Simancas: February 1588, 1-15

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

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'Simancas: February 1588, 1-15', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 202-207. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

February 1588, 1-15

1st Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
212. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have a letter dated Antwerp, 26th ultimo, saying that the duke of Parma, having received a letter from the queen of England, he had left Ghent for Brussels, and had ordered Count Mansfeldt. M. de Champigny, and President Richardot to go to Antwerp to treat with the Queen's commissioners, for whom lodgings were being prepared in the town.—Paris, 1st February 1588.
5th Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1567. French.
213. Reply of the Queen of England to the Request of the States for Greater Aid.—Greenwich, 5th February 1588.
She has been frustrated in her intentions but her fears have come true. There is a good proverb in England which says the sooner a threatened misfortune falls the better. Complains of the ingratitude of the States after all she has done for them ; it is very strange they should ask for further aid without giving her any account of what had been done for them before. She swears by the living God it is terrible, and she does not believe such ungrateful people as they live upon the earth. She has sent them thousands of men, whom they have not paid, but let them die of hunger and despair, or else desert to the enemy. Is that not enough to irritate England, and make the States ashamed of themselves, for Englishmen to say they have found greater civility from Spaniards than from them? She cannot suffer such conduct, and in future shall please herself. She can do without them. They are not to think she is obliged to help them for her own safety. Nothing of the sort. It is true she does not want Spaniards for near neighbours, as they are her enemies at present. But why should she not live at peace and be friendly with the king of Spain, as she was originally? He has always desired her friendship and has even sought her in marriage. She sent them the earl of Leicester, intending that he should manage their resources, but they conducted things in their own way, and threw the blame on him. They had given him the title of Governor, which he had accepted without her consent, and so risked his person and property as well as his Sovereign's displeasure. But after he had made this sacrifice for them, what authority had they given him? They were simply playing with people. Leicester was a gentleman, and a man of honour, and should not have been treated thus. If she had accepted for herself the title they offered her, by God! they would have found she would not have put up with such treatment. God will punish them for their conduct, of returning evil for the good she has done them. They are now saying that the queen of England is making peace without their knowledge. She would rather be dead than give ground for such an assertion. Besides, Princes can discuss matters together, as private persons cannot do. They are States, it is true, but they are simply ordinary persons in comparison with Princes. She will do nothing, however, without them, and will not allow their consciences to be assailed. What more can they want of her than that? The States have issued an edict forbidding the discussion of peace. That is good in its way ; but let Princes act as they think fit on the understanding that they (the States) will not suffer. Princes do not use many words, but with such few words as are said by them (the States) they must be satisfied and have faith. Whatever else she may do for them in future she expects to be better treated in return. She will probably depute certain members of her Council to deal with them in future.
6 Feb.
Estado, 950.
214. Count De Olivares to the King.
A Spanish doctor here, called Ricalde, who says that he studied in Paris, tells me that he has seen a letter from Villeroy, Secretary of State, to Cardinal de Joyeuse, saying that when the King (of France) returned to Paris a meeting of very few persons was held to decide what had better be done in face of the certitude that existed that your Majesty's forces were being prepared to attack the queen of England. Marshal de Retz and others were of opinion that the King should avoid meddlling in the business, but should devote himself to arranging the affairs of his own country ; and he reminded him how badly he had fared in consequence of similar movements on other occasions On the other hand the Queen-Mother and the duke d'Epernon pressed the opposite view so warmly that it was decided that Epernon, as admiral, should collect the sea forces on the pretext of going against Rochelle, but that he should not join the forces of the queen of England unless he saw an opportunity of suddenly falling upon those of your Majesty, or otherwise do you some great damage.—Rome, 6th February 1588.
