Simancas: January 1589

Pages 504-510

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

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January 1589

1589. 12 Jan.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1570.
499. Advices from England.
The Queen went from Greenwich to Richmond two days before Christmas, to pacify a quarrel between her two favourites, the earl of Essex and Raleigh.
Drake was at Court, the present messenger having seen him there. It is understood that the Queen has ordered 12 ships—some her own and others belonging to merchants—to be fitted out with great speed. One of them is the "Royal Merchant." They are to go and receive the fleet from Holland, in which it is said Don Antonio is going to Portugal. Others say they are intended for the Indies.
It was said that 4,000 men were coming in the Dutch fleet, including 2,000 musketeers under Colonel Norris. Captain Frobisher had gone to Zeeland to bring them over.
The rest of the ships for Drake were being got ready with all speed. The earl of Cumberland was again fitting out four ships to go to the Straits of Magellan. He captured a ship from Dunkirk called "The Hare," which was bound to Spain with a cargo of merchandise. The men on the prize fought very stoutly, and all who were taken alive were thrown into the sea. The ship and cargo were sold, and have enabled Cumberland to fit out his vessels for the fresh voyage. Sir Harry Cavendish is also putting in order his own ship, and a smaller one that he has bought ; as well as a patache in charge of his nephew, who went with him on his last voyage. The patache is to accompany the earl of Cumberland, until he is through the Straits of Magellan.
15 Jan.
Paris Archives, K. 1549.
500. The King to Bernardino de Mendoza.
It is said that a fleet of ships has been seen off Cape Finisterre, and as the English were making preparations for putting to sea, very much energy must have been exercised if these be English ships. Try to discover what you can about it, what is the number of ships and men they have sent out, the alleged destination, etc., as it will be very necessary for us to know this. Report also as to the other preparations which you mention.
If what you say about Don Alonso de Leyva be true, it would be very fortunate. (fn. 1) We receive the news from other quarters as well, but as so little from him comes to hand we are doubtful. If you cannot ascertain the truth about this through your usual English channels, try whether you can obtain information from Scotland, where you have friends, or by some other means. Report to me instantly if you find the news is true.
The Spanish infantry from the hulk at Morvien has arrived in the ship you freighted. I will order the ship not to be detained, since you desire it.—Madrid, 15th January 1589.
21 Jan.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
501. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
Whilst I was making up to-day's despatches I received advices from London, dated 2nd instant, saying that the Hamburg fleet had arrived, and with it the Queen's ambassador in Constantinople.
Ships were arriving from Holland, of the 40 promised to go with Drake's fleet. Some of the 2,000 muskeeters had come in the ships which had already arrived.
Drake was fitting out, with great energy, the ships I have mentioned in my former letters. Don Antonio also was very busy getting ready, under the impression that he and Drake would sail within a month. All the Portuguese prisoners from the Armada had been released, on condition that they should embark in Don Antonio's fleet. I understand that a certain Juan de Sotomayor who was the royal alguacil in Don Pedro de Valdés' ship, is to go with the fleet, (fn. 2) and a Seville pilot they took in one of the ships from the Indies, as well as all the Portuguese sailors, which is a proof of the intention to touch on some point of the Portuguese coast.
Some time ago I informed your Majesty that the Queen had given leave for over 50 vessels to go out and plunder. They must have formed a junction, and probably are the fleet met by a Seville ship arriving at Rouen.
The earl of Cumberland's ships encountered a terrible storm off the Isle of Wight. They were so much injured that they were unable to continue their voyage.
All advices confirm the great energy with which warlike preparations are being made in England. The loss of the "Girona," with Don Alonso de Leyva and 1,300 men, is also confirmed.—Chausée de St. Victor, 21st January 1589.
Note.—In a letter to the King, of same date as above, Mendoza says that 56 men had arrived from the wreck of the "Capitana," and 20 from Ireland ; and there would now be sufficient force for the galleass "Zuñiga" to sail from Havre for Spain. Igueldo had asked the governor of Havre (Villars) for the guns and ammunition that had been put ashore from the galleass, but the Governor had raised difficulties, and had ended by keeping for himself 11 guns out of the 27, and 41 barrels of powder. Igueldo still presses for money beyond the 12,000 crowns already provided for him. He must pay the men a month's wages before they will sail, and they cost 100 crowns a day to keep. The men from Ireland, moreover, must be clothed, for they come naked. Captain Saavedra had sided with the men and had quarrelled with Igueldo, and Captain Duarte Nuñez had been put into command of the troops until the galleass reached a Spanish port. Mendoza had sent peremptory orders to the other captains to obey him, and the "Zuñiga" would now sail as soon as possible.
