Simancas: April 1588, 21-30

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: April 1588, 21-30', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 269-275. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

April 1588, 21-30

21 April.
Estado, 455.
271. Instructions given by the Duke of Medina Sidonia to the Shipmasters on the Armada at Lisbon.
Rations :—Each man is to receive 1½ lbs. of biscuit per day, or 2 lbs. of fresh bread on the days that biscuit is not served out.
The ration of wine is to consist of a third of an azumbre (fn. 1) of Sherry, or the same of Lamego, Monzon, Pajica, and Condado wine ; but only a pint of Candia wine must be served as a ration, that wine being stronger than the others, and it will bear a double quantity of water. The wine to be first used is Condado and Lisbon wine, and then, successively, Lamego and Monzon ; Sherry and Candia being consumed last, as those wines bear a sea voyage better. Any pipes of Condado or Lisbon wine that may become spoilt in consequence of being kept will not be credited to you, and you will have to pay for them at the price of Sherry.
On Sundays and Thursdays every man will receive 6 ounces of bacon and 2 ounces of rice. On Mondays and Wednesdays 6 ounces of cheese and 3 ounces of beans or chick peas. On Wednesdays. Fridays, and Saturdays you will distribute per man 6 ounces offish, tunny or cod, or, in default of these, 6 ounces of squid, or five sardines, with 3 ounces of beans or chick peas. It must be borne in mind that two different sorts of rations must not be served out on the same day. Oil must be served out on all fish days, one ounce and a half being the ration. Vinegar is to be distributed also on the same days, a quarter of a pint for each ration. (fn. 2)
All rations to be served out strictly by the measures and weights which have been supplied to each ship.
Sufficient water must be given to each man for drinking and cooking purposes, but the ordinary water ration must not exceed three pints a day for all purposes, although a larger consumption has been provided for in consequence of the waste that usually takes place by leakage, &c. If any excess in this respect takes place it may cause serious trouble.
You will carefully inspect the stores constantly, and anything that you see is becoming had you will serve out at once, nothing else being distributed until that be finished ; so that nothing shall be wasted. If any stores be wasted by your negligence you shall pay for them.
You must not serve out more than the ordinary ration to any captain, ensign, sergeant, corporal, or other official ; nor to any drummer, fifer, or other without my order. Anything served out in excess will be debited to your account, unless by orders of the Duke or the Provedore Don Bernabé de Pedroso.
Lists to be made of all men on your ship, signed by the Inspector-General and pursers of the fleet ; and by these lists you are daily to distribute the rations. In the case of the death or transhipment of any man, his name is to be struck off the list, even though the captain or ensign may claim his ration. Such ration is to be discontinued from the day the man leaves the ship, except by order of the Inspector-General or purser, of the fleet. Reports must be made every week, if possible, of any reduction of the company on board.
If for any reason, of scarcity or other, rations are omitted or shortened on any day, the ration or quantity short is not to be made up by distribution of a larger quantity on another day. The ship's notary must be present at and take proper account of all distribution of rations, his book to be signed every day by himself and the captain or ensign of infantry on board, or, in their absence, by the sergeant or corporal in charge. The military officer in charge will have to give you vouchers for all stores he may have received from you, specifying the days of receipt and nature of the stores. These vouchers, signed by you and certified by the ship's notary, will then, if in order, and not otherwise, be credited to your stores account.
If the hurry of the embarkation should prevent proper lists of soldiers being made in accordance with the above order, you will give out the rations for the number of men only specified in the certificate signed by me, as the contingent to be shipped on board your vessel. This is, however, only to be done until you can have a proper list drawn up.
In order that the ration oil should not be consumed in the lanterns for the watch, two arrobas (fn. 3) of oil have been served out to you for the lanterns, on the estimate that an arroba a month will be needed for that purpose on ships of 300 tons and upwards.—Lisbon, 21st April 1588.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
272. Advices from England.
The people of London have offered the Queen 20 armed ships, and those of Bristol six ; other towns according to their capabilities doing the same. The Queen's ships are again arming, and 50 more ships will be added to the fleet.
A muster of 10,000 men has been held in London, most of whom will be put on board these ships. Good preparations have been made all over the country, the people being all armed and officers appointed. The four great ships of the Queen, and one of the earl of Leicester, have not yet sailed, but efforts were being made to get them out.
Drake is awaiting the Bristol ships and others, to the number of 20 sail, besides those he has, his orders being to sail on the 24th instant, which is the 4th May of our style.
22 April,
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1567.
273. Sampson's Advices from England.
Don Antonio was with the Queen on the 19th. She was full of caresses and promises, and he returned contented to London the same day. He has sent a man named Juan Diaz Barela to Barbary ; and last Thursday went for pleasure to Brentford with four persons only, intending to stay there about 10 or 12 days. Antonio de Brito and his sons' governor, Fray Diego Carlos, are with him. The rest stay in London.
