Venice: August 1644

Pages 123-131

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.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


August 1644

Aug. 5.
Senato. Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
136. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The consequences of the victory gained over Prince Rupert in the North appear in the surrender of York which took place last week on the usual honourable military conditions, which the soldiers disregarded by plundering a part of the baggage. (fn. 1) The result is of unhappy augury for the king's interests, which suffer a great disadvantage from such a loss. The Prince has retired to Lancashire with 7,000 soldiers, all he has been able to get together of such a large army, leaving the North at the mercy of the enemy. A part of their forces is besieging Newcastle, which without hope of relief will afford them a further conquest. The other is preparing to follow the Prince and prevent him receiving fresh reinforcements or else to advance on Niuvarch.
The blame for this disastrous event is laid on the impetuosity of the prince, who did not agree with the opinion of the Marquis of Newcastle, and chose to fight after having relieved York, when he might have marched gloriously to assist the king in these parts, laying waste the associated counties on the way, and leaving to the enemy the trouble of following and preventing him. The Marquis was so annoyed with him that he threw aside all interests and considerations and left the kingdom with 70 leading gentlemen of his army, and it is reported that he has already landed at Hamburg.
The strength of the armies is at present in the West, where the king and Prince Maurice are surrounding Essex, who is not inferior in strength to both their armies, so some new encounter may take place there. Waller enfeebled and almost annihilated by desertion and sickness, cannot hasten thither, but they are energetically pressing men day and night in the city in order to restore him to a condition to meet all emergencies. The Earl of Dembi has also come here to reinforce his army. The ease with which the parliamentary forces melt away is without example, a small action or a couple of months in the country sufficing to destroy the most flourishing army (osservandosi senza esempio la facilita con che si dilegano le forze del parlamento in particolare servendo un piccolo attione o il soggiorno in campagna di due mesi per distruggere il piu florido esercito).
The queen, though suffering greatly in body, yet with a spirit worthy of the great Henry her father, has embarked furtively upon six frigates of the king at Falmouth, and has crossed to France escorted by two Dutch war ships. The Admiral Warwick, hearing of this, sent four ships after her, which fired their guns, but the swiftness of her craft carried her safely to Brest. She proposes to go straight to the waters of that province, suspecting herself that Cardinal Mazarini does not want to see her approach the Court. The tightness of their finances and their committments with so many armies leave her Majesty little or no hope of getting help for her husband, but she persuades herself that she will be able to do something useful, either by a general request or through the generosity of the grandees or by the help of merchants. They are not without apprehension here ; and are by no means pleased at her having crossed, their only consolation is that a speedy death may cut the thread of all her intrigues.
Parliament has several times discussed the reply to be given to the Dutch ambassadors, but has decided nothing so far. Those who control the government are more averse from peace than ever. But the leaders in the North, knowing the leanings of the Scots, have written and sent a commissioner who was with them, to persuade the Council to consider the matter. Accordingly someone moved to send proposals to the king, rather to hinder than to forward it, as they will be unacceptable to his Majesty, and his refusal will be a rebuff to the proposals of the Dutch ambassadors also and will make them think that the king's profession about desiring it was feigned to justify himself and excuse himself with the Scots. The king has made his intense desire for it only too clear, as without waiting for the reply to the ambassadors, he has sent a letter by way of General Essex to parliament, in which he not only recognises parliament but also nominates the commissioners to send here, offering to change them if they are not acceptable. This is accompanied by another letter written by his Majesty's general also to Essex telling him that parliament will hear his Majesty's views about peace more in detail from the French Resident Sabran. But that minister is in such bad odour, that he will do more harm then good to the affair. He knows this himself and has so far been very cautious about treating, although he has a great desire to do so ; but, perhaps with the capture of Gravelines (fn. 2) and the release of the armies there he may be bolder in making himself heard.
The intention of the leaders to form a republic is shown very clearly in the new forms of government introduced. In addition to the Council of the two kingdoms they intend to set up another Council of War. To this will be committed the criminal jurisdiction for delinquents of every kind in matters of state, in which they will contrive to include every misdeed of consequence, and so the kingdom will be losing the great privilege it enjoys that no person soever shall be condemned unless he has first been tried and found guilty by twelve of the same rank free from all suspicion. Besides this matter which is not yet settled parliament has devoted a great deal of time to the making of orders calculated to destroy utterly the poor Catholics of the kingdom, not even leaving the foreigners exempt, but deciding that all shall leave London. The goods taken from them are already being exposed for sale as in the case of those who took the king's side.
