Venice: June 1589

Pages 441-459

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 8, 1581-1591. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1894.

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June 1589

June 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 837. Alberto Badoer, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope told me that he had letters from Spain announcing that Drake with sixty ships and Don Antonio on board had entered Corunna.
Rome, 3rd June 1589.
June 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 838. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After Drake had embarked his troops, he left Corunna and sailed along the Galician coast to clear Cape Finisterre; but contrary winds drove him back again to those waters, and to the country which still bore traces of his ravages. He found no opportunity to pillage or to inflict loss on the enemy, for all the places were now garrisoned. The wind became fair and he sailed away for Portugal again; he passed Cape Finisterre and came within twelve leagues of Lisbon. He learned that a rich Indiaman had gone into the port of Peniche, eleven leagues from Lisbon. He went there chiefly with a view to landing troops in order to disturb the kingdom of Portugal and stir up the Portuguese, as he clearly intended to do. He landed thirteen thousand men, and it is as yet uncertain what their object is; for though Peniche is not very large nor yet well fortified, yet they say it is fully garrisoned with infantry and horse, part of them forming its original garrison and part having been sent from Lisbon; and in all they amount now to one thousand foot and two-hundred horse. Accordingly as the siege promises to be either difficult or long on account of the troops which are already there and of those which can continually be supplied from other places, everyone is in doubt, and all await the decision of the foe. Drake did not find in the port of Peniche the ship which he was looking for; she had sailed into Lisbon on May 23rd, whereas Drake entered Peniche on the 26th.
The more frequently episodes like the above occur, the more pains they take to conceal them here in Madrid. No one has been allowed to receive the letters which the last express brought from Lisbon as they are seriously afraid lest the presence of Don Antonio should have caused a rising among the Portuguese, who are always ready for any disorderly movement ; as is proved not merely by their well known instability of character, but also by these recent conspiracies, in which some of the leading persons in Lisbon were banded to open the road to Don Antonio. Some of these have been executed, some imprisoned with a view to discovering their accomplices. These plots were revealed by a Portuguese Hidalgo, who was always attached to the Spanish Crown, but was forced to follow the faction of Don Antonio, and accompanied him to England. He was with Don Antonio when he was off Corunna on board the English fleet, and seizing an opportunity, he made his escape and came straight to the King at the Escurial, where he was received by his Majesty and rewarded.
It is thought that these events will stop the King's journey to Valladolid; but his own wish to go there is so great that they continue the preparations for the journey. The archers of the body guard have been paid, and the third and last call issued for all horse to be ready on the 15th of this month. All the same, after the date of Drake's landing at Corunna all these preparations go notably slower; and any accident of indisposition or other would be sufficient to postpone the whole journey. But even if the King does not go himself it is thought that the troops will be sent to that part; and a request has been preferred to all feudataries of the Crown that they should pay their retinue for four months. The custom of the country is that when troops are called out by the King the over lords pay them up to their arrival at the place indicated, after that the Crown provides the pay. This demand is therefore a violation of ancient usage and privilege, and on that account it is unlikely that the King will receive a favourable reply.
Don Alonzo de Vargas, who was named to the command of the cavalry, has declined the charge, pleading his age and other excuses of little weight. But the real reason is that his long services have met with no other reward than hopes and promises which have never been fulfilled; and this has bred in him not only discontent, but a fixed resolve to accept no new office until his past services have been recompensed or in some way recognised. For, although called to the council of war. it seems that he himself was lightly esteemed, and his opinion held of less weight than the opinion of men who have not as much experience and knowledge as he possesses. And now that he knows that they have need of him, and that there is no one better fitted to fill this post he wishes to compel the King to give him those recompenses to which he conceives that he has a right. But the King when brought face to face with such a situation by his Ministers is in the habit of enduring any kind of disorder rather than give way to them upon compulsion.
The troops of the Constable's division are getting ready to march to Navarre, where the Constable has gone already; and they suspect that the object is not so much to guard the frontier as to open relations over the border.
I enclose a paper setting forth all that happened at the siege of Corunna down to the departure of Drake; and to make the account more intelligible I enclose a plan of the fort and fortress of Corunna; it is a copy of the one which the Council of War had before it when consulting at the Escurial how to relieve the city.
I also send you an exact account of the booty which Drake found in the fish market quarter of the city and the suburb, and carried off. He found there six thousand salted oxen, fifteen thousand cantaras (fn. 1) of biscuits, six thousand barrels of powder, three thousand hogsheads of wine, all of it provision for the Armada, which went so unsuccessfully last year to England, or else to furnish a new Armada according to the design which they entertain. This plunder will prove of the greatest service to the enemy, who would otherwise have been compelled to bring supplies from England; and here the news has caused much chagrin, and it is hidden or minimised as much as ever they can, or the credulity of others will allow them; and they are in hopes of being able, with time and money, to repair the mischief, and to create a greater naval force than they have ever had in the past.
The King is slightly indisposed with the gout. May God preserve him at this moment of such difficulty and need for Christendom.
Madrid, 3rd June 1589.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 839. Copy of a Letter from the Secretary of the Marquis of Seralva, Viceroy of Galicia, dated 20th May.
