Simancas: March 1587, 1-10

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: March 1587, 1-10', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 28-36. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

March 1587, 1-10

2 March.
Estado, 950.
30. Count De Olivares to the King.
As soon as news comes of the men being landed from the armada the utmost efforts shall be used to make the million available by the duke of Parma with all speed. Juan Agustin (Pinelo) will do his best, as he has promised, but he will not pledge himself for the Pope. Until the men are landed it will be impossible to get anything out of his Holiness. As it is known where the duke of Parma is, and that the whole of the nobility is going in the armada, everybody believes that the real object is to make peace, and nothing will shake the Pope's belief in this respect. The small trust that can be placed in him may be judged by the little trust he places in us. Your Majesty will also have sent orders with regard to the time for the loan. The Pope will not be very liberal in this respect either. I can assure your Majesty that few persons in Rome believe that anything will really be got for the enterprise here, and when it is made public that a contribution of a million is to be sent, although there are so many good reasons for it, it will be looked upon as monstrous.
His Holiness consented to grant the jubilee, and I hope he will order it in the first consistory so that the more solemnity will attend is as it will be at the beginning of Lent. I had not mentioned it to him before, as I had no orders to do so until news came that the enterprise had been commenced. It was necessary for your Majesty to instruct me that no details are to be entered into in the jubilee, because in accordance with your Majesty's letter of 26th August I had caused Allen to draw up a statement of the justifications for the enterprise. It will, however, be useful for the Legate's bull, unless your Majesty orders to the contrary.
Not a word shall be said about the succession and investiture (i.e., of the crown of England) until your Majesty orders. As soon as the articles are ratified in the consistory people will be convinced that your Majesty has no intention of retaining the crown for yourself, and the inconvenience which would arise from the prevalence of a contrary impression will be avoided. It might perhaps be better to defer any further action in this respect until your Majesty decides to announce to whom the Infanta is to be married. In accordance with your Majesty's orders enough money shall be given to Allen for his journey to Flanders, as speedly as possible ; and if possible his Holiness shall be persuaded not to give him the character of Legate until he arrives there, so that he may go the quicker, in which case the Canterbury appointment may also be left in a like manner.—Rome, 2nd March 1587.
4 March.
Paris Archives, K 1566. 65. French.
31. Letter written from England to a Councillor of the King of Scotland.
I am sorry to hear that execution of the mother of your King will produce such results as you affirm will ensue upon the publication of the news in Scotland, and that the peace and friendship of the King and Scots for England should be changed thereby, as here the great desire has been to cement the friendship. We hope that on mature consideration, and with your wise Council, the King will see that the past cannot now be undone, and that any action on his part would be to his own prejudice.
If he wishes to make war upon England he must consider these things:—
1st. Will the war appear just in the sight of all persons.
2nd. His means of sustaining it.
3rd. The probable result of it, and particularly as touching the succession here.
It will be said here that he is warring against the decision of a Court of Justice, and consequently against divise justice itself.
If he depends upon his own resources, he must see that Scotland is not strong enough to cope with England ; whilst France is now more united to England than to Scotland.
The delay and difficulty of employing foreign forces, moreover, are very great, and give rise to serious and unexpected complications. It is clear then that such a war could only end in disaster ; and the King's moderation and wisdom, which have gained for him the admiration of all, will, I hope, bring him to deal with the matter prudently. The old enmities between the countries would be aroused by a war, and the English would then never accept a Scotsman for their King.
The queen of Scotland was legally sentenced by the three estates of the realm, and if the King impugns their judgment he will understand how they will be set against him.
What remedy, moreover, can he expect to gain from foreign princes? Any help he got would certainly not be rendered out of love for him ; and neither France nor Spain will help him except for their own ends, which will not add to his popularity in England It is, moreover, the traditional policy of France to prevent the union of all the island (i.e., Great Britain) under one sovereign ; and France is in no condition to undertake a foreign war.
The king of Spain's age and ill health would probably lead him to listen to overtures of peace rather than enter into such a war ; but, if he consents to aid, his ambition and claims will make him a dangerous ally. His right to the succession of the English crown is maintained by many persons, with a great show of authority, and his usurpation of Portugal is a sample of his ambition.
