Venice: May 1644

Pages 96-104

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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May 1644

May 6.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
105. To the Secretary in England.
Enjoin the need of care and prudence amid the varied and doubtful incidents of the war to penetrate to the very bottom of the proceedings and the intrigues that are taking place, as well about the negotiations of the Dutch as about the moves and apprehensions of the Scots. There is no news from the Italian side since the establishment of peace, (fn. 1) and no preparations for a new campaign are being made by either France or Spain.
Ayes, 110. Noes, 2. Neutral, 0.
May 6.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
106. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
After taking Selby Fairfax advanced victoriously on York, which though not strong is populous and serves as a refuge and magazine for the Marquis of Newcastle, who for this reason wisely decided to forestall Fairfax and withdrew from his position in the dead of the night, without sound of drum or other military instrument and retired thither. Realising only with daybreak that they were delivered from the hostile forces, the Scots began to march and following him at a distance they have effected a junction with Fairfax only ten miles from York, (fn. 2) the Marquis not being strong enough to prevent it. He has sent for help to Prince Rupert, who is marching with 7,000 horse from Lincolnshire to his assistance, but followed by order of parliament by the Earl of Manchester. So at any moment news is expected of some remarkable military action from the North.
The Earl of Arghil, one of the leaders of the Scottish forces, noteworthy alike for his influence and his hostility to the king, has gone to Scotland to appease if possible the internal troubles there, so that they may be able to send the largest possible reinforcements to England and to keep open a retreat for their armies, and to besiege Newcastle, which so far has remained safe.
Owing to these important events in the North the sortie of Essex is delayed, as he will lack the principal assistance of Manchester's army which instead of joining at the rendezvous has had to go on another errand. Accordingly they have sent back Balfur with the cavalry to Waller, who is menaced with an attack by the royal forces under Obton. They do not, however, relax their efforts to collect troops by every means, even the violent one of the press.
The city of London has proposed to the Council of State to maintain for six months 20,000 foot and 6,000 horse, in order to see this business through, but on condition that the money is administered by their own treasurers and that they are relieved of all taxes and other charges except those on food and clothing. The proposal is now under discussion and will certainly be accepted, though with modified conditions, because careful control does not suit many leading men of the government, who make profit out of disorder and who are not at all anxious to see these conditions brought to an abrupt end.
The queen, although unwell, has gone to Bristol on her way to Exeter, for her delivery in about two months' time. She had to pass near Gloucester, whose garrison, casting aside all respect, captured a part of her baggage and would have taken the queen herself if she had not had a good escort. The king remains at Oxford, perfecting the defences, which he has caused the river to enclose. He has issued a proclamation ordering all of the district to go there with food and horses to help it, owing to the fear of a siege.
The Dutch ambassadors have again pressed earnestly for a passport to go to Oxford, but they have been asked to stay and assured that they shall have a reply. This is the very day appointed for the Council of State to lay its peace proposals before parliament. But they have been lukewarm in the matter and have not got them ready, more especially as Essex's sortie is delayed, and they intended that he should present them at the head of his army.
Seeing the people of Zeeland in particular, desirous of their success here, the Council of State has decided to send an agent there to encourage this disposition, and to try to turn it to advantage by asking for a loan of 200,000l. secured only by the public faith. The ambassadors are trying to prevent this mission, assuring them that without good securities they will get no money, since they well know that the object is to introduce dissension into their own government, with whom relations are becoming formal, since the English are demanding the sequestration of the goods of Dutchmen here because of the arrest of a ship which pursued a royal ship into the Texel, with letters of marque of the parliament.
They have decided to send another agent to Sweden, to encourage the designs of that crown against Denmark, as they apprehend that he would assist the king here if an adjustment were made, having shown more inclination to provide it than any other foreign power.
Duke Piccolomini, being better advised with the great outcry over his coming, has abstained from going to the king, but proceeded from Falmouth where he landed, to Weymouth. To mislead the English here and the Dutch who were waiting for him off Dunkirk, he sent two gentlemen to the general here for a passport, while he crossed safely to Nieuport in a small English vessel. (fn. 3) The passport was granted but on condition that he should go straight to Dover to embark for Flanders, because of the suspicion that persists, that no accident brought him here, but that he came on purpose to supply help to the king. And so the ship seized at Portsmouth has been brought into the river here, though to their intense mortification, instead of money they found wine on board. It will probably be released owing to the strong representations of the merchants and of the Spanish ambassador.
London, the 6th May, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 12.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
107. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge the receipt of his letters of the 22nd ult. showing the king's courage and steadfastness. To observe the results and whether the reports about the Scots and Zeelanders have any sound basis in fact. With the departure of the Dutch ambassadors, if it takes place, there might be a good deal of doubt about the issue, and the willingness for peace. Amid all these agitations and doubts he will be well employed in picking out what is most essential. Did well in informing the king by letter of the peace of the allies with Rome. The letter of the Secretary Nicoloni (sic) has been remitted to the Secretary Talbot here. There is no news of importance from these parts.
Ayes, 97. Noes, 0. Neutral, 2.
May 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
108. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
No events of great importance have happened between the armies in the North. Time is on the king's side, as the Scots are dwindling while Prince Rupert is increasing. He has left the Earl of Manchester far behind, who had orders to oppose him, and is advancing to join Newcastle who is at York and its district. In addition to the movement of Ontlet in Scotland, which is going on, six lords of that kingdom loyal to his Majesty, have raised a small army of English in the counties of Cumberland and Northumberland and invading the west of Scotland have sacked Donfris, (fn. 4) preventing the entry of fresh Scottish forces into England.
In this state of affairs many soldiers, both volunteers and pressed men, have been sent from the city this week towards the rendezvous, to which Essex himself has orders to proceed today. Although he is loitering, amid the murmurs of many, under the pretext of some deficiencies, they have given him a sop by sending to prison three of the militia of London, (fn. 5) who when the question of sending out the trained bands was discussed, opposed saying it was not becoming to put their own arms into the hands of enemies, alluding to the earl. Meanwhile there is a dangerous dispute between the two Houses, the Lower wishing Manchester to go on paying his army with the contributions of the country, while the other objects, owing to the respect due to the general, when he is in the field and the other joined with him.
Having completed the fortification of Oxford and fearing a siege more than ever, the king has adjourned the meeting of parliament there, thanking them courteously for the devotion shown to his interests, assuring them of his most just intentions, and asking them to leave a certain number of commissioners behind to assist with their advice, as they have done. This prince suffers more and more from the misfortune of being betrayed by those in whom he most confides. He discussed with only six persons going personally to Wallingford with only a few guards to inspect the place. The enemy was informed of this and sent cavalry from Elsberi to surprise him on the way, which is quite short, and they only missed him by a few minutes. It is stated that his Majesty has gone out to the army in Buckinghamshire, intending to advance in this direction, to prevent an attack with which he is menaced from so near.
The queen is still at Bristol where her gentleman Craft has arrived from France sent by the queen regent to invite her Majesty to France if she thinks the air will do her good. (fn. 6) But at present owing to her approaching delivery and her ill health she is in no condition to stand the journey, although she is most anxious to go to implore help.
The Council of State having at last drawn up the articles for peace, presented them to the Upper House, but they were so far from reasonable as your Serenity will see from the enclosed copy, that the Lords did not consider them worth discussing.
The Dutch ambassadors talk every day of going to his Majesty, but they first await an answer to a request made in writing to parliament for the exportation of 2,000 tons of lead, under the pretext of using it for the roofing of two churches.
Piccolomini crossed to Flanders at the moment when he was asking for a passport here, at which the parliamentarians here are annoyed. They are wrongly suspicious about his coming, and are the less willing to believe it accidental because letters passed between him and the king, although only complimentary. Some doubt has indeed been cast on his departure, and it is thought he is lying hidden in London ; so the ship which brought him is still sequestrated, and although it is in the river here and has been searched, they maintain that he brought money in it.
As instructed, I wrote to ask the secretary of state Nicolas to inform his Majesty of the peace concluded, between the princes of the league and the ecclesiastical princes. I enclose a copy of his courteous reply.
London, the 13th May, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosure. 109. Proposals for peace presented by the Council of State to Parliament. Seven Articles. (fn. 7)
[Italian, from the English, 4 pages.]
110. The Secretary Nicolas to Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary.
The king appreciates the regard shown him by the republic and rejoices at the peace. He is doing his utmost to obtain peace in his own realms. He accepts your excuses on the ground of the difficulties and dangers of the way, which he would wish you to avoid.
Oxford, the 2nd May, 1644.
[Italian, from the English.]
May 20.
Senato. Secreta, Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian. Archives.
111. To the Resident in England.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters of the 29th ult. They will be glad to learn what Piccolomini will do, having landed in that kingdom, and what will be done with the ship that brought him and with the capital therein. Enclose advices of Italy.
Ayes, 128. Noes, 0. Neutral, 6.
May 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
112. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Not only is Essex still here, immoveable under constant pressure, but Waller also has returned to assist and concert, as some companies of his cavalry have had an unfortunate encounter with the royalists, and it is getting no good from idleness. The lack of confidence felt by the most influential members of the party in the general, encourages Manchester and Waller in their claims to independence, and these supported by their partisans in the Lower House, intensify the disputes and acrimony with the Upper, which would see in the removal of the general the disappearance of the last shadow that it possesses. There is another serious difference between the Houses about the confirmation of the Council of State for another three months, as the first three are about to expire. The Upper House wishes to increase the number, but the Lower strongly objects and would rather reduce them. Various conferences have been held, the Lords persisting in their negative, but they will have to give way in the end, as they always have done, through fear.
