Simancas: February 1601

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: February 1601', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 682-685. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]

February 1601

1 Feb.
705. Report of the Council Op State to Philip III. on a Letter from the Duke Of Sessa in Rome, containing information given to him by Father Persons, respecting England and Ireland.
The following is a summary of the letter, &c. :—
An English Catholic named Constable, a great confidant of the king of Scotland, has arrived in Rome, it is believed with the consent of the King, and has tried to persuade the Pope that the King may be converted ; and that if his Holiness and your Majesty will help him to the English succession, both countries— England and Scotland—may return to the faith. Constable promises to promote this. Father Persons had been of opinion that this man might be sent to sound the king of Scotland. His Holiness would not consent, but gave him leave to go on his own account without any authority. He enforces the great importance that your Majesty should arrive at a prompt decision as to whom you wish to succeed on the Queen's death, as it is feared otherwise that the chief men may agree with the king of Scotland.
Everything proves that the real claimants are now reduced to two, namely, the Infanta and the Archduke, and the king of Scotland. The earl of Tyrone has requested his Holiness to send a fully authorised person to Ireland, and the Duke (of Sessa) has requested that an Italian jesuit in the service of your Majesty should go. (fn. 1) He is one of three that the general has proposed to his Holiness. The Duke took an opportunity of saying to his Holiness that if your Majesty did not make peace with England, it would be very advantageous for you to invade Ireland, his Holiness granting the investiture of the kingdom to your Majesty. The Pope seemed to approve of this, but did not speak clearly about England. But the Duke (of Sessa) believes he will not refuse his spiritual aid to your Majesty.
He states that this Irish business would be very easy, seeing the number of Catholic friends there. It would be a complete bridle upon the English in Flanders, and be a good point from which to attack England itself ; or at least to bring it to favourable terms of peace.
The Council approves of the Pope's refusal to give a brief to Constable authorising him to treat for the conversion of the king of Scotland. Last advices here state that he is of the same religion as the queen of England. It is probable that Constable might come back with feigned professions of conversion (like those of the king of France) in order to gain the Pope, to the great injury to Catholicism there. The Duke (of Sessa) should be instructed to watch keenly what is done in this matter, and act accordingly ; so that his Holiness may know how little dependence can be placed in the king of Scotland. It is important that a Catholic King should succeed on the death of the Queen, and this can best be effected by your Majesty's promoting the claims of the Infanta, as the English Catholics have petitioned you to do. The Duke of Sessa has been instructed to lay this before his Holiness. It will be very advantageous to gain the English councillors mentioned in Persons' letter. The Duke should confer with Persons about it, and send advice as to the course to be pursued to secure this end. He should also send the information to Flanders and to the ambassador Baltasar de Zuñiga.
The Duke did well in speaking to the Pope about the investiture of Ireland. Everything shows the advisability of persevering in the Irish business with great expedition and activity.—Madrid, 1st February 1601.
9 Feb. Estado, 840. 706. Report of the Council of War to Philip III. on the Irish expedition.
Eight letters to your Majesty, and three to the Duke of Lerma, have been considered in the Council. They were brought by Don Martin de la Cerda from O'Neil, O'Donnell, and the other principal men in Ireland, who head the Catholics and resist the queen of England. The substance of them is to say that the succour sent with la Cerda arrived in good time, as they had thought they were forgotten by your Majesty, and had decided to send O'Donnell hither, although they would miss him much. As the queen of England had devastated their lands last summer with 16,000 footmen and 2,000 horse, they are reduced to the last extreme of misery. But still they stood firm, and swore before the Archbishop of Dublin to await the succour until July this year. They refer your Majesty for further information to the Archbishop and Don Martin de la Cerda, whom they highly praise. They pray that the succour may be sent before that time (July) and that it may consist of not less than 5,000 footmen, and they also beg that your Majesty should propose to the Pope the persons suggested by them for two Irish churches.
