Venice: November 1643

Pages 35-46

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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November 1643

Nov. 1.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
37. Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the Congress of Munster, to the Doge and Senate.
Encloses advices received from the Hague.
Cologne, the 1st November, 1643.
Enclosure. 38. From the Hague, the 27th October, 1643.
Their High Mightinesses no less than the Prince of Orange are urging with all their might the departure of the ambassadors already destined for England, in the fear that if they delay until the new Assembly of the Province of Holland the opposition may again be forthcoming which they made to this mission on previous occasions. These ministers have received orders to keep themselves neutral between the king and the parliament, one of them setting out towards the king while the other remains near the parliament, and to uphold the authority of the king without detriment to the liberty of the kingdom. But these Provinces are not very anxious for the internal peace of that country, since artisans and substantial persons are daily seeking refuge in these parts from England, bringing population, skill and wealth to the country. With these same ambassadors will start the Baron di Dona, sent particularly by the Prince of Orange to the king. Similarly Baron Gorin has recently come here from England, sent by that sovereign to raise money on the jewels of that crown which are pledged in these parts.
Nov. 6.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
39. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The parliamentary army being reinforced to its full strength by volunteers and with the seven regiments of the trained bands, and provided with some money, though not much, the two Generals, Essex and Waller have set out for Windsor, with the intention of besieging Reading. They encounter numerous difficulties from the shortage of food and arms, but more from finding the place well fortified, and the king master of the country, vigorous and powerful in that part, and so they have given up their plan. A Council of War was held here on the question, and Waller came back to report on the requirements and the state of affairs, and also to point out that it is easier and more advantageous to prevent fortification, which it seems the royalists have begun at Newport, a small place on the edge of Bedfordshire, but involving great inconvenience to this city, since it cuts off the supply of food which comes from five important counties, especially in the winter, and enables the royalists to levy plentiful contributions. He made such an impression that they have despatched General Essex without delay with a part of his army in that direction. But he has found it difficult to bring up his guns, owing to the nature of the ground, and also to the vigorous opposition of Prince Rupert, who having visited the neighbouring counties and released the prisoners, is assisting in the work with a good body of troops.
The inclinations of Essex to get rid of them chiming in with the grumbling of the citizens, he has given permission to many in the regiments that went with him to find substitutes. Owing to the difficulty of finding these as well as the cash, such men receive 3 ducats a week, causing discontent among the other soldiers, who receive little more than half from parliament, and that ill paid.
Waller has taken this opportunity to escape from serving under Essex. He has gone again to Windsor for the purpose of taking service with the rest of the trained bands, with an additional regiment of them, which they are sending from here towards Kent to oppose Viscount Obton who has collected 3,000 horse and 1,000 dragoons and leaving a lieutenant at Bristol is marching towards Kent through Sussex, choosing a longer and inferior route in order to keep as far as possible from London. He brings with him some who have great influence in that county, and hopes to quicken the spirit of many loyal subjects of his Majesty there. If he succeeds it will be the veritable rod to draw the water of penitence from this hard stone of scandal.
In the apprehension of want here and the confinement by land through the loss of the country, and wishing to preserve the dominion of the sea, they have despatched the Vice Admiral Warwick with all the money they have been able to get together these last days, with orders to put to sea and capture all ships of every description which are taking provisions to Ireland or which are passing from there to England, as they are much afraid that the king, having arranged a truce there, may avail himself of a corps of those rebels, especially as arms for 10,000 soldiers have just arrived from various ports of France, part sent by the Duke of Epernon, and part by merchants in conformity with agreements made by them with his Majesty.
Plymouth is still besieged by the forces of Prince Maurice, who is lying sick at Dartmouth, though not dead, as reported here. The governor of Gloucester makes appeals for succour in vain. Although the town is not besieged it is ill provided with food, as the nobility of the county is for the king, and prevents victualling, so that the army sent by the parliament scarcely brought it any relief beyond delivering it from the royal arms.
The Earl of Newcastle has at last been obliged to abandon the siege of Uls, finding it impossible in the present season without a fleet to prevent victualling from the sea. (fn. 1) He will now be in a position to resist the Scottish arms. One of the English commissioners has arrived from that country with news that they are ready, but they are amazed because for a long time they have received no news, not to speak of money, from the parliament here. (fn. 2) From this they perceive that they have been betrayed by those who took their letters. Accordingly they immediately sent by sea 30,000l. which were ready, urging the Scots to advance or they will very soon be in serious straits.
