Venice: Miscellaneous 1656

Pages 299-313

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 30, 1655-1656. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1930.

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Miscellaneous 1656

Cod. 534.
403. Relation of England of Giovanni Sagredo. (fn. 1)
The situation, size, population etc. of England, Scotland and Ireland have been so fully described that it is superfluous to repeat them. I consider it rather my duty, as the first ambassador of your Serenity who has been to London since the abolition of the royal authority, to give a brief account of the origin of the civil disturbances, the causes of the change of government, the skill (abilta) of the present ruler, and forces, the alliances and designs which England now cherishes.
The kingdom was tossed for 15 years without ceasing in the agitation of a most tempestuous civil war, in which the royal authority ultimately suffered dire shipwreck. The causes are divers and possibly the real ones are not such as are commonly discussed or reported. Certain changes in religion increased the unpopularity of Charles I, king of England, which he openly approved, announcing himself first as a Calvinist, then a Lutheran, and finally by a most determined attempt to bring the Protestant ceremonies into conformity with the Catholic as much as possible. This action showed him to be a Catholic at heart and increased the resentment of the people against him, as owing to the persuasion of their preachers they are steeped in an implacable aversion for Catholicism. It is true that on the scaffold, led by devilish policy to cast doubts on the injustice of his condemnation, he made public profession of the Protestant dogmas, and at the price of his eternal welfare chose to give the lie to his reputed leaning to the Catholic faith. Further active causes of his fall were his lack of sufficient spirit to undertake the government himself and the employment of ministers of slow and heavy wit, like the earl of Holland, or austere prelates, like the bishop of Canterbury, who wanted to govern London as if it were a college or a religious house.
His Majesty was endowed with a placid temperament, infinite goodness and unmatched sincerity. His mind was crystal and the deepest secrets of his heart were transparent to the Scottish attendants who surrounded him. These being bought and bribed made public his Majesty's most secret deliberations and ruined his service by enabling his enemies in this way to forestall his designs and to thwart the best plans of his council while they were maturing. The failure to stand up against parliament at the outset contributed much to his misfortunes, indeed he allowed the meetings and assemblies at which, under pretence of attending to the requirements of the state they began to raise claims to the king's property and to lay the first foundations of the rebellion, imitating those rivers, when the first flush is neglected, that end by suddenly breaking their banks, carrying away the tardy repairs which were undertaken too late.
Finding the circumstances favourable the courage and audacity of parliament increased in proportion as the royal counsel lacked credit and prestige. As is usual in civil disturbances, the first moves of the parliament met with the approbation of those who like to fish in troubled waters, and of those who hoped to improve their own fortunes amid the ruin of their country's. Thus numerous forces went out from London against the king, the people boldly supplying the taxes to support them. In short these efforts were encouraged and assisted by the approval of the multitude, as is the way with audacious enterprises.
The appeal to arms being thus made, the earl of Essex was the first to command armies against the king, in favour of the popular aspirations. In the first encounter he was defeated and so severely that 8,000 parliamentarians surrendered to the royal forces, among them the sternest enemies of the royal authority, and precisely those who had persuaded parliament to the extremity of force. His Majesty, inclining to clemency and neglecting the good advice to enforce obedience on the rebels by exemplary punishment, released all the prisoners on their taking oath not to bear arms against him again. But scarcely had they regained their liberty than they returned to the attack. The fortune of war changed and the royal armies were twice beaten by the troops of General Fairfax, the successor of Essex, who was poisoned by the parliamentarians themselves from the suspicion that he was more anxious to exalt his private fortunes than to depress those of the king. After various happenings which always turned out unhappily for the royal side, his Majesty decided to put himself into the hands of the Scots, in the hope that as he was born among them, they would be likely to take an active part in support of his just cause. But these very Scots, after ruining his interests by publishing his secrets, at a price, carried away by detestable avarice, actually brought themselves to sell the king to the parliament of London, handing him over to them for 200,000l. sterling. His Majesty was imprisoned in a castle, closely guarded by his Scottish subjects. When they asked him if he would prefer to remain there or be handed to the English, he replied that he would rather be in the hands of those who had bought him than of those who sold.
