259. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
No reply has yet been given to the king's last message, indeed
parliament sent fresh orders to the commissioners to return and
they reached this city at mid-day on Monday. Although these
negotiations are completely broken off, yet the commissioners
have given such an account of the excellent sentiments of the
king and of the courtesy shown towards them that they have to
some extent assuaged the feelings of the less fanatical. So
instead of a very sharp declaration in which they intended to set
forth his Majesty's repugnance to peace and the good of the realm,
with mysterious conclusions, they now contemplate something more
moderate, although disapproving the demands of the messenger.
At the time when the earl of Northumberland, the only
commissioner of the Upper House and distrusted by the Lower,
was with the king, one of the leaders of the party here intercepted
and opened the letters he wrote to his wife, supposing that they
contained his suspected designs. On his return the earl complained
to him of this and went even further striking him with
his stick. (fn. 1) The other put his hand to his sword and would have
avenged the affront had not some of the lords who were present
hurried up and prevented it.
Although the quarrel is private it has been taken up by the
whole of the Lower House, who have carried a resolution that the
earl has offended its liberties and privileges and is therefore
deserving of punishment. The Upper House has made a similar
declaration against the members of the Lower. So in order to
settle these quarrels the two Houses have put aside all other
business and met together both yesterday and to-day in numerous
conferences, but they have not yet arrived at a mutually satisfactory
The march of the earl of Essex was true, with all the parliamentary
army, now numbering 20,000 combatants, besides
3000 volunteers under lord Gre expected to join them. Waller
also is marching in that direction with his men. Essex has
sent a corps of 7000 men commanded by Schipon, general of the
city of London, to attack Reading, as the first blow, an important
place fortified by the king which serves as an outwork to Oxford.
The earl subsequently took up a position with the rest of the army
to prevent succour. The town is defended by 2000 brave soldiers
commanded by a Catholic governor. They gave a good account
of themselves at the first encounter, as after allowing the parliamentarians
to advance and take some outer works, they fired
a mine, which drove them back with many killed and obliged
them to abandon some guns. Giving up hope, therefore of taking
the place by assault, Schipon decided to besiege it, and if he
persists there is fear that the place may be lost, as it is not thought
that they have provisions for more than a month at most. If
so the king will hardly be safe at Oxford as he has not forces enough
to resist so great an army unless he is joined by his other armies.
For this reason he has cut some bridges to prevent Essex from
crossing the river Thames, and has recalled Prince Rupert,
who was in Warwickshire besieging Lizfil. He has lost some men
there and for his credit's sake cannot leave without taking it.
By the enclosed proclamation his Majesty has again declared
the earl of Essex a rebel with all his commanders. He represents
to the people and the common soldiers how they are being
beguiled into committing treason. He urges them to abandon
their arms, offering them employment and reward. But under
the present circumstances even those who support his Majesty
consider this reply a sign of weakness or fear since there is no hope
of its producing any good effect on the obstinacy of their disposition.
After defeating Fairfax, Newcastle pursued him to the very
borders of Yorkshire, to Liz, but falling into an ambush laid by
Fairfax with the people of the district and his few remaining
men, the earl had to withdraw with the loss of 100 of his followers.
The government of Scotland has sent a letter to parliament
here asking for a list of the names of Scotsmen engaged in its
service, as well as of those who remain with the king, as they
propose to confiscate the goods of the latter and inflict other
punishments, as upon criminals. They also complain of his
Majesty detaining the commissioners sent to him, not permitting
them to go to London to fulfil their commissions or even to
return home. No reply has yet been sent to the letter, but it
will serve as a text for encouraging the disposition which is
shown in Scotland to intervene in favour of this side.
In spite of the strong letter of the Most Christian to the earl
of Holland to release the Capuchin fathers, the effect of which
has perhaps been diminished by the news arrived this week that
his Majesty is in danger of his life, these fathers were put on
ship yesterday, in the river here and sent across the sea, without
paying their debts or providing them with any commodities.
