Simancas: June 1588

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: June 1588', Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899), pp. 306-325. British History Online [accessed 17 June 2024].

. "Simancas: June 1588", in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) 306-325. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024,

. "Simancas: June 1588", Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899). 306-325. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024,

June 1588

2 June
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
306. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
Your letters of 7th, 8th, and 25th ultimo to hand, with enclosures. Your great care and diligence in sending me advices are fully appreciated. Pray continue in the same way, as we shall be more anxious now than ever to learn what occurs.
The Armada, which had been almost (fn. 1) a month awaiting in Lisbon a fair wind, began to leave the Tagus on the 28th, and during the next two days sailed without mishap. On the 30th the Armada put to sea. It is of the utmost importance that this news should be sent flying to the duke of Parma, so you will forward his packet the hour you receive it. Say nothing about it in Paris until they learn it from other quarters. There was no objection to your omitting to address the king of France, in case any of the ships should put into his ports in Brittany or elsewhere. If the duke of Parma sends you any instructions which may be needful under the circumstances, I am sure you will carry them out fittingly.—San Lorenzo, 2nd June 1588.
2 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
307. Advices from London.
The Admiral and his fleet left Dover last week. I hear that he had 42 ships, 20 of which belonged to the Queen, and a galley with 20 banks of oars each side. Some people say that he is going along the French coast, others to Plymouth to join Drake, who is said to have 86 ships. Many persons believe that the Admiral intends to go to Lisbon and burn the Spanish fleet, but it is understood that he has orders not to leave the Channel until the result of the peace negotiations is known. When he left Dover he lost a ship, which fouled another whilst at anchor and was smashed. (fn. 2)
8 June.
Estado, 594.
308. Duke of Parma to the King.
With regard to the peace negotiations, what I have to add to the information given in my last is that Controller Crofts has not returned hither as he promised, but Dr. Dale came instead. He signifies that Crofts exceeded his authority in presenting the articles I sent to your Majesty, and in treating for a suspension of hostilities. (fn. 3) With regard to the place for the conferences, as I was of opinion that for the aim we have in view it would be better not to break off the negotiations, and I could not by any means divert them from their purpose of being near the sea shore, I was obliged to consent to the Commissioners going either to Berghen, St. Vinoch, or Beaubourg. They chose the latter place where they will be very uncomfortable, as there is but little accommodation. Both they and our men have already arrived there, but I have not any news yet as to what has passed between them. President Richardot was perfectly instructed as to your Majesty's intentions ; and your Majesty may be sure that I will not depart a hairsbreadth therefrom.
As Crofts was about leaving, intelligence arrived that the Queen (of England) had learnt that when they (the Commissioners) met in the tent outside Ostend no powers from your Majesty were presented, and she had sent orders that, unless due powers were exhibited, her Commissioners were to return to England at once : breaking off the negotiations. I had adopted the plan of instructing Richardot, as if of his own account and secretly, to show Crofts the power your Majesty sent me, but not to allow him to take a copy of it. Richardot acted accordingly, and Crofts went away perfectly satisfied. The same course was followed with Dale. The power arrived, therefore, very appropriately in order to prevent the negotiations from being broken off. Apparently the events in France, the death of the king of Denmark, the proceedings of these rebel provinces, and the expense they (the English) are incurring, will cause them to press for the conclusion of the business. In any case they seem so confident in their sea and land forces, that they try to make us believe that they are afraid of nobody, particularly now as it appears they are certain of peace with Scotland, where they confess they had reasons for fear, if your Majesty's forces were welcomed in the country to their prejudice. Since the arrival of the earl of Morton and Colonel Semple there, I have had no trustworthy news from Scotland, except that the King gives constant proofs that he becomes more and more confirmed in his heresy.—Bruges, 8th June 1588.
309. Duke of Parma to the King.
I was greatly rejoiced to learn from your Majesty that the Armada was on the point of sailing. I am naturally awaiting anxiously for certain news of its departure and approach hitherward, so that our people here may make a move. It is true that on several occasions intelligence has reached us through France that the Armada had been sighted on the coast of Brittany, and details were given which lent an appearance of truth to the news ; but it has not hitherto been confirmed. The important point is that God should guide the fleet, and give us grace to serve your Majesty worthily. I promise your Majesty that the troops of all nationalities are in as high spirits as could be wished, and I hope when they are set to work, by God's grace they will gain your Majesty a signal victory. I am full of confidence in this, when I see how they (the troops) are preparing their consciences, and when I think of the justice of our cause and your Majesty's rectitude of aim. I, for my part, at least, can assure your Majesty that I will fulfil my promise not to spare myself. I will co-operate cordially with the duke of Medina Sidonia, and I trust to encounter the same readiness in him. It is understood that he shall protect my passage across and subsequently keep the communications open for the supply of provisions, munitions, &c. If this be not done effectually, we may find ourselves isolated. Everything is now in order, the men assembled at the ports ; my only sorrow being that the long delay that has occurred has given the English time to make full preparations, as they have done, both by land and sea.
I am almost in despair for want of money, as your Majesty has ordered that the 670,000 ducats I expected should be employed for the account of the Armada. I have already expended the 300,000 from the duke of Mantua ; 100,000 has been given to the duke of Lorraine and his friends, and 200,000 from Juan Ortiz has been spent on victuals, &c. I have now only the 100,000 received from Sicily, and the loss on exchange reduces that sum to 87,500. Without money we shall be ruined.—Bruges, 8th June 1588.
10 June.
Estado, 594.
