Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1900.
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The contents of this volume cover the period from the death of Elizabeth to the beginning of June, 1607. Diplomatic relations between Venice and England had been renewed, first by the Mission of Scaramelli, as Secretary, and then by the Embassies of Duodo, Molin, and Giustinian, while late in 1603 Sir Henry Wotton was appointed as British Lieger in Venice. Consequently a continuous series of despatches between England and the Venetian Republic is inaugurated, and although they can hardly be said to reveal anything which will alter our views as to the general lines of English history, they frequently help to throw light upon the period and furnish a certain vivacity of local colour which would otherwise be wanting.
The series of documents consulted is as follows:—The Venetian Ambassadors' despatches from London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Prague, and Constantinople; the minutes of the Cabinet (Collegio) and the series entitled Collegio, Lettere; the minutes of the Senate in their twofold series of Deliberazioni and Deliberazioni Roma; the minutes of audiences to foreign ambassadors in their twofold series of Esposizioni Principi and Esposizioni Roma; the criminal proceedings of the Council of Ten; despatches from the Council of Ten to Venetian Envoys abroad; reports from the Governors of Zante and Corfu. The archives of Milan and Modena have also been examined.
The exact date of Elizabeth's death and a minute account of her last moments are given by the French Ambassador, de Beaumont (No. 32). Writing on the 3rd April (n.s.), 1603, from London, he says, “to-day, the third of the month, at three o'clock in the morning, she died.” She was almost unconscious, and for three days had lost her speech. She suffered no pain. It was the common opinion of the Queen's doctors and of those most closely in attendance upon her, that her illness was entirely due to profound grief; they could discover no symptoms of any malady sufficient to cause death. Her pulse and eyesight were good to the last. Nothing would induce her to take remedies, “as though old age or some secret sorrow were prompting her to seek her own demise.”
The accession of James roused various alarms and expectations: the English Lords of the Council who had approved the execution of Queen Mary were doubtful as to the treatment that awaited them at the hands of her son. The Pope and the English Catholics were in high hopes of some amelioration in their lot. France and Spain were both anxious to secure the support of the new Sovereign; France to induce him to continue English support to the Dutch, Spain to secure a peace and to detach him from Elizabeth's policy towards the States. Between these two powers James believed himself to be the “arbiter of peace,” and affected that rôle.
The fears of the Council were soon set at rest. James received Cecil graciously, and shewed more resentment at Essex' death (No. 40) than at his mother's execution. The hopes of the Catholics were soon dashed, for the King (No. 6) declared “that he was ready to risk all he possessed in both kingdoms, aye, and his very life, in defence of his rights and for the preservation of the religion established in London and in England.”
France, the Dutch, and Spain were each preparing a mission and the opening years of the new reign were, as far as foreign affairs are concerned, occupied by their efforts to mould the King to their interests. Neither Henry IV. nor Philip III. seem to have formed a high opinion of James as a man. Henry spoke slightingly of him to the Scottish gentlemen in Paris, (No. 73.); called him “Captain of arts and clerk of arms”; in France they made this epigram:
“Tandis qu'Elizabeth fut Roy,
L'Anglois fut d'Espagne l'effroy.
Maintenant, devise et caquette,
Regi par la Reine Jaquette.” (fn. 1)
When someone called James a second Solomon, Henry replied: “I hope not David the fiddler's son.” In Spain they spoke of him as a “scabbard without a sword;” and Sir Charles Cornwallis complained to the Venetian ambassador that “Before the peace the Spanish treated my master like a mistress, now they treat him like a wife” (No. 405).
But the king was not so despicable a person as is generally represented. “ He hath a fine countenance, noble and genial,” writes degli Effetti who saw him; he is pale and very fair; he wears a longish square-cut beard; has a small mouth, blue eyes, fine and aquiline nose; he is jovial, neither too fat, nor too thin; well-made in body; rather above the average size.” Scaramelli, the Venetian Secretary, describing his audience of May 28th (No. 66) says: “as to the appearance, height, and complexion of his Majesty, let your Serenity recall the late illustrious Federico Nani, ten years before he died, and you may say you have actually seen the King of England; I cannot remember so striking a resemblance.” As we do not possess Signor Nani's portrait this does not help us much; but when the Ambassador Extraordinary, Duodo, and the Lieger Molin, were received at Wilton House (No. 164), the King expressed pleasure at learning that the Doge had caused to be made a copy of his portrait which Sir Anthony Standen brought with him to Venice. In the Museum at Padua there is a portrait of the King, which may possibly be the one to which Molin refers, or may be the one which Lennox promised to Marin Cavalli, the Venetian Ambassador in Paris (No. 102). James is represented in the Venetian despatches as “a man of letters and of business, fond of the chase and of riding, sometimes indulging in play” (No. 22). “He speaks Latin and French perfectly, and understands Italian quite well” (ditto). He was genial and fond of jokes (No. 164). He was devoted to his wife (No. 111). Fond of wine, though not apparently to excess; his doctor says that he drank light wine in large quantities, and his head was never affected by it. (fn. 2) Weldon (fn. 3) represented him as “very temperate in his exercises and dyet, and not intemperate in his drinking;” “his drinks were of that kind for strength, as Frontiniack Canary, High country wine, Tent wine, and Scottish ale, that had he not had a very strong braine, might have daily been overtaken, though he seldome drank at one time above four spoonfulls, many times not above two.” Coke is rather less kindly in his report; he says “the King was excessively addicted to hunting and drinking, not ordinary French and Spanish wines, but strong Greek wine;” and he goes on to remark that his father, when hunting and drinking with the King, “disordered his head and spoiled his pleasure.” There can be little doubt but that heavy drinking went on at Court, though the King's head may have been strong enough to stand it; Scaramelli (No. 113) reports that “their Majesties on the 15th inst. gave a solemn banquet to the Ambassadors of Denmark and Brunswick. The same ceremony was observed as in the case of M. de Rosny, only at this banquet the drinking was German rather than French. The ambassadors drank twenty toasts each and the King replied with twelve.” The Constable of Castile was quite incapable of taking his leave of the King the day after the ceremony of swearing and signing the articles of the Treaty of London (No. 266); and when Ambassador Giustiniani sought an audience of the King at Theobalds, during the King of Denmark's visit, he found “the Kings with a large retinue just sitting down to table. They had anticipated by a long while the usual hour, intending, after the custom of Germany, to spend a large part of the day over meat.” When the Ambassador's Secretary asked Salisbury for an audience after dinner, the Earl replied quite frankly, 'Beg the Ambassador to have patience, for these two days are dedicated to this business'—pointing to the table—'and God forbid that these Danes should hear that we devoted ourselves to anything but the table'” (No. 561).
There is abundant proof in these Venetian despatches that the King, partly from indolence, partly from his inordinate love of the chase and the private company of his chosen companions, gradually surrendered the conduct of business into the hands of his Council. He pleaded his delicate constitution, and in February, 1605 (No. 341), he wrote to the Council that having been recently for three weeks in London he finds this sedentary life very prejudicial to his health; for in Scotland he was used to spend much time in the country, and in hard exercise, whereas repose robs him of his appetite and breeds melancholy and a thousand other ills. He says he is bound to consider his health before all things, and so he must tell them that he intends to visit London but seldom, passing most of his time in the country in the chase; and as he will thus be far away from Court he cannot attend to business, and so he commits all to them, relying fully on their goodness and ability. “This is the cause of indescribable ill-humour among the King's subjects, who in their needs and troubles find themselves cut off from their natural sovereign and forced to go before Council, which is full of rivalry and discord, and frequently is guided more by personal interests than by justice and duty.” But James was far from being wholly incapable of asserting himself. He overrode Lord Salisbury, to that minister's evident surprise, in the case of the orders issued to English merchants to vail before the galleys of the Republic (No. 404). And in the question of the Union he displayed a political insight far in advance of his time, though “the damned crew of swaggerers who seek to create disturbances against Scotsmen”—as he calls his opponents—caused him an infinity of trouble (No. 217).
The King made his intentions about the Union quite clear from the very beginning. In April, 1603, Scaramelli reports (No. 12) that “he is disposed to abandon the titles of England and Scotland and to call himself king of Great Britain.” By November of next year he had issued a proclamation ordering all officers and ministers of the Crown to style the King for the future as “of Great Britain, France, and Ireland” (No. 292). Sir Henry Wotton's credentials were made out in the name of the “ King of Great Britain.”
Scaramelli did not accompany the King from Berwick to London, but he reports the lavish expenditure upon that journey (No. 40). “The drain on private purses is enormous, to such an extent that even the lesser members of the Council, the smaller peers and gentlemen, appear in public with forty or fifty pack-horses, and some with trains of horses to the number of one, two, or three hundred; with double sets of livery, one for the valetaille and the other for the gentlemen of the suites. They keep open house, and, as is the custom of this country, the table is always laid. Although the English usually hold that interest and humour coincide, and many of them do not reckon shameful whatever breeds gold, still as regards spending, no-one can say this is the realm of avarice.” The expenses must indeed have been enormous, for Scaramelli reports that the Queen arrived at Windsor with two hundred and fifty carriages, and upwards of five thousand horse.
The dread of the plague, which was seriously infecting London, delayed the date of the Coronation. The King resolved merely to take possession of the Tower “according to ancient usage, as representing the throne and royal seat; for it holds the treasure and the armoury, that is to say the very forces of this kingdom” (No. 40).
Scaramelli, who was “lodged in a house in the borough, within sight of the Tower, quite new, with a great Italian garden” (No. 56), was invited to be present at the Coronation, but as the terms of the invitation, “that a convenient and honourable place would be reserved” seemed too vague, and as he could not in his capacity of Secretary expect a whole tribune to himself, he declined to attend. Doubtless some of his suite were present, for (No. 105) he furnishes a very full and vivid account of the ceremony, including the following episode: “Then the Earls, Council, and Barons, one by one, kissed the King's hand, kneeling before him on a red, brocaded cushion, and touched the crown, some even kissing it. The Earl of Pembroke, a handsome youth, who is always with the King, and joking with him, actually kissed his Majesty's cheek, whereupon the King laughed and gave him a little cuff.”
Though the King was not crowned till July 26, he had reached the neighbourhood of London by May 2nd, where “ he began to live with English attendants in the English style at Theobald's; up to that time he had followed his Scottish custom” (No. 40). He found himself immediately confronted with the European situation as represented by the Dutch, the French, and the Spanish. A mission from the States under the guidance of Barneveld was in the neighbourhood of London almost as soon as the King himself. Its main object was to secure immediate help for Ostend and promises of further support in their war with Spain. But James had already expressed himself “very freely and almost in public,” and had “already condemned them as rebels” (No. 55). When Cecil discussed the matter with him on his way to London he had said, “What of it if Ostend does fall?” (No. 36). Barneveld had a difficult task before him, and at first seemed about to fail (No. 73). “Meanwhile,” says Scaramelli, “the Ambassadors of the States are spending upwards of three hundred crowns a day, which the world thinks monstrous and the King ridiculous; for while here to beg for aid it is they who are ruining themselves. The news that they are in a fair way to fail in their mission has soon crossed the water, and only four days ago the people of Flushing were within an ace of cutting the English garrison to pieces. Should negotiations be broken off some such disaster will inevitably take place in one or other of the cautionary fortresses.” But Barneveld's position was about to be strengthened by the arrival of M. de Rosny's (Sully's) mission from France. The objects of Henry and of the States were identical; the continuance of opposition to Spain and the pledging of the King of England to support that policy. The great Sully—as he was afterwards called—was chosen by Henry to carry out this task. The Venetian despatches throw considerable light on what he actually achieved, on the nature of the Treaty of Hampton Court and the question of the secret clauses.
