Simancas: November 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: November 1601', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 686-689. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]

November 1601

22 Nov.
Estado, 840.
709. Document headed—Statement made by a spy of the Adelantado of Castile, who on other occasions has given true reports.
He left Bristol, 22nd November, 1601.
He left the port of Santa Maria about 10 months since, and has been to Waterford in Ireland, Bristol and London in England, and to Calais in France. Thence he went to Zeeland ; his intention being to learn what he could in each place ; but he found nothing of importance until he again returned to London.
From London he went to Barnstaple, an English port opposite Ireland, where he learnt that the Spanish fleet had arrived in Ireland, and in order to discover what preparations the Queen was making, he then returned to London. The better to carry out his object, he went to lodge in the house of the Scots Ambassador, and accompanied the ambassador when he went to the palace. He then heard that the Queen had received news of the arrival of the Spanish fleet in Ireland a fortnight before, and she and her council had immediately ordered 5,000 soldiers, and 400 horses to be sent thither. He thereupon went to Rochester, where the Queen's navy lies up for the winter, in order to learn whether there was any talk of fitting out a fleet, but he only found there five small vessels, the largest of which was 400 tons, besides five merchantmen taken forcibly, the largest 200 tons. He remained there, to be quite certain, until he saw these vessels sail with only seamen on board. These ships then sailed to Dover, where they embarked the infantry. This man himself saw them to the number of 1,000 men, all raw recruits, and says that no arms nor uniforms were served out to them before they sailed, so that they might not run away. No more than this were shipped, as the vessels would hold no more.
He then went by land to Bristol, where he found another thousand men being shipped in a similar manner, in small merchantmen. 200 horses were also embarked there, with the earl of Thomond, who also had command of a company of infantry given to him by the Queen for life, in return for loyal service. Their orders were to land at Cork or Waterford, or in any other port they could.
Whilst he (the spy) was at Bristol, he received news from a pilot of his that he had seen 600 infantry and 60 horses being shipped at Barnstaple, twenty leagues from Bristol. They (the English) spread the rumour that there were a thousand, but the real number was that stated above. He also learnt that 500 infantry were being embarked from Chichester (?) for Dublin.
He received intelligence that the Viceroy had surrounded the Spaniards with 5,000 men, and had posted another body of 3,000 in a pass through which the Earls must go to join the Spaniards. The English had 500 horse, part with the Viceroy, and the rest in the pass. These troops were commanded by an Irish gentleman.
He also states that it was asserted that the Earls were coming down with 7,000 footmen, and 1,000 horse, but that the English occupy the pass and cut them off from the Spaniards. There had already been some slight skirmishes.
He asserts that for the first few days the Viceroy was suspicious, as he was ignorant of the strength of the Spaniards. He entrenched himself a league from Kinsale, but when he leant how few Spaniards there were, he became confident and approached them. The Viceroy had arranged with two or three Englishmen for them to join the Spaniards in the guise of Catholics.
The English were saying that the Spaniards had very little stores, and were entrenching themselves, by digging a ditch behind the walls. (fn. 1)
He was asked whether our people were fortifying themselves on the coast, so as to prevent the enemy's ships from entering the port. He replied that he had heard that they were doing so, but that they had not sufficient artillery to defend the harbour.
He says that after the Spaniards had arrived, two French ships came in, one loaded with wine and the other with salt codfish, for which the Spaniards paid liberally and the Frenchmen were contented.
Eight weeks since the Queen dispatched from Dover two vessels of 200 and 80 tons respectively, very well armed, and carrying good bronze cannon, their orders being to cruise between Cape St. Vincent and Barbary, to intercept some ships from the Indies. When he was in England he learnt through the Scots ambassador, that the king of France was in treaty with the queen of England, with regard to the inadvisability of allowing the Archduke to gain possession of Ostend ; and was urging her to make an effort to prevent it. The Queen replied through an English gentleman that she was now an old woman, but would do her best. If the king of France would help against the king of Spain she would contribute 8,000 men free. The king of France thereupon immediately sent M. de Biron to negotiate with the Queen about it, and he was received in England almost with royal honours. When he went to salute the Queen and to the audience the whole of the court and nobility accompanied him.