310. Duke of Medina Sidonia to Duke of Parma.
On the arrival of Captain Moresin at Lisbon, I wrote to your Excellency in reply to the letter he brought from you. Since then we have only been awaiting a fair wind for the Armada to sail. This God sent us on the 29th ultimo, although the breeze was still very light. With the aid of the galleys, however, I was able to leave port that night without any damage (glory be to God), but the weather changed, and ever since we have had it so contrary that we could only put the Armada out to sea and endeavour to keep up to windward sufficiently to avoid drifting round Cape St. Vincent. We have done our best by tacking and keeping out to sea until the weather abated, which it commenced to do yesterday. It now looks as if it would serve us well, and in order that Captain Moresin may not miss the opportunity, I have thought well to send him to inform your Excellency of the sailing of the Armada, and that all the men, thank God, are in good health and spirits, ready for the fight if the enemy will face us. I am equally anxious to have the joy of saluting your Excellency soon, both for the pleasure it will give me personally, and because our junction must precede the execution of his Majesty's plans. He has ordered me not to turn aside, and even if I am impeded simply to clear the way, and proceed to join hands with you, advising you when I reach the English coast, so that with a knowledge of my where abouts your Excellency may bring out your fleet. I greatly wish the coast were capable of sheltering so great a fleet as this, so that we might take some safe port to have at our backs ; but as this is impossible, it will be necessary to make the best use we can of what accommodation there may be, and that your Excellency, as soon as Captain Moresin arrives (which will depend upon the weather), should come out and meet me, sending back to me the zabra that takes the captain, with advice as to your position, and where we may meet.
I have called together the pilots and practical seamen on the Armada who know the whole of the English coast, and consulted them as to which ports on that coast could accommodate the Armada in safety from storms. The unanimous decision was that in certain states of the weather set forth in the document taken by Captain Moresin, the ships might be safe in ..., (fn. 4) and even Dover, but that with a SW. or SSW. wind, we should not be below Cape ... (fn. 5) I have told them that everything will depend upon the weather, and the most important point will be to effect a junction between this Armada and your Excellency's fleet. When this be done I trust that, with God's help, all will proceed in accordance with our desires in His service.
What I fear most in the Armada is lack of water. It is true that we carry a six months' supply, but I do not see where we can obtain any more, and it will be advisable for your Excellency at once to consider how we may be aided in this respect, even if it be necessary to transport water in boats from Dunkirk, unless your Excellency knows of any port where both shelter and water may be obtained for the Armada, which would be a very great point gained. In any case it will be necessary for your Excellency to have all the butts that can be obtained got ready and filled with water to send to the Armada as soon as it arrives. I have given full details of this and other points to Captain Moresin, who will inform you thereof.—On the Royal Galleon, 10th June 1588.
14 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
311. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
Julio wrote to me some months ago that he was in arrears in his account with the Queen more than 15,000 crowns and that Walsingham was pressing him for instant payment. If he could not pay it he would be ruined, as they would immediately dismiss him from his post ; and he asked me to convey this to your Majesty. As the sum was so large I told him politely that, for his own advantage, it would be better not to inform your Majesty, as he might be sure he would receive from you a reward commensurate with his services. Since then I have heard that he is in great need, as he is not paid his salary in England, in consequence of his omission to square his accounts and pay the sums demanded of him. A few days ago he begged me most earnestly to furnish him credits to meet the payments on account of the last fair at Lyons, amounting to 2,500 crowns. I could not help him in the matter as no money had come to me. Pray your Majesty instruct me how I am to proceed with him. As he is acting so straightforwardly, and is in such need, it will be necessary for your Majesty to do something for him to enable him to keep his head above water—if his services are of any advantage to your Majesty.
Mucio (i.e., Guise) informs me that this King is not carrying on any intimate negotiations with the queen of England. The message she sent to the King and his reply thereto are related in the general despatch. The new confidant has not received any despatches from England lately, as armed ships from Dunkirk had captured the two last packet boats bringing despatches for the English ambassador.
Marco Antonio Messia writes to your Majesty that he is in England on your service by order of the marquis of Santa Cruz ; and he sends me two packets enclosed herewith, addressed to Christoval Lercaro. He asked me to pay 100 crowns for him in Paris, and to become answerable for 165 until he can dispose of the value of certain goods he has had arrested in Lisbon, out of which he promises to pay both sums. I have acceded to his request, which I think will be of advantage in your Majesty's interests, rather than leave him in danger and unaided. I pray your Majesty instruct me how I am to proceed with Marco Antonio in future.
The duke of Parma has sent me your Majesty's despatch of 4th November, saying that I was not to take the step until the time of his embarcation. I will act as your Majesty's orders. He also instructs me to send the English pensioners here, to Flanders. I have given them notice to get ready and have paid them up to the end of May.—Paris, 14th June 1588.
14 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
312. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I have reports from England dated 23rd and 27th ultimo and 2nd instant (N.S.). The first report states that Drake left Court post for Plymouth in order to put to sea with 40 ships he had there, accompanied by the Admiral. The later advices say that the Admiral had lost a ship in the Downs, she having fouled with another vessel whilst at anchor as they were about to sail down the Channel. They advise from Calais, under date of 9th instant, that 80 sail of English ships still remained in the Straits of Dover, which would seem to indicate an intention of engaging your Majesty's Armada in the Channel, since all the Englishwoman's ships are not collecting at Plymouth as it was asserted they would do. Some short time ago the Admiral cruised up and down before Boulogne, and sent word to M. d'Aumale to ask him why he was besieging the place, intimating that if he did not raise the siege his mistress the Queen (of England) would make him. Aumale replied that he had no need to give an account of his actions to the Queen, and that he cared very little either for her threats or his (i.e., the Admiral's). (fn. 6)
As soon as the Queen heard of the disturbances in Paris she sent a man with letters, offering in general terms to aid this King with her forces to punish his disobedient vassals. This was done at the request of Chateauneuf, the (French) ambassador, who had orders to that effect. The Queen was so suspicious of some evil befalling her messenger, that the latter did not even take a servant with him, but was accompanied and guided by Chateauneuf's own secretary. He saw this King on his arrival at Mantes, and his Majesty replied thanking his mistress for her offer, but saying that he had sufficient forces to punish those who were disobedient to him, but if at any time he required assistance to this end he would preferably accept that of England, as the Queen had been the first to make the offer. (fn. 7) —Paris, 14th June 1588.
Postscript.—Since signing the above I learn from England, under date of 10th instant (N.S.), that Drake had not, at that date, left Plymouth with his fleet.