By June 3 (n.s.) Marin Cavalli reports from Paris that M. de Rosny has been despatched to England. He reached London on June 19 (n.s.). He had encountered a stormy crossing of the Channel, for he embarked at Calais on board an English man-of-war which the King had sent for him. M. de Vic, governor of Calais, to do him honour, accompanied him in two light French vessels as far as Dover, and the Marquis's suite of ninety gentlemen and three hundred servants was divided among the three vessels. All three set sail from Calais about ten o'clock. “The English Vice-Admiral signalled to break ensign; the French took no notice, and indeed one of the Frenchmen, being a smaller and lighter craft, forged ahead, whereupon, without more ado, the English Admiral fired three rounds of ball cartridge; one ball cut the shrouds, and placed the ship in peril. Then the French ran up the ensign and fell into the wake of the English. The French ambassadors take no notice of the affair” (No. 81)—that is how Scaramelli reports the affair from England; Marin Cavalli gives a slightly different version when writing from Paris (No. 86). “The Vice-Admiral gave orders that his guns should be held ready to fire in case any of the French ships, flying the French standard, went ahead of the English during the passage. M. de Vic forged ahead and the Vice-Admiral fired. M. de Rosny, on asking what that meant, was told that it was contrary to etiquette for any ship to pass the one that he was in.” The Vice-Admiral was Sir Jerome Turner, under command of Sir Robert Mansell, Admiral of the Narrow Seas; Sir Robert was lying at Gravellines, waiting for the Spanish ambassador, Sir Jerome was at Calais, waiting for de Rosny. Weldon, in his Life of James, thus describes the affair: “the French ambassador coming first, and hearing the Vice-Admiral1 was to attend him, the Admirall the other, in a scorne, put himself in a passage boat of Calais, came forth with flagge in top; instantly Sir Jerome Turner sent to know of the Admirall what he should doe; Sir Robert Mansell sent him word to shoot and strike him if he would not take in the flag.” With this view of the episode, Richelieu's account agrees: he says that Sully embarked at Calais in a French ship with the French flag on the main topmast; “but no sooner was he in the channel than meeting with a yacht which came to receive him, the commander of it commanded the French ship to strike. The Duke, thinking his quality would secure him from such an affront, refused it boldly; but his refusal being answered with three cannon shot with bullets, which, piercing his ship, pierced the heart of the French, force constrained him to do what reason ought to have secured him from.” But Sully's own account makes it clear that he was on an English ship. (fn. 4) “I embarked,” he says, “ the 15th June at six o'clock in the morning. The English, by whom I was served, paid me a respect which appeared to me to degenerate into servility; but I had very soon reason to alter this opinion of them. Even at the very moment when they desired I would command them in every respect as if they were of my own nation, De Yic, who only sought an opportunity of showing the English his resentment of the violence committed by their pirates, advancing, bearing the French flag on his main top-gallant-mast, I found these complaisant English were enraged at an offence, which, according to them, was equally injurious to the King of England and the King of France, whom I represented: I had reason to think them still more rude and impolite, when, without deigning to consult me, fifty shot were immediately fired against De Vic's ship. It was with great difficulty that I made myself heard; which, however, I at last effected by representing to them that De Vic acted thus only to do me the greater honour, and also to give me a more distinguished mark of his respect by dropping his flag upon my first command to do so. I thought it would be most prudent to do this, and my English, hearing what I said, were so far prevailed upon by it, as to make their next discharge at random. I made a signal to De Vic which he perfectly understood, and took in his flag; but as I was afterwards told, he swore at the same time to be revenged on the English whenever he should again meet with them, though I much question had the opportunity now been given him, whether he could have obtained the revenge he threatened; be that, however, as it may, the dispute was ended by this means, and our passage met no further interruption.”
Sully's instructions were to establish a close alliance between France and England against Spain; to this end he was secretly instructed to take every opportunity of pointing out the unjust and violent proceedings of the Spanish; their intrigues to embroil Europe; their usurpations in Italy; their practices in England by means of the Jesuits. If a secret war were resolved on, the alliance was to be cemented by a double matrimonial contract. He was to determine the nature of the succours to be given to the States; to prevent the English Crown from demanding repayment of debts; to induce the King to join equally with France in fresh expenditure; to secure at least the discharge of the States' debt and if possible without the concession of the cautionary towns. In pursuance of these objects Sully was to consult Barneveld, to act in concert with him, and to make it evident that their interests were identical. (Of. Sully's Memoirs, London, 1756, book XIV. and No. 64.)
Sully arrived in London, and it was arranged that he should have four audiences, the first and the last public, the other two private. The first was fixed for a Sunday; the French Embassy, on the express orders of Henry, was all in mourning for the late Queen, though de Vic had warned Sully that no ambassador in England was wearing mournings. (fn. 5) On Saturday at midnight the King sent to say that neither he nor his Council nor the English nobility would take their mourning in good part, and that they had better change their dress if not their feelings. They did so, and all got into their most fantastic costumes and went to Greenwich, where they found the Court in right sumptuous array (No. 81). Meantime the ambassadors of the States, who up to now had failed to obtain an audience, arranged, with the help of some Scottish gentlemen of the Chamber, that Barneveld should be secretly introduced into one of the galleries at Greenwich, through which the King was in the habit of passing. This was done, possibly with the King's connivance; at any rate they met, and Barneveld, after a long discourse, which was carefully attended to, succeeded in impressing the King more favourably towards the Dutch. Sully and Barneveld were working together, lodging hard by each other, and consulting frequently, chiefly by night. Their whole object was to give a satisfactory answer to the King's question, “How can you ask me to go to war in order that you may live at peace?” (No. 81). After the first private audience, four commissioners—the High Admiral, Cecil, Mountjoy, and Kinloss—were appointed to deal with Sully. Negotiations moved rapidly, and, by the beginning of July, the French Embassy had been entertained at a farewell dinner at Court, where “the King made a vast display of plate, and on his person a wealth of jewels. Four hundred persons sat at the lower table” (No. 87).
Sully had kept his government informed of the progress of his mission by a triple series of despatches, one in ordinary character, one in cypher to which Council had the key, another in cypher for the King's private eye, and to which he alone had the key. But Henry found it so troublesome to read that he very soon called in Loménie to assist him, and Sully found it so difficult to write that he was forced to be very brief. This correspondence, however, contained the real gist of the proceedings, and we shall see presently what happened to it.
Sully, on his return to France, professed himself satisfied with the results of his mission (No. 98). The most important subject in the negotiations had been the formation of an alliance. The point is thus summed up by Scaramelli (No. 90):—“The French Envoys declare that their master will never abandon the States, and they propose a defensive alliance between France, England, and Holland, which shall keep on foot eighteen thousand infantry, six thousand horse, and a number of ships. To this explicit proposal the English commissioners, after conferring with the whole Privy Council for two days, replied upon the third of this month (July) declining the alliance for the present; but they said that if France proposed an offensive as well as defensive alliance, the King would reconsider the question, in spite of his present inclination to peace.” This is confirmed by Sully's own report of his secret audience with James, in which the King expressed a desire for an offensive alliance in the case of Spain violating the terms of a treaty of pacification, which he proposed that France and he should negotiate; though the King confined himself to promising that he would not suffer the United Provinces, nor even Ostend, to come under the dominion of Spain. But as a matter of fact, Cecil and Sully fenced about the main point, Cecil agreeing to support the Provinces, but asking that Henry should pay the expenses in lieu of his debt to the English crown (No. 90). Sully objected (No. 107), and little came of it all. The despatches contain no confirmation of the famous secret interview with King James, in which Sully declares that he acquainted the King with “the great design”; though the key-stone of that scheme was, as Sully himself says, “an offensive and defensive alliance between England, Holland, and France.” Sully represents that this audience took place after the Sunday audience which the Venetian despatches record as his last. “Our conference,” writes Sully, “had begun about one o'clock, and continued upwards of four hours. The King called in Admiral Howard, the earls of Northumberland, Southampton, Mar, Lord Mountjoy, and Cecil, and declared to them, that having deliberately considered my reasons, he was resolved to enter into a close alliance with France against Spain. He reproached Cecil in very strong terms for having both in his words and his actions trangressed his commands; which explanation the secretary received very awkwardly. 'Cecil,' said the Prince, 'I command you, without reply or objection, in conformity to this my design, to prepare the necessary writings, according to which I will then give the dexter, and all assurance to the ambassadors of Messieurs, the States.' Then, turning to me, and taking me by the hand, he said, 'Well, Mr. Ambassador, are you now perfectly satisfied with me?'”
Sully reduced the general plan to heads in a document which was signed by both James and himself; and this is, no doubt, the document to which the Venetian ambassador in France, Anzolo Badoer, refers in No. 124. “At last I have seen the actual agreement signed by the King of England, and signed here by the King of France.” And, again, when forwarding a copy of the treaty (No. 162), “I always felt that I should not fulfil my entire duty, unless I sent you a copy of the document. Hitherto I have not been able to do so and at the same time to keep my word, for they never would give me a copy, with leave to forward it. The English Ambassador, who is a first-rate Italian scholar, has finally consented and has even helped my secretary to translate it.” The last clause of the treaty provided that “the defensive part of the alliance shall be embodied in a public act, the offensive shall remain secret.”
Sully had, on the whole, been successful; only one “clause providing that if one of the parties died leaving his son a minor, the other should be bound to help him with all his forces,” was struck out of the original proposals, though this omission was very distasteful to the French, as proving that England intended the treaty to be for life only, and they did their best to conceal it (No. 147).
Sully had made abundant use of gold and presents; indeed, he is credited with having begun “that angling fashion” (Winwood, Memorials, II., 26), and Ambassador Molin reports (No. 191) that the French Ambassador, in his mistress' name, presented to the Queen of England jewels to the value of twelve or thirteen thousand crowns, and offered to eight members of the Council one thousand crowns apiece, “some of them made a difficulty about accepting the gift, and the question was discussed in the presence of the King of England, who declared himself content that each should take all that was offered him.”
The Spanish Envoy, Don Juan de Taxis, Count of Villa Mediana, and John de Ligne, Prince of Barbanç;on, Count of Aremberg, the Ambassador from the Archduke had meanwhile been watching Sully's proceedings in the interests of Spain. They were waiting the arrival of the Constable of Castile, Don Juan Fernando de Velasco, Duke of Frias, who was appointed by Philip to negotiate a peace between England and Spain. The Spanish were far slower in their movements than the French, and James, who was impatient for the arrival of the Constable, so as to demonstrate to the world that he was what he claimed to be, “Arbiter of peace” (No. 97), made sarcastic remarks upon the delay. As a matter of fact the Spanish wished to note the results of Sully's mission, and, moreover, were well informed as to all the secret negotiations that were going on. For Sully's most secret correspondence with his master was tampered with. Sully himself says “among the great number of letters which I sent from London, some directed to Villeroi and the Council, and others to the King only, one of these last, dated 20th July, was never received by Henry, which he discovered from the contents of my despatch by the next post, and gave me immediate notice of it. It was a letter of the greatest consequence; the courier to whom I entrusted it was one of my own domestics, of whose fidelity and honesty I was perfectly satisfied; I questioned him, and he answered that, upon his arrival, the King being gone to the chase, he had carried the letter to Villeroy, and had given it to one of his clerks; that he did not know this clerk, and forgot to ask his name, being at that moment interrupted by Louvet, who also came and spoke to this clerk. . . . I had before had reason to be suspicious, and the affair of the clerk having entirely opened my eyes, I no longer doubted that there was a traitor employed in the King's office.” This clerk was a certain Tes, as the Venetian Ambassador calls him, really Nicolas L'Hoste, (fn. 6) secretary to Villeroy, who was in the pay of Spain, and kept the Spanish acquainted with Henry's despatches to Sully and Sully's replies from London (No. 249). When his treachery was discovered he fled, but was drowned while crossing the Marne. His body was embalmed and he was put upon his trial as though he had been alive (No. 215). The episode was a serious danger to Villeroy, who declared that he would “pay any sum so as to have the secretary alive that he might establish his innocence” (No. 215). He wanted Henry to declare war on Spain, but was opposed by Sully (No. 222). But the suspicious attitude between the courts of France and England was strengthened, for Henry believed that the Spanish told James all that they could gather of his most intimate views and designs about Great Britain (No. 249).
When the Spanish ambassador, Don Juan de Taxis, arrived, he found a certain disposition in his favour on the part of the English Ministers, produced to some extent by their annoyance at Sully's success in dealing directly with the King (No. 139). This attitude was carefully fostered by the lavish distribution of gold (No. 127).
On account of the plague, which was killing three hundred persons a day in London (No. 118), the Court was lying at Oxford. Taxis, who was lodging in Jesus College, was to have had audience at Woodstock, but a servant of his household died after a few hours' illness, and the Ambassador was ordered to Winchester, where the Court meant to go for the winter (No. 136). His first audience did take place in that city; “he was brought from Southampton by the Earl of Pembroke. His suite consisted of fifteen gentlemen of quality, and a hundred and forty others. He entered the presence, but, to the surprise of every one, he did not remove his hat till he was half-way down the chamber. The conversation was carried on by an interpreter; the Ambassador speaking Spanish, and the King English, though both new French and Italian. He returned to Southampton by torchlight” (No. 142). An exhibition of his credentials disclosed other grounds for dissatisfaction. James was therein styled “of England France, and Scotland,” but Ireland was omitted, either on the ground of Don Juan d'Aquilla's proclamation (Cal. S.P. Ven., 1592-1603, No. 1025), or to avoid offending the Pope, “who claims that Ireland, like Naples, is a Papal fief.” Sir Lewis Lewkenor, receiver of Ambassadors, was sent to Southampton next day to tell the Ambassador that this was a very bad beginning. He made some excuses, but an attitude of suspicion marked his first private audience; the King asked for his powers, and wanted to know what guarantees he could offer. Finally, five commissioners were appointed to negotiate. The main points of discussion were the conclusion of a treaty of peace by which each party should be bound not to assist the 'rebels' of the other and England should pledge herself to abstain from trade in the Indies; on the other hand England demanded that no British subject should be amenable to the Inquisition in any Spanish dominion, and that any insult to the Sacrament should be punishable merely in the person, but not in the goods of the offender. But matters made slow progress, or rather none; for Taxis was considered to have insufficient powers (No. 147), and the Constable of Castile, the Ambassador Plenipotentiary, after getting as far as Brussels, sent to propose that the English Commissioners should meet him there. James declined, with some heat, to assent to this (No. 186). Taxis meanwhile was living at Southampton, and dealing secretly with the Catholics. He was distributing crosses, medals, etc., and a child had even been baptized in his house; though this act nearly precipitated a tumult. As no one dare openly to take Spanish gold, the Ambassador adopted the plan of betting a hundred to a thousand that peace would not be concluded. For the rest he spent his time in quarrelling with Montecuccoli the Tuscan ambassador (Nos. 175, 182). The Constable of Castile was apparently unable to make up his mind how to act. He requested instructions from home. Taxis suggested as a way out of the difficulty that a house should be built on the frontier line of France and Flanders, and that a round table should be used to avoid all difficulties about precedence. The King, however, absolutely refused to send commissioners over sea; he declared that Spain, not he, was seeking peace (No. 202). Finally, Spanish pride gave way, and Taxis asked the King to grant the use of Somerset House, “the most splendid house in London after the Royal Palace,” for the lodging of the Constable. Somerset House, by ancient usage, belonged to the Queen; so His Majesty said, laughing, “The Ambassador must ask my wife, who is mistress!” (No. 207). The Queen granted the request, and the King promised to be at charges for the Constable and his suite. This at once gave umbrage to the French faction, for Sully had not received such honours. But matters still hung fire. D'Aremberg, who was to have accompanied the Constable, was laid up with gout, and the Constable himself declared he was ill. The real reason for this delay, however, is to be found in the expectation that Ostend would fall. If that happened the Spanish and Flemish envoys would find themselves in a stronger position when they reached England (No. 213). Finally, in May, Taxis told the King that the Constable was so ill that there was no immediate prospect of his recovery, and that the negotiations could not be put off indefinitely. He accordingly proposed that the Constable should be allowed to transfer his powers, and that they should come to business. James did not like the proposal: it had pleased him to think that one of Spain's greatest nobles was coming to his court as a petitioner for peace; he had also been at considerable expense to prepare a suitable lodging. He was pacified, however, by a promise that the Constable would come over for the ratification, if he could possibly move. The Constable conveyed his powers to Alessandro Roveda, a Milanese, who, in conjunction with Taxis, was to represent Spain; while the President Richardot, the audientary Yereiken, and Count D'Aremberg acted for the Archduke. The Envoys arrived in London on the 9th-19th May. The English Commissioners appointed to meet and negotiate with them were Cecil, the Treasurer (Dorset), the Admiral (Nottingham), Mountjoy, Earl of Devonshire, and Henry Howard, Earl of Northampton (No. 229).
After a little difficulty the Spanish “powers” were recognized and business began. Spain proposed an offensive and defensive alliance: England answered that as for an offensive alliance, the King was at peace; as for a defensive, Spain was too far off to be of any use. The Spanish dropped this point, and next begged for assurance that no present or future 'rebels' of Spain should receive ' aid' from England. This brought up the real issue. The English replied that as for future rebels, no difficulty existed, but they asked for a specification of present rebels. At the third Session, Spain named the States as ' rebels.' The English at once replied that they had assisted the States as allies and confederates, nor had England ever admitted that they were 'rebels,' the conditions upon which Spain held the States, as heir of the House of Burgundy, having been violated to such an extent as to justify the rising. At this the Spanish Envoys rose to their feet and threatened to withdraw, but were put off their intent by a clever request that they would specify what kind of 'aid' they wished to bar. This was promised.
While negotiations were in progress, Noel de Caron, the Dutch Agent, and the Spanish Envoys made every effort,—the one to stiffen the King to stand by “his friends,” the other to win over to their side “many of the principal ministers, and many of the Queen's favourite ladies,” by the lavish use of presents. But the Spanish alliance was thoroughly unpopular, and Molin sent home a copy of a speech supposed to have been delivered in Parliament, arguing strongly in favour of the States (No. 230).
In the conference chamber the Spanish were gradually forced away from their position; “the subject of their discussion has been the question of 'aid' to the States, which were always styled 'rebels,' but seeing that the English Commissioners took it ill, the Spanish have at last substituted the word 'enemy.'” Roveda defined “aid” as “all that contributes to strengthen the enemy or discourage the ally.” The English replied that this was very vague, and suggested specification, at the same time recommending a moderation which would allow the King to consider their proposals. Finally the Spanish presented their requests.:—1. All trade between England and the Dutch shall cease, for this trade furnished the Dutch with the money for prosecuting the war. 2. The King of England shall keep the seas open for all. 3. The King shall hand over to Spain the cautionary towns of Flushing and Brill, on payment by Spain of the Dutch debt to England. 4. The King shall not permit the Dutch to raise levies in his dominions. The English Commissioners professed amazement. They said they thought they were negotiating for peace with one Prince, and found themselves invited to declare war on another. The King of England could not be asked to keep a large fleet in commission merely to suit the King of Spain. “Then,” said the Spanish, “You ought to allow us to come into these waters with a fleet large enough to protect ourselves”; a reply which “took the English rather aback.” As to the cautionary towns, the Spanish proposals could not be listened to; they had been received from the States, to the States alone could they be returned. The Spanish said that as their master was resolved to take them by force of arms he would be obliged to spill English blood, unless the English garrisons were withdrawn. To this the English returned no answer. On the fourth point, the prohibition of recruiting, the reply was that England was so populous that, unless the people were allowed to take service abroad, a serious crisis might arise at home.
As counter proposals, the English asked for the abolition of the tax of thirty per cent. on importations, and that the India traffic should be thrown open. Spain replied that the tax would be abolished if the English pledged themselves not to import goods made in Holland, but as for the India trade, if the English pressed that point, negotiations might as well be abandoned. But as a matter of fact, peace was so important to Spain that as de Beaumont wrote home, “the Spanish assent to everything the English demand” (No. 240); and by July 14th, Ambassador Molin was able to inform his Government as to the terms. On Tuesday the 7th-17th August the Constable crossed the Channel; at Dover he was received by Lord Wotton, brother of the Ambassador. On Thursday he was at Gravesend, and on Friday he came by water to London, landing at Somerset House, which had been decorated with the most gorgeous hangings that belong to the Crown. He brought with him letters of credit for three hundred thousand crowns, most of which was to go in presents—was, in fact, “the mortar that plastered the foundations, walls and roof of many a brave house (fn. 7) ”; Cecil, when communicating the terms of the treaty to the Venetian Ambassador, said: “Had the Crown not been in straits for money on account of the late wars, your Lordship may trust me that peace would not have been signed; but necessity knows no law” (No. 261).
Finally, on Sunday, August 19th-29th, at eleven o'clock in the morning, the Earl of Devonshire, with a suite of fifty gentlemen richly dressed and on horseback, went to escort the Constable, Taxis, and other Commissioners. The Constable and Taxis were dressed in white most splendidly embroidered. They were on horseback: the others in carriages. The King was waiting them at Court, and all of them descended to the chapel. The altar was covered with silver-gilt plate, and on it stood a copy of the Gospels in English. After some hymns in praise of peace had been sung in English, Cecil handed a copy of the treaty to the Constable, and read aloud the oath by which the King and Prince bound themselves to the observation of the terms, the King and Prince meanwhile laying their hands on the Gospels. The King embraced the Constable, Taxis, and the other commissioners. D'Aremberg was not present, being in bed with the gout. Then they all left the chapel and went upstairs to the Great Hall, where a banquet was spread. And presently his Majesty drank to the Constable, wishing health to his Catholic Majesty. The Constable drank to the King's health out of an agate cup with feet and lid of gold, which he offered to the King, and said he had a ewer and basin of the same stone which he would send to-morrow. Taxis drank to the Queen, only his cup was of rock crystal. The rest of the day was devoted to dancing and sports. The Constable was to have taken leave on Monday, but in the night he had an attack of renal pains, and the King, not wishing to delay his own departure, settled the question by visiting the Constable and D'Aremberg in their own houses. “They are still in bed, but will leave on Friday” (No. 266).
The peace was extremely unpopular in England; “there is,” says Molin, “a general disaffection towards this peace, for no one can bear to see the Dutch abandoned.” In France, though Cecil had kept the French Ambassador informed of the negotiations in progress, they were suspicious and, knowing that the Treaty of Hampton Court contained secret clauses, dreaded lest the Treaty of London might do the same. The Dutch professed alarm, though it was not James' fault if they refused to be made parties to the negotiations as he had proposed. The Spanish declared themselves delighted, but the clauses of the treaty were so worded that they could easily be evaded; for instance on the subject of “aid” to the Dutch the King promised not to “consent” to the levy of troops for that purpose, but Cecil writing to Winwood, who was representing England at the Hague, said: “Consent—a word of which you know the latitude as well as I.” And in fact (No. 274) “the Constable on his way to Dover, when passing Gravesend, saw a number of ships full of men going over to the service of Count Maurice. He thought it monstrous that while the ink of the Treaty was hardly dry, it should be thus openly violated. For the terms are that the King shall neither send aid nor permit aid to be sent.” The Constable charged the Justices to stop the ships, which they did; but no sooner was he over the water than the levies sailed. Again, the Spanish supposed that the India navigation was closed to the English, but neither Cecil nor the King admitted this. Molin (No. 291) wishing to hear from his Majesty's own lips how he read the clause, said: “Sire, Your Majesty's subjects may trade with Spain and Flanders, but not with the Indies.” “What for no?” said the King. “Because,” Molin replied, “the Treaty is read in that sense.” “They are making a great error, whoever they are, who hold this view,” said his Majesty, “the meaning is quite clear.” So again, questions constantly arose as to the clause about English protection for all Spanish ships in English harbours and waters. English harbours to the great annoyance of the Government, became the scene of encounters between Spanish, Flemish, Dunquerquers, and Dutch (No. 345), and this gave the English a counter claim whenever the Spanish presented demands based upon the treaty. The Dutch were, in fact, becoming very strong and audacious in those waters. They captured a small vessel from Sandwich, and wrapping the sailors in the sails, drowned them all so as to hide the piracy. But the people of Sandwich, getting wind of this, rose against the Dutch Flemings in the town, killed three, and threatened to make an end of them all. Winwood's reports are full of instances of Dutch disregard for the neutrality of English ports. Finally, in June, 1605, a whole Spanish squadron, under Sarmiento, was attacked and partially destroyed off Dover by the Dutch, under Haultain. The surviving ships, to the number of four, took refuge in Dover where they were blockaded for about six months. During the engagement, Dutch cannonballs damaged the town and killed some of its inhabitants. When representations were made to the King by the Ambassador of Spain, he replied that he would guarantee the Spanish ships so long as they remained in Dover harbour; if they sailed they did so at their own risk. The whole question of the clause in the treaty was raised and discussed in Council (No. 391). The Spanish party seemed at first to be in preponderance, but Sir Noel de Caron frankly told the Council that the Dutch would fire on English ships that attempted to aid the Spanish. The upshot was an answer to Spain couched in these terms, that his Majesty had no intention of taking offence at what the Dutch had recently done at Dover, but that he had ground of complaint against Spain for hiring British vessels for the conveyance of troops and chartering them for England—in itself a hostile act. But as he really desired to remain on good terms with his Catholic Majesty, he would overlook the effect and consider the intention only, while begging him to abstain from such acts for the future.
Meantime, the Venetian Senate having been informed of the succession of James, passed a resolution on May 17th, 1603, to elect an Ambassador in ordinary to reside in England for two years; “he may not decline to serve; he must set out when ordered to do so; he is to receive two hundred ducats of gold (£50) a month, of which he need render no account, but he must keep eleven horses, including those for his secretary, and four coachmen. Before setting out he shall receive as a gift, one thousand ducats of gold, and if he remain his full two years, he shall receive another thousand ducats of gold. For equipage, trunks, outfit, he shall receive three hundred. ducats, current value, and for extras, another three hundred, of which he must render account. His secretary shall receive one hundred ducats, and the two couriers twenty a-piece.” There was an amendment, likewise voted, that an Ambassador-Extraordinary also should be sent. His pay was to be six hundred gold ducats a month, and he was to receive eight hundred ducats, current value, for outfit. He was to pay his own singers and musicians, but for this purpose he received two hundred ducats, for which he was to present accounts. He was bound to keep 25 horses.
The ambassadors elected were Nicolo Molin as Lieger, and Piero Duodo as Extraordinary. They set out together, but parted company at Brescia, Molin taking the Rhine Valley route, and Duodo the French route, but agreeing to meet again at Calais. Scaramelli, the Venetian Secretary in England, meantime made all preparations for the Ambassadors' reception at Dover, and two English men-of-war were sent to Calais as escort. But Duodo, who had gone through Paris, changed his plans, and resolved to cross over from Havre to Southampton, partly no doubt from fear of the plague in London, and partly because the Court was lying at Wilton House, near Salisbury. This change of plan was communicated to Molin at Calais, and he set out to join his colleague at Havre; but the small coaster on which he embarked was driven by a gale into Dover, and Molin then resolved to go by land to Southampton, there to await Duodo. The king was much annoyed with his Ambassador in Paris, Sir Thomas Parry, who was the cause of this change of route; the journey from Dover to Salisbury had been planned so as to bring the ambassadors “through the most lovely parts of this kingdom; a retinue of gentlemen and an escort of 400 horse were waiting them at Dover, and the Ambassadors were to have hunted in the royal demesnes along their route, and to have lodged in the houses of the nobility” (No. 157). Duodo, however, after waiting many days, left Havre on Sunday, the 6th-16th November, and after twenty hours at sea, landed at Portsmouth, “there not being water enough for the great galleon to get into Southampton” (No. 159). Percy, brother of the Earl of Northumberland, received him. He came with two royal carriages and four mules “and took us to Salisbury to rooms prepared for us by the receiver of Ambassadors. Our train consisted of one hundred horse, and we reached Salisbury at night, for the roads were bad owing to the incessant rain. We found such wretched lodgings that nothing we have met on the journey could match them. We complained gently to the officials, who laid the blame on their underlings, and subsequently came to say that his Majesty was extremely annoyed, and had arrested, imprisoned and disgraced the court-marshal who was charged to engage the rooms, and that we should be properly attended to at once; but so much delay took place that, for the public honour, we gave orders to pay without demur all that the court officers asked for rent of lodgings” (No. 110). Finally, after some twenty citizens of Salisbury who refused to let their rooms had been locked up, the Ambassadors were furnished with beds and chambers but scattered all over town.
St. Andrew's Day was appointed for the reception. The King was staying at Wilton, and thither the ambassadors went at three in the afternoon. The King, Queen, and the Prince were at a window to see them cross the courtyard; all the other windows also were filled with ladies and gentlemen. “We believe that our suites must have made a very fine show; both for number, for variety of livery, for the robes of silk and gold, and the crowd of gentleman not only from Venice but from other cities as well. At the threshold of the presence chamber we made our first bow, and repeated it again in the middle of the room. The King was dressed in a cloak lined with zibelline and, for the rest, was habited as in the picture your Serenity has of him. Surrounded by the Prince and the Council he came down the steps of the da?s, hat in hand, and advanced to meet us two yards away from the canopy; he gave us welcome, took our letters and listened to the discourse, which was a s brief as possible, for it was nearly night. He then covered and bade us be covered. He replied in French, and concluded by saying that he had heard that Your Serenity had taken a copy of his portrait from one Sir Anthony Standen had brought with him to Venice. He apologised again for our bad lodging, and said the citizens of Salisbury who were in prison were at our mercy to deal with as we liked. We begged him to set them at liberty. We then presented Your Serenity's missive to his eldest son. Whereupon the King laughing, said: 'Why the letter is bigger than the Prince.' After that we presented our suites and retired.”
The King's apology for the poor lodging provided for the Embassies took the form of sending the Prince of Wales to dine with them one day; “God be thanked!” exclaimed the Ambassadors, “all passed off in perfect order”; and before the Ambassador Extraordinary left England both Envoys were invited to dine at Court. “A table about sixteen feet long was laid across the room on a daïs, it stood away from the wall sufficiently to allow a free passage to the servants all round. His Majesty's seat was on the inner side, under the canopy about the middle of the table; no other cover was laid but his Majesty's. Before sitting down he laid aside his cloak and sword, and the Lord Admiral brought him water for his hands, making three deep obeisances before approaching his Majesty; he then drew near, kneeled down, and kissing the bowl he first tested the water and then gave it to the King. With similar ceremony the Duke of Lennox handed him a towel. That done they retired, and two other nobles of less degree did a like service for the Prince, and two others for us Ambassadors, with the same ceremony save the kneeling. Then the King's almoner stepped forward and said grace while the King remained on foot. Then the King moved towards his seat but did not sit down till covers had been laid for the Prince and for us; for the Prince at one end, for us at the other, not at the head, however, but outside. The banquet was sumptuous and abundant in the quality and variety of food, with such a crowd of nobles waiting on us that they could hardly do their duty.” The King was affable, discoursed on Venice; frequently invited the Ambassadors to drink, but did not press them against their inclination. In the background were the secretaries of the French, Spanish, and Tuscan Embassies carefully making notes.
So Duodo took his leave, and Molin remained as Lieger to carry on the diplomatic relations between Venice and England. The chief subjects which engaged himself and his successor Giustinian were (1) the question of privateers, (2) the Levant Company and (3) the quarrel between Venice and Curia Romana. Much of their time was spent in contending for precedence with the Ambassador of the Archdukes, or with the Queen's brother, the Duke of Holstein, at the marriage of Sir Philip Herbert; and the details of these intrigues, if not of great moment, are diverting and throw considerable light on the customs and habits of the Court (Nos. 323, 502, 510, 516, 527, 531, 532, 539, 544, 546).
By the beginning of the year 1605 the Government was alarmed by vague rumours of a threatening danger (No. 341). Molin reports in February that “in the place where his Majesty is at present staying there are a number of people possessed with the spirit of prophecy; it is a rare thing in England to find people afflicted with this infirmity. One of the possessed has declared that the King cannot live a year, that the country will suffer great adversity and that soon. He has been clapped into prison, and the King himself has examined him closely.” This is followed by the news that the English Ambassador in France had sent over three or four expresses to warn the Government “that a great revolution was on the point of breaking out in England.” The Ambassador furnished no particulars, he only said that at the French Court people were convinced of this. The result was that Council met almost daily and frequently sat till midnight conducting examinations. As far as Molin's information went he thought suspicion fell upon the Puritans as the conspirators. Nothing more about conspiracies is heard in these despatches until Nov. 6th-16th, when Molin sends a full account of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot (No. 442). He says that “about two months earlier Lord Salisbury had received anonymous letters from France warning him to be on his guard, for a great plot was being hatched by priests and Jesuits; but as similar information had been sent about a year ago by the English lieger in France, no great attention was paid to these letters, and they were attributed to the empty-headed vanity of persons who wished to seem more conversant with affairs than became them.” Molin's account, though very full and interesting, does not add much to our present knowledge, except that he quotes the actual words of the King when shown the Monteagle letter: “I remember that my father died by gunpowder. I see the letter says the blow is to be struck on a sudden. Search the basements.” Molin confirms the account of Lord Suffolk's perfunctory search and his report of “beer, faggots, and coal,” and says that the King at once exclaimed, “I don't like these faggots and coal; go back and shift all the wood and all the coal and see what is underneath.” This led to the discovery of gunpowder, whereupon Sir Thomas Knyvett was sent with a posse to watch the cellar, and there “about two in the morning” he arrested Guy Fawkes, who was coming to the cellar with a badly-closed dark lantern. He was bound and taken before the Council, where he at once confessed his intention. His actual words on his second examination are reported (No. 443). They are a bold declaration of a desire to punish the King for his cruelty to the Catholics, and an absolute refusal to name his accomplices. The value of Molin's testimony is guaranteed by his statement that about mid-day on Nov. 6th-16th “by order of his Majesty and Council, a secretary of Council visited me, and said that in a matter of such importance they thought it right to inform me how the facts really stood; the secretary then related all that I have reported above.” Molin thought the whole matter so important that he sent his despatch in duplicate, one by the ordinary route viâ Antwerp, Cologne, and the Rhine; the other viâ France. The ordinary post took twenty-two days from England to Venice (No. 261). He added that current opinion was inclined to lay the plot to the door of the disaffected nobility, chief of whom was the Earl of Northumberland; some of the Ministers suspected the Pope, and expressed the opinion that his Holiness was bound to take some steps to clear himself; finally there was a deep suspicion of France whose ambassador, de Beaumont, left London in a hurry on the 1st-10th Nov. He was delayed at Dover by weather, and, on the discovery of the plot, orders were sent to detain him. But de Beaumont had already started; he insisted on crossing on Monday evening, the 4th, despite of the weather. He embarked three hours before the orders to detain him arrived. Molin says that they argued that de Beaumont, if he had not a share in the plot, at least had knowledge of it, and though he admits that this suspicion rests upon weak evidence, he foresees trouble if the Spanish foment the diffidence between the Crowns of England and France. The King of France professed himself indignant at these suspicions of his Envoy (No. 457), and closed his autograph letter of congratulation by repudiating the idea. But for all that suspicion of de Beaumont did not diminish, nay, it grew daily, especially on account of news received from France, that the moment the Ambassador reached Calais on Tuesday morning, the day the mine was to have been fired, he sent a courier to his most Christian Majesty with a letter containing this phrase: “To-day a crushing blow against the King; his family and all the nobility of England is to be delivered, but the issue is still uncertain.”
This despatch of Molin's is deciphered all except the sign l62 which is retained in the decipher, perhaps because of the grave nature of the news, for l62 means Sua Maestá; Xma. Of course if this rumour had been true it would necessarily prove de Beaumont's complicity; but Molin throws doubts on the information, and, under any circumstances, James did not mean to attach blame to any brother Sovereigns, for, by his Proclamation of Nov. 17th he distinctly declared that no foreign Prince had a part in the plot (No. 446).
But, whatever the King may have chosen to say publicly, he certainly told Molin (No. 447) that he concluded “that the plot was hatched on the other side of the water.” While they were talking, the Duke of York, second son of his Majesty, about five years old, came into the chamber. His Majesty turned to him and said: “This boy's innocence, and that of the Prince, has had more power with God than the perfidious malignity of men.” And when the Nuncio at Brussels visited the English Ambassador to express horror at the deed, and to say that if the priests found guilty were sent to Rome they would be most severely punished, the Government ordered the English Ambassador to abstain from discussing the subject with the Nuncio for the future (No. 490).
Molin further reports on Nov. 11th-21st that Guy Fawkes had already been tortured twice without anything being wrung from him save the admission that the conspirators were twelve in number; and the news of the fight at Holbeche came to confirm his statement. “The conspirators, seeing themselves in evil plight, resolved to come out and to die fighting rather than be taken alive. Three of them were killed. Percy was wounded by a musket-ball, and, along with five others, was taken alive. As soon as the King heard' this he sent off two of the best surgeons and a doctor to attend Percy, and a litter to convey him to London. His Majesty was extremely anxious to keep him alive, as he hoped to wring from him all the details of the plot. But just as the fight with the Sheriff's men was beginning, Robert Catesby stepped forward and said: 'I know you want Percy most of all, as you think he is the leader; but you must know that he has only recently been initiated, and I had great difficulty in inducing him to join. The consequence is that he knows little or nothing of the details of the plot. And this I desire to announce to all before I die.'” Catesby and Percy both fell, the same bullet passing through both. Catesby lived for a few minutes, Percy for two or three days, but not long enough to allow of the King carrying out his wish to examine him. In fact these Venetian despatches quite bear out Dr. Gardiner's estimate of the conspirators that “there was nothing mean or selfish about them.”
An incidental result of the Gunpowder Plot was a great anxiety about the personal safety of the King (No. 456), owing to the fact that his Majesty would not renounce his long hunting expeditions in the country; and, as a result, the city was occasionally thrown into violent alarms on the rumour of the King's assassination.
In April, 1606 (No. 503), the King was out hunting. “As he was passing through a village, a hubbub arose about a man who was being arrested. This fellow was on horseback and had a drawn sword in his hand. Thus armed he put his horse at the gallop; the constables pursued him, shouting 'Traitor, Traitor!'; the villagers joined the hue-and-cry, thinking he must have attacked the King. The crowd grew from village to village, and also the rumour, till people set off at full speed for London to tell the Queen and Council that the King was dead. The news, on being confirmed by new-comers, spread to the City. The uproar was amazing. Everyone flew to arms; the shops were shut, and cries began to be heard against the Papists and the Spanish; and had not a contradiction arrived in time, some terrible accident would have happened to us all. The first his Majesty knew about it was when he saw people running up breathless and speechless with tears, and falling on their knees. He at once thought something serious had occurred in London, and set out there and then.” He was welcomed with extraordinary signs of affection; there were fireworks and fêtes, and the bells were rung; the Ambassadors were all informed officially, and each one had to make a present to Sir Lewis Lewkenor and the other messengers who gave them the news.
Very soon after this episode, a far more serious plot was brought to light, in July 1606 (No. 550). The plot was hatched by two Italians in Flemish service, Tommaso and Giacomo dei Franceschi. Tommaso and an Irishman named Ball came over to England and were lodged near the Spanish Embassy. They proceeded to sound a certain Captain William Newce, who was known to have a grievance against the Government. After some beating about the bush and the administration of a terrible oath, they laid before him a plan for killing the King when out on the chase, “a good pistol and a swift horse” would do the business; the reward was to be two hundred thousand crowns. Newce, who was really an informer, pretended to lend an ear to the design, but required first that his conscience should be quieted by a priest. A meeting between him and “a Jesuit, who in the garb of a Dominican was living in the Spanish Embassy,” resolved him that “he might undertake the deed without a single scruple.” Franceschi and Newce then had a meeting on Tower Hill. Newce taking care that a witness should be within earshot, and there Royston was mentioned as a place where the deed might be done. Franceschi and Ball, however, began to entertain suspicions of Newce's good faith, and at a subsequent meeting they offered him some sweetmeats; Newce ate a considerable amount and put the rest in his handkerchief. On reaching home he gave them to his wife and some other women. In the night they were all violently ill, and the doctor diagnosed poison. Newce then informed Lord Salisbury of what had taken place. Franceschi was arrested, but the Spanish Ambassador, Don Pedro de Zuniga, refused to surrender Ball. On the 8th-18th July Zuniga had an interview first with the King and then with Council at Greenwich. Lord Salisbury addressed him “in terms of great resentment” and advised him, for his own safety, to surrender Ball. It seems that the Ambassador refused, for on his return to the Embassy he found that Ball had been forcibly arrested by the bodyguard on the orders of the King and Lord Salisbury. This step raised an international question which was not settled for many months to come. Franceschi always maintained that he had never meant to kill the King, that Newce's evidence was false, that his sole intention was to induce Newce to join a scheme for seizing Sluys, or some other fortress. The King himself, however, was convinced that his life had been in danger. “What has it to do with Sluys,” he said, “to make enquiries where I go a-hunting, at what hour I start, when I return, how many men I have with me, to talk of a fine stroke with a good pistol and a swift horse?” (No. 553). Sir Henry Wotton, when relating the whole story at length to the Doge (No: 565), admitted that the conspirators only talked of “Sluys,” but declared that their talk was cryptic, for when they mentioned “Sluys” they meant killing the King. Whatever may have been truth on this point the whole matter was allowed to drop. Probably Newce's evidence was not good enough, and the Council were unwilling to annoy the Spanish Ambassador any further after violating the Embassy.
When James came to the throne, the English Catholics were in hopes of toleration at least, and the Pope expected to recover England to the faith. Neither hope was unjustified, for James, while scheming for his succession, had played with both (No 16). Bruce, Lord Kinloss, told Scaramelli that “the king was deeply indebted to the Pope, and called him truly 'Clement'; and added that as long as Catholics remained quiet they would be neither hunted nor persecuted” (No. 36). But James, finding that his succession took place so easily, soon began to show that he had no need of the Catholics, and under Cecil's guidance, he expressed not a persecuting spirit towards them, it is true, but a determination not to let them fancy that he would ever restore their faith. His attitude was summed up at York, when, on the Easter Day, he said: “Those who can't pray with me, can't love me” (No. 40). The Pope and James, while he was still in Scotland, had been coquetting with each other through Sir James Lindsay, who passed backwards and forwards between Rome and Britain. In 1602, Lindsay had received a paper of instructions as to the answer he was to give to the Papal proposals for the education of the King's eldest son as a Catholic; but ill-health delayed his departure until after James' accession to the English Crown. Meantime, Sir Anthony Standen had been despatched to Italy on a mission to Italian Princes. He visited Venice (Nos. 119-122) and Florence, and while there he wrote to the English Ambassador in Paris (Parry), to say that he had received proposals from the Pope, to send an Envoy, either ecclesiastical or lay, to congratulate the King, provided his Holiness were assured that such a step would not disgust France and Spain; and that Don Virgino Orsini, Duke of Bracciano, had been mentioned as a suitable person (No. 154). This information was forwarded to England. Standen, furthermore, through the medium of Father Parsons, induced the Pope to send the Queen of England, by his hands, certain consecrated objects with a view to strengthening her Majesty's strong Catholic sympathies, in the hopes that she would influence the King. By the end of January (No. 188) Standen was back in England. He found himself in disgrace. He was charged with a too open display of his Catholic sympathies, and with forgetting that he represented a Prince of another creed. He was said to have pledged himself to secure the spread of the Jesuits in England, and to report to the Jesuits in Rome, in return for which he was to receive the hat and large revenues. These charges were based on information lodged by a confidential servant of the Envoy. Further, by a trick, Standen's correspondence with Rome fell into the hands of the Government; and finally James was very much annoyed at the Pope's presents to the Queen. Standen endeavoured to defend himself, but on the production of his letters he confessed all, and was lodged in the Tower, “whence,” Molin says, “he will not come out alive.” Lord Balfour of Burleigh was sent on a mission to enquire into Standen's conduct when abroad (No. 200). He was back again in August, 1604 (No. 259), and reported that he had found out nothing of moment against Standen, who was thereupon discharged from prison.
Meantime Sir James Lindsay was despatched to Rome in November, 1604. The whole story of his mission was very frankly related to the Venetian Ambassador by Lord Salisbury himself in a long conversation in which he explained the attitude of the Ministry towards the Catholics (No. 353). “Lindsay, a year before, the late Queen's death, asked leave to go to Rome. This was readily conceded. When he reached Rome his friends procured him an audience of the Pope, to whom it is probable that he said many ridiculous things, as he has now done. In short the Pope made him a present, and he obtained a considerable sum of money, perhaps by promising to do what he can never do here. He also obtained an autograph letter from the Pope to the King, in which the Pope said that he had heard from Lindsay how favourably inclined the King was towards the Catholic religion, and that, if he could not openly support, at least he would never persecute it; for this the Pope rendered thanks, and promised that the King should have all his support towards the succession to the Crown of England on the death of the Queen; but if he would educate his son as a Catholic, then His Holiness bound himself to employ his substance and his very life to assist his Majesty, and to cause the Catholic Sovereigns to act in concert for the same purpose. Lindsay returned to Scotland two months before Elizabeth died, and reported to the King by word of mouth. The King was very well pleased with the letter, as it came from a Sovereign and contained many affectionate and courteous phrases, but he never dreamed of sending an answer, although Lindsay urged him to do so; the reason was that if the King had written he must have addressed the Pope by his titles of 'Holiness' and 'Beatitude,' which, according to our religion, are vain phrases, and so the matter remained in suspense. Then came the Queen's death, when Lindsay again endeavoured to persuade the King to answer the Pope's letter, declaring that he might promise himself much from the Pope's aid when the right moment came. However, it pleased God so to favour the King that he met with no opposition. Now a few months ago Lindsay again had the idea to go to Rome. He asked leave of the King and obtained it. When he was on the point of departure he said, ' Sire, I shall have occasion to see the Pope, and he will surely ask me about that letter. What am I to answer?' 'You will say that you gave me the letter, that I was highly pleased with the love and affection it displayed, and that on all occasions I will seek to show my gratitude in acts.' Lindsay replied, 'Sire, the Pope will not believe me; will not your Majesty furnish me with something that will convince him of the facts?' Thus urged, the King made up his mind to take the pen, and with his own hand to write a memorandum addressed to Lindsay, instructing him, should occasion offer to speak to the Pope, to assure him that his Majesty nourishes the desire to prove to him by acts the affection which he bears, and the esteem in which he holds the Pope's person as a temporal Sovereign; and Lindsay is to enlarge on this topic as far as he can. As regards religion the King desires to preserve and maintain that in which he was brought up, in the conviction that it is the best; but as he has not a bloody mind he will not persecute the Catholics, either in goods or in person, as long as they remain obedient subjects. As regards the education of his son as a Catholic, to that he will never consent; for he would merit chastisement from God, and censure from man, if, while professing one religion, which he held to be the best, he allowed his son to be bred in another, full of corruption and superstition. That, said Cecil, is the substance of the memorandum which was sealed by the King's seal, so that the Pope and everyone else should be obliged to give it credence. But now Lindsay, according to our information, in order to ingratiate himself with the Pope, and to draw money, has so far overstepped his instructions that he has induced the Pope to name a Congregation of Cardinals to sit upon English affairs, and thus has caused us to keep a sharper look out upon the Catholics, and more especially upon the priests.” And as a matter of fact Lindsay, on arriving at Rome, had acted like the “feather-brained fellow” Lord Salisbury said he was. The Pope was only too ready to listen to him and almost immediately established a Congregation on England. Some of the Sacred College were unfavourable to the Papal attitude, and the opinion was expressed that “it would be better not to convoke the Congregation at all rather than to go on with nothing in hand, as they soon found was the case.” The Pope's death, however, suspended activity in that direction; and the new Pope, Camillo Borghese, Paul V., soon found himself so deeply embroiled with Venice that he had no time to attend to England, whose attitude, moreover, was so anticurial that he could have nourished no hopes of her return to the bosom of the Church. Lindsay's action was deeply resented by James, and the French Ambassador took the opportunity to point out to his Majesty that if any mischief resulted, from it the blame would lie at the door of Spain “who for many years had had Lindsay in its pay” (No. 361)—a charge which is confirmed by Molin's despatch, No. 399, Lindsay left Rome, and by July 1605 he was at the Spanish court, where the English Ambassador heard that he had received a pension of two thousand crowns a year from the King. Salisbury's hostility and Gunpowder Plot worked together to decide the fate of the English Catholics, and all hopes of toleration were swept away.
It was only to be expected that we should hear less about James and the Puritans than about James and the Catholics in the despatches of a Catholic Ambassador. In the first place the Venetian did not understand the Puritans, and in the second he probably never met them. All the same we get some details (fn. 8) as to the Royston petition in December 1604 (No. 313), which preceded the better known Northampton petition by nearly two months. The enforcement of conformity and the publication of the new canons seems to have divided the Council (No. 347). Arguments were advanced both in favour of the Puritans on the ground that their dissent merely affected questions of ceremony and that it was injudicious to persecute them, and on behalf of the Catholics on the ground that they were loyal and obedient if left in the liberty of their conscience. The King professed amazement that any question should be raised about his punishing either party if they were disobedient, and announced his determination to enforce conformity on the one hand and the recusancy laws on the other.
Diplomatic relations had been opened between England and Venice at the close of Elizabeth's reign. Their object was to come to some understanding upon the thorny subject of English privateers in the Mediterranean. At the beginning of James' reign Scaramelli, the Secretary, was replaced by a fully accredited Ambasador, Nicolo Molin, and the King replied by the nomination of Sir Henry Wotton as lieger in Venice. The scope of the Embassy was somewhat enlarged; Wotton was to establish amicable relations with the Republic and to deal with the question of commerce between the two States as well as to settle the subject of privateering; and incidentally he was called upon to represent Great Britain in the famous Controversy between the Pope and the Republic. Those were the main lines of Wotton's mission. But before his appointment a question arose as to the right the Ambasaador should enjoy of having the Reformed service celebrated at the Embassy. (fn. 9) The Republic had always desired to avoid any ecclesiastical scandal that might be caused by the presence of the many heretic traders who were settled in Venice; and upon this very point she received a warning from the Pope (No. 165). When His Holiness learned that cordial relations were being established with England he said to the Venetian Ambassadors that he heard that there were great numbers of that nation lodging in Venice; that he feared it would end in a second German exchange-house, the beginnings of which were to be seen in the establishment of an English boarding-house; “Take care what you are about,” he added; “league with the Grisons; dealings with the English; all heretics, and all for reasons of State, without consideration of aught else. This is a bad road. I promise you that if you let the English open a change-house in Venice I will never submit to it even though I ended by being flayed alive in that city.” Upon this point Secretary Scaramelli, before the arrival of Ambassador Molin (No. 118), had an interview with Cecil, who said that as the Venetian Ambassador would be allowed to exercise the Roman rite in the Embassy for the benefit of his suite and of those Venetians and Italians who were in London it was only reasonable that his Majesty's Ambassador should enjoy a similar privilege in Venice. Scaramelli, in reply, said that he believed the Ambassador would be free to do as he liked in his own house; but the cases were not parallel, for at that moment there were no Venetians in London except the brothers Federici and only six or seven other Italians who could always go to the French Embassy, whereas in Venice there were thousands of English with whom the Flemish were associated, and thus the English Embassy might, owing to the numbers frequenting it, cause a scandal and invite reprisals. And as a matter of fact Sir Henry Wotton had to defend himself from an attack on this score. Scaramelli proposed as a way out of the difficulty that the King should appoint a Catholic gentleman; and he even suggested to Robert Crichton, Lord Sanquhar, that he should apply for the post. Sanquhar jumped at the idea, and enlisted the Queen on his behalf. He obtained a promise from the King that he should have the place, but Cecil did not intend that he should, and soon afterwards (No. 172) he announced to Molin the appointment of Sir Henry Wotton, a gentleman who, as the King said, “had lived so long in Italy that he was master of its manners and of its tongue.”
Wotton left for Italy in July 1604 via France, Lorraine, Augsburg (No. 248). He reached Venice incognito on the 13th-23rd of September, and put himself in communication with Secretary Scaramelli, whom he had known in England, to arrange the details of his reception (No. 275–282). As he was the first British resident Ambassador to Venice and as there had been no English resident since the middle of the last century, Wotton was anxious as to the ceremonial to be observed, as it would form a governing precedent. He was assured that his treatment should be that adopted in the case of crowned heads. But he wished for details of the ceremony in the case of France and Spain, for he had heard that Spain only uncovered on reaching the steps leading up to the daïs. He was assured that the Imperial Ambassador, the Nuncio, Spain and France, all uncovered at the door, and he was satisfied that this must be the case when he was told that on the Ambassadors' entry the Doge rose from his seat. He promised that he would not admit the Flemish or Germans to Divine service in his house and the English only in small numbers, so as to avoid a scandal; and that the service would always be conducted in English. That settled, Wotton retired to the island of San Spirito to await his public entry. He was conducted by the Cavaliere Vendramin, a number of Senators and a great train of boats from San Spirito to his lodging near Ponte Ormesin in Canareggio. The day following, Saturday, October 1st, he had his first audience of the Doge (No. 277).
