Simancas: January 1602

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: January 1602', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 699-703. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]

January 1602

1602. 29 Jan. Estado, 840. 714. Report of a Committee of the Council Of State to the King on the Papers brought from Ireland by Martin De Oleaga.
The documents brought are the notes written by the Irish earls to Don Juan del Aguila, and his replies from the 14th to the 19th December.
The substance is that the earls ask him for some Spaniards to join with their own men, with arms, munitions, and biscuits, whilst Don Juan urges them to concentrate, and take up a strong position, so as to present a bold front to the enemy, who arc very weak in consequence of the large number of their losses from sickness and wounds.
He also brings a statement drawn up by Ibarra from the various letters from General Pedro Zubiaur during December and early January, the substance of which is as follows :—
He left Coruña on the 7th December with 10 ships, 800 men, and the arms and munitions stated in other documents. He lost one of his ships going out of port, and missed three others in the bad weather subsequently. He could not make the port he wished, and therefore entered Castlehaven on 11th December, where he learnt that Don Juan del Aguila was surrounded by 10,000 or 12,000 men on land, and blockaded by 20 of the Queen's ships. It was a mercy of God that the bad weather prevented him (Zubiaur) from arriving at the port of Kinsale, as he would certainly have been lost, as happened to one of the three missing ships that made Kinsale. She carried 40 soldiers and a quantity of wheat, arms, and munitions.
There is at Castlehaven a tower, without artillery, and the chief allowed a garrison of Spaniards to be put into it. He also handed to him two other castles, one called Baltimore, with a very good harbour, and the other Bearhaven. (fn. 1) Spanish garrisons were put in all of them by consent of the owners. A thousand excellent Irish troops had joined him, to whom he had given arms. The country people had brought him cattle and other things.
On the 26th the English sent four galleons and three other ships to attack him at Castlehaven. They landed artillery and attacked under cover of their ships, but he stood out, sank the Queen's flagship and greatly damaged, the others. Two of our ships were sunk, but the men on board saved as well their cargoes. We lost 20 men killed, and some wounded. The English then departed.
He had sent 200 Spaniards to the Earls, with six standards as they had requested. He had also sent them 700 Irishmen, whom he had armed.
The Earls had six or seven thousand infantry, and 600 hcrse, and were gradually nearing Kinsale. The enemy surprised them on 3rd January, when they were divided in five squadrons, and attacked them with 500 foot, and as many horse. They fell upon the weakest of the Irish squadrons, and beat them, whereupon the rest fled without fighting ; 140 out of the 200 Spaniards were slain or captured, and three of our standards were taken. The rest fled to Castlehaven, with some of the forces of one of the Earls, whilst the other portion took refuge in the mountains. The one who went to Castlehaven, pressed Zubiaur warmly to bring him (to Spain) with him which he did, and he is now at Coruna desiring to come and salute your Majesty. On the same day as the above engagement Don Juan del Aguila attacked the enemy's trenches, which are so deep that ladders were needed to scale them. He killed 500 of their infantry and captured seven standards, and three pieces of artillery, which he brought into Kinsale, spiking three more. The enemy have battered his defences so that they could walk straight in, but they have not dared to make the attempt. Altogether Don Juan has killed 3,000 or 4,000 of their men, and he has now with him 1,800 men capable of bearing arms, 900 sick, and provisions up to the middle of March. He has 500 quintals of powder, but is in want of meat, fish, medicines and delicacies for the sick. He has very little lead and cord. There were in the castles of Bearhaven, Baltimore, and Castlehaven 400 soldiers in garrison, with the arms, munitions, and biscuit, brought by the six ships, but with no money nor necessaries for the sick. The amount spent on the Irish that come in is large. With these castles and harbours the aid that arrives may enter freely. The furthest of these castles from Kinsale is seven leagues over the mountains, so that they cannot bring their artillery to attack them on the land side.
The Council also considered another summary drawn up by Ibarra from letters by Pedro Lopez de Soto to your Majesty of 23rd December to 6th January, which confirms the above intelligence, only adding that if succour be not sent flying through the air, all will be lost. He says the aid should be sent from Coruña and Flanders. Other papers of Pedro Lopez de Soto, request the things he requires, and says where they may be obtained, with great precision. He reiterates the need for speedy assistance in men, munitions, arms, and stores ; and recommends 25 vessels being sent under Zubiaur to engage the enemy's fleet.
Oleaga, as an eye-witness, confirms verbally all the above.
The Council having discussed the above, regrets the defeat of the Earls, as success principally depended upon them. The few troops we have there can hardly hold out, and if they fall, the castles occupied by Zubiaur will not be of much use. The owners themselves might surrender them in order to gain the Queen's pardon. The worst of it is that your Majesty's prestige is at stake, and there is no means of sending effective and prompt aid for want of ships, men, arms, etc. ; everything here being very scarce and short. The enemy when once they are free of Ireland will seek revenge by every means, and it will be most advantageous to keep that thorn in their flesh. If the time were further advanced, and the preparations more ready, galleys might be sent to rescue Don Juan or take him to a safer place ; but that is not now to be thought of, at least until the end of April, and so bad a malady demands a prompt remedy. The Council is therefore of opinion that the succour should be conveyed by the ships that were under orders to take the cavalry, as under the present circumstances cavalry will be of no use. To these should be added all the ships that can be got together, orders being also sent to count Caracena and Gaspar de Pereda, Corregidor of the four towns, to gather quickly as many ships as they may. The great difficulty is the troops, which must be raised, for there are none. In Portugal none were left but those absolutely necessary for garrison duty. But a supreme effort must be made. The only way is to order the Estremadura militia to march at once to Portugal, to garrison the country, and send all the present garrisons to Ireland without an hour's delay. In the meanwhile arms, munitions, and stores, should be prepared, and as much powder, biscuits, and lead, as can be obtained, together with cord, clothes, hats, boots, etc., all of which are greatly needed, with medicines for the sick. This should be entrusted to Don Cristobal (de Mora), and a sum of money sent to him for the purpose. Bertondona should be ordered to make ready to go with aid, in all haste. He should be urged not to lose a minute in fitting out the expedition, and promised a knight commandership on his return. Legorreta should also be ordered to make ready to go with the troops.
The cavalry can be sent to Galicia to be handy if wanted.
The five ships from Lisbon can take an additional 4,500 quintals of biscuit for the vessels to be collected in Coruña, and the four towns. The 300 soldiers who put into Galicia through bad weather, and the garrison in Coruña, should be got ready by Zubiaur with all speed, a promise of a knighthood be given to him on his return. He should be paid all his back pay, and he and Bertondona should be told that each has to have command of his own contingent ; but when they are together Bertondona, being senior, must have command, whilst both of them are to be subordinate to Don Juan del Aguila. They are to be urgently pressed to endeavour to arrive in Ireland in time to succour Don Juan, and carry out his orders for the war, or else to carry his troops to a safer place, to be chosen by Don Juan.
Your Majesty should appoint some experienced, brave brigadier in place of Don Francisco de Padilla.
Caracena should collect as much biscuit, powder, etc., as possible, as well as clothes, boots, etc., to be distributed in the various ships in case any are lost. Money must be sent him for this. Don Gaspar should see how many troops he can raise from the four towns, money being secretly sent to him also.
Don Diego Brochero should be sent to Lisbon at once to expedite the preparations. Money must be supplied there for him.
Count Punoñrostro should be sent to Biscay to raise all the soldiers and sailors he can, and send them to Coruña.
Don Juan and the garrisons in the castles should be apprised of the aid to be sent, by some person so trustworthy that he will allow himself to be cut to pieces before he divulges his mission to the enemy. But as all these are only palliatives, and not cures for the disease, nor will they prevent any attempt on Spain itself ; it is advisable that everything should be put in order of defence here. The galleys of Italy should be made ready, the infantry mustered and as large a number as possible sent to Spain by the end of April. All the troops should come paid for two months, and the Viceroys instructed to send as many stores in the ships as can be got together. Large orders for biscuits should be sent to Barcelona and Andalucia.
And as your Majesty has decided that your nephews should come hither this Summer, the duke of Savoy should be told to get ready to embark by the end of April, and come with the galleys. He will sail in the royal galley, which will remain in Spain.
The Viceroy of Naples must be urged to send quickly the powder and firewick ordered. The galleys of Italy must not be told by this post that they are to come hither, but only that they are to fit out speedily.
As our defence depends upon the completion of the militia establishment, Estevan Ibarra should be ordered to write to the Council of State, that your Majesty orders that no slackening of effort must take place until this be completed.
As Antonio Centeno and Francisco de Padilla have set a bad example in leaving their regiments, your Majesty should order them to be incarcerated in fortresses at once.
As earl O'Neil is already here, (fn. 2) your Majesty should give him audience before your return to Valladolid. He can meet you on the road and then return to Coruña.—29th January 1602.
A marginal note, in the handwriting of Philip III., approves of all the foregoing recommendations, and orders them to be carried out forthwith.
30 Jan.
Estado, 840.
715. Philip III. to Juan Del Aguila.
By letters from Pedro de Zubiaur and Pedro Lopez de Soto, I learn of the rout of the earls O'Neil and O'Donnell, and I recognise that our only hope now rests upon your bravery and prudence, which I prize highly. I trust that in the midst of so many dangers and trials as those by which you are surrounded, you will be able to keep the army together until help can reach you in the form of ships, arms, and munitions, which are now being prepared here, and will be despatched promptly. I trust with this aid you will be able to take revenge on the enemy. I do not send you any special instructions, as I am convinced of your spirit and experience, and that you will lose no opportunity which the enemy may give you. You, and the army that is with you, shall experience my liberality and thanks. You will assure all your companions of this, and the duke of Lerma will write you on other points. — Mansilla, 30th January 1602.