As York did not contain enough forage for all the cavalry, the Marquis has sent out a part of it, which has retired to near Niuvarch. He keeps as many as he considers necessary and with a strong nucleus of infantry holds out there, the city being invested, although at a distance, by the Scottish forces united with Fairfax.
Prince Rupert who stayed a long while at Shrewsbury, with orders to advance in that direction, seems to have refrained from doing so owing to the weakness of his force, as he has made a circuit with a few followers towards Oxford, to raise troops, with which he has proceeded to Niuvarch to pick up Newcastle's cavalry, to move then to the relief of York. For this reason the royalists gave up the idea of fortifying Lincoln, and the Earl of Manchester, who was following the Prince, seized the opportunity to capture it. It has passed frequently from side to side, to the destruction of the inhabitants of both parties, who are exposed to the raids of the stronger party. This move of the prince toward the North will divert Manchester's army from the forces here, as they will go to the help of the Scots and Fairfax, since it is useless to look for reinforcements from Scotland which is involved in internal disturbances, so the king will have this burden the less. His Majesty also profits by the present disagreements and delays, since they give him time to prepare a solid defence and also to gird himself for the offensive. He has gone in person towards Malsbero.
The Commissioners from Ireland have left Oxford with all the satisfaction that his Majesty could give them, saving the prejudice to his own conscience and reputation. Accordingly he expects great succours from that kingdom. Some ships bringing soldiers from there have been captured by the parliamentary ships, when all the Irish were thrown barbarously into the sea, without quarter, only the English being spared.
The queen, although in very bad health, has gone to Exeter, which is more convenient for crossing to France, being gratified by the invitation brought by Craft, although it is believed that Cardinal Mazarini contrived to hinder the queen mother taking this step until he knew that the queen was unfit to travel, as he is afraid that affection between the sisters in law might involve the treasury in some assistance and upset his plans for the present campaign.
The Dutch ambassadors have left for Oxford, not entirely satisfied with the treatment received here from the parliamentarians. But before they left the two presidents called upon them and thanked them for the respect shown to parliament, assuring them, though it was only words, that it desired peace and would work for it. They also told them that although most of the lead came from parts subject to the king, yet to prove the desire of parliament for the most friendly relations with the States, they granted the exportation desired. They are now voting on the articles of peace, one by one, but with little or no alteration, and even if they are sent to the king they will serve rather to prevent peace than to persuade it. This much is certain that under pressure from the commissioners in the Common Council of this city, further demands in addition to those already set forth were constantly being put forward and many voices were heard, insensible of the ruin and constant in their obstinacy, disapproving of any treaty.
London, the 20th May, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 27.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
113. To the Secretary in England.
Acknowledge receipt of his letters. His Majesty's ambassador has been in the Collegio this morning, saying that he had permission to return to England for two months to attend to his private affairs. He left a memorial in recommendation and for the relief of those interested in the ship Golden Falcon, in respect of claims made by the customs officers for a cargo of currants which she had taken on board at Zante these last months. The Signory will not fail to renew the orders for securing that English subjects who trade in those islands are well treated, for the sake of increasing the traffic and the duties, so that if the secretary happens to hear complaints he is to give lavish assurances that every possible facility and the very best of treatment will be accorded to those who go to trade in those parts. He will also try to make sure that the sending of ships for this purpose, recently referred to, actually takes place.
Ayes, 110. Noes, 1. Neutral, 4.
May 27.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
114. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Amid the ever growing and dangerous dissensions between the two Houses, General Essex appears as a fomenter of the differences and also shows his reluctance to obey the command to take the field, in order not to allow his partisans to relax in his interests, or give his opponents or rivals a chance of winning their independence at the expense of his authority, as they pretend. However, a demand having been put forward at their instance by the Independents, with threats and protests to the Upper House not to obstruct the Lower, he has had to yield to the declaration of independence for Manchester. The demand was made plausible by the obligation of remaining subject to the Associated Counties, who got the force together and who maintain it. But the Lords oppose giving the same privilege to Waller or confirming the Council of State, for this reason chiefly, that the three months have not yet expired. But when the time is up as it will be in a few days, no one will venture to oppose the will of the Commons, unless the uncertain events of war give the king some considerable advantage ; but Essex has had to go, as your Serenity shall hear.
