Venice: December 1522

Pages 290-295

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 3, 1520-1526. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1869.

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December 1522

Dec. 1. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. p. 472. 594. Girolamo Adorno, Imperial Ambassador to Venice.
The English ambassador, Dom. Richard Pace, came into the College. He stated that tomorrow Dom. Girolamo Adorno will arrive with an ample mandate from the Emperor and his resolve; and that it would be wise for the State to take heed to her interests, and take part with the Emperor and the King of England against France. The Doge said they would wait to hear what Adorno had to announce.
Dec. 2. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. p. 521. 595. Antonio Surian to the Signory.
Hopes that the galleys will be released in two days. London, 2nd Dec. 1522. Registered by Sanuto, 18th Jan. 1523.
Dec. 4. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. pp. 475–476. 596. Adorno in Venice.
This morning there came into the College the Imperial ambassador, Dom. Hironimo Adorno, accompanied by the other ambassador from the Emperor, by the English and Mantuan ambassadors, and by many Venetian noblemen. He was dressed in black satin and sables, and a servant supported him, as he is lame from gout. He is 40 years of age, has a small face, and a red beard. He had a very handsome retinue of 40 persons. When he entered the College the Doge descended from the platform to meet him. On the ambassador's being seated, the letter of credence from the Emperor was read, dated Valladolid, 4th of October. Adorno then said a few words, and demanded a private audience tomorrow morning, when he will have it in the presence of the Chiefs of the Ten.
Dec. 6. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. p. 478. 597. Adorno in Venice.
In the afternoon the Sages sat in committee to discuss the reply to be given to the Emperor's ambassador, Dom. Hironimo Adorno.
The statement made by him yesterday in the College was to this effect. The Emperor, after his election, was anxious for peace with the King of France and the Signory his ally, and endeavoured to make peace with France through the King of England, who, being unable to effect it, had together with the Emperor declared against France. For the welfare of Italy and Christendom, they wished for friendship with the Signory, and to effect it the Emperor sent his ambassador, Don Alfonso Sanchez, and the King of England accredited Dom. Richard Pace. Adorno exhorted the Signory to abandon France and join the Emperor, which would produce happy results, and all disputes would be adjusted; otherwise war would ensue between the Emperor and the Signory.
The Doge took time to reply.
Dec. 12. Deliberazioni Senato Secreta, v. xlix. p. 140. 598. Reply of the Senate to Hieronimo Adorno.
The articles of agreement were discussed at the conference between the Emperor and the King of England. Cardinal Wolsey said he would undertake their modification, and send Pace here as his ambassador, who, however, brought neither articles nor modification. Powers and instructions were sent to the Venetian ambassadors. In reply, the ambassador in England wrote that Cardinal Wolsey had changed his opinion, and that the matter was to be treated at the Imperial Court, but no news has been received from the ambassador with the Emperor. The coming of Adorno is most agreeable to the Signory.
[Italian, 76 lines,]
Dec. 13. Deliberazioni Senato Secreta, v. xlix. p. 141, tergo. 599. The Doge and Senate to Antonio Surian, Ambassador in England.
By their last, of the 14th ult., acquainted him with the expected arrival of Hieronymo Adorno to negotiate the peace between the Signory and the Emperor. Account of their negotiations with Adorno.
Not to use the power of attorney.
Ayes, 186. Noes, 4. Neutrals, 2.
[Italian, 21 lines.]
Dec. 13. Deliberazioni Senato Secreta, v. xlix. p. 142, tergo. 600. Negotiations with Adorno.
Modification by the College of a paragraph in the Senate's reply to Adorno, that it might be thus communicated to the French ambassador, and sent to the Venetian ambassador in France.
[Italian, 41 lines.]
Dec. 16. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. pp. 485, 486. 601. Reply of the Senate to Adorno.
General account of the negotiations for peace between the Emperor and Venice. As Cardinal Wolsey was desirous of effecting it the Signory sent him an ample power for that purpose on the 1st of September last.