14 June.
K. 1567.
313. Juan Iñiguez (fn. 8) to Juan de Idiaquez.
(In a letter of this date, principally occupied with a somewhat haughty and violent claim on the part of the writer to the credit of having by firmness brought the king of France to his present attitude towards the League, and repudiating the claims of certain other persons unnamed to a share in the credit, the following passage occurs in relation to England).
"Recollect how I have worked, and how bereft of all guerdon I am, after all you have promised me. I have always had faith in you, and have acted straight forwardly with you, but if past proofs are insufficient, I may say now I am tired out, and to end the whole business I will, if I can, join the English expedition, even after it has begun. My conscience will not allow me to keep out of it, although I say nothing about it here (i.e., in Paris), because if they knew I was going, the duke of Parma being at the same time absent from Flanders, they (i.e., the French Catholics) would think that his Majesty's favour had completely deserted them. I shall therefore join the expedition without saying anything. As I am not appreciated, there is no reason why I should keep between hammer and anvil. At all events I have the consolation of knowing that I have reason to complain of others, but no one has reason to complain of me."—Paris, 14th June 1588.
17 June,
Cotton MS. Vesp. CVIII. English.
314. Valentine Dale to the Earl of Leicester.
The only hope I can contain of this country is if my Lord Harry (Seymour) be always in their face when they shall attempt to come out of haven, for they are able to make no resistance, by God's grace. They have but 37 ships with tops and such as common port ships are, not able to stand against her Majesty's. The flat bottoms your Lordship knows best, be for carriage only. If they should steal out either to join the navy, or land anywhere, their soldiers transported in the flat bottoms might make some attempt, otherwise they may soon be scattered. We have made our demands, by their answers it will soon appear what they mean.—Bourbourg, 17th June 1588.
Note.—Although not strictly speaking Spanish State papers, the above letter, and those of 21st and 27th June, from Dale to Leicester, have been selected for inclusion in the present Calendar, because they seem to present in a few words the view of the English Commissioners at the critical period of their negotiations ; and it will be interesting to compare them with Parma's letters written about the same time. The whole of Dale's correspondence will be found in Cotton, Vesp. CVIII.
21 June.
Cotton MS. Vesp. CVIII. English.
315. Valentine Dale to the Earl of Leicester.
By the answers of the King's Commissioners to our demands and our replies (both of which are sent with this despatch) it appeareth in what terms we stand, and yet in very truth they were more calm at our last meeting than they were before, for we had been plain with them both by speech and by writing, and severally touching their uncomely speeches touching her Majesty's actions, wherein we charged Champigny with his own knowledge as a witness for her Majesty. But he and Richardot are so impudent in affirming any untruth, and denying any truth, that if her Majesty had known that as we do, she would not have sent over upon Richardot's promise for cessation of arms. But I trust we be even with them in every respect, their untruths set aside, in which art they are "maistres passés" (as the Frenchman sayeth). The point hangeth now what they shall hear of the King's navy, and for us to have a vigilant eye to scatter them at their coming out of this coast, which is very easy to do by God's grace (if they steal not out privily), by reason that they are not sufficiently furnished with ships, neither are their men able to abide the seas at the first. Yet they do rig with all diligence possible.—Bourbourg, 21st June 1588.
21 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
316. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
The earl of Morton and Colonel Semple will have arrived at their destination in good time, although, to judge from the reports you send from England, they will not be able to do so much as they expected, since the King is so entirely surrounded by heretics. It is, however, well that they should make what effort they can to see whether the blood of his mother will not arouse him to vengeance, as it does those who are much less nearly concerned. Even if the King will not declare himself, it will be most advantageous for Morton to be able to induce his friends to cross the English border at the time the main blow is struck. You will do what you are able, beyond what has already been done to promote this end.
I approve of what you wrote to (Miss) Kennedy. In case she should again address you on the subject, and you are sure the marriage you mention has been effected, and consequently that she will not come to France to live, you may repeat the same answer, since she can be of no use to us in Scotland, especially if she be married to a heretic.—San Lorenzo, 21st June 1588.
317. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
Your news from England came to hand punctually and well, and you will already have been informed by letter of 4th instant that the Armada had sailed. It was known that on the 14th it was proceeding on its voyage together and in good order, in fair weather, off Finisterre. God grant that all may happen as is best for His cause, for no other end is aimed at by the expedition.
The Duke is well informed of Drake's plan, both as to burning the ships and the rest that you have reported. Continue to send advices, and be very vigilant, so that no point escapes you. Julio must be very useful to you, as you seem so satisfied with him. Keep him well disposed as hitherto, so that he may not fail to let you know punctually what happens, for news will be plentiful just now. As you think advisable to give the 100 crowns to the intermediary you can do so, and 500 to Sampson, for the present. When he has to leave France he shall be granted fitting recompense for his services.—San Lorenzo, 21st June 1588.
21 June.
Estado, 455.
318. Duke of Medina Sidonia to the King.
I expected that on the morning after I entered port with a part of the Armada, (fn. 9) the rest would have come in, as it was too late for them to enter that evening. During that night, however, and the next day the weather became so heavy that it is believed that the ships have put to sea. The people of the country say that so violent a sea and wind, accompanied by fog and tempest, have never been seen ; and it is very fortunate that all the Armada was not caught outside, and particularly the galleys, which would certainly have been wrecked, and the whole Armada endangered. We should have been scattered, and many lost, and it would have been days before we could have united again. Fortunately, however, part of the fleet is here, and the rest will know that they have to join me here. The weather is now moderating, and I expect the ships will now make for this port ; so that I hope, in two or three days, to send your Majesty a statement of what has happened. I am very sorry that the bad weather of yesterday has separated the fleet, which will be sure to cause some delay, although it is believed that the actual damage will be slight. Some of the ships, however, will be disabled, and all will have to be watered afresh.
One of the two caravels I sent out on the day I arrived here has returned, saying that Zubelzu's ship, in Recalde's squadron, lost her mainmast on the same day, and that one of the galleys had thrown her rudder overboard, as the sea was so heavy. The rest of the fleet had put to sea, following my vice-flagship. The caravel herself came back with her masts and rudder broken.