The king being thus delivered as a prisoner to the English parliament, several nights were spent and various projects discussed as to what they should do in a matter of such consequence. Some of the more moderate thought that with the disorders of the government corrected and with reasonable satisfaction obtained from the king, they should set him at liberty and restore him to his former authority. They enlarged upon the reprobation that would attend any severity shown to innocent royal blood, not to speak of the horror that any such act would inspire. The others, including Cromwell, at that time the second in the army and possessing the most influence and reputation, represented that things had already gone as far as they could and there was no longer any room for compromise or adjustment. Hostility between the king and parliament was too deeply rooted, the injuries were too serious and there was no retreat. If he was restored to his dignity he would pursue his revenge. If they did not lop off a crowned head that head would lop off a thousand of theirs. (fn. 2) They must decide whether parliament should think more of the safety of the king or of its own. In short, now they held the king a prisoner the time had come to condemn him for his crime. This opinion which satisfied their tainted consciences, won approval, and Charles I of England was condemned to be beheaded publicly by 108 votes, a few dissenting. The charges against him were that he had contributed to the past disturbances; that he had let himself be ruled by hotheaded and greedy favourites and subjected the people to the licence of the troops during the long period of the civil disturbances.
Thus his death was definitely resolved. Observing that when brought before parliament he neither removed his hat nor responded, declaring that God and not the people was the proper judge of kings, they directed that a great scaffold should be erected on a level with a window of the royal palace, covered with black velvet, and the king taken to it. Fearing that his Majesty might resist the execution of the sentence and refuse to put his neck on the block, they fixed two iron rings in the scaffold, at his feet, through which a cord might be passed and fastened to his Majesty's neck to compel him by main force to bow to the axe if he refused to humiliate himself voluntarily to the fatal blow. But it was not necessary to go to this extreme. The king heard of it and said they need not use force since he would submit to necessity. He then turned to the people and said that he died for the faults of others rather than his own. His death was only the beginning of misfortunes in store for England, which would one day have to render account to God for shedding the innocent blood of its king. Commending his innocent children he bowed to the axe and died with courage the 30th January, 1648, amid general silence and wonder, as the troops were so distributed at their posts that no one ventured to show pity, except at heart.
Thus after various changes of scene the death of Charles I ended a good part of the tragedy which had England as its theatre. This unexampled act stirred not only men but the very beasts to compassion. An old lion, still alive in a cage at the Tower of London, expressed its feelings by loud roaring, not only on the day of the execution, but every year on the anniversary, exciting the attention and wonder of the people.
London was the chief and most determined hot bed of the war against the king. Countless treasure was poured out of the purses of private individuals for the support of their armies. The goldsmiths alone are creditors for a loan of 800,000 crowns made to parliament in aid of the late disturbances, to which the people were committed by the persuasion of others and continued through their own fatal tenacity, to the final successes reported.
Fairfax who was at the time commander in chief of the army, and who is still living on his private fortune in a charming country village, (fn. 3) refused to sign the death warrant, but urged by Cromwell, who brought him the written order of parliament, he agreed of necessity. Since at the same time he declined to advance with the army into Scotland, because it was an infringement of the engagement he had previously entered into with the Scots, he was obliged by parliament to hand over his general's baton to Cromwell, who acted as his lieutenant. Although at that time he was the second person in the army as regards title, he was first in influence since Fairfax was a man of action whose sword was his only effective weapon. But Cromwell was equally skilful with both tongue and sword, so much so that after having unhorsed his own general he ultimately overthrew the parliament also, although it had been the principal author of his greatness.
They say that Cromwell, foreseeing that all power in England would ultimately fall to him, owing to his predominance, the imbecility of the others and his own capability, contributed secretly to the king's death and insisted that this should be done by sentence of the parliament, i.e. by decree of the people, as the members represent the counties and towns of the kingdom. This was in order to secure his future as well as his immediate greatness, by creating hostility between the people and the king's posterity, imagining, not without reason, that those who had a share in the death of the father would be unlikely to consent to the return of the children, from fear that they might contrive vengeance against those who dishonoured the king. To throw yet more formidable obstacles in the way of any future return of the royal house it was decreed that the property of the crown, amounting to 800,000 crowns a year and the sumptuous furnishings of the royal wardrobe, should be put up to auction at a low price, to enable numerous families to divide the royal revenues among themselves, as they did, so that the fear of being obliged to restore them would make them perpetually opposed to the king's rule and to desire the continuation of the present government, out of self interest. As after the destruction of a building we sometimes see another even more notable and magnificent than the first rise on the ruins, so after the destruction of the royal house Cromwell raised his portentous greatness to the lofty eminence that he now occupies. Since all the most important things that happen either originate with him or are carried out under his control, my present account will be confined to the actions of a man whom fortune and industry have rendered the most famous of the present age.
