Simancas: July 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: July 1593', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 603-606. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

July 1593

Estado, 839.
617. Document headed Statement of what happened in Scotland in the month of December last year, 1592, in consequence of the embassy which the Catholic lords of that country wished to send to his Majesty.
God having, by means of the priests, jesuits, seminarists, and others, during the past years, brought a great number of nobles and people of Scotland into the Catholic church, and as the king of Scotland was so uncertain in his faith, and the Queen of England in constant opposition, some of the principal Catholic lords decided to send a man of their own to his Catholic Majesty to beg for aid in their need, as they thought with some assistance they could get the king into their hands ; and then, in his name and authority, convert the kingdom, and perhaps keep the Queen of England so busy that she could not disturb Christendom, as is her wont.
They therefore determined to send a gentleman of rank named George Carre, (fn. 1) and the three principal earls, the earls of Huntly, Angus, and Errol, gave him letters of credence, and other letters in blank signed with their names and sealed with their seals, with orders on his arrival in Spain to write in the letters the message which they had given him verbally ; and many other Catholic gentlemen in the country did the same. They particularly instructed Carre to say that they would send their sons hither or to Flanders, as hostages, if his Majesty wished. But the messenger was discovered and arrested in the Scottish port from which he was to sail, and all his letters captured, and sent to the queen of England, who was at once alarmed and sent men and money to the king of Scotland, with orders for him to persecute rigorously all those who were concerned or suspected.
It was therefore necessary for the three earls and many other nobles to retire to the north, but the earl of Angus was captured and escaped miraculously from the castle of Edinburgh, after being sentenced and ready for death. Baron Fentry, (fn. 2) a great Catholic, was beheaded on the same day. The King, with his own forces and those of England (under threat of the queen of England to take away his crown, if he failed), persecuted the said earls and the Catholics all he could. (fn. 3) Being unable to capture them he gave up the chase, but still continued to harry the Catholics all over Scotland, until after Whitsuntide, when the persecution began to slacken. The said Catholic lords then determined to send an English priest to Spain, to give his Majesty an account of everything, and to petition to the effect herein-after set forth. But as they dared not send their signatures so soon after the other affair they sent the priest with a token to Father Robert Persons of the Society of Jesus, to whom he was already well known.
The following is the account of the present state of Scotland brought by the said messenger.
The King is 26 years old, and has been married four years. He has no children, nor is it expected he will have any. He is a man of small spirit, quite given up to his pleasures and the chase. He depends upon the Queen of England, more from fear than otherwise, as he is very timid and hates war. He gives no attention to the Government, is of no religion or fixed purpose, and allows himself to be swayed by those around him. Two or three times he has been captured by the competing factions ; and he follows either of them without difficulty whilst they hold him. He does not seek to free himself, and has therefore lost prestige with his subjects, and the object of each contending faction is to capture him, and rule in his name. He does not seem to resent this.
The Queen is sister of the king of Denmark. She is more sensible and discreet than the King, and sees his littleness and poor government. It is understood that she would be glad for him to be in the hands of the Catholics, whom she secretly favours. She has told several Catholic ladies, and particularly the mother of Lord Seton, that she is really a Catholic, and prays by the rosary.
Dividing Scotland into two parts, namely, north of Edinburgh and south of it, the principal Catholics in the northern portion are the said earls of Huntly, Angus, and Errol, as well as the earls of Athol, Sutherland, and Caithness, and a great number of barons and knights. Indeed, in this part there are few heretics, except the low people and officials in the cities. The southern part is richer and more populous, and there is at present no earl really Catholic there, as the two that remain, namely, Morton, and Glencarne, are heretics ; and Bothwell who used to be on the Catholic side, although a heretic, is in exile in England, because twice last year he surrounded the King in his palace to take him. (fn. 4) The other earls—of Argyll, Cassilis, and Eglington—are boys, and almost powerless. Their religion is unknown, but some of their guardians are well inclined. But what is of most importance is that in this part of the country there are many barons and gentlemen who are good Catholics. They are lords Hume, Seton, Sanquhar, Claude Hamilton, Livingston, Herries, Maxwell, Semple, the abbot of New Abbey, and others. Of gentlemen there are Ladyland, Lethington, Johnstone, Eldersley, the three brothers of lord Seton, and many others of the same sort. In the court and around Edinburgh the most powerful man is the duke of Lennox, a Frenchman, and a relative of the King, a young fellow of 23, very well inclined in religion, as his mother and brothers are Catholics. The King loves him dearly and would like to make him his heir, if he could, but the queen of England does not like it, and favours the house of Hamilton. The power of the Duke centres in the court, and he holds the office of Lord Admiral, whilst the earl of Mar is captain of Edinburgh Castle. The earl of Mar is a young man of the same age, married to his (Lennox's) sister. Both of them will follow the strongest party, although on their own account they are enemies of the Queen (of England). Those who now have the King in their hands are the men who were exiles in England, and entered Scotland four years ago with the Queen's support, capturing the King in Stirling Castle. These are the earl of Morton—a Douglas— president, lord Glamys, Treasurer ; Maitland, Chancellor, who has now retired from court ; Carmichael, Captain of the Guard ; and the provost of Glenlouden, all persons of low condition except Morton, who can do but little, as the head of his own house, the Douglases, the earl of Angus, is a Catholic. The rest are powerless, and hated by all but the preachers and the queen of England. The King, it is understood, is anxious to get away from them, although out of fear of the queen of England he dares not say so. There are also the earl of Ross, Sir James Chisholm, the King's Steward, and Colonel Stuart, all of whom are Catholics.
