Appendix: E. Papers Relating to the Earl of Nottingham's Embassy

Pages 71-76

Report to the Master of the Rolls On Documents in the Archives of Venice. Originally published by Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, London, 1866.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


E. Papers Relating to the Earl of Nottingham's Embassy

Priuli reporting to the Doge the expected arrival of the ambassador extraordinary, writes:—

“These Spanish lords are so anxious for the friendship of the King of England that they know not how best to secure it; so at one moment they have recourse to intimidation by displaying their power; and then again, they seek to win him by a show of confidence. So on hearing that his Britannic Majesty had issued a proclamation to the effect that foreign vessels were prohibited from quitting his harbours until after they had remained there during the ebb and flow of three tides, they gave orders for the shipment on board certain Portuguese galleons of the greater part of the garrison of Corunna. These galleons were to steer direct for England, though their arrival there was to be attributed to stress of weather; the object being to blazon the confidential relations existing between the two Crowns, and at the same time render manifest the abundance of troops with which the vessels of the Catholic Crown made their voyages. It was also purposed by this same opportunity to find means for landing these troops in Flanders, such being the professed object of the expedition.

“This plan, however, will not be carried into effect until the Admiral of England reaches the heart of Spain; not merely from a disinclination to leave Corunna bare of troops and ships at the moment of his arrival; but also because they choose to have a pledge in their hands, lest under some fresh pretext the Spanish vessels experience mal-treatment. They think it strange that said admiral should not be accompanied by the English ambassador who is to reside here in ordinary, in the same fashion as observed since so long a while by Tassis at the Court of King James, without any return of the compliment.

“In consequence of this the despatch of Don Pedro de Zuniga encounters delay, and the report that Tassis will return, without awaiting his successor, continues to gain ground; it being considered a convenient excuse to say that they wish to honour so great a personage as the Earl of Nottingham by causing him to be accompanied by his Catholic Majesty's own ambassador.”

After a fortnight's voyage, Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, “Lord High Admiral of England,” entered the harbour of Corunna on Monday the 15th of April. “He was accompanied and attended with one earl, three barons, thirty knights, and many gentlemen of note and quality, one herault, two doctors of phisick, besides thirty gentlemen of his owne in cloakes of blacke velvet, six pages in cloakes of oreng-tawny velvet, like to the rest of their apparell; he had also fower score yeomen in livery cloakes of oreng-tawny cloath, six trumpeters in oreng colour damaske and livery cloakes of tawny cloath, and six foote-men in oreng-tawny velvet. He was well furnished with divers coaches and chariots very richly adorned, the like whereof have not been seene in former ages.”

The ambassador-extraordinary had performed his voyage from England so much more speedily than was expected by the Spaniards, that when the news arrived at Valladolid considerable embarrassment arose with regard to his reception. To extricate the Court from this dilemma, Philip III., whose face-ache had subsided, instantly rode post to Ventosiglia; and, on the plea of his Majesty's absence from Valladolid, as also under the pretence of allowing the Lord Admiral and all his train “to rest and refresh themselves a while before they set forward on their land journey;” an express hastened to the coast with instructions for the authorities there to suspend the progress of the English embassy. It was said that the King's sojourn at Ventosiglia would not exceed three weeks, which were employed in the completion of certain temporary structures adjoining the palace, destined for tournaments and other diversions, including a masque to be performed by the Queen in person; all which entertainments were announced for the Lord Admiral's arrival, although they served chiefly to celebrate the birth of King Philip's eldest son. The Spaniards sought thus to dazzle our countrymen with magnificent pageants, and to persuade the earl that they had all been devised for his exclusive honour, nor did they fail additionally to secure his good will by also preparing for him very costly presents.

The Earl of Nottingham was expected at Valladolid on the 20th of May, and, independently of the presents destined for him, the cost of this embassy to the Spanish government exceeded 200,000 crowns. Five hundred mules and horses for the personal service of the Lord Admiral and his train were sent from Valladolid to Corunna, as also upwards of 200 beasts of burden for the conveyance of baggage. At this period it was not usual to exempt ambassadors from payment of duties, but on the present occasion, not only had the English embassy free passage through the custom houses, but was also boarded and lodged at the King's expense.

