Simancas: April 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: April 1589', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, ed. Martin A S Hume( London, 1899), British History Online [accessed 15 July 2024].

'Simancas: April 1589', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Edited by Martin A S Hume( London, 1899), British History Online, accessed July 15, 2024,

"Simancas: April 1589". Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Ed. Martin A S Hume(London, 1899), , British History Online. Web. 15 July 2024.

April 1589

1 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
517. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
David has come expressly from England to give me the enclosed reports, his excuse being that he has fallen out with Diego Botello. He has also given me a packet of letters he brought from Don Antonio to his agent here, Antonio de Escobar, copies of which are enclosed.
David says that if it be necessary for him to go and give your Majesty a verbal account of the information he gives me, he will go gladly, without regarding the dangers of the road. I have put him off until I hear from your Majesty, and until we see whether Don Antonio goes with the fleet ; because if he does not David may still give us reports of his proceedings, in England or elsewhere. —Paris, 1st April 1589.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
518. Advices of the English Fleet.
On the 19th March Drake and Norris were in Dover, ready to embark for Plymouth. On the 25th they sailed with 80 ships, Flemish and English, the rest being at Plymouth.
It is asserted that they will have over 130 sail victualled for six months, and taking 15,000 soldiers.
The intention is said to be to make for Portugal, and to land near Lisbon the larger part of the force, the rest remaining on the fleet of which Drake is to have command, whilst Norris is to direct the land operations. If it is found convenient the greater part of the fleet will go out to await the Indian flotillas.
It is believed in Plymouth that the fleet will sail some time in April at latest.
1 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
519. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I last gave an account of English armaments dated the 2nd ultimo, and have since received advices dated 7th ultimo reporting that Drake is making ready with all speed to sail with his fleet, carrying 5,000 soldiers and sailors. (fn. 1) This being the case, and his having very few victuals, not many of the Dutch ships having arrived, it is thought that Drake would be more likely to come to France to help the Huguenots than to go to Spain, as the number of men mentioned would be insufficient to do anything in Portugal, whilst they would be too many to go out on the Indian route.
The French ambassador, Chateauneuf, has sent a man specially from England, who left London on the 15th, to bring the news verbally (the roads being in such a condition that he could not venture to write it) that Drake had sailed with 80 ships and 15,000 soldiers, his destination being Scotland, where he would ship more troops and then come to France. This device is adopted so as to make it appear that the succour sent to this King comes from Scotland, and not from England. Don Antonio still remained in London, and Drake only had victuals for six weeks, which proved beyond doubt that his intention was to come to France. The duke of Mayenne sent me the news at once, but as nothing was said of the day of Drake's departure, or whether his fleet consisted of the ships in the Thames, or those at Plymouth, or both united, and no mention was made of the arrival or otherwise of the Dutch ships etc., the information did not strike me as being very trustworthy. Besides this, the weather was contrary for a voyage to Scotland, and it was not at all likely that if the Queen had determined to send aid to this King, Drake would have wasted time in going to Scotland for the purpose of making it appear that the succour came from there. I therefore delayed sending the despatch to your Majesty until I learnt more about the matter, and I heard yesterday from a person who left London on the 20th, that Drake had left there for Dover for the purpose of embarking on the ships which were then going down the river—about 30 sail—and taking them round to Plymouth, where the fleet was to collect. Don Antonio had embarked at Dover and was to accompany him.
Don Antonio left London on the morning of the 19th for Gravesend, by boat, after having taken leave of the Queen. He is accompanied by Diego Botello, whom he has made a Duke, and six or seven other persons ; his eldest son and other Portuguese going in another boat. He took horses at Gravesend for Dover, where Drake awaited him to embark.
On the 19th a ship of 80 or 100 tons belonging to Sir Harry Cavendish, with 70 people on board, was at anchor before Gravesend. They neglected to close the gun ports, and as the tide came up the water got in and sank the ship. She foundered so suddenly that only 15 out of the 70 persons on board were saved. The English looked upon this as a very poor augury for the success of Don Antonio's expedition.
Colonel Norris left on 15th for Plymouth by land, in order to collect his forces which were lodged in the neighbourhood. Norris said that, as he should have to muster them, he did not think he could ship the troops in less than 25 days.
The man who has come from London, whom I know well for a person of understanding, assures me that most of the ships that left London are small, the largest being the "Ark Raleigh," of about 400 tons. This was Drake's flagship. They only carry victuals for four months, and are short of powder. The English affirmed that 15,000 men would be shipped at Plymouth, the fleet consisting of 120 sail. This could not be ascertained, however, until Plymouth was reached, but the general opinion was that this force was a very large one. It was common talk that Don Antonio was to go to Portugal in the fleet, Drake commanding at sea, and Norris on land, his lieutenant being a brother of the earl of Essex, (fn. 2) who was at Rochelle.