The king's rule being ended with the fall of Charles I the government and entire disposition of political affairs rested with the parliament. Although Cromwell had only one vote in it, yet as general and representing the army his opinions were respected and supported by the majority. Moreover while parliament decided the army executed, the first supplied counsel, the second force, so if these two chief members had not been in harmony the whole body politic would have languished in inertia. Cromwell raised his reputation among the populace, after the army came under his direction, by storming the fortresses in Ireland which the parliament's arms had not previously been able to take. In all this he showed his personal courage, always exposing himself the first in all difficult and hazardous enterprises. The climax of his renown was a complete victory won in Scotland when at the head of only 9,000 men and practically besieged in a valley, the surrounding hills being occupied by 20,000 Scots. Before entering upon the battle he enheartened his soldiers by assuring them of victory foretold him by God in a voice which had roused him from sleep in the middle of the night. Such was the confidence his troops had in him that the Scots gave way before their desperate attack and broke into disorderly flight, to such an extent that there was not a soldier in the English army who could not show more than one prisoner.
With such success favouring the enterprises of the parliament, the residue of the royal party which was still holding out in some parts of the kingdom, was ultimately obliged to yield to fortune and force. Thus in a short time all the strong places were reduced, Ireland conquered, Scotland subdued except the most inaccessible parts of the Highlands where the defeated remnants took refuge and kept up uneasiness rather than war, in favour of the king.
Civil war being thus stamped out by the victorious arms of the parliament, a foreign one broke out with the Dutch over the herring fisheries. I remember reporting to your Serenity the extremely curious and notable events of that time. In ancient times ships were not nearly of such huge bulk and power as they are now, so one may assert without exaggeration that the sea never before witnessed more formidable fleets nor more sanguinary battles, contested with so much courage and ferocity. As many as 300 ships, English and Dutch clashed with each other, full of soldiers and sailors, with so much bloodshed that the sea, more than once, reddened with shame at such slaughter.
The Dutch suffered severely in this affair, spending more in two years of war with the English than in a hundred with the Spaniards. They suffered from three main disadvantages. First, being taken unawares, while they had an abundance of merchantmen they lacked ships of war of the strength and tonnage of the English. Second, the Dutch ships lacked bronze guns, of which the English had a superabundance, of extraordinary size. At the first encounter of the fleets, before the shock, the English guns, being of longer range and power injured the Dutch fleet before they could make an equal impression on the enemy. Third, and the most essential, at the very beginning of the war the English, aware that over 3,000 Dutch merchantmen were ploughing the sea on various voyages, sent armed fleets to the different passages to capture as many merchant ships as they encountered. In this way they captured so many enemy ships in the Sound, the Baltic, the seas of Portugal, for the navigation of the East Indies, in the Ocean and in the Mediterranean, that it may be stated without exaggeration that in this way the Dutch paid the English the cost of the war. In Amsterdam the Dutch admitted to me that in this war they had lost 1,200 ships, including merchantmen and war ships, a circumstance which compelled that hitherto powerful nation to obtain peace on disadvantageous terms.