Nine days after the arrival of Lord Nottingham at the Groyne, there arrived there from Valladolid, Don Blasco de Aragon, who announced to him on behalf of Philip III., “The King his master expected his Lordship's personall presence, with such others as he best pleased to bring along with him. And thereupon the English were numbered, and found to be about six hundredh and fiftie persons; and therewithall, considering howe unable the countrey was to sustaine them through which they should pass, his Lordship abated parted thereof, and sent some a ship-board, with much of his owne provision, as coaches, carriages, and divers other things, whereof he should have little or no use, by reason the way was bad, and that the King hadde provided more conveniently for them.”

“Friday the 3rd day of May, his Lordship being amply furnished all at the King's cost, with coaches, letters, mules, mulets, and all other necessaries that might serve for ease and pleasure for every man, they set forward on their journey.” (fn. 1)

Meanwhile, the Earl of Nottingham arrived in twelve days at Simancas. It had been originally intended to delay his entry into Valladolid until after the christening; the presence of heretics at the ceremony being considered extremely unbecoming; but the orthodoxy of his Catholic Majesty's ministers proved less intense than their love of ostentation. Upon second thoughts, it occurred to them that the pomp and magnificence of this religions pageant, could not fail to give the embassy a very high opinion of the grandeur of the Spanish crown, (fn. 2) so it was determined that the Lord Admiral should make his entry on the 26th of May.

The Venetian ambassador writes, that the Earl of Nottingham was greeted in the King's name by the Constable of Castille; but that owing to a deluge of rain, the entry proved disorderly, a circumstance which was the more regretted, inasmuch as the weather cleared up the moment the Lord Admiral and his attendants arrived at their appointed dwelling, and by reason of the antipathy so long prevalent between the two nations murmurs were heard to the effect, that even the elements declared the alliance one of evil omen.

Philip III., however, showed Lord Nottingham all possible courtesy, so far as was compatible with Spanish notions of decorum; nor was a single day allowed to pass without some display or other of magnificence. The first sight witnessed by our countrymen was a grand religious procession, in which the King himself took part, for the opening of the Chapter-General of the Dominicans; whose order had appointed the city of Valladolid for this purpose. Then came the christening: the names given to the prince were Philip, Dominic, and Vittorio; the ceremony was considered most imposing, and Priuli's despatch narrating these particulars, ends thus: “this third name was given him out of compliment to the Prince of Savoy, his godfather, and in order not to offend the Admiral by denying him attendance at a sacrament acknowledged by his sect; whilst on the other hand the grant of such a compliment seemed unbecoming, (fn. 3) contrary to the custom hitherto observed on similar occasions, none of the ambassadors were invited to this ceremony; neither did any of them accompany the King and Queen on the morrow, when, in very great state, their Majesties went to present the Prince before our Lady's Shrine at Saint Lorenzo; but the next morning, after the Imperial ambassador, the Frenchman, and myself, had accompanied the King to mass, as usual in the chapel royal, we offered our congratulation to the Queen on her auspicious delivery; receiving as customary a gracious reply; and to me in particular, she evinced a great gratitude towards your Serenity.

“To-day, the Admiral will have his private audience; at which he will present the ambassador in ordinary, and moreover, negotiate certain business, whose discussion has hitherto been deferred.”

In confirmation of Gongora's (the Spanish Pindar) account of Lord Nottingham's reception at Valladolid, Howes informs us that,—

“All the while his Lordship abode there the King manifested great signes of his especiall good affection towards the English, uppon sundry occasions; but chiefly, and in the highest degree, he expressed it at the christening of the young Prince, the churching of the Queene, in severall processions before his Lordshippe's lodging (where the King himself carried a burning taper in his hand).”

The contemptuous tone of the Gongora epigram is, however, somewhat justified by our own historian, who represents the Earl of Nottingham as, “never having had any great fund of sense, and being then the jest of the English court; too vain and weak a man to be employed in any business, or entrusted with any important negotiation; but he was well enough cut out to make a shew in matters of mere ceremony and compliment; especially at the Court of Spain, in whose interest he was entirely embarked.” (fn. 4)

Although not invited to attend the christening or churching, the English embassy doubtless had places to view these ceremonies, and will assuredly have been much startled to find a part taken in them by Jupiter and Ganymede: this also is recorded on the authority of Gongora, (fn. 5) and Cervantes himself in the “Buscapie,” which was most probably first published during Lord Nottingham's sojourn at Madrid, expresses himself concerning this mixture of the sacred and profane, as follows, “who can be otherwise than offended and hurt, at finding the names of the Almighty and the most Holy Virgin, and of the sainted prophets, coupled with those of Apollo and Daphne, Pan, Syrinx, Jupiter and Europa; and with the cuckold Vulcan and the whoreson blind god Cupid, the adulterous offspring of Venus and Mars.” (fn. 6) Again, in the second part of Don Quixote, are we told of the pasteboard figures representing St. George, St. Martin, St. Diego Matamoras, and their comrades. (fn. 7)

