Simancas: March 1593

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: March 1593', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 595-598. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

March 1593

1593. 18 March.
B.M. Landsdowne, 76.
611. Don Pedro De Valdes to Lord Burghley.
I am so grateful to her Majesty for the gracious favours she extended to me before my departure, and to her household and nobility, especially your Lordship, for kindly giving me permission to salute you whenever occasion offered, that for the rest of my life it shall be ever present to me. To the full extent of my power ; will serve you in all things ; and if my deeds are insufficient to prove my gratitude to you, I will daily remember you in my poor prayers.
When I was in prison I tried several times to write to your Lordship, to give you an account of the cruelty and harshness with which I was treated in consequence of my refusal to consent to the excessive and unreasonable things demanded of me by Richard Drake, moved by his greed and ambition. But he always prevented me from writing, saying that he had express orders not to allow me to do so in any form whatever. Now, however, that your Lordship has given me permission to write to you, I do so, in order to acquaint you with the grievance and injury that Richard Drake does me against all justice and reason, in demanding so large a sum of money from me, in violation of the orders given by the Lords of the Council. Your Lordship will learn what this sum is by the letter for her Majesty which accompanies the present, which letter I beg your Lordship will submit to the Queen, in order that she may learn the injustice that is being done to me. I am confident that her own magnanimity, and the advice of one of the greatest ministers that over served a monarch, who has with so much justice and rectitude relieved those who have appealed to his favour, will lead her to prevent and redress the offences that are being committed against me. As I understand that the letter I write to her Majesty will have to be considered in the Council, I also write to the Lord Admiral and the Lord Chamberlain to the same effect. I beg your Lordship kindly to send me advice of her Majesty's decision by the person who hands this letter to you. I shall be content with her decision, whatever it may be, as I am quite certain that she will not allow an injustice to be done to me.—Brussels, 13th March 1593-4.
Don Pedro De Valdes.
Note.—Attached to the above letter is an English translation of Don Pedro's letter to the Queen, in which he complains of Richard Drake's demands on account of maintenance charges. The ransom itself was 3,550l., of which bonds for 2,500l. had been given by an English banker, and 1,050l. by Valdes. The maintenance was fixed at 23 ducats a week for each of the four principal prisoners, or 400l. a year in all. Drake, however, on various pretexts, was demanding a larger sum under this head.
There is also attached the English translation of a confirmatory letter sent by Don Pedro de Valdes to Burleigh a few days afterwards, by which it appears that the original letters were transmitted through Alderman Ratcliff, who was negotiating for the release of his son, a prisoner in Spain.
19 Mar.
B.M. Add. MSS., 28,420.
612. Don Pedro De Valdes to the King.
On the 9th instant I briefly gave your Majesty news of my arrival in this place. I have now to add that eight days before my departure from England I was taken to Court by orders of the Queen, where I was treated very handsomely, and was visited by the councillors, nobles, and naval officers there. They unanimously requested that when I arrived at your Majesty's Court I would use my best offices in favour of peace, and a return to the old amity between the two countries ; and they seemed to desire this more than ever. I was then taken to London, where I was entertained at a banquet by the Lord Mayor and aldermen. The next day I went to visit the Lord Treasurer, who also pressed me to use my influence in favour of peace. I found him very ill, and yesterday I received news that the doctors had abandoned the hope of saving him. He will be the greatest loss the English could suffer, as he is the most important man in the country.
On the 1st instant Parliament met the principal objects being two. The first is to raise supplies for the fleet of which I have spoken. This fleet is being equipped with various objects, a part being sent to the West Indies, it is said for the purpose of seizing and fortifying Porto Rico, and making it their sallying point. They have also fixed their eyes on Havana and St. Juan de Ulloa ; but I believe they now despair of being able to take any of those ports, in consequence of the news they have received, to the effect that they are now very well defended. I also learnt before I left that they would attempt to occupy the island of Curaçao, which lies between Nombre de Dios and Cartagena, as there is on it much flesh (mucha carne) ; and they expect to be able to assail from it the ships which pass on their voyage to and from Nombre de Dios. My fear, however, is that their intention may be to meet the flotillas bound to New Spain and Tierra Firme ; as they are deeply ladened and unhandy, besides being less armed for defence than ships of war. In either case I pray your Majesty to adopt such timely measures as may be considered necessary. It is said that another squadron is to go to the coast of Brittany, with the intention of attacking Bordeaux and St. Malo, and obstructing such ships of the fleet as may be there and preventing succour being sent from Spain. They are also threatening Dunkirk, which they will try to capture with another squadron of ships. I am informed that the (English) fleet is being equipped very actively, and will shortly put to sea. Our enemies fear that if the port of Brest is faithful to your Majesty it will injure them greatly, as the port is capacious and well situated, and doubtless your Majesty will endeavour to obtain possession of it.
Two sugar ships which have been captured in Brazil have recently been taken into Plymouth as prizes, and the Indian ship they have taken is at Dartmouth, where they are trying to sell her. If your Majesty wishes to buy her, seeing the lack of ships there must be in Spain, it can be managed through merchants, without its being known, and I beg in such case that your Majesty will order instructions to be sent hither to this effect. There is a Genoese named Aliano Calvo there (in England), of whom your Majesty has been informed, who will faithfully serve your Majesty in all things. The two quicksilver ships are also there with the papal bulls that were being sent to Peru. If they be not soon ransomed everything will be lost. As nothing has yet been discharged from the ships, I think a favourable arrangement could be made, if your Majesty will send orders on the matter to this Italian. The bargain can be settled by him on better terms than by anyone else, and with greater secrecy and safety. If your Majesty decides to do anything in this matter, I pray that I may be informed thereof without delay. I again beg your Majesty humbly to grant me the prisoner I have requested, as it is of the highest importance to me for my own release, (fn. 1) and I am under great obligations to his father for his good offices to me, and to many other Spanish prisoners there. It is also very necessary that he should be conciliated in view of future events, and I hope by his aid to receive full reports of what happens there. —Brussels, 19th March 1593.
29 March.
B.M. Add. MSS. 28,420.
613. Don Pedro De Valdes to the King.
By my last letter of 19th ultimo I gave your Majesty an account of the state in which the bulls, missals, and breviaries from the quicksilver ships bound to the Indies remained in England. I learned yesterday, by advices from there, dated 13th instant, that Francisco Spinola, the Genoese, a prisoner in London, who was captured on his way from New Spain, had obtained his liberation and had purchased the missals, etc. He had also bought a vessel, with the intention of again shipping them for New Spain, under a passport granted to him by the Queen. This was being done with so much diligence that it was expected that the ship would be equipped and ready for sea within 12 or 15 days. It appears to me that if Spinola is doing this without your Majesty's permission, he is doing a very daring thing. I shall learn particulars by next advices, and will duly inform your Majesty.
I am also advised that, whilst Drake was fitting out the fleet for sea with great activity, news came from Spain that the treasure ship from the Indies were hourly expected there, and that ships of war had put to sea to escort the flotillas. On the reception of this intelligence all preparations on the fleet were at once suspended, and it was said that the earl of Cumberland only would shortly sail with eight ships well equipped, whilst from various ports private ships, to the total number of about twenty-four, were about to sail ; the object being to cruise off the Azores in the hope of something turning up. My reports also say that when Parliament had opened the Queen went to London, where the Chancellor made a great speech to the members in her presence. He set forth the great strength of your Majesty in all parts, and pointed out that now you were beginning to gather forces in Scotland. To resist them, he said, it would be necessary to grant the Queen a large sum of money, and it is understood that this was voted. They had also discussed the further oppression of the Catholics. It is said that those (i.e., the Catholics) who had rebelled against the king of Scotland had become more powerful, and the Queen was sending him (i.e., the king of Scotland) great re-inforcements against them, with the aid of which it was expected that they would be overcome and punished. I am endeavouring to establish means of communication with England, so that regular and trustworthy reports of all that happens there may be sent ; and I trust in God that before I leave here I shall be able to arrange for the count de Fuentes to receive such reports as may be necessary.
In a few days I go to Antwerp and thence to Dunkirk. I hope also to see Nieuport, the entrance to Ghent, and the Sluys, if the risk is not too great. I will do my best to learn the condition of those fortresses, and also that of the coast defences, ships, etc. ; of all of which I will inform the count de Fuentes. — Brussels, 29th March 1593.


  • 1. The prisoner was the son of Alderman Ratcliff, who at this time was going backwards and forwards to Flanders to negotiate for his liberation. He had been friendly with Valdes in England, and was apparently aiding him in the financial arrangements necessary for his release.