Simancas: March 1559

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1, 1558-1567. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1892.

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, 'Simancas: March 1559', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1, 1558-1567, (London, 1892) pp. 37-46. British History Online [accessed 25 May 2024].

. "Simancas: March 1559", in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1, 1558-1567, (London, 1892) 37-46. British History Online, accessed May 25, 2024,

. "Simancas: March 1559", Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 1, 1558-1567, (London, 1892). 37-46. British History Online. Web. 25 May 2024,

March 1559

19 Mar. 18. Count de Feria to the King.
On the 6th instant I wrote by the bishop of Aquila. I have since had a long conversation with the Treasurer of the Household (fn. 1) about the affairs of religion and the obligations the Queen and country are under to your Majesty, and although he is not so good a Catholic as he should be, he is the most reasonable of those near the Queen. She knew he was coming to speak with me on that day to St. James' Park, and told him to ask me to go with him to another park higher up near the execution place, so that the earl of Pembroke and other gentlemen who were walking in St. James' Park should not see us. The Earl and the others who were walking would have been just as shy of speaking to me where the Queen or the Treasurer saw us. I say this to show how suspicious and distrustful they are. The conversation amounted to my saying that the Queen and they would be undone if they changed the religion. This I said without mentioning your Majesty. The Treasurer at the beginning of the interview had promised me that the Queen would not take the title of head of the church. A week after I went to see the Queen to beg her to have a remedy found for the ill-treatment of your Majesty's subjects in this country. A great company of the boatmen who get their living by bringing over goods from Flanders came to me on that day to complain that many of their number had been robbed and murdered between Gravesend and here, their boats boarded and their goods taken. I found her resolved about what was yesterday passed in Parliament, and which Cecil and Vice Chamberlain Knollys and their followers have managed to bring about for their own ends.
She said after a time that she could not marry your Majesty as she was a heretic. I was much surprised to hear her use such words and begged her to tell me the cause of so great a change since I last discussed the subject with her, but she did not enlighten me.
These heretics and the devil that prompts them are so careful to leave no stone unturned to compass their ends that no doubt they have persuaded her that your Majesty wishes to marry her for religious objects alone, and so she kept repeating to me that she was heretical and consequently could not marry your Majesty. She was so disturbed and excited and so resolved to restore religion as her father left it, that at last I said that I did not consider she was heretical and could not believe that she would sanction the things which were being discussed in Parliament, because if she changed the religion she would be ruined, and that your Majesty would not separate from the union of the church for all the kingdoms of the earth. She said then much less would you do it for a woman. I did not want to be all rigour, so I said that men did more for a woman than for anything else. She said she would not take the title of head of the church, but that so much money was taken out of the country for the Pope every year that she must put an end to it, and that the Bishops were lazy poltroons. I replied that the poltroons were the preachers that she listened to, and that it added little to her honour and was a great scandal that so many rognes should come from Germany, and get into the pulpit before her and great congregations to preach a thousand absurdities, without being learned or worthy to be listened to. After we had been talking for half an hour Knollys came in and said supper was ready, a new thing, and as I think arranged by those who are working this wickedness, for there is nothing that annoys them more than that I should speak to her. I took my leave saying that she was not the Queen Elizabeth that I knew and that I was very dissatisfied with what I had heard, and if she did what she said she would be ruined. This was Tuesday evening and the next day there was no sermon at the palace as she was unwell ; and truly I do not think her health is good. The Treasurer of the household (although he is a favourite with the Queen) is not at all discreet, nor is he a good Catholic, as I have said, but still he behaves better than the others.