The people generally outside of the cities are inclined to the Catholic faith, and hate the ministers, who disturb the country with their excommunications, backed up by the power of the queen of England, by aid of which they tyrannise even over the King and nobles. They have passed a law by which anyone who does not obey their excommunications within 40 days loses his rank and citizenship. This is enforced by the aid of the dregs of the towns and the English ambassador. The nobles and people are sick of this tyranny, and are yearning for a remedy. They are looking to his Majesty for his support for the restoration of the Catholic faith.
The Demands of the Catholics of Scotland for their deliverance.
First, the opinion of the above-mentioned nobles is, that with 3,000 foot soldiers sent either from Brittany or Spain to the south and west of Scotland, with arms for as many more, and stores for two months after their arrival, besides the funds herein-after mentioned, they would be able at once to take the King, and defend themselves against all the force of England.
The port of debarkation will be in one of the provinces of Carrick, Coyle, or Cunningham, where there are many safe harbours, and all the gentry around are Catholic. The desire of these gentlemen is that with part of the foreign force, and their own men, they should at once go and capture the King, and the two cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow which they think will be very easy. They would then like to reduce the rest of Scotland, and turn out or capture the principal heretics, and fortify the castles, which are all now utterly unprovided. They would then raise men, and make ready to resist the forces of England, which they think will be in Scotland in about two or three months.
The money they will want is 100,000 ducats, which they would wish to be brought by the commander his Majesty sends, or his commissary, so that he could pay for the things necessary from time to time, without distributing any of it to the lords, as has been done on other occasions, without any profit at all. The place that the lords have fixed upon as best for the landing is a bay called Lochryan, in the province of Carrick. The mouth is very narrow and can be easily held, and it is very deep inside, well protected from all winds. There is a town on one side called Intermessan, which may be made impregnable. To this place men and stores can be sent from all parts of Scotland by land and sea, and also from the neighbouring Catholic counties of England. Ireland is less than a day's sail distant.
To this port also may be sent ships, etc., from Spain or elsewhere, by two routes, one by St. George's Channel, and the other round Ireland, which is quite safe and only two days longer. From Nantes to the port in question ships usually go in five or six days.
The lords think it will be unnecessary to send cavalry, at least at first, as they have plenty there of their own to cope with the English in Scotland.
They think that amongst the 3,000 or 4,000 men his Majesty might send Colonel Stanley, with his regiment of 1,000 English and Irishmen, now in his service in Flanders. They might go without attracting attention to Brittany, and there join the Spanish force ; and then proceed to Scotland under the general appointed by his Majesty. The footing his Majesty now has in Brittany will greatly serve to conceal the Scottish enterprise, and it will also serve as a refuge or point d'appui in case of need.
Finally, these gentlemen are sure that, with his Majesty's help, they will capture the King at once, and will deal with him as his Majesty orders. They will convert to the faith the whole of Scotland, and keep the queen of England so busy that she cannot molest his Majesty, either in Flanders, France, or the Indies.
They think it would be very advantageous that the earl of Westmoreland and Baron Dacre, with other English gentlemen in his Majesty's service in Flanders, who are natives of the north of England, should be sent to the east of Scotland, when the Spanish contingent has landed in the west. They should not go with Colonel Stanley, to avoid suspicion. If the Scots soldiers in Flanders are also sent to the east coast they should land at Lord Seton's port, near Leith.
If his Majesty needs more information he is requested to send back to Scotland with the person who brings this some Spaniard of experience to treat with the gentlemen, and see the places in question. But this must be done with all secresy and speed, as the present state of affairs will bear no delay. If his Majesty cannot send the aid requested the greater part of the gentlemen named are determined to leave the kingdom, as they cannot maintain themselves against the devices and strength of the queen of England, who fears her ruin more from Scotland than any other part of the world, and is determined to undo her opponents there.
Note.—The bearer of the above message was a priest named John Cecil, who had been educated at the English Jesuit College at Valladolid. He seems to have been afterwards a spy in the service of Sir Robert Cecil.


  • 1. George Carr (or rather Ker), brother of Lord Newbottle. The contents of this statement confirm Rymer's accounts of the matter. James himself was a party to the plot. See Hatfield Papers, pt. iv., p. 214.
  • 2. Sir David Graham of Fentry (or Fintry.)
  • 3. This would appear to be almost literally true Elizabeth sent Lord Borrough as a special envoy to urge James to severity. This course, however, did not commend itself to his temporising character. See Calderwood and Spotiswoode.
  • 4. Francis Stuart, earl of Bothwell, had attempted to seize James at Falkland, and on his failure had taken refuge in England. As will be seen in the correspondence, he afterwards became a pensioner of Spain entirely devoted to Philip's interest.