London, the 5th August, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Aug. 12.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
137. To the Secretary in England.
Observe from his last letters of the 22nd ult. that with the dissemination of the particulars of the late engagement it will be necessary for the queen to carry into effect her move to France, and it will also give an impetus to the descent of the Scots, the negotiations of the Dutch and of the Spaniards as well on the score of Gravelines. It would seem that the declaration of the Spanish ambassador in favour of parliament had some influence on the suggestion for detaching some assistance for that place, but there will be powerful influences to prevent this in the visit of the gentleman of the duke of Orleans, in the condition and needs of the English themselves and in the very near approach of the fall of that important place.
When the merchant Grumel arrives with the letters of his Majesty he will receive every possible favour from the state in the interests of trade and the disposal of the currants of the Levant islands, which the secretary is to continue to promote, as he has done so far, greatly to the public satisfaction.
Ayes, 112. Noes, 0. Neutral, 6.
Aug. 12.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
138. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Since the capture of York the parliamentary forces have made no great progress in the North. The new Scots have demanded the surrender of Newcastle, which seems determined to hold out. Fairfax is besieging Scarboro while the other Scots with Manchester are holding themselves in readiness to go where they may be required. General Essex remains idle in the West, and although he is strong enough to withstand the forces of the king and Prince Maurice, yet he seems indifferent about moving against them or trying to obtain any other advantage. The Council of the two Nations with the victories in the North, considered the moment favourable and easy to take advantage of the king's weakness as well as likely to secure the realisation of their pretensions (capace di avanzar a termine di sicurezza le sue pretensioni). They urged him in several letters, without result, and decided to find out covertly what was the real reason. So they sent persons secretly to the army and received information that the general, disgusted with the slight account in which he is held and intent on gain and ease, is leaving the whole management of affairs to some of his chief officers. Although these are not actually in correspondence with the king, yet in order not to put a term to their own authority and profit they are trying to drag things out. Yet having fallen into some disgrace, in matters touching the general, they would not risk a defeat for fear of exposing themselves to censure, without support. Although they have received this definite information the Council has not ventured to make a formal move ordering Essex to send these officers here, but on other grounds they asked for some of the less considered among them which the general refused on the pretext that they are necessary to him. So the Council is in no slight apprehension of some disorder in that army, especially as some of those concerned are foreigners, which means not bound by loyalty to the nation and superior to the English in intellect (superiori d'ingegno). If the army of Waller, the other parliamentary general, was in a fit condition they would send it in that direction ; but the troops from Kent and Essex have returned to their homes, disgusted with his maladministration of the money contributed by their counties. Only a small residue remains which is engaged in fortifying Abingdon near Oxford. He has returned here and there is no sign of setting him up again. The soldiers blame him and avoid his command although he has powerful support in the parliament. In order to provide with certainty against so great a danger they would like to have the army of the Scots and Manchester nearer. But news having come that Prince Rupert has withdrawn to Lancashire, and is strengthening himself with the troops of the neighbouring counties, they would like first to strike another blow at him, which they might easily do.
As reprisals for the severity shown by the parliamentarians against the Irish, many having been drowned and others hanged, the king has permitted 14 merchants to be treated in the same fashion, who had infringed his orders and taken the other side. (fn. 3) This will give occasion for revenge, so it is to be feared that the war will become more and more cruel as it progresses, with no room for conditions or quarter. To this end they have set up the Council of War. As the goods of everyone are a prey to private passion through the Council of State, so their liberties will be taken away by that of War, with a general infraction of the laws.
The cordial reception of the queen in France causes no little jealousy here, as they are afraid she may obtain assistance. To prevent this coming across they have ordered the prompt provision of 10 royal ships and 14 merchantmen to guard those seas, even in the coming winter.
In vain do the Dutch ambassadors urge and work for a reply to their proposals for peace. New pretexts are raised every day to discredit their mediation as well as themselves personally. Parliament has given no consideration to the letters sent by the king, which I reported. The Dutch ambassadors think it strange that these should mention the French minister, who is unsuitable for many reasons, and not themselves. But they ignore this and place all their reliance on the Scots, who seem more and more disposed to peace, and have sent back the articles which were altered here in some points which the English did not approve. Passing this over in silence they are talking of sending them back to be altered as they please, and in the mean time they begin to express their dissatisfaction with the Scots, as if the desire to promote peace was an act of disloyalty.
London, the 12th August, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
139. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Owing to the general disturbance here the French Resident Sabran is unable without peril to make public demonstrations of joy at the capture of Gravelines, which is recognised as prejudicial to this country, so he decided to celebrate it last Monday by inviting to a banquet at his house all the ministers of the powers friendly to the Most Christian. Including myself there were invited the ambassadors of Holland and the residents of Portugal and Florence. Under the pretext of a visit I saw him before Monday when I thanked him for the honour but asked him to excuse me if I declined it for certain respects, as I would celebrate the victory at home on that day. He pretended not to understand and seemed to doubt that some partiality to Spain influenced me, so I had to tell him that although I respected the resident of Portugal personally, yet as I had never had occasion to meet him, I must avoid doing so this time. He pressed me again, but was satisfied with my reserve. The Resident of Florence was also absent for the same cause, the more so because M. de Sabran had endeavoured to get them to exchange visits, for which he had no orders from the Grand Duke.