The Venetian ambassador makes no comment on the surprise caused to our countrymen, by the attendance at Queen Margaret's “churching;” of Saturn, Mars, and Cupid; but explains how the Spanish government obtained British convoy, as follows:—

The Count de Caracena who had been desired to take the 2,000 troops from Corunna to Flanders, proposed awaiting the return of the Earl of Nottingham, lest the transports should become the prey of the Dutch privateers, of whom there were eighty sail afloat between Cape Finisterre and the “Narrow Seas.” The suggestion was approved, and in order to gain time, the transports ventured to proceed alone from Corunna to Santander, Lord Nottingham consenting to re-embark in Biscay rather than in Galizia, it being represented to him, that besides obliging King Philip, he would thus shorten his own land journey. The ambassador had been ordered to neglect no opportunity of cultivating friendly relations with Spain; and therefore adhered to this request, however detrimental to the United Provinces. Nor must it be forgotten that the disrespectful attitude assumed at this period by the Dutch naval commanders towards the English flag, (fn. 8) in some degree justifies this breach of neutrality.

After alluding to the advantage thus procured for these reinforcements in aid of the Archduke Albert; Francesco Priuli shows that the “Ego,” if not the “Rex meus“ of Cardinal Wolsey, was now adopted by the Duke of Lerma, concerning whom the Venetian wrote to the Senate in date of Valladolid 9th June, thus:—

“Thursday, the 30th of May, being Corpus Christi day, his Lordship was sent for to Court in greater state than before. The English lords, knights, and gentlemen had gallant genets provided for them, the grandes and others of the Spanish nobilitie accompanied them to Court, and brought them into a very large and spacious roome, which they call the grand-sala, at the upper end whereof sate the King in royall estate, who with great kindnesse arose and entertained his Lordship, and caused him and the ambassador Lieger to sitte downe uppon a forme on the left hand. The grandes and nobles of Spaine were placed uppon a forme on the right hand, about two degrees lower. Then was there brought before the King a little table, and a Bible very reverently laid uppon it and with the same a crucifix; then the Archbishoppe of Toledo read the oath, at parte of which oath his Lordship helde the King's hands between his, and so the King, kneeling, layde his hands upon the booke, and after his oath he subscribed to the articles formerly concluded upon.”

At the close of the ceremony his Majesty presented the Lord Admiral with a diamond valued at 4,000 crowns, several of the gentlemen of the embassy receiving in like manner gold chains of various prices, suited to their respective grades, and thus after a protracted war, England and Spain were reconciled.

After narrating the mode in which the peace had been signed, Priuli writes:—

“Amongst the personages to whom gold chains were presented, was the Earl of Perth, who is related to the King of England. The chief ministers here pay him extraordinary attentions, and since the ratification I know for certaine that he has been more than once to Franqueza's house after midnight with a single servant, which makes me suspect that he is negotiating something unknown to the rest of his countrymen. I cannot, however, certify that his negotiations relate to public business rather than to private affairs, but at the same time I understand, from certain Spaniards in authority, that he inclines towards the Catholic religion, as is likewise said to be the case with Sir Charles Cornwallis, who will reside here as ambassador in ordinary though with regard to this last. I have very great doubts, as from his own lips I heard quite the contrary.

“In the meanwhile I can assure your Serenity, positively, that the only point which the Spaniards strongly urged the Admiral to carry with his King, was the surrender to the Archduke of Flushing and the other cautionary towns, pledged by the Dutch to the late Queen; the Duke of Lerma now offers to double the price, and although the articles of the peace are at variance with this idea, the Spaniards nevertheless seek to facilitate the matter by saying that the parties who consigned the cautionary towns were undeniably mere usurpers, and that therefore it would be no great marvel should a King of an upright mind and friendly to this crown, on perceiving that the rebel states are unable to disburse so considerable a sum, consign to their legitimate master the towns which he merely holds as security for his credits.

