Report to the Master of the Rolls On Documents in the Archives of Venice. Originally published by Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, London, 1866.
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F. Papers Relating to the Countess of Arundel
The English ambassador having come into the most excellent college with the Lady Countess of Arundel, whose arm he supported with his right hand, and having given her the seat usually occupied by himself to the right of the Doge, he placed himself on the left, and after the countess had made her statement in English, and it had been rendered by the ambassador standing, he resumed his seat, his narrative having been couched in the following terms:—
“Most Serene Prince, (fn. 1) the motive of this extraordinary appearance in this most serene assembly is induced by a grave and urgent reason, although the cause be ideal and groundless.
“Yesterday this most excellent lady returned from the country, and at her residence found a crowd of company, who, discussing the melancholy case of that unfortunate nobleman who ended his days by the hand of the deathsman, added that, according to general report, her ladyship was somewhat what concerned in the catastrophe; that it was in contemplation to make some announcement to her hereon; and that it would perhaps be advisable for her to take the initiative, thus guaranteeing her own reputation, as the circumstance was talked about publicly. This lady, jealous as she justly is of the maintenance of that decorum which becomes her noble birth, and being the wife of my lord the Earl Marshal of England, which is the most eminent dignity of our kingdom, aware of the purity of her own conscience, has determined on presenting herself before your Serenity, availing herself of me as her usher to acquaint you with this much, and to receive your commands, which she is so far from wishing to avoid, that she, on the contrary, submits herself to them, for the acknowledgment of her sincerity and reputation, a matter concerning which she has great reason to feel extreme anxiety.
“My lord ambassador! with regard to this business we will tell your Lordship that it is quite new to us (but with your leave we shall address ourselves to the Countess, being well aware that she understands our language), and that not a word nor shadow fell upon the topic which your most illustrious Ladyship has caused to be announced to us by the ambassador, and still less could there be grounds for such. When your Ladyship sent this morning to demand audience of us, and made your appearance, we congratulated ourselves immensely on the visit of so meritorious a lady, who has favoured this city with her presence, and we imagined it had been induced by a request for some courtesy or other, much to the delight of these noblemen. We now can but regret the present cause for dissatisfaction as received by your most illustrious Ladyship, but, on the word of a Sovereign, we assure you that no idea imaginable exists of a similar invective, which must have been circulated by malignants, possibly with a view to screen themselves.
“The Cavalier Foscarini has, by a just doom, followed the track of his previous misdemeanors; nor, for him, is there any redress. Your most illustrious Ladyship may rest comforted by the love and esteem wherein the Republic holds your illustrious family, and your own dignified bearing here, where the best possible greeting is given to the entire English nation, to whom, were it the custom of the State to render her affairs public, we would communicate them more freely than to any other, in proof of the full confidence reposed by us in his Majesty and his ministers, especially in the ambassador, whom we have ever known to be well affected.
“The ambassador rejoined:—I return most humble thanks for the honour done me by your Serenity individually, and collectively for our nation. This lady has heard your gracious reply, and her mental relief on departing this place can but be equalled by the load which oppressed her when she entered it. The most Serene Republic has not a more sincere soul in her dominions, nor one of more immaculate conduct than this lady; neither throughout Great Britain does there exist any one more partial to the Signiory than the Earl Marshal her husband. The report which wounded her, being public, she would have wished, in like manner, for some public apology, but at the same time remains quite comforted by the reply of your Serenity, and refers her suit and herself entirely to the affection and goodness of the State. Upon this the most Serene Prince again addressed the Countess in affectionate language, adding, that had the ambassador thrown any light upon the authors of similar falsehoods, they should have received condign punishment; whereupon Lady Arundel was profuse in her expressions of gratitude, her manner being humble and very composed.”
Such is the account preserved in the Venetian Cabinet Journals of the first public audience given to the Countess of Arundel, and those of the Senate bear record that six days later the affair was communicated to that body.
On the 28th of April 1622, the bench of the Grand Sages in the Senate Hall was empty, and the Sages for the Main Land and the Colleagues for the Orders alone proposed the following draft of a letter to the Venetian ambassador in London, Lando; and that a present should be made to Lady Arundel. The absence on this occasion of the six Grand Sages appears to imply that those statesmen would not oppose the measure openly, considering, perhaps, that it was politic; but although they did not put a veto on the grant of wax and sugar-plums to the wife of the Earl Marshal, the fact of their not countenancing it suggests a doubt of the gifts having been fully merited.