Mean time the English parliamentarians, puffed up by the success of the war, divided the spoils of the Dutch among themselves, while they imposed heavy taxes on the people for the maintenance of their fleet. This selfish behaviour rendered them generally unpopular and Cromwell did not forget to encourage their avarice, to increase their unpopularity and profit by the alienation of the people when it suited his purpose. Finally various quarrels sprang up between the army and the parliament. The latter claimed superiority as representing all the people of England. The army, on its side, with the protection of its general, made the most of its services to the state, it had shed its blood in numerous actions and would not suffer the reform desired by parliament to weaken the forces. While parliament made its decisions rapidly Cromwell carried them out slowly, sometimes interpreting and sometimes protracting and suspending the execution of its decrees. Such strained relations degenerated into jealousy and open suspicion. Parliament held several discussions to discover some way to moderate the ascendency of Cromwell. Forestalling the blow, with virile determination, he posted troops at the main positions in London and suddenly entered parliament accompanied by divers officers. He said that they had sucked the purest blood from English veins for the benefit of their private purses long enough. Everyone was tired of suffering from the miseries of their imprudent conduct. They had played the prince too long, which was not their office, and therefore they must depart to their houses stripped of the royal mantle and authority, as the play was ended. Stunned and humbled by the audacity of the act the members looked at one another, waiting for the Speaker to answer. He, putting his hand on the mace, the symbol of authority, asked Cromwell by what authority he claimed to expel a parliament composed of the representatives of England, Scotland and Ireland, which had the right of jurisdiction over the king himself, and which had conferred on Cromwell the office of general which he held. Pointing to his sword, Cromwell said that it was his authority. Snatching the mace from his hand he flung the president from his seat, while his followers did the same to the other members. Amazed and cowed they went their way without finding any remedy or revival of their dissipated hopes. This change took place without any disturbance either at home or abroad. Those who pitied the king's fall rejoiced at seeing the authors of it mortified, and that those who contributed to the ruin of the royal house should themselves suffer a fall. The people which in a sense was bound to share in the misfortunes of the parliament which represented it, applauded Cromwell's resolution, and his power and prestige served to justify and sanction his action.
Nevertheless the war with the Dutch continued murderously, although advantageously to England. The preachers of both nations proclaimed from their pulpits that if England and Holland, the two pillars of the Protestant faith should destroy each other in the conflict Catholicism would triumph and bonfires would be lighted at Rome. Thereafter a leading Dutch minister came to London to initiate negotiations. Cromwell began to listen to talk of peace, to win general popularity and to further discredit the late government by making himself the author of the peace and quiet of the present. He made it clear that to bring the Dutch to terms it was necessary to attack them at sea, since as their wealth consists entirely in trade they could not protect it all, because it is so manifold, nor abandon it, because it constitutes the revenue and opulence of the country. Subsequently in a fierce combat there perished the Dutch general Tromp, the most experienced and valiant naval commander that ever sailed the sea. With the direction of their forces weakened by this accident they sent from Amsterdam a stately embassy to forward and arrange the treaty with some secret articles, not communicated to the other Provinces, most disadvantageous for Holland but highly honourable to England, which I have already reported and will not repeat. It is a remarkable thing that by this war Cromwell not only reduced the United Provinces to great straits but also introduced disorder and dissension among them, so that they were on the point of separating and open conflict, which would mean ruin.
Having made himself yet more esteemed and feared by the conclusion of so advantageous a peace, he set up two other parliaments; but as they would not confine themselves within the limits he assigned them, they also were speedily dissolved and suppressed. Unwilling to subject his all powerful fortune any longer to the censure of the people, he decided to found the military rule that now exists, causing himself to be declared protector of the three kingdoms, together with the Council. This was left merely to keep up the appearance of a republic and to diminish the unpopularity which despotic power involves, after he had discredited and destroyed it in the past kings. This is the sole reason why he has not so far consented to the suggestions to make himself king. If after doing his part to overthrow the royal dignity under the cloak of public zeal he should enter upon a position already condemned and proscribed he would throw off the mask and lay bare the hypocrisy, making it quite clear that the sole object of the late revolution was to get the crown for his own head after taking it from its legitimate possessors. Moreover several of the army leaders, if it is a question of choosing a protector from the council, may aspire to obtain this high honour, whereas if it became hereditary the hopes of claimants would be destroyed for ever. Cromwell thinks nothing of the name. Enough for him to possess the authority and power, which are beyond comparison greater not only than any kings have ever exercised in England but than those of any monarch now ruling. Having overthrown the fundamental laws of the realm, he is the sole legislator. His decisions and wishes constitute the laws. Everything in the government issues from his hands, the members of the Council must be nominated by his Highness and they cannot become great unless they are exalted by him. In order that no one shall obtain influence over the army he has left vacant the post of lieutenant general, which he used to hold, so that all promotions shall come from him direct, without passing through other hands.
