way in which they were treated by the Emperor, and that this has been a wicked invention spread by bad people, who try thereby to mislead others.
It must be evident that our intentions and efforts have always been directed to satisfy, to the fullest extent possible, the people of the States, and when we learnt that the dismissal of our brother Don Juan of Austria from the governorship, would have this effect, in which he himself concurred, I consented to withdraw him and employ him elsewhere, as they were informed by him personally. We should have sent a successor already if they had been pacified, so that any delay in doing so has arisen solely from their own action.
You will convey this to the Queen, and tell her that I have thought well to inform her fully of the progress of events in the States, and my intentions with regard to them, that she may be convinced that nothing has been neglected on our part to endeavour to bring them to quietness and reason, and may see how fully justified we are now in appealing to arms, in order to bring about by force a state of things which gentleness, kindness, favour, and leniency have been powerless to produce.
Notwithstanding this we still desire to proceed in a fatherly way with our subjects, and, even though it may be necessary to bring them to obedience by force, it is not our intention to abrogate their privileges and customs, nor to oppress them or reduce them to the position of a Spanish proviuce as they have been persuaded, but only to bring them back again to their obedience to me as their natural sovereign.
Much less is it true, as has been asserted by bad people, that it is my wish to treat them with rigour if they voluntarily recognise their fault and ask for pardon, which they know that we shall give them most willingly, as on so many other occasions we have done since the disturbances began ; not only restoring the honours and estates, of which some have been justly deprived, to those who have submitted, but also to those who were actually still in arms, as a proof of our clemency.
All this being so notorious that the Queen cannot be ignorant of it, we beg her most affectionately as a good sister, ally, friend, and neighbour to prohibit with all severity any sort of help or countenance, direct or indirect, being sent from her country to the States, but that, on the contrary, she will help us with the supplies and other things requested by Don Juan in the promotion of a peaceable settlement, which will be of no little benefit to her, as she knows perfectly well without further representation. I wish to point out to her also that this matter is one which touches all princes, as it concerns the obedience of subjects to them, and the example of my vassals may well have its influence upon hers, whereby she may be troubled and disturbed. Her own prudence will show her this, and you will place the matter before her in such a way as to bring her to the desired object, which in fact is that she shall be satisfied of our intentions and withdraw from connection with Orange and his friends, refraining from helping them, and holding out her hand to us. You will remain there (in England) pursuing this task until our further orders, giving us full information of the Queen's answers and of what you can gather of her designs. You will endeavour to keep her in a good humour and convinced of our friendship, banishing the distrust of us which she now appears to entertain, and for which we have given no cause.
As it will be necessary for you, and is of great importance, that you should be on good terms with the principal ministers who manage affairs, you will consider if it will be advisable to give them some money or presents, and will advise us what is to be done for each one of them.
You will keep up a friendly intercourse with the ambassador of France, and the Portuguese agent resident in London.
If any English Catholics approach you, you will receive them kindly, consoling and encouraging them in general terms to persevere, but you will not enter into any negotiation or plans with them against the Queen.
I have heard that Antonio de Guaras has been arrested on suspicion that he dealt unfavourably with the Queen's affairs, and, as we shall be glad for him to be well out of his difficulty, we wish you to help him to this end by endeavouring to get him set at liberty as soon as possible.
A copy of your instructions is being sent to Don Juan of Austria in order that he may be informed of the details of your commission, and you will be careful to report to him fully and frequently all that happens to you in England, following his orders as if they were my own.
You will also keep up a correspondence with Juan de Vargas Mejia whilst he resides at the court of France, and I have ordered him to do the same with you. You will receive with this a general cipher which is in use between us, our brother, and the other ministers whose names are attached thereto, and you will carry on your correspondence in this.—Madrid, 8th January 1578.
476. Second Instruction given to Don Bernardino de Mendoza, 26th January 1578.
The King.
You are aware that after you were appointed to go to England in compliance with instructions given to you, Thomas Wilkes, a servant of the Queen, arrived here bearing a letter from his mistress, dated the 20th December, and a document referring fully to affairs in the Netherlands. This document dwelt upon the extremity and danger in which my States were, and in it the Queen says that she has used her best efforts to keep the country obedient to me, and complains that her efforts have been misunderstood and not taken in good part. She justifies her actions and intentions, and concludes, in substance, by saying that the only remedy for the evil will be found in the withdrawal of our brother, Don Juan of Austria, and the appointing of another Governor of our family who would be more acceptable to them (i.e., the States), we, at the same time, extending our favour to those who have offended and maintaining the privileges of the country, in fulfilment of the edict of pacification. She assures us that, if I concede these things to the States, they will be tranquillised and submit to me, whilst, if they afterward make any attempt to break their word, she will turn her arms against them and defend our authority.
She says that if the course she recommends is not adopted she cannot refrain from helping them, as you will see by the copies handed to you of her letter and the document.
