Simancas: April 1600

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 1600', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 653-657. British History Online [accessed 5 March 2024]

April 1600

1600? B. M. Add. MSS. 28,420. 674. Means for establishing the Catholic Religion in Scotland. (fn. 1)
This enterprise will not require more than 3,000 men, who will have to land on the islands of Orkney. These islands are naturally strong, and may be made impregnable in a short time. They are fertile, and abound in everthing necessary for the sustenance of the above mentioned number of men. They are very near the strongholds of the principal powerful Scottish Catholics, amongst whom is my brother the earl of Caithness, who owns all the county of Caithness, which is adjacent to the islands, and can aid us with 4,000 men, who will join us with others at once. After fortifying the islands, they will go to Broughty, Dundee, and St. Johnstown (Perth), all of which places are very easy to fortify and hold, as they are divided from the mainland by the great river Forth, which cannot be crossed by the enemy's cavalry, while the infantry will not be able to harm us, as they will have to enter the country by Mount Athol, which may be made inaccessible by the building of a single fort capable of holding 300 men. Even, however, if we were to give them admission, they would be quite powerless to injure us, in consequence of the multitude of our friends and the strength of the position. If they attempted to attack us by sea they would be unable to raise a fleet so powerful as ours, unless the whole country contributes thereto, which is impossible, unless the Parliament be summoned ; and in such case, we, who are concerned in this enterprise, will be in a majority, and the enemy will be forced to grant liberty of conscience to the Catholics, or expose themselves to ruin.
The Advantages To Be Gained By The Enterprise.
Your Majesty will gain great honour and reputation for having done so signal a service to God and His Church. You will drive all your enemies into such straits and put them to such heavy expense that they will have to spend more money in a year than they have hitherto spent in many. The Hollanders will be forced to maintain a fleet, not for robbery in the Indies, as heretofore, but for their own defence, or else to see their fishing fleets in our seas captured, which will mean for them a lack of supplies, ships, and seamen, as well as suffering many other great injuries. In any case we can stop, or, at least, suspend, their trade with Denmark, Hamburg, Lubeck, Bremen, and Embden, without which they cannot live. The men of Dunkirk, Nieuport, and the Sluys, who have now no port in which they may enter, will then have the harbours of Orkney to the great injury of the enemy.
As to the queen of England, if she will not make peace, she will be exposed to dangers quite as great, and if she attempts to obstruct our enterprise she will have to maintain three armies, two at sea, one on the west coast, and one on the east, and a third for land, which cannot do us much harm, as the Scots will not allow an English force to enter Scotland, unless it he too small to be feared. They would always be exposed to danger and expulsion when we chose, in consequence of the enmity which has always existed between the countries. In addition to this, the English Catholic exiles may go thither and easily carry on such plans and negotiations in God's service and your Majesty's as may greatly disturb the queen of England. The Irish may also be aided and reinforced whenever necessary.
As regards the king of France, the proposed enterprise is the only means of frustrating his intentions. He will be forced to send troops to Scotland if he sees your Majesty busy there, and he will therefore be the less able to disturb your Majesty's dominions and support your enemies. It must not be forgotten, also, that great evil will ensue to the Church of God and this monarchy (Spain) if the king of Scotland, a heretic, and confederate of all the enemies of Spain, he able during the life of the Englishwoman to establish his claim to the crown of England. If he be at peace when she dies, he will have entered the country and ended his business before he can be prevented by Spain. He will then be a greater enemy to God and Spain than ever, since he will be very powerful by land and sea, aided by Denmark, Holland, and the heretics.
If it be impossible at present to undertake this, it appears that, as the king of Scotland has sent an ambassador to your Majesty, another might be sent from here to him, not so much to receive satisfaction from him, as to render him suspect by the queen of England and other heretics, so that the result will be that he must either throw himself into the arms of your Majesty or run the risk of being deposed or killed by his own people. The ambassador might also bring certain intelligence of what is here set forth, as well as carry on negotiations with your Majesty's friends. There are other points about which I cannot write, but reserve them for verbal communication to your Majesty or your council.
24 April.
Estado, 840.
675. From Matthew (De Oviedo), Archbishop-elect of Dublin, to Philip III.
