Venice: February 1641

Pages 117-126

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 25, 1640-1642. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1924.

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February 1641

Feb. 2.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Roma. Venetian Archives.
157. Anzolo Contarini, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England, with her own hand, has written to Cardinal Barberino, lamenting the present unhappy state of the kingdom and her husband, and begging hard for a loan of 500,000 crowns, under the plea that the Catholic Faith, protected from that quarter, will derive great benefits. But although the request is supported by honour and justice, it is not thought that they will listen to it here.
In these same troublesome disturbances in England Rosetti, the agent of Cardinal Barberino, has been greatly helped and protected by the Ambassador Zustignano, and His Eminence has sent on purpose to thank me and to express his gratitude to your Excellencies.
Rome, the 2nd February, 1641.
Feb. 8.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
158. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Although the king's delegates have laboured with all solicitude over the negotiations for an agreement with those of Scotland, the completion of the business remains more doubtful than ever. Many suspect that the written demand for a great sum of money, to which the Scots stand firm, is to prevent a conclusion, and some of the less prejudiced among the parliamentarians are now hinting that the most secret aims of the enemy are to keep possession of the occupied country under this pretext, and to await some favourable opportunity for a further inroad into this kingdom.
The Scottish Commissioners, on their side, are doing their utmost to dissipate this idea, and to justify their requests they have presented a detailed note of the losses suffered. They propose insidiously that the compensation shall be allotted upon the goods of the Catholics and of the bishops, pointing to both of them as the sole authors of the present movements.
Courteous but general replies have been given to their requests, and the majority of the parliamentarians incline to offer them 1,800,000 ducats, which is a third of what they claim.
While the negotiations remain stationary, the Scots, besides the excellent fortifications they have made at Newcastle and Durham, places of consequence, have assembled nearly 20,000 men, who are ready at the frontiers only awaiting orders from General Leslie to join the main body of the army. This increases suspicion about their sincerity, and if time and their actions should make it advisable to force them to dislodge from their quarters in England, the task will be no light one and will involve serious difficulty and danger.
While they are discussing suitable means for moderating the authority of the bishops, a thousand preachers have suddenly appeared before parliament, who orally and in writing have petitioned that this hierarchy may be altogether removed from the Anglican Church, arguing that bishops are no less contrary to the doctrine of Calvin than harmful to the public liberty. The memorial was accepted with a considerable leaning to embrace the proposal. When His Majesty heard of this and fearing hurtful decisions, he summoned all the members before him on Saturday and in a serious speech warned them not to pursue the business. He declared boldly that he would never consent ; that he meant to preserve without any alteration the religion which he had sworn to God and promised to the people at his accession. He took the opportunity to make known his just resentment at the bill for the assembling of parliament every three years, declaring frankly that nothing would persuade him to ratify it, as he was determined not to despoil himself of the prerogative to convoke it when he pleased, which all his predecessors had always exercised, without contradiction. The members made no reply to this vigorous speech of His Majesty, and every one is watching with curiosity to see what effect it will have upon them, as they are trying in every way to introduce innovations hurtful to the monarchy and to the king himself, whose authority languishes more and more amid all these agitations.
They do not relax the greatest severity against the Catholics. A religious of high character (di gran bonta) and a very good man, being convicted of being a priest, was sentenced to death last week. The queen interposed her merciful offices with her husband for his release, and promptly obtained the favour. (fn. 1) When the parliament and the city learned this they both had recourse to the king, to permit the sentence to be carried out, or else they assured him of the offence his people would take and that they would not grant him any subsidy in the future. They also threatened the queen with greater ills. But His Majesty, though impressed by this unmeasured violence, abides by his decision, with urbanity, and tries by calm reasoning to make this people understand the reasons for his act of clemency. To satisfy his subjects he proposes to exile the priest for ever and to oblige all the others to leave this kingdom immediately under most severe penalties. But so far these liberal offers have not sufficed to quiet the uproar, and it is feared that the priest will eventually come to the butcher's knife. An example of the worst consequence, entirely depriving the king here of his ancient prerogative of sparing the life of convicted persons and thus shutting out hope of favour for the two favourites, the Lieutenant of Ireland and the Archbishop of Canterbury, for whose blood this infuriated people seems to thirst fiercely.
London, the 8th February, 1641.
159. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Marquis of la Wieuville came to this house last week. After expressing his devotion to the Senate he told me that his eldest son, who has served for some time under the Prince of Orange, where he has given proof of his courage and gained experience, desires now to serve your Excellencies. (fn. 2) He begged me to report this. He dilated on the matter so much as to lead me to believe that the auspices promised him great riches if you accept the proposal. I replied courteously, but in general terms.