7 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
215. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
My advices from England are dated 24th and 26th ultimo (n.s.), and only report that the Admiral had gone post to London to see the Queen, and that it was not known whether Drake had left Greenwich. It was therefore concluded that the return of the Admiral and the making ready the Commissioners to go to Flanders might cause Drake to wait. I have no assurance of this, however, either in the letters or from the new confidant. The French ambassador in London writes, that even if the Queen has not already come to terms with your Majesty she will certainly do so. The fitting out of the two fleets, he says, is all show, and so far as he can judge they will not put to sea.—Paris, 7th February 1588.
7th Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
216. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The papers sent to me by the duke of Parma are a letter written to him by the earl of Huntly and Lord Claude Hamilton, in reply to that sent to them by the hand of Bruce. The substance of the letter is to deplore the blindness of their King, and to express their esteem for the assistance your Majesty desired to give them, whilst regretting the impossibility of their sending ships to carry the reinforcements over, in consequence of the suspicion it would arouse in the heretics. They say at any time that notice is sent to them they will have possession of Little Leith, (fn. 1) where not only the 5,000 Spaniards would be received, but twice as many if they were sent. If it be necessary to delay the sending of the forces, they beg that they should be provided with 50,000 crowns to enable them to hold out against the heretics. Bruce says to the duke of Parma what your Majesty will see in the accompanying paper, and in accordance with this and the Duke's remarks, I reply to the Catholic lords, adding that the earl of Morton will shortly be with them and will give them further instructions as to how they are to proceed. I say this because Morton tells me that he is sending a servant to Scotland to beg the King's permission to return to his country, but he only takes this step to reassure the King and the heretics, and to give his own friends notice that he is coming at once. He will start immediately after he receives your Majesty's orders, and I tell him to go. He asked my opinion about sending his servant and I approved. He is very zealous in religion and in his desire to serve your Majesty.—Paris, 7th February 1588.
15 Feb.
(N.S.). Paris Archives, K. 1568. Portuguese.
217. Advices from London.
Will follow instructions received about Don Antonio. He shall not do the smallest thing without my knowledge. I do not write oftener as couriers to Calais are so uncertain. The present is only sent with the King (of France's) packet. I ought to write every day, matters are so changeable and uncertain. On the 11th the (peace) Commissioners took leave of the Queen, and each one is to travel his own way to Dover, where they are to meet to-morrow, 16th, except Sir Amyas Paulet, who excused himself. On the 12th, Dr. Derbar, with two commissioners from the States of Holland, arrived, saying that they had decided not to come to terms with the King, and requesting the Queen to surrender the fortresses she held, as they themselves will defend them. They were to return to-morrow, but will stay a few days longer. The Queen after hearing them yesterday referred them to the Council which is to meet to-morrow. She is determined to make peace if she can, but meets with great opposition from Leicester and Walsingham, whose main object is to delay matters till March to see what course the King takes with the Armada. They fear the loss of dignity it will be for them, if the King carries through his project after they have sent the Commissioners. The Commissioners are only being sent to gain time, with talk and appearances of peace until it is too late for the King to take action. They know very well that peace will not be made, as the King will not be satisfied unless they restore that which belongs to him, and they say they will not do this, as it will be against both their honour and their safety. I know this is the idea they have and think necessary to report it.
With regard to the fleets, the admiral has gone to (Queenborough?) with 14 of the Queen's ships and some merchantmen with five pinnaces. He was to go thence to Dover, but was delayed by weather until yesterday. He came to Court in the meanwhile and returned in two days. The Queen's ships which have been fitted out are the best she has ; four being 1,000 to 1,500 tons burden, three of 900, five of 600 to 800, six of 300 to 400 and up to 500, five of 200 to 250. These are being armed by the Queen in addition to pinnaces. They are all armed with bronze pieces, the four great ships with 48 guns, the 900 ton ships with 40 to 42 guns, the 600 to 800 ton ships with 34 to 38 pieces, the 300 to 500 ton ships with 22 to 28 guns, and the 200 to 250 ton ships with 18 to 20 guns. They are well provided with artificial fire, and instead of harquebusses, carry muskets and half-muskets. Amongst the ships is one that was made by Raleigh very strong by means of a new invention of castles, so that she could never be taken broadside on (?) (alla banda). She is 600 tons burden and is victualled for six months. (fn. 2) They have held a review of sailors and although they say there were 11,000, there were not really more than 7,500, and some of these refused to serve.