I came to Ireland by your Majesty's orders to obtain full information from the Catholics, and urge them to continued zeal in the service of the faith and your Majesty. As Don Martin de la Cerda is going to give your Majesty a detailed verbal statement of everything, I need not trouble your Majesty with a long letter. But I can assert that your Majesty has in this island the most brave and faithful vassals that any king can have, such, indeed, that if they were not already devoted to Spain, it would be necessary to obtain their adhesion by all possible means.
As the oft-promised aid from Spain was hourly expected, when we arrived with empty hands, only again to repeat the old promises, they were overcome with sorrow and dismay, especially as they had news of the enemy in force, both by land and sea. Although O'Neil and O'Donnell are full of courage, they cannot prevail over the other chiefs their followers, who fear the long delay in the arrival of succour, and suspect that they are beings played with. We have done our best to stiffen them by every possible argument, assuring them of your Majesty's desire to help them, pointing out the many costly attempts that have already been made to do so, and again promising that succour shall be sent by your Majesty with all speed. This has tranquillised them somewhat, and they promise to wait five months, as they think that they cannot in any case hold out longer than that without help, at least in money to pay their men. They have done great things this summer, and O'Neil has overrun all Munster and submitted it to your Majesty, whilst O'Donnell has subjected Connaught. That your Majesty may understand what you possess in these Catholic, I may say that O'Neil had almost prevailed upon the earl of Essex to desert the Queen's cause and join that of your Majesty, and surrender all the realm to you. O'Neil in the course of the negotiations promised him, Essex, on behalf of your Majesty, that you would show him signal favour, and as Essex was distrustful in consequence of certain injuries he had inflicted on Spain, O'Neil gave him his son as a hostage. What more could the most loyal Spaniard have done? It is also certain that very lately O'Neil was offered the surrender of the city of Cork, but he had to refuse it, as he knew not how to hold it without Spanish aid.
These and sixty other gentlemen met in this monastery of Donegal, and they discussed matters not like savages, but like prudent men. They received the chains and your Majesty's portraits with great ceremony, saying they would wear no other bonds nor chains than those your Majesty put upon them. They are very grateful for the arms and munitioas, &c., and I, for my own part, humbly supplicate your Majesty to bear in mind the great importance of this business, for with 6,000 men you may carry through an enterprise which will bridle English insolence in Flanders, and secure Spain and the Indies from molestation. I refer for the rest to Don Martin de la Cerda, who has acted in this mission with great tact and prudence. I remain here (fn. 2) according to orders, anxiously hoping to do good service to the church and your Majesty. —Monastery of Donegal, 24th April 1600.
26 April.
Estado, 840.
676. O'Neil And O'Donnell to Philip III.
Rejoice greatly at the good news brought by his Majesty's ambassadors. They (the Irish) are in the last extremity fighting against so strong an enemy as England. Their estates, men, and resources, are exhausted, and as his Majesty's aid is delayed from day to day, after so many letters and messengers have been sent, they are sure all spirits must fail, and they will have to give way unless the succour reaches them this year. They cannot much longer persuade their friends that aid will really come, and earnestly beg that the expedition may be sent promptly. Without it all is lost. Don Martin de la Cerda is taking a memorial of what will be needed, and the sum of money wanted, if the army cannot come this year. They thank the King for presents and portrait brought by the archbishop, (fn. 3) and place the chains around their necks in sign of your Majesty's favour to them. Pray answer their petition. Their last letter remains unanswered, though they have held out six months longer than they promised. Captain Cobos will confirm this. God knows if it had not been for the service of God and Spain, they would not have undertaken the war at all, as they could have lived in peace.—Donegal, 26th April 1600.
677. Summary of the Requests of O'Neil and O'Donnell to the King.
That Maurice Geraldine, now a prisoner in Coruña on a charge of participation in a riot, be released. This is recommended to be granted.
That he, Maurice Geraldine, should go to Ireland with the expedition.
That all Irish bishops and men of rank in Spain should accompany the expedition.
That no person from Ireland should be admitted to any Spanish port without a passport from O'Neil or O'Donnell.


  • 1. Apparently written by the earl of Bothwell in 1600 ; although the document bears no date upon it.
  • 2. There are several letters to Philip from the various Irish chieftains protesting their faithfulness as usual and begging for help, which were written apparently under the belief that the archbishop was to accompany Don Martin de la Cerda back to Spain.
  • 3. Captain Don Martin de la Cerda had been accompanied on his mission to the Irish chiefs by the Spanish monk, Mateo de Oviedo, who had been appointed by the Pope archbishop of Dublin.