Simancas: July 1600

Pages 660-667

Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1899.

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July 1600

July (?).
Estado, 840.
684. Report of the Council Of State to Philip III. on the English succession.
In accordance with your Majesty's orders to the Council, in reply to the recommendation that the succession of the crown of England should be secured for the Infanta, the Council has considered the best means to be employed to that end, and has arrived at the following conclusions :—
That your Majesty's decision should at once be conveyed to the duke of Sessa, (fn. 1) and that he should be ordered to inform Father Persons of it, and to say that your Majesty has been moved to nominate the Infanta, both to meet the desires of the English Catholics, who have always proposed her first, (fn. 2) and because his Majesty is of opinion that such a nomination will be the most advantageous one in the interest of God and welfare of Christendom, and of England itself, in view of the parts and virtues of her Highness. The duke of Sessa should confer with Father Persons, who is well versed in the matter, as to the best way to convey this decision to the Pope, in order to obtain, not his approval alone, but also his influence in its favour with the Catholics. This, however, is conditional upon the Duke's seeing no objection to this course. If he thinks the proceeding unadvisable, he should be instructed to inform your Majesty thereof. The greatest possible secrecy is to be urged upon Father Persons, and the latter should also be consulted as to the best means of informing the Catholics of the decision, in order that only those should be taken into confidence who can be trusted to promote the affair. It might be undesirable for it to become known, and the question should be considered whether it will be well to entrust the matter to one of the priests at Rouen (possessing the necessary abilities) who have to go to England. Cardinal Guevara and F. Gaspar de Cordoba are of opinion that the adoption of this course would avoid the need for explaining the matter here to Father Creswell, but the Commendador, Mayor de Leon, and counts de Chinchon, Miranda, and Alba, see no objection to his being informed, and would prefer that one of the two (Persons or Creswell) should be the means of conveying the decision to the Catholics.
The duke of Sessa should also be advised that your Majesty has informed the Infanta and the Archduke of your resolution, and will be glad that their Highnesses shall be kept well posted as to all that is done in the matter ; as also should the ambassador, Don Baltasar de Zuñiga, who has likewise been advised.
Your Majesty should write an autograph letter to their Highnesses, informing them of your intentions, and authorising them to take the necessary steps to promote the affair with all secrecy and through confidential channels. If it be needful for them to open their hands somewhat, they should also be authorised to promise rewards in England, and they should be requested to communicate all they do, and their opinions as to what should be done to attain the object in view.
It was considered by the Council whether it would not be advisable to send some more galleys to Flanders, but it is not clear how this could be done, seeing how urgently the few we have are required here. The best course will be to carry the Irish plan into effect, as has been decided, for the reasons already laid before your Majesty.
The ambassador, Don Baltasar de Zuñiga, should be provided in Flanders with 200,000 ducats, which he should be instructed to hold in reserve against the queen of England's death, so that he may be able promptly to provide troops, and whatever else may be needed, for the successful carrying through of the business, which principally depends on celerity of action at the proper time.
Count de Chinchon pointed out the injury which, in the course of time, might accrue to this country if the States of Flanders should be united to England, and suggested that an arrangement might be made with their Highnesses to the effect that, if they were established on the throne of England, the said States should be re-ceded by them to this country, having regard to the sorrow experienced in Flanders at the separation and the heavy burden which has to be borne by the States to provide for their separate national defence.
The point was acknowledged to be a serious one, and, after discussion, the members were unanimously of opinion that it would be unadvisable for Flanders and England to be united, and that, in the event of their Highnesses being peacefully installed as sovereigns of the latter country, the States of Flanders should again belong to the crown of Spain. It was considered that if England and Flanders became one, the crown might, in time, fall to some unquiet and ambitious person, who might greatly injure this country, and place our Indian dominion in jeopardy ; and although there was nothing to fear from their Highnesses themselves, it was impossible to forsee what might happen after their time. There was a difference of views as to the time when this point should be broached to their Highnesses, the Commendador de Leon and count de Miranda being of opinion that, since the eventuality of a juncture of England and Flanders was so distant, the subject might be left until it approached ; the necessary despatches on the subject being, however, sent to Don Baltasar de Zuñiga with the sum of money above mentioned ; so that everything might be ready for the moment when action was required. Counts de Chinchon and Alba, cardinal Guevara, and F. Gaspar de Cordova, thought it would be better to communicate the point to their Highnesses at the same time as they were informed of the King's decision, since nothing unreasonable was being required of them. Besides which, the more distant the prospect might be, the less would they be likely to regret it. F. Gaspar de Cordoba suggested that if their Highnesses were loath to surrender Flanders, they might retain possession during their lives, and the dominion revert to Spain on their death. Count de Chinchon added to this, that if their Highnesses had two children, one might inherit England and the other Flanders, which he thought would be better than for Flanders again to be incorporated with Spain.
