Thomas Phelippes' Deciphering of Spanish Ciphers Found in French Archives

Thomas Phelippes is famous for having deciphered in 1586 a cipher which led to the destrcution of Mary, Queen of Scots. During the four years until the death of Francis Walsingham in April 1590, he managed intelligence gathering for the secretary. Phelippes is known to have deciphered so many Spanish ciphers that he had to keep records of known ciphers. (Oxford DNB)

The present author found Spanish letters marked as deciphered by Phelippes (Phelippes' signature can be seen in, e.g., SP53/18) in BnF fr.3641 (online catalgue, another format), which is a file of intercepted letters. They belong to two periods: December 1588 to May 1590 and October 1592 to July 1593. Since letters bearing the name of Phelippes belong to the first period, it remains to be examined by handwriting whether Phelippes was also involved in the deciphering during the latter period, which corresponds to the years 1592-1595, during which his deciphering activities are known to have been "sporadic" (Oxford DNB).

The following provides materials to aid further examination of this file.

Reconstructed Ciphers

Some of the ciphers used in these letters are Cg.13, Cp.30, Cp.34, Cp.37 as designated in Devos (1950) but others are not printed therein. See another article for more about Spanish ciphers during the reign of Philip II.

The 1589 Numerical Cipher


This will be referred to as "the 1589 numerical cipher" herein for convenience. It is used in no.1 and many others among Philip II, Duke of Parma, Bernardino de Mendoza, don Juan de Idiaques. The reconstructed cipher is on f.31. There are instances assigning figure "28" to "t" rather than "u" (f.1r, line 4 and f.1v, line 1) but the above follows the table on f.31, which is consistent with the known table of Cp.37 (see another article). Use of this cipher in April 1589 is also found in BnF fr. 3977, ff.125-131 (marked "decifrada Phelippes").

The 1592 Syllabic Cipher


This will be referred to as "the 1592 syllabic cipher" herein for convenience. It is used in no.34 and many others among Philip II, Duque de Parma, Duque de Feria, Duque de Sessa, Conde de Acuna, Conde de Olivares, Conde de Fuentes de Castilla, Juan Baptista [Bautista] de Tassis, Don Diego de Ibarra, Andrea Doria.

The 1592 Doria Cipher


Used in no.47. This will be referred to as "the 1592 Doria cipher" herein for convenience.

The 1593 Zuñiga Cipher


Used in no.54. This will be referred to as "the 1593 Zuñiga cipher" herein for convenience.

The following ciphers are from BnF fr.3977.

The 1589 Yssunca Cipher


Used in no.39. This will be referred to as "the 1589 Yssunca cipher" herein for convenience.

A Cipher of the Catholic League (1589)


Used in no.47 and no.48.

Mendoza-Moreo Cipher (1589)


A plus (+) sign above a figure indicates doubling the letter. A circumflex (^) above a figure appears to indicate a null.

Used in no.71.

Vieuville-Nevers Cipher (1589)


Figures with a dot over the first digit are code numbers representing common words.

List of Letters in BnF fr.3641

no.1 (f.1) Alexandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, to Philip II, Brussels, 4 January 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes" (also a date in English "4 January 1589 stilo nuvo")

no.2 (f.5) Alexandro Farnese, Duke of Parma, to Philip II, Brussels, 30 December 1588

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. "Decifred Phelippes" (also a date in English "30 December 1588")

no.3 (f.7) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, ambassador in France, San Lorenzo, 20 August 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Decipher in no.4 (but three-letter codes remain undeciphered).

no.4 (f.9)

Decipherment of no.3.

no.5 (f.10) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, San Lorenzo, 7 September 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Decipher in no.7.

no.6 (f.12) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, San Lorenzo, 7 September 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Decipher in no.36.

no.7 (f.14)

Decipherment of no.5.

no.8 (f.15) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, San Lorenzo, 8 September 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.9 (f.17) don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 21 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.10 (f.20) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, San Lorenzo, 20 September 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.11 (f.22) Philip II to don Bernardino de Mendoza, San Lorenzo, 20 August 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.12 (f.24) Don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 21 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.13 (f.29) Don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 21 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.14 (f.31) Don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Amberes, 1 April 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

Reconstructed cipher in the margin of f.31r.

no.15 (f.35) Don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Amberes, 1 April 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.16 (f.36) Don Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 11 April 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

Simplified substitution table in the margin in which, for example, "A" is assigned only "91", though "92" is also used for "a". On the other hand, each letter is assigned another symbol.

no.17 (f.37, f.39) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 11 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

