Venice: March 1644

Pages 76-85

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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March 1644

Mar. 4.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
84. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The new Council of State has been voted by both Houses, composed of both nations with supreme authority to ordain and direct all the affairs of these three kingdoms. To decide how long it shall last constitutes one of the chief difficulties. The Commons, who promoted this form of government, knowing how ticklish it would be to propose its perpetuity at the very outset, have postponed the question for three months, and then bring it forward at their pleasure. The Lords through fear or powerlessness have given way. This body is composed of 25 members, i.e. 7 of the Upper House, 14 of the Lower and 4 Scots, who in present circumstances will have a large share in the direction. (fn. 1) All these and the two secretaries have already taken the oath of fealty. They were going to impose that of secrecy also, but the lords who were excluded opposed, saying they wished to have knowledge of what was done, though they had no vote. They have had some sittings, taking for the purpose the house of a gentleman of the opposite party, and furnishing it with the hangings of the royal wardrobe. (fn. 2)
The first business brought forward in this Council was concerned with limiting the powers of General Essex, obliging him not to do any thing without its instructions. It accordingly asked for information about the state of his army from the commissioners who were sent to inspect it, and has directed them to set apart 20,000l. sterling for the pay of the officers and men who are there, while making every effort to increase their numbers. They hope that these indications of lack of confidence may force Essex to resign, to gratify the other generals who do not like obeying him, although it was from him that they received their commissions. Fearing that the two Chambers may be deserted, as the business left to them will be scanty and of slight importance, the Council has got them to issue a decree that they shall meet from 9 until noon every morning, and those not present shall pay a shilling each time.
Another herald has arrived here from Oxford this week from the general of the king's army to Essex, asking him to procure passports from the assembly, he does not call it parliament, at Westminster, for two persons named, who are bringing proposals for peace from his Majesty. (fn. 3) After seeing the letter the Council directed Essex to answer, as if from himself offering to obtain the safe conduct required if they will recognise the parliament, otherwise they will be treated as spies. So the herald returned with this answer, and nothing more has been heard. But it is believed that the king would not object to recognise the parliament if he could be sure that the negotiations would be taken up sincerely. This is unlikely unless it is forced by the jealousy of the Scots, as from all appearances so far they do not seem disposed to do away with monarchy altogether, lest their kingdom should become a mere province of England, while the English who now rule can only maintain their usurped position amid discord and violence.
With the approach of the Scottish arms to Newcastle, the Marquis has entered the place and burned the suburbs. After taking proper measures for its defence, he went away leaving in charge Colonel Gliman, a brave soldier, who has already given a taste of his determination, having left on the field a good number of Scots who approached and tried to capture a position. The Marquis has moved to the South with his army, to hold the passage of the Tyne and keep open the way for food and succour. His force consists of 10,000 foot and 4,000 horse. He has written to his Majesty with good hope of holding out. A second formidable obstacle after Newcastle will be Niuvarch, a very strong place on the River Trent. Parliament hoped to forestall him by besieging it, and ordered the Earl of Manchester to set out in that direction, he being now here, but news has come that the time is unsuitable for such an effort. Meanwhile Gloucester is being reduced to the last straits, the royalists having captured some of the outer fortifications. The parliamentarians are also doubtful about the fidelity of the governor of Plymouth, and so they want to introduce Meldron there, by way of the sea.
500 horse from Reading have scoured the country as far as Windsor and after capturing considerable booty in animals, have returned to their starting place, where the king has been in person to inspect the provisions.
The Dutch ambassadors are expected back from Oxford at the beginning of next week. There is little hope that they will do anything in the matter of the peace.
London, the 4th March, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Mar. 8.
Senato. Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
85. Girolamo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
They are despatching the Sieur de Sabran to England in place of Crassi. The Count d'Harcourt has arrived at Cales ; his wife has already gone to meet him. He arrives at a moment full of bitter feeling and dissatisfaction with the parliament. The English ambassador here has mended the error of his pen, having written to England things utterly different from the intentions which he expressed here.
Paris, the 8th March, 1644.
Mar. 8.
Senato. Secreta. Dispacci, Munster. Venetian Archives.