This man also assures me that only 10 or 12 small ships have arrived of the contingent expected from Holland, and the news received here from Middleburg dated the 9th says nothing of any ships being ready there for England.
I learn from a person who left Rye on the 25th, that Drake passed there on that day on his way to Plymouth with a fair wind, and would probably arrive on the 28th. On the same day some 40 ships had passed Rye, following Drake and Don Antonio. They looked like ships that go to Brouage for salt, although they might be the ships expected from Holland. I cannot be certain of this news, but will endeavour to send more trustworthy details in my next. My reports to-day are so various that I send them to your Majesty as I receive them. David's (i.e., Andrada's) reports enclosed magnify the force more than others, and confirm the passage of Don Antonio and Drake before Rye.
In order that your Majesty may have timely advice of the fleet at Plymouth, I send this by special messenger, and will send another as soon as I learn that it has sailed from Plymouth ; although, if they have a fair wind, they will be in Spanish waters before I know of their departure.
Information comes from Scotland, dated the 9th ultimo, that the King had ordered the arrest of the earl of Huntly and that he had been placed in Edinburgh Castle on the 7th, which was considered an extraordinary thing. His enemies say it is because he was carrying on a communication with the duke of Parma.—Paris, 1st April 1589.
6 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
520. Advices from Tours sent by Sampson.
Whilst the English ambassador was coming away from an audience with the king (of France), he said that he had leave of absence for six weeks to go to England on his private affairs. As he had not previously mentioned this it is probable that his voyage was decided upon during the audience with the King, and that the ambassador spoke of it as he did in order to conceal the fact that he was going to England at the King's request. As the ambassador was about to mount his horse to depart, Secretary Revol came and conversed with him at great length, and the ambassador then went direct to Chatelherault, where the prince of Bearn was, he having already obtained by permission of the King a passport and safe-conduct from the Prince.
He talked with Bearn for three or four hours, and then sent his secretary to the Court with letters for the King and Secretary Revol, which were followed by other letters for Revol, and duly answered by the latter. The ambassador accompanied Bearn to Brussuire, in Lower Poitou, where they both took the Sacrament on Holy Thursday, the ambassador leaving the following day for Niort with de Sangele, governor of the town, in whose house he stayed that night. On Saturday before Easter he slept at Rochelle, where he found three ships that Bearn had ordered to be prepared for him, and in which he embarked on Easter Monday. He did not go through the town of Poitiers for fear they might offer him some affront, as they did at the same time to M. de Lonac, who was retiring to Gascony with a passport from the King ; and whom they kept waiting at the gate for three hours before they would allow him to enter, and asked him where was the dagger with which he had slain the duke of Guise ; and at last, though they allowed him to pass through the town, they would not permit him to stay.
The ambassador remained with Bearn for three weeks and was greatly regaled by the Prince, who took him hunting, etc.
The first time the ambassador spoke with him he expressed surprise that one side of the Prince's beard had turned white. He replied that that was the side of the League, whilst the other was the side of hope for France.
11 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
521. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I kept David here, as I told your Majesty, and asked him whether when he left England he had quarrelled so seriously with Diego Botello that he could not go back thither. He replied that he knew Botello's character very well, and was sure that if he made him a present he would be pacified. David offered to take the risk of returning if he could thereby serve your Majesty. The unsettled state of France making it very difficult to get news from England, and especially from Plymouth, I asked David to return ; and as, up to the present, he has never asked me for a groat for all his voyages since he submitted to your Majesty, I gave him 220 crowns for the purpose mentioned. I told him to go first to Tours to see Don Antonio's agent, and tell him that he had been robbed (of his letters) ; but that, notwithstanding this, he had thought well to come and inform him of the powerful fleet with which Don Antonio was going to Portugal, so that Escobar might convey the information to the king of France. He was also to ask Escobar whether he had any message for Don Antonio, as he (David) was going back. The reason for this was so that Escobar might write favourably of him to England.
I instructed him to go thence direct to Plymouth, and send intelligence by every possible means, giving an account of the armaments in progress ; and when Don Antonio sailed to send a person to give a verbal statement, if he could not send letters.