It was announced that this was not done with reference to
France, but to the queen. The parliamentarians here are greatly
incensed against her as they believe that without her encouragement
and aid the king would never have put himself in a position to
London, the 1st May, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
260. Gracious offer of pardon by his Majesty to the rebels
at present in arms against him under the command of Robert,
earl of Essex.
Dated at our Court at Oxford, the 18th April in the 19th year
of our reign. (fn. 2)
[Italian, from the English ; 3 pages.]
261. To the Captain of the Galeasses.
Commendation of his treatment of the English who refused
him recognition. Expect to receive full information from him
of what hurt they suffered, where they were going, with what
cargo, from whence they came, the names of the ships and their
captains. In the future he will be guided in a normal and equitable
manner by the tenor of the commissions which he holds.
Ayes, 112, Noes, 1. Neutral, 3.
262. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
Negotiation being now abandoned the decision of these differences
is now left to arms and the uncertain event of war.
No judgment can be formed about this except the ultimate ruin
of the kingdom, with the utmost danger to the king and his house
unless he receive prompt assistance from his victorious forces in
The siege of Reading continues and Essex with the rest of the
army occupies his first quarters to prevent relief and for reinforcing
the besiegers, who are in great need of this, being constantly
harassed by sorties of the besieged, whose governor has been
seriously wounded. The parliamentary soldiers suffer severely
from the sword and from the severe weather, which is colder
than the winter, and by the lack of food, all of which has to be
brought from this city, and is mostly asked in alms. The hospitals
are already full of wounded and sick and never a day passes
that a considerable number does not arrive, to the universal
horror, as the people here are quite unaccustomed to the horrible
aspects of war, especially civil war.
The general has written to parliament that there will be great
difficulties in the way of taking the place if it is well provided,
and it would be easier to set it on fire. They replied that he must
adopt any expedient rather than abandon the enterprise, as a
retreat from this first attempt would prejudice their arms and
his reputation too greatly, and would cause serious resentment
in the city of London, which has urged it. So to give the soldiers
fresh vigour they are sending to the army this very day 40,000l.
sterling, which will be escorted by four companies of horse,
raised and maintained for this sole purpose.
The governor of Reading, wounded as he is, shows courage in
the defence although it is believed that he cannot hold out long,
as he is short of powder, of which the king's own munitioners are
in want. For this reason, not considering it advisable to confine
himself to Oxford only, which is insecure, the king has advanced
to Wallingford, half way to Reading, more convenient for relieving
that town, and a position that can be fortified, so as to form an
obstacle in any case to the army of Essex, at least until reinforcements
arrive from the North, in which case the king inclines to
Last Tuesday Prince Rupert joined his Majesty after having
taken Lizfil, (fn. 3) where he left a garrison of 300 infantry under a
good commander. We hear, however, that the town is again
besieged by the parliamentarians with the people of the country.
The place is not important in itself, but because the armies of
York are bound to come that way. They write from there that
Fairfax having shut himself up in Liz with a small following
has assured the queen that he will not bear arms against the
king any more. Accordingly Newcastle, with over 15,000
soldiers, master of that district, after he has secured the chief
places, proposed to march with the queen towards Oxford next
week. From what we hear they will bring a supply of money,
but what is more important, powder and arms of which there is
a great shortage in the royal army.
The Scots constitute the essential point, being earnestly called
upon by one side and diverted by the other with all their might.
The king has at last permitted their commissioners to go, though
with an undertaking not to come here. But parliament has sent
two members of the Lower House to confer with them and to
concert their mutual interests. (fn. 4) The king also, fearing that when
the commissioners arrive in Scotland they may assemble their
parliament, has sent five lords of that nation who were with him
to strengthen his party and prevent prejudicial decisions if they
can. (fn. 5)
The commissioners of parliament here upon affairs of state
had decided to send deputies to all the princes of Christendom
to inform them of the reason why parliament was constrained
to take up arms, but when the question was brought before the
Houses this was opposed, because of the danger that the deputies
might not all be received, and also because if they gained the
mastery they would enjoy consideration among the princes
owing to their own strength, even without this office, so the
decision has been dropped.