On the 4th of May the enemy's fleet arrived at the mouth of the harbour of Corunna. The same day they disembarked and formed into various squadrons round the town. On the 5th they landed some guns, and began to bombard the ships of our fleet and the galleys, which were lying in port. Our ships and the city kept up a good fire. That same evening, the galleys lying without any orders from the Marquis, the enemy came on with many boats against the fish market, and seized it. Next day the city was completely invested, and at eleven o'clock the bombardment commenced, and by one o'clock, under a continuous fire though only from a few guns, the walls, which were very weak, were laid level with the ground; one of the towers was wrecked, and the assault was given; it lasted two hours, at the end of which time the enemy withdrew, having lost a large number of officers; they had for a considerable time kept the Royal Standard down on the ground; in their retreat they left a great quantity of arms. On that day we lost about twelve of our best men, and in the previous and subsequent skirmishes, about one hundred killed and one hundred and fifty wounded. The enemy lost one thousand five hundred men, among them an officer of the Queen, her prime favourite, who had an income of twelve thousand ducats, and bore the Royal Standard. Yesterday, the 17th, and to-day, the 18th, the enemy burned the fish market and all the houses and mills which were round about the city, and the monastry of Saint Domenic, which is a great pity. Of our ships only the “S. Bernardo” remained; she cut her cables and drifted on shore under the city; of the others some were burned by order of the Marquis, others by the enemy.
The enemy's fleet is one hundred and fifty-four sail strong, and between sailors and troops it has on board upwards of twenty thousand men. They are expecting another fifty ships with reinforcements and provisions. Yesterday, late in the day, everyone went on board, and this morning they set sail with a fair wind. The wind freshened to such an extent that it is thought that they will not be able to make Finisterre, but will have to keep to the open. Their route is for some point between the Douro and the Miño; and we are not yet free of anxiety, for we left in the morning for Bayona to support it in case of need, with the miserable troops which the people of this country have shown themselves to be; and the saying is true that great is the shame and the poverty of those who have to live among them. God grant us better fortune than in the past, for it is a sheer miracle that this city was not lost, in defence of which I will not recount the actions of the Marquis; I will only say that we have not more than three hundred men of the Seville reserves who will fight, and some few of the district; we are without provisions which were all burned in the firing of the fish market, and very little ammunition. On the night of the capture of the fish-market Don Juan de Lusia and Don Juan de Monsalutio and other officers were made prisoners.
The enemy lay all night two leagues away from this city, being unable to make Finisterre. The Duke of Alva and the Duke of Francavilla have just arrived with their men, and so the succours from Castille come in before the succours from this kingdom of Galicia.
June 6. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 840. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Germany, to the Doge and Senate.
There has been some trouble in Antwerp on account of the expiry, on St. John's Day, of the four years which were granted to the heretics in which to leave the city or to become Catholics. Many are leaving for England after selling their property.
The Spaniards have captured a fortress of Berg on the Rhine, between Wesel and Rees, and killed all the garrison. News from Antwerp that the English Armada has sailed.
Prague, 6th June 1589.
June 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 841. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After the English fleet had landed troops at Peniche it did not attempt any operations at that place. The garrison retired into the castle, a strongly fortified one. The English had no opportunity to raise the country, for Peniche is a small place of little importance; and so for the better employment of their time and their forces, which amounted to about thirteen or fourteen thousand men, and a considerable body of cavalry, they marched towards Lisbon, followed by their ships, which took the same direction by sea. They soon reached Cascaes, a place only a short distance from Lisbon. Their object appears to have been to make an assault from the land side, upon two castles which stand at the mouth of Lisbon harbour, and thus to throw open the port for the fleet, then the combined land and sea forces were to attack the place, not so much in the hope of carrying it by force of arms as to throw the city into confusion by a revolution among the populace, who, the enemy calculated, would rise at the name and the presence of Don Antonio, now with the English army, in accordance with the agreement made with Don Antonio. But results always fall short of expectations, and the hopes of exiles are usually higher than the inclination of the populace will warrant, and these calculations, it seems, are based on a false and uncertain line of argument. All the same some turn of fortune may give one or other the advantage, and so the issue is awaited with anxiety. That issue cannot be long delayed, and, in the opinion of many, the English, neither in numbers nor in other respects, are sufficiently strong to injure the chief cities of that kingdom, and far less Lisbon, unless supported by a movement among the people. Lisbon is thoroughly well provided, and the garrison will have all the more courage that they know now that Don Ernando and his troops are on the move. He has left Zamora and is marching towards Alcantara, where all the troops destined for Portugal are to muster. Between the troops in Lisbon and those of Don Ernando, the total will amount to eleven or twelve thousand men and six hundred horse. It is true, however, that this operation is being carried out slowly, and they may reach their destination to find that the enemy has already carried out his designs. This is all I have to report on the movement of the English force, which on its way from Peniche to Cascaes, made conquest of only one small miserable village, which was garrisoned by a few horse, who, after a slight resistance abandoned it, and it readily and with joy placed itself under the rule of Don Antonio. There was a rumour that as a result of these risings some Portuguese gentlemen, who for nobility and wealth are among the greatest, have been imprisoned by his Majesty's orders, but it seems that the rumour is false. The King has no suspicion of these gentlemen, and while there is great fear of a rising among the people of Portugal, the loyalty of the nobles is not questioned. I must inform you that all posts here are opened, even some of the King's despatches arrived here unfastened.
