Simancas: September 1679

Pages 694-701

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 2, 1568-1579. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1894.

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September 1679

5 Sept. 596. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
Since my last I have learnt of some of the presents made by M. D'Alençon. He gave the Queen a diamond ring worth, the French say, 10,000 crowns, which he handed to her when he bade her farewell at Cobham. The parting was very tender on both sides, and the Queen presented Alençon with another jewel. He gave Leicester a cord for his cap, consisting of precious stones worth 3,000 crowns, and to Sussex a diamond ring of similar value. Lady Stafford and other ladies received jewels from the stock brought by Simier, who remains here to continue the negotiations for the marriage and the other French plans, with which object he is winning over the councillors in every possible way.
The Queen has received news from Ireland that James Fitzmaurice has been killed in a skirmish. He was the leader of those who landed there, and the Queen is so pleased at the news that she has ordered that the cavalry shall not be sent and only part of the infantry, as now that the chief is dead it is believed the rest may easily be put down.
Two days since there arrived here an express courier, dispatched on the 3rd August from Seville by the merchants, announcing the arrival of the despatch caravel from the Indies with news that Drake, about whom I wrote, had passed through the Straits of Magellan, and had stolen in the southern sea gold and silver worth 200,000 ducats belonging to his Majesty, and 400,000 the property of merchants. The adventurers who provided money and ships for the voyage are beside themselves for joy, and I am told that there are some of the councillors amongst them. The people here are talking of nothing else but going out to plunder in a similar way. Although the courier was sent specially with this news alone I do not believe it, as in a matter of this importance, if it were true, some steps would have been taken by his Majesty ere this. I am making every possible effort respecting the prizes taken by English pirates from his Majesty's subjects, although I only get to know of the cases through Englishmen, as the owners themselves do not tell me. In some cases indeed, like that which took place near Corunna lately, and the landing of Humphrey Gilbert in Galicia, where he sacked the hermitage, they themselves confess, and in these cases I think of requesting the Queen to punish them. At the same time, if I see an opportunity, I will try to divert her from her negotiations with the French, as I do generally when I speak to her or her councillors, but until they see what you wot of (i.e., money) it is like hammering cold iron. This Seville courier also reports that his Majesty announces his intention of undertaking the Algiers expedition in person, which banishes their anxiety about the destination with the fleet. One of these ministers of theirs (i.e., clergymen) has heen convicted of the dreadful and nefarious crime of consorting with his own daughter, and, although the affair is public, all they have done is to put him for a little while in the pillory. You can judge by this how they would punish other smaller peccadilloes.—London, 5th September 1579.
7 Sept. 597. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
Just as this courier was leaving hurriedly for Paris, an English courier sent by Wotton delivered to me his Majesty's letter of the 18th ultimo, and three from you of the same date. I knew of the arrival of this English courier on the 5th, but was not aware that he had any letters for me. No doubt they kept them back, as I was to have audience of the Queen the next day, so that I might not have them until after I had seen her. I will report what passed with her in my next, and have only time now to send, with all speed, the documents you request. I have had them for some time to study them, and to be the better able to treat if occasion should arise. I will send to Antwerp for some more as there are none here, and will send them by next opportunity. I now send the "Perpetual edict," the "Pacification of Ghent," and the decree and proclamation of the same.—London, 7th September 1579.
