Simancas: September 1588, 11-20

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: September 1588, 11-20', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 425-432. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

September 1588, 11-20

11 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
426. Purser Igueldo, of the "Santa Ana," to the King.
Gives an account of the landing of the specie, and its deposit in the hands of a Spanish merchant, with its subsequent embargo at the instance of certain French merchants.
On the afternoon of the 9th instant we were informed that three great English ships, one the "Mary Rose," of 500 tons, and the others of 200 tons each, with a patache, had appeared in sight, and it was feared they were coming to attack us. The Maestre de Campo and I went on board at once, and at dawn yesterday morning the three ships and the patache bore down upon us, and the patache opened fire. We replied, and in the meanwhile the Governor sent off a boat to them requesting that they would not break the peace in neutral waters, as otherwise he would resent it with all the means in his power. They replied that they came at the command of their Queen, and they would not retire for anybody until they had taken, sunk, or burnt the "Santa Ana." The artillery firing still continued on both sides, but the distance was too great for musketry, which was not employed. One of the first shots, unfortunately, hit our main yard-arm, which came down upon the Maestre de Campo, who was at the foot of the mast giving orders, and he was crushed. I was standing close to him at the time, and had him extricated, every care the ship afforded being given to him. The other two infantry captains were not on board, one having gone to Dunkirk to see the duke of Parma, and the other being sick in this town. The whole of the duties therefore devolved upon me. We had two soldiers and two gunners killed, as well as a very brave slave of mine. A shot from the enemy then severed our mooring cables, and we went adrift. It was a signal mercy that, being so large a ship, we did not capsize, as we touched bottom two or three times. The tide carried us towards the town, and the townspeople helped us all they could, firing at the English from the fort, and bringing out two guns on to the shore, which inflicted much damage upon the enemy. The English also fired upon the people ashore. As all the townspeople said that when the tide went down our ship would capsize, and the enemy could not do us any harm where we were, I had lighters brought and discharged all the artillery and stores belonging to your Majesty, and then, against the opinion of many people, I had the ship moved by the port pilots, and taken to another place. This was the salvation of it all. In the afternoon I was informed that the armed ships had put to sea, and had been joined by four others, which were coming with the intention of burning us, no matter where we were. I had the Maestre de Campo put on shore, where he now is in grave danger, unable to speak, and his head and chest badly crushed. I then returned to the ship, where I kept good watch all night. The enemy was in sight, cruising near us, but though the night was clear they did not attack us. (fn. 1)
In accordance with' the order of the Duke I will deliver the ordnance and other things belonging to your Majesty to the Governor of this town, or to the person appointed by him, taking full vouchers for the same. It is lamentable how the poor sailors will be left. I do not know what to do about them. And the poor owner of the ship, it would have been just the same to him if she had gone to the bottom of the sea, instead of being left here, for it will cost him a large sum to get her into port, and he will not keep her after all. I, for my part, will do my duty to your Majesty as best I can. The Duke orders me, when I have settled things here, to go to Spain, taking the papers with me (or otherwise to do what I think best). I have asked the opinion of the ambassador, and, if he agrees, I will take passage in a merchant ship for Spain.— Havre de Grâce, 11th September 1588.
12 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
427. Summary of divers Letters to the Duke Of Parma from Scotland, written by Colonel Semple, Robert Bruce, and the Earl Of Huntly, 31st July, 5th and 6th August, and 12th September, 1588.
31 July.—Semple and Bruce to the duke of Parma :—
They confirm their letters sent by a Scottish pilot (by Charles Bailly) who went to Scotland with Bruce, and by the bishop of Dunblane, on behalf of Huntly, giving an account of matters, and of the state of the Catholic lords in Scotland. As things have changed for the worse, they send the present messenger. The English faction in Scotland, knowing of the understanding that the Catholics had with his Majesty, are greatly oppressing the Catholics with the King's authority ; and heavily taxing their revenues and properties, especially for the purpose of bringing over the daughter of the king of Denmark when the King marries her.