Cecil is very clever but a mischievous man and a heretic, and governs the Queen in spite of the Treasurer, for they are not at all good friends and I have done what I can to make them worse. This is the history up to then. Ever since, these heretics have been trying to carry through what they had proposed before, and by way of compromise on Wednesday the 15th instant, they brought forward the same as they proposed at the opening of Parliament, only more moderate. This was that she could take the title of supremacy if she chose, the Pope's authority being abolished in any case. This was to be sworn to by all who hold any office or benefice from the Queen, and in case of refusal they were to be deprived. In the same manner all ecclesiastics, the graduates of the universities and the scholars would lose all the rights, places and profits they held. All agreed to this except the earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Montague, the Bishops and the abbot of Westminster. I believe some of the lords were not present, but I shall find out how each one acted and let your Majesty know. The earl of Sussex distinguished himself in being the greatest rogue of them all, as I always expected he would, for he never deceived me. Paget has not left his house as he has a bad quartan ague and is very ill.
The same day that this was decided in Parliament the Queen received news of the heads of agreement arrived at in Chateau Cambresi. As regards this country she (the Queen) will ill repay your Majesty for all the benefit received at your hands, for believe me, she will arrange with the French without standing out about Calais if they will settle the Scotch business. This has always been my opinion since the discussion commenced, as your Majesty will recollect. Nothing else could be expected of them. A secretary of the Queen Regent of Scotland has arrived here who they say rules her body and soul. He came last year and they have now given him leave to go over to France which was not done before. There has been a truce signed for two months commencing a week ago. Your Majesty already knows that what is decided in Parliament is of no effect if it be not confirmed by the Sovereign, and they tell me that the Queen will probably confirm this week the abominable decree they have adopted. (fn. 2) She told me some days since to delay writing to your Majesty as she had not confirmed anything yet, and although I fear it will have but small effect, I purpose speaking to her to-morrow or the day after, as it is well to leave no remedy untried whilst the patient still breathes ; although in this case he may be considered dead. The Catholics say your Majesty must help them, and they and the heretics take so much account of me that from having seen Dr. Velasco and the others who came from Spain leave here in the three boats belonging to this house, they soon said in London that I had gone with the Bishop of (to?) Rome. They have been in great fear that if they change the religion your Majesty will abandon them and I think this has made them pause. The country is in the same state as the bishop of Aquila will have represented to your Majesty, only that my views have since been amply confirmed and things cannot last at the present rate.
Mason, who was ambassador to his late Majesty, (fn. 3) left here two days after the Bishop, and the Queen tells me that he is going to Cambresi to see the Commissioners on certain points that can be explained better verbally than by letter.
All the Bishops here are determined to die for the faith, and your Majesty would be surprised to see how firm and steadfast they have been and are. If I had money and authority from your Majesty, I would willingly rather give it to them than pay the pensions of these renegades who have sold their God and the honour of their country. I am sure that religion will not fall, because the Catholic party is two-thirds larger than the other, but I could wish that the work were done by your Majesty's hands, and that God should not be delivered over to the enemy.
I humbly beg your Majesty to forgive me for departing thus from my story, but I am so distressed at what is happening here that I cannot help saying what I do. Three or four Spaniards have arrived here from Geneva full of false doctrine. It would be well to have some precaution taken on the coast of Flauders to prevent such vile rabble coming over, at least Spaniards, as the heretics greatly congratulate themselves upon their coming. Those who have arrived say that some forty more Spaniards and one Antwerp man are still in Geneva and are expected to come here. I have decided in accord with Friar Juan de Villagarcia and Dr. Velasco to try and seize them, their wickedness being proved, and throw them into the river. I must do it so dexterously and secretly as to give no ground for complaint to the Queen or her people.
I am told also that news has been received of the coming of Pedro Martin (Peter Martyr (fn. 4) ) Friar Bernardino de Siena (fn. 5) and Calvin. (fn. 6)
I beg your Majesty to have the measures taken to remedy this as you wrote to me. Calvin is a Frenchman and a great heretic.— London, 19 March 1559.
23 Mar. 19. The King to the Count de Feria.
By your letters and by the bishop of Aquila I am informed of the Queen's decision about the marriage, and, although I cannot help being sorry that the affair has not been arranged, as I greatly desired and the public weal demanded, yet as the Queen thinks it was not necessary and that with good friendship we shall attain the same object, I am content that it should be so. I advise you of this that you may inform the Queen from me, and at the same time repeat my offers of assistance and co-operation for the good government of her realm, and assure her that I will preserve the good friendship and brotherhood that I have hitherto maintained. Even besides this if it should be necessary that I should render her any service in the matter of her marriage I will do so with all the goodwill that I have ever shown in matters that concern her.— Brussels, 23rd March 1559.