As he had already arranged for his cousin to land and give instant information to the Cardinal Archduke, or other principal officer of your Majesty, if the fleet touched at any point of Spain or Portugal, and he (David) had already been sounded by Don Antonio as to whether he would remain in England and assist in his affairs, I directed him to endeavour to do so. With that object he should go to London, and thence write to me. If Don Antonio did not embark he was to keep with him, continuing to report to me. I thought that he would thus be serving your Majesty more effectually than otherwise, as Sampson cannot return to England, and has no communications of importance with Don Antonio, now that this King (Henry III.) is so powerless. If Don Antonio departs also it will not be advisable for us to leave London entirely unwatched, and with no person there to inform us of the news of the expedition that may reach there from Don Antonio and his friends. David can do this, and advise whether any new armaments are fitted out to reinforce him. I send a copy of the cipher he has left with me, that it may be forwarded to the Cardinal Archduke. (fn. 3) —Paris, 11th April 1589.
16 April.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1570.
522. Advices from England.
All the fleet is now at Plymouth, 145 to 150 sail with the Dutchmen. I reported that 70 hulks on their way from Germany to Spain, with victuals and munitions, had been captured, and these have been of the utmost service to them. They are greatly rejoiced thereat, as they have thus been furnished with many things which they lacked, and they have also largely increased the number of their ships, and are able to carry more men. I have read letters from Plymouth, saying that the number of soldiers will now reach 17,000 or 18,000 men, as well as 4,000 seamen ; all of the ships would be ready to sail with the first fair wind. The cargo on the hulks was said to be on account of his Catholic Majesty.
The fleet is undoubtedly bound direct to Portugal, and to carry out the other objects I mentioned in my last. The principal object of attack is to be the Indian flotillas, which we are informed here (in England) sailed last February, and consisted of very good ships. This is really the principal blow they wish to strike. I will advise as soon as the fleet sails.
It is considered certain that the earl of Arundel will be put upon his trial next week, and that he will lose his head, as they are all of one mind about it, except the Chancellor and the Treasurer. He (Arundel) is ill, they say, entirely of grief and worry, the principal accusation against him being that when the Armada was off the coast he begged a Catholic priest to say a mass to the Holy Trinity, begging God to send victory to the Spaniards. The priest was arrested and confessed this. They also allege that he (Arundel) joined the Holy League. Parliament has risen, after having voted two subsidies to the estimated amount of 1,200,000 crowns.
Captain Cavendish, who returned some months ago from the South Seas, has again sailed thither a fortnight since with nine very well armed ships. One of his ships foundered in the Thames, and all the crew were drowned except four men. The earl of Cumberland has also sailed with five ships in good order, his destination being the East Indies, although it is not known what part. If neither of these expeditions brings back anything of value there will be no more similar enterprises ; because it is the hope that they will come back loaded with gold and silver, as they have done hitherto, that causes them to be sent ; and the principal thing to be guarded against is, that they should touch any of the Indian flotillas or other treasure. Their great object is to despoil his Majesty, in order to give them the means of making war against him and render themselves rich.
After the above was written, intelligence has arrived from Plymouth that a ship had entered that port, having left Lisbon 16 days before, with a Frenchman on board, who had been for a long time in his Majesty's galleys. He brings news that there were very few soldiers in Lisbon, not 150 in the Castle, and very few in the other fortresses, which were also badly provided with artillery and other necessaries. This intelligence has been sent hither and arouses great hopes of success in Portugal ; but, as I have said, the main object of the fleet is to capture treasure, and its orders are to the following effect :—First, if the weather serves, to go where they learn there is a good gathering of Spanish ships and try to burn them. Thence to go to Portugal, and if they encounter much resistance to abandon that part of the enterprise, and proceed on their voyage towards the Spanish Indies to meet the flotillas and land men. If they do not find much resistance in Portugal they are to leave Don Antonio there with 5,000 or 6,000 men, whilst the main body of the fleet goes to the Indies, leaving on their way off Terceira a sufficient number of ships to intercept the flotillas from the East Indies. This would indicate that the fleet itself is to go to the Indies to seek for the ships in port, and capture them there with their treasure, or take it if it be on land. If the treasure has been carried inland they will pursue it with their horses, of which they are taking 500 with them. If, therefore, the greatest energy be not exercised at this juncture in counteracting the design, his Majesty's treasure will be in imminent danger. The best means of safety will be to carry it on to the coast of the South Sea (i.e., the Pacific) well inland. God knows the flotillas will be in peril! for if it be not looked to they will all fall into their (the English) hands. The advices from Plymouth to-day say that over 20,000 men are going.
