Venice: January 1645

Pages 168-175

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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January 1645

1645. Jan. 3.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
187. Gio. Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The queen of England is earnestly soliciting their Majesties to persuade the Swedes not to make offers or conduct negotiations with the parliament of England for an offensive and defensive alliance. She represents the matter as one of importance, involving the most far reaching consequences, as this would be a realisation of the design conceived a long while ago by the Protestants to form an alliance between all those who are antagonistic to the Catholic faith, to conquer it and ruin it from its foundations. Accordingly it behoves France to offer opposition both in her own and in the general interest, seeing that an alliance of this sort cannot fail to be suspect, since there is no doubt but that they will invite Holland to come into the alliance treaty.
Paris, the 3rd January, 1644. [M.V.]
Jan. 6.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
188. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The royal commissioners go about covertly insinuating with dexterity the advantages of peace, his Majesty's propensity thereto, the loss and danger, especially to the nobility if it is not made soon, so that contrary to the opinion of the opposition they have obtained a resolution, as your Serenity shall hear. After having received the reply and sent to his Majesty with all speed (fn. 1) to ask for a speedy appointment of commissioners to unite with others of his Majesty for this purpose. But such a request supported by many who desire this boon, puts poison on the tongues of the rebels and desperate men so that they have not only been able to prevent speedy progress, but have given opinions different from the first decision. They said that this consented to negotiate, but did not say with whom, where or when. It seemed to them that it ought to be with the king himself at London when he came there. Being a matter of great importance it was necessary to discuss it at ease. Meanwhile the city of London brought forward complaints that free intercourse between the citizens and the numbers of those disaffected to this party who had come under the benefit of the safe conduct might cause considerable mischief. These things have succeeded in drawing a definite order to the royal commissioners to return to Oxford with all their following without further delay, and after considering their demands they will inform his Majesty of parliament's decision by their own commissioners. So these lords have had to go and the business is held up. It may, however, be reopened by the commissioners of Scotland, who sincerely desire a reasonable agreement being made to obtain some satisfaction here either in church government or in the money owed and promised. On the other hand their country becomes more and more disturbed, with fear of greater injury from the Irish, as if his Majesty's courteous offers of peace fall through, he will be obliged to grant liberty of conscience in order to avail himself of the great offers of help they make to him. The Lords will also do their utmost, as every day they see the pit being digged deeper for their ruin. They have already declared the Archbishop of Canterbury guilty and will also be obliged to consent to his death, in spite of protests to the contrary. Then again the bill to deprive all members of parliament of their offices has been read twice in their House and they will have to pass it, in spite of their dislike and objections, as now they lack strength whereas before they lacked heart. It becomes ever more apparent that the end of all these extraordinary measures is to put arms into the hands of the people, to whom the rebels look for support, and feel confident with this assistance that they will keep control for ever.
Owing to the peace negotiations and to stir up the people against the king and the nobility they circulate reports of a conspiracy discovered against Dover castle and that at Calais there is a regiment of French infantry ready to cross the sea to be introduced there. This is not only untrue but improbable, but they trade on ignorance and obstinacy and find a ready belief, which serves to nourish hatred and an ever increasing alienation of spirit.
Parliament has caused to be beheaded the governor of the island of St. Nicholas at the mouth of Plymouth harbour, for having negotiated with the king for its surrender, (fn. 2) but this has not prevented it happening, as the lieutenant was concerned in the same (fn. 3) so the succour for that place will have to be sent by land and to prevent this his Majesty is sending reinforcements to the besieging army with greater hopes of taking that important place.
The commissioner of Sweden has had audience, and was well received and treated. He presented a long letter in Latin from the queen his mistress full of courteous offers, which he enlarged upon with suggestions of an alliance even [against] the French themselves, if they should attempt to invade this kingdom, and for a loan of money. He wants to obtain if possible the hire of the 24 ships and the levy of men, which is the sole reason for his coming. Parliament makes use of these offers to impress upon the people that they are as well provided with foreign friends as the king.
I enclose the duplicate of my despatch of the 23rd December which was missing because the king's privateer plundered the ship last week, but the news did not arrive in time.