20. The Same to the Same.
Your letter by the bishop of Aquila received. He has related at great length what you confided to him, and I was glad to hear so detailed an account of the state of affairs in England as I was very anxious to know the exact position, and I am quite satisfied with the way in which he has laid it before me. I also highly approve of the manner in which you have proceded in all things, and the prudence, moderation and zeal you have shown in your dealings with the Queen and the rest, for which I thank you, and charge you to continue the same care, diligence and good will in the guidance of affairs touching my interests.
The affairs entrusted to the Bishop being of such importance I sent him at once to Cambresi to obtain the opinion of my Council of State who are there arranging for peace. The Bishop has returned with their answer, and after consulting with those of my Council who reside here I have resolved as follows.
First. Having regard to what you write and the Bishop tells me, there seems reason to fear that religious affairs having reached their present pitch, revolutions or disturbances might result therefrom either from the Catholics resenting the carrying out of the new decisions or from the discontent that is shown by some of the Queen's proceedings and mode of Government, or again by the incitement of the French, and I therefore think that, to avoid this and the inconveniences which might result, and which are so great and evident that I need not recapitulate them, that all your efforts should be directed to smooth matters down as much as possible and use every means that the Queen should not proceed so rigorously as she seemed to intend to enforce the oath that Parliament had determined upon. In case this cannot be managed you will try to keep in the good graces of the Queen and lead her to rely upon my friendship implicitly so that no opportunity shall be presented for the French to be appealed to in case of necessity, although it seems most unlikely that she should trust people who have the claims they have on her kingdom and are only waiting for a chance to try and oust her from it. You will use for this object all the fair words, arguments and compliments you may think fitting and efficacious, but at the same time you must be very careful not to let the Catholics despair of our friendship, but rather seek opportunities of favouring them with the Queen, giving them to understand that you will always do so.
The main end and aim that you must have in view in all things is to obstruct and impede, by every way, form and means, any rupture between the Catholics and heretics in England, this being the best course for the pacification of the country, and for the welfare of our interests, as it will deprive the French of any excuse for putting their foot in the country, which is the thing principally to be avoided. With this object you must so guide and direct things as far as possible to attain and preserve harmony ; making yourself a mediator and employing those means which you see fitting with your great knowledge of English affairs.
If in spite of all your efforts you cannot obviate a rupture between Catholics and heretics you must endeavour by all means to let me know at once the state of affairs and I will instruct you how you are then to proceed. If however a disturbance happen so suddenly that you have no time to consult me, you will mediate and try to pacify without declaring yourself for either party until you have advised me and received my reply, but if you see the Catholic side strong and firmly established and the heretics weak, you will not fail to secretly favour the former and supply them underhandedly with money, whilst on the other hand you will give fair words to the heretics to put them off their guard and prevent them from calling in the French.
For this and the payment of the pensions you must have a supply of money, and I have ordered, in addition to the 20,000 ducats that were sent to you the other day, another 40,000 to be sent to you. 20,000 at once by way of Antwerp, which will arrive as soon as the Bishop and the other 20,000 in a few days, as all could not be sent together. It will be well not to let be it known there that you have any more money than is necessary to pay what we owe, as it may arouse suspicion and distrust, and this would be inconvenient. You can employ it in the way you think advisable, either in paying the pensioners something or in gaining friends or succouring and maintaining Catholics and others, whom you think might be useful to prevent a rupture, as already mentioned, or indeed in any way you think best for our object in the exercise of your prudence. You must keep principally in view by all ways and means to avoid a rupture, the importance of which is so great that I cannot be satisfied without repeating it so many times. To help what may be desirable in England I have thought wise to publish that I have for the present abandoned my voyage to Spain, with the excuse that I await here the arrival of the Prince my son for his marriage. It will be well for you to spread this in England so as to give more encouragement to our friends. I have also ordered, in case of necessity, that money should be got to fit out a fleet in a short time, so that it may be ready to carry men over to England if required. I have not had it done at once so as not to arouse the jealousy of the English and in order that people may not think it is for my voyage to Spain.
