previous next

The escape of the Primrose a tall ship of London, from before the towne of Bilbao in Biscay : which ship the Corrigidor of the same Province, accompanied with 97 Spaniards, offered violently to arrest, and was defeated of his purpose, and brought prisoner into England.
Whereunto is added the Kings Commission for a generall imbargment or arrest of all English, Netherlandish, and Easterlings ships, written in Barcelona the 19 of May 1585.

IT is not unknowen unto the world what danger our English shippes have lately escaped, how sharpely they have beene intreated, and howe hardly they have beene assaulted: so that the valiancie of those that mannaged them is worthy remembrance. And therefore in respect of the couragious attempt and valiant enterprise of the ship called the Primrose of London, which hath obteined renowne, I have taken in hande to publish the trueth thereof, to the intent that it may be generally knowen to the rest of the English ships, that by the good example of this the rest may in time of extremitie adventure to doe the like: to the honour of the Realme, and the perpetuall remembrance of themselves: The maner whereof was as followeth.

UPON Wednesday being the sixe and twentieth day of May 1585, the shippe called the Primrose being of one hundred and fiftie tunnes, lying without the bay of Bilbao , having beene there two dayes, there came a Spanish pinnesse to them, wherein was the Corrigidor and sixe others with him: these came aboord the Primrose, seeming to be Marchantes of Biscay, or such like, bringing Cherries with them, and spake very friendly to the Maister of the ship, whose name was Foster, and he in courteous wise bad them welcome, making them the best cheere that he could with beere, beefe, and bisket, wherewith that ship was well furnished: and while they were thus in banquetting with the Maister, foure of the seven departed in the sayd Pinnesse, and went backe againe to Bilbao : the other three stayed, and were very pleasant for the time. But Master Foster misdoubting some danger secretly gave speech that he was doubtfull of these men what their intent was; neverthelesse he sayd nothing, nor seemed in any outward wise to mistrust them at all. Foorthwith there came a ship-boate wherein were seventie persons being Marchants and such like of Biscay : and besides this boate, there came also the Pinnesse which before had brought the other three, in which Pinnesse there came foure and twentie, as the Spaniards themselves since confessed. These made towards the Primrose, and being come thither, there came aboord the Corrigidor with three or foure of his men: but Master Foster seeing this great multitude desired that there might no more come aboord, but that the rest should stay in their boates, which was granted: neverthelesse they tooke small heede of these wordes; for on a suddaine they came foorth of the boate, entring the shippe, every Spaniarde taking him to his Rapier which they brought in the boate, with other weapons, and a drumme wherewith to triumph over them. Thus did the Spaniards enter the shippe, plunging in fiercely upon them, some planting themselves under the decke, some entring the Cabbens, and a multitude attending their pray. Then the Corrigidor having an officer with him which bare a white wand in his hand, sayd to the master of the ship: Yeeld your selfe, for you are the kings prisoner: whereat the Maister sayd to his men, We are betrayed. Then some of them set daggers to his breast, and seemed in furious manner as though they would have slaine him, meaning nothing lesse then to doe any such act, for all that they sought was to bring him and his men safe alive to shore. Whereat the Maister was amazed, and his men greatly discomfited to see themselves readie to be conveyed even to the slaughter: notwithstanding some of them respecting the daunger of the Maister, and seeing how with themselves there was no way but present death if they were once landed among the Spaniards, they resolved themselves eyther to defend the Maister, and generally to shunne that daunger, or else to die and be buried in the middest of the sea, rather then to suffer themselves to come into the tormentors hands: and therefore in very bold and manly sort some tooke them to their javelings, lances, bore-speares, and shot, which they had set in readinesse before, and having five Calievers readie charged, which was all the small shot they had, those that were under the hatches or the grate did shoote up at the Spaniards that were over their heads, which shot so amazed the Spaniards on the suddaine, as they could hardly tell which way to escape the daunger, fearing this their small shot to be of greater number then it was: others in very manlike sort dealt about among them, shewing themselves of that courage with borespeares and lances, that they dismayed at every stroke two or three Spaniards. Then some of them desired the Maister to commaund his men to cease and holde their handes, but hee answered that such was the courage of the English Nation in defence of thier owne lives, that they would slay them and him also: and therefore it lay not in him to doe it. Now did their bloode runne about the ship in great quantitie, some of them being shot in betweene the legges, the bullets issuing foorth at their breasts, some cut in the head, some thrust into the bodie, and many of them very sore wounded, so that they came not so fast in on the one side, but now they tumbled as fast over boord on both sides with their weapons in their handes, some falling into the sea, and some getting into their boates, making haste towardes the Citie. And this is to be noted, that although they came very thicke thither, there returned but a small companie of them, neither is it knowen as yet how many of them were slaine or drowned, onely one English man was then slaine, whose name was John Tristram, and sixe other hurt. It was great pitie to behold how the Spaniards lay swimming in the sea, and were not able to save their lives. Foure of them taking holde of the shippe were for pities sake taken up againe by Maister Foster and his men, not knowing what they were: all the Spaniards bosomes were stuft with paper, to defend them from the shot, and these foure having some wounds were drest by the surgion of the shippe. One of them was the Corrigidor himself, who is governour of a hundred Townes and Cities in Spaine, his living by his office being better then sixe hundred pound yerely. This skirmish happened in the evening about sixe of the clocke, after they had laden twentie Tunne of goods and better out of the sayd ship: which goods were delivered by two of the same ship, whose names were John Burrell, and John Brodbanke, who being on shore were apprehended and stayed.

