Venice: October 1644

Pages 141-148

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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October 1644

Oct. 7.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
158. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Although the approach of winter suggests making the most of the fine weather, the king moves slowly in prosecuting his enterprises while parliament is obstructed by a mass of obstacles. Both sides suffer from the counsels of those who profit by the disorder and are not anxious to do themselves harm by acting with sincerity.
After some unsuccessful attempts (fn. 1) Plymouth ; which has merely served to lose a better opportunity . (fn. 1) Report says that the king has left Colonel Grinfil quartered near that place with 6,000 men and is preparing to march with an army 20,000 strong. It would seem that he proposes to advance towards Bristol and thence to Oxford, possibly relieving Banbury on the way, and he may despatch a part of his forces towards Kent and Essex.
For this reason parliament is hastening the Earl of Manchester (fn. 2) some few troops that remain with Waller, and throw themselves in his way. But he does not hit it off with that officer and does not think himself strong enough to resist such an army. So he excuses his wilful tardiness on the score of his difficulties. He is not more than 20 miles from this city, while Waller is in Dorset, a long way off. Five regiments of the trained bands of London are commanded to go out, but there is no sign of their obeying as yet. Parliament would like all these forces to be under the command of General Essex, but there is so much dissension between him and the other commanders and between those officers among themselves, that it will not be done and if it were it would produce the worst results. The general is at Portsmouth, whither they have sent him 6,000 arms and no effort is spared to collect troops, but they lose more than they gain, those who after prolonged hardships in Cornwall were obliged to receive their lives as a favour from the king, have almost all arrived in London with an aversion from war.
(fn. 2) some of Wales (fn. 2) to besiege Montgomery castle, which he lost recently, but Meldron arrived and relieved the place with some loss to the besiegers.
Newcastle is still besieged, though feebly, most of the Scottish forces being occupied in attending to trouble at home, the country being disturbed by powerful parties of malcontents and Irish, and weakened on that side by the reluctance of the English forces (fn. 2) come to Ireland (fn. 2) that kingdom who took up arms again to upset the peace granted by the king, are now treating with the Catholic party to accept it, perceiving that circumstances here are not favourable for sending help, some already prepared having been diverted by more pressing calls here, and they had no other resource but to release the prisoners, who undertook to go and assist the Protestant party in that country.
The king's letter remains unanswered, its only effect (fn. 2) the articles which have been drawn up such a long time, and they have been voting on the names of those claimed to be impossible to pardon. But it only serves to gain time and avoid coming to the point, as those in authority are afraid that with the increase in the number of those who desire peace, even their exorbitant proposals may advance matters so far that there will be no drawing back.
The Prince Palatine has presented to parliament the paper or manifesto of which I enclose a copy. It only aims at obtaining permission to live here, as he does not wish, even secretly, to declare his dependence on his own brothers, the Prince of Orange and the States. He possessed by assignment of parliament the benefit of certain copper money, below its proper value, introduced to a small amount some time ago for the general convenience. (fn. 3) This being forbidden because (fn. 2) was augmented by the king (fn. 2) might fail him.
The two Irishmen who escaped from the Tower and were recaptured, confessed that they had taken refuge for some days in the house of the French resident, by favour of a woman. Moved by this parliament sent to have her arrested. But the resident, assisted and advised by the Portuguese minister, tried to resist by force. In this he failed as the house was surrounded by a large force of guards and by the people, and the lady was carried off, the master of the house being roughly handled. (fn. 4) The Resident is much incensed and has sent the master of his house himself to France with an account of the incident. He himself has decided to leave to-day for the king.
London, the 7th October, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 159. Motives and reasons touching the coming to England of the Prince Elector Palatine, presented to the two Houses of Parliament. (fn. 5)
[Italian, from the English ; 4 pages.]
