© June 2005; revised 25 June 2008

19th-century printer's ornament
Sidebar giving the full text of Zuñiga’s letter to Philip III, 1611

(for Gallery exhibit, “Powhatan’s Deerskin Mantle with Shell Map”)

Copy of a deciphered letter of Don Pedro
de Zuñiga to the King of Spain, dated
Higuet [Highgate?], March 5, 1609.


“On December 12th [2, English style] I wrote to Y. M. [Your Majesty] how two vessels left here for Virginia, and afterwards I heard that they carried up to 150 men most of whom were men of distinction. And likewise I wrote to Y. M. [item LXIII in Brown] on Jan’ 17th how they would make still greater efforts, and spoke of sending the Baron de Arundel with a number of people, who has told me that they have excluded him, because in order to go, he asked this King for a Patent and for money, and likewise he tells me he had asked that liberty of conscience should be given in that country. This is what he asserts; but the truth is that they have failed to send him out because he is suspected of being a Catholic. He is dissatisfied and has told me that if Y. M. would do him the favor to reward him for the services in Flanders, he would be of particular usefulness in this affair. It seems to me he is all jealousy, that they have made the Varon de la Warte [Lord Delawar] general and Governor of Virginia, who is a Kinsman of Don Antonio Sirley [Sherley]. They assure me, he has said that Y. M. pays no attention, so far, to the people who go there and this has made them so reckless that they no longer send their little by little as heretofore, but they command that Captain Gacht [Sir Thomas Gates] go there, who is a very special soldier and has seen service among the Rebels. He takes 4. to 500 men and 100 women, and all who go have first to take the oath of the supremacy of the King [James I.]. He will sail within a month or a month and a half, and as soon as the news of his arrival is received here the ‘Varon de la Warte’ [Baron de la Warr] is to sail with 600 or 700 men, and a large part of them Principal men and a few women, and when he gets there, the Gacht [Gates] will return here to take more men. They have offered him, that all the pirates who are outside of this Kingdom, will be pardoned by the King, if they will take refuge there, and the thing is so perfect — according to what they say — for making use of these pirates, that Y. M. will not be able to get the silver from the Indies, unless a very large force should be kept there, and that they will make Y. M.’s vassals lose their trade, since this is the design with which they go.

“The Baron de Arondel offers to leave here, whenever Y. M. may command, under the pretext of a voyage of discovery, and that in the Canaries or in Porto Rico he will take on board his ship the person whom Y. M. will send to him, as a man who is fleeing from Spain, and will carry him to Virginia and instruct him as to the mouth of the river, the posts which the English hold and the fortifications which they have, and that soon he will tell Y. M. by what means those people can be driven out without violence in arms. I am of the opinion that the business is very far advanced and that Y. M. ought not to apprehend much on account of these chances, since during the time of these goings and comings they will place there a large number of people, because they have too many of them and do not know what to do for them; and the time may come when this King will take a hand in this business openly, and Y. M. might find it very difficult to drive them out from there, and it might come to breaking all these treaties on this ground, which is largely asserted. Hence Y. M. will command that they should be destroyed with the utmost possible promptness, and when this news arrives here, altho’ they may resent it, they will say that they ought not to have been there, because when I spoke with the King about their going to the Indies and to those countries he said to me, that he could not hold them otherwise than according to the Treaty, if they gathered together there they were liable to be punished. I send Y. M. a ‘placarte,’ [a broadside advertisement, item LXX in Brown] which has been issued to all officials, showing what they give them for going; and there has been gotten together in 20 days a sum of money for this voyage which amazes one; among fourteen Counts and Barons they have given 40.000 ducats, the Merchants give much more, and there is no poor, little man, nor Woman, who is not willing to subscribe something for this enterprise,—Three counties have pledged themselves that they will give a good sum of money, and they are negotiating with the Prince [of Wales] that he shall make himself Protector of Virginia, and in this manner they will go deeper and deeper into the business, if Y. M. does not order them to be stopped very promptly. They have printed a book [items LXVIII and LXXX in Brown] which I also send Y. M., in which they call that country New Britain and in which they publish that for the increase of their religion and that it may extend over the whole world, it is right that all should support this Colony with their person and their property. It would be a service rendered to God, that Y. M. should cut short a swindle and a robbery like this, and one which is so very important to Y. M.’s royal service. If they go on far with this they must needs get proud of it and disregard what they owe here, and if Y. M. chastises them, he puts a bridle upon them and thus will make them see to it before they undertake anything against the King’s service. I confess to Y. M. that I write this with indignation, because I see the people are mad [crazy, wild] about this affair and shameless. I have also seen a letter written by a gentleman who is over there in Virginia, to another friend of his, who is known to me, and has shown it to me. He says that from Captain Newport, who is the bearer of it, he will learn in detail how matters are there, and that all he can say is that there has been found a moderate mine of silver and that the best part of England cannot be compared with that country. He says furthermore, that they have deceived the King [Powhatan] of that part of the country by means of an English boy, whom they have given him saying that he is a son of this King, and he treats him very handsomely; he has sent a present to this King.