In this first audience he at once began a part of his ambassadorial duties, which occupied much of his time and gave a great deal of trouble,—the petitioning for graces on behalf of his countrymen or of Italian clients. The reason for the former is, of course, easily understood; but Wotton himself tells us why the latter are so frequent. On a certain occasion he urged as a ground upon which the Council of Ten should grant his petition in favour of a Veronese gentleman, that at both Padua and Vicenza he was well-known for similar favours obtained, but that at Verona he was quite unknown, and if he had to stay in that city he would not know where to lodge. In fact, favours received had to be paid for later on. Wotton was always perfectly frank in expressing his motives. On one occasion, having a very important and delicate communication to make to the Government, he begged that a Secretary might be sent to meet him in the church of San Girolamo, near his house. He opened the conversation by saying, “I desired to speak to one person only, so that in case you should betray me, and my name came out, I should be able to swear that I never said anything of the sort.”
The first petition he presented was in favour of a young Scot named Thomas Seget, who was in prison on the charge of having libelled a member of the Malipiero family by writing scurrilous notes and dropping them about the Piazza. It seems that two youths had been suborned to bear false witness against him (No. 367). They were warders in the prison, and admitted to the Ambassador that an agent of another member of the Malipiero family had bribed them to accuse Seget falsely. Finally, after many months, and great persistence on Wotton's part, the Ten, after voting on the question for three days running, acquitted Seget (Nos. 423, 424, 425).
Far more serious was the case of Nicolas Pert and the Venetian patrician Nicolò Balbi (Nos. 387, 388). Pert was a wealthy English merchant trading in Venice and the Adriatic. Balbi owed Pert a considerable sum of money when the latter embarked on board Balbi's ship at Ragusa, bound for the Levant. Before Pert embarked Balbi gave him a bag containing a certain sum in payment of his debt. Pert was found dead in his cabin one morning with a chest on his head. Pert's serving-man was at once shut out of his cabin and all Pert's papers and belongings were seized. Then Balbi sent for the lad and said: “Listen, my dear John, you are to say that your master left nothing or very little.” “But,” said the boy, “I've told everything already. All the crew know it.” “Oh! you're young and don't know the ways of the world. You give ten ducats to this one and ten ducats to that, and they won't accuse us. I'll take you to Venice and keep you in my house. I'll love you like a son and get you a wife.” “When Balbi was accused of murder he declared that Pert had died from a gathering in the head, and denied that he had seized Pert's effects. But growing frightened he sent a certain Lorenzo Zanoli to beg the Ambassador to drop the matter. In the course of this interview Zanoli let slip that Balbi really had all the papers and a very large sum of money; on Balbi's behalf he proposed a method for restoring all this secretly through some priest, or friar or confessor. But Balbi was a great noble, with many powerful friends, and Zanoli's outspokenness cost him dear. Balbi and his friends resolved to get him out Venice, while Wotton was severely taken to task for “vilifying the Venetian nobility.” Against Zanoli a charge (No. 616) of molesting a noble lady in her villa at Oriago on the Brenta was got up; he had climbed her garden wall and hidden in the shrub-bery; lie had beaten her servants; he had been seen swimming the Brenta,—and this was sufficient to enable the local physician, Dr. Quattrocchi, to declare him mad, upon which he was deported to Yerona. The issue of the Balbi trial was that his supercargo Zuan Battista Torricella was banished for ten years, and Ser Nicolò Balbi himself was acquitted. Pert's property was restored to his heirs. Salisbury complained to the Venetian Ambassador in London about the sentence—though in cautious terms: “one cannot,” he said, “call it unjust, but one may affirm that it came as a surprise to Sig. Balbi himself; for if he were innocent, why should he have sent his relations more than once to our Ambassador to beg him not to take steps in the matter, and offering to make a suitable recompense to the relations of the dead man?” (No. 439). The Ambassador defended his Government with spirit, and Salisbury let the matter drop. The incident closed with a sarcastic remark from Wotton to the Doge, that he was glad to be able to report to his Master that so grave a tribunal as the Ten held Pert to have died a natural death.
Other cases of petitions for graces, successful and unsuccessful, will be found in the minutes of the Ambassador's audiences. For the rest, Wotton seems to have led a pleasant life in Venice; he made long speeches in the Cabinet, full of quotations from the classics, laudatory of the Doge, complimentary to the Republic, indulging sometimes in puns, all with obvious enjoyment to himself. He lived in a house near the church of San Girolamo, where he was wont to hear the nuns singing. He studied the arts; he frequented the company of the learned circle that met at the sign of the Golden Ship. He had a villa on the Brenta, and passed the autumn villeggiatura there. He went duck-shooting on the lagoon in winter, and thought it pretty sport to kill on the wing “a practice not yet introduced into England” (No. 637).
The three main subjects which filled the wider field of diplomatic relations between Venice and England were, the question of trade, with which was bound bound up the history of the Levant Company; the question of privateering; and the questions which centred round the quarrel between the Republic and the Pope.
The Levant Company was a chartered company of the kind that is known as “regulated,” in distinction from “joint stock”. The essential characteristics of a regulated company are (1) apprenticeship; (2) unlimited liability; (3) trading on “own bottom.” The Levant Company was founded for the exploitation of Levant and Adriatic, Turkish and Italian commerce. It undertook to maintain the Ambassador at Constantinople and the Consuls throughout the East, and in return the Crown granted it the right to levy the tax on currants and sweet wines. For this privilege it paid the Crown £4,000 a year. The first charter was granted in 1581, and the Company was reconstituted in 1593 on a broader charter to run for twelve years. Soon after James' accession the Company surrendered its charter. At a secret meeting the members determined to name one or two persons to make a corner in currants for the English market.
“They are only waiting till they have obtained a renewal of their charter, including the right to levy taxes. This is a scheme,” says Scaramelli, “that I think I can certainly upset for the present, not without hope of reopening honest trade for Venetian merchants and ships” (No. 40). On July 10th 1603, Scaramelli writes again, announcing the abolition of the .Levant Company and pointing out to his Government the line it should now adopt. “I once more humbly submit to your Serenity that not only may we consider trade in England open to Venetian subjects, but that this is a favourable occasion for attempting to draw all the English Levant trade to Venice; for your Serenity can always bar, almost entirely, trade with the rival ports of Ancona and Ragusa by enforcing the laws of 1543 and 1602, which forbid any ship to lade in Venice unless it has discharged two-thirds of its cargo in the city, or if it has discharged at any other port inside the Adriatic.”
The policy of Venice was this: she hoped that the English would retire from all trade with Constantinople and the Levant, and would confine themselves to carrying Eastern goods from Venice to England, making Venice their most easterly port. The result of this would be that Venetian bottoms would recover the Levant trade as far west as Venice, and the English, instead of carrying their tin, wool, cloth, &c. to Constantinople straight, would bring it to Venice, where it would be shipped in Venetian bottoms for the Levant; Venice would thus resume her ancient position as the chief exchange mart between East and West. This was the policy which the Venetian Ambassadors in Constantinople and Scaramelli, Molin and Giustinian in England, were commissioned to forward. With a view to assisting his successor, Scaramelli drew up a long and detailed report on the history of the Levant Company (No. 109), beginning from Elizabeth's monopoly in currants and sweet wines, granted to Accerbo Velutelli which brought about reprisals in Venice and the imposition of prohibitive taxation, which in their turn caused the revocation of Velutelli's patent. But Venice, in violation of her promises, did not, on her side, revoke her new dues. Hence began a trade war. Venice prohibited the lading of currants in Zante, and endeavoured to compel all ships to come to the capital for them, and took other steps to ruin the English trade. At the close of his report Scaramelli says: “If free trade is to be restored, reciprocally friendly steps must be taken.”
James' (fn. 10) indifference and his professions of amity with Spain greatly weakened the position of the Company's Ambassador in Constantinople (Nos. 158, 175); and the policy of abandoning the Levant was still under discussion in November, 1603. But by the beginning of 1604 a change of view took place. The truth is the Company had been trying to squeeze the King by this threat of abandoning Constantinople, and by the surrender of their Charter. When they found, however, that the King merely levied the £4,000 they formerly paid to him, directly for himself without making any proposals for the maintenance of the Ambassador, the Company met again and petitioned for a renewal of their Charter on the old terms. Opposition was at once raised by the outside-merchants, and a commission of six was appointed by the Council to examine and report (No. 192). It reported in favour of continuing the Company, and of admitting new members on the payment of fifty pounds each. But the outsiders objected to the appropriation of their entrance money to the payment of the Company's old debts, and a deadlock ensued (No. 213). When Wotton left for Venice, part of his commission was to point out the injury inflicted by the prohibition to lade currants at Zante (No. 248); and, in view of the deadlock in the Levant Company, it was proposed that the Ambassador should be instructed to sound the Doge as to whether he would allow export from Venice, free of duty, if the English pledged themselves to give up the Levant trade altogether. On the 15th November, 1604, Wotton did lay their case and their demands before the Collegio (No. 294). But while the merchants were quarrelling among themselves, James farmed out the currant tax for £5,500, that is, £1,500 more than the company used to pay him for the privilege of levying it. Thomas Howard, Earl of Suffolk, the Lord Chamberlain, took it up, and thus the King squeezed the merchants who had intended to squeeze him (No. 295).
Finally, after two audiences with the King, in which the company's Directors offered to pay the Crown as much as the Chamberlain now paid, that offer was privately accepted by the Council (No. 364). But a general meeting of the company again failed to come to an understanding. The members went into the question of their profits. The capital originally embarked varied from 220,000 to 248,000 crowns (£55,000 to £62,000) yearly, but it had now fallen to 30,000 or 40,000. This falling off is attributed to the development of the Cape route to the Indies. It cost those who shipped direct from India a third less than those who shipped in Turkey. The matter was still left in abeyance when, at the close of 1605, the company was reconstructed, and a new Charter granted in perpetuity. (fn. 11)
Early in 1605, Secretary Herbert had been appointed to deal with the commercial relations between England and the Republic (No. 321). The Venetian Government showed itself willing enough to enter on negotiations, and at once presented a list of the dues against which it protested (No. 337). But on the English side little seems to have been done, no doubt because of the uncertain position in which the Levant Company found itself for the larger part of that year. Molin and a friend of his, a merchant, evidently sent by Lord Salisbury, had a long conversation on the reciprocal abatement of dues, and the possibility that, in that case, the English would abandon the Levant trade entirely, and confine themselves to Venice. Nothing was done, however, till November, 1605 (No. 439), when Lord Salisbury complained to Molin of the anchorage tax and the operation of the cottimo—a tax of two per cent levied by the Venetian Consuls in Constantinople, the Levant, Bruges, or London, upon goods imported by Venetian merchants. Molin replied that these were ancient taxes, and applied to all nationalities, not to the English only. He countercomplained that though Herbert had been appointed to negotiate on commercial matters, nothing had been done. Lord Salisbury admitted that the entire blame lay with the English. Herbert had been appointed at the earnest request of the Levant Company; when they ceased to press the matter it dropped. Now, however, the company had been approaching Wotton in Venice. Molin said Venice was the right place for the discussion, and it was agreed to leave the matter in Wotton's hands. Wotton made nothing of it, though he began at once (No. 441). His language was too violent, and Andrea Morosini, a member of the Cabinet, very quietly informed him that his remarks had both hurt and surprised the Cabinet, at which the Ambassador “turned pale and remained silent for awhile.” He let his temper appear again in his secret interview with Scaramelli, in the church of San Girolamo (No. 505). He said he had not sought audience for two months, and did not intend to do so, as his requests were never granted; he thought the King might spare himself the trouble of keeping an Ambassador in Venice. This was not the way to attain his end, and he did not. The next time he raised the question he found that the tax had been farmed out, and that proceeding closed, for the present, all questions of repeal or abatement.
As regards the position of the Levant Company at Constantinople, Harborne and Barton, the earliest ambassadors, had won a high place at the Porte. Elizabeth's hostility towards Spain and her Protestant faith secured for her the regard of the Sultan, while on the other hand she took every step to foster good relations with the Turk as a counterpoise and a standing threat to Philip II. in the Mediterranean. But when James came to the throne it was not long before the Grand Signor heard of his peace-policy towards Spain, and possibly of his coquettings with the Pope. There were two ambassadors, the French and the Venetian, who would keep him fully informed of anything that could damage their English colleague. Accordingly, Henry Lello—the Company's Ambassador when James succeeded—very soon found his position untenable (No. 477). Not only had he lost influence at the Porte, but the disturbed state of the Levant Company prevented them from paying his salary. The episode of the “Royal Merchant” came to make his position worse. She was “a ship of good reckoning,” commanded by Captain Thornton, flying the Tuscan flag, and sailing in company with a ship belonging to the Viceroy of Sardinia, she “took, after a fight of three days and three nights, a galleon of Constantinople of 1,200 tons or thereabouts, which, after losing her mainmast in a storm, they were forced to sink.” Thornton took all her cargo and many of her crew. The cargo consisted of consignments to the principal Turkish merchants in Constantinople, and even included presents “for the Sultana and other women who are the Turk's incendiaries.” (fn. 12) The news of this event caused the greatest alarm in the Levant Company. They feared Turkish reprisals, and the party in favour of withdrawing from the Levant and trading with Venice only made capital out of the episode (No. 483). Lello was recalled, and succeeded in the autumn of 1606 by Sir Thomas Glover, who no sooner reached Constantinople than he found himself embroiled in the endless quarrel as to the “consulage of forestiers.” He had, immediately on his arrival, applied for a confirmation of the English capitulations, but avoided putting in a copy of the original.2 In the new draft he inserted a clause stating that the English ensign was the covering flag for all nations who were not represented by an ambassador. This was passed by the Porte with its habitual carelessness. But de Salignac (No. 342), the French Ambassador, the moment he heard of it, went to the Grand Vizier, declared that Glover was no ambassador, but only a merchant, asserted the old French claim to fly the covering flag, appealed to the Venetian Ambassador, who bore him out, and Sir Thomas' capitulations were revoked. For this conduct Wotton complained of the Venetian Ambassador at Pera, but he obtained no satisfaction. The outcome of Sir Thomas Glover's embassy may possibly be revealed in subsequent volumes.
