Simancas: September 1588, 26-30

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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'Simancas: September 1588, 26-30', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 451-454. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

September 1588, 26-30

26 Sept.
Estado, 950.
441. Count De Olivares to the King.
The news I received of the Armada from the duke of Parma, under date of 12th August, together with impossibility of inducing the Pope by any means to give any money—as I have informed Don Juan de Idiaquez—afflicts me deeply as your Majesty may suppose, and keeps me in suspense in writing to your Majesty, until I receive certain intelligence of the whereabouts of the Armada, which will enable me to write something to the purpose. As soon as I received the duke of Parma's letter, I took on my own initiative the steps ordered by your Majesty in the despatch of the 5th instant. I have now repeated the action in your Majesty's name, urging the arguments which prove that the million has been worthily deserved ; and expressing your Majesty's hope that his Holiness had looked upon the matter in the same light, knowing as he does, the need for money in Flanders, and also hoping that his Holiness had not only provided the first 500,000 ducats, but had anticipated the payment of the remainder of the million. I said that in case the latter had not been done, your Majesty had instructed me to beg him in your name that it should be done ; and I therefore besought his Holiness for payment of the whole amount.
He replied in his usual way, that he did not understand me. When the terms of the agreement were fulfilled he would give all he had promised, and more. I answered that this was not what your Majesty had ordered me to request. Your Majesty, I said, did not take your stand upon the letter of the agreement, but upon its spirit, and I then set forth all your Majesty had instructed me to say. I ended by saying that, even if he had promised nothing at all, he ought to accede to the request, as a reward to your Majesty and a high example to others, seeing how much your Majesty had done and spent for the cause of God. He heard me without interruption, although he writhed about a good deal with inward impatience ; but when I finished his anger leapt out, and he replied that he told me now, as he had told me before, that he would more than fulfil all he had promised, and I was not to worry him any more on the matter, until positive news of the Armada was received.
I answered that I would write to your Majesty the reply he gave, and although, in the face of his Holiness's decision, I would not press the matter further, yet I was sure that your Majesty would be grieved that his Holiness should fail you. He retorted that without all the Sacred College he was unable to dispose of the funds of the Apostolic See, and other feeble things of that sort. I reminded him of the answers I had given him on previous occasions to all this. His only reply was that I was to change the subject.
The last resource is, that your Majesty should write him a letter with your own hand, setting forth that he had persuaded your Majesty to undertake the enterprise, and to refuse the favourable proposals made to you which would have enabled you to recover your own. The letter might also state how badly he had co-operated with your Majesty, and especially in the matter of money ; the reasons might be set forth why the million was justly due, and why he should pay, even if he had promised your Majesty nothing, seeing how much your Majesty had done on this and other occasions. He might also be prayed not to desert your Majesty, or to fail to aid you as his predecessors had done, to the extent of their abilities ; and that your Majesty cannot believe that he, with incomparably greater resources, will fail to follow their example at such a time of need as this. The ample reasons which your Majesty would have for resentment, if he followed an opposite course, might be laid before him ; and also that the result might be to cause a permanent estrangement with your Majesty.
The recent behaviour of his Holiness exhibits no signs of that fervent zeal for the extirpation of heresy and the salvation of souls which is due from one in his position. When good news comes he shows no signs of pleasure, but rather the contrary, whilst evil reports do not appear to concern him so much as is fitting. This is the general opinion ; and that his sympathy on the good side has been counterbalanced on the other by his love of money, and the fear and jealousy of your Majesty's greatness on the part of Venetians and Florentines. He declares himself extremely sympathetic verbally to some persons, but, to judge from the effects, he renounces in his heart the benefits that may be expected to result. It becomes daily more evident that when he promised the million he did so in the belief (as I recollect writing to your Majesty at the time) that the undertaking would never be carried through ; and that it would serve him as an excuse for the collection and hoarding of money in all sorts of oppressive ways, particularly from subjects of your Majesty. (fn. 1) Although he has never wavered on the point of refusing to pay the money, he has shifted a good deal on other questions. When the good news came he greatly modified his tone, and was very easy and yielding on the various matters brought before him ; but the moment contrary reports were received he suddenly became as haughty and arrogant as if he had been a captive exalted to empire. In some small matters of frontiers, which he was discussing with count de Miranda, he retracted all he had previously said, and treated the Count and myself as if we had our necks in a noose. But we treated him firmly as we had done previously, and when he saw he was making a mistake his evil nature came out.