The quarrel between the earl of Northumberland and a
member of the Lower House has been referred to commissioners,
who are leaving the matter undecided in order not to give offence
to one side or the other by a decision.
These last days the king has deprived lord Se, whom he
recently refused to receive as one of the commissioners of parliament
of the very lucrative office of Keeper of the Wardrobe,
which he gave him in order to win him over.
London, the 8th May, 1643.
|263. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
As I was closing my packet news reached me that the king
has been repulsed in an attempt to relieve Reading from Wallingford,
many of his soldiers being killed and taken. Owing to
scarcity the place surrendered yesterday evening, after a siege
of ten days, on the usual honourable terms, taking away four
guns and leaving ten. They say that the citizens to escape a
sack have undertaken to pay half a pound sterling for each
soldier, but in spite of this some disorder ensued. They add
that General Essex, without delay, decided to march on Oxford,
where the king left a small garrison, and that Waller should
join him there with his army from Gloucester. His Majesty is
thus in a difficult situation, with the armies on one side and Reading
on the other. Although I have good grounds for believing that
all this is true, yet amid all the excitement here I cannot venture
to affirm it, though I thought proper to forward news of such
London, the 8th May, 1643.
264. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
The fall of Reading was quite true, to the great regret as well as
astonishment of all good servants of the king, who based their
hopes on the safety of a place fortified with such expense and
industry, garrisoned by the bravest soldiers, and the royal army
itself going short to provide it with food and munitions of war,
the lack of powder being a false pretext published by traitors.
The besieging army being distressed by the first encounters and
exhausted by constant toil and hardship, Essex himself was
despairing of taking the place, when the governor happened
to be dangerously wounded in the head by some splinters of
stone, caused by a cannon shot, and was rendered incapable of
acting. The command devolved upon Colonel Fildinch and
other subordinate commanders of his party, well affected to the
parliament through their connections with it, and by their
advice a flag of truce was raised at the very moment when the
royal army was appearing with relief. The royal army had
great difficulty in crossing the Thames, where they could not
make use of their cavalry, in which the king is the stronger.
The parliamentarians offered a vigorous resistance, encouraged
by the flag of truce, which disheartened the royalists. These
fled in disorder and so the army had to return unsuccessful and
with loss. Fildinch took this opportunity to parley and deliver
up the place without the governor knowing anything about it,
until he had to leave. The king, who was with the army in
person, has left a suitable garrison in Wallingford and retired to
Oxford, deeply afflicted in mind and body too. An enquiry
being held there to bring to light the accomplices of the betrayal,
Colonel Fildinch has been condemned to military execution, but
they do not know how to carry it out. From this it is feared that
the evil has deeper roots, and on this account this prince deserves
compassion, so amiable for all in his character but betrayed by all
for his bad fortune.
His Majesty has reviewed his army which numbers 10,000
foot and 8000 horse. On the appearance of Essex he wished to
give battle, taught by this accident that he cannot trust his
person to an enclosed fortress and particularly Oxford, which is
unsafe. His councillors differ among themselves ; they are divided
into three parties and each is jealous of the others, leaving the king
confused and irresolute in his mind.
The other side is rendered so insolent by this signal victory
that they no longer doubt carrying their designs to completion.
They have printed pamphlets declaring that God has prospered
them for having expelled the Capuchins. To render thanks for
this parliament has permitted the people to demolish from its
foundations a most beautiful pyramidal cross surrounded with
figures of saints of exquisite workmanship, made in the time of
the Catholic religion, which was the most conspicuous ornament
of the principal street of this city. (fn. 6) This lasted three days,
always with the presence of a company of horse to prevent riots,
and with a great crowd of people, the majority blessing the deed
but others, although of the same religion, detesting and deploring
it. They intend to do the same with all the crosses on the
churches, and for the same purpose to make most careful search
in all the houses to destroy these idols, as they call them.