86. Advices from the Hague of the 8th March, 1644, forwarded by Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador to the Congress at Munster.
Mr. Strichlandt, the Agent who resides here for the parliament of England finding that he meets with some difficulty in the frequent audiences which he requests of the Assembly, where, as a general rule, he carries complaints and suspicions, is not treating at present except with the Province of Holland alone, by whom he is always admitted without difficulty and heard gladly.
[Italian, from the French.]
Mar. 11.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
87. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Commons have again urged that the Councillors of State shall take the oath of secrecy as well as that of fealty, but the lords without votes oppose this, as without knowing what is done they fear something prejudicial to their prerogatives. The Council is devoting itself to strengthening the armies, but with partiality towards Waller, whom they want to send in strength as soon as possible to the West for the relief of Gloucester, which is in great straits, and to prevent the reestablishment of the king's authority in those parts, which he is striving for. This causes some jealousy to Essex and his officers and the rivalry has gone to such lengths that if the armies approach each other there might be trouble in the coming campaign. To this end they neglect no means of making Essex feel that they would like him to resign his commission. They have even appointed commissioners to enquire about the complaints of Hertfordshire about some extortion committed by his troops quartered there. But he realises quite well that his own authority depends on his holding his office, as well as what is left of that of the Upper House, and is not disposed to help them, while he hopes that they will not renture to do it by force, although it is by commissioners that his army is now being augmented and paid.
Dangerous disputes have occurred these last days in the synod. Five ministers in it are leaders of the pernicious sect of the Independents who do not accept the ecclesiastical magistracy and so abhor the temporal one as well. (fn. 4) They have induced their sect, which numbers over 100,000 in this kingdom, to present a petition to parliament asking not only that they may live in conformity with their rite but foreigners also, who come from Holland or elsewhere. They did not meet with serious opposition in parliament or in the Council, where the present need for everybody blinds them to the mischief it may cause in the future. But the Scots, who pretend to be moved by zeal to unite the Anglican Church to their pure Calvinistic one, opposed it, as diversity of religion in this kingdom does not fit in with their political aims, and they have succeeded in having these ministers silenced. Nevertheless the fire is not quenched, and the king helps to blow it up by plausible offers of liberty.
His Majesty's herald who took back the parliament's reply, has not returned for the passports, but it is understood that in the assembly at Oxford they are discussing proposals for peace with the greatest moderation. These will be brought forward by three of the leading lords for the purpose rather of justifying the king's proceedings before the world than with any hope that they will be accepted. A herald of General Essex has been twice to Oxford to negotiate the exchange of Lodian, the Scottish commissioner, who was arrested by his Majesty's order and whom the Scots want. The first demands were for Montegu, but they would not agree to that here, and so the exchange has been arranged with Colonel Gorin.
From Holland the Prince Palatine has written letters to the parliament which are not only submissive but prejudicial to his uncle, as he congratulates them on the alliance with the Scots and wishes it success, all for the purpose of getting money for his needs. (fn. 5)
The garrison of Pul has captured despatches of the Court which were being taken under a mounted escort to Dartmouth, for the royal ministers abroad.
2,000 barrels of powder have reached Oxford, sent by individual merchants of France, by arrangements made by the Ambassador Gorin.
The Scots having made some fruitless attempts to approach Newcastle, in which they lost several men, General Chin has taken courage to cross the Tyne with a considerable force, mostly cavalry, after making arrangements with the Marquis of Newcastle to support him in case of need. He attacked the Scots vigorously and after a short fight they had to give way before the cavalry, and were chased as far as Morfet, where he is pressing the pursuit. The news is kept severely quiet here, and any one who mentions it is put in prison. But I understand that the Scottish commissioners complain of not being warned, that the English have failed them both in money and the assistance of 50 companies of horse which had been promised them. One who comes from Newcastle reports that the town has been put in the best possible state of defence by two skilful engineers sent by the Prince of Orange, and he thinks that in spite of the disadvantage of the mountain near it that the Scots will find it very difficult to take. If they do not it is incredible that they can advance, although they have ordered every sixth man in Scotland to be enrolled.
