Simancas: November 1599

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: November 1599', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, ed. Martin A S Hume( London, 1899), British History Online [accessed 13 July 2024].

'Simancas: November 1599', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Edited by Martin A S Hume( London, 1899), British History Online, accessed July 13, 2024,

"Simancas: November 1599". Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Ed. Martin A S Hume(London, 1899), , British History Online. Web. 13 July 2024.

November 1599

30 Nov. B.M.
MSS. Add. 28,420.
672. Thomas Fitzherbert (to Lerma?).
As I am an Englishman and a servant of his Majesty, it appears to me that I can in no way be more useful than in throwing such light as I am able on English affairs. I therefore venture to lay before your Lordship such points as seem worthy of note relative to this embassy from the king of Scotland, since the crown of England is the real object he aims at, let his methods be straightforward or otherwise.
The purpose, therefore, of this embassy must necessarily be either to beguile his Majesty with offers of friendship, so as to cause him to slacken in his preparations against the queen of England (which preparations he thinks are as injurious to him as to her, so far as his claim to her crown is concerned), or else openly to ask for the King (of Spain's) aid against her, in support of his own pretensions.
If his aim is simply to beguile or deceive his Majesty, he must either have obtained the queen of England's co-operation or otherwise. But it cannot be believed that such is his object. In the first place, the Queen has gravely offended him in many ways, and especially in refusing to recognise him as heir to the crown ; and as she knows full well that it would be very easy for him to avenge himself upon her, with his Majesty's support, and even to deprive her of the crown, she certainly would not countenance anything that might lead to an understanding between the two kings, for fear such an understanding might be turned to her prejudice. On the other hand, it is equally certain that he would not attempt to beguile his Majesty, except with her countenance, unless he wished to claim his Majesty's support against her, since any benefit he might derive from his deceit would be more than counterbalanced by the injury he would suffer. It is certain that it would draw upon him the hatred of the Queen, and all the English heretics, who would hold him as a public enemy, and parliament might exclude him from the succession, and the whole nation raised against him. If, therefore, he lost all the heretics without having gained the Catholics, he would be without any party at all, and powerless to forward his claim.
It may therefore be concluded that his intention is sincerely to beg for his Majesty's aid, and the point to be considered is whether it is desirable that his Majesty should accord it to him, and make him king of England. My opinion is that it is not desirable, if it can be avoided, but that his Majesty should make king of England a Catholic whose zeal for our holy faith is more to be depended upon. It is certain that his Majesty has it in his power to make a king of England, and exclude the Scotsman, if he will deign to take the course we have so often begged him to adopt with regard to the Infanta, always on condition that he does it during the lifetime of the queen of England, and before the king of Scotland has won over the English Catholics, as he is now endeavouring to do, and will in future do more than ever, thanks to delays on this side, together with his intrigues and show of favour to the Catholics, whom he leads to suppose that he is in his heart a Catholic too.
But if his Majesty will not, or cannot, execute the undertaking during the life of the Queen, I warn your Lordship that after her death will be too late, as the king of Scotland will attain his object before his Majesty has time to gather his forces and prevent it. It must be borne in mind that most of the English nobles who do not pretend to the crown themselves, and the claimants who have no means of enforcing their claims, will recognise the king of Scotland more readily than any of his competitors who are their equals. An example of similar jealousy was seen in France when the duke de Mayenne preferred the prince of Bearn for king to his own nephew the duke of Guise.
With regard to the Catholics, as it is certain that none of the other claimants to the crown, who are all malignant heretics, will grant them such favourable conditions as the king of Scotland, who is moderate, and now professes to be a Catholic, they will certainly join his party as soon as he enters. Seeing the strength of his claims, the forces he has ready, his facility for entering the country, the support of Denmark, and even of the English themselves, he will not only be stronger than any other claimant, but will carry through his design before his Majesty's forces can arrive there. This is the more certain, because wars in England are usually finished in one or two engagements, which are fought as quickly as possible. There was an instance of a king of England who was reigning in peace, being dispossessed of his crown and expelled in ten days, and regaining it again within three weeks. This is told by Philip de Comines of Edward IV., and cannot be doubted by anyone who thoroughly understands English affairs.