Don Antonio intends to go to Holland, he having arranged with the deputies who came, and he has sent to take a house at Utrecht. He will take with him Edward Perrin, and a dog he is very fond of; and which caused him to be recognised when the Admiral caught him before. The Admiral took him to the fleet with great ceremony and rejoicing, firing a royal salute, and accompanied him to Court. The Queen expressed her sorrow at his small regard for her, to wish to leave her country in that manner, seeing how little cause she had given him to treat her so. She begged him to be tranquil where he was, and to cast aside suspicion, if lie entertained any, as she would never do anything to his detriment. Don Antonio excused himself as well ns he could, and they became the best of friends. They agreed to spread the rumour that he had gone to see the fleet, and he returned to his house in London. He has only seen the Queen once since then.
22 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1568. French.
274. Advices from London.
The 20 ships that have been fitted out in London for Drake have French, not yet sailed, and will not be ready to leave under a month. Drake will be weak without these ships.
The Admiral has only about 26 ships, but he has reinforced them with double complements of men. He is not at the present time at sea, having retired to land for a short time. Four of the Queen's great ships have been brought to shore, as being too old, and not having been afloat for a long time they leaked and were unseaworthy.
Great preparations are being made here on all sides, owing to the alarm they are in.
It is said here that Drake's men have captured a Biscay ship and brought her in. She is from Seville, and they have thus discovered the great preparations that are being made in Spain.
There is but little hope entertained here of the peace negotiations in Flanders.
24 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
275. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
I note in your letters about England the excellent hints you were giving to Julio, which could not be improved upon, and also the good steps he was taking to discover the negotiations being conducted by his ambassador, and to frustrate the evil designs of the French. Continue in the same path, conducting everything towards the end in view, and since you are so satisfied with Julio, and you think it will be needful to give him some more money, you will use your own discretion in the matter ; bearing in mind, however, that a short time ago a sum of money was given to him, Hopes must be held out to him that the principal reward will be conferred upon him later, if he continues as heretofore ; but give him at present only what is needful. You will also try to get him to exert his influence to prevent Don Antonio from changing his place of residence, which will not be very difficult, for your advices from England say they will not let him go.
It is desirable that your correspondence with my nephew the duke of Parma should be very close, and that you should give him information of the smallest particulars you hear of the negotiations with England, as it is of the highest importance that he should know of them. It would be very desirable if the passage of Frenchmen from Boulogne, which you speak of, should be prevented if possible.
The earl of Morton and Colonel Semple are going on an excellent mission, and considering the colours in which Bruce's letters paint the present condition of Scotland, it is possible that when Morton and Semple arrive there some good effect may be produced.
You will continue to encourage them, more especially in the intention of crossing the English border when they see the country attacked in another quarter.—Madrid, 24th April 1588.
276. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The Armada I have collected in Lisbon being now ready to sail, and only awaiting a fair wind, I wish to say that it may be that some of the ships, especially the galleys and galleasses, may enter French ports, although they will endeavour to avoid doing so. In such case you will be on the watch, and will arrange that they shall be supplied with what they require in the ports and be allowed to put to sea again at once. The orders given on the Armada are that the masters of any vessels that may be thus obliged to separate and put into port should address themselves to the governors, with letters from the duke of Medina Sidonia, if they can obtain them, and if not, as my subjects and vassals entering the ports of a country with which I am at peace, to enjoy the privileges accorded by the treaties of alliance between the Christian King and myself. You will therefore see that in any such cases they are well treated, and that no obstacles are thrown in their way ; but it is left to your discretion whether to take any prior steps to ensure this, by speaking to the King or otherwise. If you decide to address the King in my name, you will say that the boldness of the English corsairs has forced me to endeavour to clear the seas of them this summer, and I have consequently fitted out a fleet for that purpose, and care will be taken that no damage or injury shall be done to his subjects. I have thought well to inform him of this, in case any of my ships should be obliged to enter his ports, in order that they should be treated in a manner corresponding with the peace and kindness that exist between us. You will thus banish any suspicion on his own behalf, and ingratiate him with the object in view. This will be sufficient ; do not enter into further particulars at present, if you can avoid it. If afterwards the Armada succeeds in joining hands with my nephew the duke of Parma, and in effecting its object in England, you will receive due instructions as to the line you are to take, and you may then proceed accordingly. But at present you are not to go beyond what is written above. (Addition to the draft in the handwriting of the King.) If you think it undesirable to say what is here set down, you need not do so. Perhaps if they are told of it beforehand they may be the better prepared to do us evil offices. But you, being on the spot, will be the best able to judge of this, and will act as may be most desirable.—Madrid, 24th April 1588.
26 April.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1567. Portuguese.
277. Advices from London.
A certain Fray José Tejeira has gone thither with a secret packet for Stafford from Pallavicini. He is going to Paris to print a book, in reply to one written by one Nuñez against Don Antonio. He cannot obtain leave to print the book here, and will print it in Geneva, if they will not allow him to do so in Paris. It will be easy to have him arrested by authority of his superior, as he has consorted with heretics and does not carry the French ambassador's special license as the other friars do.