13 Sept. 598. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I saw the Queen on the 6th, and she told me she had received letters from Edward Wotton, and was glad to hear that your Majesty and the Queen were well. Although at the time I had not seen your Majesty's letter, I replied in generalities as ordered. The conversation turned to the matter of the pirates, and, so far as I could gather from her expressions to me, I judge that the negotiations for union with the French are proceeding very warmly. She kept dwelling upon Alençon's good qualities and praising the Queen-mother, whom she formerly abominated, saying how cleverly she had brought France to its present good order. Even if the marriage do not take place, it is probable that a binding union with the French may be effected—all in disservice of your Majesty—from the very evident signs to be seen on all hands. Amongst other indications is the fact that all these ministers are turning their backs upon me, except the Controller, who helps me and lets me know what is going on. The burden of talk of the rest is that, if your Majesty persists in the Portuguese business, you will lose the Netherlands and have a war in Italy. I again represented to the Queen the evils that might result from failing to maintain the alliance with your Majesty, without entering into particulars, as this marriage is so far advanced and she is so enamoured of it. I lose no opportunity of pressing this point and others similar, and take care to spread abroad certain aspects of the matter, which it is important that Parliament and the people should foresee, particularly what may be the effect of the French getting a footing here. The Queen said that your Majesty wished to take Portugal, and had made great preparations with that object. I replied that I had already told her several times that your Majesty had collected a powerful fleet, but I did not know where you would be pleased to employ it. If it were used in Portugal it would not be for the purpose of taking the country, but simply to enable you to enjoy your rights, as being, on the death of the King, the nearest legitimate heir, which I said I had no doubt the Portuguese understood. She replied that every one did not agree with this, and your Majesty could not take Portugal as there were those who would prevent it. I answered (to show her that I knew about the French negotiations) that, however much certain princes might unite for that purpose, it would be useless, because not only had God given you these rights to the Crown, but had endowed you with forces powerful enough to maintain them. I could not believe, I said, that she would mix herself up in any unjust attempt to frustrate this, to which she made no reply, but changed the subject, and said that the Netherlands were again in treaty to hand themselves over to the French. I answered that these suspicions and plots were now of very little importance, as experience had shown last year how well they agreed, and that they could not endure the French when they had got them there. There was less chance for them now than then, as Hainault and Artois had submitted to your Majesty. Certain English pirates who landed in Galicia (where they lifted some cattle and sacked a hermitage) have arrived here and boasted much of their exploits. Although I had no advice of it from your Majesty or any of your officers, but only learnt of it from the coast of France, I thought fit te speak to the Queen on the subject, and to beg her to punish the men. I said I had received letters from the President of Galicia, who said he was also giving an account of the matter to your Majesty in order that steps might be taken. She at once ordered the men to be arrested, and assured me they should be justly punished.
The Queen has received news from Ireland saying that the earl of Desmond had fled from the Viceroy, offended that so little importance was attached to him. They, therefore, fear he will go to the other side ; in which case they (the rebels) would hold much of the island. Another ship had arrived there with foreigners, and the Viceroy was treating with the O'Neil for a pacification.—London, 13th September 1579.
599. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
Yesterday I was visited by the principal merchants who trade with Spain, to thank me, in the name of the Council, for the release on surety by his Majesty, of the Englishmen who were imprisoned at Corunna ; which news had been conveyed to them by letters dated 19th ultimo, and which they had been informed was due to certain letters written by me. They were much gratified at this. Those (i.e., the Spaniards) who went from here, although I was in a hurry to get them gone, have had such contrary weather that they have been much delayed.
After the news of Drake's robberies arrived, these merchants went to the Council and said that they feared that his Majesty might retaliate by seizing the property of Englishmen in Spain ; and, as it was now the season for them to despatch their ships, they could not do so unless they were assured they should not lose them. The Council replied that Drake had gone on a voyage of discovery, and if he had plundered it was not their fault, nor did they think that his Majesty would seize English property in consequence. I have thought well to report this, that you may see that their own conscience is now pricking them, and some of the merchants have paid as much as 4 and 5 per cent. premium of insurance against seizure on their goods in Spain. His Majesty's letter to me mentions the enclosure of copy of the Queen's letter to him. This must have been forgotten, as I only received copy of the King's letter to her. I am informed from Milan of the new obstacle raised there to paying me the five hundred odd crowns due previous to the transfer (i.e., of his pension there). This is the order given by his Majesty that debts due for more than a year should not be recoverable. Pray write about it, for what with this and the fact that they now owe me 16 months pay for my company, I can hardly make both ends meet here.
The Queen left Greenwich on the 9th (fn. 1) to make a short progress, hunting at various gentlemen's seats until early next month, when she comes to London for the Parliament.—London, 13th September 1579.
Postscript : Since closing this letter I have learnt that a gentleman from Alençon has arrived with letters for the Queen, informing her that he has had an interview with his brother in Paris.
17 Sept. 600. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I am sending this duplicate by Calais, and take the opportunity of saying that, an hour after the letter had left, I was informed that the French gentleman who had arrived reported the taking of Fuentarrabia, which has greatly delighted these people as it has distressed me. They are getting closer every day with the French, and since this man arrived there are couriers coming constantly from France, both for the Queen and the ambassadors, who are now staying with her at the earl of Sussex's house, where all is feasting, dancing, and toasting the good news. I believe they are pressing for money for Bearn, for which purpose they will sell his mother's jewels, which are now here in pawn ; and if, by God's grace, these people or the French do not run out of funds, they will certainly attempt some wickedness against his Majesty's grandeur, as I have so often said, or try to prevent the success of our fleet. This proves what I have so constantly urged—the need of gaining over some of these councillors—which will not now be easy. We never think we shall want anyone's help until the time comes. Some oar-galleys have gone from here for M. de la Motte, and some English ships also have gone to serve him, but I have a very poor opinion of them, seeing things as they are. I have constantly warned him of this, and I recently sent a courier to him to let him know that they will attempt some mischief in that direction, as not a man leaves here without these councillors knowing of it, and indeed, in some cases, they speak to them before they go. There has just sailed a ship fitted out by a gentleman of the chamber to the Queen, with a quantity of ordnance on board, on the pretext of going to serve him (M. de la Motte), which causes me all the more suspicion, and I have consequently sent a special messenger to inform him.—London, 17th September 1579.