As your Majesty's obligation to support these Catholics is obvious, and it is the best way of distressing the queen of England, against whom they have held out so bravely, the Council need not enforce these points. But it is necessary that the succour sent should be sufficient. Hitherto we have talked of 4,000 infantry, they ask for 5,000 at least. We are of opinion that 6,000 may be sent, as peace has been made between France and Savoy, and the men raised here can be sent into garrison whilst the old soldiers can go on the expedition. Stores and munitions should be made ready for shipment at once, for in Ireland they have not even bread. Everything should be done with great secrecy, and the men should be quietly sent to Lisbon, where everything must be collected—an increased quantity of biscuit being ordered in addition to that now being made in Coruña and Lisbon.
For the pay of the 6,000 men, enough money should be taken for six months, amounting to 200,000 ducats, more or less, which sum it is expected they have in Lisbon, in place of the 200,000 your Majesty lent for the maintenance of the crews of the Indian flotilla, 105,000 ducats more will be required, in conformity with the estimates of Estevan de Ibarra, which are enclosed. The Council thinks that Don Cristobal de Mora might be instructed to send for the troops that have to be brought from Terceira, some freighted caravels, as Estevan de Ibarra sets forth in its estimate. Don Martin de la Cerda thinks Frederico Spinola's galleys should be increased to 20, but we do not see how this can be done ; but he might have two of those from Lisbon. Frederico Spinola should be ordered to come for them, without being told yet the object in view. The request of the Irish with regard to the church presentations is important, as they act as your Majesty's subjects. An Irish bishop should be sent with the succour. They should be written to at once giving them hopes of the aid.
The following note in the handwriting of Philip III. is on the margin of this report :—
I quite approve of 6,000 infantry being made ready for this expedition to Ireland ; and I entrust the matter to my confessor, as it is so much in God's service, in order that he may see that everything recommended here is carried out with all possible speed. See whether the making ready of the men, stores, and ammunition, should be entrusted to Estevan de Ibarra, and act in this as appears best. Consider also where the 100,000 ducats are to be got, so that they may be sent at once. Send to Rome the nomination for the Irish churches, and answer the letters from Ireland as is considered best. I have considered the estimates and return them.
707. Summary of the estimated cost, and details of the expedition to Ireland.
Maintenance of 4,500 men for two months 40,000
One payment for 4,000 new soldiers to be shipped 20,000
Two payments for veteran cavalry 12,000
Shipping and maintenance of the men 17,000
To pay two payments to the native infantry 16,000
As it is most important that the troops should be kept in good order and prevented from molesting the natives, they must be paid punctually. For this and all other needs these must be taken 200,000
Total estimated cost of the expedition 305,000
(It is explained that although this estimate only provides for 4,500 men, whilst the expedition was to consist of 6,000 soldiers and 500 sailors ; the other 2,000 soldiers have full supplies, etc., provided for two months in Lisbon, where they were to embark. It is also explained that the biscuit has been ordered separately, and is not included in the above account. The smallest details are provided for in these accounts which were presented to the Council of State.
Twenty caravels were to be freighted, decked, and stored, to bring troops from Terceira, at a cost of 140,000 ducats, the maintenance of seamen, their wages, and cost of water casks amount to 17,000 ducats, whilst the stores on the fleet were estimated to cost 40,000 ducats.


  • 1. In a document, which appears to he lost, as it it not in the packet, a representation seems to have been made to the Council with reference to this point, that it would be inadvisable for an Italian Legate to go to Ireland. The Council thereupon report as follows :—
    S.D. Estado, 840. The contents of the accompanying document are well considered ; but if the Pope be openly requested not to send an Italian, he will not only ignore the request, but he will also be offended. The Council is therefore of opinion that a copy should be sent to the duke de Sessa, and that he should be informed, in accordance with the contents of the document, that for the present there is no occasion for the Pope to make a definite appointment, because the person appointed would not be able to exercise his functions with the authority and decorum necessary. His Holiness should therefore he dissuaded from sending anyone thither until the business be brought to a more favourable position. In the meanwhile the archbishop of Dublin should be entrusted with the despatch of such affairs as may be necessary, in accordance with the contents of the memorandum. The Duke should be requested to promote this end in the way which may appear most advisable.