London, the 12th August, 1644.
Aug. 16.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
140. Giovanni Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The queen of England has got as far as Angers. She despatched her master of the horse to Court to pay her respects to his Majesty and to thank him for her kindly welcome. They have assigned for her entertainment 12,000 crowns a month, so France repays with an open hand what was advanced by England for the queen mother. Many English ladies have crossed the sea to escape from the tempest of misfortune.
Paris, the 16th August, 1644.
Aug. 18.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
141. To the Secretary in London.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters of the 29th ult. The offices of the Dutch ambassadors for peace occur very opportunely. You will take steps to find out the real core of the matter by the usual means. It would appear that the English are abandoning affairs, even those which concern them intimately, such as the question of Gravelines, the importance of which they have already declared to the Spanish ambassador, and that they are devoting all their energies to securing advantages at home, with diminution of the power and authority of the king. News of Italy.
Ayes, 93. Noes, 3. Neutral, II.
Aug. 19.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
142. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The king's hopes are dogged by more and more disastrous events and he is threatened with an unhappy issue to this affair unless God sustains his cause by the arm of his enemies themselves. He is at Exeter, where his mental distress has affected his body and left him indisposed for some days though he is now better. He is joined by the forces of Prince Maurice and Obton, but though these number 15,000 combatants, they are so dispirited that they have not ventured to oppose General Essex, who has pushed into Cornwall, cooling the former ardour of the people there for the royal cause and scattering 3,000 infantry under Grinfil, forcing him to abandon his guns and take refuge in Pendennis castle. This general has sent Stapliton here, one of the chief men of his army, to dissipate the false impressions created against its leaders, assuring them that all are most eager to bring these troubles to an end and to prove their fidelity with their lives. To facilitate this he asks that another army may be sent to keep the royal forces occupied, and allow him to recapture the rest of the towns in the West. Parliament received the justification in very good part and would like to satisfy the general by sending the new army he asks, but it will be difficult to send it from here, whither Waller, Dembi and Brun have returned with scanty remains of their forces, of little value (di poco rilevo).
The blow which most dashes the royal hopes is the rising in Ireland of three counties against the peace or truce conceded by his Majesty. These fomented by some malcontent lords and assisted by the Scottish and English Protestants who were subdued there, threaten a great deal of trouble and preoccupation for the Catholics, so that they are not likely to be able to assist the royal party in England. A few, already levied by the Earl of Antrim, had proceeded to Scotland, hoping still to find the Marquis of Ontlet in the field, but finding his forces scattered, they had to withdraw or fall a prey to the enemy. It is true that when Prince Rupert heard of it he sent Colonel Gorin with half his army, numbering 5,000 men to the frontiers of Scotland on the other side, to help them by a diversion, or if circumstances should prove favourable, to relieve Newcastle, which is besieged by all the Scottish forces. But this feeble effort is inopportune for the king and will effect nothing except waste them while irritating the Scots, who are otherwise disposed to bridle the far reaching intentions of the English, shown by the punishment with death of some English of that party who were prisoners. The articles drawn up by the English parliament for peace came back from Scotland modified in that part which limited the royal revenues and the choice of his familiar servants, because the Scots saw that they will be shut out from appointments in this kingdom, which will be distributed by parliament, and from the pensions which they used to enjoy to the amount of 200,000l. sterling a year. So they wish at least to have the benefit of appointments to the household, and with many of their leading men so near the royal person they would be able to uphold the interests of their country even against the parliament of England. This moderation does not please the English so they are altering it, and are waiting for the arrival of extraordinary commissioners from that kingdom, said to be on the way. It is hoped that they may try to obtain for the king subsistence with security but not with authority, while he, through neglect to keep the leaders of his forces advised of their own interests, is irritating the party which he ought to be caressing.
These agitations as well as the delay of the commissioners retard the reply to the Dutch ambassadors, for which they recently asked in writing. Meanwhile by virtue of the queen's efforts at the French Court letters of credence for parliament and instructions have reached the French resident here to make vigorous representations on behalf of peace, and also upon the ill treatment of French ships and the Catholics. Accordingly he has asked for audience of the two Houses ; but although they have discussed this twice they have not yet granted it. I have chanced to see the letters received by this minister in the present week from the Secretary of State and find from the ciphered portion that France is exceedingly concerned to support a moderate monarchy in this kingdom as against a republic, which, as the letters expressly state, would be more formidable, especially for its naval strength, to which the French seem disposed to apply themselves since their new acquisitions in Flanders (massime per le forze di mare a quali mostrano pensiero Francesi di applicarsi dopo novi acquisiti in Fiandra).