As regards wealth, no king in the past ever squeezed so much money out of the people as he now gathers in. England now pays 120,000l. sterling a month in taxes, corresponding to the subsidy, divided proportionately among the towns and districts and equivalent to about 5,760,000 crowns a year. There is also the duty of 5 per cent. on all goods bought and sold in a city of such flourishing trade, amounting to 3,200,000 crowns a year. Further there are the import and export duties of the whole kingdom in addition to the confiscations, which come to immense sums, since they have confiscated the huge revenues of Buckingham and many other wealthy cavaliers, most deeply concerned in the royal cause, who have voluntarily exiled themselves from England, and the revenues of the nobility in England exceed those of the most flourishing countries no matter where. The Catholics also, who are among the richest families, find it convenient by paying two thirds of their property, to purchase liberty to worship in their own fashion.
In spite of all these amounts the Protector does not overflow with money because the expenditure is excessive. The naval and military forces cost 12 millions a year, and Cromwell is obliged to support those who have backed him and raised him to his present elevation. At the beginning of the troubles, to break up the royal armies and attract the troops to the parliament side, they increased their pay. The same was done with the sailors to draw them away from the royal service by the inducement of gain. They gained their object; but as the permanence of a government whose foundations rest upon force depends on the troops, they are compelled to keep the soldiers punctually paid to escape divisions and mutinies, preserving their rule by the very means with which they acquired it. The troops then are well and punctually paid, well equipped and better housed, and, what matters more, subject to a most strict and severe discipline. The faults of the soldier are corrected by the officer's stick. For an ordinary oath he is forthwith cashiered; for any excess he is sometimes imprisoned or occasionally even hanged. As the promotion of the most deserving colonels in the army led to dissatisfaction among those left out, sometimes with grumbling and criticism of the government, this was brought to the protector's ears by the numerous spies he keeps, and enabled him to purge the force, sending the most mutinous to the Indies or quartering them in the most remote parts of the kingdom, at once curing the infection and providing that it does not spread or infect the chief members.
One remarkable characteristic of his cunning policy is that seeing that he could not trust the nobility, not only from their connection with the royal party but because they would resent the rule of a man of private condition he began to raise to the highest posts in the army men from the lower orders of the people, solely in order that they might be interested in his preservation, knowing that their entire fortune was derived from him. When the present king of Scotland left Holland to cross to England, summoned by the remains of his party, Cromwell announced to the army that if he should fall England would witness a universal crisis and change as the numerous colonels, in all their splendour, who once were tailors, goldsmiths and carpenters would have to return to their manual labour again to make way for the nobility and courtiers. This interest is so strong and binds the army and the Protector so tightly together for mutual support that it leaves scant hope to the king of Scotland to untie so interested a union. This much is certain that the troops live as precisely as if they were a brotherhood of monks. He wishes in this way to make his piety and temperance shine forth. It was observed in the late wars that when the royal forces gained a victory they abandoned themselves to wine and debauchery, while those commanded by Cromwell, after their greatest successes were obliged to pray and fast.
At this point I must speak of his religion. While in general he displays a most exemplary exterior, yet it cannot be known what rite he follows. In the late troubles he professed himself an Anabaptist. This cult denies sovereignty and claims obedience to God alone, and to these Independents belonged the majority of the parliament which passed sentence on the king. The moment Cromwell was elevated to power he not only broke off from the Independents, but condemned and persecuted them. Thus he has changed his creed in accordance with interests of state, and he thinks it suits his policy that 246 religions should be professed in London, all alike in hostility to the pope, but differing greatly from each other and incompatible. This division into so many sects makes them all weak, so that no one is strong enough to cause him apprehension.
