Simancas: September 1587

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Simancas: September 1587', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 133-143. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

September 1587

2 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1565. 42.
139. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
[Extract from a letter mainly relating to the affairs of the duke of Guise.]
Julius (fn. 1) has informed me that Drake's voyage is abandoned, as he has been assured by letters from Cecil. These are things that Cecil and Walsingham are in the habit of writing to him, and have mixed other matters with them for greater concealment in case the despatch should be lost. Julius has again been approached on behalf of Epernon with regard to the capture of one of your Majesty's frontier fortresses, for which he says arrangements have been made, the place being Bapaume, and the matter certainly within the cognisance of the king of France. I am advising the duke of Parma of it.
I have heard nothing of Bruce nor has the friar received any reply yet.—Paris, 2nd September 1587.
2 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1565. 44.
140. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The Christian King has received advice, through Lyons, of the sailing of your Majesty's fleet, the number and size of the ships, and the strength of the crews being specified. This intelligence made many think that it would be desirable for them (the French) to invade your Majesty's Netherlands with such forces as they had, for the purpose of diverting the object of the fleet. The King replied that he had neither men nor money to enable him to embark on a war with your Majesty. When they saw this was impossible they urged him in any case to send an embassy to Scotland to persuade the King to join the queen of England, in case the fleet should invade her country. This advice was considered the wisest, although no person has yet been appointed to the embassy, nor is it known whether they have given a reply to the articles which the Scots ambassador presented from his master, although he has been pressing very warmly for it and for an audience. There is nothing new with regard to the drawing closer of the alliance between this country and England, and things remain in their former position. I send herewith the heads of the present treaty between them, in case the terms should be made more binding. The matter will certainly not be forwarded by the release of Thomas Morgan by the King at the request of his Holiness. He was a servant of the queen of Scotland and had been kept a prisoner in the Bastille. The King granted the Nuncio's request for his liberation on the arrival of the bull for the sale of 50,000 crowns of ecclesiastical property, which I mention in another letter, and the English ambassador is asking for audience about it. He says the last time he saw the King his Majesty promised him never to liberate Morgan. He sent a despatch to England the instant he heard of it, and has also done so to advise the elevation of Dr. William Allen to the cardinalate. To the adjoined advices given to me by the new confidant, and confirmed by Julio, to the effect that Drake's voyage is completely abandoned, and the Queen determined to stand on the expectant until she sees what your Majesty's fleet will do, I have to add that Horatio Pallavicini writes that the Queen was so annoyed at the capture of the Sluys, and so sick of the war in the Netherlands that, to judge from appearances and the hurry she is in to send off the peace commissioners to Holland, if the duke of Parma was willing to come to terms she would refuse no conditions that were not absolutely degrading. He says that the court of England had been in great alarm at the false news of the Spanish fleet having been sighted.
The queen of England had recently sent a son of Lord Hunsdon secretly to Berwick, on the excuse of a hunting expedition, but really to convey a message to the king of Scotland that he had some business with him on behalf of the Queen. The king of Scotland replied that although he (Cary) came secretly, he could not, for his honour's sake, receive an envoy from the queen of England, who had killed his mother ; but he would send a trustworthy person to whom he might communicate his business. He sent one of his valets-de-chambre, and Lord Hunsdon's son would not enter into the matter with him, except to point out to him how important it was to the King that he should receive him and be on his guard against your Majesty, who wanted to turn him out of his kingdom and take it for yourself. He laboured on this point with an infinity of fictions hatched by Walsingham. The valet returned with this to the King, and when the latter saw how greatly they urged the importance to him that he should receive the envoy, he asked the valet whether he thought he ought to do so. The valet replied that he would on no account advise him to receive him, and requested that another gentleman should be sent with him when he took the King's answer in order that he might be a witness to what Lord Hunsdon's son said, as he might afterwards deny his words if the valet were alone. The King took his advice, and sent with him a gentleman of his chamber, but the son of Lord Hunsdon would say nothing, but again pressed upon the valet how much it behoved his master to beware of your Majesty, whose only object was to deprive him of his throne, which he was not able to defend unless (the queen of England) was his good friend, and he was disposed to go to England. In this case she would treat him as a son and appoint him protector of the kingdom, which would make him no less than her heir, although for many reasons the Queen could not formally nominate him as such.