Men will also be got ready here, so that if it should be necessary they can be sent to the place where they may be wanted.
Whilst this was being written your letter of the 19th instant arrived, and I was much pained to learn what you say is happening in the matter of religion and the resolution adopted in Parliament on the subject. I approve of the steps you took with the Queen, and I am very anxious to know whether they have been of any avail, as she told you not to advise me until she let you know. I do not think that I need alter anything that has been written above except to enjoin you again very emphatically to carry out my wishes with all possible diligence and let me know what happens by every opportunity. As the Queen might perhaps think I was offended at her rejection of the marriage, I thought well to write you a separate letter that you might show to her. Do so, and intimate as from me that I am quite satisfied with what pleases her, with such complimentary words and offers of service as you may see advisable and in substantial accord with the contents of the letter. The bishop carries this despatch back with him and has been present at all the discussions on the matter. You will therefore hear from him full particulars as he is thoroughly well informed about it. I have ordered the bishop to speak about a certain apology which was written by Cardinal Pole touching the matters which the Pope had had laid before him and treating also of other things that perhaps had better not be published. I have been told that this apology has come into possession of the Queen amongst the other papers left by the Cardinal which were seized by her orders, and it would be well for many reasons to get hold of it. I charge you therefore dexterously to get it away from the Queen, or whoever may have it, employing your usual tact in obtaining it. When obtained please send it to me.
In the handwriting of the King :—
It will be well to delay as much as possible the payment of the pensions except those most necessary for the success of our present affairs, so that this money now sent may go as far as possible, for although the sum may not be large, in my present circumstances I shall feel the want of it, but am anxious to do nothing that shall stand in the way of the arrangement of my business.— Gruniendal, 23rd March 1559.
24 Mar. 21. Count de Feria to the King.
On the 19th instant I wrote to your Majesty by a courier who went over with Dr. Velasco. On the same day, Palm Sunday, there were great rejoicings at the palace on the arrival of a son of the Chamberlain with news of the peace, and also because Parliament had passed on the previous day the Act mentioned in my former letter against the authority of the Pope. On the next day, Monday, I went to speak with the Queen, and as I was waiting in the presence chamber the earl of Sussex and the Admiral separately caught sight of me and fled from me, as if I were the person they had injured. When I went in to speak to the Queen I said that I had heard she had received letters from her Commissioners acquainting her with the help and support they had received from your Majesty's Commissioners. She answered that she had, and seemed grateful, but was indignant with her own representatives for agreeing to such terms, as she appeared to think that the 500,000 crowns to be paid by the French if they do not restore Calais within eight years was too little. She went on in this way, but her anger was all pretended, and she is really very much pleased and her people as well. They all see, good and had alike, the great service your Majesty has rendered them. They tell me that the common people laugh at the idea of the French giving up Calais to them again, and are dissatisfied with the agreement made, although they are very thankful to your Majesty. I am sure that the news of peace made the Parliament come to the decision I have mentioned. They were much afraid that your Majesty would abandon them, for truly they are very weak, and anyone speaking to them strongly in the name of the Catholics would carry them with him. I said to the Queen that I was surprised that she had allowed Parliament to go so far in the matter of religion ; but since it had come to so bad a decision I hoped that she would act more wisely in so far as the confirmation was concerned, and that as she had asked me not to write to your Majesty until her confirmation was given [had refrained from doing so, and I was now afraid that if your Majesty learnt what was going on from any other source you would be angry with me for delaying the information so long, so that as I had trusted to her and the whole business was entirely in her hands, I begged of her to consider deeply before acting. She replied that she did not think of calling herself head of the church, or of administering sacraments, and then went on to say some false and foolish things about the present occurrences, and asked me scornfully whether your Majesty would be angry at all this and at the mass being said in English. I said that I thought your Majesty would be much pained thereat, but I did not know how you would take it, although I feared she would be ruined if it went on as I had told her before on my own account as a