Oct. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
160. Gio. Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The queen of England, after enjoying the benefits of the waters of Borbon has gone on to Nivers to take the milk. The duke of Longavilla and his wife have gone to attend upon her. The meeting with the queen regent is constantly being postponed, and so it will take place after all at Paris, though with the determination that her stay at the Court shall be brief. Before she arrives a hint will be given her and they will make preparations for her to stay in some house of the king in the parts about this city, There is some talk of Gallion, which is towards Rouen, on the pretext that news from England can reach there more fresh and with greater expedition. Her Majesty asks for powers to raise levies in the kingdom, a point of the very greatest consequence, and which she has not yet carried. The troubles in England suit the French admirably for the progress of their arms in Flanders and thus it does not suit their book to weigh the balance of fortune in favour of either of the two parties either by declarations or by assistance. In addition to this the naval forces are in the control of parliament and they proceed with caution in order not to give offence to that body from which France might suffer the most serious prejudice in navigation, in commerce and perchance in the plans she is meditating for the coming campaign.
One of the Palatine Princes who once spent some months at the Court here, has returned to it again in order to further the interests of his House and to remove by his presence the mistrust aroused by the journey of his brother to London. (fn. 6)
Paris, the 11th October, 1644.
Oct. 14.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
161. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Leaving Prince Maurice a short distance from Plymouth the king is marching with forces reputed to be large, though this is suppressed by the party here, to moderate alarm. He advances slowly in order to profit by the dissensions among the parliament leaders, grown worse though fresh incidents. If these continue they will help the sword in deciding the dispute here, as negotiation can no longer do.
In the necessity of preparing an opposition to his Majesty it was proposed in the Council of the two Nations to set up the army of Gen. Essex again. It was boldly pointed out that they ought first to make themselves acquainted with the circumstances of the late events in Cornwall. This met with general approval and they appointed commissioners to make an enquiry. At the very outset they found that when the king wrote to Essex to urge him to come over, he also sent some articles which were distributed among the officers of his army to induce them to join the king in expelling the Scots who were interfering unduly in the affairs of this kingdom. Essex did not forward copies of these to parliament nor did any of his officers send information. At this same time his Majesty released Col. Botlar, a prisoner of war, to come to London and show to many of the more moderate parliamentarians, as he did secretly, other articles proposed for the peace, so that on the point where their own arms were understood to be turned against the party, the king's clemency might appear in the offer of peace and serve as a check to despair (accio nel punto che s'intendevano rivoltate le proprie armi contro il partito apparisse anco la clemenza del Re nell' offerta di pace, con che frenar si potesse la disperation), and bring about general content, to the prejudice and ruin of the leading rebels alone, who may not be pardoned.
Owing to this disclosure suspicion is cast upon Essex and all the leaders in his army as well as on many members of parliament. But they have made no public demonstration so far except to send Col. Botlar to the Tower, (fn. 7) proceeding with caution and reserve in a matter of so much consequence which concerns so large a number of influential persons. The general has several times announced that he was coming here, but he has taken up his abode at Portsmouth, a strong place, with many of his followers. One of his captains is at Plymouth, where parliament, to show confidence, has announced him as governor. (fn. 8) They have also decided to send money and arms to the general ; but on the other hand they are discussing the appointment of deputies to assist him, without whose consent he may not do anything. This clearly shows their mistrust, which must be their normal state of mind when they consider their situation. But foresight never disturbs the spirit of this nation although they are more sensible of present discomfort than any other.
In addition to so many difficulties and shortcomings they are scarce able to provide for the pressing calls of the moment, much less for other serious matters which are not yet clearly known to the commissioners. The earl of Manchester, on whom all their hopes now depend, although ordered long since by parliament to unite with Waller, has not passed Reading and keeps inventing pretexts for evading an encounter which he cannot endure. Similarly the 5 regiments of trained bands who were ordered out, still linger on here on false pretences. Thus Waller with 4,000 men is near Salsberi, more advanced than any, and is obliged to avoid engagements, the losses suffered by every party that he sends out serving as a warning.
The besieged at Newcastle do more hurt to the Scots by sorties than they receive. The besiegers are few in number and suffer from the unfavourable season in that place and through calls from their own country, which has blazed out worse than ever. There is an additional menace in the truce for three months granted by the Protestant party in Ireland in the hope of help from England. If this does not arrive, and the distractions here render it likely, they will have to accept the peace already arranged by his Majesty in that kingdom.