The Scotch Parliament has risen and, amongst other things, it is said they gave leave to the King or marry whom he pleased, without fresh authority or consent of the country, and to sell and dispose of at his discretion all the ecclesiastical properties. The queen of Scotland's servants have arrived here, with two French secretaries, her doctor and chaplain, who have been released by the queen of England. The Queen's body has been interred with great ceremony in the place where she was beheaded.—Paris, 2nd September 1587.
4 Sept. 141. The King to the Prince Of Parma.
Rejoices at the capture of the Sluys, seeing its probable usefulness in the main business as a port and starting place, and the facility of the employment of the channels leading to it for the collection of the boats ... I thank you again for having opened this port to us, and approve of your idea of mustering the bulk of the army intended for the main business on the pretence of attacking Ostend. You cannot think how pleased I am to see you so bent upon conquering and beating down all obstacles which may present themselves, and that you expected to have all the troops ready for the concerted time. Your reports arrived in good time to enable us to decide what is to be done by the fleet from here ; and having considered the danger to your passage, which you point out, if the English fleet succeeds in placing itself in the Straits—having in view the strength and character of their ships, and the fact that yours will be so open—we have come to the conclusion that the plan of trying to avoid this difficulty by dividing our forces, and sending this Armada to attack some other point, might have an uncertain result. The enemy would understand the object of the manœuvre, since you are so strongly armed and so near to them, and they would concentrate their forces to oppose you instead of being diverted by the feint. I have therefore been convinced that the most advantageous way will be to join your forces there with ours at the same time ; and when a junction is effected the affair will be simplified and the passage assured. The whole force can then be promptly applied to cutting the root of the evil.
We calculate that by the time you have invested Ostend you will have over 30,000 men ready for the main business, whilst 16,000 Spanish infantry, a part of them veterans, will go in the Armada from here, the whole force of soldiers and sailors in the fleet reaching 22,000 men. (fn. 2) I have decided that when the marquis of Santa Cruz arrives with the flotillas at Cape St. Vincent, which he is expected to do from hour to hour, he shall leave them there in charge of the Spanish galleys, and go direct to Lisbon. He will there at once take charge of the fleet which will be awaiting him and with God's blessing sail straight to the English Channel. He will sail up the channel and anchor off Margate point ; having first sent notice to you at Dunkirk, Newport, or the Sluys. of his approach. You in the meanwhile will be quite ready, and when you see the passage assured by the arrival of the fleet at Margate, or at the mouth of the Thames, you will, if the weather permits, immediately cross with the whole army in the boats which you will have ready. You and the Marquis will then co-operate, the one on land and the other afloat, (fn. 3) and with the help of God will carry the main business through successfully. Until you have crossed over with the army, the Marquis is not to allow himself to be diverted from assuring your safe passage, and keeping at bay any force of the enemy which may come out to prevent it. The fact of his having taken possession of that port (Margate) will cut the communication of the enemy, and prevent them from concentrating their forces to some extent. When you have landed (the Marquis giving you 6,000 selected Spanish infantry as ordered), I am inclined to leave to the discretion of both of you what would be the best for the Marquis to do with the fleet whether still to assure the passage of our people from Flanders to England, and cut off foreign aid which might be sent to the English, or whether it would be better for him to go and capture some port and divert the enemy's strength. Or else he might go and seize the English ships lying in various ports, in order to deprive them of maritime forces, which are their principal strength. After you have both considered this question on the spot, the Marquis will carry out the joint decision and you will hasten to the front to conduct the undertaking on the lines decided upon. I trust to God, in whose service it is done, that success may attend the enterprise, and that yours may be the hand to execute it.