person who wished her well, and who would be sorry to see her destruction. She asked me who could bring it about, your Majesty or the king of France. I answered that I said nothing in your Majesty's name, and that you had done nothing more in the matter than to commend the question of religion to her when she first succeeded to the crown. I said she had seen hitherto whether your Majesty was a friend or an enemy, and that I, in compliance with your Majesty's orders that I should serve her, could not help telling her the truth when I saw her in such a dangerous way, as I knew what forces she had, as well as those of your Majesty and the king of France, and was convinced that her strength lay in the friendship of your Majesty. She said that she had no idea of making war in France, but meant to hold her own in her kingdom, as her father had done. I replied that they were deceiving her and she could not hold her own, and that it was a pity and a shame to hear the things they made her believe ; and, as to restoring religion as her father left it, she knew that king Henry burnt Lutherans, whilst all those who were now preaching to her were either Lutherans or Zuinglians. She denied this and was much surprised. I told her I was more astonished at the manner in which these religious questions were settled than I was at the decisions arrived at, bad as they were ; and to convince her that these poltroons who preached to her were Lutherans and Zuinglians I would give her notes of some of the abominable and bestial things they had preached before her. She asked me to do so, and wanted to know who had written the notes for me. I told her I had, and have wise and godly people here who are capable of stating the truth, and that as she wished it I would send her a paper in which these things were set forth, and she could have it considered and answered in writing. I sent her a paper that had been prepared by Friar Juan de Villagarcia, which I thought very good.
I think when I left her on that occasion she was rather kinder than she had been the last time, but it will not be by such talks as these that she or they will be softened. I thought well to send her the paper, as I verily believe they have never told her the truth in these matters in all her life, except when the late Queen sent some of the Bishops to speak with her, and in that way she would have hated it, even if they had agreed with her. The next day I wrote to her begging her not to take any step in the Parliament business until I had seen her after these holidays. She sent to say she would answer when she saw me. I took this course in order to prevent the confirmation of the Parliament's decisions until after Easter, as the heretics have made a great point of having them confirmed before.
Last night the Queen sent to say she would see me at 9 o'clock this morning, and just as I was ready to go a message came for me to put off my visit, as she was very busy. She had resolved to go to Parliament to-day at 1 o'clock, after dinner, and there, all being assembled, to confirm what they had agreed to in the matters they have discussed, although I do not know for certain what this is. Her going was, however, postponed till next Monday week the 3rd April. I do not know why, but I see that the heretics are very downcast in the last few days. I am doing everything in the world that I can to lengthen the life of this sick man until God and your Majesty provide a remedy.
It would be well that the Pope should be informed of the way in which the designs against religion are passed in Parliament now, as it is very different from what was done in the time of king Henry and Edward VI. If he decide to proceed against the Queen and kingdom he should leave out the bishops and others who were against the measure in Parliament and the ecclesiastics who assembled in synod in the cathedral of London, and who issued a very Catholic declaration proclaiming the truth and denouncing the attacks which were directed against it. All the Catholics in the country who had no voice in Parliament, the majority indeed, should also be excepted. It is, in my opinion, of great importance that this distinction should be made in the bull, both to favour and confirm the Catholics, and to confound and injure the heretics. It is a great pity that the Queen has no one near her, man or woman, to advise her. except to her injury, in a matter of this importance.
I have forgotten to write to your Majesty that lady Catherine, (fn. 7) who is a friend of mine and speaks confidentially to me, told me that the Queen does not wish her to succeed, in case of her (the Queen's) death without heirs. She is dissatisfied and offended at this, and at the Queen's only making her one of the ladies of the presence, whereas she was in the privy-chamber of the late Queen, who showed her much favour. The present Queen probably bears her no goodwill. I try to keep lady Catherine very friendly, and she has promised me not to change her religion, nor to marry without my consent. She has been hitherto very willing to marry the earl of Pembroke's son, but she has ceased to talk about it as she used to. The bishop will have told your Majesty what passed between the earl of Pembroke and me on this matter.
