Venice: December 1643

Pages 46-56

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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December 1643

Dec. 3.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
52. To the Secretary in England.
The Master of the Posts at Antwerp writes to his correspondent here that the commissioners of parliament at Rochester have opened his packet directed to us, but he adds no particulars. Nevertheless the packet has arrived this week. You will find out, with caution, what has happened, without betraying knowledge of the incident, so that you may not be induced to make a complaint without cause. You will send full particulars, using the cipher freely, in order not to interrupt the course of your most fruitful services, especially in reporting events. The last letters received from you are of the 13th ult.
Ayes, 137. Noes, 2. Neutral, 6.
Dec. 4.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
53. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Having lost 1,000 men, mostly citizens of London, in the two assaults on Basing House, Waller wished to make a third, careless of washing out his own dishonour with the blood of others. But his conduct is blamed, all refuse obedience ; many of the trained bands which were with him have returned to London, others have deserted to the king, so that enfeebled and abandoned in the face of Obton he has retired to Farnham, whence he is imploring help. In order to discover the fugitives and make an example for the rest, parliament has had every house searched at night, even those unoccupied, and has sent him the few men that it had ready. They wanted to send more regiments of the trained bands thither, but when the outcry about this reached the ears of the mayor, who was changed at the beginning of last month and governs more moderately than the other, he persuaded the Common Council to send the aldermen to parliament to point out the disturbance that would result if the city lost so many workmen, their own safety resting upon the defence of these men, who were privileged not to go abroad for any cause soever, as they had objected to do with all the kings. (fn. 1) This representation of the city being considered, they suspended the order and are discussing how they may maintain constantly two moderate armies, i.e. one for Essex of 10,000 foot with 3,000 horse ; and the other for Waller of 6,000 foot and 2,000 horse, which are to be paid regularly every month by commissioners expressly deputed for the purpose, who will be subject to enquiry whenever desired.
General Essex has returned here and it is not believed that he will support this idea, since the sole object of the regulation is to deprive the leaders of the exorbitant advantages they derived from the lack of order in the past, drawing double pay for themselves and never satisfying the soldiers. In any case such efforts will afford a fresh inducement to the city to provide a safe fund for this purpose. It would seem that parliament, flattering itself with the hope of its stability is proceeding to arrange the method of government. They have decided that the Houses shall meet every other day in the week, and on the other days the commissioners shall discuss their various affairs to bring them when matured to public decision. They began this last week and it is going on. Some difficulty however has arisen about the form of oath for the commissioners of the new great seal, and as this has not been settled the use of the seal is deferred. By the ordinance annulling the acts since the chancellor's flight, parliament pretends to take away the dignities with which the king has rewarded his deserving subjects.
The principal foundation on which the English build is assistance from the Scots. Although the latter have not yet received the 50,000l. sent by sea, or even prepared an army of consideration, have quite recently afforded strong evidence that they think nothing of their internal dissensions and that they mean to defend this cause at all risks. For the king having with fresh orders and protests forbidden them to meddle in these affairs, has received a very sharp and impertinent reply, as they sent his Majesty a copy of the articles signed when he was in Scotland, which he disowned later as extorted. (fn. 2) They also complain in the same letter of his detention in prison at Oxford of the Commissioner Lodun who negotiated in France the renewal of the alliance between Scotland and that crown, pretending that they are the competent judges of that minister and not his Majesty. The king upholds his own party the more for this, and he has honoured the Marquis of Hamilton with the title of duke, although he is not considered sincere in his devotion to his Majesty's interests by everyone. The king also does not neglect to send officers to the border counties, to keep the people there ready for defence. He would go there personally, but is waiting for some reply from the Ambassador Harcourt about the peace. That minister has been expecting to hear the views of parliament about his paper, but did not get them until late yesterday evening, although commissioners had been sent to him on the preceding day with reference to his complaints about the opening of his packets and the ill treatment of couriers, with assurances that it should not happen again. The reply is in the terms I reported, indeed, to hinder the negotiations still more, they have preceded it by a general order that foreign ministers who have any business to transact with parliament, must present a paper signed with their own hand to the President of one of the two Houses, as they will no longer treat under hand, as was the custom formerly, and they have informed him of this order.
The French ministers are beginning to recognise the difficulties of terminating this great affair with honour, as well as the disinclination of parliament and their aim to advance themselves to sovereignty by means of France. But since Cressi pledged himself to his mistress that they desired an accommodation here, he is now trying to amend his fault by laying the blame on the Spanish Council of the king. I understand that words have passed between him and Harcourt on the subject. Nothing more is said about the ambassador's plate.