These orders are now awaiting the Marquis on his arrival on the coast, and he will carry through his part directly, without waiting for fresh advices from you. We are quite aware of the risk which is incurred by sending a heavy fleet in the winter through the Channel without a sure harbour, but the various reasons which render this course necessary are sufficient to counterbalance this objection, as will be stated below. As it is all for His cause, God send good weather ; and you had better try to have some advices sent to meet the Marquis about Ushant. If you do this, however, it must be done so secretly that, whatever happens to the vessel, the object of its voyage can never be discovered and it would perhaps be better to confide the information to some trustworthy person verbally instead of writing it, and let him go disguised, as a merchant. (fn. 4)
The most important of all things is that you should be so completely ready that the moment the Marquis arrives at Margate, you may be able to do your share without delay. You will see the danger of any such delay, the Armada being there and you behindhand ; as until your passage is effected he will have no harbour for shelter, whereas when you have crossed over he will have the safe and spacious River Thames. Otherwise he will be at the mercy of the weather, and if, which God forbid! any misfortune should happen to him, you will understand what a state it would put us into. All will be assured, please God! by means of your good understanding, but you must not forget that the forces collected, and the vast money responsibility incurred, make it extremely difficult for such an expedition again to be got together if they escape us this time, whilst the obstacles and divisions which may arise (and certainly will do so) next summer, force us to undertake the enterprise this year, or else fail altogether ; which I hope will not occur, but that great success may attend us with God's grace, since you are to be the instrument, and I have so bountifully supplied you with money. On other occasions I have written to you, how all our prestige is at stake, and how much my own tranquillity depends upon the success of the undertaking ; and I now once more enjoin you earnestly to justify me for the trust I place in you. Pray send me word at once that there shall be no shortcoming in these respects, as until we get such advice I shall be very anxious.—San Lorenzo, 4th September 1587.
12 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1565. 48.
142. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
As I wrote in my last, the English ambassador had pressed for an audience of the King on the release of Thomas Morgan. He told the King that by liberating him he had broken the treaty he had with the queen of England, whereupon the King replied that the queen of England had violated it to a greater extent, and with much less reason, by executing the queen of Scotland, and he therefore had nothing more to say about the matter, and the friendly relations should continue undisturbed. Letters from England report that the Queen is much offended at Morgan's release.
All recent letters from England, up to the 5th instant, assure me that there is no sign of naval armaments. The seven ships I mentioned had sailed under Frobisher to protect passage from Flushing to London against the Dunkirkers. Drake had gone to Plymouth to bring the galleon, "San Vicente," (Felipe?) to the Thames, as the Queen intended to alter her above water to the same pattern as her own ships ; but withal there is no talk of armaments. It is true they are shouting here about Drake's having sailed with a large number of ships, but it is all nonsense ; and the truth is, that the Queen is not thinking of fitting out a fleet, but keeps her own ships in readiness, with the intention of watching the movements of your Majesty's fleet. Since the fall of the Sluys, armaments there are out of the question, although Diego Botello says the States make promises to Don Antonio. I hear from Sampson and others that the latter has been desperately ill, and is in great need and discontent. The Commissioners the Queen was sending to Flanders were being hurried off. They are the earls of Derby and Hertford, Lord Cobham, James Crofts, the Controller, Dr. Dale, Master of Requests, and John Herbert, doctor of the Court of Admiralty.
Letters from Scotland, dated 25th ultimo, report that the Parliament confirmed the establishment of the Calvinistic religion, and issued a proclamation ordering the Catholic priests and Jesuits to depart under pain of the "horn law," as it is called ; those who harbour them or converse with them being subject to the same punishment. (fn. 5) This is, for a first offence, condemnation as rebels and confiscation of goods for a year. For the offence of harbouring them a second time, the punishment is that of felony or treason, namely, death and confiscation of goods. The King had also granted to the ministers (i.e., Protestant clergymen) the right of capture of the priests and Jesuits, by means such as those employed in Spain for the apprehension of offending persons ; and the earl of Huntly had consequently obtained 20 days' immunity to enable an uncle of his belonging to the Society of Jesus to leave the country. (fn. 6) These are indications that the King is not so well inclined to the Catholic religion as some people want to make out and assert here. They write to Rome to the same effect, but I am keeping count of Olivares informed of what is occurring.