Madrid, 16th June 1589.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 9. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 842. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I am the only Ambassador at this Court, all the others on some pretext or another, have withdrawn to the quiet of their own homes.
Tours, 9th June 1589.
[Italian; deciphered.]
June 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 843. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English troops which landed in Portugal reached Cascaes, as I informed your Serenity, and without losing time, as they considered that rapidity of action was the basis of the whole enterprise, they advanced at great stride towards the city of Lisbon, from which, according to the news we have, they were only a very short distance. They expected the populace of Lisbon to rise against the present Government; to open the gates of the town and to welcome Don Antonio as King. And by letters received from Lisbon it would seem that the enemy was already in sight of the walls, while the letter of June 3rd declares that they were in the suburbs and were designing to assault the fortifications which are old and weak, in the expectation that the populace would rise in their favour; which, however, up to the present, has not taken place, as the enemy hoped and as they had cause for expecting from the promises made to them. Accordingly, the Cardinal and the Government crushing the people by the terror of the punishments they inflicted upon those of the garrison whom they suspected, and with the support of their own troops and rumours of others to arrive immediately, succeeded in keeping the city quiet, at least so they say here; and your Serenity will find a few details in the two enclosures. The highest estimate places the number of the English at fifteen thousand men, the lowest at twelve thousand, with four hundred horse and some pieces of artillery. Don Antonio is in supreme command and has under him Colonel Norris.
These troops on their marches in Portugal have observed two rules imposed by their leaders, both well calculated to conciliate the minds of the Portuguese, the one is to refrain from making booty, the other is to show all the marks of the Catholic faith, displaying images of saints and celebrating the sacrifice of the mass; but from the first of these has arisen a great dearth of provisions, and the second causes the heretics in the array to serve unwillingly under such ensigns. These difficulties of the enemy and the preparations which the defenders have made and are making in Lisbon, lead them to hope that they will be able not only to keep the town, but also to inflict some damage and defeat upon the English before they can embark again. Already a rumour has spread from the house of the Grand Courier that news from Lisbon of the fifth of this month affirm that Don Antonio with his troops, seeing that no movement was taking place in the city and that relief was being prepared on all sides, had retired from before the walls to the sea. It is thought that if he puts to sea he will make an attack on the Azores, which are but poorly munitioned, or else will lie in wait for the Indian fleet which ought to be arriving at this season. All the same there are not wanting difficulties in the way of the garrison of Lisbon, which if not sufficient to prevent them from defending themselves successfully, will certainly hinder them from following up any advantage; for the munitions for feeding and defending the city were, in far the largest part, stored in the suburbs; and there not being time to take them inside the walls, they were entirely destroyed by order of the Government to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. The garrison, too, being in great part Portuguese, is not to be trusted to obey nor to stand firm in fight. So much is this the case that the Count Fuentes having made a sortie with a company of Portuguese infantry, found his men so unwilling to march and so inclined to Don Antonio, that he was forced to retire without having even seen the face of the enemy, in order to avoid a complete collapse. The chief object of the Government is to secure themselves against those who by money or by correspondence are in relations with Don Antonio. Among others is a Portuguese called Emanuel Gomez de Vas, of vast and famous riches; it was found that he had had long and intimate correspondence with the said Don Antonio, and to save himself from punishment he fled to Africa; his property was confiscated, and his sons proclaimed as rebels. Through Castille and Spain generally they are collecting troops to send to Portugal. The Prior Don Ernando has already gone there with some troops; but the operation is going on so slowly that there is no expectation that the troops will arrive in time; for the nature of the English enterprise, resting entirely on a rising of the people, the issue must be decided rapidly, either by revolution, which would admit the enemy into the town, or by a refusal to rise, which would repulse them. On the other hand, Don Antonio looses no opportunity of improving his position. Drake, who remained with the fleet, has sent a part of his ships to Africa to bring back reinforcements of troops from the Schereef. But as we have heard that the King of Spain has received from the Schereef letters expressing a desire to remain on friendly terms, and as it is affirmed that the Queen of England has a Jew who is acting for her at the Schereefs Court, it is thought that Drake will get for answer either a downright refusal or merely promises long drawn out.
The King of Spain not only makes provision for the defence of Lisbon, but is collecting material for a fresh attack on England; being apparently resolved that next year his naval forces shall be so great that he may venture on that enterprise with far better hopes of success. In Catalonia he has ordered ten galleons of six hundred tons each, lateen rigged, so as to sail better to wind; they are to be ready by March. For this purpose fifty thousand crowns have been sent to that district. The Catalans, who are entrusted with the order, declare that the time allowed is too short for the importance of the work; and even if all the wood were ready—and it is all to cut yet—it would be a hard task to complete the order in such a space of time. Those who have knowledge of the seas declare that ships of that build cannot sail in those bad and stormy waters. In Biscay, too, they are building ships; and so, provided there is someone to take the command, an Armada will be formed which will not only protect these kingdoms, but will strike terror into the enemy. If the kingdom of Portugal escapes the dangers in which it is involved, his Majesty is councilled to use sharper and weightier methods for keeping it in check; for gentle methods produce no result They say that had the caresses and manipulation bestowed on Portugal been employed in Flanders, and the force which is adopted in Flanders applied to Portugal, the policy would have been better suited to the nature of the respective countries.