“I understand that as soon as they are well fortified they will kill that King and the savages, so as to obtain possession of everything. I send Y. M. the chart which the Members of the Council of Virginia have; they have told me that the numbers are marked, and that they count them, as well as the others which are at the top, in such a way that they go up to 39. I have also drawn a line where the entrance to the river is and there will be seen the depth of it. I mark where the English are, and all the rest till below, are dwellings of the Savages. They say that they cannot disembark at any other part of the river with a vessel. I have thought it my duty to report this to Y. M. by this Courier; because Y. M. ought very promptly to give orders to make an end of this. I have also been told that two vessels are leaving Plymouth with men to people that country which they have taken, which is farther [off].

“May Our Lord,” etc.

— Item LXIX, “Zuñiga to Philip III”
from Alexander Brown’s
The Genesis of the United States,
volume I, pp. 243–7

“the Baron de Arundel”

Zuñiga here refers to Sir Thomas Arundell of Wardour, 1560–1640, not Thomas Howard (1585/6–1646), Earl of Arundel — owner of Arundel House in the Strand (the Royal Society’s “Asylum” when it was forced to move from Gresham College in 1667 in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London), celebrated patron of fine arts & sciences, and collector of the Arundel marbles along with other treasures of antiquity. Brown has pointed out that modern readers of the Virginia Records sometimes confuse Thomas Lord Arundell of Wardour with the better-known Earl of Arundel. Both men were actively involved with the Virginia enterprise.

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“the services in Flanders”

“Strachey says, that ‘Lord Arundell’ was in the service of the Arch-duke, when Weymouth returned in July, 1605.” (Brown i:244n1)

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“the time may come when this King will take a hand
in this business openly”

“It was the constant dread of the Spanish Government, that King James would take the enterprise openly under the protection of the crown, and yet when he did so, we have been told that it was done especially to please Spain.” (Brown i:245n1)

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“gotten together in 20 days

“This goes to show that the subscriptions began on or before February 3, 1609.” (Brown i:245n2)

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“a letter written by a gentleman who is over there in Virginia”

“This letter was not inclosed to the King, and must now be lost forever.” (Brown i:246n1)

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“an English boy”

“This was Thomas Savage, I suppose, who had been left by Newport with Powhatan in exchange for Namontack.” (Brown i:246n2)

Elsewhere Brown comments that Savage, who was born about 1594, first arrived in Virginia on 2 January 1608, just 3 months before being exchanged for Namontack. Savage, who was known to the Indians as “Thomas Newport,” remained with Powhatan about 3 years, after which he became a trader and interpreter for the colony. In 1625, he was living on his “divident” on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with his wife, Ann, and two servants. This “neck of land” on the south side of Wessaponson was much admired by the Virginia planter, Colonel Robins, who was once told by the Indian chief known as the Laughing King, that he had given it “to his son, Thomas Newport.”

Brown concludes that “Savage evidently lived in favor with the Indians, being called son both by Powhatan and the Laughing King.” (Brown ii:996)

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“the chart which the Members of the Council of Virginia have”

“I have not yet found this ‘Chart which the Members of the Council of Virginia had;’ but I still hope to find it. I believe it to be a most valuable document, and shall use my best endeavors to secure a copy, if it still remains.” (Brown i:247n1)

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“two vessels are leaving Plymouth with men to people that
country which they have taken, which is farther [off]”

“This was certainly an expedition for North Virginia.” (Brown i:247n2)

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