London, the 6th January, 1645.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 189. Reply to his Majesty's peace proposals ; 2 pages. (fn. 4)
[Italian, from the English.]
Jan. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
190. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters of the 9th ult. At Constantinople the Turks are showing a great deal of excitement over the capture by the Maltese of a great galleon which was taking a Chislaraga to Mecca. (fn. 5) This is seized upon as an occasion for warlike preparations and for claims for compensation from the Christians, and they have declared themselves to this effect to the ambassadors of the powers and made a remonstrance, although, up to the present, nothing is heard of any other motive or innovation. This is solely for his information and to be on the watch for what his Majesty's ambassador at the Porte may write home and of the impression the incident makes upon them, in order to report full particulars.
Ayes, 152. Noes, 2. Neutral, 1.
Jan. 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
191. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The royal commissioners having returned to Oxford without obtaining the deputation for which they asked, the matter has been referred to the Council of the two Nations, in spite of the strong opposition of the Upper House, which foresees that it will be buried (fn. 6) such an affair (fn. 6) upon which depends its own preservation, being fought with violent means by the Lower House and the city of London. In the same council (fn. 6) the chancellor of Scotland warmly pointed out the advantageous opportunity offered in the treaty as his Majesty seemed to desire peace sincerely and he was quite right if he should back this up sword in hand (il quale ben lodava si secondasse con la spada alla mano). But with all this nothing has yet been done upon the pretence that more pressing affairs take up the time. However, to satisfy the Scots they are pressing the collection for them of 80,000l. and they are progressing with their measures for the reform of the army.
As parliament is now being held in that kingdom, two of the commissioners from here have gone there to inform them of the situation here and the disposition of the people, (fn. 7) and they will bring back more definite orders. Meanwhile Montrose assisted by the malcontents and the Irish, who are constantly crossing, is strong in the mountains and (fn. 6) the harm which he inflicts on the kingdom, has recently (fn. 6) troops (fn. 6) routed a part (fn. 6) Arghil was going against him, so that Lesle, who was besieging Carlisle, has had to return home to help.
The ill feeling between the two Houses increases daily, the Lower being openly determined to bring down the Upper and destroy the lustre of the nobility. So far the Lords display energy, only three being won by the people, and they say they will rather die than submit, but they have allowed the others to gain too much advantage. They have not yet chosen to pass the bill depriving them of the supreme commands by land and sea, perceiving that this blow will knock away their very foundations, but in despite of this, the Lower House has had the sentence of death carried out against Captain Odan, condemned for intelligence with the king, although the Lords reprieved him untilto-morrow. (fn. 8) Every stone is being moved to arrive at this end. The Common Council of the city has been induced to prepare a paper with extraordinary and shocking demands not only against the Lords but against the king himself, indifferent about injuring the deceased father by declaring the king with all his descendants, direct and collateral, incapable of succeeding (non curando di pregiudicare al padre deffonto per dichiarar il Re con tutta la sua discendenza, retta et transversale, incapace di succeder al governo). (fn. 9)
The offers made by the commissioner of Sweden both in writing and orally are so liberal as to be incredible, nevertheless the parliamentarians seem to attach value to them because it fits in with their aims. He holds out hopes of preventing any succour from the French for the king and promises help if they or any other foreigners invade the country, assuring them that all Swedes will take the covenant with the English. Besides his demands for ships and men he proposes that the ships of the parliament and Sweden shall unite to take the passage of the Sound from Denmark, which is so useful and important. But probably a tree which produces such a quantity of fruit may not have the strength to bring any to maturity especially in these northern climes. Yet the Scots are very jealous about these offers and the reception which is given to this minister.
The Dutch ambassadors having reported the reply of parliament about their interposition have received orders to leave, so (fn. 6) to go to Oxford to take leave of the king. Two parliament ships encountering a Dutch one coming out of his Majesty's ports, opened fire, but it offered a stout resistance and did them some hurt. (fn. 10) The action has met with the approval of the States who have issued orders to all their captains that every time they are attacked by the parliament ships they shall engage them as enemies, and that they shall not lower their topsails except to the king's commissions claiming (fn. 6) this republic.