All this proves the danger of the king of Scotland's appealing to Spain for help ; but if he do so, it will only be given in exchange for his abandoning the protestant faith, which God forbid, as it would mean his utter ruin both in Scotland and England.
If he seeks revenge it must be against all the estates of the realm in England, who have agreed upon the offence, and he will see how much better both his dignity and interests will be served by treating the matter with wise moderation, rather than adopt such a position towards a nation over which he hopes to reign. You may see how desirous I am to preserve the friendship of the two countries, by my writing so long a harangue as this. I had no intention of doing so. I had collected the arguments set forth, and others which I conceived to be for the good of both countries, in order that they might be transmitted to you by Mr. Douglas ; but as I found him anything but forward in the matter, I have decided to put them in writing and send them to you direct.—Greenwich, 4th March 1587.
Note.—The above letter in the original is extremely diffuse and obscure. It is published nearly at length in French by the Bannantyne Club in their collection of letters in the Paris Archives relative to the history of Scotland. The editor, M. Teulet, thus comments upon it:—"Cette lettre renferme une serie de raisonnements que me semblent d'une grande habilité politique et que les évenements ont justifiés. II est facile de suivre et de comprendre ces raisonnements dans leur ensemble ; mais il n'en est pas de meme dans les details. Ecrite on traduite par un étranger qui savait mal le francais, la lettre presente souvent des expressions, des phrases, et meme quelques paragraphes, qui sont presque inintéligibles."
March 6.
Paris Archives, K. 1566. 67.
32. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
As the English ambassador could not obtain audience, and feared the news (of the queen of Scotland's death) might reach the King through another channel, he therefore went to Belièvre with a letter from his mistress, asking him to convey to the King that at the persuasion of her people she had signed the warrant for the execution of the queen of Scotland in virtue of the sentence which had been pronounced, without any intention of having it carried out, but her councillors, without her consent, had executed the sentence. In order to set forth this fully she would at once send a person of rank to the King. Belièvre was much perturbed, and said the King would rightly resent such an act and he (Belièvre) would so advise him. He said surely his (Stafford's) mistress must think that monarchs' heads were laced on, to have done such a knavish thing as to dare to lay hands on the queen of Scotland. There is a good deal of talk about these words, as Belièvre has much influence with the King, and is usually a man of very slow and moderate speech.
When Secretary Brulart heard of it, he said he would never enter the Council again if the King did not fittingly avenge the murder of one who had been his sister-in-law and a queen of France Notwithstanding all this talk, and the great sorrow of the nobility, there are no signs that the King means to do anything, only the immediate dispatch of a courier with the news to his mother ; and it is not yet known whether he will go into mourning or not, or how he will proceed with the Englishwoman. The heretics have rejoiced as much as the Parisians have sorrowed ; and a preacher at St. Eustache who discoursed upon it was greeted with so much sorrow and lamentation from his hearers that he was obliged to descend from the pulpit without finishing his sermon.
The English ambassador and Waad, who is with him, are in great alarm that these demonstrations may lead the people to make an attack upon them.
The queen of England received the king's valets de chambre, but she would not allow them to be accompanied by Chateauneuf.
It is rumoured here that Don Antonio has secretly left England and gone to Barbary. Sampson (fn. 1) has been unable to discover what truth there is in this, but as the last news reported that Don Antonio was at the Court with the Queen on the 22nd ultimo, it is probably unfounded.—Paris, 6th March 1587.
6 Mar.
Paris Archives, K. 1566. 68.
33. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
As the English ports are still closed, I have nothing to say about England beyond what I say in the general letter. I was with Nazareth (fn. 2) yesterday, who told me he had been informed that the King was not sorry for what had happened to the queen of Scotland, owing to his rancour against the Guises, and his wish to be revenged upon them. This made him secretly favour the Bourbons who were the sworn enemies of the queen of Scotland.
In conversation with Nazareth about the queen of Scotland, I said that although her son, by birth, was her heir, he was incapacitated by his heresy from succeeding, and your Majesty took his place so far as regards the crown of England, you being the next heir failing him. I told him it was well he should be informed of the matter so that he might convey it, as if on his own account, to Cardinal de Bourbon (fn. 3) and the duke of Guise ; as it was just as important to them that the principle of heresy incapacitating should be acknowledged, so far as the crown of France was concerned, as all their cause rests upon the point.
