Simancas: May 1589

Pages 535-544

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

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May 1589

3 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
528. Purser Pedro De Igueldo to Bernardino De Mendoza.
In my last letter I advised the arrival in the roads here of the galleass ("Zuñiga"), and said she would enter the harbour the next day. On the last day of April she attempted to do so, in charge of the sworn pilots of the town ; but they handled her so badly that they got her aground. Every effort was made to get her off. Her guns and stores were put into lighters alongside, but withal the general opinion was that she had made her last voyage. By the aid of 50 men from the town she was made fast, so that she should not capsize at low water. She was thus kept straight and undamaged till next tide, which was 11 o'clock at night, when to the surprise of everyone we got her off. I can only account for all these tribulations by supposing that God is pleased to send them to us as a punishment for our sins.
Everything on board the galleass was then put ashore to lighten her sufficiently to repair her, some biscuits, etc., being thrown overboard, as they were damaged by sea water. Fresh masts have been bought, and everything else is being provided. The sailors mutinied yesterday, as I was giving them the usual dole. They said they would not receive it unless it were increased, as the days were longer, and they could not exist on it as they had done before. I was in trouble and risk with them, but I persuaded them to take what I offered, on promising them that I would send a person to you about it. They will not do a thing on board the galleass, unless they are paid extra, and I feel sure they will desert when we are about to sail. The worst of it is, they will not declare themselves until the ship is outside, and it is too late to seek them.— Havre de Grâce, 3rd May 1589.
Note.—The above letter is sent to the King in an autograph letter dated 8th May from Mendoza, who says that the galleass was as fortunate in getting off on this occasion as in escaping from the tempest off Ushant. Captain Duarte Nunez has been sent by Igueldo with a list of the things needed on the galleass (which list is also in the same packet as above, K. 1569), and especially to represent the difficulty about sailors and soldiers to go in the galleass to Spain, the Channel being so full of English ships. Frenchmen are not to be trusted, and it is useless to give money to the Spaniards there (in Havre de Grâce) to go on the voyage. They will take the money but they will not go, whatever they may promise. Begs for instructions.
8 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
529. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have news from London of 22nd ultimo, saying that it was still uncertain whether Drake had sailed with his fleet from Plymouth. He was known to be somewhat short of victuals and money. A Scotsman, who embarked at Rye on the 26th, says he was told there that the fleet was still in Plymouth ; and although the duke of Mayenne asserts that he has intercepted a letter announcing that Drake and Don Antonio had sailed on the 22nd with 18,000 men, I do not think that likely, as at that very time the terrible storm in which the galleass was caught was blowing up Channel. (fn. 1)
I hear from Rouen, under date of 5th instant, that a Fleming has arrived in that town, who declares that he saw Drake sail from Plymouth on the last day of April, but he does not say how many ships he took. But I cannot obtain further confirmation of this ; and even if my letters did not meet with so many stumblingblocks on the roads as they do, it would be impossible for me to inform your Majesty of the departure of the fleet from Plymouth before the ships themselves appeared in Spanish waters.
Chateauneuf, the French ambassador, has passed through Calais on his way hither, the Queen having given him leave on the arrival of Stafford in England.
The earl of Arundel had been condemned in public tribunal to be beheaded, and it is understood that he will soon be executed. This gives rise to the idea that the rest of the Catholic personages in prison would also be condemned.—Paris, 8th May 1589.
8 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
530. Bernardino De Mendoza to Martin De Idiaquez.
Encloses a petition from Dr. Nicholas Wendon, which he begs Idiaquez to forward to the best of his ability. Dr. Wendon has no other means of sustenance except the pension granted by his Majesty. This and the writer's affection for Dr. Wendon, who is so zealous in his Majesty's service, lead him to urge his case with so much warmth. —Paris, 8th May 1589.