25 Sept. 601. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Intelligence has been received of the publication of your Majesty's decree prohibiting the export of all goods, except salt, from Spain in foreign ships, which has caused much annoyance, not only to the merchants trading with Spain but to all the nation. The London merchants have addressed the Queen and Council (who are as much grieved as the rest) setting forth the great damage it will cause to the country, which profits so much by this trade, and is so largely interested in it. This will be seen more clearly by the detailed statement I send to your Majesty of the voyages they make, and the Queen has consequently written to your Majesty on the subject, as well as sending to me with many entreaties that I should do the same. As some ships have already left, and they think the business is urgent, they have decided to send the letter by a person who is to travel with all speed. I send to your Majesty the heads of their letter, so far as I have been able to learn them, as the importance they attach to the matter persuades me that it will be to your Majesty's interest that this letter should arrive before theirs. In addition to saying that the decree is in contravention of the treaties between the countries, they threaten that, as so many ships and sailors will be thrown out of employment, they will make plundering voyages to the Indies ; which may well be believed, as they do so already. Their pride and insolence are so great that the very sailors who are going now (i.e., to Spain) are saying that if they cannot get freights back they must rob on the coast to make up for them. If your Majesty thinks well, notice might be sent to the ports and places where they may attempt this. With the same object in view, the owners of the ships (who are the most interested) have petitioned the Council that the masters may be allowed to punish any sailor without being called to account for it here.
The Queen has also assured the merchants that, if your Majesty refuses permission for them to load their ships, she will at once order that no Spanish goods shall enter her country except in English bottoms, which will prevent Flemish ships carrying on the trade, and they think there are not enough Spanish vessels for the purpose.
When the Queen was told of the decree, she said your Majesty would break friendship with her, and when you wanted her friendship perhaps you would not get it. They also believe that, even if your Majesty does not grant them the concession, they will be able to load their freights in Spain, and it would be very advisable ; if your Majesty for some good reason allows them to take merchandise for this once, that they should be made to understand how great a boon and favour you are granting them, out of your mere grace, when you have the power to oppress them, even without going to war. I am aware that it is extremely bold for me to say this, but I humbly beg for pardon, as my great desire to serve efficaciously makes me write in this way to the best of my understanding. Although the English have so many places whither to send their ships they actually despatched a man some time ago to Constantinople to try to establish a trade there. He returned recently with a Turk, bringing a letter from his master to the Queen, full of endearments, and offering unrestricted commerce in his country to Englishmen if she, on her part, will give the same privileges here to his subjects. I will endeavour to get copies of the letter and their reply to send to your Majesty.
The States have issued a proclamation in Antwerp saying that no goods are to be shipped there, except in ships belonging to the Netherlands, and in execution of this they have taken some cargo out of an English ship in which it had been loaded.—London, 25th September 1579.
602. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 13th I wrote saying that, on that day, a gentleman had arrived from Alençon to give an account of the interview of the latter with his brother, and the pillage of Fuentarrabia. (fn. 2) The great rejoicing about this did not last long, as they afterwards learnt of the grief it had caused in Paris that occasion should arise for war with your Majesty. This later news has troubled them and people are saying that it was a planned affair that Monseigneur Aigremont and Duras should have appeared on the frontier at the time ; the object being to make people believe that some treaty had been entered into, and that the country at large would willingly join in a war against your Majesty. It was part of the plan to convey to the Governor of Bordeaux the news he sent to the king of France, in order to make the thing look the more encouraging, and to animate people with the belief that, now they had a pledge in their hands, they could commence war with advantage, the negotiations being carried on here being part of the arrangement. The Queen continues to regale in an extraordinary way the three (French) ambassadors who are with her. They have all been lately at the house of the earl of Sussex, where the Queen and they have been grandly entertained. The rest of the councillors treat them in the same way, inviting them to their houses, and feasting them to such an extent that they may now be looked upon as all one people, although the general public show little pleasure at this friendship.