Madrid, 12th June 1589.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 844. Translation of a Letter from Don Francesco Odonte, Adjutant-General to the Army of Lisbon, dated 3rd of June 1589.
On the first of this month, I sent your Lordship an account of the rapid advance of the enemy towards the city. Yesterday evening he arrived at the suburbs of Sta Caterina and St Antonio, where he took up his quarters, and began to search for some secret gate by which he might enter the town, as all the public gates were shut, and well guarded. They say that Don Antonio spent that night in the house of the Duke d'Avero; then early in the morning he completed the investment of the city, and continued his search for some fausse porte in the walls. But the garrison harassed him as much as they could. Don Sancho Brav.o, with his company of harquebussiers, and Captain Gasparo d'Alarcon, with two companies of light horse, have been skirmishing all to-day outside the city, and between yesterday and to-day they have sent in from twenty-five to thirty English prisoners who have been committed to the galleys; and if they would only do the same by all those who are really fighting us while feigning to be friends, they might man more galleys than are to be found in all Christendom this day; for those who have shown their colours during the last three days and that without a blush, are simply infinite; nor is there any wonder that Don Antonio has attempted this enterprise, owing to the promises held out to him; and as one has seen, from the moment he disembarked he has been supplied with abundance of provisions and munitions, while not a man has offered us his services. To-day a squadron came in by the quarter of S. Rocco, and brought with it fifty or sixty cows. And of all the corregidors in the city, we have not seen a single one save two, the rest are all in hiding, and some have even undertaken the task of supplying Don Antonio's troops with food with as little shamefacedness as though they had come with him from England. In this quarter of the city there is not a man left; some have fled to the other side of the river, some are hidden, some have joined Don Antonio. The troops under the four colonels have not been ashamed to declare in public that they will not fight. We know that Don Antonio held it certain that the moment he appeared and sat down before the walls, the city would rise; and on this account we were in great alarm and passed a very bad night. His Highness was ready to go to any place of danger, being fully convinced that if the troops retired at any point the city was lost. He showed himself valorous and prudent and was equal to meeting not only this difficulty but many others. This has encouraged our troops, and the partizans of Don Antonio have not had the spirit to rise, and so we trust to God that each hour matters will mend. The Castillian troops are told off to the damaged wall. The rest of the garrison is divided into three divisions, one at the Palace Square, another at the Rosseo, another at the Enfanci. To-day six hundred men arrived from Oporto. They say the Duke of Feria is coming with a large number of horse and harquebussiers, in short with powerful reliefs. They say that this evening there was a skirmish in the suburb of S. Antonio, where the enemy lost one hundred and fifty men, and we about fifteen or twenty harquebussiers and four or five men-at-arms, because they could not fight so well in the streets as in the open country.
Drake has been half a day at Cascaes, with his fleet. As he has not entered the harbour to-day, and the enemy came by land, it is held for certain that he will not attempt to enter. But should he enter we will teach him how difficult it is to get out again. I trust to God that, if we look sharp and are active in our operations, not a man of them will embark.
Yesterday they arrested a great noble, called Ruy Diazlovo, for secret relations with Don Antonio. A letter was found in his breast, and to-day his Highness has ordered the arrest of Louis Gonzales, lieutenant of the anti-chamber to the Prince Cardinal; he is a very able man, and they say the charge against him is the same, communications with Don Antonio; if that is so then for the last three years Don Antonio will have been well informed about the kingdom of Portugal. Gonzales will not be the only traitor who is discovered. God help us.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 845. Translation of a Letter from Father Friar Giovan dalla Cuova, Confessor to the Serene Prince Cardinal, Albert, addressed to Secretary Zagias, 3rd of June 1589 from Lisbon.
The landing of Don Antonio in Portugal has resulted in his laying siege to Lisbon. The Count of Fuentes took the open field at first, and formed his army; but subsequently it appeared more advisable for him to retire into the city, and to fortify it inside the circle of its walls, leaving all that lay outside abandoned. This was done; and now for three days we are under siege. The enemy have made some skirmishes by day and by night; not without causing some alarm and peril. However, thanks be to God that his Highness, by his courage and authority, which have astonished us all, and the Count of Feuntes, through his activity and spirit, and the bravery of the troops from Castille, have worsted the enemy in every encounter. This evening they have been driven back a long way from the walls, with a loss of three hundred men. This has heartened our troops and inspired them with more hope of victory than fear of defeat.
To-day a large relief of one hundred Castillian troops, veterans, marched in from Oporto. To-morrow two thousand five hundred are expected, also six companies of horse. With these reinforcements we hope for victory all along the line, and possibly the English may find that they are unable to re-embark.
