Simancas: November 1600

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 1600', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 671-674. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

November 1600

3 Nov.
Estado, 840.
695. The Council Of State to Don Beltran De Castro.
The King has ordered the Council to consider the capture of Richard Hawkins, whether the capture was in fair war or not. It is necessary for de Castro to send them at once a sworn affidavit of the instructions he received from the viceroy of Peru, and an account of exactly what passed when he captured the corsair Hawkins. He is reminded that the King's orders were that no enemy should be allowed to live in those seas.
Report of Don Beltran De Castro on the capture of Richard Hawkins.
The only order I received from the Viceroy when I left Callao, in chase of this Englishman, was, if my memory serves me, that I was to effect the capture with all care, and to do my best to come up with him, which, by the grace of God, I did.
As to what passed when I had caught him, I may make the following statement :—From Thursday, at four in the afternoon, when I first attacked him, we continued fighting all that evening and night, as well as all Friday, and Friday night. On Saturday, well into the day, I found my flagship very much damaged, as most of the crew were killed, and the mainmast shot away, my own ship being also in a very critical condition, many of my spars being carried away or injured, and my ship pierced, and full of water. Thinking it unwise to risk further, I ordered the offer to be made to Hawkins of fair terms of war if he would surrender—in order to suspend the fighting, as I was as likely to sink as he was, and I was content to have got hold of him at any rate. He accepted the offer, and I think my course was the wisest one under the circumstances, in his Majesty's interests. Shortly before he surrendered, I learnt that he had ordered two men to stand by with lighted torches, to set fire to the powder magazine if we boarded him. But one of our shot carried away both of the men, although there were others who would have taken their places. If his Majesty ordered that no enemy who entered those seas was to be taken alive, I never heard of such an order. But even if I had, I am of opinion that a commander is at liberty to act as he thinks best for the service under the circumstances, and I believe I acted wisely in doing as I did, always with submission to the opinion of these gentlemen, who will know best.
Your Lordship calls Richard Hawkins a corsair. He was not so, as a corsair, as I understand it, is one who makes war on his own account upon those with whom his sovereign is at peace, without any authority from his sovereign. But Hawkins bore a patent from the queen of England (which I still have in my possession), ordering him to do all the damage he could to our King and his allies. This being the case, and war having existed between the two countries for so long, I do not think that Don Richard merits the name that you apply to him.
The Council of State in their report to the King on the above subject, approve of Don Beltran de Castro's action, and agree that Hawkins was not a pirate but a prisoner in fair war, and, consequently, might be ransomed.
28 Nov.
Estado, 840.
696. Report of the Council of State to Philip III. on the communication from the Irishman Richard Owen, giving advice as to the best way to effect the war in Ireland.
The Council has considered the enclosed memorial of Richard Owen, a confidant of Earl O'Neil, which contains many points of interest. These points, however, all depend upon the resolution to be arrived at as to the matter itself ; and the Council thinks best not to consider in detail Owen's advice prematurely. The Council has, however, gone through all the reports that have been furnished to your Majesty on the matter, and finds that the undertaking, in principle, has been authorised, the strength decided upon, and everything ordered to be got ready without loss of time. But your Majesty's absence has so delayed matters that the vessels and galleys in Andalusia are still very much behindhand. Out of the 16 needed, only 8 have been fitted out, and the raising of sailors has not even begun. As promptitude is of the very first importance in the business, as your Majesty has shown by ordering great speed to be exercised, and in your own prompt resolve, and every day brings further confirmation of the desirability of harassing the Queen at that point, the Council urgently begs your Majesty to order greater expedition to be used, and that the rest of the galleons should be got ready at once, as also the provisions, biscuits, &c. Out of the 30,000 quintals of biscuits expected, there are only now 12,000 in Lisbon, of which it was arranged to send 4,000 to Ireland.
The Council also recommends the King to have the needful money provided and encashed without delay.
Richard Owen's long memorial resolves itself into the following recommendations :—
That Prince O'Neil should be appointed Captain-General, as no Irishman will consent to be governed by one of lower rank than himself.
That O'Donnell be made Governor of Connaught, and Desmond Governor (fn. 1) of Munster.
That the Irish should be taken by his Majesty, either as subjects, allies, or protegés.
The best time for the war is from September to December, as the English are always in strength in spring and summer.
The 30 or 40 Irish gentlemen in Flanders, etc., should be sent with the force.
The Pope should be asked to excommunicate the Irishmen who aid the heretics.
All the arms and munitions sent should be kept in an arsenal.
For the battery of towns will be needed eight cannons and four culverins.
Harness and all accessories should be sent, but not horses.
Six field pieces will be sufficient, and if fortifications are to be erected, tools should be sent.
No Irish ship should be allowed in a Spanish port without a license from O'Neil.
The Catholics are tired of war, and if aid be not promptly sent it may be feared they will make peace with the English.
The Englishwoman onfers them liberty of conscience, and to each Chief the possession of his lands, with many new privileges. The Catholics have hitherto refused them out of affection to his Majesty. The king of Scotland has offered O'Neil to make good terms for him with the Englishwoman.
Most nations dislike Spain : the Irish love it. It is just, therefore, that they should be succoured. Aid should therefore be sent at once.
The cheapest way to send the aid will be as follows :—
Every October a large number of Irish, Scotch, and Breton ships go to Spain for wine. Take these ships, pay them good freights, and load them with men, arms, etc, Send 10 small warships to convoy them. Let some Spanish pilots go in each of the foreign boats for security, If any disaster occurs your Majesty would lose less than if you sent your own galleys.
To take Ireland, and cast out the heretics speedily and cheaply, the force should enter Carlingford, in O'Neil's country, where there is great abundance of provisions, good horses, and everything necessary. It is only 40 miles from Dublin. Operating from Carlingford, four out of the six English garrisons in O'Neil's country can be expelled in three days, and more can be done there against the English in six months than elsewhere in many years.
If the force goes to Munster the war will last for many years.
Owen describes himself as having served over 12 years in Flanders, and as being in command of all of O'Neil's infantry.—Madrid, 20th November 1600.


  • 1. This was Tyrone's earl of Desmond, John FitzThomas FitzGerald.