9 May.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1570. Portuguese.
531. Advices from Exeter, sent by David (Manuel De Andrada).
As soon as I arrived here I sent a courier to Plymouth, and wrote to a friend, asking him to inform me about the Portuguese, who I heard had arrived there. He sent word to say that they were Alvaro de Pavia from Italy, and Francisco Diaz de Carballo, Francisco Ruiz, and Matteus Estebes, who had come from Barbary with the money which had been sent by the Moor, and is now in London, as well as the powder which the Moor had contributed. I do not know the quantity, but will ascertain as soon as I reach Plymouth.
Four ships are being fitted out here to be sent to the Moluccas, with 300 soldiers, and they will sail in two months.
Seven or eight vessels are also being loaded with biscuits and other victuals to be sent to Portugal.
Before the personage (Don Antonio) left here, a Portuguese gentleman came and invited him to the country (Portugal), where all were ready to receive him. I am told that he brought some money. I will ascertain all these points and report. My Plymouth friend also writes that the personage left instructions there that all (the Portuguese) who might arrive there were to follow him without delay. I do not know what I shall do myself, but in any case I shall endeavour my utmost to stay and go on to London, in compliance with your Lordship's instructions.
Alvaro de Pavia has been to Venice, Ferrara, and Salonica, to get money from the Jews for Don Antonio. F. Diaz de Carballo was captain of a small vessel that accompanied Don Antonio's son to Barbary, and Estebes is a sailor of Cascaes, who was brought a prisoner to England and joined Don Antonio.
11 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1449.
532. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Letter of 1st April, and the important enclosures it contained, to hand, after considerable delay. We note the information about the English fleet, etc., and will endeavour to be well prepared. But in future pray send your news flying. You will understand that in the present state of affairs this is of the utmost importance, especially with English reports, which you must endeavour to obtain with great diligence. Send all your despatches by various routes, so that if one be lost other copies will reach us. (fn. 2)
David acted excellently in coming over from England to give you the news you send, which is very important. Thank him from me, and make use of him to obtain similar information as frequently as possible. When you think that he should return send him back to England.—San Lorenzo, 11th May 1589.
12 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1449.
533. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
In another despatch I reply to your letters. I wish to say in this only that the English fleet arrived at Corunna on the 4th instant, in the morning, and began landing men on a retired spot away from the entrance to the port and Fort San Antonio, which defends the ships in harbour. They, no doubt, thought that it would go ill with them if they attempted to enter by the usual passage. The marquis of Cerralbo opposed them the same afternoon with the troops he had, and it is stated inflicted some damage upon them. It is known that reinforcements entered the city the same night, and that the inhabitants of the neighbourhood were hastening to send further aid. Although, therefore, no courier has arrived with further news, it is considered certain that if the enemy persevered in his attempts he will have come off badly. If further intelligence arrives before this letter leaves it shall be enclosed.
Major Avendaño replies to the accusation that he disobeyed your orders (i.e., in refusing to take charge of the men of his regiment on the galleass "Zuñiga"), that he received no instructions from you. Please advise me. He shall not be sentenced until I hear from you. —San Lorenzo, 12th May 1589.
14 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
534. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have news from England, dated 23rd ultimo, from the confidant left there by Antonio de Vega. He confirms his previous information that Drake was in Plymouth, short of victuals and money.
I have also advices from a person who left London on the 1st instant (N.S.), that on that date there was no intelligence there of Drake's fleet having sailed. The earl of Essex, who is now a great favourite of the Queen, had fled from the Court ; some people say in consequence of his mother, who is the widow of the earl of Leicester, having married one of her servants, and others because of a quarrel with Raleigh, the Queen's late favourite. The Queen was greatly grieved at the loss of Essex, and it was said that she had ordered the fleet not to sail, in order to prevent her favourite from going in it. (fn. 3) This is considered by some to be a stratagem arranged between the Queen and Essex in order to give an excuse for detaining the fleet until the result of the duke of Mayenne's arrival at Tours is seen.
I have no further confirmation of the news I sent your Majesty from Rouen, that a person had arrived there who had seen the fleet sail from Plymouth. This makes me doubt the truth of the information. I will send special advice through Lyons as soon as I learn anything certain.—Paris, 14th May 1589.
15 May.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1570.
535. Advices from London.
Since last report of 29th ultimo, I learn that Drake and the fleet sailed from Plymouth on Friday, 28th ultimo. There are about 200 sail, large and small, with 16,000 soldiers at least, and 6,000 sailors ; but the fleet is only victualled for a very short time, for they write that even in Plymouth the ships were short of food and money, and the Queen had to provide 30,000l. for the purpose of supplying them. If they do not get some victuals in Spain or Portugal, they will not be able to stay out long. There is no news yet of their having arrived there (in Spain), though it is being anxiously looked for here. If the wind has served them they will have run for Santander, in order to burn the ships ; and as it was known before the fleet left Plymouth that the Portuguese design had been discovered, it is probable that they will change that part of the plan, and go to the Azores to attempt to take them, and to intercept the Indian flotillas, which is the real object of the expedition.
Some envoys from the States of Holland are expected here, but it is considered certain that the Queen will give them no men, and very little money. As soon as they arrive Lord Buckhurst is already appointed to go over and put the States in the best order he can, to prevent the people from surrendering, as the submissions already made have caused much sorrow here.
The Queen is now in London, but will start in a week to pass the summer in a house 10 miles from here called "Nonsuch." Every day prizes are brought in by the armed privateers, and recently the despatch caravel from New Spain, with much cochineal and money, they say to the value of 150,000 crowns, two sugar ships, and a ship from St. Lucar to Puerto Rico, with the new governor, were brought in ; the crews, however, being sent to Spain according to the conditions.
18 May.
(N.S.) Paris Archives, K. 1569. Portuguese.
536. Advices from David (from Plymouth).
When I arrived at Plymouth I found certain Portuguese who had come from Barbary ready to embark. As they were going on board I pretended to be ill, and let them proceed on their way, whilst I stayed behind. During the short time I had to speak to them I learnt that the Moor had not given a real nor an ounce of powder to help the personage (Don Antonio). He said he would give nothing until he learnt from his ambassador that the personage had authority from the Queen to go to Portugal. As soon as that message came he would provide powder, money, and men. They tell me that the son of the personage was well treated, but that no confidence was placed in the Moor's promises. On the 13th there arrived here from London Baltasar Gonsalvez, who had gone as pilot to Barbary, and he confirms this. He says that the Moor would not even give enough to pay for the voyage of the two ships that went to Barbary.
For these Portuguese to come from London hither Duarte Perrin (Edward Perrin) had to pawn some clothes, and Perrin will certainly retire from London in order to avoid arrest for payment of the passage money.
I know for certain that there are not victuals on the fleet for more than two months, and that not more than 400 soldiers came from Flanders, and very poor fellows too.
The ships promised by the States had not arrived, and if they (the English) had not fallen in with 70 flyboats off Dover, on their way to Brouage for cargoes of salt, they could not have embarked all their men. Not more than 200 horses are going altogether. They are expecting intelligence hourly, and everyone is in great doubt, in consequence of the shortness of the provisions. Forty pataches are now being made ready in London and here (Plymouth) to carry further stores. They will be ready during May, and if good news comes they will sail. I feigned illness, and so escaped going (with the fleet). I shall only await the arrival here of the first news, and shall then go to London, where, so long as God favours me, I will advise your Lordship of everything needful.
Cumberland and Cavendish are making ready to go on the voyages I have already mentioned. Four ships are being fitted out here also for the Moluccas. They are all expected to be ready to sail in June.—Plymouth, 18th May 1589.
21 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1449.
537. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
Having consideration for the qualities possessed by Richard Burley, an English gentleman—an exile from his country for the Catholic cause—who has served me on my fleet with an allowance of 20 crowns a month, and in order that he may continue to serve me more efficiently in France, as you may direct, I have decided to increase his allowance to 30 crowns a month, which you will pay him punctually until further orders from me.—San Lorenzo, 21st May 1589.
538. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The Englishman, Richard Burley, has proposed to me that he will obtain, and bring from England to Spain, artillery, powder, balls, ships, sailors, and pilots—Catholics — and other things we need. He also offers to report what occurs in England, through you. We have therefore considered it advisable to send him to you, that you may consider what he has to say, and arrange to take advantage of his proposals. With regard to the merchants who will bring the goods, you will promise that they shall be absolutely secure for the payment for them ; and when the seamen and pilots are to come you will assist them on their way hither, and encourage them in the hope that they shall be well rewarded for their services. You will thus, and in every other way possible, do your best to turn to good account the proposals of Richard Burley, and employ him as you think most desirable for my service. — San Lorenzo, 21st May 1589.
Note.—In the King's hand :—"I do not think I have been told about this. It would be very good, but it will be needful to be sure they are all Catholics, and trustworthy, and that the affair is not a trap. Write to Don Bernardino to look well at their hands, and to take care not to be tricked." A letter was accordingly written and enclosed with the above, containing the substance of the King's note, and ending with the following passage :—"Robert Persons says that it would be a good thing to let Burley be accompanied by Thomas Fitzherbert, who is resident in France, and whose whereabouts you will know. Although Persons is satisfied with Burley to deal with Englishmen, he considers the other man (Fitzherbert) to be more experienced and able to negotiate with the French, as he speaks the language, etc."
Burley had been one of the unattached salaried officers on the Armada. I consider probable that Thomas Fitzherbert was the new intermediary between Mendoza and Sir Edward Stafford, after the death of Charles Arundell. M. Forneron, who, perhaps, has not followed the correspondence quite so closely as I have been obliged to do, fails to identify "Julio" as Stafford, and canvasses the possibility of Gratley, Burley, or some other person being the man. Although Mendoza purposely introduces mystification in his references to "Julio" and the "new confidant" I have no doubt whatever that they both stood for Stafford, and I believe that the intermediary after Charles Arundel may have been Thomas Fitzherbert.
22 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1570.
539. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have a letter from Tours in which the writer says that on the 16th he dined with one of Don Antonio's Portuguese, who had come from Rochelle with two other men, to complain to the prince of Bearn of the captains of five Flemish hulks, which had been bound to Spain with passports from the duke of Parma, and had been captured by the English, taken into Plymouth, 600 Englishmen put on board, and forced to sail with Drake's fleet. The shipmasters, in order not to risk their cargoes, had separated from the fleet, and had entered Rochelle ; and this Portuguese had come to ask Bearn to punish them for deserting. (fn. 4) He said with the wind they had there was no doubt Drake's ships would be in Portugal by the 10th. The two Rochelle men who came with the Portuguese affirmed in his absence that what he said was quite true with regard to the five Flemish ships in Rochelle, with the 600 men on board, for they had seen them. They did not say what day they had sailed from Plymouth, but it must have been the 30th of April, as I had been informed from Rouen. This is quite consistent with Chateauneuf's statement. He left London on the 2nd May, and says that it was then uncertain whether the fleet had sailed or not. It takes four days to get news from Plymouth to London. The fact of their having embarked English troops on these hulks seems to prove that they were short of victuals, and wanted to feed the men on the stores carried in the hulks.—Paris, 22nd May 1589.
540. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
I have given to the archbishop of Glasgow your Majesty's gracious message, and he is very grateful that your Majesty should recollect him in his great need.
As your Majesty considers it desirable that the position of Scots ambassador should be filled by a person entirely devoted to your Majesty's interest, and desires that the Archbishop should continue ambassador, he will do so.—Paris, 22nd May 1589.
24 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1449.
541. The King to Bernardino De Mendoza.
The letters you advise have not been received. Triplicate your despatches in future. It is of such importance that we should have constant news that you are not to limit your correspondence to ordinary carriers, but send letters by different routes, so that some will be sure to arrive.