You are also aware that, after the matter had been considered, I at once sent the messenger back again with a letter, saying that the answer would be sent by you, he having been informed that you had already been appointed to go to England on the question, and it was desirable that both she and the States should understand, through you, that what we have decided to do has proceeded from our own free will and favour, and was resolved upon long before the arrival of Thomas Wilkes. You will make this clear as soon as you arrive where the Queen is, and will repeat it when you deliver our letter to her and subsequently, as she, by this means, will the better understand the answers we have instructed you to give to her letters. You must bear in mind that you will have to pass over and make light of all the complaints and grievances of the Queen, as there is no need to discuss them, unless she again repeats them, in which case you will not be able to avoid giving some general answer for the purpose of assuaging her suspicions and assuring her of our friendship.
On the principal points, you will say that we thank her warmly for the kind words she sent by her messenger respecting her efforts to bring about a peaceful settlement between us and our subjects in the Netherlands, and to cause them again to return to our favour, but that there is nothing fresh to say about this, because, long before we received her message, we had taken gracious measures, which, she will see by the copy of the document you will show her, were ample for the purpose of assuring my subjects that, if they would comply with the two promises they have given, namely, to observe the Roman Catholic religion and submit to our rule as they did to that of the Emperor, hostilities would be abandoned and peace and concord restored.
There is nothing particular to say, either, respecting the appointment of a successor to my brother Don Juan of Austria in the Government of the States, as we had, some time ago, granted this request.
This was announced to them (the States) so long ago, that we are much surprised that they should not have informed her of the same before she wrote her letter, but, no doubt, she will have learnt it ere this. You will say that, in compliance with our promise, we are willing to send to Don Juan a successor who cannot be otherwise than acceptable to them, so that in this particular, also, the Queen's recommendations have been anticipated. It is, however, desirable that neither she nor the States should imagine that the new Governor is to be my nephew, the Archduke Mathias. (fn. 2)
After this you will point out to her that everything that has been done there by our brother, in unison with us, has been so completely justified that we are sure that, if the States are not henceforward quiet and contented, she will turn her arms against them as she promises, but that if, contrary to our expectations and notwithstanding the aforegoing explanations, she should still send aid in troops and money to the rebels, we should be much surprised, as it would be against all reason, and a violation of our alliance and friendship which would cause us much sorrow. You will tell her, however, that neither this nor any other consideration will cause us to relinquish the determination we have adopted to bring our subjects back again to obedience, using against them and their adherents all the force that human and divine right permit us to employ and our royal dignity demands ; but I hope and trust that, she being a just and prudent princess, will not give cause for this, but that we shall have her on our side, and that, as a friend and sister, she will turn her arms, as she promises to do, to our support, or, at least, that she will not, privately or openly, help the rebels, in violation of treaties and ancient bonds and alliances.
The other points of the Queen's letter and documents do not call for reply, as they are fully dealt with by anticipation in your formal instructions. You will advise both me and my brother of all that happens, as you have already been instructed to do.— Madrid, 26th January 1578.


1 Don Bernardino de Mendoza was a son of the Count de Coruña, and a member of the most illustrious family in Spain. He had greatly distinguished himself in the Netherlands as a captain of light horse, and his contemporaries are emphatic in his praise at this period. Alboraoz, the Secretary of the duke of Alba, writes to Secretary Zayas in Madrid in 1572, saying, "Don Bernardino de Mendoza has asked for a 'habit' (i.e., of knighthood), and tells me his application is referred to a hoard in Madrid. Truly he has acted in a way that deserves something better than a habit, and the Duke, my master, orders me to write as much to you, that you may ask his Majesty to grant the request." Don Bernardino accordingly got his "habit" of Santiago, in which order he afterwards rose to high rank. He was sent to England in 1574 to conclude the commercial treaty which had been informally negotiated by Guaras, which treaty was finally ratified in December of that year (see letter from Mendoza to Dr. Wilson in Cotton, Galba, C. v.). He was on friendly terms with Leicester and other courtiers, so that on his arrival here in 1578 he was no stranger. His epistolary style is in marked distinction to that of his predecessors. He had already published a work on the "Theory and Practice of War" in 1577, and was subsequently the author of several historical works, some of which are still in high repute. After leaving England he was for some years Spanish ambassador in France. In the end he fell blind, and become a monk in the monastery of St. Bernard, in Madrid, where he died at an advanced age.
2 The Archduke Mathias, a younger brother of the Emperor, who was a youth of 22, had recently been brought into the States as Governor by the duke of Arschot and the Flemish Catholic nobles, as an avowed rival to the Protestant prince of Orange. This had given rise to the tumults at Ghent and the imprisonment of Arschot and his party, but, at the date of the present letter, the prince of Orange had prevailed upon the States to accept Mathias as Governor, with himself as Lieutenant, the object being to separate the Catholic Flemings and Walloons from Don Juan and the Spaniards, and to arouse jealousy between the two branches of the house of Austria.