If I cared to write about the differences and varieties of creeds I should waste time and move your Excellencies to pity and mirth. As those who have lost their way wander blindly and aimlessly about so these, after abandoning the Catholic faith have fallen into countless superstitions and rites, more like a fable than reality. There is a sect called the Quakers. They meet in a great hall and begin to shake and tremble until they fall down. After they have lain a while as it were asleep, which they call ecstasy, they get up and utter extravagant and ridiculous things. There are Adamists, Anabaptists, Lutherans, Calvinists and other sects, 246 in all. Next to my house there dwelt a leading lord (barone) with six grown up sons, all of different sects. They were constantly disputing and lived in perpetual brawls, sometimes even coming to blows so that their father spent all his time in separating them and restoring peace. In the public churches, after the psalms have been sung and the minister's sermon ended any one may mount the pulpit and deliver a sermon. This usually ends with a condemnation of the violence and force of the present government. If the person is of no consequence the protector feigns to despise this, but if, as rarely happens, it is a person of standing he is obliged to punish severely. Not only are men allowed to preach, but sometimes a woman is seen to mount the pulpit when by interpreting the scriptures in an illogical way (in non aggiustato senso) she gives rise to mirth rather than to devotion.
For the rest Cromwell is master of the finest island in the world, of vast extent, abounding in men, and so fertile that in the severest winter the cattle always find green pasture; though the land does not produce wine yet they drink better than in the country of its origin, as it acquires strength and flavour in the sea passage. There is no less abundance of the things they do not produce, which reach them through the copious and flourishing trade of London, a city not inferior to Paris in population, the wealth of its merchants, in extent and what is more important access to the sea. Ships frequent it in such numbers that on my arrival more than 2,000 were counted up and down the famous River Thames.
It is true that since the change of government the splendour and greatness of London have suffered a considerable change. The throng of the most illustrious nobility which made it brilliant being now persecuted and depressed, is scattered about the country. The exquisite Court, once the most sumptuous and joyous in the world, frequented by noble ladies and abounding in the most refined entertainment, is now changed for the perpetual marching and countermarching of troops, the ceaseless noise of drums and trumpets, and numerous companies of officers and soldiers at their various posts.
The government is aware that it possesses a kingdom separated from the world, that it need not fear attack from without, and has no need of foreign assistance, as it has more than enough strength to stand by itself and to excite apprehension in others with a picked number of most powerful ships which rule the sea and lay down the law wherever they go. They think the less of foreign powers since these have competed with each other in the most open way to show their esteem for the present ruler. Before the rupture with Spain the crowns were bidding against each other in flattering the growing power of this man, with embassies extraordinary which he did not return. Putting aside all decorum they left no means untried to flatter and to win him. The Grand Duke, because he showed partiality to the Dutch in a fight between the two nations outside the port of Leghorn, was obliged to placate Cromwell's wrath with 100,000 doubles. In short I can assure your Serenity that in England they are not afraid of any prince, but they believe that they excite the apprehension of others. This is why they receive embassies without responding, Turkish fashion, and do not seek friendships but expect to be courted.
With regard to foreign relations, a few days after my arrival in England the Spanish ambassador left the Court with a declaration of open war because of the English attack on the Indies. Cromwell began that war to keep his troops employed, his enemies in alarm and the people in expectation. He was defeated in the landing at Hispaniola although he afterwards captured a position in Jamaica. These last months after lying in wait several months for the Spanish fleet from the Indies, they were fortunate enough to capture some ships, as your Serenity knows. This success will augment his hopes greatly, so he will multiply his efforts and spread his snares with more care in order to take the fleet on the wing before it reaches the ports of Spain. If this should happen the Spaniards would own the capital but Cromwell would draw the revenue and interest. It is true that as the permanence and the very life of the whole Spanish body depend upon the fleet, as its life blood, everything combines to urge them to make every effort to thwart the English designs. It would indeed be a shocking loss for Catholicism if this man, otherwise so formidable, should add the power of gold to that of iron, which makes him so dreaded. Not only does he aspire to capture the fleet on the way but he also designs to make some attack on the mainland in the course of time. Being possessed of the Barbados, on the road to the Indies, he is making great efforts to increase their population. Before I left London I saw several troops of soldiers going about London looking for women of loose life, to put 1,200 of them on board 3 ships to take to the islands for this purpose. The population has increased so much of late years that for the invasion of the Indies the English took 5,000 men from Barbados. The land there is so well adapted to the cultivation of sugar and such abundant quantities are produced that the price will steadily fall.
With France because of the relation with the king of Scotland, hostility was open and declared. It is true however that after the breach with one crown Cromwell gave ear to a reconciliation with the other. Thus I was present in England at the celebration of the peace, which must be considered a bargain due to circumstances rather than to inclination between two nations naturally rivals and mortal enemies; Cromwell being united with Mazzarini by similarity of interests of state, both being of a mind to capture the most flourishing dominions of the king of Spain, by a mutual arrangement.