Although General Essex had decided to march on Oxford
after the taking of Reading, he seemed to be moving too slowly
to effect this, and accordingly orders were sent to him to move.
He did so the day before yesterday and news comes to-day that
he has taken Wallingford without resistance. As this has been
a formidable place for some time, there arise similar suspicions of
intelligence. He has no fear of anything except that the queen
may join the king with a part of the forces of the North, or that
his Majesty may retire with his whole army to York. So he has
directed the armies which are near the routes to advance and
prevent this junction at all costs. At the same time they have
decided here to send two commissioners to Scotland, to urge
them strongly to move, without which they fear they cannot
destroy those forces and secure themselves from anxiety on that
The forts round this city are now completed and admirably
designed. They are now beginning the connecting lines. As
they wish to complete these speedily and the circuit is most vast,
they have gone through the city with drums beating and flags
flying to enlist men and women volunteers for the work. Although
they only give them their bare food, without any pay,
there has been an enormous rush of people, even of some rank,
who believe they are serving God by assisting in this pious work,
as they deem it.
The deputy of parliament in Holland has made a vigorous
remonstrance in the General Assembly against the Prince of
Orange for giving orders to Admiral Tromp to allow two of the
frigates bought by his Majesty at Dunkirk, to pass to his service. (fn. 7)
So sharp an office and one calculated to cause trouble in the
government was not altogether liked. Although they made him
show the express instructions of the parliament, they wished all
the same to oblige him to afford some satisfaction of respect to
the prince. But the deputy applied to the Province of Holland,
the one which most favours the party here, and he got off with
no more than the obligation to inform parliament that the information
They write from Holland that the alliance with the French
has been confirmed for another year on the old terms, and that
the rendezvous of the Dutch army was commanded for the 15th
inst. at Fort Wet. The Prince is to set out for Breda, taking his
wife with him. The universal opinion is that the present campaign
will be less remarkable for enterprises on all hands and
less toilsome than appearances indicated and than was presupposed.
The States have granted a passage to the corpse of the Cardinal
Infant. I send these particulars with mortification because I
can only supply news that is late and uncertain, depending on
the sea and the pens of others.
London, the 15th May, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
265. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
The tale of victories increases for the Lower House and the
people, including the death of the Most Christian. (fn. 8) They care
nothing for the Upper House, which opposes few or none of their
decisions. The Lords have realised, though late, how feeble a share
they have in the government, and how impotent they are at present
to make their moderate views prevail against popular passion.
More than 20,000 persons are working voluntarily daily without
pay on the fortifications of this city, which will be completed in
a few weeks, and they are already beginning to furnish the
principal positions with guns.
General Essex now on one pretext and now on another puts
off moving or engaging the royal army, which is ready and
determined. Delay suits his private interests, to maintain his
usefulness and authority, but it causes some dissatisfaction to those
who rule, who are continually stimulating him, from the fear that
reinforcements may reach the king sufficient to prevent the completion
of their designs. They believe on other grounds that these are near
realisation, and are preparing a declaration which will pave the
way for the final bold decisions.
His Majesty, having levelled the surroundings of Oxford, keeps
in the country with his army, as he will not trust himself to
fortified places and that unsafe one in particular. He expects
reinforcements from the North, whence news has come that
Newcastle is about to set out with a part of the men there, leaving
the rest under the command of General Chin. He places all his
hopes in a battle, which may easily destroy him, but cannot possibly
restore him altogether. Because of this there are constant dissensions
among his councillors, to such an extent that it was announced here
recently that his Majesty had had eight of them arrested to satisfy
the opposite party. This is not absolutely verified, but it is true
that those who urge an accommodation on any conditions are excluded
from the Council of War. Yet to please them the king has
abased himself to send a messenger here, in which, taking his
text from an old request of parliament to consent to a certain
gathering of money for the affairs of Ireland, he points out the
need for a good peace in this kingdom to assist that one. (fn. 9) After
considering the message for three days they have converted their
reply into a declaration condemning it as unnecessary and improper.