The Sacred College, which professes to be neutral, also exhibited no signs of the rejoicing at the good news which might have been expected from its position and interests ; but when the contrary reports arrived the members soon showed their bad wishes, and many of them seemed to have freshly gained their liberty, such is the strength of envy, which in this case may be called heretical.
Of the common people of the country in general, it may be said that they rejoiced at the good news, and are grieved at the result. The foreigners who depend upon the Cardinals and the Papal Court, followed their lead in the most barefaced way possible.—Rome, 26th September 1588.
29 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1567.
442. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I wrote to your Majesty five letters, by a special courier on the 24th, and I have since received your Majesty's orders of 3rd and 15th, which I will answer in my next, the present being sent by the ordinary Flanders post, mainly to inform your Majesty of the reports I have from England (which reports are enclosed), and also those brought by fishing boats to the French coast and to Holland. They confirm the news I sent in my last, that your Majesty's Armada had left Shetland and Orkney with a great number of ships which had been captured from the English and Dutch, who were fishing at that place. (fn. 2)
I am also informed, from a trustworthy source, that a Flemish heretic complained of the little courage displayed by the queen of England, whereupon the Queen said that your Majesty had undertaken an enterprise which she and others believed you never would undertake. As you had sent your fleet to Flanders, it might be concluded that it would be stronger than hers, and if she had been apprehensive of it now she would naturally be as apprehensive of it if it came a second time, as her crown would hang in the balance. Although some persons advise her to send and take revenge for the coming of the Armada, she did not consider it was good advice to send her forces so far away, after they had been so much injured by your Majesty's Armada, even under the shelter of England. She had lost 4,000 men, and over 12 ships, two of them the finest ships she possessed, in the encounters with the Armada, and she hoped to God she should now have peace with the king of Spain, with whom she was sorry she had gone to war.
The complaints that I speak of were made by a heretic of influence with the principal Councillors of the Queen, and he writes thus to a confidant of his :—
"A courier from England, who was at Rye on the 20th, repeats, verbally, that Sir Harry Cavendish, the son of the countess of Shrewsbury, had arrived at Plymouth with only two ships ; he having, as I advised your Majesty over a year ago, left with six vessels to pillage on the Indian route. They say he brings great riches in these two ships. I cannot be positive of this news, as I only have it from the source stated."
David (fn. 3) sends me the enclosed, and I cannot help feeling some suspicion that the hopes that the Queen may help Don Antonio with some men and ships are mainly raised for the purpose of preventing him from going to Constantinople. It is true that it was said that she was discussing the sending of 40 or 50 sail, but no preparations to that effect were visible to any extent. Only the six ships referred to in advices of 17th were at sea.—Paris, 29th September 1588.
29 Sept.
Paris Archives, K. 1568.
443. Bernardino De Mendoza to Juan De Idiaquez.
In a private holograph letter, as above, the following passage occurs relative to the loss of the Armada :—
The novice's vision has turned out true ; as you will see by the numerous advices sent, that the men have not behaved in such a way as to banish the fear of a great catastrophe, unless with such a safeguard. This instance proves to me, more than ever, that God himself desires to conduct the affairs of his Majesty.
The novice repeated his performance, and has related other visions that, although they prove him to be a very godly person, show that he is extremely simple in the ways of the world. — Paris, 29th September 1588.


  • 1. In the King's hand :—"I am not sure whether it would not be best to press him on this point ; not so much for the sake of getting the million as to prevent such bad things from being done."
  • 2. The King has written against this passage :—"Nothing of the sort, and it will be well to tell him so."
  • 3. Manuel de Andrada.