  • 1. This was the famous O'Sullivan Beare, chief of Dunboy, Beare, and Bantry. As will be seen in this Calendar, and more at length in Pacata Hibernia, his fortress was handed by him to the Spaniards under Zubiaur after the O'Driseolls had welcomed them in Castlehaven and Baltimore. By the terms of the surrender of Kinsale (2nd January 1602) Don Juan del Aguila agreed to hand the fortresses to the English. Before Dunboy was evacuated by the Spaniards O'Sullivan's vassals gained an entrance and defended the place heroically against the English until the 20th June. The defence is one of the most famous pages in Irish history. O'Sullivan Beare and all his household thenceforward lived in Spain, the chief having been made Count de Birhabeu (Bearhaven) by Philip III. The title continued to be borne by his descendents until the end of the last century when it fell into abeyance. The Count founded the still existing Irish college at Salamanca, where a line portrait of him, taken in 1613 when he was 53, is preserved. Castlehaven belonged to Donogh O'Driscoll, Baltimore to Sir Finnan O'Driscoll (who had always been regarded as loyal to the English) and Bearhaven to O'Sullivan Beare.
  • 2. This was a mistake, it was O'Donnell and not Tyrone who had arrived in Spain. He had started from Castlehaven with Redmond Burke and Hugh Mostyn in December, after the rout of the Irish, as recounted in this letter.