Nazareth approved of the idea, and I refreshed his memory about the descent by virtue of which your Majesty claims the English crown. I avoided mentioning to him the following point, however, until I get your Majesty's instructions. It is, that although your Majesty may have acquired a legal right to the two crowns of England and Ireland by the death of the queen of Scotland, her son being incapacitated from succeeding her according to natural right, it will be necessary, before your Majesty can enjoy your possession, that your claim should be declared by a competent judge, who will pronounce the incapacity of the king of Scotland to succeed, he being the son of a catholic mother. My precedent for this opinion is that before a creditor can proceed on an overdue obligation, his right being unquestionable, he must obtain a judgment. I think this point is of importance, and it was suggested to me by my leading years ago that it was not provided for in the bull of Pope Pius V. against the queen of England. (fn. 4) I have not been able to get a copy of the bull as mine was burnt with the rest of my papers in England, but if your Majesty's theologians and jurisconsults think there is anything in it, you might have his Holiness approached cautiously, to induce him to make such a declaration as that desired, excluding the king of Scotland for heresy, by which act your Majesty becomes legal heir, and can enter into possession of your rights, without anything to that effect being said in the bull. It must be managed with great secrecy, so that the king of France shall not hear of it, as he would, of course, strenuously oppose it. It will be unnecessary for a regular process to be raised against the king of Scotland, as he has not publicly professed heresy after being a Catholic, but has only generally been acknowledged as a heretic, and has never submitted to the Holy See. His Holiness can easily make this declaration, with the speed rendered necessary by your Majesty's design on England, and the importance of keeping the king of France in ignorance. If the latter heard of it, he would certainly induce the king of Scotland to intimate to the Pope that he would be converted and marry a Catholic. I can see no objection to your Majesty's helping the Catholic Scottish lords, as they may be instrumental in converting the rest of the people. If the King himself should become a Catholic, the marrying of him to a wife of your choosing, or the gaining over to your Majesty's side of most of his nobles, will prevent the force of Scotland being cast on the side of the English heretics. Even if the kings of Scotland were not (as their chronicles show) all fated to die violent deaths, it may well be supposed that those who have brought about the death of his mother will compass his own, now that he is in the hands of the Scottish-English faction who are in league with Leicester and the rest of them.
The Scottish gentleman (Bruce) has again shown me letters from the lords urging him to get a reply from your Majesty. They say the King himself would have sent to ask for aid against the queen of England, but for the fear that he would be refused on the score of religion.
The archbishop of Glasgow, the queen of Scotland's ambassador here, is naturally grieved at the fate of his mistress. I sent to see him, and he is so good a prelate and Christian that the moment he saw me he said that he had received from me the 8,000 crowns I had paid him for his mistress from your Majesty. In consequence of the bad money current when I paid him the first 4,000, and the absence of communication with the Queen owing to Babington's arrest, he had paid that instalment to the queen of Scotland's treasurer here to dispose of to the best advantage and give him (the Archbishop) gold, when he had an opportunity of sending to the Queen. He said I knew that no such opportunity had offered, and the 4,000 crowns of the second payment he had still intact, and would return to me, and also the first 4,000 he had handed to the treasurer, when possible ; the money being the property of your Majesty now that his mistress was dead, and his conscience not allowing him to touch a groat of it. I said I would give your Majesty an account of it ; and I now humbly suggest that you might favour him and me by making him a present of the first 4,000 crowns, as it could only be got back through his hands and at such a pace as the treasurer might think fit, the French being hard to part from money when once it is in their possession. The Archbishop has lived here for 23 years, serving his mistress faithfully, and during the whole time has been in close communication with your Majesty's ministers. He was the only channel through which Tassis could correspond with Muzio (i.e., Guise) after he had left the King, and his (the Archbishop's) servants carried all the dispatches, and my letters continued to come by the same means. He is 65 years of age, and the good prelate is so poor and defenceless that I shall look upon a favour done to him as if it were done to me. His wages from his mistress now fail him, and the heretics have destroyed his abbacy in Poitou, robbing him a few months ago of 500 crowns which were being brought to him of the revenues of years back. All this is in addition to the service he constantly renders to your Majesty, and the advisability of keeping him in hand in regard to Scotch and English affairs, as his influence and dignity are very great in that country (Scotland). The day upon which the king of Scotland shows any signs of a desire to become a convert to the Catholic faith, his Holiness will certainly be obliged to promote the Archbishop to a cardinalate, in order to guide the King and bring about a conversion of the rest of the country. This renders it desirable for your Majesty to pledge such a man to your interests, as there is no other upon whom his Holiness could cast his eye. Your Majesty might even give him a good pension charged upon one of the Spanish bishoprics. Nazareth has already begun to bewail to me how great a loss it will be to both of us if he (Beaton) have to leave here. I beg your Majesty to send me instructions as to the two sums of 4,000 crowns which I have mentioned above.—Paris, 6th March 1587.