Dec. 23. Deliberazioni Senato Secreta, v. xlix. p. 144. 602. Reply of the Senate to Adorno.
Have listened attentively to all he has caused to be read to them in reply to their proposals. If the Emperor and the King of England desire peace for the tranquillity of Italy, it is necessary the State should have time for consideration, in order that the peace may be effected consistently with the safety and stability of the Republic. The Signory's sole object is to establish a durable arrangement with the Emperor.
Ayes, 107.
[Italian, 58 lines.]
Dec. 24. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. p. 494. 603. Negotiations with Adorno.
This morning the Imperial ambassador, Dom. Hieronimo Adorno, was unable to come into the College with the others [Sanchez and Pace?], having been seized with gout. Two members of the College were sent to his house to inquire whether he had any further commission from Don Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother, who is Duke of Austria, and whose territories join those of the Signory. Adorno said he had no further commission. He is loading his baggage in order to depart shortly.
Today it is reported that 32 silver tankards (taze d'arzento) were stolen out of the house of the English ambassador, who is lodged in the Dole's house at Sta. Maria Formosa; so he did not, as invited, accompany the Signory to mass in St. Mark's Church. It is supposed he absented himself in order to avoid giving precedence to the French ambassador, on account of the enmity between them; yet does France precede the King of England everywhere (ancorachè per tutto Franza precieda il Re d'Ingalterra).
Dec. 26. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. p. 496. 604. Pace in Venice. On Christmas Eve, after the office and mass at St. Mark's, the English ambassador, Richard Pace, sent his secretary to request the Sage of the Council Francesco Bragadin to go as far as his house to speak to him. Bragadin, having consulted with the Sages [his colleagues?], did not go in person, but sent Andrea di Franceschi, the secretary of the Council of Ten, to hear what he had to say. Pace, perceiving that the person he wanted declined to visit him, said he had no further statement to make. Moreover, on Christmas Day and this morning he did not accompany the Signory. Yesterday, after the sermon, the College having assembled and heard this account from Franceschi, sent Pace's great friend, Daniel di Renier, a member of the Junta of the Council of Ten, and late sage of the Council, to speak with Pace at his house, where Renier often visits him, to learn what he had to say, and something about these negotiations with Adorno.
Dec. 27. Deliberazioni Senato Secreta, v. xlix. p. 145, tergo. 605. The Doge and Senate to Giovanni Badoer, Ambassador in France.
In his last, of the 4th, he says nothing about preparations by the King of France for the Milanese expedition; on the contrary, it seems that the French forces will attack England. Wish the Milanese expedition to take place without delay. Desire information respecting any negotiations in France, either touching the affairs of England or those of Italy.
Adorno has been in Venice a month, and as he urges his despatch the Signory has appointed him auditors, in order to procrastinate. To announce this to King Francis.
Ayes, 65.
[Italian, 32 lines.]
Dec. 28. Sanuto Diaries, v. xxxiii. pp. 498, 499. 606. Question of Precedence between England and France. On Sunday the 28th, the day appointed for the Doge's banquet, he went to mass clad in crimson velvet lined with lynx's fur, and a satin cap. He was accompanied by the Imperial ambassadors Hironimo Adorno and Don Alfonso Sanchez, by the French ambassador Dom. Angelo di Fiorenza, and by the ambassadors of Ferrara and Mantua. The English ambassador [Pace] would not come, to avoid being placed below the French ambassador. The King of England bears the title “Rex Franciœ,” and the King of France is called “Rex Francorum.” Other patricians who had been invited were in attendance, including Vetor Morosini, of St. Paul's, the Doge's great friend, who goes into his chamber early every morning and remains in the College until they dismiss him, as he did with Doge Loredan. After mass they assembled in the palace to dine there, and subsequently a comedy was performed.
Dec. 31. Contarini's Original Letter Book, Letter no. 193, St. Mark's Library. 607. Gasparo Contarini to the Council of Ten.