Parliament has intercepted a letter from the queen of England to her husband, encouraging him to persist as help from France will not be lacking ; the duke of Epernon and other noblemen having offered to bring over 12,000 volunteers at their own expense. She holds out hope that the Court will not oppose this, with the precedent of the marquis of Hamilton, who assisted Sweden against the emperor, without committing England. They discussed this letter in secret, to avoid causing alarm, and have sent a Scottish gentleman to France to insinuate himself among his countrymen of the guard there and report what is being done. If such succour should come there would be danger of the king's own party deserting him, as the English cannot stand foreigners and the French in particular. This person will forestall by covert announcement or by telling the Cardinal himself, if he can secure an introduction, the report of the Resident Sabran about the arrest of the lady at his house, as all the couriers and letters of last week have been stopped at Dover by virtue of a general closing of the ports, to prevent the escape of any accomplices in the conspiracy reported.
London, the 14th October, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Oct. 21.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
162. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The king's advance towards Oxford or these parts is still delayed and with much speculation there is no certain knowledge of the cause. As there is no impediment whatever there would seem to be some mystery. Some partisans of his Majesty flatter themselves that he has secret intelligence with General Essex at Portsmouth, or at least he hopes that the general, knowing the suspicions about his loyalty here, in spite of efforts to smooth matters, may be won over, and therefore he wishes to be ready to hasten personally and with his forces wherever circumstances may call him. Others think he is waiting for the landing of Irish at Bristol to join him, now that the rebels there are in control and dependent on his royal will, as this side has been compelled by necessity to abandon that country. There are also some who fear that his Majesty is deceived by the advice of those who wish to protract these dissensions and is losing this favourable opportunity.
Meanwhile this much is certain that the provisions made by parliament are progressing. They have adopted every means for raising money, even to melting down some plate of the crown that was in the Tower and burning some ornaments of the royal chapel, to obtain the gold, although under the pretext of abolishing such a superstitious ceremony. Waller reinforced by 2,000 horse of the general, is at Salsberi with 6,000 combatants (fn. 2) is waiting at Reading (fn. 2) from this city, in which they are collecting new forces. Every head of a family is commanded either to go himself or to maintain a man at his own cost. They are also pressing men in all the streets, so that when their forces are united they will exceed 20,000 combatants. It is true that the quarrels which continue among the leaders either about religion or their pretensions, do not promise great undertakings or even considerable resistance should the king decide to advance. He is called upon to do so, to assist at his parliament, which should have met this month at Oxford, but which he has prorogued to a near date. He has summoned those at Westminster as well and has created five deserving lords to increase their numbers. (fn. 9)
There have been no military events of great importance recently, but the king is having success everywhere. Parliament has given up the siege of Banbury, to make use of a part of the troops. The royal forces, which are powerful in Lincoln, have captured Croland Abbey, which opens a way into the associated counties. The important place of Newcastle is practically safe owing to the unfavourable season and to the small numbers of the besieging force.
Parliament has completed the proposals for peace which they intend to send to Manchester to be passed on to the king. They in no wise increase the hope of any good and have no relation to the favourable position in which his Majesty finds himself. Their sole object is to deceive the people and to obliterate the opinion, which has become universal, that parliament abhors any treaty. To this end even the most strongly opposed have assisted in it, feeling confident, from its outrageousness, that the king will not listen to it.
A declaration has been sent to France to apologise for the affront done to the Resident Sabran by the arrest of the lady, I reported, pretending that she removed from her own house while the resident had gone to it, with the reservation of some rooms. The resident has gone to attend the king at Oxford where a fire has destroyed a number of houses, but it was accidental. (fn. 10)
London, the 21st October, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Oct. 28.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
163. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The king leaves the general curiosity unsatisfied and does not disclose what his designs are. Having experienced the advantage of defeating armies without a battle, he continues the practice. Having reached Salsberi he is trying to entangle Waller and by preventing the junction of the parliamentary forces to waste them away separately. Waller in retiring (fn. 2) but succours from Essex (fn. 2) Manchester. But the first, who has no more than 4,000 men and lying under suspicion because of late events, considers himself safer at Portsmouth, under the favour of that trained garrison, rather than weak in the field, or joined with other commanders more numerous than himself and especially with the presence of the commissioners appointed to advise him. The other, although strengthened by regiments of this city, is not capable of resisting the powerful army of the king, and obeys tardily and reluctantly commands which lose force in the scarcity of money, which is their concomitant.