Among the Portuguese of this city many things have happened, which are too long to narrate. However, partly on the sight of the Castillian troops defeating the enemy, partly from fear of punishment, as five traitors have already been hung and one had his head cut off, and chiefly thanks to the prudence and calmness with which his Highness conducts the Government, matters have been placed on such a footing that it is not expected that any movement will take place, though some few nobles have joined Don Antonio, and many more have left the town. And even should they wish to make a rising it is thought that they would not be able to do so. I have come to live in the palace, and shall continue there as long as this state of affairs continues; being, as in duty bound, at the service of his Highness.
June 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 846. Hieronimo Lippomano, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
We are detained in this port by the fear of the fleet of the King of Algiers; in addition to his twenty-two galleys there is reason to suppose that Murad Rays is also out with twelve; and that they intend in conjunction to capture the money which is being sent to Italy.
The King of France is accused of having suggested this operation to the King of Algiers, in order to annoy the King of Spain. The mischief the Algerines are doing is terrible; and if Spain is harried by the English to the west, it suffers no less from Algerines upon the east. The Tuscan Ambassador and I have resolved to send to Montmorency to inquire whether we may safely pass that way.
Barcellona, 12th June 1589.
June 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 847. Hieronimo Lippomano, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I have no news on this question of our voyage. The day before yesterday the King of Algiers captured several ships ten miles out at sea, and some say he has drawn off towards Sardinia.
The courier brings news that Drake has landed four thousand men in Portugal, at Peniche, a place twelve leagues from Lisbon, and has sacked and burned the town. The King's troops arrived and made great havoc of the English. They will retire, and will likely go to the Azores where they will find no more than one thousand men in garrison, and hated by the natives. As the English are masters of the sea it is expected that they will be able to do much mischief at the Azores to the Indian fleets.
Barcellona, 13th June 1589.
June 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 848. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After my last news from Portugal I hear by a courier, who, as usual since the opening of this war, went first to the Escurial and afterwards came here, that the English in retiring from before Lisbon lost four hundred men, among them a colonel killed by the peasants who pursued the enemy for some time. The English took up a position with the fleet on their front, and both flanks entrenched. They are either waiting the proper moment to embark, or, as others think, till succour comes from Africa. To make their position safer they have brought some more guns on shore. On the other hand Don Alonzo de Vargas and the Duke of Braganza have collected a large body of cavalry. And so it would seem from what one hears,—though that is only the Spanish side of the case—we must soon learn the upshot of this operation.
What roused the calumnious rumours against the Portuguese nobility was a scene which took place at the Escurial between the Duke of Cardona, who is appointed to the government of Oran, and Don Christoforo de Mora, a Portuguese noble in the Council of the King. During conversation the question of Portuguese fidelity was touched upon; one party defending it, the other attacking. High words passed and to avoid a further scandal by the King's orders Don Christoforo retired to his rooms, and the Duke left the Escurial. This gave rise to a rumour that Don Christoforo had been arrested on suspicion about Portuguese affairs. The matter has been accomodated on both sides.
The French Ambassador has not succeeded yet in receiving an answer. I am informed that there was never any talk of giving Calais to the King of Spain.
Antonio Perez, who many years ago was imprisoned, and then allowed to live in Madrid in a house quite close to this which I inhabit, was a few days ago carried in irons to the Torre di Ainto, where, as a rule, they put those who are not to come out again. No one knows if it is his old offences or new charges which have caused this sudden severity. Here he is truly beloved by all who knows him.
The ship “Patti,” from England with lead, was compelled to put into Cadiz where the King's officers seized her for his Majesty's service in this war. I have secured its liberation, but as long as this need for a fleet continues here masters should steer wide of these waters.
Madrid, 13th June 1589.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 849. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Antonio retired from before the walls of Lisbon as I have already informed your Serenity, because he saw not merely that any expectations of a rising had failed, for the city was perfectly quiet, but also because his hopes were being steadily crushed by the preparations which the Government was making. In his retreat, however, he did not suffer so much loss as was reported. He retired with ease to Cascaes, where he intended to fortify himself, and did so. Those in command, knowing that their troops, many of whom were Portuguese, could not be trusted, and that the population was in a disturbed state, did not venture to follow him to Cascaes with those soldiers who were required to hold the population in check. The English seeing that they were producing no effect near the city drew away from it, precisely with the intention of tempting the defenders to come out and take the offensive, thereby giving the population an opportunity to rise, but the garrison recognised the danger and abstained.
The English troops were led to Cascaes and cantoned there. They assaulted a small and weak fortress in that place, rather with a view to preventing the damage it might inflict, that with the idea that they were making any valuable acquisition. The fortress was captured without so much as planting a gun against it. As yet we do not know whether cowardice or treachery caused its fall. The commander has been arrested and brought to Lisbon where he awaits the punishment of his fault.
At length Don Antonio seeing that his own forces were wasting away through wounds, infirmity, and death, that the population was not making headway, that no more favourable opportunity was likely to offer itself, and that the Spaniards were gaining strength, on the 14th of this month embarked with all his troops and all his munitions, and thus abandoned his ill-starred enterprise, to which he had been led by the eagerness of the Portuguese people. It seems that he intended to avenge himself on them, for he left behind a great many Portuguese who had joined him so that they might pay the merited penalty of their rebellion against Spain, and their treachery to himself. He also threatened to send to his Catholic Majesty the letters of those Portuguese nobles who had promised him their help and then failed to move. Such was the end of his enterprise, founded on the will of the multitude, and not upon his own forces. And, though the Portuguese were very much inclined to Don Antonio, and kept up constant secret understanding with him, some supplying his troops with food, others furnishing money, one even attempting to assassinate the Count of Fuentes with an harquebuss, which missed its effect—yet owing to the absence of concerted action in expelling the Castillians and giving the kingdom to him, the end was failure and the exposure of their own persons to pains and penalties and their country to a sharper and severer government.