London, the 13th January, 1645.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
192. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The efforts of the Scottish commissioners for peace being backed by the Lords, who seek this way to avoid the ruin with which they are threatened by the people, it has been decided that a conference shall be held on the subject at Oxbrich, 15 miles from here, to be attended by 4 commissioners of the Upper House, 3 of the Lower and 4 Scots, the king being invited to send 16 more to treat on his side. (fn. 1) no one. It has been impossible to refuse apparent satisfaction to so much pressure, but the disinclination for anything serious is shown in the instructions which are being prepared, which only empower the commissioners to report to parliament what they are doing without arranging anything. It is stated that in the first place the three chief points must be laid down, i.e. religion, control of the militia and (fn. 1) of Ireland, nor must they spend more than 20 days from the beginning of the congress, after which all negotiation shall cease. This device puts the king at a great disadvantage, as if he agrees to the prejudice of the Catholics and Irish he loses their good will, which constitutes the chief foundation of his hopes, and if he supports them he offends the other side which yet supports him, while there will never be any lack of pretexts for breaking the treaty by those who want to, on some point of religion which may appear plausible enough to the people here.
The Dutch ambassadors are putting off their visit to Oxford to see if they can do anything to help the king, knowing full well that it is not to their interest to allow this republic to take root, foreseeing that relations with it will not be friendly.
The audacious paper which the Common Council of London was preparing to present to parliament against the Upper House and the king himself, has not met with general approval, even the mayor, although a rebel, considering it improper ; so it has been suppressed. In spite of this the feebleness of the Upper House becomes ever more apparent. It has at length agreed to the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury who should suffer to-day before a great crowd of the whole city. He presented a pardon of the king which he had kept by him for a long time, but it was not allowed on the pretext that it was under the old seal of the realm, although his Majesty has never been deprived of this prerogative. The only thing he has been able to gain by this is the privilege of being beheaded, in stead of the more ignominious death of a traitor.
The Lords are also pressed to pass the great bill depriving them of all appointments. They have communicated to the Lower House the reasons why they object to do so, but such timidity only increases the ardour of the others, so they will have to give way in this also, and it will be a mortal blow to their authority.
The recent frosts have enabled the royal forces to move in various parts of the kingdom, with advantage over the enemy. 3,000 horse under Gorin advancing towards Sussex, have captured some places of no great importance, but which may be fortified and which open a way into the associated counties. His Majesty has also sent others towards the West to help Grenfil against Plymouth.
In order, if possible, to put a stop to the numerous sects which are constantly being born in this kingdom parliament has issued a long series of orders with the consent of the synod, for the government of the church and ordered them to be printed, so that everyone may know and observe them. But the Scots have desired that they shall be sent for the approval of their parliament claiming that they ought to be made conformable with their rites, so that a single form of religion may be professed in the two countries. It will be difficult in any case to obtain general consent to this here, as liberty has been allowed to get too firm a footing here by which everyone claims to form a religion to please himself, with most extraordinary names and opinions.
The parliamentary commissioners in Kent have opened all the letters which arrived this week from Flanders, without pardoning those of the foreign ministers, although they only unsealed the outside cover of mine. I enclose a copy of a letter written by the king to the queen, his wife, in France, intercepted by parliament.
London, the 20th January, 1645.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 193. Letter from the King to the Queen in France.
Acknowledges hers of the 29th December and 9th January. Hopes to hear she is well and returning soon. Persecuted for appointments. Hide to be secretary because he cannot trust others.
[Italian, from the English ; 5 pages.]
Jan. 27.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
194. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The twelve commissioners are nominated who with the four Scottish ones are to meet at Oxbrich to treat with those sent by the king about the peace, and they are now discussing the arrangements to be made with his Majesty about the time for this congress and other matters. It has been observed that some of the leading parliamentarians entirely opposed to this treaty have wanted to be among those nominated, from which it is inferred that they aim at forcing the king upon dangerous points which may injure him with one or the other of the parties which follow and help him. As they were afraid that during their absence from parliament there might be intrigues against their authority, they have divided themselves, so that they will be powerful enough to direct affairs with all their old violence.