Your Majesty will order as you think best.
It was decided that it would be better to say nothing to Father Creswell until after the duke of Sessa and Father Persons had been informed.
Cardinal de Guevara. The Father Confessor. Don Juan de Idiaquez. Count de Miranda. Duke of Alba. Count de Chinchon.
1 July.
Estado, 840.
685. Report of the Council Of State to Philip III. on letters brought from Ireland by Don Martin de la Cerda.
The following is the substance of the letters :—
O'Neil and O'Donnell write that the letters delivered to them by Don Martin had given them new spirit to continue the war against the heretics ; but they are forced to say that this long struggle has reduced them to great peril, as their property and vassals are consumed, especially in consequence of the long delay in sending the succour so frequently promised by your Majesty, by letters and messengers. These promises alone have sustained them hitherto, but if it fails them this year, they will despair, and they will be unable to persuade their friends that the aid will arrive in time. The enemies of the Church and your Majesty declare that you are deceiving them, and it is very necessary that your Majesty should help them liberally. The utmost they can do will be to wait five months, and they pray you to send the expedition before the expiration of that time, otherwise their strength will fail them, and they must either forsake their country or accept the queen of England's terms. In another letter, F. Matthew de Oviedo, archbishop elect of Dublin, who went to Ireland with Don Martin, says your Majesty has in Ireland the most faithful and loyal subjects that any king can desire, and, if they were not already well disposed, they would be worth making great efforts to obtain. The chiefs greatly grieve at the delay in the arrival of aid, and although O'Neil and O'Donnell exhibit great reasonableness, they cannot prevail with the rest, as they have news that the enemy is about to attack them in force by land and sea. They suspect that all our promises are only entertainment. He (the archbishop) has encouraged them all he can and they are now calmer, on his assurance that aid is coming to them. They can hold out five months, but no longer. At least they expect money to help their people. In order that your Majesty may understand the devotion of these people to you, the archbishop relates that O'Neil had almost gained the earl of Essex, the Queen's commander, to leave her side and join your Majesty, surrendering the country to you on the promise of great favours in your Majesty's name, and O'Neil gave him his own son as hostage. The Earl did not carry out the arrangement, out of suspicion of your Majesty, in consequence of certain acts of his against Spain some time ago. (fn. 3)
Over sixty chiefs gathered to receive the chains and portraits, which they did with great ceremony, saying they would wear no other chains or yoke than those of your Majesty. They were very grateful for the arms and munitions sent to them. He begs your Majesty to consider the great importance of the affair, for with 6,000 men the war might be ended and the insolence of England and Flanders restrained.
Don Martin de la Cerda put in writing some questions to them, about the harbours there, the number of troops needed, the stores, facilities for the transport of guns, &c. They replied that they have harbours capable of receiving your Majesty's fleet, that they had stores for the 5,000 or 6,000 men who would be necessary. They have horses to draw the guns, but no traces, &c. They have plenty of baggage horses for the munitions, but no carts. They have mounts for the cavalry. The Queen's harbours are not strong. In case your Majesty sends the expedition, they (the Irish) will raise 20,000 footmen and 1,000 horsemen, all well furnished.
Don Martin has also set forth in a, memorandum the great advantage which would redound to your Majesty's service by the carrying out of the enterprise, but as the faet is obvious, it is needless to trouble your Majesty with his arguments.
The Council reports that it will be very advantageous to send the aid to the Irish Catholics, and do to the Queen what she does to his Majesty by helping the Flemish rebels.
It is impossible at present to send a fleet, but in the meanwhile it has already been decided to collect 20,000 ducats, and 4,000 quintals of biscuit, with some arms and munitions. The marquis of Poza should be instructed to provide the necessary funds without delay ; because, although his Majesty has given the orders and the Marquis has been applied to, he had not delivered the money, saying that his Majesty had given no orders to him to do so in any form. The Council urgently recommends that no time should be lost in sending the partial aid agreed upon.
11 July.
Estado, 840.
686. Report of the Council Of State to Philip III. on letters from the duke of Sessa, in Rome, of 11th May and 12th June, containing information and advice from Father Persons.