The King has also taken the temporalities of the archbishop of Glasgow and the bishops of Dunblane and Ross, which means depriving them of everything, and quite extinguishes any hopes they might have of returning to Scotland. The King had made the earl of Huntly, a Catholic lord, his Vice-Chamberlain, in consequence of the office of Lord Chamberlain being hereditary in the family of the duke of Lennox, and because the present holder, being a child, he cannot serve. The King had also appointed the earl of Bothwell to be guardian or general of the Border with the earl of Angus, in consequence of his having been informed that the queen of England had sent Lord Hunsdon to Berwick with orders to station 3,000 men on the Scotch frontier.
The ambassador who had been sent by the king of Scotland to Denmark to treat of his marriage with that King's daughter had returned with the reply that the king of Denmark would have much pleasure in allying himself with him, but not for the purpose of making war on the queen of England, with whom he was on terms of friendship.—Paris, 12th September 1587.
Note.—In another letter of the same date to the King's secretary, Don Juan de Idiaquez, Mendoza thanks God for the news of the safe arrival of the flotilla from New Spain in San Lucar, and two ships from the Portuguese Indies in Lisbon, and that they are now free from anxiety lest Francis Drake should go out and capture them.
13 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1565. 52.
143. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Julius (fn. 7) advises me that the queen of England has written to her ambassador here, telling him to use every effort to persuade the King to come to terms with Bearn, and agree to a general peace. He thinks the matter has been broached in London by the French ambassador, because directly this despatch arrived Villeroy and Belièvre went secretly at night to the house of the King's advocate, which is next door to the English ambassador's, where the latter joined them. They said at first that they wished to inquire whether the Queen would send Commissioners to negotiate an agreement with your Majesty, and the ambassador told them that Commissioners had already been appointed ; but I understand they afterwards urged him to use every endeavour to persuade his Queen to a general peace, and employed arguments which they were sure would influence the Queen's mind. I do not repeat them here but they mostly turned upon the danger which the King personally incurred by continuing the war, and the countenance he was obliged to give to the Guises. They said that although the King was collecting an army, he was inclined to peace, and in order to obtain it he would continue his action and do his best to weaken the Guises, to prevent them from standing in the way. For this reason the King's agent in the Netherlands had sent a gentleman to the duke of Lorraine, requesting him to propose a marriage between the princess of Lorraine and the duke of Parma or his son, great advantages being offered by this King to bring it about. They thought that this and other things connected with it would cool Parma in his help to the Guises, and would throw him entirely in the arms of the king of France in the matter of the division (i.e., of Philip's Flemish dominions). In consideration of this (seeing your Majesty's age and that of Parma) they would promise the latter the government of those countries (i.e., the part of Flanders which should fall to the share of France). Villeroy afterwards urged upon the ambassador the importance of the Queen's placing no trust in your Majesty, and upon her continuing to distrust you by every means in her power, in which this King would aid her.
Julius also tells me that Cecil advises him that John Herbert, whom I know well, and they consider a clever man, was going as one of the Commissioners, with the secret mission of saying to the duke of Parma that he ought to recollect who it was that allowed his grandfather to be murdered, and that your Majesty was now usurping the throne of Portugal from his son, which was not a thing to be lightly forgotten. He should not incur the risk of your Majesty, at your age, so arranging matters in the Netherlands as to deprive him of the opportunity of benefiting by them, but should win the favour of the people of the country, and garrison the towns with men entirely devoted to him ; and particularly in those towns which the Queen would surrender to him if she came to terms with your Majesty. Both the Queen and France would help him with all their strength, and she pledged herself to this faithfully ; besides which, it would be better for his (Parma's) son to possess the throne of England than your Majesty. This message has been communicated to Julius in consequence of its importance, and they expect to obtain greater results from it than from the ostensible business of the Commissioners. I have requested Julius to try to learn what reply is given. He also informs me that Walsingham writes on the 5th instant to the Ambassador instructing him to use every means to discover in what spirit Parma received the communication, and whether his desire was only to gain time. Since he was so intimate with Arundell, Walsingham suggests that the latter should be set on to discover something from me, this being the sole object of the courier's being sent. He asked me what answer he should send, and I told him to say that the duke of Parma was acting very straightforwardly and sincerely in the communications that were being opened, in the assurance that as the Queen had initiated them she would be willing to give your Majesty entire possession of your own. I thought this was the most fitting language to use. Your Majesty will see by what I say how cleverly Julius is acting through all this.
