Simancas: February 1589

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: February 1589', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 510-514. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

February 1589

1 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
503. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I constantly endeavour to send to your Majesty reports from England. The sails seen off Finisterre, as mentioned in your Majesty's despatch of 15th, were either a flotilla of hulks or a squadron of English pirates, as I wrote to your Majesty some time ago. I mentioned that the Queen had given permission to 50 ships to sail on plundering voyages. Drake's fleet had not left on the date of my last advices, 6th ultimo, he himself being at Court, and only a very few of the ships promised from Holland had arrived. I have only heard of the two ships sailing from France, which I mentioned in previous letters as belonging to M. de la Chatre, governor of Dieppe. This leads me to think confidently that the vessels in question must be the English privateers, which have collected together. The whole of France is so disturbed that it is impossible to obtain letters from England excepting at rare intervals.—Chausée de St. Victor, 1st February 1589.
5 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
504. Bernardo de Mendoza to the King.
As the correspondence from England is not allowed to pass through France, I am without any letters from my confidant there, and consequently can only forward the news sent by the French ambassador. He writes to his wife, on the 12th ultimo, that Don Antonio's affairs were progressing greatly, and the fleet that Drake and he were to take out would be ready to sail by the middle of February. The English ambassador here has letters of 19th ultimo, saying that Drake's fleet was ready, and would leave on the 14th or 15th of February, Norris having arrived in England. The earl of Northumberland had subscribed 20,000 crowns to the enterprise, and the eard of Essex 10,000, although he would not go in person. (fn. 1) Sir William Guilford, who was governor of the Sluys, was to accompany the expedition.
The following troops were to make up the force :—4,000 musketeers, contributed by the States of Holland, with 40 ships, victualled and stored, to convey the 4,000, and 2,000 English troops, and 300 lances taken by the Queen from her garrisons in Holland, etc. ; 4,000 harquebussiers, 4,000 pikemen, and another 300 lances, which together will amount to 14,000 men and 600 horse, to be ready by the middle of February. The ships are to consist of six of the Queen's ships from the Thames, with four pataches and twelve merchantmen, amongst which is the "Royal Merchant," and 70 or 80 other ships, which were ready at Plymouth, Falmouth, Dartmouth, and other neighbouring ports. The common rumour was that the destination of the fleet would be Portugal, although Walsingham asserts, in his letter of the 19th, that it was undecided whether Don Antonio would go in person or not. The above intelligence is published by the English ambassador here, who shows Walsingham's letters ; but, as I have no reports from my confidants, I cannot affirm the present condition of the armaments. It appears to me, however, that even if the Queen decided to send so many foot soldiers out of England (and it will be an extraordinary thing if she does), she would find a difficulty in shipping 600 horses in such a fleet as that described. As soon as I learn direct particulars I will let your Majesty know with all speed.
Don Antonio's son had been driven into Plymouth by a storm, and was there consuming his stores. It had therefore been necessary for him to obtain a fresh supply of victuals. He sailed from there again on the 23rd December, in company with 12 ships that had sailed for plunder, and some merchant ships bound for Barbary, which had been specially ordered by the Queen to accompany him, as it was feared that the long delay that had taken place would have allowed some of your Majesty's vessels to put out to intercept him.
The three ships sent out by Sir Harry Cavendish, and four of the earl of Cumberland's, bound for the Straits of Magellan, it is said will leave with Drake and separate from him at sea, proceeding thence on their voyage.—Chausée de St. Victor, 5th February 1589.
13 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
505. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
I have no news from England since my last, and the agent here for the Dutch rebels says that his last advices are dated 26th December, at which date the States had not decided whether they would contribute men and ships to go with Drake's fleet.
A certain Friar, Joseph Tejeda, a follower of Don Antonio, who had gone from England to Lyons, had fled from there to England again, as an attempt was made to arrest him in his monastery itself, on the accusation that he wrote books against your Majesty. A Portuguese had arrived there (Lyons), called Esteban Ferreira da Gama, (fn. 2) who has changed his name to Juan Luis. He was implicated with Leiton. He is desirous of obtaining your Majesty's pardon.— Chausée de St. Victor, 13th February 1589.
15 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
506. Bernardino de Mendoza to the King.
The only news I can add about England is, that on the night of the 10th, this King said in his cabinet to the Abbé Guadagni, that if Don Antonio had not already embarked he would very soon do so. He was glad for his sake, but was sorry that the queen of England should have taken away so many of her troops from Holland and Zeeland, because if he had no enemy to fight there, the duke of Parma might send his forces to France to help the duke of Mayenne. This was said with a great appearance of anxiety.
The English ambassador here complains publicly that although, through a third person, he had offered his mistress' aid to this King, and a similar offer had been made through Chateauneuf, no answer had been received.—Chaussée de St. Victor. 15th February 1589.
24 Feb.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
507. Statement of Marco Antonio Micea (or Messia) who left London on 24th February 1589.
