Simancas: February 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: February 1602', in Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603, (London, 1899) pp. 703-708. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]

February 1602

13 Feb.
Estado, 840.
716. Franquesa (Clerk of the Council of State) to the Duke Of Lerma.
The Council has been sitting from six to ten considering the papers delivered by earl O'Donnell. The Council thinks that his zeal and loyalty should be highly praised, and that he should be assured that his Majesty regards the Irish Catholics as his subjects. He should be promised that forces should at once be raised to send to the aid of Don Juan (del Aguila) if he be still able to hold out, whilst if any accident should have happened to him, the aid shall be landed where he (O'Donnell) thinks best.
As this army will have to be gathered in Lisbon and Coruña, it will be well that, in order that he should see its preparation and advise O'Neil of it for his encouragement, he (O'Donnell) should go either to Lisbon or Coruña, and that in either of those places he should be treated accordingly to his rank, and maintained by his Majesty. He should have 1,000 ducats for the journey, including the 500 given to him here. The 500 already handed to the ensign who accompanies him, or what is left of them, with the fresh 500 should he handed to O'Donnell himself to spend, and the ensign relieved of the duty, as he desires, excuses being given to O'Donnell at the same time.
As O'Donnell wishes to see the son of O'Neil, who is studying at Salamanca, a letter should be sent at once by the King's confessor ordering him to be sent hither, where O'Donnell will await him. After the interview he (O'Neil) will return.
The best way to raise 6,000 men rapidly will be to order the strength of the Portuguese brigade to be raised to 3,000 men, and the garrisons at Lisbon be drafted, their places being taken by the troops from Estremadura. These forces, together with the men under orders for Coruña, will bring up the strength to 6,000 who are all to muster by 20th March.
The boats in all parts should be stayed, in order that those which it is considered desirable may be taken.
His Majesty is asked to appoint the commander. Although O'Donnell asks for the command to be given to the Adelantado, and the Council of War think he will do as well as usual, the Council of State thinks that this succour is hardly worthy to be led by so great a soldier.
Your Excellency should decide all this to-night with his Majesty, so that orders may be sent promptly. 13th February 1602.
A marginal note in the handwriting of the duke of Lerma says that his Majesty has considered the above and approves of the Council's recommendations.
16 Feb.
Estado, 849.
717. O'Sullivan Beare to Count Caracena. (fn. 1)
I received on the 11th instant your Lordship's letter of the 4th and am rejoiced to learn that his Catholic Majesty welcomed so kindly the Earl O'Donnell. The news your Lordship kindly sends consoles me somewhat in my troubles, and I am very anxious to serve you in all things, as you are so full of sympathy for my poor country. With all frankness, then, I will tell you the present state of warlike affairs here. All of us who took the part of the King are on the verge of ruin, in consequence of the agreement made by Don Juan del Aguila with the Viceroy, unless some remedy be sent speedily by the King. By this agreement Don Juan not only surrendered Kinsale to the English, but all the forts and harbours held for his Majesty in the province of Munster ; together with my own, which of my free unrestrained will I placed in the keeping of General Zubiaur for as long as it might be of service to his Majesty. If this place of mine be surrendered with the rest to the enemy, all of us who are faithful to his Majesty in the province of Munster will be lost, and the spirit of our people broken. I, by God's grace, can serve his Majesty anywhere with a thousand men, armed in our Irish fashion, and will muster them at my own cost from my twenty leagues of well protected coast. But once my castle, the chief stronghold of my land, is surrendered to the enemy, I shall be reduced to such straits, that my people will follow my castles, and the queen of England will get both.
I must take refuge in the woods, there to live miserably amongst the wild beast, until some lure entraps me, and I am led to my death. If his Majesty will prevent this I will hold my lands for his Majesty until succour reaches me. I think your Lordship will be moved with pity when you hear this, as the case is sad enough to move any heart ; this handing over of thousands of Christians because they are Catholics, to the mercy of the heretics, their deadly enemies, to lose for ever the faith of their forefathers after sixteen hundred years!
I would go in person to discuss this matter with your Lordship, but that I fear in my absence more evil might happen. As I see the great importance of the business, I have considered it necessary to trouble you with so long a letter, whereby I trust his Majesty may be led to send us succour and consolation. I leave all in your Lordship's hands.—Bearhaven, 16 February 1602.