The Lords have courageously rejected the great bill sent up by the Lower House to make them incapable of holding high office. The Commons resent this and do not abandon their violent pressure. The Lords for their part declare that the covenant which they took obliges them to uphold with their lives what they consider to be for the service of the country and that is the reason for their action. The others are seeking how they can make this good, with a determination to ruin that House and destroy it, to clear this obstacle out of the way and increase the authority of the populace.
Meanwhile the king's forces are making themselves felt in the West, in Sussex and elsewhere, but particularly towards Portsmouth. As this admits of no delay they have given orders to Waller, one of the old commanders who would have been deprived by this bill, to set out at once wherever he may be most needed. They hold constant discussions about setting up a new army of 20,000 foot and 6,000 horse, but so far they have not got beyond the wish, not having acted with energy, as they wanted to select the new commanders from the populace, having no confidence in Essex, especially after such an attempt to turn him out.
The four Irish commissioners who have been a long while at Oxford negotiating with the king, were returning home by sea, but falling in with a parliamentary ship they were arrested and their commissions taken away. (fn. 11) They will suffer personally and the king also through the delay in carrying out his wishes ; but as matters were so far advanced there is no fear of their being upset, as troops of that nation are crossing to Bristol every day.
The Archbishop of Canterbury died supported by remarkable constancy. He made a long speech on the scaffold justifying the king in the observance of religion and the laws. He reproved the city of London for showing itself so bloodthirsty, and did not forget to touch adroitly on the disorders introduced by this parliament in religion and the laws.
The commissioner of Sweden, having made his proposals in writing, is awaiting some reply from parliament, which delays to give it because of more pressing occupations. It would appear that the idea that they mean to introduce a close connection with that crown is dying away.
There is a universal report here that a ship has arrived at Dartmouth from Normandy sent by the queen with arms and a quantity of money for the king. I have not been able to verify this, but I have thought it right to report it.
London, the 27th January, 1645.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Jan. 31.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
195. Gio. Battista Nani, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
A gentleman has reached the queen of England on behalf of the king, with information about his condition, of which she is rarely informed.
The English parliamentarians have written a letter to the French Huguenots, who have been holding their usual synod. Without breaking the seal they delivered it into the hands of his Majesty, who commended their loyalty. This paper contained nothing but matters of religion, as the English wished to have the opinion of the so called reformed churches upon various points which trouble their consciences and the quiet of the kingdom. But as other matters might easily be introduced under this mask, it has been deemed advisable to cut short the intercourse at the outset and to let the first proposals drop without any reply.
Since France has been unable to obtain satisfaction from the parliament for the injury done to her merchants, contrary to the laws and customs of navigation, she has at length had recourse to reprisals, laying an embargo on the property and vessels of the English. The spur of interest may possible induce parliament to apply a remedy, though some believe that these steps will make matters worse and produce a more serious rupture.
A levy of 2,000 Irish has arrived in Britanny, and thus they are bringing troops from the most remote countries to supply the demands of war in so many parts.
Paris, the 31st January, 1644. [M.V.]


  • 1. Obliterated.
  • 2. Sir Alexander Carew, executed on the 23rd December. Rushworth : Hist. Collections, Part III., Vol. II., pages 796, 797.
  • 3. Obliterated.
  • 4. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VII., page 107.
  • 5. Zambul Aga, on the 24th September.
  • 6. Obliterated.
  • 7. Sir Archibald Johnston and Robert Barclay, Parliamentary Hist., Vol. XIII., page 363.
  • 8. The younger Hotham was executed on the 2-12 January.
  • 9. On the 26th December the Lords ordered that the Lord Mayor of London and the printers should be sent for to give an account of the scandalous paper printed and dispersed. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VII., page 115.
  • 10. A ship of one Frans Jansson which put into Dartmouth because of a leak. Bricfwisseling van Const. Huygens, Vol. IV., page 110.
  • 11. Reported by Capt. Swanley on the 1-11 January. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. IV., page 19.