The Dutch ambassadors are having long conferences with His Majestys' commissioners, and they announce that the marriage with the elder princess is quite settled, although there remains some difficulty about the time when she shall be taken to Holland. The Prince of Orange urges strongly that the bride shall return with his son, who is expected at this Court in a few weeks, but His Majesty does not seem inclined to this, only when his daughter is of marriageable age. So fresh impediments may rise to prevent the conclusion of this marriage also, diminishing to that extent His Majesty's first hopes that the interposition of the United Provinces would induce his subjects to return to their duty.
They are giving up the negotiation for an alliance and announce that they wish to invite the Most Christian also. Few people believe here that they will accept the proposal for an offensive one, and it is probable that it will be simply defensive, as this crown is at present incapable of supporting fresh external burdens.
Meanwhile there is a report that in the event of His Majesty settling his differences with his people, the ambassadors will try to get a portion of the troops here granted to the Palatine, or at least obtain permission for the States to take them into their service.
Orders have at last reached the Catholic ambassadors extraordinary to proceed to Flanders. They will do so in a few days, leaving the affairs of the king their master here in the same state as, or perhaps worse than they found them.
The queen mother has sent one of her gentlemen to France with letters to the king and Cardinal Richelieu, informing them of her wretched surroundings and begging for some help. (fn. 3)
London, the 8th February, 1641.
Feb. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Haya. Venetian Archives.
160. Girolamo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador at the Hague, to the Doge and Senate.
On Thursday evening an extraordinary from England brought news here of the establishment of the marriage with the eldest daughter of the king there thus affording the Prince of Orange complete and perfect satisfaction. The news was received at the Court with prodigious rejoicing and with the applause of the whole community. The ambassadors write that at a special audience of his Majesty on Monday the 28th they asked the king and queen for the hand of the Princess Mary, the eldest daughter. The king consented readily. The ambassadors, overcome with joy. thanked his Majesty and immediately left the royal apartment. In the antechamber, where a large crowd had collected out of curiosity, they themselves made known the news and shouted first, the announcement being taken up immediately with great satisfaction and spread everywhere. They delayed sending the news until Saturday, the 2nd inst. in order that they might be able to fix the day for the young prince to go to England and so as to have the conditions of the contract, in which they wished to insert a new alliance between England and the States. The Prince of Orange, for very sound reasons, does not seem very eager about this at present, and would prefer that the two treaties should be negotiated separately, especially as France seems to be very jealous both of the marriage and of the alliance. Nevertheless he will accept all the conditions that the king of England may desire. He has already gained the chief advantage in getting the eldest daughter, which opens the way to the succession to the crown.
The Hague, the 11th February, 1641.
Feb. 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
161. Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Great consternation has been caused by the news that the royal army at Barcelona has been repulsed with great loss. Through an understanding with some nobles of the town they hoped to enter one of the gates and take the place at their ease. The Catalans fell upon them as they were approaching carelessly and inflicted great slaughter. Many leading men have been killed, including the Duke of San Giorgio and the Irish Earl of Tyrone, who commanded a regiment. (fn. 4) The Catalans have taken many flags.
In orders to meet the offices of the Duke of Braganza with the King of Morocco they are about to send an English gentleman from here with letters and commissions from his Majesty. (fn. 5)
Madrid, the 13th February, 1640. [M.V.]
Feb. 15.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
162. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
After the Dutch ambassadors had arranged the marriage terms with the royal commissioners they are at present trying very hard to get the king to reduce to six months the term of two years which he asks before the bride proceeds to Holland. They have made strong representations this week to His Majesty and the queen separately, but only obtained general politeness, though it was intimated through the commissioners that if this request was brought forward at the arrival of the prince they might hope for success, as their Majesties wished to reserve any favours they had to grant for the request of the bridegroom himself.
The ambassadors do not express themselves as satisfied with these doubtful statements and press for greater securities, being suspicious, as are many from past experiences, that His Majesty may be merely using this marriage as a support in his present falling fortunes, that there were various reservations to be supposed from the first objections and that he will search about for pretexts in the course of time sufficient to cause the matter to fall through, without compromising his own reputation, and it is in any case subject to the course of events (ingelositi come sono molti che resasi con l' esperienze avertita Sua Maesta, che non habbia questo accasamento a ralere di quel forte appoggio alle presenti fortune sue cadenti, che s' era presupposto internamente mediti concetti dalli primi contrarii e vadi mendicando pretesti dal tempo atti a far cadere senza impegno della propria riputatione gli effetti di questa prattica, la quale sta sottoposta tuttavia alla contingenza de' successi).
If the ambassadors cannot obtain more they propose to send one of their gentlemen to the Prince of Orange with a clear account of the state of the affair, so that he may act as he thinks most desirable.
The marriage articles are on the same lines as those of the Princess Palatine, with respect to the dowry, the super dowry of 40,000l., the bride's allowance and everything else. Nothing is said just now about the alliance and the matter remains as it was ; but there is a report that they will only ratify the defensive treaty signed at Southampton years ago and which terminated last September.