Reconstructed cipher Cg.13 in the margin of f.37r. Notes in French, e.g., ". note un S. ainsy 65 pa 65. pas"

no.18 (f.43) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Amberes, 12 April 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes."

no.19 (f.45) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 21 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.20 (f.47) Conde de Alva to Bernardino de Mendoza, Palermo, 9 June 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering.

no.21 (f.49) ? to Bernardino de Mendoza, Milan, 24 August 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering.

no.22 (f.51) ? to Bernardino de Mendoza, "campo junto a Bona", 3 September 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering.

no.23 (f.53) Don Juan de Idiaques to commander Moreo, San Lorenzo, 20 September 1589

In the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering. (The recipient's first name is abbreviated as something like "+Ino", which is rendered "Inigo" in the BnF catalogue but the name may refer to commander Juan Moreo, because the abbreviation "Jno" is commonly used for "John", "Johannus", etc.)

no.24 (f.55) Inigo de Manciador to ?, S. Lorenzo, 20 September 1589

No cipher.

no.25 (f.55bis) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 21 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined Deciphering. "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.26 (f.57) Advice from London, 3 April 1590 "de los corriespondientes de David"

Decipherment of no.67. Some cipher (Cp.30) remains undeciphered.

no.27 (f.58) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 2 May 1590

A passage in cipher Cp.30 (undeciphered).

no.28 (f.60) Bernardino de Mendoza to don Martin de Idiaques, Paris, 2 May 1590

In cipher Cp.30. Decipher in no.29. The plaintext introduction seems to mention change of cipher.

no.29 (f.61)

Decipherment of no.28.

no.30 (f.63) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 6 May 1590

In numerical cipher Cp.37, which is similar to the 1589 numerical cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.31 (f.65) Bernardino de Mendoza to don Martin de Idiaques, Paris, 6 May 1590

In numerical cipher Cp.37. Interlined deciphering in part.

no.32 (f.67) Bernardino de Mendoza to Philip II, Paris, 6 May 1590

In Cipher Cp.30. Deciphered in separate sheet.


====Most of the following belongs to the period from October 1592.====


no.33 (f.69) Juan Mylio to Conde de Fuentes, Madrid, 26 October 1592

No cipher.

no.34 (f.71) Conde de Acuna to Juan Baptista de Tassis, Turin, 29 October 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher, which is somewhat similar to Cp.32. Deciphered in the margin.

no.35 (f.74) Andrea Doria to don Diego de Ibarra, Pegi, 1 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.36 (f.76)

Decipherment of no.6. (Some code words remain undeciphered.)

no.37 (f.77) Conde de Acuna to Juan Baptista de Tassis, Turin, 7 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphered in the margin.

no.38 (f.79) Duque de Sessa to don Diego de Ibarra, Rome, 9 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphered in the margin.

no.39 (f.81) Andrea Doria to don Diego de Ibarra, Genoa, 10 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphered in the margin.

no.40 (f.83) Conde de Acuna to Conde de Fuentes de Castilla, Turin, 12 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.41 (f.87) Conde de Acuna to Conde de Fuentes de Castilla, Turin, 14 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.42 (f.89) "Abe (sic) de charta del duque de Parma", Arras, 23 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined decipherinrg.

Extract in no.66.

no.43 (f.91) don Diego de Ibarra to Philip II, Paris, 25 November 1592

In cipher Cp.34. Decipher in no.44.

no.44 (f.95)

Copy of no.43 with interlined deciphering.

no.45 (f.99) don Diego de Ibarra to don Juan de Idiaques, Paris, 26 November 1592

In cipher Cp.34. Interlined deciphering.

no.46 (f.101)

Copy of no.45 but in the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering in the beginning. (An example of the same document enciphered in two different ciphers.)

no.47 (f.103) don Diego de Ibarra to Andrea Doria, Paris, 26 November 1592

In the 1592 Doria cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.48 (f.105) don Diego de Ibarra to Conde de Olivares, Paris, 26 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Not deciphered. BnF fr.3982 f.175v seems to be its plaintext.

no.49 (f.107) don Diego de Ibarra to Duque de Sessa, Paris, 26 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering in part (possibly because of the same content as above).

no.50 (f.109) don Diego de Ibarra to Conde de Olivares, Paris, 26 November 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Not deciphered (possibly because of the same content as above).

no.51 (f.111) don Diego de Ibarra to Philip II, Paris, 1 December 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.52 (f.113) don Diego de Ibarra to Duque de Feria, Paris, 14 December 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphering also in no.63.