6 March
Paris Archives, K. 1566. 69.
34. Bernardino De Mendoza to Secretary Idiaquez.
The Jesuit fathers who are labouring in Scotland have been blessed by God with grace to produce notable fruit for the good of religion. They have asked me to renew the petition I sent in former letters of mine that his Majesty should be pleased to give them alms for church ornaments and similar things, without which their progress cannot be continued. I beg you will mention this to the King when opportunity offers ; and I am quite sure you will be reminded of it also by some religious father.—Paris, 6th March, 1587.
7 March.
Paris Archives, K. 1566. 70.
35. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The delay of this courier has given me time to write to your Majesty what I have heard since writing my despatches yesterday. The King (of France) has publicly appeared in mourning for the queen of Scotland, as have the Queen and all the nobles at court. As the ladies in waiting were not in mourning the King told them to dress in black serge, as the inconvenience caused by the war would prevent him from giving them the customary mourning dresses which he furnished on the death of royal personages. It is also decided that the obsequies are to be held in the cathedral here (Paris) and the King will be present. I am told by a person who heard him that the King in his own chamber said he had received letters from his ambassador with a detailed account of the beheading of the queen of Scotland. It was to the effect that Beal, the Secretary of the Privy Council, Walsingham's brother-in-law, carried down the warrant and the executioner from London, and in the presence of Paulet and Grey, at 9 o'clock on the night of the 17th ultimo, told the queen of Scotland that the queen of England had ordered her to be beheaded. She heard the intelligence quite unmoved and did not even change colour ; replying that since that was so, she would be glad to have some persons near her to prepare her for death. Two of the devils they call Bishops then were presented to her and she asked them whether they were Catholics, to which they replied that they were Christian Bishops. (fn. 5) She said she was a Catholic as her forbears had been, and meant to die in the faith, so that they (the Bishops) could go, as they had no concern with her. She then withdrew and remained all night in prayer, with a crucifix in her hand, consoling her servants who were with her with the greatest bravery and firmness. She pointed out to them how signal a mercy God was showing her in rescuing her from the power of so bad a woman as the queen of England. The King affirms that she communicated that night, having years before obtained license from the Pope to retain the Holy Sacrament by her, and a priest being with her. When I was in England I know she had a priest disguised as a layman by her side, for I know him personally, and if amongst the few servants they left another such remained, it will have been a great mercy to her from God. The next morning she asked for one of her best dresses, as since she had been in prison she usually dressed in hodden grey cloth. She put it on and left the apartment, ordering her chief steward to lead her by the hand ; and told him that as she had not been able to recompense him for his services, he was to go to the King, her son, and carry her blessing to him. (fn. 6) With this they entered another room in which was a scaffold covered with black, and about 40 persons assembled. She protested that she died a Catholic and confessed that she had tried by every means in her power to gain her liberty, but had not sought the death of the Queen. Her sins deserved even a more cruel death than that she was about to suffer, but she was innocent of the particular crime named. The executioner approached her for the purpose of turning down her collar, but she told him to remain quiet and she would call him when she was ready. When she herself had loosened her collar she called a lady to her to bandage her eyes. She then knelt down and summoned the executioner, crying out aloud three times, so that all could hear, "In manus tuas Domine, etc." Her head was then cut off, and shown by the executioner to two or three thousand men who were collected round the house. In London they were not satisfied with ringing all the bells for joy, and lighting bonfires everywhere ; for the King says his ambassador informs him that the people forced him to provide fuel, which they took out of his house for the purpose of building a very large fire opposite his door. This is a piece of insolent intolerance such as has never been practised on an ambassador, and especially on the ambassador of so great a King. It would have been bad enough to make him find means to celebrate some victory, but it is much worse to force him to rejoice over the death of a queen of France who entered the country on the faith of the queen of England's safe conduct, which has been violated against all right, human and divine, and the Queen kept a prisoner. I am hourly expecting reports from Englishmen as the news I quote above has come to the king of France. His ambassador also writes that on the 22nd the queen of England summoned to the palace the two valets-de-chambre who had been sent by this King, and they expected they were to have audience ; but when they arrived they were referred to the Council, on the ground that they were not persons of sufficient quality for the Queen to receive, but that if the King sent a person of rank she would listen to him.