The second question with which Wotton had to deal was the question of privateers. As long as Elizabeth was at war with Spain, English vessels had a good plea for sailing armed in the Mediterranean. After the peace, the English, unwilling to abandon so profitable and enjoyable a pursuit, declared that Spanish oppression of English merchants justified and called for reprisals in the shape of letters of marque. As a matter of fact, the Mediterranean swarmed with English pirates. A list is given in No. 53, and Wotton himself writes (10th March, 1606) that “one only (of these), Captain Ward, a banished and proclaimed pirate, has kept the Venetians in such awe both within and without their own seas so long, and has done with them almost as he has liked.”
But perhaps the most famous and troublesome of these pirates was William Piers, whose doings are fully recorded in the preceding volume. Scaramelli was extremely anxious to secure his punishment, and on the 10th June, 1603, he reports from London tha some of Piers' crew had reached England, and that Piers himself was to be looked for in a bay near Falmouth, where he intended to lie till he saw how matters stood. Piers sailed into Plymouth on board a Venetian ship, the “Veniera,” which he had captured and re-christened the “Fox.” She was of about six hundred tons burden, and carried about forty pieces of artillery. In Plymouth his friends told him that a warrant was out against him. Thereupon he declared that he was not without a golden key to the doors of the great, and set off for London to see the High Admiral, who was, so Scaramelli believed, determined to shelter the pirate.
Piers had experienced a stormy journey home. At Tunis some of his crew deserted, partly through discontent, partly through fear of coming to England, and Piers had to work the ship short handed. His friend William Cunliffe, another pirate, took advantage of this to board and plunder him. Cunliffe came to England in the most barefaced manner, and was at once “clapped into prison with irons at his heels;” but Scaramelli was not able to lay his hands on Piers for some time. At last he was “caught while flying from London to Plymouth, and was brought like a felon with a mob at his heels” to the Venetian Secretary's house. “He is under twenty-five, squarely built and bold looking,” says Scaramelli. “He makes a show of not fearing death, but I don't believe him. I have had him put in such a prison as he deserves, and loaded with all the irons and chains he can carry.” Meantime Scaramelli had his eye on another pirate, Captain Tomkins, who was lying off the Isle of Wight, afraid to land; though he is reported to have sent up four chests of money to the High Admiral. A sequestration order against his ship was secured, but the captain and crew slipped ashore in the night and could not be found (No. 128). Scaramelli's agent reported that “two cartloads of money had been sent out” by Tomkins—one to the High Admiral, and another elsewhere. When Scaramelli, in the course of an interview, charged the Admiral with this, he “admitted that he had received six sacks of silver coins, worth about four thousand ducats, which he thought was Spanish loot.” If it proved to be Venetian he promised to restore it, also the ship, which at present was forfeit to him on the ground that Tomkins had gone privateering without letters of marque; he promised to do his best to secure justice, and said that as the affair belonged to his department, there was no need for Scaramelli to trouble the King. That was not the Secretary's opinion, however, for he sought an interview with James at Woodstock, and laid the affair before him, adding that Tomkins's plunder amounted to about three hundred thousand ducats in cash (£75,000), besides cloth of gold, silk and wool. The King, who in all probability had not received any part of this plunder, “listened with extreme impatience, twisting his body about, striking his hands together, and tapping with his foot. He took Scaramelli's memorandum and cried out with a loud voice: 'By God, I'll hang the pirates with my own hands, and my Lord Admiral as well.' Then he turned in a passion to the Treasurer, the Chamberlain and the Secretary who were in the room, and gave strict orders for the execution of justice. Whereupon Cecil stepped in and said to Scaramelli, 'Don't you know that these pirates took to buccaneering under the late Queen, and since God gave us his Majesty, not one privateer has sailed? What do you want of the King? Justice in England, as in Venice, has her ordinary course to run. This is an affair for the Admiral—you must go to him.'” Scaramelli was not to be hectored: he replied that the Admiral himself was a partner in the loot and no competent judge; that as Secretary of Venice, he was accredited to the Crown, not to the Admiral; and that while he could drink at the pure fount of justice, he need not go seeking turbid water in brooks. The King, who was pleased at this, here broke in, and gave positive orders for the restoration of Venetian property, and for the punishment of offenders (No. 141). But before any steps could be taken came news that English pirates had plundered all the property of the Ambassador-in-Ordinary, Molin, who was on his way to England. Matters looked serious, and the Lord High Admiral found it wisest to surrender. He consigned to Scaramelli 1,300 Venetian silver ducats and 150 yards of tabinet; and at the same time a Proclamation to repress all Piracies and Depredations upon the sea, was issued against pirates or “sea-rovers.”
Duodo and Molin, the Ambassadors Extraordinary and Lieger, arrived soon after this, and at once touched on the subject of the pirates, begging especially for the execution of Piers and Tomkins (No. 166). The King replied that he personally detested piracy, but that, as he had only just come to the throne, he was compelled to employ the existing Ministers, who, he admitted, were interested in the proceeds of that industry. He had even been obliged, he said, to give the Lord High Admiral something out of his privy purse, as his Lordship declared he could not keep up his office owing to the failure of revenue from this very source. However, the King promised satisfaction, especially in the cases of Piers and Tomkins, and said he would see about the exaction of adequate caution-money from all ships sailing from England, a device which the Ambassadors hoped might act as a deterrent.
But the Council were not so ready to throw over their pirate friends (No. 170). They informed the Ambassadors that if Piers came under the general pardon granted at the Coronation, it was not the King, but the custom of the country, which the King, therefore, could not contravene, that had granted the pardon; the King, therefore, could not promise, and therefore could not break his promise. But they pledged themselves to take legal opinion, and to see that justice was executed on Piers and Tomkins. They declined to raise the caution money from 1,000 ducats to the sum total of the damage done, on the plea that as the country was at peace with Spain, privateering would cease. When the report of this interview reached the King he expressed himself dissatisfied, and the following day he came down to Council in person. The whole matter was debated for two hours, and it was finally decided that Piers' pardon was of no value, and the Admiralty Judge was instructed to condemn him to death along with his accomplices. On December the 22nd six pirates were hung at Southampton, but Piers was not among them. The King sent for the Admiralty Judge and told him he would hang him unless he administered justice properly (No. 181). The Judge came to the Venetian Ambassador to say that Piers and another, who were lying under sentence of death, offered to pay a small sum of money if their lives were spared, and that it rested with the Ambassador to decide, for such were his Majesty's orders. The Judge pointed out that if the Ambassador pardoned the culprits he would recover a certain amount of the stolen goods; if he insisted on the death penalty he must abandon all hope of compensation. Molin, after consultation with the agent for the parties at Venice, thought the advice sound, especially as the execution of the six pirates at Southampton had so terrified everyone that numbers of culprits were in hiding and could not be easily caught, whereas if they knew that by a small payment they could avoid the penalties of the law, they would be sure to do so. Molin accordingly said he would wait to hear what sum Piers offered. Piers had made a first offer of three hundred crowns for his life, but on the publication of the general pardon he had withdrawn the offer and spent the money. Now, under fear of death, he offered one thousand crowns and the names of his accomplices. Molin granted a reprieve for two months to allow time for instructions to come from Venice.
Meantime Molin had captured two of the pirates who had stolen all his effects on their way to England. But here again he was told that he could have the life of the culprits or he could recover damages, but he could not have both (No. 221). He complained to the King, who called the law a “monstrous one, unworthy of a civilized people,” but said he could do nothing. The English were in fact getting tired of Venetian complaints, and, as Cecil said, they thought they had done enough in hanging six of them (No. 232) for piracy. When Molin began to complain about smuggling of currants at Zante, they sent Wotton, who had not yet left on his Embassy, to minimize the affair: “Every merchant's a smuggler” he said—and in that spirit he set out for Venice.
But although the English privateers were convinced that the Venetians were slow sailers and bad fighters, though they could say to one another “Come along with me to Levant, and we'll find those solid Venetian ducats that a man may take without risk” (No. 331), they did not get it all their own way. There was a hanging governor in Zante, Maffio Michiel, with whom it was not safe to trifle. He reported in April 1603 that from information received he learned that two buccaneers were on board an English ship lying in the harbour of Zante. He sent for the master on the pretext of giving him letters for England. When the master came to the Castle the governor demanded the men. “I told him I had nothing against him, though I am firmly convinced there is not a sailor of that nation but is a pirate.” The captain consigned the pirates, who were locked up pending trial (No. 27). The ship sailed: but presently came news that she had plundered a Venetian and taken her into Modon, a Turkish port in the Morea, where she was sure to find receivers. But here the captain was arrested and sent to the Sanjak (fn. 13) at Gastuni, who handed him over to Michiel, though he very soon after demanded him back. The Governor proceeded to try him and the other two prisoners. His name was Christopher Dollard (?) of Dartmouth: he was a man of about thirty-two years of age, rather small, dressed in black velvet trousers and jacket, crimson socks and black felt hat; his shirt collar was embroidered with black silk. He was the owner of his ship, whose name was the “Legion”; she was of Flemish build and carried a crew of forty men—all English except three Greeks. He admitted acts of piracy. He and the other two Englishmen were condemned to death, and the two were hung from a tower of the Castle, “where they remained till consumed, as a terror to all such evil doers.” But the demand of the Sanjak for the restitution of Dollard raised an international question, and it was only after a long correspondence between Zante, Venice and Constantinople that orders came from the Sultan that the Sanjak was to withdraw all opposition to the action of Michiel. Dollard and another sailor who had been arrested along with him were accordingly hung on the 11th September.
The English pirates in those waters were not slow to revenge these executions. This is the evidence given by Gianbattista Badoer, supercargo of the “Marubbin”: “We left Canea eighteen days ago. On the first of this month, old style, when off Yenetico, sailing with a north-west wind, being afraid of being carried too far out to sea, we put about for land in the hope that towards evening the wind would serve us better. About two o'clock of the night, with a bright moonlight, a 'berton,' that we had not noticed, bore suddenly down on us. She came out from behind Venetico, where she had been lying-in-wait. When we saw her we tried to escape to sea, but she was so close upon us that she opened fire from her harquebusses and artillery, and her crew cried “Down with your sails.” We had to obey, for we were not strong enough to fight. They came on board us, and thrashed us for not taking in sail fast enough, using great violence and foul language to us. They took all our artillery, sent us all below, and fastened down the hatches. Then they proceeded to help themselves to everything, including thirty casks of wine. With great cruelty they kept us under hatches for four days and four nights, and sailed our vessel up and down, along with theirs, looking for more prey; but finding none they let us go. The first thing they did when they boarded us was to ask if any Venetian nobles were on board, as they intended to hang them straight off, in revenge for the hanging of the Englishmen at Zante, and they meant to cruise there till they had caught a Venetian patrician. They robbed a French passenger of five hundred sequins. We could not find out the name of the ship nor of the captain, but she is a vessel of about two hundred tons, well armed with twenty-six guns. The captain is a fair-bearded, red-faced little man; thin; dressed in purple satin and English breeches, about thirty years old. We were all in terror of death, for they bullied us, and went so far as to put the noose round our necks every day.”
But it was against the Governor Michiel that the English vowed chief vengeance, and they took it on this wise. Michiel reports on December 4th 1604 that:—“Three days ago the 'berton' 'Moresini,' which sailed hence on the 19th November, returned to this port. She had been plundered by a pirate just outside the channel. I am the largest sufferer, for these robbers have ruined or stolen the greater part of my household goods and those of my Chancellor and officer. As it was the end of my time of service we had put most of our personal effects on board, thinking that the 'Moresini' was a good, sound, well-armed ship. But unluckily she fell in with these assassins. The master, seeing that he was on board the pirate during the plundering, cannot give ocular testimony, but the passengers assure me that the larger number of the pirates are English, and that they fell on my goods like mad dogs, though they left the other merchandize of value alone. What they did not want, such as majolica and earthenware, they broke to bits in glee, and also the packing-cases belonging to my family; but the greatest proof of their cruelty is that they killed some doves that my womenfolk were sending home for their particular delight. The birds were kept in a cage over the ship's side, and the pirates killed them all and threw them into the sea. This they did, I take it, to wreak vengeance on me for having hung a captain and three English sailors. I do not complain, for I am ready to lay down my own and my children's life in service of your Serenity.”
