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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G. Extracts from Letters relating to English Naval and Military Celebrities
The first mention of any English military commander of importance in the service of the Republic of Venice in the 17th century is made by the ambassador Pietro Contarini, dated London, 25th of January (N.S.) 1618. He writes:—
“I have concluded the engagement for a levy of 500 infantry, on the best terms I could, with Sir Henry Peyton, an English gentleman, one of the good soldiers of Flanders, where he yet has a company in the service of the States. I find that he enjoys an excellent character, and is extremely capable of doing the State good service, but he has no knowledge of naval affairs. He will have two captains under him, each commanding 150 men; his own company numbering 200. All the officers have served in Flanders, and he promises me to raise most efficient companies, and to have them ready for embarkation in four weeks.”
Amongst the terms stipulated for by Colonel Peyton, and conceded to him by the Republic were the following:—
I. He was to have the title of Major [Capo-truppo].
IV. The first muster to be made at the time of embarkation, when the term of payment is to commence, and on reaching the territories of the Republic or the Venetian fleet, the companies to be inspected monthly file by file, or individually [“a fila, a fila, o' a pelo e “segno”] at the option of the public representatives; and should any soldiers be missing at the first muster, and there be no certificate of their deaths on the voyage, their respective captains to be held debtors on account of their companies.
V. His own company to contain 200 good soldiers, comprising (besides his own person) a lieutenant, ancient, three sergeants, two drummers, a fifer, a surgeon, a provost, and twenty gentlemen who, together with the rest, are to be armed, one half with muskets and the other with pikes.
For stipend per month of 30 days, he is to receive 1,350 Venetian ducats, each ducat at the rate of 6 livres and 4 soldi.
The other two companies to consist of 150 men each, besides the captain, a lieutenant, ancient, two sergeants, two drummers, a surgeon, and these gentlemen; each of these two companies receiving a monthly stipend of 980 ducats.
VI. For the purchase of arms for the soldiers, Sir Henry Peyton to receive 1,000 ducats, and each of the captains 750 ducats, at the rate of five ducats per private, which money to be deducted from the pay of the third and fourth months.
VII. The ambassador to give Sir Henry Peyton and each of the captains twenty shillings for the conveyance on ship board of each private.
VIII. Sir Henry Peyton to be ready with all his troops for muster and embarkation within one month after the signature of the present agreement.
XII. For the passage to Corfu the Republic will give two months' pay in advance, in lieu of all other claims soever.
XIII. The soldiers to be retained in the service of the Republic for at least seven months after their arrival in the Venetian territory, and as much longer as the State shall think fit; and on their dismissal they will receive six weeks' pay for the cost of the homeward voyage.
In the same letter whereby Pietro Contarini gave account to the State of this contract for English soldiers, he also alludes to a well-known English sailor; the author of “The Seaman's Dictionary; or an Exposition of all the Parts and Things belonging to a Ship” (London, 1644, 4to.), thus:—
“There is an English gentleman here, a certain Captain Manwaring, of yore a most famous pirate, who has repeatedly cruised both in the Levant and in the Indies, and captured a number of vessels, having had as many as six or eight of his own; and for nautical skill, for fighting his ship, for his mode of “boarding,” and for resisting the enemy, he is said not to have his superior in all England. He did not obtain his pardon from the King until two years ago, and is now anxious to be employed by the State, and to take out these transports with the troops to the Venetian fleet, doing subsequently whatsoever may be commanded him by the public representatives. Not having any orders from your Excellencies to engage men of this sort, I did not dare give him this appointment, although I think he might prove very useful, and do good service in the fleet, from his great practice and experience in naval warfare.”
“I have endeavoured to obtain the most precise information concerning Captain Manwaring, who offered his services to the Republic. In like manner as I find that for nautical experience and for sea-fights, and for a multitude of daring feats performed afloat, he is in high repute, being considered resolute and courageous, and perfectly suited to that profession, understanding the management of first-rates better, perhaps, than anyone; so does the name of corsair, by its lack of respectability, create a doubt of his receiving the necessary obedience from the other captains; besides the small reliance to be placed in any man of that profession. I understand he has no landed property of any value, though it is supposed he may have some treasure, secreted from fear of its being claimed by the owners of his prizes. Only a few days ago the Spanish ambassador, Gondomar, sued him on this just account for 80,000 ducats. He is gentleman in waiting on the King, and since he obtained his pardon is in favour at the Court, and on this very day his Majesty sent me a very earnest message in recommendation of him.”
“Sir Henry Manwaring is so bent on serving the Republic, that as there is no opportunity for him to fill any post on board the squadron, now bound to the gulf, he has determined to embark in a private capacity to offer himself in person to the Captain-General, relying that with the good proof he can render of his experience, and with the warm letters given him by the King for your Excellencies, he shall be able to obtain the honour, so earnestly desired by him, of serving the State. I likewise must back his suit by these present letters, both on account of my knowledge of his devoted will and valour, as although, by reason of the recommendation intimated to me by a very leading nobleman on behalf of the King, and yet more in the hope that his exertions may prove to the entire satisfaction of your Serenity. Gratiæ cujus, etc.”
“Captain Manwaring, who had been knighted by his Majesty, and some months ago offered his services to your Serenity, announcing his intention of going to Venice in person, proceeded, I understand, to Ireland, where he fitted out a vessel, meaning to resume his former trade of pirate.”