It is thought that Lisbon, and by consequence all Portugal, owed its salvation to the days wasted in the attempt on Corunna, where the preparations were great, where the population had time to consider the danger they ran if they revolted and to see sentence executed on some who favoured Don Antonio.
Here they are continuing the preparations to support Lisbon. The city of Salamanca has promised the King four hundred troops paid during the present war; the Marquis of Vigliena gives eighty horse, furnishing the horses and the arms, paying every man a crown a day and the captain fifty crowns a month, and seventeen thousand maravedi, which amount to thirty-two ducats, as pension for life to each man who serves. The Admiral of Castille likewise sends a certain number of cavalry. And so the recent events have brought to light the willingness of the King's vassals, and have rendered the contribution of the eight millions in gold which they have to subscribe all the more easy.
Madrid, 19th June 1589.
June 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 850. Hieronimo Lippomano, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I am told that his Majesty is determined to attempt the enterprise of England next year. The muster will take place in Spain. Orders have been sent out to hasten the Italian troops under Don Pietro de Medici, and the German colonels under the command of Count Hieronimo Lodron. The Prior Don Ernando will be in the supreme command as the Duke of Parma must stay in Flanders.
Barcellona, 19th June 1589.
[After writing the above a friend of mine has just arrived from Madrid and has drawn up the accompanying note on the news from Portugal.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 851. As is already known, the English fleet of 150 sail and 50 boats, on board of which were Drake and Don Antonio with 18,000 men (among these as many as 600 Spaniards), put in at Peniche, twelve leagues from Lisbon, on the 24th of May. They at once began to land four thousand men. These were at first repulsed by the son of the Duke of Villareale, with some loss on both sides. The English then landed ten thousand men under Don Antonio, and the fleet sailed to Cascaes, four leagues from Lisbon, where more men were put on shore. These were attacked by Don Sancho Bravo. His lieutenant, Contreras, was killed after slaying many English with his own hand; in revenge for which the English cut him up into bits. Both divisions marched straight for Lisbon, without sacking any places; Don Antonio, indeed, promised the restoration of their ancient liberties, and the destruction of the Castillian yoke. When this news reached Lisbon the Cardinal gave orders for a review of all arms; closed all the gates and sally ports, and placed garrisons at every point. Moreover, his Highness and the Count of Fuentes proposed to meet the enemy in the field; for which purpose they formed a camp at Alcantara, half a league away from the town, and the Cardinal visited it every day and threw spirit into all preparations. Late that same day the English came up to the suburbs of Lisbon. They were repulsed by the Castillian horse; and night coming on, they did not push forward, being in fear of some ruse. Don Antonio lodged in the Apostolic College or the Theatines, where he received many visits from Portuguese Jews, and other low folk. He remained in the suburbs till June 5th, and tried many ways to take the city. Failing in this he thought it better not to await the Duke of Braganza, Don Ernando, and other grandees. He marched to Cascaes to his fleet which the bad weather had driven back to Peniche. They say that Fuentes and the best troops have placed themselves between Don Antonio and the fleet, and will damage him much before he can embark. It is a common opinion that if his Highness had retired into the Castle of Lisbon, as he was advised by some to do, the city would have risen in revolt in favour of Don Antonio.
June 20. Copy of Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 852. Vincenzo Gradenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English fleet has reached Corunna in Galicia. They could do nothing against the city, but they took, sacked, and burned the suburbs. Martin Schenk has been named Captain-General of the States of Holland and Zealand.
Prague, 20th June 1589.
June 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 853. Hieronimo Lippomano, retiring Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The day after to-morrow we are all to sail, all five galleys together; we shall keep out in the open sea, and reach Genoa without touching land. I may possibly arrive in Italy before this despatch, but as a coasting vessel is going to sail to-day I take the opportunity to send this by it.
A Portuguese gentleman, in the great dearth of news produced by the King's prohibition against sending any reports from Portugal, brings us word that the English have left the suburbs of Lisbon, and have retired to embark again. They suite red some loss on the road. They have captured the Castle of Cascaes, in which they have fortified themselves until their fleet may be ready to support them. But owing to the position of Cascaes, which is sixteen miles from Lisbon towards the mouth of the river, if the English succeed in holding it they may be able to throw all the affairs of Portugal into confusion. It is thought, however, that the Prior, Don Ernando, has reached Cascaes with large reinforcements, and has driven them out.
Barcellona, 24th June 1589.