No news has reached here of the negotiations of the Ambassador Harcourt since his departure for Oxford, except generalities about his Majesty's readiness to make peace. He left his despatches for France with the Resident Molin. When these were being taken to the post they were seized by the ministers and taken to parliament, who had them opened and then given back. The same thing happened with others coming from France by express courier, with new and pressing orders for the release of Montegu. Every time the ambassador surmounts obstacles and difficulties they give him additional cause for offence here and show how little to their taste his mission is. On the other hand the Dutch ambassadors, who are expected with the next wind, will be very acceptable.
Under the pretext of insuring the merchandise from the Dunkirkers, they have, with the permission of the States General, set up a company of insurers at Amsterdam. These are to arm 24 ships of war, which will be increased at need, and these will scour the Channel upon conditions which have been published. Those people are not losing their opportunities of gain. They have two principal strokes in mind, one to gain the control of the fisheries and of the sea, to the very great prejudice of this kingdom at a time when the king is unable to prevent it and parliament will not disoblige them for its own ends. The other is to diminish the influence of the Prince of Orange over the Admiralty, as the States may disarm a part of his ships and make use of these which are not subject to him.
I much appreciate the munificent concession made to me by the Signory and can only offer the incense of the prayers of my 5 nephews and my cloistered daughter for the prosperity of your Excellencies, both publicly and privately.
London, the 6th November, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
40. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
General Essex marched as I wrote and halted at St. Albans, sending some troops under Lieutenant Schipon towards Newport, where in truth they had no great difficulty in taking the position, as the fortifications begun were not yet sufficiently advanced, nor were the royalist forces equal to defending them. They retired without resistance. We do not hear that the general is prosecuting any other enterprise in that direction, indeed he does not dare push further forward with the rest of the army, as he hears that the king is gathering superior forces in Buckingham to recover that place. Engineers have been immediately dispatched thither from here with orders to push on with the fortifications.
Waller has also gone out to deal with the forces in Sussex, but so weak that news comes that he has lost several carts with food and munitions of war, through lack of convoy.
His Majesty is trying to get a footing in Kent, which is the sole means of reducing London to the utmost distress, the nest of the rebellion, but the season stands in the way of prompt results as well as the vigilance of parliament in defeating his measures to set his partisans in motion, a person of consideration sent into the county for this purpose having been arrested.
The fortification of Reading is completed. To add to the difficulties of the parliamentarians if they think of besieging it his Majesty has had three large villages completely destroyed by fire. Inhabited by rebels these afforded succour and convenience to the besieging army on the previous occasion.
Lincoln which was reduced by the royal forces some months ago has now been retaken by the Earl of Manchester, who found 2,000 suits of armour there. There is a rumour, not yet authenticated, that the Marquis of Newcastle is marching thither with his army, having already abandoned the siege of Uls.
Parliament's hopes of the entry of the Scots are dwindling, or at least they will be delayed. The royalist party, of which the Marquis of Hamilton is declared the leader, becomes more and more audacious in its menaces, refusing to take the covenant and protesting that it will maintain itself by force. Here, by extraordinary efforts they have got together 70,000l. which makes up the amount of 100,000l. promised, but from fear that under present circumstances this may not produce the effect intended, especially in the winter, they may easily use it for something else, since demands are endless and the difficulty of meeting them enormous. Yet they have chosen three other commissioners to send to Scotland with fresh particular instructions, which are not yet made known. (fn. 3)
Finding that the taxes which are being collected do not realise a profit equivalent to the burden, they have appointed new overseers, who to increase the revenues, have caused to be seized all ships, including foreign ones, which touch the ports of this kingdom where parliament holds sway, and they mean to tax the goods, a manifest hindrance to trade. The king also finds himself very short of money, but having an advantage over the country, some slight foreign help and a less corrupt administration, he can hold out longer, especially as many leaders are encouraged with hopes.
His Majesty is beginning to enjoy the fruits of the truce in Ireland since 3,000 English of the army against the rebels have safely landed in England for his service, and others are expected. He also proposes to keep a certain number of Irish ready to invade Scotland from the rear, if that nation decides to enter England. This makes the pious murmur against his Majesty for making use of Catholics, whom they call rebels, but now the decision of these differences has been referred to the sword these wordy disputes are only a sign of weakness.
The Ambassador Gorin still remains in Holland. I hear on good authority that he is secretly negotiating with the Prince of Orange to send over to serve his Majesty all the English and Scottish regiments which are employed there, as they have always been granted subject to emergencies here. But I fancy that he will meet with difficulties, not so much in obtaining permission as from the disposition of the men themselves, who are attached to that country by many interests. In any case he will not need Dutch ships to transport them as when Peninton is free from the siege of Plymouth there will be ample shipping, especially as he has recently captured forty small barques, mostly belonging to fishermen, though all these advantages are destructive of the power of the realm.
