Simancas: September 1596

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: September 1596', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 633-637. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

September 1596

2 Sept.
Estado, 839.
650. Father Robert Persons to Juan De Idiaquez.
As the time is rapidly approaching for the return to St. Lorenzo, I send this special messenger to obtain fresh information, and give an account of what is being done here. Sir Francis Englefield is here with me, having come hither to visit some nephews, students in this college, who have arrived from England, and whom he had never seen before, and alas, cannot see now, as you know the good old man will never see anything again, as he is blind.
I am very busy with college affairs, and in turning into Latin the book about the English succession to send to his Holiness. The more time you can give me the better, without prejudice to affairs and to the safety of the galleys. I would rather have time to spare than not enough, especially as I shall have to wait for some days in Madrid before the necessary despatches are ready, so that at least a month will be needed for the journey to Barcelona, and the delay in Madrid. Please, therefore, let me know by this messenger when you think the galleys will be ready, and where. Please let me know also about the voyage of the Adelantado. Although you say nothing, I am thinking that perhaps his Majesty may be sending him to Ireland. If neither of the other roads is practicable, (fn. 1) I told you, and also his Majesty, that this Irish way might be adopted advantageously, with God's blessing. Much will depend upon the Adelantado's taking with him from here sufficient men, arms, and money, and his going thither before the winter sets in or the Queen learns the design. I have put upon paper a few observations which may be useful to him when he arrives. I have also thought well to send forward to Lisbon an English Jesuit father, who was Vice Rector of this house, (fn. 2) with about six priests of this seminary and that of Seville. They are all experienced men, and I have sent them by different routes, under colour of their going to their various missions from Lisbon. The Jesuit father is the only one of them that knows the real design, and he is extremely discreet, and of noble English family. I have given him such instructions as will enable him to direct the rest, in case the opportunity occurs of their going in the Armada. I believe that these priests will be worth their weight in gold when they arrive there (i.e., in Ireland), and I have therefore thought best not to neglect sending them, although I was short of money, and had to borrow it for the purpose. But that is of comparatively little importance.
When I was in Madrid I jotted down some of the principal points that should be included in the proclamation of the general who lands in any part of England, Scotland, or Ireland. I left them with Father Creswell to submit to you. If he has not done so you might tell him to send you the notes, so that everything should be well prepared for the Adelantado.
Although Sir Francis Englefield recognises the great action that may be taken in Rome, with God's help, (fn. 3) he is very suspicious and fearful of our opponents, who, he thinks, may cause me to be detained there. But I fear not ; nor does my spirit faint within me, as St. Paul said in a similar case. God has brought me through worse passes than this, and I am full of faith and hope that He will give his Majesty victory.—Valladolid, 2nd September 1596.
September? Estado, 839. 651. Suggestions for the Edict to be issued to the force going to England. (fn. 4)
The prologue sets forth the persecutions suffered by the Catholics and the many affronts and injuries offered to the king of Spain. His Majesty, with his accustomed clemency, has for many years overlooked the outrages of these people, but the recent attack upon Cadiz proves that his benignity has only made them bolder, and he has now decided to accede to the universal demand of the oppressed Catholics, and to take steps to release them from the yoke that oppresses them, without punishing the great majority of the (English) people, whose innocence he recognises.
He promises to maintain the ancient laws and parliament of England, so soon as order be restored.
His desire being to sustain the ancient nobility and gentry in their former grandeur, he will confirm in their position and possessions all those who are favourable to him. In cases where the head of the house remains recalcitrant, he will confirm the title and possessions to the nearest heir who shall aid the Catholic army. In cases where it is impossible for gentlemen at once to proclaim their Catholic sympathies, the King will allow them to remain with the heretics, until a fitting opportunity occurs for them to go over, but at least they must desert the enemy at the time of battle. His Majesty's object being alone the peace and tranquillity of England, and the freedom of the Catholic faith, he has no quarrel with the English people as a whole, and will punish with the utmost severity any man in the Catholic army who molests, injures, or attacks, the lands or people of the country, other than those who resist.
12 Sept. Estado, 839. 652. The aforegoing draft Edict is accompanied by a letter from Father Joseph Creswell to the King, as follows :—