no.53 (f.115) don Diego de Ibarra to Duque de Feria, Paris, 24 December 1592

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphered also in no.64.

no.54 (f.117) don Diego de Ibarra to don Antonio de Zuñiga [Cuniga], Paris, 16 January 1593

In the 1593 Zuñiga cipher, basically a simple substitution cipher.

no.55 (f.118) Advice of Orleans, 25 March 1593

No cipher.

no.56 (f.118r, bottom paragraph) Advice of Orleans, 30 March 1593

No cipher.

no.57 (f.120) don Diego de Ibarra to don Juan Baptista de Tassis, Paris, 1 April 1593

No cipher.

no.58 (f.124) Duque de Feria to don Juan de Idiaques, Paris, 7 April 1593

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Not deciphered.

no.59 (f.126), from Reims, 4 May 1593

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. In Italian

no.60 (f.128) Duque de Sessa to don Diego de Ibarra, Rome, 30 June 1593

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Deciphered in the margin.

no.61 (f.130) Conde de Acuna to Juan Bautista de Tassis, Rivoli, 5 July 1593

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering.

no.62 (f.132) Duque DE Sessa to Duque de Parma, 9 November

In the 1592 syllabic cipher. Interlined deciphering. Deciphered in the margin.

no.63 (f.134)

Decipherment of no.52.

no.64 (f.134, from the last paragraph)

Decipherment of no.53.

no.65 (f.136) Spanish Ambassador in Rome to Philip II

Decipherment.

no.66 (f.141)

Extract of no.42.f.141. Interlined deciphering. Marginal reading.

no.67 (f.142), Advice from London, 3 April 1590

Deciphered in no.26 (f.57).

no.68 (f.143) Instruction by Duca di Umena [Duc de Mayenne] and the council of the League to Brisson sent to Rome

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. In French. "Decifred Phelippes"

no.69 (f.145) Advice of Sanson, Tours, 6 April 1589

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. "Decifred Phelippes"

no.70 (f.147)

Copy of no.51.

no.71 (f.148) Copy of Letter of Duca de Umena [Duc de Mayenne] to the Pope Carried by Brisson

In cipher Cg.13. Interlined deciphering. In French. "Decifred Phelippes"

no.72 (f.150)

No cipher.

no.73 (f.156)

No cipher.

no.74 (f.158)

No cipher.

no.75 (?).

Letters in Other Files

BnF fr.3977

online catalogue, Gallica

no.29(f.79)Governor of Milan to don Bernardino de Mendoza, Milan, 18 February 1589

Cg.13. "Decifred Phelippes"

no.31 (f.83) Acuna to don Bernardino de Mendoza, Turin, 28 February 1589

Cg.13 "Decifred Phelippes" with a date in English.

no.38 (f.115) Governor of Milan to don Bernardino de Mendoza, Milan, 4 March 1589

Cg.13 "Decifred Phelippes" with a date in English.

no.39 (f.117) Bernardino de Yssunca to Martin de Yssunca, Brussels, 18 March 1589

The Yssunca cipher of 1589.

no.43-45 (f.125-131) don Bernardino de Mendoza to Duke of Parma, April 1589

The 1589 mumerical cipher. "Deicifradas Phelippes"

no.47 (f.135), 21 April 1589

A cipher of the Catholic League. The BnF catalogue describes the letter as "contenant des nouvelles du duc de Mayenne, adressée è Claude Maumarché,... pour le Sr Pierre Letelier." "Decifred Phelippes"

no.48(f.137) Paris, 21 April 1589

The cipher of the Catholic League as in no.47. The BnF catalogue describes the letter as "d'un ligueur a un partisan du roi, qu'il s'efforce de gagner a la cause de l'Union" "Decifred Phelippes"

no.49(f.139) don Bernardino de Mendoza to Juan de Moreo, Paris, 21 April 1589

In Mendoza-Moreo cipher (1589). "Decifrada Phelippes"

no.71(f.191) Marquis of Vieuville to Duke of Nevers, 13 August 1589

In Vieuville-Nevers cipher (1589). This is a letter from the Marquis of Vieuville (Wikipedia) to the Duke of Nevers (Wikipedia). A specimen is given in another article.

Images

The following is from no.14 (the 1589 numerical cipher) marked "Decifrada Phelippes."


The following is from no.8 (the 1589 numerical cipher), not bearing the name of Phelippes.


The following is from no.38 (the 1592 syllabic cipher), not bearing the name of Phelippes.




©2017 S.Tomokiyo
First posted on 15 April 2017. Last modified on 5 May 2017.
Articles on Historical Cryptography
inserted by FC2 system