The soldiers are pressing for their pay and arrears (fn. 2) Thus some captains and Sergeant Major Brun have appeared here from Abinton, protesting that if money is not sent there promptly, something very serious will assuredly happen at that post, so near Oxford. To fend off this danger parliament in its helplessness has been obliged to promise them at a time when they are working hard to get troops out. But they have decided to collect promptly (fn. 2) all those with an income of more than 700l. It will be impossible to carry this out promptly or without violence, such as is always used in similar collections ; and this, in the end will cause some general commotion. The king also experiences no little scarcity, but being served by the nobility he keeps his party together by honours and expectations, whereas the common people here are moved only by immediate advantage (sostiene il proprio partito con gl' honori e con le speranze dove questa plebe e mossa dal solo giornaliero profitto).
The Scots, perceiving that religion serves parliament here as an empty pretext, since only the Roman Catholic faith is detested and they allow as many sects to flourish as the caprice of the people may desire, are trying to introduce some order, perceiving that this kingdom is rushing to destruction, since the end of civil strife will be the beginning of religious disputes. They have therefore proposed to introduce Presbyterianism as in Scotland. But as this is directly contrary to the Independents, who now form the largest body, it is resisted, the more so because the hope of continuing to enjoy such liberty is an argument in favour of the retention of this disordered government.
The forces left by the king near Plymouth have captured Saltas, which may facilitate the capture of the town. They put to the sword the garrison of 500 men, causing an outcry here. This cloud coming from the West, which threatens this city soon, is now attracting all their attention, and the more distant affairs of Ireland are abandoned. The Scots are left to look after their own kingdom, which still remains disturbed. In the North, which is deprived of assistance, each party is too weak to do more than keep the places it holds.
They are elaborating the peace proposals to send to the king, so that they may be submitted to the final judgment of parliament. It is proposed to send them to the army next week. This occasion reminded the predominant parliamentarians that it is not in the king's interest, which coincides with what is right, though forgotten by all (Avvedutesi in tale occasione i Parlamentarii predominanti non esser l'interesse del Re che camina con la ragione da tutti obliato) ; they have proposed to fill up the vacant places in the Lower House and strengthen their party ; but they have not yet been able to carry this.
The negotiations of the Dutch ambassadors are confined to regulating trade, in which they meet with no little difficulty. They demand the alteration of a captious (fn. 2) given them for trade (fn. 2) of the king reserved (fn. 2) But on this side they are not acting with sincerity, as they want to have fresh opportunities for plunder, from the advantage of which they hope to meet their present needs, and this consideration prevails over every other.
London, the 28th October, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. Obliterated.
  • 2. Obliterated.
  • 3. See Vol. XXV. of this Calendar. page 59.
  • 4. Parliament passed a resolution on the 20th September for the search of Mrs. Levensteyn's house, where the French resident lived, and for her arrest. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., page 634.
  • 5. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 705.
  • 6. Probably Prince Edward ; he went to Paris at the end of 1640, with his brother Philip and left in October, 1642. See this Calendar Vol, XXV., page 110, Vol. XXVI., page 180.
  • 7. Butler was committed to the Tower on suspicion of having betrayed the army of Essex. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., page 644.
  • 8. John lord Robartes, appointed Governor on Sept. 8. O.S. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644, pages 481, 482.
  • 9. The French Secretary, Cheylieu, on the 20th October, gives their names as Grenfield, Louis Dives, Colpepper, Hyde and Ashburnham. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
  • 10. On Sunday the 6-16 October. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1644-5, pages 16, 46 ; Wood's Life and Times Oxf. Hist. Soc. I, page III.