Some of the best intentioned proposed to offer the king
the first conditions for an accommodation, but the proposal was
not seconded, as generosity has no place in the present government.
The proximity of the royal and parliamentary armies leads to
some encounters or small skirmishes between the cavalry, the
spirit of Prince Rupert speedily provoking a response from the
other side ; but no action of importance has occurred yet. It is
true the parliamentarians were beaten at Banbury with the loss
of 400 men by the son of the earl of Northampton, who succeeded
to the command of his father, dead some weeks ago.
The earl of Warwick with the fleet is beginning to translate
into deeds the ill will felt against the Spaniards for some losses
inflicted on individuals in the fisheries, having taken a ship with
a rich cargo of money, proceeding from Spain to Flanders, on the
pretext that it was going to Ireland. This comes opportunely
for the public needs, and so they mean to appropriate the cargo
without thinking of restitution, trusting to the counter claims
that may arise in connection with the frigates which the king has
provided himself with at Dunkirk to attack the parliamentary
To reinforce his party in case parliament meets in Scotland
without his authority, the king has sent thither five lords of the
country, of those with him. These, pretending they were going
on private affairs, by the order indeed of their government,
obtained passports from the parliament here. Now a letter has
been intercepted in which they ask the queen to give them an
escort, so that they may go in safety to her to receive her commands
and arrange what they are to do on behalf of the royal
cause. (fn. 10) This letter has been handed to the commissioners of
Scotland now here, who have sent it to their leaders. It is
represented as a great betrayal by those lords intended to upset
the union between the two kingdoms, so it is believed they will
be punished as traitors. Thus, among other misfortunes, the king
will lose this advantage, which is considerable, as with this assistance
his party might have balanced the other in that kingdom.
Parliament has been annoyed at the slight regard paid by the
States General in Holland to the offices of their deputy Stricland
about the order given to Admiral Tromp permitting the passage
of the royal frigates. They thought of sending another deputy,
but consider that a repetition of the same offices by the same
voice will produce more effect. Accordingly they have sent a
gentleman to him with orders to assure the States General that
the Prince of Orange is most pernicious to their government. This
he will do in set terms, while reminding them, if necessary, of the
obligations they are under to England, which supported them with
the blood and money, without which they would never have attained
to their present power. He is also to try and get the influential and
friendly, not to say partisan province of Holland, to take proceedings
against Vice Admiral Tromper, who has admitted that he allowed
the frigates to pass by virtue of a letter from the Queen of England.
They think that this cannot have happened without his being supported
by at least verbal orders from the Prince, since he is not the
servant of the queen and is under no possible obligation to obey her.
I have your Excellencies' letters of the 30th April with information
of the action taken by the Captain of the Galeasses
against two English ships that were contumacious. I will use
the information but only if the matter is brought up.
London, the 22nd May, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]
266. Gerolamo Agostini, Venetian Secretary in England,
to the Doge and Senate.
When after so many repeated orders and supplies of money
it was thought that General Essex was on the point of engaging
battle with the king, he appeared in person in this city with some
of his chief officers. He went straight to parliament and there
represented that the money received was not nearly enough to
pay the soldiers their due, and he had abstained from distributing
it, feeling sure that without full payment they would not be
inclined to move. Upon reckoning up it was found that the
whole army were creditors for 120,000l. sterling, which he asked
them to provide at once, when he gave them hopes of all success
from the courage of his troops.
The members were not all entirely pleased with this procedure,
but feeling that perfect dissimulation was necessary under
existing circumstances, they sent to the city, pointed out their
requirements and charged them to make provision and to do so
with all speed.