The lady Countess of Arundel having come into the College with the ambassador Wotton represented to us a certain injurious accusation circulated against her, as you will perceive by the enclosed copy of her statement:—Although in answering this, his Serenity made ample amends, nevertheless, we, with the senate have also chosen to make an express and special demonstration towards her according to the accompanying decree. In conformity with this, we charge you to confer with the husband of the said lady, and to speak to him in such strong and earnest language that he retains no doubt of the invalidity of the report, remaining perfectly convinced of the esteem and cordial affection entertained towards him by the Republic, augmented as such are by the dignified and open mode of life led here by the Countess, and in which she hastens the education of her sons in the sciences to render them as they will become faithful imitators of their meritorious father and ancestors. (fn. 2) Should he evince any wish to this effect you will not fail reading to him our aforesaid decree as communicated to the Countess, allowing him moreover to make extracts of the principal clauses, for the omission of nothing which can avail entirely to tranquillize his mind about a matter in which it becomes us to give just satisfaction. Should the other noblemen of the Court discuss the topic with you, you will repeat these assurances, which by admitting the news to be false, and announcing our regret for their cause, as also the wish to confirm this regret, will, on true and just grounds, save the private character of the Countess, and also that of the entire English nation. Should the Earl Marshal make you any request to this effect, you will also give similar earnest and loving assurances to the King, so that our wish to render the Earl utterly satisfied may be manifest, letting him perceive that at his request we were induced to represent the whole to his Majesty. Should you ascertain that any report at variance with the truth be in circulation, and have reached the King, we leave you at liberty to make precisely the same statement to his Majesty as that which the aforesaid Countess received at our hands.
In proof of our good will, and of the ample manner in which such was expressed verbally, we have moreover determined on giving public testimony thereof by presenting the said Lady with various sorts of confections and other refreshments. And as certain particulars have been communicated to us concerning this affair which render it more important, opening our eyes and displaying the origin of their motives, and the ends of those who, perhaps, aim at avoiding an immediate and manifest discovery of their own proceedings here, we send you, besides, the minutes of this audience, so that merely using them as a guide, by keeping on the watch, you may be enabled to sift the matter, and ascertain the impression which it produces in England, so as to give us distinct account thereof.
And be it forthwith carried that the officials of the old Accountant's Office, (fn. 3) do expend 100 ducats, money of the mint, in confections and wax to be sent in the name of the State to the Countess of Arundel.
Besides the vote of sugar-plums, I found in the Venice Archives in a volume marked “No. 115, Deliberations of the Senate, Files, A.D. 1622, “28th April, in the Senate” another decree concerning Lady Arundel of the following tenor.
Sages of the Council absent. Francesco Diedo, Sages of the Main Land. Sages for the Orders.
That the Lady Countess of Arundel and the English ambassador be sent for into the College, and that there be read to them, as follows:—
Lady Countess! the mental purity and candour exhibited by your Ladyship in the worthy mode of life led by you here, neither can or may be in the slightest respect disparaged by slanderous reports, but through the communication made to us by you, together with the ambassador, our Republic acknowledges yet more intensely your very noble and most meritorious qualities, and in like manner might you thus reasonably remain fully satisfied in your own mind. Although from what was told you by word of mouth, and with the whole heart of the Republic as abundantly expressed by the most Serene Prince, your Ladyship might be sufficiently convinced of this, nevertheless, we choose that by the present decree of the Senate itself, you may, moreover, be assured that the news of so false an imposture proved the greatest surprise to us, not the slightest shadow thereof having been ever entertained in any place or by any member of the government, no word to this effect having been heard previously. Besides surprise at these injurious accusations, we regret to see that certain persons have iniquitously raised them on the basis of their own ill-will, and we could have wished by some means to come at the truth, in order to take measures which on every account should be severe.