They have appointed heretic magistrates to oust from authority those who do not belong to their faction. They are thus persecuting the Catholics in every way, and they execute all those whom they discover carrying on communications abroad.
The imprisonment of the earl of Morton was ordered by the Chancellor (who governs the King) in consequence of his being his enemy. The King had previously written Morton a letter in his own hand, giving his word that no proceedings should be taken against him, but telling him to withdraw for a few days. Before the few days had expired he broke his word, and had him arrested. He acted in the same way with Morton's followers, who surrendered in a fortress of his on condition that their lives should be spared. The earl of Huntly was coming with 5,000 men to Morton's aid, but the King did not know this yet. On the contrary, he is favouring Huntly greatly, and he has had him married to his cousin (the sister of) the duke of Lennox.
Lord Claude (Hamilton) is at court, and has taken the Protestant oath, protesting that he did not do so voluntarily, but to escape further persecution.
They expect by this means (i.e., making them take the oath) to finish the Catholics, and preventing them from receiving foreign aid. The longer the aid is delayed the worse will the state of the Catholics become.
They endeavour to keep spies in all parts, making use of devilish arts to uncover the designs of the Catholics.
This was the condition of things, and the news of the coming of the Armada had increased the persecution, which the Catholics had not dared to resent by force, as they had always been urged not to move until they saw the succour sent to them.
They would have seized the King if they had means to resist the power of England, or had any assurance that aid would be sent to them. But no answer was sent to the last communication they sent, stating their intentions, although they had requested a reply many times. They wished the earl of Morton to return with forces, not without them ; as it would certainly cause much difficulty for him to return alone out of exile without aid at his back.
The gathering of forces on the Border could only be effected after the succour had arrived.
Hopes were given to the earl of Morton that he should be reinforced shortly, and he had asserted this, when he landed in Scotland, to the other Catholic nobles. This is now more than three months since, and there is no appearance of aid being sent.
They had received a letter from Don Bernardino de Mendoza dated 11th May, in which they were told that as soon as they saw England attacked by the Armada, the Scottish Catholics should cross the English border. He (the writer) had not ventured to convey this at the time to the Lords, as it was impossible for them to do it, unless they had special reinforcements ; and they had never offered to do such a thing. They could not do it without leaving their retreat well guarded, and their homes, wives, and children protected. Besides which, their principal object was to re-establish the Catholic religion in their own country. After this was effected they could serve those who had helped them to do it.
In order not to increase the suspicion of the Lords by concealing the above letter from them, and making them think that the understanding with Spain was only to aid the latter in the English design, instead of first converting Scotland, the above letter was afterwards shown to them. They thereupon offered to assist in the invasion and conquest of England after Scotland was converted to the Catholic faith. Otherwise they will not do it, and they will be obliged to submit to the King and the English faction. They can do this without violating their conscience, as they are offered freedom in this respect if they will come to terms.
They have always written the truth hitherto, and they must now say that, if it is desired to make use of the Scottish Lords, it will be necessary that their advantage as well as that of his Majesty shall be regarded, having in view always the honour and glory of God, by which means all good ends are attained.
They press certain points which they say they cannot have made clearly understood previously ; particularly that their country is not like other States, solid and stable, where no changes can be brought about except after great preparations. In Scotland any accident will bring about a change, as the realm is so divided and dismembered, and anyone attacking it with force is assured of victory, as there are no strong towns, and but few fortresses. Opportunity rather than strength is of use there. The country is in such a condition that it cannot wait for the slow Spanish resolutions ; and if the Lords are to be utilised action must be accelerated, as affairs in Scotland change. In future it will be useless to write letters containing nothing but fair words, for these will never induce them to risk their homes and families. They wish to know first, for certain, whether the aid promised them is to be sent, and when.
If it be decided to send the aid to Little Leith, they (the Spaniards) will be masters of the port, no matter what may be the disposition of the King, and will hold the best town in the kingdom in six hours. In a month they will convert the country, if they govern mildly and wisely, with the advice of the Catholics. The latter will assist them by taking the most important towns and passes, which can be held by small garrisons, and the enemy will then be unable to raise head.