Of the above ships, Drake takes five, one of 800 tons, two of 600, one of 400, and another of 300, with two pinnaces and two others. The admiral has 14 ships and four not yet ready. Drake is accompanied by 20 ships, and six pinnaces belonging to private persons, some being his own. They are all armed with iron artillery, except a few that have the guns taken from the Indiaman they captured. The merchant ships are five of 300 to 400 tons, four of 200 to 250, six of 160 to 200, five of 100 to 140. He (Drake) has not left Plymouth yet, as the ships are not ready. It is expected he will be told to stand by as the Commissioners have gone, but the intention is that which I have already reported, namely, that he shall go to the Coast of Biscay and Galicia, and destroy all the ships he can find, whilst the other fleet remains in the Channel.
Very few of the nobility embarked with the Admiral, only a few barons and knights, and a very small number of soldiers, nearly all the men being seamen. Drake takes 3,000 men, and the Admiral 3,800. Four of the Admiral's ships were sent to Flushing with 10,000l. to pay the garrison. There was a disturbance in Flushing between the inhabitants and the English, and they fear a massacre there.
With regard to the (French) ambassador, I know that no negotiations are going on for closer alliance (between France and England), but his King does not wish for a settlement to be arrived at with the master (i.e., the king of Spain) ; and he has taken care to let them know of some things to arouse their (i.e., the English) suspicions. They (the French) sent to the ambassador a copy of a letter written by the marquis of Santa Cruz to his Majesty on the 24th October, saying that the Armada should not be allowed to sail for England before March, in consequence of the dangerous and uncertain weather here and in Scotland. He (the ambassador) also received a list of the ships and men his Majesty was preparing in various places for the purpose in question. All of the information was furnished by the agent of the king of France in Madrid, and has been sent hither for the ambassador to use it as he pleases. I have persuaded him that it will be better not to show it or say anything about it (to the English), in consequence of the suspicion with which they look upon him here, but I will find out more about it and report (fn. 3)
Some days ago the Queen received news that the king of Scotland had fallen into the hands of the Catholics. God send it may be true.
Note.—The above letter, although unsigned, is evidently from the Portuguese spy, Antonio de Vega, and like all his communications is insufferably verbose, confused, and obscure.
15 and 19
February. Paris Archives, K. 1568.
218. Sampson's Advices from London.
Don Antonio says that he understands from the Queen that she greatly desires peace at any price ; and his own opinion is, that seeing both she and the rest of them are so anxious for it, peace will be arranged.
The Queen told him in conversation that she had heard that the king of France and the Queen-Mother were trying to attract him hither (to France) with great promises, and she would be glad to know whether such was the truth. Don Antonio says he did not know what answer to make, except that if such were the case he was not aware of it. He suspects that Chateauneuf has done this for him, or else that Stafford has heard something about it in France. Some days ago Don Antonio wrote to France that they were not to discuss his going thither, but the Queen-Mother wishes him to send his sons.
Don Antonio was grieved at the news from France of Leiton's imprisonment.


  • 1. In the King's hand :—"I do not know whether this is appropriate for our business here."
  • 2. The "Ark Raleigh" was called 800 tons in the English official lists. She had been built for Raleigh by Richard Chapman and was launched 12th June 1587, previous to which she had been sold to the Queen for 5,000l., the sum to be deducted from Raleigh's debt to her. The Lord Admiral, when he took her as his flagship, wrote as follows to Burleigh (28th February, 1588) : "I pray you tell her Majesty from me that her money was well given for the 'Ark Raleigh' for I think her the odd ship in the world for all conditions ; and truly I think there can be no great ship make me change and go out of her." The exhaustive survey of the ship published in Laughton's "Defeat of the Armada" does not enlighten us as to her peculiarity of construction. The above expression might also mean, "would never heel over."
  • 3. The King has underlined this passage.