The only news here is that they are pushing forward their preparations very actively, but they are in great want of seamen. They have sent to Holland for 2,000 sailors. Most of the ships now being fitted cannot be ready for a month, although they say ten days. There are 10,000 men raised in London, 6,000 of them have been mustered, and they are excellent fellows, well armed. It was agreed two days ago that the Admiral should join Drake at Plymouth, whilst these parts should be defended against the duke of Parma by 44 ships, 24 of which are from Holland. Of (Drake's) 30 ships they have already struck off six, and of the 20 vessels (i.e., of the Channel Squadron) they have diminished four, which they are replacing by four pataches. The ships thus withdrawn, together with four of the Queen's ships, will remain here, but I expect the ships deducted will be more than they say, as the same is being done in all the ports. They are in very great alarm lest the Spanish fleet should come to the coast of Wales, as the reports state that it will, and be assisted by the League, of which they are also much afraid. They are rejoicing now over the news they have received, and is now general here, that the Catholic King has gone mad, and has handed the government to his daughter and the Council. But some persons fear that this is only an invention after all. Don Antonio has freighted a ship, ostensibly to go to Barbary, which I do not believe, but think it is intended to keep off this coast until he can get on board. The captain is a Fleming who brought him from Portugal, called Cornelius d'Agoamond (sic). Two hours ago the younger son of the Treasurer arrived. He had gone with the Commissioners, and reports that they had met on Thursday last, the 21 st, the Commissioners on the other side. The meeting had taken place in some tents outside Ostend, where they were entertained at a banquet. They are pleased at this. It is well to continue to temporise with them, as it causes preparations to be kept in suspense here, especially as (the Queen) is so averse to spending money.
29 April.
Estado, 594.
278. Statement from the Duke of Parma to the King, showing the Cost of Maintenance for a month of the Army in Flanders, including infantry, cavalry, mercenaries of all nations, artillery, navy, stores, &c. ; together with a Statement of the Strength of the Forces at the last muster of 29th April 1588 :—
Spanish Infantry.
8,718 men in 89 standards 62,239
Italian Infantry.
5,339 men in 59 standards 35,225
Burgundian, Irish, and Scotch Infantry. (fn. 4)
3,278 men in 29 standards 20,591
Walloon Infantry.
17,825 men in 144 standards 79,341
High German Infantry.
11,309 men in 50 standards 86,691
Low German Infantry.
8,616 men in 34 standards 51,195
Light Horse (Italian and Spanish).
3,650 men in 41 standards 38,631
Antwerp 600 men, Ghent 350 men, Charlemont 230 men = 1,180 men 6,508
Staff, unattached, civilians, &c., 668 men 23,204
Navy 44,986
Army 59,915 men 380,421
Gold Crowns.
His Highness' salary in 3,000 gold crown 5,700
That of the Maestre de Campo General 1,000 gold crowns
Commander of the Cavalry 500 gold crowns
Staff and unattached officers 23,204
Fleet, ordnance, victuals, head-quarters, hospital, &c. 44,986
The monthly expenditure up the present time is 454,311 crowns, equal to 370,000 gold crowns ; but this does not include extraordinary expenditure, such as carriers, secret service, spies, travelling expenses, and many other things that are required to be paid for every day. It does not include purchases of powder, and other artillery requirements, or the money which has to be spent when an army is in the field, nor does it include the ordinary country garrisons.


  • 1. The azumbre was nearly half a gallon, so the wine ration was about equal to a modern bottle of wine.
  • 2. It will be interesting to compare with this the rations ordered to be served on the English fleet (State Papers, Domestic, CCIX., 16, quoted by Laughton, "Defeat of the Armada") :—
    Fish days :—Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.
    Biscuit 1 lb. per man.
    Fish One-quarter of a stockfish, or the 8th part of a ling.
    Cheese ¼ lb.
    Butter 2 ozs.
    Beer 1 gallon.
    Flesh days :—Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
    Beer and biscuit as above.
    Flesh 2 lbs. salt beef per diem, so that every man hath 1 lb. for a meal.
    Bacon day:—Monday.
    Bacon 1 lb. per man per diem.
    Pease 1 pint per man for a meal.
    1 pottle of pease for 4 men.
    It will be observed that the English dietary was decidedly more substantial than the Spanish. This seems to have struck some English naval reformer, as there is appended to the above document a suggestion that fish, oil, and pease should be substituted for meat. Beef, we are told, costs 2d. per lb., independent of salt and casks, whereas the ration of fish (at 10s. the hundred), oil ½d. per man per day, and pease the same, will only cost 2d. per man per day, instead of 4d., the cost of beef.
  • 3. The arroba of oil was three and a half gallons. The arroba, as a measure of weight, is the quarter of a quintal, or 25 lbs.
  • 4. The Irish were 918 men, under Stanley, the Scotch 804, under Archibald Peyton.