With Portugal there is an understanding for the use of his ports which are well adapted to serve the English in hunting after the Spanish fleets. With Denmark, Holland and all other powers who possess an abundant mercantile marine, various disputes arise in the same way as quarrels do between animals who live of the same pasture. Owing to the superiority and sovereignty which the English claim at sea, they harass and search the merchantmen of other nations. With Sweden they cultivate the closest relations, as being the strongest bulwark for resisting the designs of the house of Austria. They allow them to make levies in Scotland, without hindrance and secretly pay them money. They acclaim their victories, and act in loyal and faithful concert together, a defensive alliance being arranged for mutual assistance. For the rest there exists a good understanding with the Swiss Protestants and in general a close friendship with all the heretics. Cromwell styles himself the chief and protector of the reformed church. In the late dissensions between the duke of Savoy and his heretic subjects of the valley of Lucerna, the latter appealed to England. They obtained protection, pecuniary assistance and special missions, which forced the duke to receive back into his dominions the expelled heretics, so as not to irritate against him England and the Protestant faction. All the Hugenots of France keep up correspondence with his Highness and when they are ill treated by the Catholics they make their plaint to England. Cromwell does not refuse his protection and forces the cardinal, sometimes by offices and sometimes by threats to remove their grievances.
As regards your Serenity, to speak frankly, the mission of Paulucci, without character was resented. That is why they refused him audience for 7 months and he would never have obtained it had he not received the quality of resident. They also resented the tardy despatch of an ambassador extraordinary, who was the last, among all the powers of the world. They said openly that the Senate disliked the present government, which they called illegitimate, and this feeling seemed to have stopped and delayed more than once the despatch of a regular minister. It was my task, not without difficulty, before leaving for England, to destroy these suspicions and dissipate the shadows by means of an individual, who in the capacity of a secret minister of Cromwell was staying at Paris and observing the proceedings of the Court. I contrived to let his Highness know that the mission of Paulucci was evidence of esteem and an approach towards confidential relations with the government. Not having sent embassies extraordinary to the late parliaments but to his Highness, who as protector of the three kingdoms had the rule over England, was a distinct testimony of respect, and as such deserved special recognition. This last consideration made an impression on Cromwell. He sent a powerful ship all the way to France to fetch me and received me in the royal hall with all the privileges and distinction accorded at the same time to the ambassadors extraordinary of Spain and Sweden. Although, after the departure of the ambassadors of France and Spain my chapel was crowded with Catholics and the Protestant ministers and other leading men, who detest Catholicism, made a fuss about it, he never would allow this liberty to be taken from me, although from the numbers it had become somewhat suspect. He told the ministers of the law that they should use their severity against his own subjects, who frequented mass in spite of the prohibition, but not against the ambassador whose liberty should be preserved and his dwelling respected. As success in all worldly affairs depends upon circumstances, if I had not arrived at a moment when they were committed to the war in the Indies and when the Spaniards broke off relations, it is possible that my journey would not have been totally useless. It is true that the Levant Company, the most flourishing society of merchants trading in the Turkish dominions, were closely and jealously watching my negotiations, to thwart them. They remonstrated that there was over four millions of capital of the Company at the Turkish marts, and anything likely to cause the Turks suspicion might lead to its confiscation and the ruin of the trade. The example of the king of Spain who had just seized all English goods in his ports would pass on to Constantinople, to the destruction of the principal London families, who would be rendered thereby incapable of contributing to the war, not to speak of the loss to the customs through the drying up of trade.