London, the 4th December, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 5.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
54. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge the receipt of his letters of the 20th ult., and forward the advices of Italy. There is nothing to add. To make every effort to secure the free transit of currants from the Levant islands to that kingdom, adopting such methods as he deems most sure and likely to facilitate the introduction.
Ayes, 137. Noes, 1. Neutral, 1.
Dec. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
55. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
General Waller who retired to Farnham, being abandoned by most of his soldiers, wanted to come here, but parliament has charged him to stay so as not to lose the rest, and sent him a few troops that were ready here, though all told he will not have more than 2,000 combatants. Obton on the other hand has 8,000 and is waiting for an opportunity to destroy him entirely, before proceeding to Kent. Some skirmishes in his favour have already taken place.
Essex remains here, pressing for money. His army, divided between St. Albans and Newport, is already much enfeebled and dwindles daily. On this account they have all this week been debating how to maintain two armies on a solid basis and well regulated. But as this is the most difficult of all their questions the step from the will to the act is not an easy one. There are difficulties not only in the matter of money but of soldiers also, and they are touting every day for volunteers, under specious pretexts, without result, while the citizens are prevented from going out by the demands of the city and their own inclination. Amid all these agitations hope of assistance from the Scots alone keeps them in heart. Their entry into England is announced every day although actually they are not ready, being hindered by various obstacles, as your Serenity shall hear. The arrival of plenipotentiaries from that government is awaited with impatience, with whom parliament can proceed in union in all deliberations and negotiations. There is no news however of their departure or even of the arrival of the ship which went to that country with commissioners and 50,000l. but we hear that some royal ships are lying in wait for it off the northern coast.
While nothing but hopes are coming from Scotland the truce in Ireland is producing results for the king. 4,000 armed Irish have landed in Lancashire, against whom parliament has sent Bruerton with some troops. But Biron is advancing from Oxford with 2,000 horse to assist them and it is not thought that the other can resist him. His Majesty has gone to Reading, determined not to delay any longer to squeeze this city. For this he is summoning all the forces he can gather from all parts of the kingdom. The Earl of Newcastle, having furnished all the places of the North and left that district in charge of General Chingh, with half of his army, is marching with the rest towards Cambridge to this end. The royalists feel confident that with their party maintaining its vigour in Scotland, the others will not venture far away, especially as they cannot expect the contributions promised them here which will be stopped either by their own needs or by the confusion caused by the neighbouring forces, not to speak of the energetic preparations being made by the border counties, which are armed and determined.
Two men were arrested bringing to the mayor of London proclamations of the king and letters to others. One of them sentenced by a Court Martial, was publicly executed on Monday. Although their action is condemned, yet the severity shown is not approved, as people like the laws and not the judge to condemn in this country. (fn. 3)
I enclose a copy of the reply given by parliament to the French ambassador Harcourt. It contains pretensions destructive of all negotiations either on the part of the Most Christian or of the king here, as they claim that he shall acknowledge himself ambassador to them, and state that they will be prepared to listen to his negotiations if they are in conformity with the last league and covenant, which destroys the monarchy. The ambassador sent two of his gentlemen, one to France and the other to the king. The latter suffered the usual fate of arrest when leaving the city, although he had a passport. It is believed that the ambassador will not make any move until both of them have returned.
Meanwhile the parliamentarians announce that they have intercepted letters written by the secretary Nicolas to the Ambassador Gorin in Holland, commanding him, in his Majesty's name to remain there some time yet to thwart the audiences and negotiations of the Deputy Stricland intimating that there is no hurry for him to arrive in France, since Alarcurgh has sent a courier to the Court there with the requests of the king, and this serves to discredit him with the people.
London, the 11th December, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 56. Copy of the Parliament's Reply to the Memorial of the French Ambassador.
Desire for peace with honour to the king, the preservation of the true religion, the privileges of parliament and the liberty of the subject in the three kingdoms, in conformity with their last solemn league and covenant. If the Prince of Harcourt will make some proposal to parliament they will do what is proper and justify their procedure to the world. (fn. 4)
Dec. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
57. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I have carried out your Serenity's instructions about the currants, and enclose copies of my letter to the secretary of state and of his reply. He assures me not only of a final decision and the king's consent, but that the Bristol merchants are ready to take up the trade. This shows his Majesty's intention to draw trade to that side to hamper London. This will not be difficult since their ships which come from the Strait will suffer great inconvenience in not being able to take refuge in the west, of which coast the king will remain absolute master once Plymouth is taken, and that cannot hold out. They have already had a first taste of this, the Bristol men having captured two ships laden with wine at Bordeaux for here.