21 Jan.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
502. Statement of Juan de Nova formerly a servant of Don Juan de Idiaquez, who went with the Armada in the company of Don Alonso de Luzon, and is a native of San Ciprian, in Galicia ; and of Francisco de Borja, a native of Antequera, belonging to the company of Don Garcia Manrique. (fn. 3)
They embarked in the Venetian ship "Valencera," in which there were 500 soldiers, in consequence of the vessel having taking on board 100 from the Hamburg ship, before doubling Cape Clear, in Ireland. The rest of the men from the Hamburg ship were taken off by Juan de Medina, General of the hulks, the hulk afterwards foundering. (fn. 4)
They (the deponents) lost sight of the Armada on the night of the 12th September, during a tempest. The same night their ship sprang a leak forward, and for the next two days and nights they were at the pumps. On the 14th they brought up on the coast of Ireland, towards Blasket (?), and all the soldiers (except 40 who remained in the ship and were afterwards drowned when she foundered) were put on shore, with their arms, in a little boat.
They learnt on the island that it was held by the queen of England's troops, and that at a castle called Duhort (Dogherty?) there dwelt an Irish bishop named Cornelius. (fn. 5) They therefore took their way thither, and after having been three days on the road they arrived within a day's journey of the place. Colonel Alonso de Luzon thereupon sent a messenger forward to the bishop, saying that, as he was a Catholic, they begged him to help and advise them. He replied that they might come to the castle, and make an appearance of taking it by force, firing their harquebusses, etc., and it would then be surrendered to them. This was for the purpose of preventing the Queen's officers from saying that he had surrendered it voluntarily.
The Colonel and the whole of them set forward, and when they arrived within sight of the castle those within discharged a piece of artillery towards the part where the Queen's garrison was. The Colonel, therefore, fearing treason, refused to enter the castle, but directed his steps, by a marsh, towards another dismantled castle near. They then discovered that the Queen's garrison were approaching them, to the number of 200 horse, and as many footmen, harquebussiers, and bowmen. The Spanish force therefore halted, and the enemy did likewise ; drums being beaten on both sides for a parley. The enemy asked them what they wanted in the Queen's dominions, to which they replied that they were Spanish soldiers who had been cast upon the island by the wreck of their ship, and they begged that they might be allowed, upon due payment, to obtain a ship to take them back to Spain. They were told that this could not be, and that they must surrender as prisoners of war. They replied that if that was the only alternative, they would rather die fighting, as befitted Spaniards. The English answered that if they did not surrender at once 3,000 of the Queen's troops would come shortly and cut all their throats. They still persisted, however, in their refusal to surrender, and they remained halted all that night. The next night the enemy sounded the attack at two or three points, and a skirmish commenced, which continued the whole night.
The next morning, whilst they were endeavouring to better their position, they heard the enemy's drums again sound for a parley. The Colonel and Captains Beltran del Salto (fn. 6) and Geronimo de Aybar went down to the level of the bog to hear what they had to say. The major of the enemy told them that they had better lay down their arms and he would conduct them to the Queen's governor in Dublin, 30 miles off, who would send them to the Queen. The major (fn. 7) made them many offers and promises, if they would surrender, and in view of this, and that his men were dying with hunger, and that the enemy had cut off all supplies, the colonel replied that he would lay down his arms on fair terms of war, if they would keep their promise, and allow each man to retain the best suit of clothes he had. They gave their word that this should be done, and the Spaniards laid down their arms. As soon as the enemy had possession of them, and had conveyed them to the other side of the bog towards Dublin, they fell upon the Spaniards in a body and despoiled them of everything they possessed, leaving them quite naked, and killing those who offered the least resistance. The colonel complained of this to the major of the enemy's force, the reply being that it had been done by the soldiery without his orders, but he gave his word that the men should all be dressed on their arrival at a castle where he intended to pass the night, two miles from the place where they then were. When they had traversed half this distance the major said that as the road was so bad they would bivouac in the open for that night. They did so, the enemy forming square, inside of which they placed the Colonel, Don Rodrigo Lasso, Don Sebastian Zapata, gentlemen volunteers ; Don Diego de Luzon, and Don Antonio Manrique, attachés ; Don Beltran del Salto, Geronimo de Aybar, Juan de Guzman, and Don Garcia Manrique, Captains ; and the Chaplain-general and Judge of the regiment, the Vicar of the shoeless Carmelites of Lisbon and two other friars, the other soldiers being left a stone's-throw away, naked, in which manner they passed the night.