According to your letter, of 27th September, I ascertained that Sebastian Cabot was at the court, and where he dwelt. I sent to say that my secretary had a letter for him from a friend of his, and that if he chose he might come to my residence. He told my servant he would come. He made his appearance on Christmas eve. At dinner time I withdrew with him, and delivered the letter, which he read, his colour changing completely during its perusal. Having finished reading it, he remained a short while without saying anything, as if alarmed and doubtful. I told him that if he chose to answer the letter, or wished me to make any communication in the quarter from whence I had received it, I was ready to execute his commission safely. Upon this he took courage, and said to me, “Out of the love I bear my country, I spoke heretofore to the ambassadors of the most illustrious Signory in England, (fn. 1) concerning these newly discovered countries, through which I have the means of greatly benefiting Venice. The letter in question concerned this matter, as you likewise are aware; but I most earnestly beseech you to keep the thing secret, as it would cost me my life.”
I then told him I was thoroughly acquainted with the whole affair, and mentioned how Hironimo the Ragusan had presented himself before the tribunal of their Excellencies the Chiefs, and that the most secret magistracy had acquainted me with everything and forwarded that letter to me. I added, that as some noblemen were dining with me, it would be inconvenient for us to talk together then, but that should he choose to return late in the evening we might more conveniently discuss the subject together at full length. So he then departed, and returned at about 5 p.m., when, being closeted alone in my chamber, he said to me,—
“My Lord Ambassador, to tell you the whole truth, I was born at Venice, but was brought up in England, (fn. 2) and then entered the service of their Catholic Majesties of Spain, and King Ferdinand made me captain, with a salary of 50,000 maravedis. Subsequently his present Majesty gave me the office of Pilot Major, with an additional salary of 50,000 maravedis, and 25,000 maravedis besides, as a gratuity, forming a total of 125,000 maravedis, equal to about 300 ducats.
“Now it so happened that when in England some three years ago, if I mistake not, Cardinal Wolsey offered me high terms if I would sail with an armada of his on a voyage of discovery. The vessels were almost ready, and they had got together 30,000 ducats for their outfit. I answered him that, being in the service of the King of Spain, I could not go without his leave, but if free permission were granted me from hence, I would serve him.
“At that period, in the course of conversation one day with a certain friar, a Venetian, named Sebastian Collona, with whom I was on a very friendly footing, he said to me, 'Master Sebastian, you take such great pains to benefit foreigners, and forget your native land, would it not be possible for Venice likewise to derive some advantage from you?' At this my heart smote me, and I told him I would think about it. So, on returning to him the next day, I said I had the means of rendering Venice a partner in this navigation, and of showing her a passage whereby she would obtain great profit; which is the truth, for I have discovered it.
“In consequence of this, as by serving the King of England I could no longer benefit our country, I wrote to the Emperor not to give me leave to serve the King of England, as he would injure himself extremely, and thus to recall me forthwith. Being recalled accordingly, and on my return residing at Seville, I contracted a close friendship with this Ragusan, who wrote the letter you delivered to me; and as he told me he was going to Venice, I unbosomed myself to him, charging him to mention this thing to none but the Chiefs of the Ten; and he swore to me a sacred oath to this effect.”
I bestowed great praise on his patriotism, and informed him I was commissioned to confer with him and hear his project, which I was to notify to the Chiefs, to whom he might afterwards resort in person. He replied that he did not intend to manifest his plan to any but the Chiefs of the Ten, and that he would go to Venice after requesting the Emperor's permission, on the plea of recovering his mother's dowry, concerning which he said he would contrive that I should be spoken to by the Bishop of Burgos and the Grand Chancellor, who are to urge me to write in his favour to your Serenity.