I have shipped on these vessels the fish, meat, and bacon stores that the marquis of Cerralbo had collected here, and have had similar stores put on board pataches for the other ships, so that not an hour shall be lost. The watering also is nearly finished, and although I am not in good health, I am looking to everything myself as carefully as I can, with sorrow, as your Majesty may imagine, at the misfortune that has befallen the Armada. Notwithstanding all my efforts not to enter port, I find myself here, with the best of the Armada out at sea. God be praised for all He may ordain. I see that all has been arranged by His mercy, so that we may the more readily unite, as the rest of the ships will know where to find me, which they would not have done if the tempest had caught us all together at sea. The soldiers and sailors are being watched with great care, with the help of the Marquis (Cerralbo), and I do not think we shall lose a single man. The punishment dealt out will keep them closer.
Many men are falling sick, aided by the short commons and bad food, and I am afraid that this trouble may spread and become past remedy.—On the galleon "San Martin," port of Corunna, 21st June 1588.
Note.—A relation of the progress of the Armada prior to this date will be found in the note to the Duke's letter to the King of 28th May, page 302.
The reply to the above letter was written by the King from San Lorenzo, on the 28th June (Estado 165), approving of the measures taken under the circumstances, and urging great activity in again putting the Armada to sea. Fresh provisions were to be laid in, a quantity of new biscuit had been ordered from Lisbon, with wine, vinegar, fish, etc., to be sent to Corunna. Great care to be taken of the sick, and as much fresh meat served out as possible.
22 June.
Estado, 594.
319. Duke of Parma to the King.
Since the enclosed letters were written Captain Francisco Moresin has arrived here, sent by the duke of Medina Sidonia from the Gulf of Yeguas, where your Majesty's Armada was on the 10th instant. I was greatly rejoiced at the news and with God's grace I hope the fleet will now soon arrive here, as Moresin reports that the wind has been fair. God grant that the Armada may come safely, and that my constant prayer since the commencement of the enterprise may be vouchsafed to me, namely, that I may find myself on English soil at the head of these troops, and there worthily do my duty to your Majesty, as I yearn to do.
From Moresin's remarks it appears that the Duke still has doubts about being able (particularly if the enemy's fleet be not dispersed) to let me have the 6,000 Spaniards (at least) from the fleet ; which your Majesty always said I should have, and even promised me more, if possible, quite recently. He (Medina Sidonia) also seems to have persuaded himself that I may be able to go out and meet him with these boats. These things cannot be, and in the interest of your Majesty's service I should be very anxious if I thought the Duke were depending upon them. (fn. 10) I do not doubt, however, that your Majesty's orders have been so clear and precise, that no difficulty can occur with regard to giving me the 6,000 men, and to his protecting my passage across, in order that with God's help I may carry out your Majesty's instructions in the way and at the time decided upon.
I have therefore no misgiving with regard to Moresin's message in this respect, besides which the Duke will learn clearly from my letters that I cannot depart in the slightest degree from the plan laid down, or from your Majesty's express orders ; to the effect that the enemy being fully prepared and awaiting us as they are, not only must there be no mistake about my having the 6,000 Spaniards, but it would greatly add to the probable success of the enterprise if I could have a much larger number. With regard to my going out to join him he will plainly see that with these little, low, flat boats, built for these rivers and not for the sea, I cannot diverge from the short direct passage across which has been agreed upon. It will be a great mercy of God, indeed, if, even when our passage is protected and the Channel free from the enemy's vessels, we are able to reach land in these boats. As for running the risk of losing them by departing from the course agreed upon, and thus jeopardising the whole undertaking, if I were to attempt such a thing by going out to meet the Duke, and we came across any of the armed English or rebel ships, they could destroy us with the greatest of ease. This must be obvious, and neither the valour of our men nor any other human effort could save us. This was one of the principal reasons which moved your Majesty to lay down the precise and prudent orders you did, that your Spanish fleet should assure us the passage across, as it was perfectly clear that these boats could not contend against big ships, much less stand the sea, for they will not weather the slightest storm. Although I cannot believe that the Duke will raise any difficulty on these points, or fail to assure my passage across at the time and in the way that have always been ageeed upon, I have thought well to write to your Majesty as I have done, and to assure you again that when the passage is clear and defended, I will use every possible effort successfully to carry out my part, without exceeding in the slightest degree the orders your Majesty has given me. I have the firm confidence that in such case God will aid His own cause and that of your Majesty, and bless the zeal and earnestness with which I have acted. When we shall have landed I hope that your Majesty will have reason to be satisfied of my goodwill, and of the sincere desire I have always felt to succeed in serving your Majesty worthily in this and all things.
With regard to certain things with which the Duke has requested that I will help him from here, I will use every effort to do as he asks, and will keep up as close a correspondence with him as possible. In order that no point may be lost, I will immediately send Captain Moresin back to the Duke with everything I have to convey to him, —Bruges, 22nd June 1588.
24 June.
Estado, 455.
320. Duke of Medina Sidonia to the King.
(Gives an account of the arrival of several of the ships of the Armada in Corunna, and news of many more at other ports on the coast, most of them mere or less damaged. (fn. 11) Is actively arranging for repairs to be done at once. Has sent pataches and caravels in all directions, to order the ships to rendezvous at Corunna. Hopes that eventually all, or nearly all, will come in, notwithstanding the violence of the storm, that of yesterday (the 23rd) being worse than that of Sunday and Monday).
It may be supposed that, if they do not already know in England of our misfortune, they will know very shortly ; and that, as a consequence, the corsairs both from England and from Rochelle will sally in search of our stray ships. I am doing all I can to obviate this, by sending pataches and rowing boats to reconnoitre, and am having great vigilance exercised in all directions.
It has also occurred to me that some of our ships may have run as far as the Scillys, according to the general orders given to them, and I have consequently sent two very swift oar pataches, well armed, with an experienced ensign in each, to order any ships that may be there to return hither. If they find none of our vessels, they will be useful in reconnoitring the enemy's fleet and bringing me information.
