Simancas: August 1588, 26-31

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: August 1588, 26-31', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 405-411. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

August 1588, 26-31

27 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
406. Advices from Scotland. Given by certain Scots mariners who left Little Leith on the 27th August.
The earl of Huntly had married the sister of the duke of Lennox. The ceremony was performed by the so-called bishop of St. Andrews. The earl of Angus, the head of the English faction, is dead. Sir William Stuart, brother of the earl of Arran, who captured Morton, gave the lie to the earl of Bothwell, and as he left the chamber Sir William Stuart was stabbed to death by Bothwell.
They also state that Colonel Semple had left the Firth to speak with a Spanish pinnace, and on his return was arrested, but afterwards released.
Clermont Amboise, a Huguenot, had arrived in Scotland on a mission from Bearn and the queen of England. He had been despatched by the King the day he arrived. (fn. 1)
28 Aug.
Paris Archives, K.1567.
407. Advices from Rouen.
Last night a ship arrived here from Hamburg, reporting that on the 12th she had fallen in with the Armada near Newcastle and the Scottish border, sailing northward towards Scotland ; and considering the winds that have prevailed, we suppose that it will be by this time on the other side of the island on its way to Spain. God preserve it!
Reports from Zeeland state that for want of a pilot the galleon "San Mateo" ran on a shoal near Flushing, where it was attacked by 20 ships from the town, 300 men of the attacking force being killed and many wounded. As it was seen that the galleon could not be saved, she surrendered on very good terms, the whole of her sick and wounded being conveyed to Flanders, and the rest held to ransom. Don Pedro Pimentel (fn. 2) was walking about Flushing with only four men to guard him.
29 Aug.
Estado, 594.
408. Duke Of Parma to the King.
On the 10th instant I wrote to your Majesty from Dunkirk, giving an account of the departure from here of the duke of Medina Sidonia with your Majesty's Armada in a northerly direction, after losing the galleass "Capitana" ("San Lorenzo"), which had run aground at Calais, and the galleon "San Felipe," which had been wrecked within sight of Nieuport, the Maestre de Campo, Don Francisco de Toledo, being saved from her.
Since then intelligence has been received that the "San Mateo" had brought up at Flushing, greatly damaged by her fight with many of the enemy's ships. The enemy even had not time to finish discharging her before she sank in the harbour. It is asserted that the "San Felipe," which had been taken to Flushing, also sank there.
At Ostend another ship, not very large, called the "San Antonio de Padua" had brought up. The men who have been rescued from these various vessels report that after a great artillery battle, in which the enemy came to close quarters, (fn. 3) some of the ships of our Armada which were scattered had continued their voyage towards the north, followed and harassed by the enemy as usual.
Confirmation has also been received of the loss of Don Pedro de Valdés and his galleon ; he and the principal men with him having been taken to London.
I immediately sent some of my vessels in search of the Armada to learn news of it, but, as none have returned, I can gain no further intelligence beyond the fact that the ships were sailing in a northerly direction, with the wind astern. As there are still (enemy's) boats off this coast for the purpose of preventing our coming out, I decided to disembark our men and send them into quarters, keeping them together and at convenient points ; so that they may be ready to carry out the business, in case the Armada should return, and we are able to give it any assistance from here. I came hither to try to raise some money, and to see what I could do to console and tranquillise the country. It would be advantageous in your Majesty's interest, if the principal object cannot be effected, at least to do something. I am, with my usual earnestness, directing my attention to this, and as I am writing separately on the financial question, and the difficulties I have to encounter, I will not dwell upon these points here.
The intelligence so far received from the Armada by the boats that have returned, and other quarters, is contained in the enclosed statements. It will be obvious from these reports, and having in view the weather that has prevailed, that the Armada cannot return hither, but will probably either have arrived at or be approaching Spain. After considering in council the course that I had better adopt, I have decided that, as I have no money to maintain these troops, or even to dismiss a part of them, and have no means of knowing your Majesty's intentions now that the expedition is for the present frustrated, it will be advisable to put them in quarters somehow. I have therefore ordered them to be divided into three troops, one of which will go with Count Mansfeldt towards Bonn, to try and settle that important business ; and if he have time, to endeavour to assure and improve matters there. Another troop will remain here, to hold this town and repress the incursions from Ostend. It will be impossible for us to prevent reinforcements from being sent thither, and under the present circumstances it does not appear advisable for us to risk our reputation by attacking a place which can be supplied at all times with everything that may be required. (fn. 4)
The third troop will accompany me to the province of Brabant, to endeavour to gain Berghes if we can find a way to prevent its relief. At the same time men will be sent to occupy the island.
The want of money to meet the demands there (in Brabant?), which are no less urgent than those here, fills me with anxiety, as it threatens to cause some great disorder and disrespect amongst the soldiery. I fear that in whatever part it may commence, such a disorder would become general, to your Majesty's great injury. (fn. 5) — Bruges, 29th August 1588.