In spite of all this, for the sake of competition and for the benefit of your subjects in the islands, in conformity with my instructions, I have got my confidants to communicate, with suitable considerations, the decision about the reduction of the duty to the governor of the Levant Company here. I am assured that he has called the company together twice, but with the lack of business on the mart, many merchants living in retirement in the country to avoid the dangers and vexations of the present times, he has not been able to form a quorum. When he does succeed, the activity of the Bristol men being already known, I hope that jealously and envy will mitigate their unreasonable obstinacy.
London, the 11th December, 1643.
Enclosure. 58. Letter to the Secretary of State Nicolas, the 19th November, 1643.
I have informed the Signory of his Majesty's orders for the transport of currants to Bristol and your efforts to induce the merchants there to proceed with their own ships to the islands of Zante and Cephalonia to fetch them. Your letter has also afforded them great satisfaction. To facilitate this mutual trade the Senate has decided to reduce the duty on currants, and this may prove a further inducement to the merchants of Bristol to send their ships. I shall await the final decision about this and your courteous reply.
59. Reply to the Secretary of State Nicolas of the 30th November, 1643.
Acknowledges his letter of the 19th which communicated to his Majesty who is gratified by the sentiments of the republic and at the decree reducing the duty. He has ordered this to be communicated to the merchants of Bristol, who are busy equipping ships to carry goods from this kingdom and bring back currants and other foreign goods which are needed. Will not fail to communicate anything further.
[Italian : from the English.]
Dec. 15.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
60. Advices from the Hague, of the 15th December, 1643, forwarded by Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the Congress at Munster.
The ambassadors for England have not yet started, although provided with 16,000 francs for their expenses and with two ships of war for the sea passage. The Province of Holland is still hesitating, having misgivings that this embassy may not be viewed favourably either by the king or by the parliament, particularly as parliament is withholding its decision about granting a passport to the Baron di Dona, who in a private character is to visit their Majesties in the name of the Prince of Orange and to cross the sea with the ambassadors aforesaid.
The Resident of England has handed in a memorial against some preachers who have spoken ill of the king from their pulpits. It is not known what satisfaction to give him owing to doubts about the parliament.
[Italian, from the French.]
Dec. 18.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
61. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Viscount Obton, to second the king's design to squeeze this city, good subjects being forewarned with incitements and orders to help him, has twice attempted to pass from Hampshire into Kent, but the softness of the ground in the winter season has prevented him, from bringing his guns. The parliamentarians, profiting by this are reinforcing their party in that quarter, and are trying to block the most convenient ways. His Majesty is not altogether satisfied with that commander, who by his careless delays has lost the opportunity of defeating Waller and of pushing on to occupy the positions on the river in that county, which is the most essential point for the realisation of these designs. But Waller's army, assembled at Farnham, is as weak or weaker than ever, so that he has been obliged to come here in person by night. He stayed a few hours and represented the need by word of mouth, obtaining a little money and assurances of succour as well. The latter is to be sent to him from the army of Essex which is also languishing from the weakness caused by the withdrawal of the trained bands and by the constant desertion of the volunteers. He is here insisting upon the assignment of a fund of 27,000l. a month for the maintenance of a proper army. So is Admiral the Earl of Warwick, who has orders to leave with all the merchantmen, ready to sail for the relief of Plymouth, but the royalists being already masters of the fort and having secured the mouth of the port, do not seem to fear that enterprise, which involves great consequences.
One of the commissioners chosen for the new great seal has refused to take the oath, representing that he is personally unskilled in the law (si e escusato con la propria incapita nelle leggi). (fn. 5) The others have taken it without scruple, and are to use the seal next week. I hear that the king is preparing a declaration, not yet issued, in which he shows that legally, if the great seal he has is invalid, that of the present parliament is equally so, which was convoked under it. But all appeal to reason and law is now superfluous, where will and force dominate, and those who dared to take arms against the ordainer will not be afraid of contravening any ordinances.
Every day they artfully announce the entry of the Scots, having no other means to compensate their own weakness which they cannot hide much as they would like to. It is certain, however, that no considerable army is assembled in that kingdom where the 50,000l. have not yet arrived, being stopped at Uls, possibly by order, with the intention of seeing some preparations before the payment is made.