The Dutch ambassadors are still at Oxford, negotiating with satisfaction to the king and ministers. So far their proposals for peace are only general. But they will either put forward or support the articles which his Majesty proposes to send, showing that their partiality for parliament does not extend to setting up a new and more powerful democracy beside their own. A confidant writes to me from Court that they do not forget their own advantage in the turmoil, since they offered the king the jewels pledged at Amsterdam if he will concede to them the herring fisheries on this coast for four years. This is a very important matter, advantageous to the Dutch alike for the profit of over a million per annum, and for increasing their naval power. Although there is some suspicion here of the procedure of those ministers, yet they seem to be more afraid of unfriendliness from them and their masters than they were of that of Harcourt and France.
London, the 11th March, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Mar. 15.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia.
88. Girolamo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English ambassador is still bringing forward the negotiations for an alliance with that king, although in sooth the ill conditions of that country dissuade it. The Count of Harcourt, who is back from there, shows himself ill satisfied about it.
Paris, the 15th March, 1644.
Mar. 18.
Senato. Secreta, Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
89. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The hopes of parliament having grown dim that the sword of the Scots would intimidate the king's and that in consequence the strongest towns would fall into their hands, they have changed their minds and at present are placing their greatest reliance on their own armies the more so because experience of their weakness and the checks endured oblige them to strengthen these, all of which requires time and money, both of which are short, from the advanced season and immediate requirements. The most strenuous efforts are being made in this city to enlist voluntary soldiers ; after that they propose to use the press, and if this does not suffice, they will bring men from Kent and will call out the trained bands of the city.
Meanwhile as circumstances do not admit of delay, they are sending General Essex towards Reading, ordering the Earls of Manchester and Denbigh to supply men for the relief of Gloucester, which is in peril. Waller also is ready to set out from here for the West, and they are all to unite together for an enterprise of importance, which is not announced, but suspected of being the besieging of Oxford. Meldron has invested Niuvarch, an enterprise which was destined for the Scots. A sortie of the garrison had placed his men in a precarious situation, but the unexpected arrival of some cavalry compelled the besieged to retire.
In spite of all this the king does not lose courage, indeed he is making arrangements to leave Oxford well supplied and to take the field with the strongest army he can muster, and so prevent himself from being shut in. To justify his intentions in the face of the world and of the Dutch ambassadors in particular he has decided to make a third effort for peace. This week he has sent a herald here with letters signed with his own hand and addressed to the Lords and Commons seated in parliament at Westminster. He expresses his sorrow at seeing his kingdom and people destroying one another, and offers a just settlement. He suggests the appointment of a place for commissioners of both sides to meet to arrange the conditions or else that the members of parliament shall meet, those at Westminster and Oxford, both, at either place or at some other. The letter was left unopened for a day, as they did not approve of the direction, as if they were a part of parliament and not the whole. At last they adopted the expedient of getting General Essex to open and read it, as directed to him by the king's general, and they are now discussing the answer. I gather that they will intimate to the king in the harshest terms that if he does not abandon his party and come to parliament within a definite time he will be responsible for the consequences (assumera egli intieramente in commando). They also propose to make a declaration to the people denouncing his Majesty's proposals as false and artful. Meanwhile they have this week published papers declaring the queen unchaste.
The Dutch ambassadors, having intimated in confidence that they have something to add to the king's letter, have set out for here without waiting for their coaches, and arrived yesterday evening. But in spite of the most strenuous efforts to obtain an interview with some of the leading parliamentarians, they have not succeeded, all excusing themselves on various pretexts, while the answer indicated is gone on with in the mean time. I have called on the ambassadors who showed me the greatest honour, all three accompanying me to my coach, but they were disgusted at what had happened and cherished but little hope that their offices would now do any good.
The exchange of Lodiam the Scottish commissioner against Colonel Gorin is interrupted, as his Majesty wants to have the two little princes, who remain here as hostages. Colonel Grinfil, a man much valued in parliament and who had knowledge of Waller's plans, being in his army, has gone over to the king with some troopers and money. (fn. 6)
Deputies from Ireland are on their way to Oxford to have their peace with the advantages claimed. Troops are constantly arriving from that nation, 3,000 having recently landed at Bristol and a like number at Chester, so that Fairfax in alarm is imploring help. This cannot be supplied very quickly, as all their efforts are devoted to supplying the other armies, for the purpose indicated above.