21 Feb.
Estado, 840.
718. Statement and resolutions of the Council of State on Irish affairs.
Out of the nine ships with which General Zubiaur left Corunna for Ireland on the 6th December last, three were separated from him in a storm. One was wrecked on the coast of Brittany, one returned to Galicia, and one was captured by the enemy. The remaining six vessels arrived in Ireland, and finding the harbour of Kinsale occupied by a large number of the Queen's ships, continued their voyage in search of a place where they might anchor and obtain intelligence. On the 11th December they entered the port of Castlehaven, eight leagues beyond Kinsale to the north, and as the lord of the castle there welcomed them, he being a Catholic and adherent of his Majesty, the fleet anchored there, and 650 soldiers, 8 captains, with artillery, stores, etc. were landed.
Whilst they were there some of the enemy's ships from Kinsale came to attack them, but thanks to the support of the castle, and the artillery they had landed, they (the Spaniards) drove the enemy away from the port.
Two other castles on the coast further north four leagues distant from each other were then surrendered to the Spaniards. One is called Baltimore and the other Bearhaven and the lords of the places submitted to his Majesty.
Zubiaur learnt that Don Juan del Aguila was surrounded by land and sea, and that the Earls were advancing to relieve him. They requested Zubiaur to give them some men, and he granted them 200 of his soldiers, with three captains. The Earls engaged the enemy, and were defeated. In view of this, and that the earl O'Donnell came to him desirous of passing over to Spain, he, Zubiaur, embarked him on one of the ships, and leaving the 400 or 450 men he had remaining, distributed amongst the aforementioned castles, with the stores, etc., all under command of Pedro Lopez de Soto ; Zubiaur himself also sailed for Spain on the 6th January, and arrived in Asturias on the 14th.
The verbal statement of Zubiaur, and the written reports of Pedro Lopez de Soto, agree that Don Juan del Aguila is so closely beleaguered by land and sea that he can only be relieved by a powerful fleet. He is understood to have sufficient victuals to last into March. There were 900 sick men in the place (Kinsale), and it was not a position that could be defended.
Whilst Zubiaur was on his voyage to Spain with the Earl on the 2nd January, the five ships sailed from Lisbon under Captain Vallecilla, with Don Martin de la Cerda and 200 soldiers, 5,000 quintals of biscuit, oil, vinegar, lead, and other stores. Three of these ships put back to Spain in a storm, two to Galicia and one to Santander, where they now are.
Vallecilla himself, with Don Martin arrived off Kinsale, but finding the harbour full of ships, they anchored in the offing, until they could obtain intelligence. Some boats with 11 men approached them which they took, and learnt that the ships in port were enemies. They thereupon set sail again for Spain, where they arrived on the 24th January.
The eleven men above mentioned assert that Don Juan del Aguila had made terms with the Viceroy ; but there is, up to the present, no confirmation of this, except that Don Martin says it is true, as they are respectable men, and all tell the same story. They assert that they saw Don Juan dine with the Viceroy, (fn. 2) and had themselves been inside Kinsale after the arrangement had been made.
Two despatch boats have been sent from Coruña to Ireland, at intervals of a week, to obtain information. Their arrival with intelligence is now expected, and in anticipation thereof the following resolutions have been adopted :
That eight vessels of any sort that can be got together in Corunna shall be at once loaded with all the victuals, munitions, etc. brought back by the ships which separated from Vallecilla, and as much more as they will hold, which Count Caraeena has been instructed to obtain. There will also embark on these ships all the troops they can carry, with the Maestre de Campo Estreban de Legorreta and some officers. The ships will get everything ready to sail, and then await further orders, which will depend upon the intelligence received. The eight ships will be commanded by General Pedro de Zubiaur.
The cavalry, which was under orders to embark in Lisbon for Ireland, is to remain quiet, the hulks which were to take it, and Vallecilla's two ships are to sail at once for Coruña, with all the victuals and munitions they can carry, The ship of Vallecilla's squadron which put into Santander is also to sail for Coruña with all the provisions she has. The "four towns," the province of Guipuzcoa, and the lordship of Biscay, are to send twelve well-armed pinnaces to Coruña. Ten companies of infantry newly raised are also to march thither.
Count de Caracena is to embargo and collect in Coruña all the ships on the coasts of Galicia and Asturias.