The King speaks publicly of all these things but gives no indication as to what measures he will take to resent them.—Paris, 7th March 1587.
9 March.
Paris Archives, K. 1566. 71.
36. Sampson's Advice from England.
The Queen had given leave for the ordinary posts to leave for France and come from there, but the seizures and detentions on both sides would be dealt with at leisure, so that a satisfactory arrangement might be arrived at. The French ambassador was still in his house and had not seen the Queen. Parliament opened on the 4th instant, and Hatton made the speech for the Queen, setting forth the grievances against her, alleged by your Majesty as reasons for making war upon her, for which you were preparing a great armada. 1st.—As to the taking of Holland and Zeeland, the Queen could not do otherwise than aid and protect them, as they belonged to her religion. 2nd.—The sending of ships to Peru and the Indies was mainly for the purpose of the recovery of English property, which had been seized in Spain without cause. 3rd.—The help she extended to Don Antonio was granted him, because the kingdom of Portugal belonged to him, and had been usurped by the king of Spain. For these reasons she asked Parliament to vote supplies to enable her to defend the realm.
Don Antonio had been at Court since the 1st March until the 9th, and was earnestly pressing the Queen for a decision. She was caressing and making much of him at Court because she feared he wanted to leave the country.
The deputies from Holland were discontented at being unable to get any decision from the Queen.
Merchants are equipping 12 ships which will be manned entirely by Londoners. Don Antonio's people say these ships will be ready at the end of March and are victualled for a year. The Commander chosen by the merchants is not known yet.


  • 1. This was the cipher name of Antonio de Escobar, Don Antonio's agent in France, who was secretly in the pay of the Spanish King. The news about Don Antonio's going to Barbary was untrue, but afterwards his second son, Don Cristobal, was sent thither as hostage for a projected loan from the Sheriff, which however was never advanced.
  • 2. This was the papal Nuncio in France, Fabio Mirto Frangipani, archbishop of Nazareth, a Neapolitan Spanish subject, and a creature of Philip. See Vol. III. of this Calendar, page 618.
  • 3. Cardinal de Bourbon was the uncle of Henry of Navarre, so that in the event of the latter being incapacitated from succeeding to the crown of France for heresy, the Cardinal, as the next catholic successor, became heir to the crown of France. On the murder of Henry III., the Cardinal was adopted as King by the Guises and Philip ; and until his death was treated as such by them.
  • 4. This complaint had been made in 1570 by the English Catholics after the failure of the rising of the northern nobles. Sanders in his Anglican Schism says :— "Reliquis Catholicis propterea quod adhuc per Papam non erat publice contra Reginam lata ex communicationis sententia nee ab ejus ipsi absoluti viderentur obedieutia se non adjungentibus." As a matter of fact the Bull of Pius V., like those of Paul III. and Paul IV., disinheriting Henry VIII.'s issue by Anne Boleyn, assumed the heresy, but did not pronounce authoritatively upon it. There is little doubt that Mendoza obtained his idea from Father Sanders' book quoted above.
  • 5. The Protestant ecclesiastic in attendance on Mary was Dr. Fletcher, dean of Peterborough, the Englishmen present at this interview in addition to Beal being the Earl of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Kent (Reginald Gray) Paulet and Drury. In addition to Jebb's contemporary account already mentioned, see also the English contemporary relation of the execution in Cotton Caligula IX. published in Ellis' letters, Vol. III., second series.
  • 6. Sir Andrew Melvil.