Simancas: August 1589

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'Simancas: August 1589', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 552-555. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

August 1589

27 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
555. Bernardino De Mendoza to the King.
The copy of the letter enclosed (i.e., from Don Antonio) was given to me by Sampson, as I advised David, who first placed it into my hands, to deliver it to Escobar ; because, as it was written in cipher, I told him it would be easier for him, David, to learn the contents from Escobar, and then communicate them to me, than for us to decipher the letter. He did as directed, and so David avoided arousing the suspicion of the agent, who will now write to Don Antonio in a way which will banish suspicion of David. (fn. 1)
I have given the latter 250 crowns for his past voyages and present requirements, as well as to enable him to return to the side of Don Antonio, as under the present circumstances no one could report so effectually as to his movements as David. This will especially be the case if he (Don Antonio) leaves England, as he probably will, there being no person who can serve him as an interpreter so well as David. He is certainly extremely zealous in your Majesty's service, as witness the dangers he has incurred in his journeys backwards and forwards. His present voyage will have to be effected on foot in the garb of a poor man. He well deserves some favour from your Majesty when he retires. I have told him that if Bearn is far from Rouen he is not to go in search of him, but to proceed on his way, as the most important thing is that he should be near Don Antonio. I have given him full instructions as to how he is to behave, and have written to Don Guillen de San Clemente, (fn. 2) advising him to write to Hamburg and Dantzig for a good watch to be kept for Portuguese there ; as Don Antonio may very probably make the voyage thither. I also ask him to let me know who are his (San Clemente's) agents in those ports, in order that I may tell David, and he may point out Don Antonio to them, if he goes. God did not spare David's nephew to go to the Archduke, for he died on the voyage. They tell me that Don Antonio was never ill, but Diego Botello very nearly died.
I am keeping Sampson here, because, although he cannot go to England, he will be very useful in France if Don Antonio decides to join Bearn, which David assures me he is most desirous of doing. If I lost Sampson, it would not be possible to find another man so appropriate ; besides which, if anything else should be required to be done here for your Majesty's service, he has the ability and experience to arrange it.—Paris, 27th August 1589.
Paris Archives, K. 1569. Portuguese.
556. Don Antonio, Prior of Ocrato, to Antonio De Escobar (giving an account of the abortive attempt of the English to restore him to the Throne of Portugal).
The end of it is, in short, that we have returned to this port of Plymouth, which is a just recompense for my sins. I recollect very often what you told me about an astrologer who said that a great victory was in store for Philip, and I confess it has grievously troubled me ever since. This fleet sailed from here to Corunna, whither the Queen and Council had ordered it to go direct, (fn. 3) and even if such orders had not been given, we were so short of provisions in consequence of the haste with which we set out, for fear that the Admiral and his colleagues would abandon the expedition, that we could not have arrived in Lisbon direct. We landed at Corunna and attempted to capture it, in which we were unsuccessful. This not only embarrassed us, but caused the loss of men, and, above all, brought upon us maladies which completed our ruin.
We left there and disembarked at Peniche, where the strong wines of the country increased the sickness of the men ; and when we arrived before Lisbon there were not enough men fit to attack a boat, and our host was far more fit to die than to fight. We were short of powder and firematch, and we had no battery artillery. Sir Francis Drake's fleet remained at Cascaes, and refrained from entering the river, I believe at the express command of the Queen, (fn. 4) for otherwise I am sure Sir Francis would not have failed to do so ; for he is full of valour and determined to place me in Lisbon, as also was General Norris, who displayed very great bravery in the expedition, as well as much generosity and assiduity, but the want of so many things could not be overcome ; so that after we were full of hope, and masters of the gates of Santa Catalina and San Roque, we had to go to Cascaes, and there embarked with the intention of going to the islands. But the weather was so contrary, and the health so bad, that we were obliged to return to this port ; and that is what has happened. I learn that you have had no letters from me since you left London. I sent you a packet of letters, leaving the address in the hands of Dr. Lopez, to hand to Stafford's wife, or to the secretary, but the Doctor says he came across Manuel Andrada, (fn. 5) who was going to Nantes ; he gave the packet to him, on his promise to seek you and deliver the packet into your own hands. Andrada now says that they captured him, and took the letter from him in a certain place. This may be true, but I confess I doubt it. I am very sorry you did not get the letter, which instructed you to see the King (of France) and give him an account of my journey. You will now visit the King in my name, and tell him of my return, with such details as may be necessary. Express my hope also that God will soon let him prevail over his enemies, both at home and abroad, and say that I hope I may be the instrument for doing so ; for I see clearly from what quarter all his troubles arise. (fn. 6) Come if you can, as I have much to say which I cannot write. I shall stay here until I have a message from the Queen. I am in such a state of mind that I cannot talk, and hardly know what I am saying ; but this I can assure you, that 4,000 Englishmen are equal to 8,000 Spaniards, and whenever I can embark with them again I shall gladly do so,‡ especially if Sir John Norris and Sir Francis Drake be amongst them, for, by my faith ! they are gallant gentlemen. Perhaps Manuel Andrada will take this letter, although he is indisposed, but I know of no other person who can pass it so well.
Offer the King my personal service, in all sincerity, and at very small cost to him ; as, when the men have been dismissed here, I could go with five companies. These particulars, however, are for yourself. To the King you will simply make the offer with all heartiness. You will, however, proceed in such a way as to leave me free in any case, so that if these people (the English) treat me well, I may stick on my rock, if I see it will be best to do so.
If you do not come, write me full particulars of affairs in France, and of the King especially. I forgot to say our leaving here with so much flourishing of trumpets, and the fact that Philip knew long before that a great fleet was preparing, together with our going to Corunna, were the cause of our ruin, and that of Portugal.
The power of the king of Castile is now so small there that although he has in Lisbon 3,000 or 4,000 men, yet he could not send out more than nine galleys with 1,200 men when we left Cascaes on our voyage home. So that if we had gone direct to Lisbon, and sickness had not scourged us as it did, we should have succeeded.
They beheaded Don Ruy Diaz (de Lobo) the day I arrived at Lisbon, and captured Count Redondo and many others, who I doubt not by this time are dead. There was a commencement of a movement in my favour all over the kingdom, and there are many details which I wish the world to know, but which cannot be put into writing. Come to me and you shall learn all. I can assure you that if I had to-day 6,000 men of my own choosing, and 500 horse, I would joyously embark again if it depended upon me. That it did not depend upon me before launched me upon my perdition. The king of Navarre is said to be with the King. I send you a letter of credence for him ; visit him in my name, and say I hope by his help to be restored to my own. Give him the above confused account of the expedition.
The King.
The bearer says he was robbed of a packet from me for you. Note well the account he gives of it to you, and we will see whether it agrees with what he tells me. I expect he opened it.
Note.—In the same packet as the above there is a list of all the Portuguese gentlemen of rank who accompanied Don Antonio in his unfortunate expedition.
27 Aug.
Paris Archives, K. 1569.
557. Bernardino De Mendoza to Martin De Idiaquez.
Richard Burley has not specified what means he has for bringing away from England what he proposes, but looking at the present state of things there I cannot help thinking it will be very difficult. I can assure his Majesty that from no place can sailors be obtained so plentifully, cheaply, and speedily as on the Brittany coast under the present circumstances of France. The fact of that province being in favour of the League will ensure the men being faithful to his Majesty. The same may be said of victuals and iron artillery, because the Bretons will be more handy in getting them away from England, and all can be sent from Brittany to Biscay or Corunna with the utmost facility.—Paris, 27th August 1589.
Note.—In a letter to the King of same date as above Mendoza mentions the arrival in Paris of Richard Burley in a pitiable condition, as he had been maltreated on the road and robbed in Brittany. Mendoza had provided him with money, but had been unable yet to discuss with him the business he had in hand as Burley was still too exhausted to do anything.


  • 1. This is a good instance of the extraordinary duplicity of Philip's diplomacy. Escobar and Andrada were both trusted agents of Don Antonio in close communication, and yet neither of there suspected that the other was a Spanish spy.
  • 2. The Spanish ambassador in Germany.
  • 3. The attack on the town of Corunna was against the Queen's orders, and the delay greatly angered her. See her letters in Calendar of State Papers. Domestic, on the subject. Don Antonio's second reason for the stay at Corunna, was the correct one.
  • 4. This was not the case. Drake warned Norris and Don Antonio that, if they persisted in marching overland from Peniche to Lisbon, it would be quite impossible for the fleet to go up the river and face the forts and the galleys there, with hardly any soldiers on board, or gunners to serve his ordnance. If Drake's tactics had been adopted the expedition would probably have been successful. Don Antonio himself was mostly to blame, for over-rating the boldness of his adherents on shore.
  • 5. Manuel Andrada, under the name of David, was a spy in Spanish pay, as, indeed, were Escobar and Lopez. The letters in question, dated 15th March, were intercepted by the Spaniards, by Andrada's connivance, and the decipher of them is in the same packet as the above (K. 1569).
  • 6. The King calls special attention to these passages.