From Scotland I have a letter dated Petty Leith, 14th ultimo, saying that Captain Forster would start in two days for Denmark with five ships for cargoes of wheat, and although I have no letters from him or Bruce this is a proof that they have arrived safely, and are successfully managing their business. (fn. 8) I am hourly expecting letters from them. Your Majesty will see by the enclosures my news from Scotland and England under dates of 25th and 30th ultimo.—Paris, 13th September 1587.
13 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1565. 54.
144. Document headed "Advices from London of 13 September, 1587, translated from English to Spanish."
There is a great desire here to make peace with the king of Spain, and on the 17th the Commissioners are to leave here. They are the earl of Derby, Lord Cobham, the Controller, the Queen's doctor, and a Master of Requests. It is said that Walsingham also will go, and the matter will not fall through for want of concession on their part, for they are more alarmed than ever, seeing the events that have taken place and the preparations being made elsewhere, which are not to their liking. They are also disappointed about the effect of the coming of the Reiters, by which they thought to make sure of the king of France. The King is getting vexed, knowing that the Queen was the cause of their coming, as he plainly writes to his ambassador. If she says anything to him about Morgan's release, which has much offended her, he (the French ambassador) is to reply, that the King could not avoid liberating him, both because he had been asked to do so by the Pope and the king of Spain, and because of the offences she had offered to him in killing the queen of Scots, and in succouring and favouring his rebel subjects. The ambassador has said nothing yet, but the Queen is informed of it by Stafford and Walsingham. The earl of Leicester is in Holland, greatly hated by everyone, so much so that the States roundly refuse to negotiate with him, they themselves being divided. Count Hohenlohe has refused to meet Leicester. The Admiral's visit was to persuade him (Hohenlohe) to come and see the Queen, but he excused himself on the ground that the States said that they did not want any Englishmen, but would defend themselves. It has been decided here to instruct the Earl to fortify Flushing, Bergen, Brille, Ramequin, and Ostend, and to threw all the Englishmen into those places to hold them. It is expected, however, that the Earl will soon return, although he has refused to do so hitherto when requested, as he says his honour is at stake and he is determined to hold these places firmly.
They cannot make sure of the Scots, who refuse to listen to their excuses. The chancellor of Scotland made a speech to his King in the name of the people at the end of the Parliament ; and in order that he might avenge himself for his mother's death they offered the King a half of all they possessed. The King replied that he accepted their good-will, but that it was necessary for him first to consult other friendly monarchs, in order that the matter might he taken in hand effectually. This makes people here think that the king of Spain may thus ruin them through Scotland. So great is the fear of this that the captain and crew of a ship belonging to Raleigh came hither (to London) on the 23rd ultimo, and swore before the Council that they had sighted, 50 leagues from the English coast, a fleet of 130 sail, amongst which they recognised 30 Biscay ships and some Portuguese galleons. This upset them so much as cannot be believed, as they thought the fleet was going to Scotland, and musters were ordered all over the country, captains being appointed on the Borders. They still fear that the fleet the king of Spain is fitting out is to go to Scotland. The Queen is caressing Don Antonio lately more than ever, and he is therefore quieter. He summoned Diego Botello hither, but he excused himself on the ground that he wished to make ready first 12 ships which the States granted him to go to the Mina. Although Leicester wrote to Dr. Lopez that these ships should certainly not go for the service of Don Antonio, even if they were got ready ; he, Leicester, being on bad terms with Botello, still it will be well to report the matter, so that those in the Castle of Mina may be put upon their guard.