Having spoken briefly of the changes, the power, the alliances, the plans and the form of the English government, it remains for me to give some particulars of Cromwell personally, who has made himself such a name in the world. History will certainly discourse at large upon what I shall summarise briefly, and he may call himself a special favourite of Fortune. It cannot be denied that by his ability and industry he has contributed to his own greatness. But with all his abounding courage, good sense and natural prudence, all these qualities would have served him for nothing if circumstances had not opened the way to greatness. He has not neglected his opportunities and it has been his good fortune to seize them to smoothe his way. He was born in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire. His father was a gentleman of the same name with a very modest fortune since it did not exceed 1,000 crowns a year. He was first cornet then captain of horse and finally the town of Cambridge where he was born, chose him as its member, giving him a vote in parliament. There he was able to turn the troubles and circumstances to his advantage, and to push his fortunes to the elevated position which he now occupies. He is a man of action and speech too, and so he progressed with great strides becoming successively colonel, sergeant general, lieutenant general and finally general of all the forces. Favoured by fortune in many battles he showed himself a man of the greatest courage, undaunted in the most difficult crises. When he was general 2,000 sailors mutinied and proceeded riotously to his house, demanding their arrears of pay. Hearing the noise he came down the stairs accompanied by four officers only, who happened to be dining with him. Sword in hand he threw himself upon the mob, killing one and mortally wounding another, all with such celerity that the rest, cowed by this example and by respect for his person, took to then heels and hurried back to their ships. This daring action, in which another would have perished only redounded to his courage, simply because even insurmountable obstacles are surmounted by those whom fortune favours. Extremely religious outwardly he preaches eloquently to the soldiers, urging them to live in accordance with the laws of God, and he often sheds tears, more for the sins of others than his own, to render his eloquence more persuasive. (fn. 4) He is a man of sound and solid judgment who knows the character of the English as a riding master knows his horses, making them go where he wills with a single touch of the whip. He is not severe except with those of the opposite party. With his own he is courteous and civil and liberally rewards those who have served him well. For the rest he is more feared than loved by the populace, because heavy taxes are needed for the support of large forces, and these never make a prince popular. He is mortally hated by the royalists, whose numbers are not small, but they lack power being stripped of their property and weapons.
His recreation is to go by coach to Hampton Court, a pleasant country house of the late kings. He has never shown himself in London since what occurred when he went through the city to take possession of the protectorate. A great stone was thrown from a window which broke the roof of the coach and just missed his head, and they could never discover who threw it. He lives in perpetual mistrust, simply because he was not born to rule, but obtained it by adroitness and force. The smallest gathering of men is capable of alarming him. For this reason they have forbidden plays, horse racing and every kind of recreation which might bring together even a small crowd, and so the people are kept in a most disagreeable servitude. At public audiences, where any one who wishes may enter, and in his apartments I have noticed officers of his guards with drawn swords at the various doors. They say that he never sleeps twice in the same room, that he frequently changes his bed for fear of some mine, which has since been found, according to Giavarina's letters. It is a fact also that they frequently pretend there are plots to give them a pretext to make sure of their opponents, and to strengthen the guards and troops.
It is a great sorrow to him that he has no successor of spirit and ability. His two sons do not possess their father's vigour. Accordingly they do not take steps to make his greatness hereditary, from fear that the machine may go to ruin with such feeble supports as his two sons, with their slow and heavy wits.
The man who is first and has most credit with the army is Major Gen. Lambert. They say that at heart he has no love for Cromwell although outwardly he professes the most complete attachment, being won over by distinguished employments and immense rewards. At any rate no one is better able than he to make changes and form a party. Whether this government will last long is a hazardous question, since God alone knows the future. If no change happens before it may well come after the death of Cromwell i.e. the director of the present machine, in accordance with the general rule that violence is never durable.


  • 1. Printed by Barozzi e Berchet from the Sagredo MSS.: Relazioni. Inghilterra, pages 377–400. There is no copy in the Frari, and it may never have been read to the Senate. There is a copy in the library of San Marco (Classe vii., Cod. 903), in a contemporary hand; and the Public Record Office possesses an early transcript, Ven. Trans. Vol. 111.
  • 2. Barozzi e Berchet read a hundred.
  • 3. Nun Appleton, near Selby in Yorkshire.
  • 4. The conclusion is from the text printed by Barozzi e Berchet. The Correr MS. ends as follows: Cromwell is of medium height, olive complexion, large eyed, full blooded, not very affable, a stern look, does not speak much and his words are grave and significant. It is doubtful if his greatness will last, but all appearances indicate that it may endure and end with his life. Time will show. [Acknowledges services of Tomaso Pizioni as Secretary]. On the very day of my departure I was presented with a gold chain, which I beg leave to keep.