Despite the king's determined declaration both houses of parliament have voted the law that parliament shall meet every three years in the future. If the king fails the lord keeper is to act for himself, and if he fails any ten lords have the power. If none of these act then the sheriffs of the towns, who are the leaders of the people, are to order the election of the members. With such safeguards the king or his successors will not be able to avoid submitting every third year to the indiscrete censure of parliament all the actions of themselves and their ministers as well. The condition is hard, depriving His Majesty of his pre-eminent claims to the respect of his subjects and leaving him incapable of taking any important decision whatever of himself.
About the bishops, however, the parliamentarians waver to and fro, as many of them do not agree to the entire abolition of this ancient order of the Anglican Church ; so it is thought that they will only be reduced in numbers, their revenues cut down and diverted to more useful employments, and the privilege of sitting in parliament taken away. Without these votes the royal party in the future will be unable to counterbalance those who, cloaking their private passions under the mantle of public liberty, not only attempt to rob their natural prince of the obedience due to him, but to deprive God Himself of his attributes.
On Saturday in last week parliament went to the king and by the mouth of the Lord Keeper strongly urged their petition, that to appease the universal uproar he would allow the carrying out, of the sentence against the priest condemned to death, or refer it to the decision of parliament ; that the laws enacted against the Catholics in the time of Queen Elizabeth should be fully carried out ; and that he should no longer connive at the sojourn at this Court of a minister of the pope. The king heard them attentively and asked time for his answer. He afterwards held long consultations in which more consideration was paid to the deplorable state of the times than to the temerity of the people, with the idea of satisfying them. Yesterday the king sent for the parliament and told them that he wished to give the people prompt satisfaction, and put the cause of the priest freely in their hands while he granted them the execution of the old laws against the Catholics. He could not refrain, however, from begging the members to show clemency to the one and moderation towards the others pointing out that since there were many English in the states of Catholic princes, rigour exercised against Catholicism here might induce a like severity against the Protestants in their power.
With regard to the pope's minister he said that by virtue of the marriage treaty with France the queen was to enjoy the free exercise of her religion, and it was necessary to have some one near her to keep up her private relations with the head of her Church. He would not meddle with anything but the household of his wife only and so he begged his people to allow it and not give the queen occasion for dissatisfaction by a refusal. He promised that if this individual did not keep within the limits, he would not be tolerated. To give the impression that he was opposed to the Catholic faith the king assured them that he would see to it that the chapel of the queen and those of the ambassadors were not frequented by Englishmen.
With these answers the parliamentarians left His Majesty, and now it remains to be seen if these suave expressions, drawn from the king's extreme necessity, will suffice to check the career of licence or whether it will open the door wider to more audacious designs.
After many discussions they have finally decided to make a positive proposal to the Scots to pay them 1,800,000 ducats in three years giving security for the payment, on condition that they withdraw their troops from the country without further delay. Time will show if this offer will satisfy them. Few expect it, and the idea is encouraged that it will be necessary to take up arms again.
For some weeks reports have been circulating that the queen, for the sake of her health which suffers considerably from the dampness of this climate, has decided to cross to France and stay there a whole year. She has been so busy lately with her preparations as to shake the doubts of those who know the insuperable difficulties in the way of such action ; but the object of the reports has not yet transpired.
News arrived yesterday from the island of Giarnese that the Duke of Vendome had arrived there, a fugitive from France. At the same time an express courier reached the Secretary of the Most Christian here. It is not known what orders he brought. (fn. 6)
London, the 15th February, 1641.
Feb. 19.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
163. Anzolo Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Queen of England, having need of her native air to restore her health, has sent word that she believes she will have to come to France. This may be true or merely a pretext to escape from some danger with which she may be threatened in the disturbances of England. The king is prepared to receive her with equal joy in either case, and has sent word that she may come when she pleases.
Sciatu, the 19th February, 1641.
Feb. 22.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
164. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in Eng-England, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty informed parliament yesterday of the marriage arranged between the princess here and the Prince of Orange's son, with expressions of friendly confidence. He explained that before proceeding further with the matter he would not omit to communicate it to his subjects, to learn their pleasure and loyal opinion. He stated that the chief motives which induced him to embrace the proposal were that of joining his daughter to a prince of her own faith, of establishing by this means a defensive alliance between this crown and the United Provinces, and to facilitate the success of an offensive one for the restoration of his nephew the Palatine by force or arms, and thereby the reputation of England, so deeply interested in the fortunes of that house. The terms of the marriage and the proposals for the alliance would be shown them by his order, by the Earl of Arundel, the Earl Marshal, to be inspected. He warned them that the negotiations for an offensive alliance required mature consideration, as well as time for elaboration, since many princes were to be invited, of Germany in particular. He therefore asked the members to apply themselves sincerely to provide the means for the satisfactory carrying out of all that has been agreed.
The speech of the king met with an entirely favourable reception though it was a step never taken by any of his predecessors. Politically minded persons are inclined to believe that by this tactful office the king designed to open the way for the Dutch ambassadors to negotiate with the parliamentarians, to persuade them against the harmful reforms begun in the government of this monarchy, and to bring them back to their duty to him, which is the sole aim of all his present actions. Whether these efforts will produce the results which he expects is a matter for time and the course of events to resolve.
The parliamentarians show themselves more intent than ever to pursue with vigour the very extensive designs which they have taken in hand. Chief among these is the infliction of the extreme penalty upon the Lieutenant of Ireland, the salvation of whom troubles the king more than anything else, so that he is prepared to run the greatest risks to preserve his life. Meanwhile the ambassadors express particular satisfaction at these new declarations about the marriage, as they rightly consider them a sufficient pledge to oblige His Majesty to carry out his promises. They have sent one of their gentlemen to Holland with a full account of all that has happened so far, and they announce that the bridegroom prince will soon come here. The project of the alliance and of the marriage will only be presented in parliament today by the Earl of Arundel, and so I am not able to report on it this week, though I will do so next. Many still firmly believe that the proposals for an offensive alliance will not go forward to a conclusion.
Parliament has informed the Scottish Commissioners through the delegates, of the decision to pay them the 300,000l. in compensation for their losses. Without making a formal reply they expressed entire satisfaction, both orally and in writing, with the more applause among the whole nation because it was doubted whether the sum was enough to satisfy them. The suspicion about the sincerity of their aims being thus dissipated they have prolonged the truce for another three months, as the people here are anxious not to oblige their forces to withdraw before the king has confirmed all the laws which are to be passed by this parliament.
Since His Majesty's speech to the parliamentarians about the priest condemned to death and the other Catholics of the realm, the queen has sent one of her gentlemen (fn. 7) to parliament to bear witness to her desire to give satisfaction to the people, promising not to protect any priests in the future except those of her own chapel, and that within a brief space she will send away the pope's minister. That individual who thought that his removal was out of the question, is now actively preparing for it, to the alarm of the Catholics, who fear that the most severe persecution is inevitable. Yet the priest is still in prison and it is said that the death sentence will be remitted by parliament for one of perpetual exile. This shows that it was not religious zeal but a contumacious desire to deprive their prince of the use of his authority which was the real motive for the recent outcry.
The Spanish Ambassadors have taken leave of the king privately, without the usual ceremony. They are only waiting for the customary present before starting for the coast. It will be the sole mark of honour and advantage which they will take back to the king their master from their negotiations at this Court.
The Duke of Vendome arrived in this city two days ago from the island of Giarnese, but he does not appear in public. The queen mother states openly that she will very soon leave this country. It is not known whether she will proceed to Holland, as many believe, or elsewhere.
They are expecting soon an ambassador of the new King of Portugal. Many ministers, even among the best accredited, seem inclined to receive him. But so far His Majesty has not come to any decision on the subject. In any case that will not serve as an example for me, without instructions from your Excellencies.
London, the 22nd February, 1641.


  • 1. John Goodman, brother of the bishop of Gloucester sentenced to death on 21-31 January and reprieved by the king on the following day.
  • 2. Vincent de la Vieuville, eldest son of Charles, marquis and first duke de la Vieuville. He was subsequently killed, fighting on the king's side at the battle of Newbury, in Sept. 1643.
  • 3. The messenger was her almoner the sieur de Bonnefons. The ship in which he sailed was wrecked near Rye and he barely escaped with his life. Montereul's despatches of the 2nd and 14th February. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts. On reaching Calais he was arrested, Salvetti, the 1st March Brit. Mus Add. MSS., 27902I.
  • 4. The repulse at Barcelona took place on the 26th January o.s. Hopton writes on Feb. 6, o.s. "The retiring of the king's army from before Barcelona ... is confirmed... The number of men slain I understand to be above 1000 ... amongst whom was Tiron, by a shot in the body and a cut in the head, whereof he died within three hours. By the sense the king showed upon the news of his death, it appears he esteemed the man." S. P. Spain.
  • 5. Robert Blake. Hopton gives an account of him in his despatch of the 9th March. A copy of the agreement with Blake, dated at Madrid the 20th February is contained in the same volume. S. P. Spain, vol. 41.
  • 6. Montereul reports on the 21st that the duke landed at Weymouth on Sunday the 17th and arrived in London on Monday evening. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
  • 7. Sir Thomas Jermyn on the 4-14 February. Montereul on the 21st Feb. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts. Gardiner : Hist of Eng., vol. IX, page 273.