I approved of this, but said I felt doubtful as to the possibility of his project, as I had applied myself a little to geography, and bearing in mind the position of Venice, I did not see any way of effecting this navigation, as the voyage must be performed either by ships built in Venice, or else by vessels which it would be requisite to construct elsewhere. Venetian-built craft must necessarily pass the gut of Gibraltar to get into the ocean; and as the King of Portugal and the King of Spain would oppose the project, it never could succeed. The construction of vessels out of Venice could only be effected on the southern shores of the ocean, or in the Red Sea, to which there were endless objections. First of all, it would be requisite to have a good understanding with the Great Turk. Secondly, the scarcity of timber rendered shipbuilding impossible there. Then again, even if vessels were built, the fortresses and fleets of Portugal would prevent the trade from being carried on. I also observed to him that I did not see how vessels could be built on the northern shores of the ocean, that is to say, from Spain to Denmark, or even beyond, especially as the whole of Germany depended on the Emperor; nor could I perceive any way at all for conveying merchandise from Venice to these ships, or for conveying spices and other produce from the ships to Venice. Nevertheless, as he was skilled in this matter, I said I deferred to him.
He answered me: “You have spoken ably, and in truth neither with ships built at Venice, nor yet by the way of the Red Sea, do I perceive any means soever. But there are other means, not merely possible but easy, both for building ships and conveying wares from Venice to the harbour, as also spices, gold, and other produce from the harbour to Venice, as I know; for I have sailed to all those countries, and am well acquainted with the whole. Indeed, I assure you that I refused to accept the offer of the King of England for the sake of benefiting my country, for had I listened to that proposal, there would no longer have been any course for Venice.”
I shrugged my shoulders, and although the thing seems to me impossible, I nevertheless would not dissuade him from coming to the feet of your Highness (without, however, recommending him), because possibility is much more unlimited than man often imagines; added to which, this individual is in great repute here. He then left me.
Subsequently, on the evening of St. John's Day, (fn. 3) he came to me in order that I might modify certain expressions in the Ragusan's letter, which he was apprehensive would make the Spaniards suspicious. It was, therefore, remodelled, and written out again by a Veronese, an intimate of mine.
When discussing a variety of geographical topics with me, he mentioned, among other things, a very clever method observed by him, which had never been previously discovered by any one, for ascertaining by the needle the distance between two places from east to west, as your Serenity will hear from himself if he comes. (fn. 4)
After this, continuing my conversation with him concerning our chief matter, and recapitulating the difficulties, he said to me, “I assure you, the way and the means are easy. I will go to Venice at my own cost. They shall hear me; and if they disapprove of the project devised by me, I will return in like manner at my own cost.”
He then urged me to keep the matter secret.
Valladolid, 31st December 1522.


  • 1. I have been unable to discover any trace of conversations held with Sebastian Cabot, by Trevisan, Capello, Quirini, Badoer, Pasqualigo, Giustinian, or Surian, who were the Venetian ambassadors in England from 1497 to 1522.
  • 2. “Io naqui a Venetia, ma sum nutrito in Engelterra.”
  • 3. Scil., 27th December, the Festival of St. John the Evangelist.
  • 4. Compare this with what is said about Sebastian Cabot's discovery concerning the variation of the needle, at pp. 29 and 30 of “The Memoir of Sebastian Cabot.” I think it may be inferred that in December 1522 Cabot had only recently ascertained the fact here alluded to. Zurla says Tiraboschi is of opinion that Columbus, in his first voyage, performed A. D. 1492, was already aware of the variation of the needle, but in that case Sebastian Cabot would never have ventured to claim the discovery as his own in the year 1522, especially when conversing with so well informed a man as Gaspar Contarini, who, professing a certain knowledge of geography, would probably have been able to expose the imposture. The words in the original are, “Lui ragionando cum me di molte cosse di Geographia, fra le altre me disse uno modo che l'havea observato per la via del bossolo di cognoscer la distantia fra due lochi da Levante al Ponente, molto bello, ne mai piu observato da altri, come da lui, venendo, V. Sta portrà intender.”