London, the 18th March, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
90. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Fortified with my instructions I have had the good fortune, thanks to the jealousy of Bristol, to realise the state's wishes in the important matter of the currant trade. By the decree of which I enclose a copy, parliament permits not only the merchants of the Levant Company, as before, but all others, without exception, to transport freely currants from Zante and Cephalonia to London and any other part of this kingdom subject to parliament upon payment of 6 shillings per hundred above the usual duties. Although they set a limit of six months, I am assured that the permission will be renewed before these expire, and the only object of the restriction was to use the 6 shillings for some different purpose than it would serve at present.
Some members of the Levant Company, who pretend to have received ill treatment in the islands of your Excellencies, before this decision was taken, proposed at the meeting of the Company that they should send a ship to the Morea to take a cargo of the plants to Virginia or New England, where they give out that the climate would be suitable, the voyage shorter and they would not be dependent upon a foreign power. Other members of the Company who disagreed, warned me beforehand. So by letting some of them know that the fruit of the Morea is impossible, as though so near it is of the worst quality, and assuring the others that the English will receive every possible courtesy in the islands, such being the positive determination of your Excellencies, I succeeded in getting the proposal rejected by a majority. This happened last week.
Bol appointed consul in the Morea has already left for Leghorn, (fn. 7) without any instructions beyond the usual ones for that consulship. From what I hear Ider may very likely dispute the office with him, as he makes himself respected by creditors with this character. But in any case, as Bol depends on the Court, it will not be difficult to keep him within bounds.
London, the 18th March, 1644.
Enclosure. 91. Decision of the 5/15 March, 1643—4 permitting the importation of currants from Zante and Cephalonia to London and other parts under the control of parliament, for six months from the date of this decree on payment of 6 shillings per 100lbs. above the usual duties, notwithstanding the prohibition of the 26th April, 1642, which has been rendered useless by the capture by the enemy of ports to which currants are constantly brought etc. (fn. 8)
[Italian, from the English.]
Mar. 19.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Constantinopoli. Venetian Archives.
92. Giovanni Soranzo, Venetian Bailo at Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
The dragoman of England who went to Aleppo has returned, having caused the catecumaium to be registered there, although with some difficulty, promoted by the Defterdar there. Many believe that it will be necessary to renew that arrangement with this new Vizier (fn. 9) at the same outlay all over again.
The Vigne di Pera, the 19th March, 1644.
[Italian ; deciphered.]
Mar. 25.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
93. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Scottish commissioners announce that they have received letters from the general of their army reporting that having received powerful reinforcements from Scotland he had crossed the River Tyne without great loss with 14,000 foot, and that he hoped soon to invest Newcastle. This unsupported announcement, coupled with the confirmation of past repulses, notably the last I reported, renders it suspect to those who look for truth, without being blinded by prejudice. However, the knowledge of such a success cannot be long delayed. By the announcement the Scots possibly intend to keep up their credit with the parliamentarians, who second them gladly in order to induce the people, in the present shortage to side with their party, which has the advantage of such vigorous assistance. Meanwhile they have decided to send commissioners to that army with authority both there and on the way to take what is convenient whenever necessary and to provide money for requirements there, by way of impositions or otherwise.
The Assembly at Oxford has sent a letter to the Council of Scotland reproaching them for having broken the peace with the king, and urging them to withdraw the two armies, promising, besides their lives and goods, that his Majesty will let them keep the privileges granted, whereas if they do not, those lords threaten them with the utmost vengeance. What effect this may produce is not known, but it is certain that the Scottish commissioners here, in the Council of State have toned down the very sharp reply that the English were going to make to the king's suggestion of appointing commissioners to treat of peace, as they objected to their making any declaration or even prescribing him a time for coming, but merely to ask him in humble and respectful terms. From this one conjectures that abandoning their intentions or hopes of conquest, they do not wish to lose totally a Scottish king leaving themselves dependent upon the democratic force of a nation which has always been inimical to them.