Two more couriers have come from Plymouth since the above was written. They report that the fleet was short of victuals, of which great quantities were needed, as well as large sums of money, so that if they did not soon get a fair wind to sail, the fear was expressed that the above designs could not be proceeded with, or at least that some of them would have to be changed. But they will not change their plan of intercepting the flotillas for that is their main object.
21 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
523. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have information from Tours that the King was collecting his forces, and that the queen of England would not help him with money, but with troops ; the condition being that they should fight under Bearn, which confirms what I said of her wish to have fortresses in which the English might be placed ; and in this way Bearn would enlarge his territory and get into his grasp places which the King would not be able to take from him. Even if the question of religion were not a stake, as a matter of state policy the English, if they set foot in France, must not be allowed to subject by force the Catholics of this country, the queen of England having usurped from your Majesty the Dutch Islands and Zeeland. (fn. 4) If once this were allowed she would invade the Netherlands over the French frontier, which must be prevented by the sending hither by your Majesty of very powerful forces to aid the Catholics against the English and Huguenots. I have written to the duke of Parma warning him of this.—Paris, 21st April 1589.
524. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have just learnt that on the road between Dieppe and Rouen they have captured a courier sent by the French ambassador in England. His despatches were opened, and amongst others, one from the ambassador to his master, dated 7th instant, saying that the Queen had told him that Drake was to sail from Plymouth with his fleet on that day, accompanied by Don Antonio. Forty ships, with 4,000 men and 500 horses, had arrived from Holland ; and these together with the other forces would form a very powerful fleet, which if the weather then prevailing continued would arrive in Portugal within 10 days. The same intelligence is contained in another letter in the packet for the prince of Bearn, from his agent in England, who also writes in similar terms to the count de Soissons.
With regard to French affairs, the ambassador states that he had had an interview with the Queen, in which he laid before her the necessity of her providing money, but that he could get no further reply from her but that she would write to the King in accordance with the instructions she had given to her ambassador. Bearn's agent writes to his master in cipher, but the letter has been deciphered, and it is found to express the same regret as that expressed by the Queen to the ambassador at the non-arrival of M. de Sinille in France. He (the agent) then says that his master the King (by which it is supposed he means the king of Scotland) will fulfil the promises he had made, and would be ready without fail by the end of May, which he (the agent) hoped would be the case. This he says, and the message taken by Sinille, would have silenced everything in that (the French?) Court. The agent says in his letter to the count de Soissons, that people in England are very anxious to know whether the King has joined with the prince of Bearn, and he begs the Count to assure the King as soon as he has joined the Prince that he (the agent) will at once come over and serve him. All the letters agree that the fleet was on the point of sailing, now that the Dutch galleons had arrived, and that this courier was sent specially to inform the King (of France) thereof. I have therefore thought necessary to send instant advice by special courier to your Majesty of the present forward stage of the armament, and that its destination is generally agreed to be Portugal. Although I have men in England to give me punctual reports of what happens, it is impossible for me to receive my letters so quickly as I should like, or even for a man to come ; for every despatch that enters the country is opened, either by the King's people or the League, or else by the highwaymen, who take either side as their interests dictate, and rob everyone. I cannot therefore expect any very fresh reports from England, or that a man should arrive, even if he could escape from there, unless by very exceptional good fortune. If my despatches arrive (in Spain) it may also be considered a fortunate chance, seeing the condition of this country, the robbers, and the way in which Marshal de Matignon detains the letters in Bordeaux. He says that no courier shall pass there without a passport from the king of France, which I have explained to him I cannot obtain as I am not at Court.
On the 17th instant a ship arrived at Rouen from Laredo in eight days, and reports that she sighted no ships on her way. As she has come so quickly, it is to be concluded that the English fleet could not arrive (in Portugal) from Plymouth, as the (French) ambassador says, even if it did sail on the 7th. If what is reported from England be correct the fleet would be in Spanish waters before I could obtain news of its departure. Since the 13th furious gales have been blowing on the French coast. The galleass (Zuñiga) sailed from Havre on the 15th at nine at night, with fresh settled weather, which lasted for 40 hours, and I hope to God, as she is a fast ship, that this will have enabled her to get clear of the Channel, which is the most dangerous part of her voyage. (fn. 5) —Paris, 21st April 1589.
23 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1449.
525. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
I have long known of the good intentions of the archbishop of Glasgow, and I will not fail when an opportunity offers of assisting him in his necessity. I do not think that this is a favourable time for him to relinquish his embassy, even if for no other reason than to prevent the evil offices which might be effected by his successor. In addition to this, however, we should lose his own services, which may be of advantage to us. You will therefore urge him to retain his post.—Aranjuez, 23rd April 1589.