The "four towns," Biscay, and Guipuzcoa, are to send to Coruña the smacks, pataches, and other vessels under 200 tons burden which may be on their coasts ; and to collect all the men and victuals possible, so that if Zubiaur's ships are successful they should be followed and every possible effort be made to relieve Don Juan, and hold the castles surrendered to Zubiaur. All ships belonging to his Majesty in Audalucia, Lisbon, and Coruña, are to be made ready with the utmost speed, Levies of seamen are to be made on all the coasts of the realm. A regiment of Portuguese infantry is to be raised, and the Marquis de Castel Rodrigo is instructed to use every endeavour to increase it to 3,000 men.
When the 34 companies of infantry now being mustered leave their districts, 40 fresh captains are to be chosen, and as many new standards of infantry raised.
The Andalucian and Portuguese galleons are to be ready by the end of March.
Twenty-five thousand quintals of buscuit are to be manufactured in Andalucia, Lisbon, Coruña, and the coasts of Biscay, and Guipuzcoa. Arms are to be distributed all along the coast, and fresh arms at once provided for the new infantry levies.
The lance contingents of the prelates and nobles have been warned for service. Reports are to be furnished from all parts of the coasts of Spain of the ships and their tonnage. They are to be fitted and made ready with all speed, so that if circumstances should render it necessary, a powerful fleet and force of men should proceed to the assistance of Don Juan del Aguila.—Valladolid, 21st February, 1602.
22 Feb.
Estado, 840.
719. O'Sullivan Beare to Count Caracena.
Since writing to you I have learnt for certain that our lands, harbours, and castles, which out of pure love and affection we voluntarily delivered over to his Majesty's service, have now, without battery or assault, been ignominiously surrendered to the English heretics, our deadly foes, greatly to the dishonour of his Majesty and injury to his royal service, and to the perpetual ruin and destruction of thousands of his faithful servants in these parts. In consequence of the carrying out of the terms agreed upon, I for my own part, shall be dispossessed of 2,000 persons who followed my leadership ; and I shall barely find 20 who will accompany me to the woods and mountains, there to live like the wolves until the English succeed in trapping us. The fear of this misery forces me, for the safety of the child himself, to entrust my son and heir to the sea, to be delivered to you, and kept for the service of your Lordship, until you may present him at court. I thus desire also to demonstrate my loyalty and steadfastness in the King's service, and all my acts will be directed to this end for the rest of my life. If my harbour and castle remained in my hands, I would venture at my own cost to carry on the war, in his interest, with 1,000 men in the field, besides defending the harbours in my dominions, where a thousand of his Majesty's ships might safely ride. With my son I send another boy (fn. 3) and two men. One of the men I desire to be sent back by the first ship that sails ; the other and the boy may remain with my son until we hear further from there.
The Irish chiefs and myself offered to victual Kinsale and the other Irish fortresses until assistance arrived from his Majesty, if they would stand firm and refuse the ignominious terms agreed to by Don Juan del Aguila. (fn. 4) I have not been able to persuade my wife to go to Spain, she is in such great fear of the sea, but I humbly beg your Lordship in your goodness to help us by sending me a little vessel to this or another castle called Ardle, which this pilot knows well, so that in this way, I, my wife, and another son of mine, may escape, and free ourselves from impious butchery by the heretics.—Bearhaven 22nd February, 1602.


  • 1. Governor of Galicia whose seat of office was at Corunna. Some of O'Sullivan Beare's letters to him, Philip, and others are printed in Pacata Hibernia, having doubtless been intercepted by the English.
  • 2. This was true. Don Juan actually dined with the Lord Deputy on the day of the surrender, 2nd January.
  • 3. In February a patache had come from Spain to Castlehaven bringing letters from the King, etc., which letters were intercepted by Carew, and some of them are printed in Pacata Hibernia. The patache went back to Spain carrying thither the son of O'Sullivan Beare, Donnell, son of Sir Finnan O'Driscoll, lord of Baltimore, and a certain Trant, of Dingle, no doubt the man mentioned in this letter.
  • 4. The agreement made between Carew and Don Juan is printed in Pacata Ilibernia. The O'Sullivans regained the castle of Dunboy before the Spaniards evacuated it, and held it until the 20th June, 1602.