The queen of England will not live long, and they (the English Catholics) beg your Majesty to declare yourself in the matter of the succession. If your Majesty will take action in time, not only Catholics, but also many heretics, &c., will flock to your side, even the principal councillors, such as the Admiral, the Lord Treasurer and Secretary Cecil.
If this opportunity be lost and the heretics unbridled, all the northern powers will fall upon Spain and the Indies.
Your Majesty's decision may be conveyed in confidence to the archpriest and general of the Jesuits in England, (fn. 4) so that it may be published at the proper time.
As your Majesty will not take the country for yourself, they propose, in the first place, for the succession, the Infanta Isabel ; in the second, the duke of Savoy, (fn. 5) who, being a widower, might marry Arabella Stuart, who is a Catholic and has many friends ; in the third place, the duke of Parma (fn. 6) or his son ; in the fourth place, the son of the earl of Worcester, an English Catholic of good parts, who, although he has no claim to the crown, might marry the daughter of the earl of Derby.
They greatly prefer the Infanta, as the forces of Flanders are handy, and if your Majesty would aid the Catholics of Ireland and gain possession of that county, you might do as you liked in England. If your Majesty does not want Ireland for yourself, you might give it to the earl of Tyrone, under tribute.
The Council discussed the matter at length, and agreed as to the advisability of deciding forthwith the course to be pursued on the death of the Queen, and to have everything ready for what has to be done on such an eventuality, for fear the Catholics, finding themselves without a head, may rally to the king of Scotland, in which case things would be worse than ever.
It is agreed that the first thing is to exclude utterly from the succession the kings of Scotland and France. It is needless to trouble your Majesty with the reasons for this, as they are obvious. With regard to the duke of Savoy, the duke of Parma, his brother, the Cardinal, and the English claimants proposed, it appears that it will be inadvisable to admit them, or to exclude any of them expressly. The door should left open, in case your Majesty's own claimant should fail.
The advisability of the crown's falling to your Majesty or the Infanta was discussed, and all agreed (except cardinal Sandoval) with the late King's opinion, that the two crowns of England and Spain should not be joined, but that the Infanta should take your Majesty's place in England, in union with the Archduke. (The arguments in favour of this course are given in full.)
The duke of Sessa should be unreservedly informed of your Majesty's decision in confidence. He may continue to hint to the Pope the interest your Majesty has in England, the importance of a Catholic succeeding, and the country being converted, &c., and the Duke must use his own discretion as to how far he is to go in this, according to his Holiness' attitude.
The answer to be given to Father Persons may also be left to the Duke. We here are of opinion that Persons may be told, as was before resolved, that your Majesty would nominate a Catholic sovereign, and had decided upon the person, and the Duke might add, as if of his own motion, that he suspected it would be the Infanta, as they desire her, and her virtuous life and gifts render her especially fitting, particularly as the forces of Flanders are handy to England, &c.
As in a matter of this sort, right is the least important element in the claim, although it is necessary, in order to justify the employment of force, the Council is of opinion that financial points should at once be considered, and that a decision should be promptly adopted, whilst the forces of Flanders and the fleet should be made ready, so that on the very day the Queen dies a movement made from both sides simultaneously, in favour of the object aimed at. At the same time the Irish Catholics should be supported, and even in the case of peace (i.e., between England and Spain) being concluded, they should be left out, in order that you might continue to aid them secretly to make war upon the Queen.—Madrid, 11th July 1600.
Note.—In another report of the Council of State, dated 2nd September 1600, on a letter from Father Creswell asking for a decision on the subject of the succession, the Council say that the King replied to the above report to the effect that the affair was so grave as to need very patient consideration. In the report of the 2nd September, the Council again urges the King to resolve.
13 July.
Estado, 840.
687. Report of the Council Of State to Philip III. on Ireland.
The Council have considered your Majesty's reply to the report herewith, and Don Juan de Idiaquez has explained that his reasons for thinking that it would be well to undertake the Irish enterprise this year are as follows.
From the last advices received from there as to the state of affairs the enterprise may be looked upon as easy and safe.
Your Majesty would gain enormously in prestige by conquering a kingdom thus unexpectedly.
The bridle which the possession of Ireland by your Majesty would put upon England and the northern powers, would enable you to divert them from all other points of attack, and prevent them from molesting Spain, the Indies, &c. It would also enable you to make good terms of peace and recover the Flemish fortresses held by the English for the rebels.