Meanwhile regiments arrive daily from Ireland to serve his Majesty, and bring arms for others besides themselves. Another army is being formed in Wales to join them, so the king will soon have 60,000 armed men in his various armies. The Marquis of Newcastle who has rested his troops at Lincoln, is not advancing but is now in Nottinghamshire, to prevent the parliamentary troops in Lancashire from entering Yorkshire, from whence they might advance to Cambridge.
The French ambassador is disputing about the manner of treating. He gives sound reasons for evading the presentation of credentials, which they ask, excusing by the king's absence those already presented to his councillor in Scotland by the French gentleman. He refuses also to give a paper signed by himself, as required by their decree of all foreign ministers, and intimates that he would like to have commissioners appointed. But he has received an absolute refusal on both points, because the parliamentarians have no sincere desire for peace, their only object being to obtain some advantage for the sovereignty. Yet the ambassador would not be so stiff had not the king earnestly desired him not to prejudice him on this very ticklish point, and seemed to prefer the abandonment of all negotiations. It would seem, however, that in the city Council there is rising, if not a disposition to peace, at least a diminution in their obstinacy for war. Harcourt is aware of this and is trying through Cressi to foment it.
In pursuance of the intentions expressed in the letter of which I forwarded a copy, of diverting trade from London, his Majesty has issued the enclosed proclamation.
London, the 18th December, 1643.
Enclosure. 62. Proclamation issued at Oxford, the 2nd December, 1643.
Permission to take cloth or other woollen goods to any part under his Majesty's obedience, and to transport the same to any places abroad in friendship with his Majesty, on paying the duties.
[Italian, from the English.]
Dec. 25.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
63. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Weakness and impossibility of execution have prevented the fulfilment of the orders for giving Waller the reinforcements for which he asked and which he required to take the field against Obton. So securing himself as best he may at Farnham he is waiting for time to bring him the convenience and opportunity to move which the other is hoping to secure from his own exertions. Thus he has abandoned his route which he found too hard for his guns, and drawing near the sea has captured Arundel, (fn. 6) where he has fortified the castle, to secure his retreat, in case, when he enters Kent he does not meet with the help from the rural population which he hopes for, or is compelled to wait for help from the king.
His Majesty persists in his determination to approach London with a powerful army. He has issued a declaration to the inhabitants and promises a sack, in which those of his party shall assist. But with the increasing difficulties in the way of this design, which become more apparent every day, this may be intended rather to intimidate and cause divisions, now the city is less obstinate than at first against peace, as your Serenity shall hear.
John Pym is dead, (fn. 7) a solicitor of civil causes but the promoter of the present rebellion and the director of the whole machine. His body has been shown to the people in his own house for two days, and on Wednesday it was buried in Westminster, in the presence of the two Houses and a great concourse. This hydra is not therefore left without a head, but so far no one has appeared of equal application and ability. Indeed it would seem that rivalry for the lead gives hope of divisions and parties, which affords the easiest and safest means for restoring the king to his former greatness.
Every effort is being made to bring up the parliamentary forces to strength, as the two armies do not exceed 8,000 combatants. Essex has gone back to his after obtaining assignments of 30,000l. sterling a month, with an undertaking to maintain with good pay 10,000 foot and 3,000 horse. But the assignment is not secure nor is the levy easy. They have closed all the recruiting stations in the city, which laboured in vain, there being no more volunteers for this service. Thus their chief hopes rest upon the Scots. This assistance languishes from the delays occasioned by difficulties which may be due to the opposition of the royalist party in that kingdom. A price of 500l. has been put on the head of the Duke of Hamilton, its leader, but the Scots excuse themselves by the need for more money. They have received the first sent and have had orders printed for the gathering of the army, which is to be ready on the 29th inst., old style. If it is not prevented, and the king is not without hope, the delay will at least serve to prepare a vigorous resistance on the frontier, for which his Majesty's officers and ministers are working with all their might, 8,000 men of the four border counties being inscribed for carrying arms, besides the armies already on foot, while Newcastle and other places are well provided.
Troops continue to come from Ireland, and Bruerton who tried to offer resistance with a few parliamentary troops has been defeated and put to flight. Parliament has written to the magistracy of Dublin remonstrating with them for accepting the truce ; but they have replied in good form sending them a copy of all the promises which have reached them in letters, which have never been fulfilled.
The French ambassador's negotiations have been spiked by the pretensions of parliament to recognition and the signed paper. It does not become the honour of France to concede this and the king here will not allow it. He did not even like the first memorial presented by the ambassador, although addressed to a simple member of one of the Houses, and not to the president, as the decree ordains. In virtue of the general passport which he obtained at the beginning, he is sending to-day one of his gentlemen to Oxford, and he talks of going there himself one of these days, more to wish them the compliments of the season than for any business.