If therefore his Majesty cannot, or will not, attack England during the life of the Queen, I see no way of stopping the king of Scotland from becoming the monarch of both realms ; and I submit to your Lordship whether it would not be advisable for his Majesty to take the present opportunity of seeing whether the king of Scotland will consent to be a Catholic. If he consents thereto, he might be aided to declare war against the queen of England, on his furnishing sufficient security to fulfil his engagements towards his Majesty, and to remain perpetually an ally and friend of the Spanish crown, to which, moreover, he will be bound by the ties of gratitude, and by the fact that he is the Catholic king of England and Scotland.
In this case, the cause for the alienation of England from the old alliance with Spain (I mean heresy) will have disappeared, whilst at the same time the reason of the close friendship between Scotland and France (that is to say, the constant quarrels between England and Scotland) will also be non-existent, and it will behove the king of England and Scotland, whoever he be, to renew the old connection with Spain and the house of Burgundy ; in the first place on account of the English claims to Normandy and Aquitaine (and even to the crown of France itself), and, secondly, because the power of the king of France will threaten both England and Spain, and naturally draw them together. I also submit to your Lordship that, if aid were given to the king of Scots against the queen of England, it would be effectual in frustrating the designs of the king of France against Spain, and keep him fully occupied without breaking the peace that his Majesty has made with him. If the Frenchman sees the Queen of England attacked by the Scots, with support from here, he will employ all his forces in helping her, and defeat the Scots, as it is much more prejudicial to France than to Spain that England and Scotland should be united, for various reasons, and especially as it would deprive the kings of France of the means they always possessed of bridling England by means of Scotland.
If, on the other hand, his Majesty does not wish to aid the king of Scotland to become king of England, but intends to undertake the enterprise in favour of the Infanta, with the necessary speed (which we, the English Catholics, earnestly desire and petition him to do), I still think that great advantage may be derived from these negotiations (i.e., with the Scots), which can be continued or broken off as occasion may require, and will serve to conceal his Majesty's other objects. The communications with the Scots, moreover, will arouse the suspicion of the queen of England against the king of Scotland, and she will not trust him to help her when his Majesty attacks England, and may perhaps in the meanwhile try to disturb Scotland (which she can easily do by means of her many connections there), the effect of which might be to upset both countries to such an extent as to prevent the Queen from injuring Spain, as she usually does. His Majesty will thus fish in troubled water to his own benefit and her disadvantage.
Even if these advantages do not follow the negotiations, the least that may be expected of them is that his Majesty will cause the king of Scotland to declare himself a Catholic, if in his heart he be one, and bring his realm into obedience to the Church (which would be no small service to God and honour to his Majesty), or else strip from him the mask with which he seeks to deceive the Pope and other Catholics, and alienate from him the English Catholics. Finally, if his Majesty desires peace with the queen of England, it may be concluded that, in the present state of Irish affairs, she will be so apprehensive of the result of these negotiations, and the evil that may reach her through the back door (as she calls Scotland) as to agree the more readily to some fair settlement.
Bearing all these points in view, I am of opinion that, in any case, it will be advisable to receive well, and publicly honour, this ambassador, and send an envoy to Scotland, choosing a prudent and experienced man, who, with a little ready money and moderate promises of pensions, may gain over many Scottish Catholics, who are now very influential in the country. When these are gained, they will be useful in carrying through any of his Majesty's objects, even to rising against their King if he does not comply with the promises he may have made in favour of the Catholic religion and his Majesty. With this end, I think it would be advisable for his Majesty to obtain the pardon of the earl of Bothwell, who is now an exile in Flanders, and the restitution of his estates. He is one of the principal persons in Scotland, and a near relative of the King. (fn. 1) He has a large party, who follow him in everything, as is the custom of the country, and he and his adherents alone may be instrumental in effecting what I have said. He would be very appropriate to do this, as he is naturally a turbulent man, and greatly incensed against the King, as well as being under great obligations to his Majesty. This reason for gratitude will be increased if his pardon and restitution are obtained and a pension paid to him.
I omit many points, in order not to tire your Lordship, but I know that I have said more than enough, &c.—30th November 1599.


  • 1. Francis Stuart, earl of Bothwell, was the natural grandson of James V. He had made an unsuccessful attempt to seize James VI., at Falkland, in 1592, and had to fly the country. He returned the following year and succeeded in his attempt, forcing James to dismiss Sir John Maitland, the Chancellor. Bothwell was subsequently proscribed and had to take refuge in England, where he was protected by Elizabeth. On his entering into union with the Catholic lords, the Queen abandoned him and he fled to Spanish territory. As will be seen by the papers in this Calendar, he became henceforward a Spanish pensioner and instrument, and was never reconciled to James.