The English fleet came to Corunna on the 4th instant, landed troops, and laid siege to the place. Those within defended themselves stoutly, and all our Galicia men were arming to relieve the city. You will see by this how important it is that you should advise me as to whether any preparations are being made by the English to revictual their fleet. You will be the better able to learn this now as the ports are doubtless open again since the fleet sailed. We have no news of the galleass, and in view of the weather we fear she may have had to put back again to Havre de Grâce, or some other French port. In this case she will have been well received and provided—by your efforts—until the weather allowed her to sail in safety.—San Lorenzo, 1589.
26 May.
Estado, 839.
542. Duchess of Savoy (the Infanta Catharine) to the King.
Strongly recommends to the King's attention Prior John Arnold, an Englishman who goes to Spain on matters of importance.— Turin, 26th May 1589.
543. The Carthusian Prior, John Arnold, to the King.
Although it was necessary in the interests of our order that the Chapter General held this year in France should send someone to crave the aid of your Majesty, I myself should not have come but for a business of great importance in your Majesty's service. The bishop of Cassano in Calabria, desirous of serving your Majesty to the utmost in your attempt to recover the lost kingdoms of England and Scotland, sent about two years ago, at his own cost, to Scotland a Scotsman, the bishop of Dunblane, a monk of the Carthusian Order, to gain over the King or some of the nobles to aid the Spanish Armada. By the persuasions of the Bishop and of other Catholics, and through fear of the Armada, the King was for a time induced to consent, if his life were spared and a proper maintenance secured to him, to deliver himself into your Majesty's hands and admit the Armada into his realm. On the evil fate of the Armada being known, his Chancellor, who is maintained by English tyranny, and is a pestilent heretic most fatal to his country, dissuaded him, and induced him rather to ally himself with the murderess of his sainted mother. Notwithstanding this, the Bishop sends me to your Majesty in his name, to say that if you wish to have the King in your power he will deliver him to you, although against the King's own will and that of all his people. But, in order to bring this about, the first thing to do is to kill the Chancellor, who is so bound up with the English woman (Elizabeth) and is so powerful in Scotland. The Bishop promises to have this done (although he is a priest) as he has his Holiness' authority for it.
The Bishop also promises to hand over to your Majesty the three strongest and best fortresses in Scotland, near the English border and on the sea shore, the most distant from Berwick not being more than three leagues. They may be fortified in such a way by 300 labourers in a few hours, that, with a garrison of 300 soldiers, they will be impregnable. These matters will not cost your Majesty more than six or seven thousand ducats, and by any other means than the Bishop the same end could not be attained with a million. One of these fortresses is held by one of the noblest of the Scottish Barons, a brother of the Bishop himself, and the other two are held by near relatives. This Bishop is of very high lineage, very learned and pious, so that your Majesty may rely upon him implicitly. He was originally bishop of Dunblane in Scotland, but fled from his diocese and country for the faith, when his Holiness made him bishop of Vaison in France. But the good father, tired of bishoprics, relinquished his new see to a nephew of his, took the habit of our order, and now lives in the Grand Chartreuse. In making these offers of service to your Majesty, he asks for nothing for himself, but only desires to bring our country to the Catholic faith again. He is sick to death of the follies of the world. But his brother the Baron, and his other noble relatives, expect when their promises are fulfilled to be liberally rewarded by your Majesty. In the meantime they only ask your Majesty to forward and promote your bishop of Cassano (who first sent the bishop of Dunblane to Scotland), and that you will not rest content until they have made him a Cardinal, in which position he will be the more powerful to serve your Majesty. There is no man in or out of England of English birth so worthy, learned, virtuous, and dexterous in managing matters of importance, as he is. Since he was exiled for his faith 28 years ago he has always been employed in the ruling of dioceses and provinces. If your Majesty will raise him to that dignity you will lose nothing, and gain much, because the revenues of his see will maintain him, and he will have much greater power to forward your Majesty's interests.