With all their efforts the Dutch ambassadors have not succeeded in getting an interview with any of the members of the Commons, who claim that this must first be done in public audience. They have indeed seen some of the lords, and the Earl of Warwick, in particular, has been to them to complain of the imprisonment by the Dutch Vice Admiral, at Brill, of a captain of the parliament who chased a royalist into that port. I gather that they have letters from their masters for the parliament, with due caution, and also authority from the king, to be used if they can hope for any result from their negotiations, which is very remote, since report paints them as opponents of the peace and partisans of his Majesty and the Prince of Orange.
Parliament has sent orders to its Agent Stricland in Holland to cause the English merchants there to swear the covenant, as if their jurisdiction extended to those Provinces. It is not believed that the States will permit it.
Their efforts to strengthen their armies here have had no apparent result. Yet Waller is setting out, supplied as best they may, with orders to unite with Balfur, general of the cavalry, in Sussex to relieve Gloucester, after which it is still rumoured, though in whispers, they think of besieging Oxford.
General Essex finding that he is becoming mistrusted, is trying by submission and assurances to secure himself in his post. He has supplied the Council with a note of all his officers and submitted for their approval those who for some cause may not be considered suitable.
The exchequer is exhausted by the numerous calls for payment. Accordingly they have recourse to new means to meet this crying need, which they hope, at least they say so, will put an end to their troubles. They have farmed out the customs for a year longer, and confirmed the taxes for six months, although the term does not expire until September next, all with the object of getting money in advance. They are also contemplating extraordinary fresh taxes ; and so this country, which enjoyed the felicity of exemption from everything, is now more burdened than any other. In Scotland also they have done the same, under the pretext of making war on Ireland.
Waller had come to an understanding with the brother of the Marquis of Winchester, for a heavy bribe, to put into his hands Basing House which he unsuccessfully tried to take with such heavy loss, the Marquis having left this brother in charge while he was away attending the assembly at Oxford. But Colonel Grinfil, who escaped from here, revealed the compact, so the royalists will prevent its success.
Seeing the anxiety of the king to get into his hands the two little princes who are in the palace of St. James, it has been decided to commit them to more trustworthy persons. Accordingly they have changed the whole Court, even the lowest servants, and have appointed ministers of the strictest Calvinism.
I enclose a copy of a decree of parliament reconfirming and establishing the Levant Company. Although it contains nothing essential which differentiates it from the ancient institutions, the sole object being to change its dependence on the king to one on parliament, I have thought it only right to send the information, as it concerns the navigation of Venetian waters.
London, the 25th March, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 94. Charter granting privileges to the Levant Company, and that a bill shall be prepared to be passed in the present parliament to establish and confirm these privileges, which shall remain in force in the mean time. Dated the 9/19 March, 1643-4. (fn. 10)
[Italian, from the English ; 7 pages.]


  • 1. The Committee of both kingdoms ; accepted by the Lords on the 16-26 February.
  • 2. Derby House, assigned to the Committee on the 17th February. Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., page 402.
  • 3. Richard Fanshaw and Thomas Offly. Rushworth : Hist. Collections Part III., Vol. II., page 568.
  • 4. The five are probably Thomas Godwin, Nye, Simpson, Bridge and Boroughs. Gardiner ; Hist. of the Great Civil War, Vol. 1, page 261.
  • 5. A letter to each House, dated at the Hague 12-22 Feb, Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 444, 447, 448.
  • 6. Sir Richard Grenvile, who fled to Oxford on the 3-13 March.
  • 7. Giles Ball. See the preceding Vol. of this Calendar, page 254.
  • 8. Printed in Journals of the House of Commons, Vol. III., p. 417 ; the date of prohibition should be the 26th August, 1642.
  • 9. Mehemet Pasha of Damascus, appointed on the death of Kara Mustapha, executed 22 March, 1643.
  • 10. The text is printed in Journals of the House of Lords, Vol. VI., pages 455, 456. This "new ordinance" passed the House on the 7th March.