30 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
409. Advices from Dunkirk viâ Lille.
I have to report that three cutters left here to learn news of the Armada. They have ascertained that it has laid its course back to Spain, taking with it some English ships and four Dutch vessels. It was asserted in England as a positive fact that the English have lost 40 ships of their fleet—the flagship, the vice-flagship, the "Elizabeth," and the "Virgin" having been sunk. The great sailor, John Hawkins, has also gone to the bottom, not a soul having been saved from his ship. Drake escaped in a boat, wounded in the cheek. The Queen has entered the field with 30,000 men in great alarm.
The engagement referred to is stated to have taken place for the possession of the port of Newcastle. (fn. 6)
410. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
On the 20th I wrote by special courier, and I now send by the usual Flanders post the reports I have from all parts, particularly respecting the Armada. I do not send them by special, as the news they give is not certain, but the moment I have trustworthy information I will forward it. I have received letters from your Majesty of 1st, 7th, and 18th, and have forwarded the despatches for the duke of Parma. I have no news from the latter since the 11th, but from merchants' and other letters from the Netherlands up to the 24th, I learn that the duke of Parma was dismissing his fleet, sending away the sailors, and withdrawing the troops from the coast.
This King told the delegate at Chartres, immediately after he had taken the sacrament from his hands on the 28th, that he had news from the coast that the Spanish Armada had entered a Scotch port. This news is current, but it is not certain. There are letters from an Italian merchant in England, dated 22nd instant, containing the following words : "Our English fleet has returned to the coast, and we are here in our usual alarm of the Spanards;" (fn. 7) but he does not say anything of the whereabouts of the Armada.
I am advised, by letters from London of the 20th, that in the various encounters the English have had with our fleet after passing the Straits they had lost 13 ships, most of which are named, and many men. A letter from Calais reports that most of the English fleet had returned to the Downs, with the Lord Admiral and Drake, with many wounded and in bad case. The rumour is therefore current that the Lord Admiral and Drake had gone to Court, but this was not certain.
The galleon "San Mateo," which ran aground at Flushing, kept up the fight for two days and nights.
Merchants' letters from London of 13th, 16th, and 20th, affirm that the Queen had not been able to gather in Kent and Sussex 12,000 men and 600 horse, even with the troops coming from London, and that at the most the force available to resist the Armada would not exceed 17,000 men if the Spaniards landed.
The new confidant has no news whatever from England up to the present. As S.W. and W. winds have been blowing continually, which are contrary for ships coming from the North to the coast of Flanders and France, and even to that of England, it is impossible to say for certain what has happened ; but if the duke of Medina has decided to return to Spain, and the wind has allowed him to pass the straits between Scotland and the Orkneys, he ought by this time to have completed two-thirds of his voyage.
The galleon "Santa Ana," with the Maestre de Campo, Nicholas Isla, on board, had arrived at La Hogue Roads, on the coast of Normandy, but I have written that as this is not safe from the enemy, they are to return to Brest or St. Malo in Brittany, and I have sent the credits in case they should need anything. As the wind was against their return to Brittany they decided to come to Havre de Grâce, where they entered in a tempest, with much danger. They are now, thank God, out of peril ; but I have complained to the King of the way that M. de Montpensier has behaved in the matter.
He sent word to the coast of England for them to come and capture the galleon at Havre de Grâce, and they (the Spaniards on board the galleon) have been treated in the harsh manner your Majesty will see by the accompanying statement. (fn. 8) I understand that the duke of Parma has sent Claude Chastelayn, who would arrive at Havre on the 27th, to take the necessary steps, and order what the ship and men are to do, as well as to dispose of the specie she carries, although the Duke himself has not written to me.— Paris, 30th August 1588.
411. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez.
The only object of this is to enclose a letter from Pedro de Zubiaur giving news from Dunkirk. (fn. 9)
From all parts they write that the duke of Parma is very sad and downhearted, and I doubt not that he feels confused. The well-disposed people here are very sorry that the Flemish fleet was not ready when the Armada arrived.—Paris, 30th August 1588.
31 Aug.
Estado, 594.
412. Intelligence from Calais by letter dated 31st August 1588.
The messenger I sent to England has returned hither. He brings no letters, as no one dares to write letters nor he to carry them. He reports that the Lord Admiral has arrived with part of the fleet, and went to Court on the 18th instant. Drake arrived with the rest on the 24th. Both of them were compelled to return in consequence of shortness of victuals, leaving the Spanish Armada beyond Newcastle in Scotland (sic). They say, however, that the principal reason for their return was lack of powder, as they had not enough for one day's fighting.