The Indian ship discharged her cargo in Plymouth with 17 vessels and tenders, which brought it to London two days ago. It consists of 4,070 cwt. of pepper, 500 cwt. of cinnamon, 100 cwt. of cloves, 120 cwt. of other drugs, 500 bales of aniseed, 103 boxes and 115 bales of stuffs. This is being sold, but nothing else. Horatio Pallavicini, the Genoese, offered 100,000l. for it, out of which he was to be paid 30,000l. they owed him, and I expect he will get it by the favour of interested persons.
Three ships belonging to George Carew, captain of the isle of Wight, went to the Havana and brought back two vessels from Santo Domingo loaded with hides and sugar, five merchantships, three fishing boats, and a Brazil ship.
18 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1448. 140.
145. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
I note your reports from England. As they are from so good a source, and you can get them there without fail, take care that you send them often. These last have been a long while coming. Write particularly whether the talk of Don Antonio embarking with the 16 ships is going forward. Let me know where the English place the ships they were arming, or whither they send them ; and tell me whether the deputies they were sending to meet the duke of Parma's representatives were going openly or under some pretence. Julius can easily tell you this.
With regard to the suspicions aroused there (in Paris) about the Sluys, and in the matter of Allen, you will continue your efforts to divert them, especially with the Nuncio. You did well in leading him astray as you did, in reply to his hint about the enterprise, which doubtless was only a feeler prompted to him by some other persons, You will inform count de Olivares of this, and of the feeling displayed in these matters generally by the Nuncio, as it may be important. (fn. 9) —San Lorenzo, 28th September 1587.
28 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1448, 141.
146. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The articles of the (Anglo-French) treaty of 1572 have been received. Inform me whether it has since been confirmed or added to either openly or secretly ; and also whether it has been fulfilled as regards the clause providing that, if Englishmen are embargoed in the Netherlands or elsewhere, the subjects of the Prince who makes the seizure shall be arrested in France. In the recent case of the seizure of Englishmen have the English demanded the fulfilment of this clause ; and, if so, what answer was given? The steps taken by the English towards the king of Scotland are just what might be expected of them ; but he has good reason for knowing them, and if he will consider it well he will see he has as little reason for trusting Frenchmen, if they try to persuade him to make friends with those whose only object is to destroy him. Report to me how this matter has ended, and what the archbishop of Glasgow and the bishop of Ross hear about the King in the matter of religion. Which of the two prelates do you consider the most confidential and likely to be useful in current affairs? Have you heard anything of Bruce?— San Lorenzo, 28th September 1587.


  • 1. In the King's hand : —"I think Julius must here mean the confidant, as it is to him that Cecil writes. According to this he (Cecil?) cannot he dead, us I fancy I heard somewhere that he was. At other times I have an idea that Julius had mocked him (Mendoza?) or that he had been sent there by him." This is rather obscure, but Philip was right in his surmise that "Julius" sometimes stood for the "new confidant," otherwise Sir Edward Stafford, the English ambassador in France.
  • 2. In the King's hand :—"If you do not do so further on, would it not be well to give him particulars of the ships and stores, &c., us well as the number of men?"
  • 3. In the King's hand :—"I think it would be better to say here 'you on land and the Marquis afloat'"
  • 4. In the King's hand :—"It will be necessary to let the Marquis know we have written this underlined portion to the duke of Parma."
  • 5. In this first Scots Parliament, after James attained his majority, the whole of the temporal lands held by bishoprics, abbacies, and priories were annexed to the Crown, the tithes alone being reserved for the maintenance of the ministers. This was a crushing blow to the Scottish episcopacy, as it virtually divested the bishops of the right to sit in the national Parliament which they had done in virtue of their baronial possessions. The same Parliament also ratified all the laws previously passed in favour of the reformed religion, and enacted, as is stated above, very severe punishments for the seminary priest. By re enacting the Commons representative law of 1427 it also established on a permanent basis the elective representative system as in the English House of Commons.
  • 6. Father James Gordon.
  • 7. "I think he must be the same man, although we thought not before."—In the King's hand.
  • 8. Note in the King's hand :—"That would be very good, although I do not see how it can be true with Morton here."
  • 9. The new Nuncio in France was Gian Francesco Morosini, bishop of Brescia. He was a Venetian, and consequently not at first inclined to look favourably upon the Spanish cause.