The watering and victualling of the Armada are being pushed on with all possible speed and no effort shall be spared ; but the weather is so overcast and stormy that it greatly impedes us. God grant that it may improve.
Great care is being exercised in watching the men on the Armada, and on the quay there is a company of infantry of the country, to prevent the passage of any person from the Armada without my special pass, which I only give to the men absolutely needful for the victualling and watering. This is, I believe, very effectual in preventing desertion. The Marquis (Cerralbo) has aided me in this and in all things.—On board the galleon "San Martin," in the port of Corunna, 24th June 1588.
321. Duke of Medina Sidonia to the King.
(Repeats briefly the information contained in the preceding letter of the same date, and refers especially to the inclemency of the weather.) I am very anxious about this which, in any case, would be remarkable at the end of June, but being as it is on so great an occasion in the service of our Lord, it is even the more extraordinary, considering how fervently the enterprise has been commended and devoted to Him. We must therefore conclude that what has happened has been for some good and just reason.
I have hitherto delayed saying to your Majesty what I am now about to say, in order that it might not be thought that any personal interest moved me thereto ; but seeing the matter in its present position, I feel impelled by my conscientious duty to your Majesty to submit the following points for consideration, in the assurance that your Majesty will give due credit to me, knowing, as you do, the zeal and love with which I have always served you.
Your Majesty ordered me to go to Lisbon to fit out this Armada and take charge of it. When I accepted the task I submitted to your Majesty many reasons, in the interest of your service, why it was better that I should not do so. This was not because I wished to refuse the work, but because I recognised that we were attacking a kingdom so powerful, and so warmly aided by its neighbours, and that we should need a much larger force than your Majesty had collected at Lisbon. This was my reason for at first declining the command, seeing that the enterprise was being represented to your Majesty as easier than it was known to be by those whose only aim was your Majesty's service.
Nevertheless, matters reached a point when your Majesty ordered me to sail, which I did, and we have now arrived at this port scattered and maltreated in such a way that we are much inferior in strength to the enemy, according to the opinion of all those who are competent to judge. Many of our largest ships are still missing, as well as two of the galleasses ; whilst on the ships that are here there are many sick, whose number will increase in consequence of the bad provisions. These are not only very bad, as I have constantly reported, but they are so scanty that there cannot be more than sufficient to last two months. By this your Majesty may judge whether we can proceed on the voyage, upon the success of which so much depends. Your Majesty has embarked in this expedition all your resources both in ships and warlike stores, and I can see no means whatever of redressing any disaster that may befall us.
A long time would be necessary to collect a naval force, and it would be impossible, without availing yourself of merchant ships, which are unfit for these seas, whilst your Majesty has no vessels on the coasts of Biscay, Portugal, and Andalusia ; so that both Portugal and the Indies would be imperilled, and the States of Flanders would take heart and rise again as soon as they learnt of any disaster to this Armada. To undertake so great a task with equal forces to those of the enemy would be inadvisable, but to do so with an inferior force, as ours is now, with our men lacking in experience, would be still more unwise. I am bound to confess that I see very few, or hardly any, of those on the Armada with any knowledge of or ability to perform, the duties entrusted to them. I have tested and watched this point very carefully, and your Majesty may believe me when I assure you that we are very weak. Do not, your Majesty, allow yourself to be deceived by anyone who may wish to persuade you otherwise. I am supported in my views by the knowledge of how small a force the duke of Parma has collected. Even our two forces united would still be weak, but if we do not join we shall be feeble indeed. We shall not be able, moreover, to reinforce them as intended, seeing how matters stand at present with us.
I recall the great force your Majesty collected for the conquest of Portugal, although that country was within our own boundaries, and many of the people were in your favour. Well Sire, how do you think we can attack so great a country as England with such a force as ours is now? I have earnestly commended this matter to God, and feel bound to lay it before your Majesty, in order that you may choose the course best for your service whilst the Armada is refitting here. The opportunity might be taken, and the difficulties avoided, by making some honourable terms with the enemy. Your Majesty's necessities also make it meet that you should deeply ponder beforehand what you are undertaking, with so many envious rivals of your greatness.—Corunna, 24th June 1588.
Note.—The aforegoing letter is accompanied by a statement of all the ships which had not up to that time entered port. They amount to 33 vessels and 2 galleasses, with an aggregate of 6,567 soldiers and 1,882 sailors. Within the next three days five of these vessels came in. On the 27th June 28 vessels were still missing, with an aggregate of 6,000 men on board.
26 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
322. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I have letters from England dated 12th and 18th instant. The first says that it was uncertain whether Drake had left Plymouth, where he had been joined by the Admiral. The report of the 18th, from Julio, asserts that the Admiral and Drake had sailed from Plymouth with 160 sail on the 9th ; their orders being to guard the coast of England, and not to sail into Spanish waters. The Queen had left to the discretion of the Admiral and Drake whether to engage your Majesty's Armada or not, as they might judge advisable.
The 160 ships include large and small ; and Julio assures me that not more than 8,000 men, soldiers and sailors together, are in them. Fourteen ships were leaving London with stores to follow the Admiral's fleet.
Captain Winter and Lord Seymour (Vice-Admiral) had 40 ships off Dunkirk. Seymour had assured the Queen that he would prevent the fleet of the duke of Parma from putting to sea.
The queen of England sent Leighton, governor of Guernsey, to this King on a mission. He landed at Harfleur, and thence went to Rouen, where he was met by two coaches sent by the King, accompanied by a knight of the St. Esprit, and by M. de la Mauvissière. In his audience with the King, he offered the latter, on behalf of his mistress, the forces which by the terms of their alliance she was pledged to furnish. If, however, he (the King) did not wish for Englishmen, he could choose men of the country he liked, either Germans or Swiss, and she would have them sent to France, and provide money in order that the levies might be made to the King's own liking, which troops she would pay for six months. In general terms she offered all her forces to maintain the French crown, and particularly the town of Boulogne, which she greatly fears may fall into the hands of the Guises.