The Queen's fleet, under Sir Francis Drake, is getting ready to sail by the 15th March. Including six ships of the Queen's, large and small, the total number of sail is calculated at 70, some say more. Besides these, however, there are 40 to come from Holland and Zeeland. Of these, six with 400 soldiers have already arrived at Tilbury, in the Thames. They say more will come, but it is impossible to say for certain. There will be 10,000 soldiers shipped on the fleet, independent of those from Holland, to the number, it is expected, of 3,500, mostly musketeers, and of 4,000 English pioneers, some of whom I saw embarked.
Norris has been appointed General of the force. He is considered at present the best soldier in the country.
It is said also that the earl of Cumberland is to go in this fleet with six ships, but I am told, and believe, that he will not do so, but will go to plunder on the Indian route. This was his intention when he sailed at the end of November, but he was driven into the Isle of Wight in a storm with great damage, his own ship having had to be relieved of her mast.
Drake and Norris were trying to induce the Council to victual the fleet for six months instead of four. In order to pay for this, and other necessaries, the Queen had issued a warrant for 40,000l., and some companies of merchants had provided 30,000l., on condition of sharing in the prizes. It is publicly stated that the destination is to be Portugal, and that Don Antonio will go in the fleet. Horatio Pallavicini told me that, although common rumour said this, he knew well that the Queen and Council had other plans in view. Don Antonio also told me that it was doubtful whether the Portuguese enterprise would be undertaken, as no credit could be given to English promises.
The statement was also current that the fleet was intended for the Azores, where it is said an arrangement has been made for help to be given to it, especially with one Fonseca, vicar of St. Bartolomé, (fn. 3) residing at San Mateo. Other persons believe that the fleet is at present only intended to collect at Plymouth to await events in Spain, and to cruise in the Channel, for the purpose of obstructing what trade is carried on by Germans and Flemings with Spain. Others again think it is to carry troops to France, who would land at Rochelle. This may be true, to judge by what I was told by Friar Joseph Tejeda, who landed at Rye on the 22nd with an Italian captain named Sebastian Pardin. They said they came with important messages from the king of France to the queen of England, and that Don Antonio would not go in the fleet to Portugal. They said the king of Morocco was to lend Don Antonio 100,000 crowns, which had already been received by Duarte Perin (Edward Perrin), who was expected in England ; Don Cristobal, the son of Don Antonio, having been left in Barbary as a hostage.
Whilst I was at Rye, awaiting a passage across, I learned that 4,000 men were being collected in Scotland to go to France in the King's service, and two Commissioners had gone to France to learn where they should be landed.
Parliament was opened in London on the 4th February. They were discussing the means for prolonging the war, and the Queen had asked for two subsidies for this purpose. The people were dissatisfied at this, but it was expected that the subsidies would he voted.
Horatio Pallavicini has laid before the Queen and her Council a statement, in which he proposes that, with the object of continuing the war, it is desirable to arm 40 or 50 ships, and to divide them into two squadrons, one to go to the coast of Spain, and the other to the Indies, the prizes taken being devoted to the cost of the war. He advises that no Spanish officer or sailor should be released, as he is of opinion that his Majesty will be more pressed for experienced men and seamen than for anything else.
Horatio Pallavicini has made great efforts to prevent any negotiation for the liberation of Don Pedro de Valdés, whilst the war lasts, and I understand that the Council has already agreed that no sailors are to be released.
Certain titles of Earl and Baron are to be granted in this Parliament. This is, however, in suspense at present, as they are all falling out amongst themselves, there not being three great personages or members of the Council in accord with one another. Amongst others there is a great quarrel between the earl of Essex and Walter Raleigh, and between the Lord Admiral and Drake.
It is said that the earl of Arundel, who has been imprisoned in the Tower for the last three years for Catholicism, is to be tried and condemned to lose his head ; but up to the day of my departure nothing had been done in the matter, as I learned from some members of the Council.
Sixteen or eighteen ships have sailed (from England) this year for Italy and the Levant, some of which have sailed on other occasions on piratical voyages with native (Turkish?) masters, and have returned with great riches. Unless this be stopped, and some of the ships captured, it will greatly encourage the English.
In conclusion of my statement, I may say that I am confidently of opinion that, if his Majesty again sends an expedition to England (and the sooner the better), and it is well managed and commanded, with the determination to land the troops, it will, with God's help, be successful. It is important that something should be gained in the first encounters, as my experience shows me that ever such a little success at the commencement animates the men, whilst the smallest reverse casts them down.
Note.—The above statement is that referred to in Mendoza's letter to the King, dated 22nd March.


  • 1. Essex, greatly to the Queen's anger, secretly fled from Court and joined the expedition. An account of his behaviour will be found in "The Year after the Armada."
  • 2. Esteban Ferreira da Gama, alias Domingo Ferrandis, was hanged at Tyburn, for complicity in Dr. Lopez's alleged plot to poison Elizabeth. He was a ruined gentleman of good position in Portugal, and had been a close friend of Don Antonio.
  • 3. In the King's hand :—"Let this be seen to at once if it has not already been done."