My superiors having sent me from Rome to Flanders at the instance of Cardinal Allen and Count de Olivares, to serve the duke of Parma in the English undertaking in 1588, his Highness ordered me to write out the Edict that was then printed in English, of which thousands of copies are still deposited at Dunkirk In conformity therewith, I think well to remind your Majesty of points of the highest importance to your interests, which will be seen partially in the changes I have made in the Edict itself to suit the altered circumstances, and in the discourse I have the honour to submit to your Majesty herewith, which I believe will be in accord with your Majesty's own mind, as to the mode of proceeding. It is for the glory of God that we should abolish some sins without committing greater ones, and that we should establish peace and religion, without injury to the innocent, so that it will be profitable for everyone, and greatly enhancing to your Majesty's reputation, to punish your enemies with prudence and piety, rather than to subject them by force of arms. The glory of the latter course would belong alone to the captains and soldiers, whilst that of the former would be all your own. I say this to your Majesty after long communing with God about it, in single-hearted desire to do right. I find myself, by His divine grace, so free from personal or national bias in the matter, that, if I heard that the entire destruction of England was for the greater glory of God and the welfare of Christianity, I should be glad of its being done. I pray your Majesty to ponder the enclosed memorandum, regardless of the person of the writer.— Madrid, 12th September 1596.
Note.—The memorandum referred to accompanies the letter, and is an ably written paper in the handwriting of Father Creswell, advocating, as a matter of policy, as well on the grounds of moral advisability, that a course of conciliation and mildness should be adopted in the conquest of England. He enforces the necessity of keeping the religious question well in front ; and advises the disintegration of opponents in England by attracting waverers with concessions and rewards, and otherwise by persuading the English people that the main object is to restore freedom of conscience to Catholics, and to treat all with magnanimity and generosity.
Note.—In the handwriting of Juan de Idiaquez, attached to the two aforegoing letters of Fathers Creswell and Persons :—
"These letters from the two fathers are good as a help to what you are doing by the order of his Majesty, given to you yesterday. I have given to Don Cristobal (de Mora) the substance of Persons' communication. We must consider Creswell's before it goes, as his Majesty has ordered that we two should do so without delay, and let him know our opinion. If possible, we will snatch a short time for it this afternoon."
This note appears to have been addressed either to the Don Cristobal de Mora or to some other of the principal councillors.
S.D. Estado, 839. 653. Address of the English Catholics in Spain to Philip II.
We, the undersigned persons of English nationalty, Jane, duchess of Feria, (fn. 5) Francis Englefield, knight, Thomas Stillington, doctor of theology, provost of the English clergy in Lisbon, William Seborn, provost of the English clergy in St. Lucia, together with the other priests and Catholic gentlemen resident in these parts submit.
It is evident from what is occurring that, unless some prompt remedy be found to settle the question of the English succession, such as the nomination of some Catholic by his Holiness and your Majesty, to succeed after the Queen's death, the realm will necessarily fall again into the hands of a heretic prince, and all hope of remedy will disappear.
In the case of all other claimants to the crown, English and foreign, there are many difficulties in the way of accepting them, as will be seen set forth in the paper that accompanies this, and it is well known that the Infanta Do˜a Isabel descends directly through various lines of the royal house of England, and has more than one claim to the throne, apart from that which your Majesty may confer upon her if your Majesty pleases. The claim of the Infanta also offers much less difficulty than that of any other person, as will also be set forth in the accompanying paper.
We therefore most earnestly petition your Majesty, not alone in our own names, but in those of our relatives, friends, and of all the other Catholics of England, who are as anxious as we are for it, in the interests of the public welfare and the salvation of the country, to take this matter in hand as warmly as it deserves, and to be pleased to accede to the righteous wishes of the Catholics, by giving orders that his Holiness should be energetically approached on the subject, as from him must necessarily emanate the light and guidance which will lead the Catholics. It is meet that promptness should be used, as negotiations are going on to impede this object and to forward the succession of a heretic, which would be the total destruction of the realm, and, as a consequence, of all the northern countries of which the conversion depends upon that of England. This will be a divine work of piety and godliness on the part of your Catholic Majesty.
Duchess De Feria, Ffrancisco Englefield.
El Doctor Thomas Stillington.
Guliermo Seburno.
Eduardo Crispo.
Note.—The above address is accompanied by a lengthy document headed : "Reasons why the English Catholics desire that the Infanta of Spain should succeed." The principal reasons set forth are :— 1st. That the religious question would be settled finally thereby. 2nd. That the Catholics being united on the Infanta's candidature, the latter would divide the nation the least. 3rd. That the Infanta's various claims, through the houses of Portugal, France, and Spain, gave her a preponderant claim over any other individual pretender. 4th. That she was the only Catholic claimant. The genealogical arguments are all taken from Dolman's (i.e. Persons') treatise.


  • 1. That is to say, the invasion of England or Scotland.
  • 2. The English College of Valladolid, which still exists in its ancient form.
  • 3. Persons was about to start for Rome to negotiate in the Spanish and Jesuit interests.
  • 4. This was founded on the form adopted for the Armada in 1588, and suggested by Fathers Persons and Creswell to be used in the proposed expedition of 1596.
  • 5. She was Jane, daughter of Sir William Dormer. See Vol. I. of this Calendar.