After this valiant enterprise of eight and twentie English men against 97 Spaniardes, they saw it was in vaine for them to stay and therefore set up sayles, and by Gods providence avoyded all danger, brought home the rest of their goods, and came thence with all expedition: and (God be thanked) arrived safely in England neere London on Wednesday being the 8 day of June, 1585. In which their returne to England the Spaniards that they brought with them offered five hundred crownes to be set on shore in any place: which, seeing the Maister would not doe, they were content to be ruled by him and his companie, and craved mercie at their hands. And after Master Foster demaunded why they came in such sort to betray and destroy them, the Corrigidor answered, that it was not done onely of themselves, but by the commandement of the king himselfe; and calling for his hose which were wet, did plucke foorth the kings Commission, by which he was authorized to doe all that he did: The Copie whereof followeth, being translated out of Spanish.

The Spanish kings commission for the generall imbargment or arrest of the English, &c.

LICENTIAT de Escober, my Corigidor of my Signorie of Biskay, I have caused a great fleete to be put in readinesse in the haven of Lisbone, and the river of Sivill. There is required for the Souldiers, armour, victuals, and munition, that are to bee imployed in the same great store of shipping of all sortes against the time of service, and to the end there may be choise made of the best, upon knowledge of their burden and goodnesse; I doe therefore require you, that presently upon the arrivall of this carrier, and with as much dissimulation as may be (that the matter may not be knowen untill it be put in execution) you take order for the staying and arresting (with great foresight) of all the shipping that may be found upon the coast, and in the portes of the sayd Signorie, excepting none of Holand, Zeland, Easterland, Germanie, England, and other Provinces that are in rebellion against mee, saving those of France which being litle, and of small burden and weake, are thought unfit to serve the turne. And the stay being thus made, you shall have a speciall care that such marchandize as the sayd shippes or hulkes have brought, whether they be all or part unladen, may bee taken out, and that the armour, munition, tackels, sayles, and victuals may be safely bestowed, as also that it may be well foreseene, that none of the shippes or men may escape away. Which things being thus executed, you shall advertise me by an expresse messenger, of your proceeding therein: And send me a plaine and distinct declaration of the number of ships that you shall have so stayed in that coast and partes, whence every one of them is, which belong to my Rebels, what burthen & goods there are, and what number of men is in every of them, and what quantitie they have of armour, ordinance, munition, victuals, tacklings and other necessaries, to the end that upon sight hereof, having made choise of such as shall be fit for the service, we may further direct you what ye shall do. In the meane time you shall presently see this my commandement put in execution, and if there come thither any more ships, you shall also cause them to be stayed and arrested after the same order, using therein such care and diligence, as may answere the trust that I repose in you, wherein you shall doe me great service. Dated at Barcelona the 29 of May. 1585.

And thus have you heard the trueth and manner thereof, wherein is to be noted the great courage of the maister, and the loving hearts of the servants to save their master from the daunger of death: yea, and the care which the master had to save so much of the owners goods as hee might, although by the same the greatest is his owne losse in that he may never travell to those parts any more without the losse of his owne life, nor yet any any of his servantes : for if hereafter they should, being knowen they are like to taste of the sharpe torments which are there accustomed in their Holy-house. And as for their terming English shippes to be in rebellion against them, it is sufficiently knowen by themselves, and their owne consciences can not denie it, but that with love, unitie, and concord, our shippes have ever beene favour able unto them, and as willing to pleasure their King; as his subjectes any way willing to pleasure English passengers.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Bilbao (Spain) (3)
Biscay (Spain) (2)
Barcino (Spain) (2)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
May, 1585 AD (2)
June, 1585 AD (1)
1585 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: