Venice: June 1644

Pages 104-111

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 27, 1643-1647. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.

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June 1644

June 3.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
116. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
To prevent the dissensions which were daily increasing between the two Houses from taking root, the city of London has presented a paper to the Commons, thanking them for their application and zeal and asking them, if the Lords do not promptly fall in with their desires, to proceed with their deliberations as they may see fit, putting aside every consideration for the sake of the public liberty. This new explicit union between the two supreme heads of this great body, encouraged by the Independents and other sects, has so intimidated the Lords that they are disposed to accept everything, without opposition, and they have already agreed to the Council of the two nations without limitation of time or authority. General Essex also, whose fidelity they suspected, fearing that he was intriguing with the king, has dissipated all these shadows by acts of hostility. Accordingly the parliamentarians now flatter themselves with the hope that these affairs will not last much longer, and they display great energy. To-day they are holding a review of the trained bands, which they intend to send as a reinforcement to the general in question.
The king, after staying some days with his army a short distance from the enemy, did not think fit to offer battle, accordingly he has abandoned Reading and retired to Oxford. It is expected that he will leave that city well supplied and move to the West, whither Waller is preparing to follow him.
The Prince of Wales had a request presented to parliament that some papers might be sent to him to go to Cornwall, to take the investiture of that Duchy, which belongs to the king's eldest son ; but they refused citing the example of the king himself, who never took that investiture. It is believed that he acted thus for the object of currying favour with the people there for contributions and to have the possession of that duchy approved by parliament, to its prejudice.
The Marquis of Newcastle is still at York invested by the Scots, and Prince Rupert does not come to his assistance, nor is it known for certain where he is at present. Yet the Marquis constantly harasses the enemy by sorties, while his cavalry, with augmented force, is in Leicestershire wasting the country. To put a stop to this the Earl of Manchester has sent Colonel Cromwel, and he intends to besiege Niuvarch afresh.
The royalist Scots who entered from the South and sacked Donfris, have been repulsed at Carlisle, but they are still keeping up the disturbance in that quarter, as does the Marquis of Ontlet on the other side, although by the last advices he has been driven from Aberdeen.
The parliamentary ships have captured a vessel laded with arms and munitions for the king by merchants at Rotterdam. (fn. 1) It was convoyed by two ships of war, but when they saw the English, they abandoned it to its fate. This shows the various sympathies of the Belgian peoples (dei popoli Belgici) in respect of these affairs.
The Ambassadors of the Provinces are still at Oxford, and talk of going to Exeter to take leave of the queen, their negotiations for peace having so far proved fruitless, although they sent a most urgent office to the President of the Commons after their departure.
M. di Sabran has arrived here as resident in ordinary for the Most Christian. The Earl of Warwick escorted him across the sea. Although he has not yet seen the king he goes about visiting the chief lords here with letters from the Count of Harcourt, but he says he visits them as peers of the realm and not as members of parliament. He says he has no definite commissions to treat of peace, but he will not miss any opportunity that presents itself. Another French minister came here at the same time and set out for Scotland. But he has been arrested in the north by Fairfax's army, who has sent word to parliament. M. di Sabran has not yet made any representations for his release, though he means to do so. (fn. 2)
A great personage has shown me in confidence the articles arranged between the French plenipotentiaries and the States for this year's campaign. I have not been able to get a copy, but from a cursory glance I noticed from the preamble that the French do not mean to make peace at Munster, but to gain time. For the rest the treaty resembles those of past years, only with increased subsidies. The second contains only a few articles about naval assistance from the Dutch for the capture of St. Omer or Gravelines, for blockading the port and supplying the French army with provisions. The French are already preparing this enterprise, and time will disclose whether the Dutch will fulfil their obligations sincerely, since it is not in their interest to give the French facilities at sea so near themselves.
London, the 3rd June, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 10.
Senato. Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
117. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters of the 20th ult. The Senate is always glad to hear particulars of the incidents of the war as well as of the suggestions for peace which happen to be passing so as to be fully enlightened about everything.
Enclose advices about Italy.
Ayes, 119. Noes, 4. Neutral, 5.
June 10.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci. Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
118. Gerolamo Agostini. Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The two powerful parliamentary armies under Essex and Waller have advanced towards Abingdon, where the king was with his force, not now exceeding 10,000 combatants. They are not united but at some distance, to avoid collisions, seeing the ill will between the leaders. His Majesty decided to demolish the fortifications there, as indefensible and retire towards Ustock, so as to discover the intentions of the enemy with regard to the siege of Oxford, a few miles away, as well as to take an opportunity for a battle in a country adapted for cavalry, in which his Majesty is the stronger. He stayed there for two days and seeing that it would be more difficult than the parliamentary leaders supposed to attack Oxford, which is well fortified and supplied, he entered the place, leaving his army in good order at Ustock. When Prince Maurice has brought the siege of Lyme to a conclusion, which is hard pressed, he will go to augment those forces, though the king does not pretend to do more than temporise, without loss, in order to disappoint the Londoners of their hope of ending their troubles in this campaign.
What the two generals will decide upon remains doubtful. Their first plan disappears owing to the difficulties, and to undertake another they will have to wait for the orders of the Council of the two nations, which is now confirmed as absolute.
The affairs of the North are recommended to Prince Rupert, who with strong forces has marched close to York to raise the siege and unite with Newcastle, who harasses the besieging Scots by frequent sorties. He finds Manchester an obstacle, however, who is opposing his plan with numerous forces, although he has not been able to interfere with Newcastle's cavalry, which has passed into Lancashire after gathering much gold and doing a great deal of mischief in Leicestershire.
The disturbances in Scotland are worse than ever. Although the royalist party in England has received a check in Cumberland, yet they keep the Scots opposed to them busy, who should be engaged in the siege of Newcastle. The numerous and brave garrison of that town recently entered the district of Sunderland where they chastised those who were getting coal to send here and burned the mines, so that London may feel the miss of it, which will be unbearable next winter, as they have felled most of the trees in the neighbourhood.
In view of the present forces of parliament the king has not the advantage, but if he holds on he may look for it in time, as those who have exceeded their strength in contributions in the hope of the end will feel the fruitless expense, and many may become less obstinate, indeed this is happening every day. Parliament has therefore issued an order that all families that are in the slightest degree suspect, shall be expelled from the city and all their goods confiscated, and this is being carried out without remorse.
Although the Irish commissioners left Oxford before a total conclusion of the peace, the king, driven by necessity, has consented at last to the chief point they desired, i.e. that only Roman Catholics shall attend their parliament, in return for which they promise him the help of 15,000 men in England, and 10,000 men under the Earl of Ormond, their Viceroy, for the defence of the Protestants against the Puritans, who want to disturb the peace there.
The trial of the Archbishop of Canterbury proceeds and a fresh charge of treason has been brought, that he altered the oath taken by the kings at their coronation, and that the present king took it in that form, from which very serious consequences are to be feared.
Parliament has had the house of the Resident of Lorraine stripped and his servants and himself arrested on the pretext that he holds correspondence with Rome and that he attempts to convert young Englishmen, he himself being English. (fn. 3) He has applied for assistance to the Spanish ambassador and to all the other foreign ministers. I expressed my sympathy, but thought it best to abstain from any office, to avoid suspicion, without instructions, the more so as the Spanish ambassador himself is lukewarm in the matter and he is moreover shut up in his house.
M. di Sabran, the French Resident is still here, not having as yet been able to get his passport from parliament, especially to go to the queen who is still at Exeter. The physician Mayerne has made up his mind to go there to attend her and her usual midwife has arrived from France.
London, the 10th June, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 17.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
119. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The parliament armies encircle Oxford, although at some distance. Skirmishes have taken place recently with loss to them. Some dispute broke out between the generals, Waller complaining that he had the most dangerous and inconvenient quarters. Essex promptly met this by exchanging them, but it did not suffice to mollify the other, who yearns after the independent command which he has not yet succeeded in getting. The king has come out of Oxford with his son, leaving it well supplied with men and food, and his army is in a position which ensures its retreat to Bristol or Wales to wait for reinforcements either from the Irish or from Prince Rupert, when he has released himself in the North. He desires no more at present than to avoid a battle and to render vain the great preparations and outlay of parliament. They are already pressing the city for a fresh provision of 200,000l. I am assured in confidence that General Essex has orders from the Council of the Two Nations to get possession of the king's person in some way as the readiest means of settling the business. So it is thought that as his Majesty has come out of Oxford they are more likely to follow than to lay formal siege to the place, the capture of which would not further their purpose. But there is some mystery in their attempt to convict the Archbishop of Canterbury, on very slender grounds, of having falsified the royal oath, in order to deduce the invalidity of his Majesty's coronation, whereby they would pretend to justify all their action to the people.
Prince Rupert, after his long delay, shows the more energy in Lancashire, where he has taken Bolton and slain 2,000 soldiers who under Meldron opposed his passage. (fn. 4) He marches victoriously on York without fearing the forces of the Earl of Manchester, who does not venture to challenge him, as the Prince has over 10,000 combatants and increases on the way, taking with him very rich spoils from that disloyal county. The Marquis of Newcastle is not only holding out in York, but having discovered an understanding between the aldermen of the city and the Scots he feigned ignorance and used the conspiracy to their own hurt, so the besieging forces receive no additions.
Although the Marquis of Ontlet, who made the rising in Scotland in favour of his Majesty is a prisoner, yet Lord Widdrington joining with the Scots who were repulsed at Carlisle has formed a force for his Majesty which will either invade Scotland afresh or will at least cut off the retreat of their forces under York and others from joining them. Prince Maurice also holds out hopes of very soon having Lyme, having completely cut it off from succour by sea. If this happens it will give his Majesty the advantage of a considerable place and the addition of 4,000 good soldiers to his forces.
A commissioner has arrived here from Ireland, sent by some of the Protestant party, to remonstrate against the peace granted by the king to the Catholics there. (fn. 5) He found open ears and ready disposition. They have appointed commissioners for him, but their pockets will be closed by their powerlessness, and he will take away nothing but declarations and words, and in the mean time the army promised by that kingdom to his Majesty is making ready.
In this crisis the Dutch ambassadors have roused themselves and under two white flags, in token of peace, have gone to the army of General Essex to negotiate one. But he, after taking counsel, sent them word that though he considered it necessary, he could not listen to their proposals, because of the limitations of his commissions, and so they must address themselves to parliament. With this they returned to confer with the king and arrived here yesterday evening. But they will find no better disposition than before, and they are not entirely satisfied here with the reply given by Essex who is blamed besides for letting the king leave Oxford. The French Resident Sabran has at last obtained his passport for the queen as well, and started last Monday.
In competition with Bristol they are sending ships and orders from here to fetch currants from the islands of your Serenity, and to encourage this the more parliament has confirmed its decree, of which I sent a copy, for a year beyond the six months, and they intimate that it will be continued. I promise the merchants the very best treatment, as your Excellencies command.
London, the 17th June, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
June 22.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Costantinopoli. Venetian Archives.
120. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Bailo at Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
With his last letters the English consul has received information from the heads of the trading Company that the parliamentarians have intercepted letters which the ambassador here wrote to the king, in which he advised his Majesty that the inclinations of the merchants here were all contrary to his service, but that in spite of this he would not fail to execute his Majesty's orders. That in consequence of this assertion parliament contemplated sending an ambassador here, and in such case the Company does not wish to have provisions or advantages contributed to this one. In addition they have ordained that a declaration shall be made to the secretary and the dragomans that in so far as they depend on this ambassador they shall no longer receive their customary stipends.
I understand that outwardly the ambassador preserves a very unruffled appearance, but at bottom he must needs be disturbed because the great advances which he makes here all depend on the trade. It is certainly absolutely true that the merchants here are all openly declared sympathisers with the parliamentary party, just as, on the other hand, the ambassador supports the royal position. If the business goes any further and the parliament sends an ambassador it will be a fine thing for the Turks as if on account of the proprieties he ought not to be admitted, the merchants will achieve all their intent by the power of gold. I beg your Excellencies to supply me with the necessary instructions to guide me in such an eventuality.
The Vigne di Pera, the 22nd June, 1644.
June 24.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
121. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters of the 3rd inst. Approval of his diligence in sending to the ambassador at Munster the particulars about the agreement between the French and the Dutch. Enclose advices.
Ayes, 130. Noes, 1. Neutral, 4.
June 24.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
122. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The king leaving Oxford well supplied with the Duke of York and many lords, is retiring with the prince and the army. Having crossed the Severn he is now in Worcestershire, whence he can recross the same river and throw himself into Bristol, or keep higher up and enter Wales, a country well affected to him and from which enemies can easily be shut out, convenient for the landing of the Irish and for a junction with Prince Rupert if he can free himself from the North by some success.
The retreat of his Majesty having increased the growing suspicions of the parliamentary leaders about the proceedings of General Essex, they and the Council have written to him very angrily. They have communicated the secret of their design to seize the royal person to Waller charging him to follow the king. He is doing so and reports in his last letters that he is not more than two miles away, but he is on this side of the Severn, the bridge across being broken.
To avoid increasing suspicion by idleness Essex has started a march to relieve Lyme, straitly besieged by Prince Maurice. If this succeeds he will go further west, perhaps towards Exeter, as letters have been intercepted from the queen begging the king to give her safer quarters as the people there are no less rebellious than those of London, so that if she is not hampered by the neighbourhood of the port, (quando non sia impedita dalla vicinanza del porto) she will go to Bristol.
Oxford at present is free from any siege, but Sergeant Major Brun has orders to start at once with 5 regiments of this city to occupy the positions and practically blockade it, raising contributions from the country round, which has so far been for the king.
Henry Ven, one of the chief directors of the present machine, left 4 days ago for the North to confer with the leaders of the Scottish army. There is much speculation about sending such a one. Some say that as he enjoys great influence with that nation he is going to urge them to act with greater energy : others, to oblige Manchester to unite with them ; others again, to take them money. But I learn on good authority and in confidence that these are all pretexts, that the real object is something greater, to persuade the leaders of that army to agree to the deposition of the king, if, as a great part of the English desire and hope, he is taken prisoner or leaves the kingdom. The Scottish deputies in the Council are opposed to this, explaining that such an important and audacious question is not stated in their commissions. It is likely that Ven will meet with no little resistance, as the Scots would be excluded from appointments and subjected to the English, who are so antipathetic.
The army in question has advanced to the walls of York with some idea of delivering an assault, as it is not sufficiently numerous to environ the city, which is very large. The Earl of Manchester has advanced to Selby and has orders to join them, but whether from reluctance to go far from the Associated Counties or for lack of courage, he has always shown himself very slow in carrying out his orders.
Prince Rupert has left Lancashire and is going to unite with Widdrington and with the army raised by the Scottish royalists, intending to fall afterwards upon those at York. United with the forces here he will have little less than 20,000 combatants, and if he gains the victory he will be able to succour the king when he has time to attend him.
Admiral Warwick having taken from the Dunkirkers a Dutch ship which they had captured with sugar and other goods, the Spanish ambassador, by writing to the President of the Lower House and by appearing himself in the Council of State, introduced by the master of the Ceremonies, has obtained its restitution. Not only this, but the parliamentarians go about saying that the ambassador is the most worthy person whom the Spaniards could employ, since he has been the first to recognise parliament. Following this example the resident of the emperor has been to complain of his house being searched ; but on perceiving that these offices have been taken for recognition, they are both trying to excuse their action through the need of applying to those who have the power. The parliamentarians make the more of this recognition as at the same time the commissioners have returned who went to Denmark with letters of parliament for the recovery of the ship seized by the king there. His Majesty and the Bishop of Bremen, his son, answer in most courteous letters, which are the outcome of their present situation, but they are directed to the Upper House only. (fn. 6)
Unable to wait any longer in this almost universal competition the Dutch ambassadors, who have his Majesty's permission, have sent to the President of the Lower House to tell him that they would like to have audience of the two Houses together. The President remarked to the bearer of the message that they were late in making up their minds to this, since the Spanish ambassador, who was unsympathetic and unfriendly, had been the first to recognise them, however, he would report the matter. He did so and they have appointed 27 commissioners to consider whether they shall give this audience and in what way the ambassadors should be received. This is now under discussion and some are opposed to granting it. I hear that they have letters of the king to present, and they hope that they will be able to make some impression on the generality.
The Prince of Orange sent a present of linen for the queen's delivery, with a little money for her ; but the ship was captured by those of Warwick. The letters arrived this week from France and Flanders have been opened by commissioners of parliament, but mine, as usual, have not been tampered with.
London, the 24th June, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. Probably the Tiger of Rotterdam, captured by Captain William Penn. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644, page 209. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., page 514.
  • 2. Boisivon, French agent sent to Scotland and arrested by Fairfax on his return. Sabran to Brienne, 3 June. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts. He was taken in Lancashire. Fairfax's letter of 11 May, reporting the event, was read in the Commons on the 18th. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., p. 498. The Lords ordered his release on the 17th May. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., p. 556.
  • 3. Anthony Fortescue. According to Salvetti, writing on the 3rd June, the seizure was by virtue of a grant by parliament to Brereton of the effects of Catholics, to maintain his army. An English priest was arrosted and a guard set on the resident. Brit. Mus. Add. MSS. 27962K.
  • 4. On the 28th May, O.S.
  • 5. Captain William Parsons on June 1st gave the House an account of the king's reception of the deputation from Ireland. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., page 513.
  • 6. Messrs. Haake, Barker and Lowther are reported as returned from Denmark on May 14, O.S. The royal letters are entered on June 5, O.S., the king's dated March 12, the archbishop's Feb. 19, Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 553, 578, 579.