In case of the Queen's death, your Majesty, as master of Ireland, would be in a greatly improved position to nominate a successor to the English crown. The rest of the Council agree with Don Juan, but express doubts with regard to the financial possibility, the time, moreover, being so short, and they fear it will be impossible to send the expedition this year. They think it will be best to encourage the Irish, and keep them in hand, by sending them without delay the money, biscuits, &c., already agreed upon, and, in accordance with your Majesty's instructions, to endeavour to relieve their present distress at once. At the same time preparations should be made, both by land and sea, in Flanders and here, to be ready to execute what may be necessary for the future.
23 July.
Estado, 840.
688. Report of the Council Of State to Philip III. on the Irish expedition.
The Council have considered at length the papers your Majesty has sent them on the Irish expedition, and thank your Majesty for the decision you have arrived at on the matter, a decision such as was fitting to your Majesty's grandeur and Catholicity, &c., &c. The first difficulty that presents itself is that of time, as the fitting out of the necessary ships, the raising and preparing of the men, arms, stores, &c., and the sum they will have to carry with them to pay the troops (150,000 ducats at least) will all have to be done within six weeks at most from this date, as to send the expedition later would be to run great risk of losing it.
The next difficulty is that of money, which to a great extent depends upon that of time. It is greatly to be feared that the sum required cannot be raised within the period named. The affair is, however, of such immense importance in your Majesty's interests that no effort must be spared to overcome the difficulty and to collect the money without delay. The longer we are without the money, the less time for the work. The Council recommends that a copy of the papers brought by Don Martin de la Cerda should be sent to the Adelantado, who should be asked to furnish at once a detailed report of everything that will be needed for the expedition and an estimate of the money necessary for the purpose. The duke of Lerma to be requested to send to Esteban de Ibarra for a statement of the troops, arms, stores, and ships, available in Terceira Andalusia, Spain, Italy, &c. (fn. 7) Officers and captains should be selected and warned for service. Your Majesty had authorised the sending to Ireland of 20,000 ducats and 4,000 quintals of biscuit to enable them to hold out. As they said they could keep up for five months, the Council recommend that this aid be now kept back until the main expedition goes.
If in spite of every effort the succour cannot be despatched this year, the preparations should still be actively continued, so that it may be ready when time comes when it can sail. The Council will in the meanwhile consider who is to go with it.
The King (Philip III.), in an autograph note to the above recommendations, says that "As the expedition is so entirely for the glory of Almighty God all difficulties to it must be overcome somehow. The greatest energy and diligence must be exercised on all hands. I will find money for it, even if I have to sacrifice what I need for my own person, so that it may go this year. Decide everything without delay. Get statements of all that will be needed and send them immediately to me. Do not wait to send to the Adelantado. I will give orders for the immediate collection of money sufficient to send a force of 6,000 men. In the meanwhile send instantly by Don Martin de la Cerda the 20,000 ducats and the 4,000 quintals of biscuit."


  • 1. The Spanish ambassador in Rome.
  • 2. There is in the library of the Inner Temple, amongst the Petyt papers, a letter dated Genoa, March 15th, 1597, written by Father Persons, whilst on his way to Rome, to Father Holt, suggesting that the Infanta Isabel would be the most suitable claimant to the English throne. Persons was ceaseless in his efforts to promote this candidature, until its hopelessness was acknowledged even by the Spanish Council itself, as will be seen in subsequent papers. The archduke Albert, moreover, the husband of the Infanta, had no desire to risk his sovereignty of Flanders by attempting the impossible task of seizing the English crown.
  • 3. Doubtless the sacking of Cadiz in 1596.
  • 4. In consequence of the discontent of the English secular Catholic clergy at the predominance of the Jesuits in the English mission, considerable friction had occurred ; and in 1598 Persons persuaded Cardinal Gaëtano, protector of English affairs at Rome, to appoint an archpriest of England. He appointed the Jesuit Blackwell, who is the person referred to in the letter. A full account of the conflicts amongst the English Catholics to which this appointment gave rise will be found in "The Archpriest Controversy" —Camden Society.
  • 5. Charles Emmanuel, duke of Savoy, had married Philip the Second's second daughter Catharine. The eldest daughter, the Infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia, sovereign of the Netherlands, claimed the crown of England through her father, and the crown of France through her mother, Elizabeth of Valois, Philip's third wife.
  • 6. The duke of Parma's claim to the crown of England was derived through his mother, the Infanta Maria of Portugal, who was a lineal descendant of Edward III. of England.
  • 7. Esteban de Ibarra was a member of the council of finance and secretary of the Council of war.