June 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 854. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After Don Antonio and his troops embarked on the 14th of this month we had news, dated the 17th, that Drake had not sailed yet, and that no one knew what his route would be. It is said that he has captured forty ships, laden with grain and provisions, which were coming from Flanders and elsewhere. He intends to make use of these stores. It is believed that he will sail to the Azores, where he could easily capture all the rich munitions lying there in an open place outside the forts. If he does so he will cover all the expenses of the fleet, so I am informed by experts. The activity in shipbuilding does not slacken. Orders have been given at Santander to prepare all necessary material. Don Alonzo de Bazan, brother to the Marquis of Santa Cruz, has been made Captain-General of the sea. It is thought that the fame of his brother, and the experience acquired under him, will allow Don Alonzo to perform good work for the service of the King. Don Alonzo's post of Captain of the galleys of Portugal has been given to Don Francesco Colonna, a knight of Malta, who has served on board the galleys of his order, and promises laudable service. Don Juan de Cardona, who was at the head of naval affairs in Santander, having recovered all the remnants of last year's Armada, has been recalled, not so much because he had completed his task as because he had failed to establish his authority over that population of sailors. The ship “Sumachi,” which ought to have been set free in Sicily, has been sent to Lisbon by the Viceroy of Sicily. After great difficulty I obtained a decree for its release.
Madrid, 24th June 1589.
June 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 855. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I send to your Serenity the enclosed report obtained from a good source. In it you will see all the operations of the English forces down to the embarkation of Don Antonio and his troops.
Madrid, 24th June 1589.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 856. Report on the Movements of the English Squadron down to the 14th of June. Translated from Spanish into Italian.
The English fleet set sail from England with fourteen thousand men on board, divided into fourteen regiments of five companies each, composed of Germans, Flemish, Walloons, and French. Two companies were lost on board two ships. These numbers are exclusive of the sailors who serve on board; the fleet reaches a total of one hundred and twenty-five sail, mostly small or middle sized, as is usual in England. Drake was in supreme command, and a certain Norris, a man very famous among the English, led the soldiers. This fleet reached Corunna, which city and port the English intended to capture, as it was very handy for ships on their way from England to Spain. A further object of this attempt on Corunna was to rouse the Portuguese, who had showed signs of an intention to revolt, and also to divert any forces which might be sent to hold the Portuguese in check.
When the Corunna affair came to an end, as it did because the English saw that they were spending too much time over it, and could not afford to stay there any longer without serious damage to their interests, the fleet sailed away to Portugal. It put in at Peniche, a small place and no harbour. There ten thousand men were disembarked, some horse, and some sutlers waggons. Don Pedro de Guzman, with three thousand Portuguese infantry and three hundred Castillians, was sent from Lisbon to oppose the landing. Juan Gonzalez de Ataide held the Castle. Don Pedro could do nothing, for all the inhabitants fled; he attempted to to prevent the landing of troops, but all the Portuguese soldiers took to flight, although their officers did their duty well. Don Pedro received support from two hundred fresh troops; all the same he was forced to retire, for Juan Gonzalez de Ataide abandoned the Castle when his garrison fled, and he himself set off for Lisbon. The enemy entered Peniche, but did no damage, nor did they occupy the Castle, but departed at once towards Lisbon. At Cintra they were joined by four thousand men who had been landed along with Don Antonio. They marched in excellent order, and entrenched themselves every night. They arrived within a league of Lisbon, where a sortie of the garrison took place. The English awaited the attack right merrily, and the engagement was fought with courage. An English colonel died, and five officers, besides many men, and an infinity of wounded. On this account, and because the cavalry of Don Sancho Bravo and others harassed them continually and gave them much to do, they retired to their quarters. That same night our troops gave them a shirt-sleeve attack (una incamisata) in which many were slain, and the enemy thrown into confusion. The English drew nearer to the city, and entered the suburbs. They did not plunder, for everything had been carried into the city, Don Antonio was lodged at the house of the Duke d'Avero, and went to the Theatines, where they say he confessed. That day a friar and a rich gentleman of Lisbon, who was under suspicion, were arrested. The latter was taking eighteen thousand ducats to Don Antonio. His head was cut off on the spot, and so was the head of one of the Cardinal's household, who during the sortie had tried to desert to Don Antonio. On him were found letters from Don Antonio. The day following there was a sharp skirmish in which the English lost four hundred men and twenty-five prisoners. In all the skirmishes they had the worst of it, always losing men. Their fleet lay at the bar of the river, and prevented all egrees or ingress to any shipping; it intended to sail in the moment Lisbon showed signs of suffering want. On the fifth of the month the enemy retired half a league from the city, entrenched themselves strongly, and kept quiet. On the 6th, unperceived by the Count of Fuentes, they marched off five good leagues. A few of our horse went after them, and killed some few. Had our troops marched out of Lisbon not a man of them would have escaped alive. Up to this moment not a single soldier had arrived to succour the city. The Count of Fuentes, for the sake of Lisbon, for the sake of the Cardinal's personal safety, and because he knew that the Portuguese troops were not to be trusted, did not venture to leave the city and to take the field with those few troops on whom he could rely, which did not amount to one thousand five hundred men; and in this he did well. Two thousand Portuguese sent by the Duke of Braganza, and eight hundred sent by the Duke of Feria, arrived. The English took up their position at Cascaes, and began to bombard the town with five pieces of heavy artillery. The