London, the 19th August, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Aug. 26.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
143. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Plunging into Cornwall in contempt of the king's forces, in the expectation of being supported by another army, as requested by Stapliton, Essex has been surrounded, so that with the unfriendly attitude of the country people he has to get his supplies by sea. Parliament is accordingly in very great apprehension of losing those forces, since it cannot succour them promptly except with 2,000 infantry, the remains of Waller's army. So they have had recourse to prayer, ordaining a general fast, which was observed last Tuesday. To this they attribute the turn of success which has begun, though it is rather due to the elimination of the armies of the royalists, who have allowed themselves to be driven from one quarter. If Essex escapes from his Majesty's hands again this time, this prince must succumb to his bad fortune, to infidelity and to his own reprehensible mildness. Almost despairing of obtaining his intent by force he has abased himself to write to Essex with his own hand, signing himself his good friend. He urges him to join the royal army, promising him many favours, accompanied by other letters confirming this signed by Prince Maurice, his own general and most of the officers of his army. Without answering Essex sent the whole to parliament, as evidence of his fidelity, and they have thanked him and urged him to continue as before. So the king has gained nothing by these public requests and has only disclosed his own fears and weakness.
The Prince Palatine has taken leave of the Prince of Orange, the States and the foreign ministers at the Hague, and has obtained a warship to come here, under the pretext that with peace in negotiation he wants to be at hand to obtain some assistance for the Palatinate. But he is coming in response to a secret vote of the leaders here and with the consent of the whole parliament. They are preparing the royal palace for him and have turned out all who had taken refuge there, even with permission. The king is very jealous about it and there is much speculation, though it would be presumptuous to form an opinion about their intentions. But appearances and the sympathies of this prince, who has sworn the covenant against his uncle, chiming in with certain motives imparted to me in the utmost confidence by one who is acquainted with the secret moves, make one suspect that with the Scots' insistence and firm determination to keep the shadow of monarchy, the English contemplate setting up this prince in a position of dependency rather than of command, unless the king makes up his mind to come and put himself in their hands without conditions. It is believed that they intend to give his Majesty a short period to decide, and if he objects, they will declare him incapable of rule, and his offspring suspect owing to the unchastity with which they charge the queen, feeling sure that the people will consent easily, since the blood royal is not shut out. They have sent for the prince beforehand so that by humbleness and courtesy he may make himself popular and may learn to live in the dependence they desire. If this is the idea, as appearances indicate, the issue is subject to various contingencies, especially as the interests of almost all the princes of Europe are concerned about the Palatinate, which, in the progress of time, would be supported by the great strength of these kingdoms. Because this is so important I will keep a close watch on the proceedings of the prince, who is expected at any moment, and of the parliament, as well as those of the foreign ministers.
Amid these fresh incidents the peace negotiations languish more than ever. Although one of the Scottish commissioners has arrived they do not contemplate giving any reply to the Dutch ambassadors, indeed relations between the two states are becoming embittered. After waiting a long time in the belief that their ships unlawfully seized would be released, the ambassadors were informed by the commissioners deputed that one ship had already been condemned as lawful booty, while the others were under consideration. Learning that on hearing of the decision of the Council of France to seize all goods of the English, all their ships had been promptly released, the ambassadors urged the States to take some similar step. This has been done in a modified form, all the English ships in Holland having been searched, and all the money found on board seized, by virtue of an ancient law of the Provinces. This has caused no little commotion among the English merchants, and if more moderation is not shown here, they will make all nations their enemies, and those Provinces in particular.
Parliament has at last decided to give audience to the Resident of France ; but in the same manner as the Most Christian receives the English minister, namely on foot and uncovered, being met at the door by the Master of the Ceremonies only, claiming that the king is virtually in parliament. When he is not speaking they allow him to sit in a seat without arms and uncovered. They have not yet sent this message to the Resident but he has heard about it and is very perplexed, repenting that he asked for audience, as he perceives from this curt behaviour how little they desire peace here, which he was unwilling to believe.
London, the 26th August, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. York capitulated on the 16-26 July.
  • 2. It capitulated to the duke of Orleans on the 28th July.
  • 3. Lt. Col. O'Brien, royalist commander at Wareham, made a raid on Dorchester on the 11th July. The attack was repulsed and 160 prisoners taken. Among these 8 proved to be Irish, and 7 of them were hanged because of the order of Parliament to give no quarter to the Irish. On the 17th July the royalists took Woodhouse, in Fitield Bavant, co. Wilts., and hanged 12 clothiers, as a reprisal for the Irish hanged at Dorchester. Rushworth gives the number as 14. Bayley : Great Civil War in Dorset. page 205 ; Rushworth : Hist. Collections, Pt. III., Vol. II., page 685.