To meet the energy with which the king is gaining ground at sea parliament has declared the Earl of Warwick supreme Admiral of England and governor of all the islands and plantations dependent, (fn. 4) and they have appointed commissioners in consultation with whom he can decide and carry into effect even affairs of great importance.
The Ambassador Harcourt is expected back from Oxford to-day. He has been well received by the king and defrayed for five days. We do not yet learn what he brings about the peace, but the lack of confidence in him here leaves little hope of anything good. Only last Wednesday a courier from him was arrested at Rochester on his way to France ; and one of his leading gentlemen was stripped by the guards on his arrival from Oxford, to search for letters. They write from France that his principal business is to negotiate a marriage between the daughter of the Duke of Orleans and the Prince of Wales. The Spanish ambassador is very concerned about it, but I have nothing to bear out its authenticity.
London, the 13th November, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 19.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
41. To the Resident in England.
Acknowledge the receipt of his letters. In future he will have fresh occasions to observe and consider the dealings and negotiations of the French ambassador and whether another will be sent from Holland. Enclose sheet of advices from Italy and Munster. Pleased at receiving the news of Holland.
Ayes, 92. Noes, 2. Neutral, 3.
Nov. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
42. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador Harcourt has returned from Oxford where the king welcomed and treated him well and the queen even more, to whom he took a present from her sister in law of 20,000l. sterling in money. At various audiences of both their Majesties he has not only talked of peace but tried to win their affections for France and to alarm the king about further dangers if he continues to adhere to the Spanish counsel which he keeps at his side. The reply expressed a readiness to accept anything which would preserve his just prerogatives, which he has always enjoyed, and his honour, without choosing to engage himself by any offer. Not content with these generalities, and finding in the queen through the influence of weariness of these troubles and hardships, an intense desire for peace, the Count proceeded to explain that he had orders not to more a step in this business except in the manner prescribed by their Majesties, and so he asked for precise instructions. They obliged him in this, but on condition that it should be for his guidance alone and not be made public. If was drawn up by the hand of the new secretary of state Dighbie and contains a clear account of everything essential that has happened from the beginning of these affairs, with an addition of the satisfaction claimed by the king. Not all the servants of the queen rejoice at this eager desire of hers for peace, believing that she is able to make the king surmount every difficulty and deliver him. Consequently those most in her confidence do not oppose because they believe that the impediments will come from this side, where the determination of the most resolute rebels is to have no more monarchy.
The ambassador presented the enclosed paper to one of the lords to be read in parliament and awaits the reply with interest. This is being discussed, but from what I can learn they will not enter into negotiations without the consent and assistance of the Scots, that being an article of the alliance, and that will involve delay and very great difficulties.
Meanwhile a considerable number of armed men broke into his palace last night and carried off all his plate, to the value of 10,000 ducats. Parliament has issued strict orders for the discovery of the culprits with a reward of 100l. to the informer, but this does not affect the belief that it has been done by some secret order, out of resentment for the money taken to the queen.
I have called on him since his return and tried to find out if there is any idea of a marriage between the daughter of the Duke of Orleans and the Prince of Wales. Without giving me an absolute denial he told me that the time was unsuitable, but if peace was made they might think of it. This does not exclude the possibility of his having some instructions.
London, the 20th November, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 43. Memorial of the Prince of Harcourt relating that he has found their Majesties disposed to accept the good offices of France for peace, and asking if they are ready to respond, in which case he offers to intervene for the pacification of their differences by expedients more in conformity with the ancient laws, customs and ordinances of this kingdom as may be proposed by both parties. (fn. 5)
Nov. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
44. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
General Essex has remained stationary since the capture of Newport, which they continue to fortify. He arrived here the day before yesterday with urgent demands for money. The royalists who retired from the place are also fortifying Tossiter, only 3 miles away, and this renders the work of the others useless, as it equally cuts off supplies of food from this city, which is their object. Waller is clearly showing his feebleness, as he has been repulsed by the men of the Marquis of Winchester, whose house he was besieging, and obliged to retire, because Obton is marching in his direction with 5,000 brave combatants, with whom he means to march into Kent. Meanwhile the mounted troops in Reading are constantly scouring the country, and have sacked several houses of Puritans at Oxbrich, a few miles away.
The Earl of Manchester is here, some say for the delivery of his wife, others to take part in the negotiations of the French ambassador. But I learn on better authority that it is because he cannot supply his army, which being maintained by forced contributions from four counties only, has not the provisions and help it requires, and it will not be powerful enough to withstand a part of the forces of the Marquis of Newcastle which is marching against it. His abandonment of the field has afforded these an opportunity to recover Lincoln which he took last week. With the rest of his troops Newcastle is munitioning York, from fear that at the entry of the Scots it may be invested, because it is the foundation upon which the royal forces in that county entrust their subsistence.