The militia of London which in addition to other burdens and hardships, is bound to guard the fortifications eight days and eight nights consecutively in two watches, is inclined to support the petitions made by the mayor and aldermen to parliament for peace. The king does not miss the opportunity, and is trying to encourage this disposition all he can. He is trying in particular to separate them from the parliament but success is difficult since the fear of receiving too hard conditions will keep them together, at any disadvantage. So this good will is suppressed by the objections of the parliamentarians, without producing any good results as yet.
London, the 25th December, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 26.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
64. Advices from the Hague, of the 26th December, 1643, forwarded by Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the Congress at Munster.
The embassy for England, although much progress has been made, appears more inclined to recede into the background. The States of Holland wish to be sure that parliament does not disapprove of it. Parliament claims to be treated on an equality with the king, and the king takes offence at this. Thus the Count d'Arcurt, not having chosen to satisfy the parliament in this particular, is unable to make the smallest progress in his affairs, under various pretexts, which cover other more recondite ends. Parliament does not wish it otherwise while waiting for the arrival of the Scots, and so the mischief gradually becomes unmeasurable.
[Italian, from the French.]
Dec. 29.
Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni, Roma. Venetian Archives.
65. The Secretary of England came into the Collegio and spoke as follows :
My Master, the King of Great Britain deeply regrets the present war with his Holiness, not only because of the inconvenience and expense to your Serenity, but because owing to his own civil disturbances he cannot intervene as he would have done, to help the public cause, as he has upon other occasions. He cannot even employ his offices, because he has no credit for correspondence with the enemy. He does not wish to be altogether useless, and so, in spite of his difficulties through internal disorders, and as a sign of the friendship he has always professed for the republic, he directed me to say that he will permit his subjects to come and serve your Serenity and you may levy as many as you please. He asks you to accept this in place of what he wishes he could do to show his sincere affection. I ask your Serenity to accept the memorial which I present, for a levy, about which I have treated with the Savio alla Scrittura.
After the memorial had been read the doge said, the republic appreciates his Majesty's good will highly and we thank him from our heart. We pray God to deliver him from trouble, for the gratification of his friends, who desire it. We wish him all prosperity and we retain the esteem for him we have always expressed. The Savio alla Scrittura will see about the memorial and report. We thank you also for your affection for our country. With this the secretary made a reverence and departed.
Most Serene Prince :
Having been invited by the Savio alla Scrittura to try and make a levy of 4,000 English or Scots to serve the most serene republic, I took the matter up with great pleasure as I have for many years desired an opportunity of showing my devotion to your Serenity. Two difficulties stood in the way, one that there was no security that the men would come, the other that if they came they might not arrive in time. It now seems to me that I have not adequately expressed my devotion unless the offer is carried into effect. I have therefore thought fit to represent to your Serenity how easily this affair can be managed. In the first place this levy can only be prevented by the king or the parliament. His Majesty should not make use of these troops, because he has already declared his wish to assist the most serene republic ; and moreover it will serve his purpose for such people to quit the realm, as they will be levied from those who are disaffected against him or from those of turbulent opinions. Parliament can neither prevent the levy nor their passage, because the provinces where they will be raised are absolutely dominated by the king, and the ships of parliament are not in those waters. The time required for bringing them here will depend upon my despatch from here, on the diligence shown about the voyage, on the vigorous representations I will make to his Majesty and on the prompt equipment of the soldiers and ships. I engage my honour that if I am despatched before new year's day I will have half the troops here before the end of March, and the rest by the middle of April.


  • 1. On the 28th November ; Sir John Wollaston succeeded Pennington as lord mayor.
  • 2. Dated at Edinburgh, the 19-29 October. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 311-2.
  • 3. Daniel Kniveton was executed as a spy on Monday the 27th Nov., O.S., because he brought to London from Oxford, on the 30th Oct. O.S., the king's proclamations against the Covenant, the monthly fast, etc. He was tried and sentenced by the Council of War at Essex House, though he claimed to be one of the king's sworn messengers. Wm. Carpenter, who was also sentenced was reprieved. Rushworth : Hist. Collections Part III., Vol. II., pages 369, 370.
  • 4. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 305.
  • 5. The earl of Rutland, who did not consider that he had the necessary qualifications. Clarendon : Hist. of the Rebellion, Bk. VII., page 407. Officially it was on the ground of ill health. Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., page 315.
  • 6. On the 6-16 December.
  • 7. On the 8-18 December.