castle surrendered. It was garrisoned by four hundred soldiers, and contained seven good pieces of artillery, eleven barrels of gunpowder, and one hundred and fifty quintals of biscuits, pork, and tunny sausage (tonina). At this moment there came into harbour six vessels laden with corn for German merchants, and though they were sailing under a safe conduct from Elizabeth, the English seized them. The Count of Fuentes had already broken the mills of Cintra and of Cascaes so that the enemy should not make use of them, and might not receive provisions, of which they began to feel great want. For our horse would not let a man come out, but instantly charged, and they drove back one thousand musketeers who had gone out to forage. Already some twenty-five Portuguese gentlemen, of those who had not much to lose, have joined Don Antonio well armed and fully equipped, and also some four hundred of the people. He is much visited by priests and friars. On the 13th the English got all their sick and wounded on board. They took the artillery out of Cascaes, and left only one company in the town which was given over to the sack. The same day they began to embark the army, and finished on the 14th. Four hundred Portuguese were left behind because of the want of provisions. A Flemish volunteer, and a competent judge, calculates that from Corunna to Lisbon, between skirmishes and sickness the English lost five thousand men. The Adelantado of Castille arrived with his twelve galleys, all in excellent order, and with two thousand men on board. He could not cross the bar on the 13th owing to the bad weather. It is thought quite certain that his arrival caused the English to withdraw. We are now at the 24th, and there are letters from Lisbon that on the arrival of the Adelantado, Don Alonzo de Bazan in his galleys went out to meet him, and both together, with a squadron of twenty-four ships, followed up and harrassed the enemy, who was lying becalmed. But a fresh breeze sprang up, and the English drew off into the open sea; the Adelantado did his best to follow them, but we know that he is back again in Lisbon.
Many English, some say as many as three hundred, have stayed behind of their own accord, and have become Catholics. Among them one gentleman has furnished information as to the nature of the compact between Don Antonio and the Queen of England; in substance it is as follows:—The Queen bound herself to furnish a fleet of one hundred and twenty sail, with seventeen thousand soldiers and six thousand sailors on board, fully munitioned and provisioned. Don Antonio bound himself, in case of the capture of Lisbon, to pay fìve millions in gold within a certain time; three hundred thousand ducats yearly as tribute, and to allow English troops to remain in all the fortresses of the kingdon. That Lisbon was to be given over to a free sack for twelve days. The bishoprics and the principal prebends were to be given by the Queen to Catholics, except Lisbon, which was to be held by an English subject who was on board the fleet. That all the Castillians who were found in Portugal were to be put to the edge of the sword; the Portuguese were to be unmolested; and other terms of little moment.
June 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 857. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I will execute your Serenity's orders about the galeon “Tizzone” with the Secretary of England. The Ambassador is away.
Tours, 26th June 1589.
[Italian; deciphered.]
June 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 858. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After the English embarked on the 14th they hung about those waters for four days to make some booty and to provision themselves. On the 18th they laid their route south, leaving it uncertain what point they were making for, whether the Azores, as is thought most likely, or to Cape St. Vincent, with the intention of entering Cadiz, and setting fire to the shipping, and sacking the town.
They are seriously afraid that this may be the enemy's design, and accordingly the Adelantado of Castille, choosing nine of his best ships, followed up the English twenty-five leagues out to sea, and drawing close to them did them much damage. He sank five of their ships, and captured eight; killed six hundred, and made one hundred and fifty prisoners. Don Antonio expected help from the Schereef, who had prepared thirty thousand horse for that purpose, but as the Schereef was alarmed for his own safety on account of the son of Muley Moluk (Monluco), who was with his stepfather Hassan Pasha, he was forced to refrain from sending this assistance, and sent to inform the King of Spain that he did not wish to break the friendly relations which existed between them. But as the faith of the Moors is always doubtful both parties stand on their guard and in uncertainty, watching the turn of events. It is thought likely that Drake will cruise about not far off, towards the Straits of Gibraltar, where, with the help of the cavalry furnished by the Schereef, he will effect a landing, and will endeavour once more to enter Portugal by another road.
In Lisbon they are restoring order, and punishing the guilty. And already Don Alonzo de Vargas, general of the cavalry, has arrived to act as lieutenant to the Captain-General, Don Ernando, and with a commission to succeed him should he die. This will augment the jealousy already existing between those two. Alvaro Flores has orders to protect the King's gold from the English fleet. The commander who surrendered the Castle of Cascaes has been beheaded as a warning to others, his garrison of four hundred has been deceminated, forty being hung as they deserved. The provisions fur the Armada in Santander are proceeding very slowly. Still the King is resolved on attacking England again, in order to show to the Queen that though she began the war like a man she will have to end it like a woman.
Madrid, 28th June 1589.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 859. Tomaso Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Antonio has been so unlucky in his attempt to recover Portugal that he not merely has not found that response among the populace which was promised to him, but he was not even able to receive in time those fresh supports which were prepared for him in England.
The Queen despatched these reinforcements of men and provisions to the fleet, but the ships which were carrying them encountered a great storm, and were knocked about; thirty of them took shelter in Rochelle; but it is too late for them to be of any use in saving the fortunes of Don Antonio, which owing to a variety of accidents and to their weak foundations, have sunk very low.
Madrid, 28th June 1589.


  • 1. See Martini, Manuale di Metrologia, p. 322.