They do not say much about the losses of the Spanish Armada, except of the six ships that were lost on these coasts, nor do they boast much of their victory. They do not dwell yet upon their own losses. It is known that they have lost some vessels, one of which, belonging to the Queen, is ashore near Rochester for the purpose of overhaul and repair, but they fear she will be of no further use. The rest of the ships have arrived in very bad case.
They report that the horses had to be thrown overboard from the Spanish Armada near Newcastle, in consequence of lack of water. They are speaking rather ill of the Lord Admiral, who they say did not do his duty. All the credit is given to Drake, and there is a considerable amount of ill-feeling between the two. It is believed that the Lord Admiral will not again command at sea.
Intelligence has since reached them (the English) that the Armada is at a very fertile Norwegian island, where they will find an abandance of victuals without resistance. The opinion is that after the Armada has revictualled it will proceed on its voyage to Spain round Scotland. The messenger could not say the name of the island.
Great activity is being displayed in England to enable the fleet to return to sea. So great is the haste that all the beef in the London slaughter-houses and butchers' shops was taken and salted, leaving the town without beef.
A part of the fleet is at Harwich, part at Gorend, and part at Margate. Lord Henry Seymour is at the Downs. They still have an army of 8,000 men between Sandwich and Dover, under the command of a brother of Norris, (fn. 10) the camp-master being Thomas Scott (fn. 11). Neither of them knows much. There is another army in Essex under the earl of Leicester. The Queen was at Dartford and crossed the river to visit that army. They have seven armies under arms but have no money, and if the affair lasts many of the men will desert. In the meanwhile there is much murmuring, and new musters are being called in all parts.
31 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
413. Extract from Letter from Juan De Gamarra at Rouen.
You will have news of the fleets. They assure us positively that the English have lost over 40 ships in an encounter which they could not avoid, at Newcastle in Scotland. Ever since the Armada had left Calais the English fleet had followed it, in the belief that the Spaniards would enter port ; and as the English had the wind, they were able to pass ahead of our ships, which, seeing the enemy near, did what they liked with them, as on this occasion they (the English) could not do as they had always done before, run for refuge into an English port. Our Armada, therefore, attacked them so stoutly that we sank 20 of their ships, and captured 26 in perfectly good condition. The rest of the English fleet, seeing only ruin before them, escaped with great damage, and their ships are now all in bits and without crews. The Spanish Armada afterwards entered a Scotch port, said to be Newcastle, where they are very well, as all affirm.
It was good news. God grant us the success we need! We learn all this by a courier from Calais, and also by letters received by many people, and particularly M. Cenami. Your Lordship (Mendoza) will doubtless have full details, but the truth of the news is beyond question. Orders have been given in England that, under pain of loss of life and property, no person is to write news to any part. This confirms the intelligence. The English here are very sulky.


  • 1. In a letter from Richard Douglas to Archibald Douglas, 1st August (O.S.), in Hatfield Papers, Part III., the coming of Clermont Amboise to Scotland is ascribed to accident—his having been driven there by a storm on his way to England—but it is stated that the King and Maitland had several long conferences with him. "They can collect no great matter of his hither coming, only words and general fair promises, whereby I fear me he shall depart with small contentment." Douglas fears that James may therefore listen again to the Catholic party. The same letter also mentions James' displeasure with Bothwell for the killing of Stuart, as related above.
  • 2. This was the Maestre de Campo, Don Diego Pimentel, commanding the regiment of Sicily. He was the second son of the marquis de Tavara and grandson of Count Alba de Liste (head of the house of Enriquez). From the duke of Medina Sidonia's diary page 402, it will be seen that he refused to abandon his ship, the "San Mateo," although she was almost in a sinking condition. He was imprisoned at Medemblick until a heavy ransom was paid. He subsequently became one of the most famous of Spanish generals, and was created marquis de Gelves.
  • 3. In the King's hand :—"He does not say what was the result of this ; whether they captured them or not." The King has made marginal memoranda on the letter of how many of the ships (5) that are here stated to have been lost.
  • 4. In the King's hand :—"I think that this is the best determination he could have adopted under the circumstances."
  • 5. In the King's hand :—"He would not have received yet the 600,000 ducats. I do not know whether any more has been sent since, besides what is now going."
  • 6. All of the above reports are in the handwriting of Mendoza's secretary. They were enclosed in Mendoza's letter to the King, dated 30th August. The news contained in the above is a tissue of falsehoods from first to last
  • 7. In the King's hand :—"I do not understand how Don Bernardino could have attached so much credit to yesterday's advices after he had seen this."
  • 8. A note, in the handwriting of Idiaquez, says that the papers did not come. The first copy of the above letter was doubtless lost or captured.
  • 9. A note in the handwriting of Idiaquez says that this report did not come. The first copy of the above despatch also was doubtless lost or captured.
  • 10. Sir Edward Norris, brother of the more famous Sir John.
  • 11. Sir John Scott. The camp was at Northborne near Deal.