“The Admiral, however, considers the scheme impracticable and declines undertaking it, though the ministers here are not alarmed at his tone, and on the contrary, the Duke of Lerma and other chief personages, by continuing to make him valuable presents, hope to bias his mind in favour of this side; they moreover, as an additional inducement, offer him considerable emoluments in acknowledgment of the good results of this negotiation; and likewise imply that it will facilitate the marriage of the infanta to the Prince of England, which the ambassador seems anxious about; all these arrangements, nevertheless, are as yet very far from conclusion, but besides treating the English to the entertainments given for the birth and christening of the Prince, this nation is so desirous of impressing them fully with Spanish pomp that they use every possible method for displaying it in divers manners. To this effect after the performance, in very great state, of the ‘cane game” by the King, the Princes of Savoy, and eight grandees, there was a review of all the light-horse and mounted arquebusiers, for the purpose of giving the general's baton to the Duke of Lerma.”

At this moment the chief energies of the Spanish ministers were directed towards ingratiating themselves more and more with England; every effort was made to delay the departure of the Earl of Nottingham in the hopes that time might render him and some of his companions more accommodating than they had hitherto shown themselves with regard to certain concessions most earnestly desired by the Duke of Lerma; but as it at length became manifest that nothing further could be gained by the protracted sojourn of the ambassador extraordinary he was permitted to depart on the 20th of June.

On his homeward voyage the Lord Admiral was accompanied by Don Pedro de Zuniga, the destined successor of Don Juan de Tassis, Count of Villamediana, to whom orders were in the meanwhile transmitted, not merely for him to send as many English mercenaries as possible into Flanders, but also to insist on the recall of all the British soldiers in the service of Court Maurice, whose cause they were said to have espoused without the permission of their lawful sovereign. In return for similar concessions the satirical Tassis was desired to promise the most ample reciprocity, whatever the crown of Great Britain could possibly require from Spain was exuberantly placed at her disposal; nor did the Court ever weary of vaunting the presents and honours lavished on “the Lutherans” (as to this day the English are designated throughout the Spanish realms); but the chief mark of pre-eminence vouchsafed to our nation displayed itself at a ball, when his Catholic Majesty selected Lord Nottingham for his partner in the time honoured Torch dance. (fn. 9)

This honour passed current at Valladolid as the most complimentary of any; but on the other hand his Protestant tenets subjected the King's partner to several indignities. Although the populace killed some of his attendants in a broil, he declined making any formal complaint lest the punishment of the aggressors should prove unequal to their offence. He was in short determined to evince satisfaction at the treatment he had received, nor could it be denied that the entertainments had succeeded marvellously, and above all the “Masque“ performed by Queen Margaret enchanted everyone. The embassy, however, did not escape the lash of popular satire even in England, for Stone, a jester, celebrated by Ben Jonson in “Volpone,” was soundly whipped for saying that there went sixty fools into Spain besides my Lord Admiral and his two sons.


  • 1. See Howes, as before.
  • 2. “Tuttavia credendo questi Signori del Consiglio che le pompe di quella giornata non potessero se non riuscire a riputatione di questa Corona, lo introdussero qui a venti sei del corrente con grande apparato d' incontro, fattogli dal contestable,” &c.—(See Priuli Despatches, date Valladolid, 31st May 1605.)
  • 3. Indecente.
  • 4. See Carte, in Collins, vol. iv. p. 272. Edition 1812.
  • 5. See Sonnet, by Preciosa, pp. 184, 185, vol. viii. Tales of Cervantes.
  • 6. “A quien no ofende y pone mancilla ver el nombre del Divino verbo y el de la Sacratissima Virgen Maria y Santos Profetas con Apolo y Dafne, Pan y Siringa, Jupiter y Europa, y con el cornudo de Vulcan y el hi de puta de Capidillo ciego dios, nacido del adulterio de Venus y Marte?”—(See El Buscapie, edited by Don Adolpho de Castro, p. 19: edition Cadiz, 1848.)
  • 7. See Don Quixote, part ii. chap. 58, p. 688 (cd. Madrid, 1851).
  • 8. See account of misunderstandings between Sir Win. Monson and the Dutch in April and May 1605 (Naval History, vol. v. p. 115).
  • 9. “Pensano qui d'haver obligato molto Inglese; e spetialmente coll' esser condesceso il Re a prender l'Almiraglio per compagno nel ballo della Torcia.”—(See Priuli Despatch, date Valladolid, 21 June 1605.) For an account of the Torch dance at the court of Prussia in September 1856, the reader is reffered to Notes and Queries, 2nd Series, No. 47, Nov. 22nd, 1856.