26 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
526. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
In consequence of the turmoil and disturbance of this country, I cannot usually send reports from England as speedily as I could wish ; but now that the English ports are rigorously closed it is difficult to get advices at all. Even when I manage to send men thither, which I have endeavoured to do, it is almost impossible for them to return in time for any reports they bring to be serviceable, as no one is allowed to leave without a passport, and the ordinary weekly posts to Rouen are discontinued. It is therefore only by lucky chance that I can get fresh news, and I have men posted in Calais and elsewhere, so that no time should be lost in forwarding my despatches. Last night I received the enclosed report, which comes from the confidant left there by Antonio de Vega, a person known to me, who is in a position to have a good knowledge of what passes at Plymouth. Letters from Rouen, of the 23rd, say that by last advices from London it was still uncertain whether the fleet had sailed from Plymouth.
There is no news at Havre de Grâce of the galleass ("Zuñiga"), which inspires me with the hope that she had fair weather and got clear of the Channel, and I hope to God that she will have arrived safely ere this.—Paris, 26th April 1589.
27 April.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
527. Purser Pedro De Igueldo to Bernardino De Mendoza.
(An account of the voyage and return to Havre de Grâce of the galleass "Zuñiga.")
Left Havre on evening of 15th. On 17th, a furious S.S.E. gale. On the 18th given up for lost, as they were drifting on to the English coast. The straining of the vessel opened her decks, and she shipped much water, mizen-mast and jib-boom carried away, main-top-mast broken, and mainyard damaged, but repaired. The seamen recommended that everything possible should be thrown overboard to relieve the ship. Twelve good guns, therefore, sacrificed, with much ammunition, etc., anchors, chains, 8 barrels of cider, nearly all the fresh water ; 2 long boats and a gig lost, and 30 oars, which the convicts were ready enough to throw overboard. Grieved to think our sins are so great as to need such a punishment as this.
On the 18th, at mid-day, we were between Scilly and the Lizard, a very dangerous place, and for the next eight days we were tacking off the English coast in a constant gale, and at last, off Cape La Hogue, the wind shifted to the east, and although short of drink, and the ship damaged, we determined to proceed on our voyage. In four hours our persecutor again attacked us, and we were forced to anchor off Havre where we now are.
At the request of the governor we took the galleass to the two ships that had the same day arrived from the Newfoundland fisheries, bringing with them as a prize a Portuguese ship from Santo Domingo, loaded with hides. We took the prize away from them, and brought them all three in with us to our former position.
The way in which Captain Marolin has worked in this voyage cannot be exaggerated. He never went below, and his care was needed, for the Italian seamen are worthless, and they all hide themselves at night, leaving no one to work the ship. If it had not been for the St. Sebastian sailors we must have been lost, and one of them was killed by a gun getting adrift in the storm.
The ship must be refitted and re-victualled to be able to go to Spain ; the repairs, etc. will cost 3,000 crowns, besides the pay and maintenance of the men, and 25 days will be needful for the work. Pray send me instructions what is to be done. I wrote that 120 soldiers were to come on board. I gave them all the needful help, but when they came to embark, 50 stayed away, keeping their arms, a mean thing for Spaniards to do. They did it out of fear, because it was said that off the Casquets 8 or 10 English ships were awaiting us. I find them now serving the governor of Havre de Grâce, to whom please write, asking him to dismiss them, and to return to us the powder and the 10 guns he has from the "St. Ana," as we now want them to replace those we threw overboard, and our powder is all wet.
Note.—The above letter is enclosed in one from Mendoza to the King of 30th April, asking for money to be sent for the purposes of the galleass, and to pay the sailors, who are grumbling and saying they do not want doles but to be paid monthly. The prize taken away from the French ships from Newfoundland for the governor of Havre could not have been taken by him except by the aid of the galleass. Have written, asking him to take an inventory of cargo, in order that a claim may be made by the owners, who are Spanish subjects.


  • 1. This is probably a mistake for 15,000, which is the lowest estimate that Mendoza's agents had recently sent him. As a matter of fact the forces numbered in all nearly 20,000 men.
  • 2. Young Walter Devereux accompanied the expedition, but not in any important command.
  • 3.
  • 4. In the King's hand:—"He is quite right in this, and it will be well to write something to the duke of Parma."
  • 5. In the King's hand :—"It is to be feared that she will not make Corunna, or that they may have captured her, for we hear nothing of her arrival." The King's forebodings were partly correct, as will be seen by subsequent letters. The unfortunate galleass was caught in a gale, greatly damaged, and once more bad to put back to Havre de Grâce, where a fresh series of disasters awaited her.