The King replied generally, thanking the Queen for her kind offers, which he would accept if any need arose for him to do so. The envoy left with this reply on the 22nd from Rouen. I am assured by several Englishmen, and by the new confidant, that the envoy was anything but pleased ; and the reason why the King sent him away so promptly will doubtless be found in the demands the League are making upon the King, respecting his renunciation of the English alliance, detailed in the accompanying letter. (fn. 12)
The resident English ambassador here has sent secretly to the duke of Guise, offering him on behalf of his mistress assistance in money against this King. Guise replied that, so far from wishing for any help from her, he would employ all the strength he possessed until he saw her ruined and hanged ; and if a hangman could not be found, he himself would willingly put the rope round her neck. He requested that she would send him no more such messages, for if she did he would throw out of window the man who brought them, and would never admit within his doors any man attached to the (English) embassy.
Considering the cunning devices they use here, it may be concluded they (i.e., the French) arranged for Guise to be tempted in this way, in order to discover whether he was so firm as he is ; and if they found he was not, they would have accused him of accepting the aid of the queen of England whilst he was insisting upon this King's withrawing from his alliance with her. Even if Guise were not so firm as he appears to be in his defence of the Catholic cause and his hatred of heresy, he could hardly fail to suspect that such a proposal was intended to entrap him. The queen of England had sent to Scotland George (sic) Cary, son of Lord Hunsdon. He arrived at Dumfries, where he was extremely well received by the King. Cary writes under date of 12th instant from Dumfries, that the King is willing to assist the queen of England with all his forces, if your Majesty's Armada comes to invade her country, and will prevent the landing of a foreign force in Scotland. Cary was quite satisfied with the King's attitude, and was shortly returning to England.
The earl of Morton was in a fortfied house of his, but as the King had approached him he had, by last reports, retired further into the north.
Since writing the above I have advices from London of 22nd, confirming the sailing of Drake and the Admiral, with the number of ships and men stated above.—Paris, 26th June 1588.
26 June.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
323. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
The general news from England comes through Julio, and he says in addition, that Walsingham told him on the 18th instant that letters from count de Olivares had been captured, by which the Queen had learnt that his Holiness had granted the investiture of England to whomsoever might be the consort of the Infanta Isabel. This had quite banished any hope she had of peace, and had greatly angered her. She saw that your Majesty only wanted to gain time in the negotiations. The king of France is not negotiating anything with the English ambassador. He (the King) neither entirely refuses nor accepts the offers the Queen makes him.
They are pressing Julio more hardly every day, not paying him his wages ; and he has again begged me to help him with the 2,500 crowns mentioned in my last letter. I will give him 1,000 crowns in two instalments, and so will keep him in hand until I receive your Majesty's instructions. I do not think it will be wise to lose him at a time when his intelligence may be of so much importance.
The advices from England in Portuguese are from Vega, and the letters for Estefano Lercaro in Lisbon from Marco Antonio Messia who writes that, as he cannot learn that his goods are disembargoed in Lisbon, he will be obliged to leave England. For this purpose he asks me for 300 crowns beyond the 265 sun crowns I have already paid for him. Pray send instructions. I am writing telling him to try and stay where he is for the present, and, with God's help, everything will soon be remedied.—Paris, 26th June 1588.
27 June.
Cotton MS., Vesp. CVIII. English.
324. Valentine Dale to the Earl of Leicester.
I trust my plain reports are now found true, that the Duke will agree to no reasonableness, as doth plainly appear by the despatches, for neither will he pay the Queen her money, but requireth money of her for their charges ; neither will they avoid the strangers, nor grant toleration of exercise of religion for Holland and Zeeland but such as they have granted to Antwerp and others. And so we stand at a stay what to do, until we know further of her Majesty's pleasure.—Bourbourg, 27th June 1588.
Postscript.—If my Lord Harry (Seymour) watch them hard at their going out, that they steal not forth, he shall easily scatter them by God's grace.
June ?
B.M., Cotton Vesp. CVIII. English.
325. The words of the Duke of Parma, reported by Dr. Dale in his Letters to Her Majesty. At the colloquy for peace at Bourbourg, at the coming of the Spanish Great Fleet.
"As for the Commissioners he was glad they were persons of such quality, whereby he hoped that there would be some good success ; but he feared some accident might happen by delay, whereby his good meaning might be disturbed."
The words of Richardot, reported by Dr. Dale, Mr. Robert Cecil being present :—
"He did not know what these delays and alterations might breed. The King was a great way off, and what his determination might be they could not tell, nor what accident might happen to England."
Richardot answered, when he was pressed on his former speeches —he paused a good while and said he had spoken it but by the way of discourse, and if such things should happen her Majesty's Commissioners were persons safe by the Duke's safe-conduct, which was to go, tarry, and depart, and God forbid they should be molested. That were "contra jus gentium."
27 June.
Estado, 455.
326. Report of the Council called by the Duke of Medina Sidonia, on board the Royal Galleon at Corunna, 27th June 1588. Present : the Duke of Medina Sidonia, Admiral Juan Martinez de Recalde, Don Francisco de Bovadillo, Don Jorge Manrique, Diego Flores de Valdés, Don Pedro de Valdés, Miguel de Oquendo, Don Hugo de Moncada, Captain Martin de Bertondona, Captain Juan de Velasco, and Captain Caspar de Hermosilla.
The Duke first submitted the question whether it would be advisable to await in Corunna the rest of the Armada, or to go out and seek the missing ships along the coast.
The unanimous opinion was, that it was better to stay here and await them, as the position was a convenient one from which to depart on the voyage. Besides this, it was considered that the Armada was not fit to hunt along the coast for ships ; and that it would be in every way more advisable for them to seek the Armada than for the Armada to seek them. The danger, moreover, of cruising off the coast and about the mouths of harbours was great ; and dispatch boats had already been sent out along the coast, and orders conveyed by land to the authorities to instruct ships that had put into port to come hither.