Our ambassador Lando will have orders to give account in conformity to the Earl Marshal your husband, and to notify the whole in whatever other quarter necessary, with the fullest expressions, as confirmed by us here to your Ladyship, of the vast esteem and affection entertained by the Republic for your worthy endowments and right noble descent, which, coupled with the open manner in which you have ever lived here, and continue so to do, has augmented to the full the satisfaction already derived, and which will be felt for the future at seeing you enjoy for a long while the sojourn of this our city. In like manner you will at all times receive from us the most cordial and conspicuous marks of our good will such as you yourself can desire from a Sovereign excellently disposed towards you, and equally well aware of the merits of your candour and goodness.
Mention has been made of the Secretary Lionello with reference to Foscarini and Wotton, and from the journals of the College we learn that this same secretary was the person commissioned to request the attendance of Lady Arundel, and that of the English ambassador in the College, in conformity with the decree above mentioned. The opinion entertained of Wotton by Lionello may be gathered from his letter in date of London, 11th August 1617, and the following extract from the journals of the College is curious, as it proves that Wotton did not possess that invariable command of countenance which one of his epistles in the “Reliquiæ” inculcates:—
Lionello having been sent last evening, according to the resolve of the most Excellent Senate, to intimate to the English ambassador and to the Lady Countess of Arundel, that they were come into the College this morning, the said Lionello reported that he had executed the order in person both by one and the other, and that in like manner as the countess appreciated the favour immensely, the ambassador doing the like in the first instance when invited to audience, so on hearing in addition that the Countess had been summoned at the same time, he showed a troubled countenance, which was moreover confirmed by his saying that he had no business to transact with the said lady before his Serenity, but that he should, however, come to receive the commands of the State, and that her ladyship would enjoy the honour which was assuredly extreme.
The countess and the ambassador having thus entered the most excellent College precisely as on the former occasion with regard to ceremonial and seats near his Serenity, her ladyship having two papers in her hand, the ambassador motioned to present them, whereupon the most serene Prince, taking the initiative, said, “We must in the first place cause there to be read to her ladyship the decree of the Senate, for which purpose her presence here has been requested, and after that we shall be ready to listen to any statement.”
After the perusal of the decree, which (as stated in the minutes) was listened to by the countess and by the ambassador with extreme attention, although it produced diametrically opposite effects on them, Lady Arundel in the first place made her reply in English, the ambassador translating it as follows:—“This most excellent lady returns infinite thanks to the graciousness of your Serenity and your most illustrious excellencies for the honour received by her of such ample expressions on behalf of the most excellent Senate; and in like manner as she owns especial devotion to the most serene Republic, as clearly demonstrated by the sojourn here of herself and her sons, so on the other hand does she rejoice extremely that your excellencies should do her justice as vehemently as others seek to slander her by reports which have not even yet subsided; and she comforts herself with this most ample certificate, the which, (to avoid wearying your Serenity in this place with its second reading,) the countess requests leave to peruse again in the other hall, and to have a copy of it. As the calumny is public, it behoves her to beseech your excellencies to have a communication made thereon to the King our Lord, since it may be reasonably apprehended that the reports have been amplified in every quarter; to which end, and in order that the fact may be manifest to your Serenity in full, the matter concerning me likewise, I also having been deceived, her ladyship will here present you with a compendium of the circumstances.” Hereupon, rising from her seat, the countess gave the Doge the two papers, which, as above mentioned, she held in her hand, and the ambassador added that one need only read the first, as the second, containing the narrative, was very long; but, as by her manner the countess evinced a wish for the perusal of one and the other, they were both read accordingly, and they were of the following tenor:—
Most Serene Prince,
The devotion with which I have ever revered the most serene Republic of Venice, could be manifested in no better form than by my coming with my sons to reside for so long a period as I have done, with the consent of his Majesty my Sovereign, in your most serene dominions. But the favour and kindness with which your Serenity has been pleased to honour me and my children your respectful servants, are beyond my power to portray in glowing colours, save in the recesses of my own heart, where they will ever remain indelibly engraved, and above all this last boon, conferred on me on the 22nd of April, concerning as it did my honour and reputation. But as this report falsely circulated against me seems to revive daily, with fresh particulars, I have therefore deemed it necessary to obtain from the most excellent the lord ambassador of his majesty the King of Great Britain a narrative, which I here respectfully present to your Serenity, being anxious for it to be seen by my Sovereign's reign's invincible Majesty, and in other quarters, as proof at one and the same time both of the graciousness of your Serenity and of my own innocence. I deem it, however, my duty in the first place to show it to your Serenity, beseeching you to acquaint his Majesty with, my innocence, and, with your most sage council, to provide in such wise that so false a report circulated against me, and which yet prevails, may be entirely stayed. In the mean while I pray his divine Majesty to grant all possible increase of grandeur to your Serenity.