New commissioners were sent by sea to Scotland with incitements and supplies for that nation so that they might not put off moving any longer. They take money and letters of exchange to the amount of 50,000l. sterling in all, and promises for the remainder. These cannot be fulfilled very quickly but parliament hopes to pledge the Scots by this first payment. These have already sent forward some guns towards Berwick, possibly as an artifice.
With the growing need of money here and the increasing difficulty in raising it, in order to facilitate this by affording a satisfaction desired by the people, parliament has decided to have a thorough review of the public accounts, of all income and expenditure, and as previous resolutions of this kind have proved fruitless when left in charge of interested members, they have decided that forty experienced men of the city shall be chosen. Yet it is believed that the unfaithful administrators will find a way to prevent or delay anything being done.
The Earl of Holland who went to Oxford, having failed to restore himself in the king's favour, has opened negotiations with parliament to return, but not finding them listen to his instances and fearing some mischance from the other side, he suddenly betook himself to a house of his 3 miles from here, whither soldiers have been sent to arrest him. (fn. 6)
Other members of the Commons who have declined to swear the covenant, though from scruples of conscience and not from devotion for the king, have been excluded from the Chamber. With their numbers dwindling every day a report has got about that they mean to use the seal, which is ready, to order fresh elections. Other appointments have already been made and the seal is used in duplicate both here and at the Court.
Parliament has sent orders to the Commissioner Stricland in Holland to point out to the members of the government most in his confidence that with the great perils threatened by all the neighbouring princes to the two republics it is necessary for them to conclude a sound alliance.
London, the 20th November, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
45. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I am pleased to learn from your Serenity's letters of the 22nd October that my efforts about the currants meet with approval. In spite of the difficulties I hope, with the help of the instructions given me, to bring the matter to a successful conclusion on both sides. I cannot but regret that the calamities of the kingdom forbid luxuries, and the same disadvantage is experienced in all other affairs. I have not yet repeated my request for a final decision, because I was waiting for orders. The Secretary of State has lost no time as he has written to several merchants here who do not belong to the Levant Company, and who preserve the feelings of loyal subjects toward his Majesty, that if they send ships with currants from Zante and Cephalonia to Bristol, they will be welcome and well treated. Upon this Tindel, who was formerly agent of the company in the islands, has decided to proceed to Leghorn and thence to Zante with his own capital and orders to combine with that of the English merchants at Leghorn, under whose name they may wish to transact the business in order to avoid suspicion here, and it is already two weeks since he started off in that direction.
London, the 20th November, 1643.
Nov. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
46. Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the Congress at Munster, to the Doge and Senate.
Two letters have come from Holland, one from the Princess Palatine and the other from the Prince, her son, both recommending his interests at the congress.
Munster, the 20th November, 1643.
Enclosure. 47. Advices from the Hague, of the 13th November, 1643.
The ambassadors destined for England keep putting off their start from day to day under the pretext that the assignments for their provisions, ordinary and extraordinary have not been made them. This is the pretext, but the gist of the matter is that the Province of Holland does not approve whole heartedly of this mission, both because it inclines to favour the parliamentary side and also because the war of England increases their population, their business and their possessions.
Yesterday the little princess completed the twelfth year of her age, and by the laws of England she is now free for the marriage with the son of the Prince here. They will celebrate this anniversary with some sort of festivities, but not in any other way, as the princess is still very tender and too weak for progeny.
Nov. 24.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
48. Girolamo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
They have sent six thousand of gunpowder to England for the use of the king. It has been done in the name of private individuals so as to avoid giving provocation to the parliament there.
Paris, the 24th November, 1643.
Nov. 27.
Senato. Secreta, Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
49. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Nothing of importance has occurred this week between the armies, as the season prevents progress on either side. There has been a skirmish at Tossiter, where Prince Rupert repulsed an attack of the parliamentarians with the loss of two companies of horse. General Essex who was here pressing for money, has left unexpectedly for St. Albans, where he has the bulk of his army. He is said to be offended, and that little attention is paid to his demands. Waller has attempted a fresh assault upon the Marquis of Winchester's house at Basing, which blocks the road to the west, but was repulsed with loss, so that all the trained bands of the city which were with him have left him, without permission, and with the remaining few volunteers he has had to retire to Farnham. Meanwhile Prince Maurice having captured the fort which commands the port of Plymouth, hopes to have the town in a few days. It is not under gun fire and strong in itself, but it has no hope of succour, the mouth of the port is closed and the king is master of all the rest of that coast.