The Duke then asked the council to decide whether it would be better to pursue their journey at once, with such ships as were now at Corunna, Vivero, and Rivadeo, and without waiting for the missing ships, which, as they knew, and according to the Inspector-General, Don Jorge Manrique's report, amounted to 28 sail, with 6,000 men on board. He desired each councillor to give his individual opinion, influenced only by the interests of his Majesty's service.
Don Jorge Manrique was the first to give his vote. He said he had made out an account of the men on board the missing ships, and found they numbered 6,000 all told. Although it was asserted that 27,884 men had been shipped on the Armada, he found that only 22,500 were effectives, after deducting general and field officers, staff, cabin, and ships' boys, gentlemen adventurers, officers of justice, hospital staff, artillery officers and ministers of religion, as well as the oarsmen on the galleys, and galleasses. If 6,000 more be deducted there would only remain 16,000 efficient soldiers and sailors on the fleet, but it must also be recollected that some of these had gone away or died, or fallen sick, so that it may be estimated that nearly a third of the strength of the Armada is missing, without considering the vessels themselves, which were numerous, and some of the best in the fleet. There were, moreover, on board, three maestres de campo (i.e., regimental commanders), who naturally had with them the flower of their respective regiments. He (the speaker) was therefore of opinion that the Armada ought not to sail from this port without the missing portion. He was confirmed in this vote by consideration of the news, dated 26th April, of the enemy's forces, which had been contained in his Majesty's last despatches. This view of the matter ought to be represented emphatically to his Majesty, as it was of such vital importance, and upon it depended the fate of Christendom, and the conservation of his dominions. In this enterprise his Majesty had embarked all his naval force existing in these seas ; and in case of any misfortune, either in warfare or tempest, the whole was liable to be lost, as is proved by the present condition of affairs. This was agreed to by all present, except Don Pedro de Valdés, who was of opinion that they should sail with the ships, here, in Vivero, Gijon, and Rivadeo, for the reasons set forth below. Don Francisco de Bovadilla, Juan Martinez, Diego Flores, Oquendo, and the rest, gave many reasons for the opinion they had adopted ; Don Francisco especially saying that if the Armada went in its full strength its task was safe and easy, and this general feeling on the fleet would enable them to overcome any difficulties they might encounter, the men being confident and in good spirits, with the assurance of victory. But if they went short-handed, the risk would be great, especially in face of the forces the enemy now had. If the enemy was willing to meet, or at all events to defend himself against, the entire Armada, he would certainly be ready to encounter a portion of it ; and in case of misfortune to the Armada the Indies would be lost, and Portugal and Flanders in dire peril of being lost as well. He (Bovadilla) was therefore decidedly of opinion that the Armada should remain here until the whole force were re-united as it left Lisbon. The whole of the members concurred in this, and voted accordingly, except Don Pedro de Valdés, who opposed it with the following argument.
Speech of Don Pedro De Valdés in support of his opinion.
His experience of English affairs, and the fact that no intelligence had been received that the enemy would receive any foreign aid, led him to the conclusion that the portion of the Armada now here, in Vivero, Rivadeo, and Gijon, ought to proceed on the expedition. It is perfectly evident that the enemy's forces must be divided between two or three places, for the purpose of impeding the passage of the duke of Parma, and to oppose the entrance of this Armada into the Channel. He (Valdés) is also of opinion that our missing ships will very shortly be heard of—or most of them—because the storm that overtook them was not very violent, unless, for reasons of their own, any of the vessels wished to make bad weather of it. With regard to the Duke's remarks about the stores, and to Don Jorge Manrique's estimate that they had sufficient for 90 days, he (Valdés) said that if that were the case, and the sailing of the Armada were not delayed beyond 15 or 20 days, he was of opinion that the voyage should be prosecuted. But still he thought that the stores should be very carefully examined as to their condition. Since the Duke had called the council together he (Valdés) had gone round his own squadron, and although he found they had a store of biscuit sufficient for three months, part of it was in bad condition. There was more than enough wine for three months, but the bacon, cheese, fish, sardines, and vegetables were all rotten and of very little use. There was also a lack of oil. The only victuals he found to be of any service were the meat and fish received in this port, and he does not think there is sufficient of them here to last for the 90 days mentioned by Don Jorge Manrique. He (Valdés) is of opinion that whilst the Armada is in this port, both the soldiers and sailors should have daily rations of fresh meat, so that the stores now in stock should be kept. There will be plenty of fresh meat here for the purpose, and it will not cost more than 7 or 8 maravedis a pound, and the men will be strengthened and set up by it, as they need it.
The Duke also asked them (as each of them knew the condition of his own squadron) to give an estimate of the length of time their provisions would last, and what they thought should be done in case they found the quantity insufficient for the time which had been mentioned.
To this question the whole of those present said they should like first to hear the opinion of the Inspector-General. They wished, however, to mention the great complaints which both soldiers and sailors were making about the food. With the exception of the bread (and that is very bad), the wine, rice, and some of the pulse, the victuals were of no use whatever, for the men would not eat them.
Don Jorge (Manrique) replied that by the Duke's orders the whole of the stores were being examined ; and he had in the course of the examination found the state of the food to be such as was described by the Generals present. With the exception of the bread, the wine, and the vegetables, everything was spoilt and rotten, as it had been on board so long. He had made an account of what remained in the ships, after deducting the two and a half months' consumption, since the men were shipped on the 13th April, and estimated that at the very most there would not be sufficient food for more than 80 days longer ; excepting on Diego Flores' squadron, where there might be enough stores to last for barely three months.
In view of this it was unanimously agreed that the stores were insufficient for so large a force ; and that a full report should be sent to his Majesty by a special messenger, in order that he might adopt such measures as seemed best. This report was signed by the whole of the officers present.
Note.—The above report was dispatched to the King on the following day, 28th June ; and on the 5th July Don Pedro de Valdés wrote to his Majesty (replying to a letter sent by the King on the 28th June to him and the various other chiefs of squadrons urging them to activity), saying that as his (Valdes') opinion in the council had been so different to that of the other commanders, the Duke was "looking upon him with an unfriendly eye, and had used expressions towards him which had greatly grieved him." Don Diego says that he had recommended the Duke to reduce the biscuit ration by one quarter, and serve out one pound of fresh meat per man per day whilst the Armada was in port. He mentions the arrival of several more of the missing ships.