This letter having been read, the Statement, with the signature of Wotton, was next produced, a copy of which document exists in the British Museum (Ayscough, No. 156), having been purchased amongst others of Lord Guildford's MSS. in December 1830, and formed part of lot 103 of the sale catalogue. This document, after enumerating the details given by me, goes on to say, that at the first audience of the countess, on the morrow of the execution of Foscarini,—
“The most serene Prince and the College, which consists of the principal personages of the Republic, received her excellency with every possible mark of honour and respect, as was visible in their gesture and manner, placing her close to the Doge to the right hand, between his Serenity and the Sages, whilst on the other side was seated the ambassador, who merely acted as the interpreter of her noble complaint. It reduced itself to two demands, first, that if in conformity with said report, her name or her household had been mentioned in the trial of Foscarini, the accuser might be brought forward; secondly, that as the report had become public, she might receive public satisfaction. In stating these circumstances the ambassador declared (fn. 4) that he himself had been the person who notified to the countess this so malicious report circulated during her absence. After the Doge had listened to the countess and to the ambassador very attentively, his Serenity broke forth into a discourse the most loving and vehement that any man soever in the world could have uttered; protesting that there was not so much as the slightest suspicion, thought, or idea of even the smallest trifle concerning her excellency or her household with regard to the luckless case of Foscarini; that the members of the College then present considered themselves honoured by her visit, in like manner as the city by her residence amongst them, her mode of life being so noble, innocent, and decorous that there was no nation in the world to which they would venture more confidentially to intrust the very secrets of their Senate than to the subjects of his Majesty the King of Great Britain. That the ambassador (towards whom the Doge here turned himself somewhat) had known them since a long while, and that on the other hand their acquaintance in like manner with him gave mutual assurance of all dissatisfaction and suspicion being at a distance from them. That certain false and abominable statements and reports amongst the populace were inevitable in every realm; but that if the author of this mischief could be discovered, condign punishment should prove the detestation in which the State held similar injuries done to such a gentlewoman, whose rare qualities and virtuous demeanor were well known to them, as also the true nobility of the earl her husband, in whose memory the Doge said he hoped a warm recollection would be retained for him. Finally, his Serenity besought the countess to compose herself, and be assured that this Republic entertained none other than a noble and honourable opinion of her. With this ample and dignified reply her ladyship was so satisfied that she did not think fit to trouble the State further or require any ulterior declaration; ending with the following words, that, having no other means of serving the Republic, she therefore demonstrated her affection by coming in person with her sons to dwell a while in this famous city, where she had received the noblest and most courteous greeting possible.
“These Lords have heard the purport of the writings, and may possibly moreover revise them, more at leisure. With regard to the wish of the Lady Countess for us to write to England concerning this matter, we shall use full confidence with your Ladyship and the ambassador, and take leave to acquaint you with the decree of the Senate hereon, which under other circumstances we should keep secret, namely, that your wish has been already anticipated, the ambassador Lando being charged to notify all that has been uttered here in the presence of your Ladyship, and the ambassador to the Earl Marshal, and to everybody else, nor has aught been omitted which may tend to proclaim the very high opinion ever entertained of your most illustrious Ladyship; our firm conviction of your candid and ingenuous proceedings, and the consequent increase of affection borne you, not merely by these Lords, but by the whole city; and we again entreat you to rest entirely tranquil and comforted.”