They assert that if 6,000 men come—or more if desired—and the money, most of the heretics who are offended at the death of the queen of Scotland will join them. They are only dissembling now to avoid further injury.
Even failing the earl of Morton, his cousin, Lord Herries, who is as good a Catholic as he, has promised to declare himself if the aid comes before (the Spanish force) lands in England. By this means this postern of the island, which the Englishwoman fears to lose, would be assured to us, and an entrance could thence be gained into England, there being a great abundance of victuals in Scotland this year.
Although the Lords have maintained large forces since the arrival of the earl of Morton, they still keep in hand the money they have received from Bruce, except the sum paid to Morton, which was taken when he was captured.
They say that at little cost of men and money here, much can be saved elsewhere, this being in substance the advantage that your Majesty can obtain from Scotland, by sending the aid desired. If its coming be delayed, Bruce and Semple will be obliged to leave the country, as the heretics suspect them. They therefore earnestly pray for a prompt resolution.
They refer to the bearer to relate verbally other things which they do not write, to avoid prolixity. They beg that the bearer may have some money for his voyage, as they have only given him 50 crowns.
12 Sept.
Estado, 495.
428. Points of a Letter from the Earl Of Huntly to the Duke Of Parma, from Dunfermline, 12th September 1588.
By Francisco Aguirre, who had left 15 days before, he sent a reply to the letter brought by Chisolme. As we shall learn from Chisolme and Colonel Semple of the condition of affairs, he (the Earl) will only say that Semple has behaved as a gentleman of his rank should, and has given much satisfaction to all Catholics. The choice of him was a good one, for he has shown great dexterity, both with the King and his Ministers, whose falsity he saw through ; but anticipating violence he had escaped, though at considerable cost, as he had to spend much money in bribing guards and so on.
The return of Colonel Semple (to Flanders) was advisable, as his proceedings had aroused suspicion, and he will be able to report fully to the duke of Parma. If an attack is made upon England, and they (the Scots nobles) are provided with the assistance they request, they will within a fortnight invade England on their side.
He requests that Colonel Semple be sent back with the reinforcements, and considering his experience and good parts, he should command a portion of them, or the Scottish levies. These recommendations are made to promote the cause of God, and he need not press them further ; but they (the Scots nobles) cannot refrain from pointing out the long time that has passed since they first began to look for the reinforcements, and the danger they are in, in consequence of their King having embraced the English faction whilst they have declared themselves on the other side rather than violate their consciences, for which they have risked their lives. It is therefore necessary, if they were not to abandon their country, that they should be furnished with support in men and money, or at least the latter, that they may hold out and be ready to receive the reinforcements when they come. If money be sent, Chisolme, in company with some other person, can bring it, whilst the, Colonel (Semple) remains behind to come with the troops. He asks that full credence be given to Semple and Chisolme, as they have been thoroughly informed of the plans of the nobles.
Bruce writes under same date, also referring us to what Huntly will write, and to Semple and Chisolme for verbal information. He (Bruce) assures the Duke that he will strive his utmost to forward the cause of God, regardless of danger to himself. He had given 30 crowns to the soldiers and sailors from Flanders who had been captured, and had promised 100 crowns freight to the vessel in which they were to go over with Semple and Chisolme, as well as paying for their rations, if these were not paid for in Flanders.
15 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1448.
429. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Yours of 30th ultimo and 4th instant received on the 13th, with all reports and advices, for which thanks. Continue to send everything you can learn, but attach to each report your opinion as to the credit which it deserves.
You did well in attending to the ship of Colonel Nicholas Isla that put into Havre de Grâce, (fn. 2) and also in securing the money she had on board and placing it in the care of merchants, as ordered by the duke of Parma. If the officers kept any in hand for the needs of the ship you will not spend any of the credit of 15,000 crowns, which you did well not to cash, as you had no necessity for it. Seeing, however, what you say now as to the requirements for the embassy you may draw the said credit for your purposes. (fn. 3) Malvendas has been ordered to pay it although it is overdue.