Document endorsed : "Copy of the letter written to His Majesty 24th March 1559."
30 Mar. 22. The Same to the Same. The bishop of Aquila arrived here before daybreak to-day, 30th March, with your Majesty's letters. By them, and from what he tells me, I understand your Majesty's wishes and will endeavour to carry them out to the best of my ability. I do not think that, up to the present, any of the roads your Majesty wishes to take have been closed, and I will try, in any case, to do what has to be done with as little cost and risk as possible. I wrote to your Majesty on the 24th, and since then the Queen has commanded the persons, whose names are given in the enclosed memorandum, (fn. 8) to meet on each side to dispute on the three articles set forth. I have been pleased to bring the matter to this point, and am now trying to devise means to avoid any trick or subtilty in the form of the dispute, which the heretics may take advantage of afterwards. The best way that has occurred is that the dispute should be in Latin and in writing, and that each disputant should sign what he says. The Queen at first had consented to this, but afterwards they sent to the Catholics to say that the dispute was to be in vulgar English, verbal and in Parliament which would be very bad. I shall go to the Queen to-morrow and see whether I cannot persuade her to return to the former conditions. I try all I can to keep her pleasant and in good humour, and, although sometimes I speak to her very freely, as I ought to do, having right and truth on my side, yet I think that for this very reason she does not get tired of me, but likes to discuss matters with me, and to such an extent is this so, that she does not want her people to hear of our intercourse and they on their side are very suspicious that the coolness they discover in her about heresy is owing to my efforts on your Majesty's behalf, which is quite true, for if it were not for your Majesty all would have sunk into the pit already.
I send this letter by Godincz, the courier, on his way from Spain, who has just arrived, and in order not to detain him I do not answer the bishop's dispatch.—30th March 1559.
Document endorsed : "1559, copy of the letter written to his Majesty on the 30th March."


  • 1. Sir Thomas Parry who had recently succeeded Sir Thomas Chenies in the office.
  • 2. The Act of Uniformity.
  • 3. Sir John Mason formerly English Ambassador to the Emperor Charles V. and one of Elizabeth's privy councillors.
  • 4. Jewel bishop of Salisbury writing to Peter Martyr a month later (Zurich Archives) mentions that the Queen was desirous of inviting him to return to England, but the invitation was not accepted as Martyr cousidered he owed his first duty to the city of Zurich.
  • 5. Probably the person meant is Bernardino Ochinus, an Italian reforming priest, who had accompanied Peter Martyr to England in 1549, and for whom bishop Jewel was endeavouring to obtain a preferment in the Anglican church about the date of this letter. Zurich Archives (Parker Soc).
  • 6. It is extremely unlikely that Calvin was invited as Elizabeth was highly incensed with him for a pamphlet ascribed to him, but really written by Knox against the government of women. (Letter from Calvin to Cecil s.d., but apparently in the spring of 1559 in the Archives at Berne.—Parker Soc.)
  • 7. Lady Catherine Grey.
  • 8. The inclosure has been lost, but the names of the disputants as given by Jewel in a letter to Peter Martyr (Zurich Archives), dated 20th March 1559, are himself, Scory, Cox, Whitehead, Sandys, Grindal, Horn, Aylmer, and Gheast on the Protestant side, and the five bishops (i.e., White of Winchester, Watson of Lincoln, Baine of Coventry, Scot of Chester and Oglethorpe of Carlisle), with Cole dean of St. Paul's, archdeacons Chedsey and Harpsfield, and the abbot of Westminster. Official accounts, however, only recognize eight disputants on each side, and Strype says the names of Sandys on the protestant side and Oglethorpe on the papist side were "mis-added," The name of Archdeacon Langdalc should also be added.