There is no little anxiety also about the Isle of Wight. The earl of Pembroke is raising levies here for its defence to send to reinforce the garrisons there, since the inhabitants are not unfavourable to his Majesty.
The counterfeit great seal has at last been issued and its custody entrusted to six commissioners, two of the Upper and four of the Lower House. These reduced to three will authorise decisions, so the chief authority will rest with the Lower House, although the one cannot operate without the other. The issue is accompanied by an ordinance annulling all the acts passed under the seal held by the king since the flight of the chancellor from here, as well as those passed in the future. (fn. 7) Thus they keep introducing schism, with ever growing disorder and deeper abysses.
The French ambassador pressing for a reply to his paper, parliament has referred it to commissioners with orders to examine and report whether they shall treat for peace, and in any case whether they think it advisable to enquire first how far his commissions extend. The report is made and the reply decided upon, in an inconclusive form, but asking if his commissions give him authority to recognise parliament in the name of France as a genuine assembly of the estates, masters of the realm. They have not yet delivered it, the delay being due to information held by parliament that the ambassador has orders from the queen his mistress, to demand the release of Montegu in high terms and protests, which makes the parliamentarians hesitate.
Only one of the thieves who robbed his plate has been discovered, with one of the principal pieces. He is in prison, and has given the names of his accomplices, but neither they nor the silver are to be found. This makes it the more to be feared that they are protected by some influential person who wants to tire out the ambassador with slights and force him to go. But the Count makes light of the loss and passes over the slights, having nothing at heart beyond the fulfilment of the orders of his mistress.
The king of Denmark has restored the ship with cloth of the merchants here, which he had seized, to the deputies who went there, but with a heavy tax of 30,000l. sterling, which he has sent to Holland as a fund for the king here, in exchange for the arms which he sent him. He holds out hopes of further and more vigorous assistance. This does not altogether please the French, who aspire to be the sole arbiters of these differences.
London, the 27th November, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 28.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
50. Advices from the Hague of the 28th November, 1643, forwarded by Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the congress at Munster.
On Saturday with magnificent festivities they celebrated the twelfth birthday of the royal princess here. All the ladies of the Court were present except the Princess Palatine who is in great trouble because of the bad news of Prince Maurice in England, who is suffering from the stone and in the greatest danger.
Nov. 28.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Zante. Venetian Archives.
51. Antonio Barbarigo, Proveditore of Zante, Vicenzo Diedo and Dona Bembo, Councillors, to the Doge and Senate.
The English ship Golden Falcon, already reported, captain Thomas Armeno, came here to fill up its cargo. On complaint from the farmers of the customs I made enquiry, by which it is proved that two frigates of Cephalonia took 150 thousand of currants by night, paid by Henry Hyder, the English consul, and by two English merchants, Isaac Lorenzo and Nicholas Vilable. Accordingly I had the ship searched, when an even larger amount of currants was found and a quantity of muscat, all subject to duty. For this smuggling the merchants were arrested and they have been released on bail. The captain was ordered to unload the 150 thousand of currants. He refused saying that he would discharge them in England, and so sailed away leaving the two merchants under obligation to the law. (fn. 8) I shall be glad of instructions from the Senate for dealing with this smuggling otherwise.
The ships which are accustomed to arrive at this port to take away currants through an understanding between the people of this island and the foreign merchants would for the most part be taking currants that had been smuggled, which are collected in those parts by the consul of the nation and stored in magazines, to be laded subsequently at any time it may best suit the merchants, who have had much experience of such business.
Zante, the 18th November, 1643, old style.


  • 1. On the 21-22 October.
  • 2. H. Vane the younger. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 275.
  • 3. Fresh instructions were issued on the 1-11 November, naming six additional commissioners ; but of these six only three seem to have gone, i.e. Robert Godwin, Richard Barwis and Robert Fenwick. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 288, 357.
  • 4. Not until the 7-17 Dec. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 330.
  • 5. The French text is printed in Journals of the House of Lords, on the 11th Nov., O.S., Vol. VI. page 302.
  • 6. Holland House, Kensington. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 297.
  • 7. The ordinance was finally passed on the 10-20 November, and the text is printed. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 300-2.
  • 8. The Golden Falcon had been chartered by the Levant Company on the 1st June, 1643, O.S., to import currants from the Morea. Her arrival in England was notified on the following January 27th, O.S., it being stated at this Court that not having a full lading she took in about 60 tons at Zante. Levant Co. Court Book. P.R.O. S.P. For, Archives, Vol. 150.