Four days ago his Majesty held a review of his army at Reading, which is stated to number 15,000 combatants. He is demolishing the outer fortifications of that place with the intention of advancing towards the quarters of Essex's army, and with the hope of not needing a retreat, because that force, although gathered after a long time and with much effort, is not remarkably strong, many of the pressed men having deserted and many requisites being missing owing to the present confusions. This news has so stirred them that they have obliged Essex to go without delay as he did on Tuesday night, though full of rancour and bitterness. He left the parliamentarians here so mistrustful that no sooner had he reached the rendezvous, which is on the road to Oxford, than on the circulation of a report, whether true or invented, that the king, since parliament has never chosen to submit to him proposals of peace, intends to issue some from his side, which will undeceive the army and the people about the false aspersions upon his Majesty's upright intentions, the Council of State wrote him a letter that if this happened he must immediately transmit the proposals, without detaining them or making any reply, so as to wait the intent of the state, as in this affair they do not wish to leave it to his inclinations, which are greatly mistrusted.
Waller who was here has also been sent off without delay to Farnham where he has his forces, which are larger than the other army, but they cannot be united owing to the danger of some incident because of the ill will between the commanders and chief officers. So he has been ordered not to move or do anything, to reserve himself for greater urgency, which is feared. For the same purpose of security the Common Council has met and decided to confine suspects and partisans of the king. They have also ordered all the militia to be in readiness to meet in an hour, causing double guards to be set. All this shows no little apprehension of his Majesty advancing (and the king is present with his army not more than five miles from the other) as well as of the proceedings of their own general.
There is no news yet of Prince Rupert having joined the forces which were expecting him at Niuvarch. These being very numerous in Leicestershire, have extended their quarters. There is a report, though unconfirmed, that Manchester has suffered a check in attempting to prevent the junction. Meanwhile the delay is harmful, as the Scots and Fairfax are closing round York.
Since the Dutch ambassadors left for the king nothing has been heard of their negotiations. It appears that they aim at exciting jealousy here, and that they will look for some opening to enter upon the matter again.
The queen is still at Exeter in poor health, and so she has written to Doctor Mayerne to go there. But he, having disobliged her over this business, is afraid of her indignation, and is looking for subterfuges.
London, the 27th May, 1644.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 27.
Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni Principi. Venetian Archives.
115. The Secretary of England came into the Collegio and said :
I have to go to England on my affairs and may stay there two months. I have come to take leave of your Serenity and to assure you that wherever I go I carry the desire to be your faithful servant. I ask you to have this memorial read and to give orders for the provision.
In the absence of the Doge the senior councillor Priuli replied, In this matter the Signory will decide as they think proper. We wish you a pleasant stay and ask you to express our devoted regard to his Majesty and our desire for his utmost prosperity. With this the secretary made his bow and went out.
The Memorial.
When the English ship Golden Falcon, Captain Thomas Harman, arrived at Zante last September, to complete its cargo of currants, and was despatched of everything, the customers there had it arrested on the false pretext that it had 150 thousand of contraband currants on board. (fn. 8) Upon due enquiry this was found to be quite groundless and the customers were reprimanded. In order to injure the ship they tried to prevent its sailing, but without success, though it left two passengers on shore. These, with Don Laurenzo, an English merchant, have been compelled to give pledges at Zante and are harassed without cause upon these unfounded pretensions. As these customers are still persecuting this Isaac Laurenzo and the passengers I ask your Serenity to write to the Proveditore of Zante not to permit these merchants to be harassed unjustly, especially as it is true that the ship was searched by order of the Courts and nothing wrong was found, since it is not right that English ships and men should suffer from the unjust claims of the customers, or their business be injured, when your Serenity directs the good and just treatment of all and especially of the foreign merchants and ships which come to this state.


  • 1. The peace signed at Venice on the 31st March which concluded the war of Castro, waged by the republic with Parma, Tuscany and Modena against the Barberini.
  • 2. At Tadcaster on the 20-30 April.
  • 3. On Sunday the 1st May, escorted by Dunkirkers from Weymouth. Salvetti on the 6th May. Brit, Mus. Add. MSS. 27962K.
  • 4. Montrose was the leader. He occupied Dumfries on the 14th April, O.S.
  • 5. In the Journals of the House of Lords (Vol. VI., page 531), Mr. Baul and Sgt. Major Taylor are recorded as being committed to custody for words against Essex.
  • 6. William Crofts. See Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644, page 133.
  • 7. Dated 21 April, O.S. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1644, page 130. Printed in Journals of the House of Lords. Vol. VI., pages 531-2.
  • 8. She was chartered by the Levant Co. to bring currants from the Morea. Not having a full cargo she took on about 60 tons at Zante. Court Book, 7 Jan., 1643-4. S.P. For. Archives, Vol. 150.