If your Majesty decides to accept the offer it will be necessary for you to write to his Holiness, asking him to send orders to the bishop of Dunblane and his nephew, the bishop of Vaison in France, to follow in all things the instructions of your Majesty, as without this order they are not allowed to leave their present residences. It will then be necessary to send the bishop of Dunblane to live in Flanders, giving him enough to live upon there until the promises made are fulfilled, and he should be given six or seven thousand ducats to carry the matter through. The bishop of Dunblane himself with his said nephew must be the instruments to effect the business, and if necessary I too will accompany them to Scotland to bear witness to the nobles of your Majesty's promises. The Carthusians were the first in England to shed their blood in the struggle against the monster heresy, and now again offer themselves, their lives, and labour, to put an end to the monster. These are the matters of importance which have been entrusted to me by the duke of Savoy, his wife, the bishop of Dunblane, and the very reverend General of our Order. If they commend themselves to your Majesty I shall be filled with joy ; if not, I shall sorely grieve at my laborious journey hither, even if I carry away with me ten thousand ducats.
Note.—Another letter from the same to the same accompanies the above, but it refers exclusively to the affairs of the Carthusian Order. With it also is a letter from Philip's confessor, Fray Francisco, to the King to the following effect.
"As this matter requires consideration, and some difficulties may offer themselves, as indeed they have occurred to me, this good English friar says that he will give a full account of all he can recollect, but as he has forgotten some things we can both of us write to the Carthusian bishop the difficulties which occur to us ; in order that he may explain them, and I may give an account to your Majesty. In the meanwhile your Majesty might give us permission to settle his other matters, as he wishes to get away soon in order to avoid bad weather at sea."
31 May.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
544. Advices from David (from Plymouth).
A patache arrived here from Drake on the 24th instant, bringing news that the English fleet had arrived at Corunna five days after sailing from this coast. They had encountered great resistance, but had overcome the Spaniards and had killed many. The ships that were in port had been captured, and the galleon "St. Miño" had been burnt, as well as three leagues of country inland ; great quantities of provisions had been sacked, and many arms captured. Not more than 500 Englishmen had been killed or wounded, but three of the principal officers and some gentlemen had fallen.
The army was at Corunna for 14 days, and on the same day that the patache left the fleet again set sail, the rumour being that it was going thence to Santander to burn the Spanish fleet there.
The report also states that the earl of Essex had not yet (fn. 5) arrived and that 26 flyboats full of men were missing, and no idea existed as to whither they can have gone.
On the 26th we learnt that six boats full of men were at Rochelle, and two of the flyboats had already arrived here.
On the 28th three flyboats arrived in these ports, one loaded with horses and two with men, but these are said to have been driven from Corunna in a storm. God knows what is true! Yesterday, the 30th, there arrived here a Galician three-masted schooner loaded with wine, which had been captured by the English and left Corunna eight days ago, She brings news that the English fleet had already gone to Bayona.
The store ships left here five or six days ago. There were 20 of them, besides those which they say were to go from London.
They say that there is no order for the Armada to return yet, so I intend to go to London, and there, with the favour of God, to do my duty.
Captain Morgan came in the patache to take the news to the Queen, and posted to London at once. He is expected back again here hourly.—Plymouth, 31st May 1589.


  • 1. The expedition left Plymouth Harbour on the 13th April (O.S.), although the wind was dead against it, in order to await a change outside and so prevent the disorder and desertion of their men by further delay in port. It finally sailed on the 16th April (O.S.), and at the time this letter was written the expedition had already arrived at Corunna.
  • 2. Through all the subsequent troubles in France, during the time Mendoza stayed in the country, he sent his despatches in triplicate, and sometimes in quadruplicate, by various routes. As will be seen, however, in the course of this and next year's correspondence, the whole of the copies were frequently intercepted. Abstracts of several intercepted letters at this period will be found in Hatfield MSS. (Hist. MSS. Com.), Vol. III.
  • 3. The Earl fled to Plymouth, and went on board the "Swiftsure," which ship at once left port and put to sea ; both Drake and Norris (they said) being ignorant of the Earl's whereabouts.
  • 4. No less than 25 of the Flemish boats, with 3,000 men on board, deserted from the expedition as soon as they got out of the Channel.
  • 5. The 19th May (N.S.). The Earl joined the expedition after it sailed from Corunna.