Saturday, October 3, 2015

1611: Spanish Eyes--and London Spies on Jamestown

         In September 1610, two of Lord De La Warr’s ships, the Blessing and the Hercules, returned to England with unwelcome, disturbing news about Virginia. The Virginia Company’s Jamestown settlement was still full of sick and hungry colonists and, worse yet, there were no profits in sight.  Investors looked in vain for their returns. 
The Spanish spy network in London was full of predictions that England’s failing colony would soon be dead. On September 30 Ambassador Velasco wrote to King Philip about news he had from one of his key London sources, one “Guillermo Monco.” This was Sir William Monson, former privateer, veteran of the battle of the Spanish Armada, one-time prisoner of the Spanish in Lisbon, and, since 1604, Admiral of the Narrow Seas [English Channel]. He was also a spy, handsomely paid for leaking English plans to the Spanish ambassador. Monson told Velasco that the English were desperate to recoup their investments in Virginia and were planning to send another large expedition there early in 1611. Spain needed to move now to “drive out the few people that have remained there, and are so threatened by the Indians that they dare not leave the fort they have erected.”

The Spanish ambassador was not far wrong.

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