Simancas: April 1593

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: April 1593', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 599-602. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

April 1593

8 April.
Estado, 839.
614. Ardh O'Donnaill to Viscount Baltinglas and Thomas Geraldine.
You will have heard, my dear friends, how I have contrived to escape the jail and fetters in which I lay, and how, after great travail and difficulty, I came to my own lands, where I found an English personage, a minister of the Queen, with many soldiers, whom, by the divine grace, I have killed and cast out of my land in a very short time, and the English have returned no more ; not for want of will to destroy me, and do all the harm they can. But I and the others who are joined with me, although we are doing the best we can to defend ourselves, can hardly hold out against the great power of England, unless we get help from his Catholic Majesty. With the common consent of them all, therefore, we have thought well to send the Archbishop of Tuam (much as we need him here) to treat with his Majesty of this, and to carry to you, gentlemen, who are there our letters, to beg you all to come and help us to fight God's battle, and win back our lands. It is meet that we should understand each other well, and help one another in this matter. I, myself, will do my part to the death, with the help of the succour I hope for from his Majesty, and with your presence and help. God be with ye, and pray hurry the Archbishop back with the answer.—Donegal, 8th April 1593.
Note.—A letter to similar effect to the preceding one, but even more fervent in tone, from Cornelius, bishop of Killaloe, to Philip II., is contained in the same envelope. It is dated Lisbon, 3rd September 1593. Baltinglas and Geraldine were also in Lisbon at the time.
18 April.
Estado, 839.
615. Particulars of the examination before the Magistrate Valladares of Lisbon of certain Englishmen and Irishmen on the charge of espionage.
(The following were the prisoners : Richard Butler, captain of one of Sir Walter Raleigh's ships, Nicholas Luttrell, John Taylor, Thomas Terrell, and John Ranken. The depositions and examinations are very voluminous, and extend over a period of three years, the King and Council being consulted by Valladares at every stage of the trial. Luttrell was found not guilty on the above date, and Ranken's name disappears from the list of accused at about the same time. The following was the report given to the King with regard to Butler soon after his arrest. Sentence was finally delivered on 23rd December 1596, and will be found under that date in the present volume).
616. Report respecting Richard Butler and other prisoners.
The following is what we have been able to learn hitherto of the three imprisoned Irishmen. One of them is called Captain Richard Butler, who says that when he was in London he was in the service of Walter Raleigh, the Queen's favourite, and that he, Butler was a great friend of Cope, the secretary of William Cecil the Lord Treasurer. As I knew that the secretary of the Lord Treasurer is a great person in England, I objected that is was very unlikely that Butler would be so friendly with him as he says. He replied that he was in Raleigh's service, and whenever he went to sea he made presents to Cope, sometimes as much as 400 crowns, and these two circumstances explained his familiarity. Last year, 1592, Raleigh sent Butler to ask the Treasurer for a patent he had extended for him. The Treasurer gave it to him with an open letter, which he told him to carry carefully to his master, Raleigh. As he was so particular about the letter, Butler thought he would read it. He therefore entered a tavern with another Irishman named Roche, who had been in Spain, but as the letter was in Latin he, Butler, could not read it. He gave it to Roche, who understands Latin. It only contained a few lines, and Roche told him it was a letter advising the Treasurer that the Portuguese flotilla from the Indies was to call at the islands of Cuervo and Flores ; and was signed only with the letter H. Roche said "I know the man. He has his mother living here in London, and I must go to Spain to inform the King of this treason."
I said it seemed very unlikely that in a matter so grave H. should have signed the letter at all, and not written in cipher. He replied that H. had so many sure ways of sending his correspondence that he had nothing to fear. Butler says that he has seen his master, Raleigh, when he sent an important letter give instructions to the bearer to swallow it, or throw it in the sea, or get rid of it in some other way.
I asked him how it was that such an important letter was given to him open, to which he replied that he was a captain in the Queen's service, and that seafaring matters were always treated thus unsuspiciously, especially as this letter was in Latin, whilst the patent was in English, and much more secret even than the letter. As the one was given to him open there was no reason why the other should not be.
He was asked what the patent contained, and replied that it was an authority for Raleigh to raise 6,000 men, and take them to the West Indies and fortify a port, the name of which he, Butler, forgets, although he has been there, and can point it out on a marine chart. The port is very important, and the Queen wishes to fortify it as a place from whence to molest his Majesty, and take land in the Indies.