The next morning, at daybreak, the enemy came to separate some other officers who were amongst the soldiers, and put them inside the square with the rest. The remaining soldiers were then made to go into an open field, and a line of the enemy's harquebussiers approached them on one side and a body of his cavalry on the other, killing over 300 of them with lance and bullet ; 150 Spaniards managed to escape across a bog, most of them wounded, and sought refuge in the castle of Duhort (Dogherty), where bishop Cornelius received them and conveyed 100 or so, who were unwounded, to the Island of Hibernia (Hebrides?). Those who were wounded remained in the castle, under the care of the people there, who were Catholics, but many of them died every day. They were sent, under a guide, to the house of a savage gentleman named O'Cahan, (fn. 8) where they remained three days, both he and his people displaying great sympathy with them in their sufferings, feeding them and waiting upon them hand and foot. On the fourth day they went with another guide to a brother of his, also named O'Cahan, 12 miles from here. He also welcomed us with the same kindness as his brother had done. The day after our arrival mass was said for us, but this was an exception in our honour, as they usually have mass only once a week. On the third day after their arrival, he sent them, with another guide and letters, to another gentleman named Sorleyboy, begging him to provide them with a boat, as they were Catholics as he was ; this gentleman possessing vessels, as he lives on an arm of the sea. (fn. 9) He received them with much kindness, and kept them 20 days, mass being said for them. There were at the time, no boats there, but he sent for some three miles off. Two boats were sent and 80 soldiers embarked in them, to be taken to an island off Scotland, which is only 10 miles off, the rest remaining in the castle until the boats should return.
In the meanwhile the Governor in Dublin had learned that this gentleman had sheltered the Spaniards, and sent to tell him, in the Queen's name, not to ship any more Spaniards on pain of death and confiscation of all his property, and to surrender to the English those he still had with him. He replied he would rather lose his life and goods, and those of his wife and children, than barter Christian blood. He had, he said, dedicated his sword to the defence of the Catholic faith, and those who held it, and in spite of the Governor, the Queen, and all England, he would aid and embark the rest of the Spaniards who came to him ; and he came back to them (the Spaniards), with tears in his eyes, and told them the Governor's demand and his reply thereto. So when the boats came back he shipped the rest.
When they arrived on the Scotch island on the other side, they learnt from a savage who spoke Latin that, on the same day that the English had massacred the soldiers, they had conveyed the colonel and the rest of the officers on foot, all naked as they were, to Dublin, 14 miles off, where they were put into prison, except those who died on the road of hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. He said that the man who had ordered all the soldiers to be murdered was an Irish Earl named O'Neil. (fn. 10)
They (the deponents and their companions) then proceeded on their way, being guided by men sent from one gentleman to another, until they arrived in Edinburgh, where the King was. By his orders they were kept lodged in the town for 30 days, being fed and clothed the while. He then sent them to France, dividing them amongst four Scottish ships which, as the weather was against them, had to coast along the English shore, and twice had to cast anchor in English ports. On one occasion the Governor of the place, learning that there were Spaniards on board the ships, sought to take them out, but the shipmasters said that the soldiers had been delivered to their care by the king of Scotland to carry to France, and had ordered them, on pain of death, not to abandon them. They therefore refused to surrender them, but would defend them with their own lives. They sent a boat to acquaint the king of Scotland of the occurrence, and he informed the queen of England that, as the Spaniards had appealed to him, he had provided ships to take them across, and he begged that they should not be molested in her ports. She therefore gave orders that they were not to be interfered with. Twenty days had passed in the meanwhile, the weather having still detained them in port, but at last they set sail and all arrived in France.
It is said that Lord Claude Hamilton sent to summon all the Spaniards to his house, and Sir John Seton, his brother-in-law, the same. Eighteen Spaniards went and were dressed and well treated, and the rest, who would not go, as they were told it was a trap to kill them, were provided with 50 crowns for their journey.