The Scots ambassador asked Secretary Cecil what was the meaning of this embassy, he replied : "Nothing can be said about it at present, but before a year passes you will see what it means." He (the spy) was asked whether he had heard anything about the rebels, and replied that he only knew that fresh troops and stores were being sent to them at Ostend every week from London, and all the sick and wounded are brought away at once. Although the Archduke looks upon the port as his, the rebels have made certain flat-bottomed boats, in which, although with difficulty and risk, they manage to put men on shore at high tide. The people in Ostend, he says, make their lodgings underground and in cellars, to protect themselves from the Archduke's artillery, which has battered all the houses in the town, as he has made a mound outside which commands the place. The very paving stones in the streets have been removed as the canon balls scattered them and they killed people. Amongst others M. de Chatillon lost his life in this way. He had taken thither 2,500 Frenchmen, the best troops the States had in their pay, and on the night he was killed they had intended to make a sally and massacre the men in the Archduke's trenches.
He (the spy) was asked what he had heard about Scotland, and replied that the King had sent his kinsman, the duke of Lennox, to France, to beg the King to maintain the ancient friendship, and when the time came to aid him in his claim to the English throne. When the Duke submitted this to the king of France, it appears that he did not reply a single word to the purpose, although it was the main object of the embassy. The Duke was therefore much annoyed, and the king of Scotland offended.
He (the spy) was asked what he had heard about the marriage of Arabella (Stuart) with the prince of Condé He replied that although it was spoken of at first, he had heard no more about it.
Whilst the duke of Lennox was on his embassy in France, news came that the Queen was dangerously ill. The king of France being with some of the princes, one of them said that once upon a time on a similar occasion a bastard of Normandy conquered England ; whereupon the King replied, "We have better bastards now than then" This having reached the ears of the Scots ambassador, he understood the evil intentions of the king of France. The king of Scotland on learning that parliament had been convoked in England, ordered the Duke (of Lennox) to go straight from France to London. He arrived there the day before parliament met.
He (the spy) was asked whether the English nobles and merchants were contented and rich, to which he replied that there is not a single rich man in England ; and that most people are discontented, particularly the merchants, who have paid so much to support the wars that they are exhausted. It was understood that parliament had been summoned to obtain money for the war in Ireland, and the king of Scotland had been assured by his friends that there was nothing intended to his prejudice.
So great was the distress that the Queen had been obliged to send to Ireland copper money, plated, with hardly any silver in it.
By this means she is enabled to withdraw ten pounds in silver for a pound in copper. She has ordered that none but this new money shall be current in Ireland, and all (old) silver coin is to be taken for exchange to one of the three places appointed for the purpose. Any person, of whatever rank, who neglects to bring his silver for exchange, is to forfeit his life and estate. The foreign merchants complained greatly of this, and said that they would not come and sell their merchandise if they were to receive payment in the depreciated coinage. They were therefore told that if they would go to one of the three places mentioned, and deliver the copper money, they would be given in exchange bills on the Queen's officials in London. (fn. 2)
But they understood that these bills would be very badly paid considering the Queen's poverty. It was said that she had adopted this device, so as to denude Ireland of all silver and gold coin, whilst availing herself of the money. The spy adds that a confidential courier of the Archduke opens his despatches on the road, transcribes the letters, and sends them to the Queen. He has false seals with which he again makes up the packets. The Queen pays him a salary, and she is thus made acquainted with all that passes in Flanders before the news reaches Spain. The spy was asked whether he knew the name of the courier, if there was any particular place where he opened the packets, and if the Queen had any person to await him at a particular point to take the copies and re-seal the packets. He replied that he was ignorant of the name of the courier, but he was a Fleming who spoke Spanish and German. He cannot answer the other questions. He heard about this courier from the Scottish ambassador.
He says also that a ship belonging to the earl of Cumberland, and four merchantmen, have gone to trade in India, and to plunder what they meet on the way. They are carrying money and merchandise, the greater amount being in paper. They are going to an island where the rebels carry on a trade, and where they (the rebels) have seven or eight vessels.
He (the spy) says that before it was known that the Spanish fleet was going to Ireland, they (the English) intended to send a fleet to capture Santiago de Cuba, and the island (sic) of Habana. Flemings and Englishmen are going together on this expedition. This he also he learnt from the Scottish ambassador.


  • 1. Full particulars of the defence and surrender of Kinsale will be found in "Pacata Hibernia."
  • 2. The proclamation establishing the depreciated coinage alleges as a reason for the measure that good sterling money falls into the hands of the disaffected Irish, and by them is sent out of the country in payment of warlike stores to the double detriment of the Queen, by impoverishing the country and arming her enemies against her. The places provided for the exchange of the new money into sterling by bona fide merchants were Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Carrickfergus.