He was asked whether the troops went for the purpose, and replied no, as it was too late in the season, and they were distributed on the Queen's fleet, part of which went to meet the Portuguese flotilla at the place mentioned by H. (fn. 1) But he says, if the Queen fits out a fleet this year, he will stake his head that it will be for the purpose of fortifying the afore-mentioned port. After this he said he had come to Lisbon to save his conscience, and was captured here, but was released. He then spoke with an Irishman named Walter Ley, and told him that he could do a great service to his Majesty by denouncing a person who was betraying him. This Walter is a near neighbour of his in his own country, and he considered him a good Catholic ; so after some difficulty he told him the name of the person. Butler understands that Walter then at once went and warned H. Whilst Butler and his two companions, who are now in prison, were waiting for the letter they brought for his Majesty, they went to H. to ask him for it. H. shut the doors of the room and remained alone with Butler and Luttrell, who served as interpreter, as Butler only speaks English, which H. does not understand. H. began to speak hesitatingly and confusedly, with an altered countenance ; and related to them the many favours that his Majesty and his father the Emperor had done him, pointing out all the fine things he had in the room, saying that he owed them all to his Majesty. He said he was no ingrate, and would not be guilty against the King for the world, nor would he correspond with Walsingham. (He was the Queen's secretary, but is now dead, and it is to be remarked that Butler says he did not know and did not assert that H. had corresponded with Walsingham.) In general conversation afterwards H. said, I know that Mr. Butler is a good Catholic, and it is possible that the devil may tempt him to say something wrong of me, to which Butler replied that he knew nothing, and had said nothing, against him. H. retorted that, even if he had, he would, as a good Catholic, pardon him, if he would take care not to let the devil overcome him again in the same way, and he, H,, would do all he could to favour him. He then wrote a letter of recommendation for him to Juan Ruiz de Velasco, and gave him 20 reals in money with many kind promises. Luttrell was interpreter through all this scene, and fully confirms Butler's account of it.
After I had heard this statement, I inquired of respectable people in Lisbon, who tell me that H. is not of good repute there, and it is rumoured that he greatly favours the English merchants who go thither. He is said to have a secret understanding with an English merchant named Taylor, who lives there, and is held in very evil opinion by the English Catholics of the place. H. has a brother, who is a doctor in England. (fn. 2)
My opinion is that in order to investigate this, his Majesty should order a false rumour to be very secretly conveyed to a quarter where it may reach H., to the effect that ships and men were to be got ready to take Dover Castle, and another castle near Southampton, opposite the Isle of Wight ; and it should be asserted that an arrangement had been made with the governors of these castles. If thereafter we see that the Queen removes these governors and sends any special reinforcements to the fortresses, we may reasonably proceed against H. A watch should also be kept in Lisbon, to see whether H. has any special familiarity with Taylor. And generally to avoid the people from England, etc. being received by their countrymen on the Spanish coast, I think it would be well for his Majesty to order that during these wars (fn. 3) no Englishman, Irishman, or Scotsman should reside within 30 leagues of the coast, or in any of the maritime towns of Spain. It is true that many of them are good Catholics, but it is much better to distrust good people than confide in bad. I also think it would be well to order that no viceroy or governor of any of his Majesty's provinces should have a secretary who is not a native Spaniard, as the general opinion is that when the English heretics wish to devise anything against his Majesty, and they have to deal with a Spaniard, they lose hope directly and give it up ; whilst if they have a foreigner to approach they are encouraged. I do not think, moreover, that it would be bad for his Majesty to order all letters from abroad to be opened once or twice a year, and the same with the letters sent from Spain. It should not be done too often, and only on some plausible excuse, to as not to arouse suspicion. I know that the heretics are greatly served by such means.
Statements made by the Irish Prisoners with regard to Spies.
Richard Butler states that, he being in company with Cope, secretary of the lord treasurer of England, in his house once, three men entered to speak with the treasurer. Cope said to him, "You see those three men, they are friars, and do more service to the Queen of England than all the friars in Spain do to the King." Butler says he only knows one of them, whom he describes as follows :—He is called John Hely, 29 years of age, tall, fair hair with very little beard, and a very beautiful complexion. When he is in Spain he dresses as a Franciscan friar, as do the other two, whom Butler does not know. Butler was asked why he did not inquire about them, so as to give information, and he replied that he did not then think of coming hither. He says there is another who goes about in the character and garb of a trader, who is called William Dean, aged 25 years, tall, with a clear white complexion, with fair small beard, who bends his knees a little—by which he means that he does not stand very straight.
There is another, a Fleming, who deals in jewels, whose name is Spilman, aged 38, who, when Butler saw him at the English court, wore a long chestnut beard. He has a scar on the forehead. He had a conversation with Butler, and complained very much that the treasurer did not reward his services as they deserved, as he had been in Spain and elsewhere, and he was hardly paid the expenses of his journey. Butler asked him in what parts he had been here, and he said in Lisbon, but that he generally went to Seville. There is another, called Francis Salter, 33 years of age, hardly any beard, but a small moustache. He travels as a trader, and has a life pension from the Queen of 20l. a year. Butler knows this man from having seen him talk with Raleigh, and, amongst other things, he said he was returning to Spain by order of the treasurer.
There is another, an Irishman, serving as the regular courier between Rouen and England, whom Butler once saw in the palace here (Lisbon), and saluted him. He made sigus that he was in a great hurry, and he learnt no more of him. He travels as a Frenchman ; his name is Brown.


  • 1. This is confirmed by Burghley's letter to Raleigh. Hatfield MSS., Hist. MSS. Com.' pt. iv., p. 200. The place in question was Havana.
  • 2. The person referred to as H. was probably Bernaldo Luis (Montesinos), who appears to have been a brother-in-law of Dr. Hector Nuñez. He had been suspected on previous occasions, as will be seen by several references to him in this Calendar.
  • 3. The participation of Spain in the wars of the League.