They (the deponents) heard from a sailor of the galleass "Girona," that the ship "Rata," with Don Alonso de Leyva on board, after doubling Cape Clear, in the north of Ireland, anchored, being short of water and food. She had a large number of men on board, as she had rescued the company of the "Sta Ana," which foundered at sea. (fn. 11) She (the "Rata") had but one anchor, and as the current was very strong it broke, but they managed to get another cable ashore and made it fast to a rock. The current, however, drove them on to the land, and seeing the ship was in this case, all the men on board decided to land, taking such small stores as they could, some munitions, and one field piece. They learnt from an Irishman who spoke Latin that the galleass "Girona" was higher up the coast at anchor, and they therefore went in search of her, carrying Don Alonso de Leyva in a chair, as he was ill. They all got on board the "Girona" and Don Alonso de Leyva directed that they should return round Cape Clear (fn. 12) as they had no rudder and could not navigate. They could, he thought, manage to get to Scotland, where they would obtain succour. They therefore went round Cape Clear, and when they had arrived between the Spanish sea and the island of Scotland, (fn. 13) they had a fair wind to carry them to Spain. The pilot therefore represented to Don Alonso that if he would allow him to set sail he would arrive in Spain in five days. Don Alonso replied, that if he was sure the weather was favourable he could do so, but he was deceived in thinking that the weather was settled, for it changed and cast them upon the Island of Ibernia (sic). They ran upon a submerged rock and the galleass went to pieces, more than 1,300 men being drowned. Only nine sailors were saved, one of whom gave this statement.
Note.—In the letter from Mendoza to the King, enclosing this statement, the writer mentions that the sailors told him that Don Antonio Manrique, nephew of Don Jorge, was still in Scotland, and that a sailor passing the spot where Don Alonso de Leyva was lost with 1,300 men (i.e., near the Giant's Causeway) had recognised a number of the corpses that strewed the shore, and from the canvas belt of one of them had taken 300 ducats in money.


  • 1. That is to say, that he had been able to establish a footing in Ireland with 2,000 men. We know now that Don Alonso chivalrously put to sea in the overcrowded galleass "Girona," which was wrecked, rather than draw the vengeance of the English on to O'Neil and his vassal chiefs by remaining on their territories.
  • 2. His name was Gregorio de Sotomayor, a Portuguese. The full text of his confession will be found in State Papers, Dom. CCXIV., 19.
  • 3. In relation to this, see Don Alonso de Luzon's statement after his capture by the English at Drogheda, in State Papers, Ireland, CXXXVII. (printed in "The Defeat of the Spanish Armada").
  • 4. The hulk of Juan Gomez de Medina was wrecked on Fair Island, the commander and men who were saved remaining on the island all the winter. They subsequently escaped to Scotland, and thence to Spain.
  • 5. Cornelius, bishop of Killaloe (Laonensis). The men from the "Valencera" are said in English records to have landed at O'Dogherty's country, the name of his town being Illagh.
  • 6. He had commanded the soldiers on the Hamburg ship, and had been taken on board the "Valencera."
  • 7. John Kelly, who is described as "Captain Hovenden's lieutenant."
  • 8. This name is given variously as Ocana, Socam, etc. It may be either O'Kane or O'Cahan.
  • 9. Sorleyboy McDonnell was lord of Dunluce, joint lord of the route.
  • 10. In "Certaine Advertisements out of Ireland," published in 1588, it is asserted that O'Neil wrote from his castle of Dungannon to the Lord Deputy, informing him that 600 Spaniards were in O'Dogherty's country.
  • 11. This is somewhat different from the conclusion arrived at by Professor Laughton and Captain Fernandez Duro, namely, that the "Rata" was lost in Killibegs Harbour, and that her company was taken by the "Duquesa St. Ana," the latter ship being in her turn lost, and the combined companies taken by the "Girona," subsequently wrecked off the Giant's Causeway. As the geographical names in Ireland have been to a great extent altered, and, on the one hand, the English accounts usually do not mention the names of ships lost, and on the other hand the terrified survivors naturally did not concern themselves greatly about the names of the wild headlands against which their ships perished, it is extremely difficult to decide precisely what happened. It is more probable, that the "Rata" was lost on the extreme point of Mayo (see Bingham to Walsingbam, 1st October, State Papers, Ireland), and that the company, after a short delay, shipped in the "Duquesa St. Ana," which in turn was lost at Loghros Bay, Donegal ; De Leyva and his men marching overland to Killibegs, where they joined the "Girona," only to be wrecked again, as related, near the Giant's Causeway. (See paper by present editor in "Transactions of Royal Historical Society." Vol. IX.).
  • 12. It is evident that in many cases when Cape Clear is mentioned by the Spaniards, some headland in the north of Ireland is meant, and not Cape Clear in Munster. Mr. Froude thought that Clare Island was the place indicated ; but it is evidently was not so in the present case.
  • 13. That is to say, in North Channel.