The ambassador then inquired what the secret was to which the Doge had alluded: and when his Serenity replied that he divulged it, by announcing that the Senate had anticipated the wish of the Countess in giving the necessary orders to the ambassador Lando, Sir Henry Wotton said that the communication to be made by Signor Lando to the King and to the others ought to correspond, word for word, with the contents of the statement afore read, which narrated the whole circumstance from the beginning. To this his Serenity made answer, that orders had been already given to announce the truth of the case; whereupon the ambassador again interrupting his Serenity, having acted thus throughout the audience, said, “In this affair I likewise must justify myself, for as I told your Serenity I was deceived. After the execution of that unfortunate nobleman, reports prejudicial to the Countess reached me from all quarters; and although it is a common saying of the poets that rumour generates report of itself, and amplifies it, yet could I not do less than bestir myself zealously as was due on behalf of so immaculate a lady. I will tell your Serenity, and the circumstance may be mentioned without offending the Countess, that a communication was made to me from a very sure quarter, purporting that when Foscarini was questioned about his nocturnal ambulations, he said in his defence, that out of politeness (fn. 5) he had occasionally gone to the house of her Ladyship.” This the Doge denied most positively, his assertion being corroborated by all the Councillors; and his Serenity said that not the least word of this was true, and that in the trial, not only had no mention of any sort been made of the Countess's name, but neither had any Englishman been alluded to. Hereupon the ambassador, endeavouring to assume a cheerful countenance, said, “This is the utmost, and we all owe infinite thanks to your Serenity, and must attribute the injurious accusation to those who thus sought to disburden themselves of the merit of having effected the bribery which took place in this detestable case.”
The Doge allowing the topic to drop, then turned to the Countess and said to her, “I pray your most illustrious Ladyship remain satisfied, as we wish you to be, and we on our part shall always use our endeavours to this effect; and, from this imaginary circumstance, elicit the surest possible pledge of the disposition entertained towards you. A day is at hand, at next Ascension-tide, of especial festivity here; (fn. 6) Two of these Sages for the Orders, will be instructed to wait upon your Ladyship with a galley, in order that you likewise may attend the ceremony; and, be your Ladyship pleased to let these Lords take this opportunity of doing you favour in like manner as they will embrace every other which may present itself.”
“Madam departs overwhelmed with obligations: she devotes herself and her sons to the service of your Serenity, and in her prayers will ever beseech the Almighty that the most serene Republic, always glorious and powerful, may be eternal as the elements;” and with this they withdrew.
The Countess caused Colonel Peyton, (fn. 7) and two or three other English gentlemen to be introduced into the Senate hall, and requested me the secretary to read the aforesaid decree again in their presence, as I did. Its tenor gave her the most complete satisfaction, and with fresh expressions of thanks and praise she took her departure; and shortly after Vercellini and another of her gentlemen came to take a copy of the decree, of which he was allowed to make a full extract by order of their most excellent Lordships the Sages.
After dinner, Lionello on his return from the Countess of Arundel, after accompanying the present, (which consisted of fifteen salvers containing wax and confections very gaily decked, the show being gazed on by the whole neighbourhood of the Mocenigo Palace) stated that her Ladyship evinced extreme obligation for the favour, valuing it vastly, both by reason of its motive, and also for the sake of the gracious hand whence it proceeded. She appeared quite comforted, as also did her steward (maestro di casa), who confirmed this to the secretary, whilst going down stairs, saying, however, that the ambassador was proportionally dissatisfied and confounded, perceiving very clearly that owing to this event, there was great fear of his hopes and fortunes at the Court being wrecked.
The writing presented by Lady Arundel to the College, informed the State that it was from Wotton himself, and not from the company at the Mocenigo Palace, as pretended by him, that she received the first news of her suspected intercourse with Foscarini. Consequently, after the Countess had withdrawn from the College hall, the following letter was read to the Council of Ten, and to the Grand Sages, and forwarded to the Venetian ambassador in England, 29th April; read in the Senate on the 30th.
“We, with the Senate, gave your instructions yesterday, touching all that was to be done in every case, about the affair of the Countess of Arundel, with reference to her family, enclosing all the writings and adding such explanations as we deemed appertaining to this matter.
“Subsequently this morning, the Countess and the ambassador having, in addition to their replies, presented a certain narrative of the circumstance, we do not think fit to allow the despatch to leave by this evening's courier, without sending you the copy of their statement, and also of the aforesaid narrative, in which some additional facts are inserted, whilst others differ from those alleged by the ambassador at the first audience, and from the reply made to him by the most Serene Prince, as you will clearly perceive by the perusal of all the writings. Such discrepancies must naturally induce you to keep yet more on the watch, and to modify the communications enjoined you, according to your own ability.”