27 June.
Estado, 950.
327. Summary of letters from Count De Olivares dated 10th, 13th, 17th, 26th, and 27th June, 1588.
His Holiness was much grieved that he had received no news of the sailing of the Armada, and complained that his Majesty did not give him account of the progress of affairs. To conceal this, he (Olivares) had announced that a post had been lost coming through France.
Cardinal Allen and Robert Persons are apprehensive lest the Pope should give credit to the religion of the king of Scotland, but up to the present there is nothing apparently suspicious on this point. They (i.e., Allen, Persons, etc.) are greatly afraid that his Majesty may favour and side with the English of the Scottish and French faction, against whom they are much aggrieved ; especially in consequence of two books which they have printed against them (i.e., against the English of the Spanish party).
Note.—In the duplicate of one of the above letters Olivares informs the King that the "Pope is terribly put out that no news had been sent to him of the departure of the Armada. He is extremely offended thereat."
28 June,
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
328. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
After the accompanying despatches were written we have received letters from the duke of Medina Sidonia, reporting that, in consequence of heavy weather on the 19th and 20th, he had been obliged to enter Corunna, and a portion of the Armada in other ports in some disorder ; but not to such an extent as to cause him to desist from proceeding on his voyage, after shipping the water and provisions there ready for him, and effecting what repairs may be necessary. I have thought well to inform you of this, so that you may repeat it if it should appear advisable. Let me know what they say on the subject in England and France, and any other fresh intelligence you can obtain. To what extent has the Queen increased her forces in consequence of the news of the sailing of the Armada?—San Lorenzo, 28th June, 1588.
28 June.
B.M. Cotton Vesp. CVIII.
329. Philip II. to Don Pedro de Valdés, Commander of the Andalusian Squadron of the Armada.
I learn from your letter and that of the Duke (of Medina Sidonia), the events that have occurred with the Armada on the occasion of its being caught in the storm, and that the fleet had become separated, the Duke entering that port (Corunna) with a squadron, and part of another, and the rest of the ships putting out to sea. I note also the hope expressed that, when the latter portion of the fleet learns where the rest is, they will also come into the port, weather permitting Reports have been received from the corregidor of Asturias that 60 sail have been seen off that coast, and that there were two galleasses at Gijon, so it is to be expected that they will all have endeavoured to collect at the place where the Duke is, and have set about repairing the damage they may have suffered in the storm. It is to be hoped that this work and the re-watering and victualling of the ships will be effected with all speed, so as to enable you to resume the prosecution of your voyage. You are aware how important it is that not an hour should be lost, and I therefore enjoin you urgently to attend in person to what has to be done, and to help the Duke where needful. The watering, victualling, and repairing should all be done at the same time, so that the voyage may be resumed as soon as the weather allows. You will serve me well therein. Let me know what is done.—San Lorenzo, 28th June 1588.
Note.—The above letter is the original, signed by the King, and in a Latin note at foot is said to be "Ex dono Legati regis Hisp. 1615."


  • 1. In the King's hand : "And even without the 'almost.'"
  • 2. Howard separated from Seymour on the 21st May (O.S.) and the former, in his letter to Burleigh on the 23rd, from Plymouth, says nothing of such a mishap as that mentioned. On the contrary, he tells Burleigh that "with a pleasant gale all the way long, came and arrived this day at 8 o'clock in the morning at this port of Plymouth, where Sir Francis Drake came forth with 60 sail, very well appointed, to meet me." Seymour, writing to the Lord Treasurer on the 22nd, is also silent as to the alleged accident. (State Papers, Dom. CCX. 27 and 28).
  • 3. Crofts, who had been in the pay of Spain for years, was on his return to England sent to the Tower accused of exceeding his powers and holding traitorous correspondence with the enemy. Professor Laughton is inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and suggests that he was "perhaps a dotard rather than a traitor." Dotard he may have been, traitor he certainly was, and one of the unsolved riddles of Elizabeth's reign is the reason why the Queen for many years clung so persistently to Crofte, the Staffords, Lord Henry Howard, and others, who she must have known were in sympathy with her deadly enemies. The whole history of the peace negotiations, told in the correspondence of Dale and others, will be found in Cotton Vesp. CVIII.
  • 4. Two ports are mentioned, but they are not intelligible to me. The words read Gouehepe (which may possibly stand for Ipswich) and Harlage (which may be intended for Harwich).
  • 5. Unintelligible.
  • 6. The duke d'Aumale, Guise's cousin, was besieging Boulogne in the interests of the League, and the town surrendered two months later. Howard in his letter to Burleigh of 22nd May (O.S.), State Papers, Dom. CCX. 27, puts a very different complexion on his communications with d'Aumale, who, by his account, was extremely polite and conciliatory.
  • 7. In a letter from Mendoza to the King, in the same packet as above, dated 26th June, an account is given of the discussion then in progress between Henry III. and the Leage for a settlement of their differences. One of the articles to which the King had agreed was : "That the King pledges his faith and word on oath to renounce his alliance and friendship with the queen of England within two months, and he does not do so immediately in order that it may not appear that he was forced to it." "In answer to this the League say that they wish him to make a declaration at once breaking off the said alliance."
  • 8. Juan Iñiguez was Philip's agent with Guise and the nobles of the League. The King has placed a marginal note against the proposal of the writer to join the Armada— I do not think this would suit."
  • 9. The Duke was accompanied into Corunua by 40 vessels.
  • 10. The King has written against this passage : "God grant that no embarrassment may come from this." It will be seen by the correspondence that Parma and Medina Sidonia were at cross purposes from the very first on the subject of the contingent of 6,000 men to be lent from the Spanish Infantry on the Armada to Parma for service on shore.
  • 11. There is in the same packet a list repairs required by the galleons and galleasses, showing that 14 of them were seriously damaged.
  • 12. See note to letter from Mendoza to the King, 14th June, page 312.