A printed book has recently been published here setting forth the evils arising from a union with the French. (fn. 3) Many arguments and reasons are adduced, and examples are given of what has happened on other occasions. As soon as it was published the Queen prohibited its possession under pain of death, and great efforts were used to collect all the copies, and to discover the author, in order to prevent the circulation of the facts before Parliament meets.
I wrote that the earl of Desmond had fled from the Viceroy and had gone over with his brothers in opposition to the Queen. She has now ordered both the cavalry and the infantry, which had been raised, to go to Ireland, and more troops are to be recruited, for whom it is said, victuals will have to be sent from England, as there are none to be got by them in the revolted country. For this reason, and because the place is a hotbed of disturbance, and the country a very humid one, they fear they will not finish the business so easily.—London, 25th September 1579.
29 Sept. 603. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
The enclosed proclamation, which there has been no time to translate, has been published by the Queen, prohibiting the book which had been issued against her marriage, and refuting certain points of it. As the proclamation was only dated two days before its promulgation (which was carried out with great ceremony) people are attaching a good deal of importance to it, and are saying that it was advisable to cut short the sensation caused by the book, in order to effect the marriage. (fn. 4) You will see by the proclamation how far advanced the matter is, and how Alençon is flattered by saying that it was through him that the Portuguese had been kept in France, which will not much please the Catholics or the people of Paris.—London, 29th September 1579.
604. Bernardino De Mendoza to Zayas.
I take this opportunity of repeating what I said on the 25th, and also of saying that, as the Englishmen who were to take the Queen's letter (i.e., to Spain) were leaving, news came from the West that Francis Drake had arrived. I suspect that this was the reason why they delayed their departure until the present ; the news now being known to be untrue, as these merchants are in great alarm lest his Majesty should order the seizure of English property in retaliation of the robberies committed by Drake. I sent a man to Plymouth, a Spaniard residing near there, to inform me of his arrival, as it is believed that unless he is driven elsewhere by weather, he will make for that port. This man has now returned, and tells me that he had heard, very secretly, from the wife of one of the justices there, that these councillors, who have a share in the venture, have sent orders to all the justices and governors to help him (Drake) to land and place his plunder in safety, and I therefore fear that it will be difficult to recover it, if anything of value reaches the country, especially as it is not desirable for me to speak to the Queen about it until it arrives. If I did so, it would be a confession that there were no forces there (i.e., the Spanish Indies) to punish these men. Those who are well informed on the subject do not expect Drake to arrive before January, as he has to return through the same Straits (of Magellen), and he cannot do this until November, which is summer in those parts, as the council of the Indies will know, if true.
Alençon's gentleman has been despatched by the Queen, with a cap-cord worth, as they say, 3,000 crowns, and a chain worth 300 for himself, by which you will see how warmly the affair is proceeding, since they are not satisfied with the tokens they exchanged in person. To judge by the constant couriers being sent by these French ambassadors, the indisposition of their master has not sufficed to cool the negotiations. The people in general are much displeased, and, in addition to the book which was published, two pasquins were recently posted on the Lord Mayor's door, saying some very brutal things about the marriage, amongst which was, that when the marriage was attempted, there would be 40,000 men collected and ready to prevent it.
One of the Englishmen who are going (i.e., to Spain) is married in the Canaries, and is called Richard Graveton. He says he is glad to accept the mission, in order to convey certain information in his Majesty's interests, respecting the French negotiations, about the adventurers who fitted out Drake's expedition, and about the voyages undertaken by the English. He asked me to give him letters to ensure him a hearing from you, and although I am not very sure about him, from the fact of his having been chosen for the mission and certain things I hear, yet I have given him the letter, because no harm can come from hearing what he has to say, and he assures me is not far wrong in the matter of the voyages.—London, 29th September 1579.


  • 1. Full particulars of this short progress will be found in Nichols' "Progresses of Queen Elizabeth."
  • 2. Note in the handwriting of the King : "Juan de Vargas has written nothing about this, unless his present letters mention it."
  • 3. This was Stubbs' famous book called "The discovery of a gaping gulf, wherein England is like to be swallowed by another French marriage, if the Lord forbid not the banns by letting her see the sin and punishment thereof." The author, who was a Puritan and a friend of the poet Spencer, had his right hand smitten off as a punishment. The fierce proclamation against the book, which was characterized as "lewde and seditious," was dated two days before this letter was written, the Queen being at the time on a visit to Giddie Hall, Essex. See "Calendar of State Papers (Domestic)."
  • 4. This proclamation is in the Record Office, see previous note.