You have been careful to advise about English armaments, their intentions, and designs ; but you will henceforward have to be doubly vigilant if possible, and will try to engage new agents, both trustworthy and intelligent, so that by comparing several reports together we may the more certainly arrive at the truth.— San Lorenzo, 15th September 1588.
430. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
I notice what you say about Julio in your letters of the 4th. Although it may be the case that he is not corresponding with you so straightforwardly as before, do not appear to take any notice of it, either to the new confidant or to Julio himself ; but at the same time be careful not to depend upon his information, and be sparing of the money. David's advices and others received. Keep all your agents in hand, and make use of them as heretofore.
It will be well for Sampson to go whither he is summoned, (fn. 4) but tell him to report most minutely. Give the same instructions to David in due time, but do not let either know of the other, and let them not go both at the same time, so that there may always be one near you to give you information. Consider, too, whether they may not be summoned in order to play some trick upon them if any suspicion be entertained of them. (fn. 5) —San Lorenzo, 15th September 1588.
17 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
431. Purser Pedro De Igueldo to Bernardino De Mendoza.
On the 11th instant I informed you what had happened with the English in this port (Havre de Grâce), and that they had wounded the Maestre de Campo (Isla). God was pleased to take him on the 12th, and his Majesty has lost a good soldier. Our misfortunes have not ended here. After discharging the guns, powder, lead, etc., and lightening the ship all we could, with the intention of getting her into the harbour at the spring tides, due to-morrow, a great gale arose ; and as these roads are unsheltered the cables broke at nightfall, and the ship drifted ashore near the castle of the town. Help was given to rescue the crew, and the ship remained high and dry next day. This morning, by daybreak, the Governor sent 50 sailors from shore, to help those from the ship and lighters to throw out the ballast, and everything, so as to save the hull. They have cut down her mainmast, and are trying their best to get her afloat and in harbour by to-night's tide. The issue is doubtful, but everything shall be done, although it costs a great deal of money.— Havre de Grâce, 17th September 1588.
17 Sept.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1568.
432. Advices from England.
The earl of Leicester died almost suddenly on his way to the baths, and in the same house as that in which he had caused his wife to be killed, the master of it having invited him to dinner.
The Queen is sorry for his death, but no other person in the country. She was so grieved that for some days she shut herself in her chamber alone, and refused to speak to anyone until the Treasurer and other Councillors had the doors broken open and entered to see her.
The Lord Chancellor, now that Leicester is dead, has much more power than before, and is helped by Secretary Walsingham, with whom he is very friendly.
James Crofts, the Controller, who was one of the Peace, Commissioners to Flanders, is a prisoner in the Fleet, Leicester, who was his enemy, having tried to get him sent to the Tower of London. The charge against him is that during the negotiations in Flanders he refused to sign the letters written by the other Commissioners, and that by this means the negotiations with the duke of Parma were further delayed.
The Queen has disbanded her forces by land and sea, except six armed ships under Sir Henry Palmer to guard the Channel.
It is understood that the Spanish Armada has returned, as there is no news of its having been seen in Ireland.


  • 1. The English statement with regard to this affair is as follows :—Her Majesty's ships that were sent to the coast of France, viz., the "Elizabeth Bonaventure," the "Foresight, the "Aid," and the "Charles," did come in sight. The "Charles" having spent her mainmast, and finding the wind to blow very high from the N.W., durst not adventure the Queen's ships upon that coast ; and for that cause they returned, and do mean to pass over thither again with the next wind that will serve. (Sussex to the Council, 30th August 1588 (O.S.). R.O. Domestic State Papers, CCXV. 72.) They afterwards did return, and the engagement took place as described above.
  • 2. In the King's hand :—"I think she put into some other place although she afterwards went to Havre de Grâce." This is true. The "Santa Ana" first put into the Bay of La Hogue.
  • 3. In the Kings hand :—"In place of the remittance you now ask for." It will be seen by these two autograph notes that even when the news of his great disaster was reaching him hourly, the King weighed every unimportant word in his dispatches.
  • 4. That is to say to England, whither his master Don Antonio had summoned him.
  • 5. In the King's hand :—"Warn them of this possibility."