The master of the “Moresini” deposed as follows:—“We sailed on the 19th November. When off Prevesa a pirate bore down on us. I challenged her and the answer came in English, which I don't understand. Then, as they still came on, our English captain cried, 'I am Captain Abraham Las,' and immediately the whole crew of the pirate uncovered. We exchanged salutes, and then the master of the corsair came alongside in a skiff, and with him the captain, some soldiers and sailors. We made them welcome; and after eating and drinking they all went back to their own ship except the captain. With them went two of our crew, Englishmen, the gunner and a sailor. After a bit we saw them haul in their boat; and I took it for a bad sign. I hailed them to come and fetch their captain and to send back our two men. They answered that in getting the boat aboard they had stove her in; and asked me to send ours. I consulted with the captain, and expressed doubts as to our safety. He assured me that it was all right, and that he knew his countrymen. I, seeing that we could not any way withstand them, as they had twenty-eight guns and a hundred men, resolved to go in person. This I did next morning; the corsair cruising round us all night. I took some of my crew with me, though they were very unwilling, and an English passenger called Rimondo went with me, and my supercargo, also English. No sooner were we on board than they all began to chatter together, and presently commenced to put on their swords. Then about thirty of them got into the boat and came aboard this ship. I was taken below to a cabin, where they gave me food. When night came I saw the boat come back from our ship full of things, which they had taken, after breaking open all the boxes and trunks, though their chief officer made us understand that if any of us saw anything belonging to himself he was to point it out, and it would be restored; and under cover of this they did give back a few things, but the most they hid away. A question then arose among them. Some wanted to carry off the ship, others to give her back to us. They came to blows, and one was badly wounded. Our English captain came on board and succeeded in pacifying them, and he was able to rescue our ship for us. We were all sent back, and the pirate went off. I found the whole ship pillaged. The Englishman was about four hundred tons. The crew were all young and beardless, and among them were four or five captains; one was called Bully.”
When Wotton went to Venice, it was part of his mission to deal with this whole question of privateering in the Levant. At home, the King at all events was anxious to suppress piracy, and no doubt the example made by the hanging governor of Zante had a salutary effect. Cecil and the Council, moreover, were really convinced that the existing scandals were merely the aftermath of the Spanish war, that peace being declared no new privateers would leave England for the Mediterranean, and that with the extermination of the desperadoes, who were too deeply dyed to trust themselves at home, the whole business of buccaneering would cease. Venice, however, desired to establish some definite method of distinguishing genuine merchantmen from privateers. She thought that a full right of search would meet the difficulty, and for this she negotiated with Wotton. Her demand was that on meeting Venetian galleys of the State, Englishmen should be required to strike their foretopsail, to heave to, and to send their ship's boat with the papers on board. Cecil was opposed to this (No. 403), on the ground that vailing was a recognition of superiority and could not be observed towards the Republic outside the Adriatic, that is, outside her own waters, though he assented to the ship's boat going aboard. Wotton, it seems, had represented at Venice that the demand of the Republic would be granted in its widest sense, and such, it appears, was the King's intention, for in spite of Cecil's brusque assurances that the orders would be issued as he had “explained them and not otherwise,” in the very next interview he has to inform Molin that his Majesty had given orders to the High Admiral that the instruction should issue in the terms reported by Molin and confirmed by Wotton. What result the order produced the documents in this volume do not show.
The third point which occupied the attention of Wotton during the early years of his Venetian Embassy was the attitude England adopted towards the quarrel between the Curia and the Republic. The quarrel arose nominally over the question of ecclesiastical versus secular jurisdiction involved in the well known cases of Saraceni and Brandolin, and the question of temporal versus ecclesiastical authority involved in the decrees of the Senate which taxed the clergy, forbade the erection of new churches and the further alienation of real estate in favour of the Church. Wotton himself declared (No. 521) that a third of the Paduan district, and that the best part, was in the hands of the Church. The real ground of the quarrel was the excessive claims of the Curia Romana; the claim to “deposing power,” the claim to remit allegiance. These claims were supported and inculcated by a combination of Spain and the Jesuits, which Sarpi called the “Diacatholicon.” It was Venice, instructed by Sarpi, that stood forward to resist these claims, and her cause was the cause of all temporal princes face to face with an encroaching Curia. The quarrel soon assumed threatening proportions; both sides armed and sought support. There was danger of setting Italy in a blaze which might easily spread to the rest of Europe.
The attitude of the three great powers was as follows: Spain supported the Pope and was ready to arm though really unwilling to precipitate matters in Italy, while still so hampered in the Netherlands. She was more anxious to be the means of an accommodation if that were possible. France was willing enough to see Spain embroiled in Italy, as that would relieve the pressure on her allies, the Dutch and the Grisons, who were being threatened by Fuentes in the Valtelline; but Henry had made his peace with the Pope; he did not wish to run the risk of excommunication; the Jesuits were powerful in France; the King feared and courted them and had no desire for a French Gunpowder Plot—therefore he too was more inclined to enhance his prestige by securing an accommodation if possible. England was guided by James' unpopular policy of peace with Spain, but was not unwilling to resist the Pope upon the double ground of genuine resentment at his excessive claims, and with the Plot still rankling in its mind; but James was afraid that Henry would land him in a single-handed war with Spain, and then draw aside himself and reap the benefit. Salisbury also doubted whether the Republic would really stand firm against the Pope even if stiffened by foreign support (No. 628). He told the Venetian Ambassador that the common opinion was that Venice would surrender; the strong Catholic sympathies of most of the Venetian statesmen were well known. Wotton reports that Henry held the same opinion “judging that the universality of the commonwealth will not willingly fight.” (fn. 14)
The policy of England can be clearly followed in the Venetian documents supplemented by Wotton's own despatches. Wotton began by complaining that he had been officially informed of the strained relations between Venice and the Pope later than other envoys in Venice, whereas “there appear to me to be two reasons why your Serenity should have confided in me rather than in any other envoy; the one is that I am freer from interest or prejudice than any, and the other is that I represent a country that knows to a farthing the value of excommunications” (No. 512). A month later (May 16th 1606), he again had audience, and said that he had been revolving within himself how he might be of service to the Republic, and had resolved “to lay bare a secret of his mind, if haply, like an ant, he might add one grain to the mound of Venetian greatness. 'I am,' said he, 'in a free state and in a secret council; I will speak openly but under seal of confession.'” Wotton then went on to broach a scheme for a league between Great Britain, France, the Grisons, and other Swiss cantons, and possibly a German Prince. He supported his idea by citing a memorial drawn up by the Duke of Sessa for Philip II., from which it was clear that Spain dreaded such a league, and he added that it was a maxim of statecraft to put into execution what you know your enemy dreads (No. 521).
Meantime Giustinian, the Venetian Ambassador in England, sounded James upon the subject with the following result (No. 532). The Ambassador was explaining the nature and the antiquity of the laws to which the Pope objected; but the King broke in with “a very resolute look and said, 'They are pious, most just, most necessary laws. Not only do I approve, I commend and sustain them. The world would indeed be fortunate if every Prince would open his eyes and behave as the Republic does; but some hold their tongues because on that condition they are permitted to do what they like; others are indifferent, others afraid. It is the mutual jealousy of Princes, not the will of Christ, that has made the Papacy so great and so insolent. The Pope holds me and my crown for the most abominable thing in the world; but I claim to be a better servant of God than he is. To his divine Majesty and before mankind I protest that I have no greater desire than to see the Church of God reformed of those abuses introduced by the Church of Rome. There is nothing I long for more than the convocation of a legitimate Council. I have informed the King of France, with whom I am on good terms, and who knows but that through these present troubles of the Republic God may open the way for the effectuation of my pious purpose? The Popes, however, do not desire this, for it suits their design to keep the world in darkness. What wonder then if Christianity is ruined and if Princes are exposed every day to annoyance from the intolerable pretensions of Rome? Pope Clement VIII. invited me to join the Roman Church. I replied that if they would resolve the various difficulties in a general Council, legitimately convened, I would submit myself to its decisions. What do you think he answered?—just look at the zeal of the Vicar of Christ!—why, he said: “The King of England need not speak of Councils; I won't hear of one. If he will not come in by any other means things may stand as they are.” What do you think of that? Is it not an answer which clearly shows their resolve to be guided by nothing but their interest and their passions? And so it is in every case: so overweening is their personal claim and so outrageous the flattery of those who, from ambition and avarice, worship them with an execrable adulation, that may be they hold themselves superior even to Him whose Vicar and minister on earth they are. I am not surprised that in their controversy with the Republic they will not listen to reason, for their habit is to admit no reason but their own will.' And here the King embarked on an exceeding long discourse against the usurpation of supreme and absolute power by Popes, employing such a force of reasoning, such a wealth of citations from the holy Scriptures, such a marvellous flow of eloquence, that had his Majesty's speech been taken down and sent to the Pope, perhaps he would turn his attention to other subjects than the molestation of your Serenity. His Majesty said that he studied Bellarmine every day, and found him full of falsifications of the text and the authority of the Fathers, whom he cites in support of his papal idol, to whom he not only attributes spiritual authority, but actually sells temporal authority too, at the price of a red hat. In short, I cannot report half of what his Majesty said on these points. He expressed himself in most vigorous language to his own so obvious satisfaction that the Lords of the Council, who were present,—though some what apart,—declared that they had never seen him more content and delighted.”
By July 1606, matters looked so threatening for Venice through the Spanish declaration in favour of the Pope, and the massing of troops in the Milanese, that the Venetian Ambassador in London was instructed to extract from the King some declaration of his intentions (No. 549). This was done at an audience with his Majesty at Greenwich on August 10th. “Assure the Republic,” said the King, “I shall assist her with all my heart in all that depends on me. I only regret I am so distant, though, as you said the other day, where there is a neighbourhood of ideas Sovereigns can easily do all the rest. I have written to my Ambassador to make a similar statement in my name to the Republic.” This is the first mention of that English succour in force which led Sarpi to formulate his famous saying, embodying all the theory of sea power, namely, that those who have command of the sea are never far off. (fn. 15)
On September 5th Wotton made his communication to the Cabinet, prefacing it with the remark that “my master is pleased to consider himself bound on this occasion by my words.” He then recited the reasons which induced his Majesty to offer his support, and concluded by saying that the publication or reservation of that offer was left to the Republic herself. On that point the Doge was of opinion that “it will be time enough to show one's hand when the negotiations fail.” But the news from Rome, that the Pope had announced his intention of proceeding to force, soon led the Republic to desire the publication of the English offer, and Wotton, who was working for an open breach with Rome, gladly undertook to secure this (No. 582). Following up this favourable opening he pressed the Doge to indicate at once how he wished the King's offer to be carried into effect. The Doge, however, replied that the consideration of this point might be delayed. Wotton did not cease from his exertions to bring Venice to an open rupture. But the negotiations of the Cardinal de Joyeuse, the French Envoy Extraordinary, and of Don Francesco de Castro, coupled with the genuine desire for an accord compatible with honour and temporal independence which animated the Republic, were conspiring towards an arrangement of the differences between Venice and Rome; while in England Lord Salisbury, who did not approve of James' public offers of help, urged upon the King that this policy would bring him little reputation, for an accord would certainly be reached and that through the medium of another sovereign. In fact Salisbury impressed the Venetian Ambassador in London with the idea that the British Ministers intended to “go cautiously in this business and to watch events.” They really suspected Henry of trying to embroil them with Spain in Italy. On December 2nd Wotton was informed that Venice had proposed in the interests of peace, that the Pope should remove his censures and that the Republic would then withdraw its protest, and would hand over the two criminous clerics to the King of France, who would receive them in the Pope's name, but without prejudice to the Republic's right to try ecclesiastics in the lay courts. This justified Salisbury's prevision, and although an accord was not reached till April of 1607, it was upon these lines precisely that the accommodation was framed.
The influence of Salisbury was soon felt in England, and by the middle of December 1606 Giustinian complains that the Ministers have determined to stand aside for the present and watch events. “Would to God I had to deal with none other here than with this excellent King, a model of frankness and sincerity.” The same influence is apparent in Venice, where a rumour began to spread “that the King of England is not as warm as he was” (No. 648). And on January 29th, while the accord was not yet reached, and in view of the Papal armament which continued at the instigation of Spain, the Senate informed Wotton that they were now ready to discuss the proposals for a League which he had so frequently advanced. But Wotton's answer was far from satisfactory; he had probably received instructions as to the views prevailing at home. He now said that the League was an idea of his own, not submitted upon the orders of his master; that he noted that the Senate approached the matter as though it emanated originally from the King, and was an offer made to them; whereas he thought it highly desirable that the Senate should appear as the prime mover; for who would guarantee that the Senate, after negotiating for a League, would not yield to the Pope after all. To which the Doge replied that the Senate required to be assured of the attitude of the King of England.
It was obvious that in such an atmosphere of distrust nothing serious could be undertaken. Wotton communicated with his Government, but when the Venetian Ambassador saw the King and Salisbury, he found a great coldness towards the League and incurable suspicion of French designs. Wotton's pet scheme for a coalition to include Venice, England, and France was a failure, and the accord, which was ratified in April 1607, put an end to his proposals for ever.
In the appendix will be found a letter written from England by a Catholic to Don Bernardino de Mendoza, Spanish Ambassador in France, drawing a lively picture of the despair of the Catholic party immediately after the collapse of the Armada, and bitterly blaming Mendoza as the main cause of that disaster; also a note on the meaning of “a million of gold.”