While Essex was staying here awaiting the result of his demands,
news arrived that the succour from York led by the duke of
Lenos, has reached the king without any opposition. This
event has served to cool their ardour effectively, to such
an extent that the parliamentarians have remonstrated with
the general at the opportunity, lost by his delay, of taking
advantage of the king's weakness, reminding him of two other
similar occasions. But he has laid the blame on three commanders,
whom he says he directed to unite in order to prevent
this succour, and tried to use the incident for enhancing his own
authority, demanding the baton of Grand Constable of the
realm. This would render him supreme, and equal to the king
himself, who never ventured to grant this office, except for a
single day. The question was discussed in the Lower House,
by whom the highest powers have been conferred upon this
general, but he has not yet been able to realise his demands,
though he persists in pressing them, for the sake of gain. According
to his own partisans he has given himself possession of a very
rich property forfeited by a lord who has taken the king's side. (fn. 11)
The reinforcement which has reached his Majesty consists of
2000 horse and dragoons, 30 carts with arms and munitions and
20 more with provisions collected on the way. No infantry has
come though that is most needed, but it is expected that 30
companies will soon march, which are ready at Newark. It
behoves the queen and the earl of Newcastle to remain in Yorkshire
with the rest, owing to the pressure of their supporters in
that district, from fear of subjection and the spoilation of their
goods by the other side if they went away.
In fulfilment of the commands of parliament the city of London
devoted every effort to provide all the money possible. They
have already paid 17,000l. which was ready, and the aldermen
lending 40,000l. more, to be repaid with the first money received.
To accelerate this they are collecting three months in advance
the partisan and exorbitant weekly tax on all families. Thus
the city and the kingdom are daily abandoned by large numbers,
not only of foreigners, but Englishmen too. Yet the general
still stays on, not yet satisfied with the amount, which can hardly
To form a fund for the support of the fleet they are beginning
to tax food, a course formerly so greatly abhorred by the English.
The Lower House has already voted an unsupportable burden
on wine, beer and tobacco, and so they will go on with the rest.
The House has been greatly agitated these last days over a
proposal to counterfeit the great seal of the realm. All were
not prepared to agree to this, but in the end the promoters
carried the point, though only by a few votes. The pretext
advanced was that for the maintenance of this admirable parliament,
now much reduced by the condemnation of malignants
and by death, the great seal is required for ordering the new
elections, but actually by this act they betray that disposition to
change the government which hitherto they have tried to keep concealed.
These decisions need the assent of the Upper House,
but incapable of any further resistance to the violence of the Commons
they will have to give way in the end, the more so as in a recent
conference they were clearly told that if they did not promptly support
what the Commons desired, that body would act by themselves and
not even inform them of any of their deliberations, a declaration
which caused signs of alarm among the Lords. Thus subsequently
they assented to the confiscation of the property of the royalists ;
to the assignment of 30,000l. sterling upon these in satisfaction
of the old debts to the Scots, and to the appointment of commissioners
to send to Scotland to urge the government there to
assist parliament in the recovery of the county of York. They
kept all these resolutions held up for some days, to avoid refusing
them to their own prejudice or assenting to them to that of his Majesty ;
and now the members of the Lower House go about distributing
among themselves the houses in this city and outside and other
property of that sold, which serve for comfort and delight.
The Upper House has also passed the declaration against the
king which I reported was being prepared. It consists in laying
the blame for the rupture of the peace negotiations upon his
Majesty, who showed such a desire for them. It concludes with
a firm resolution of the parliamentarians to carry through what
they have undertaken, at all risks, offering pardon to those who
state they have been deceived, and who abandon the king. I
now hear they are drawing up a manifesto to inform all princes
of their pretended rights, having met with a great deal of opposition
to the proposal to do this by means of deputies.
The people here are still busy with the work of the fortifications
and equally so over the destruction of crosses and figures. This
very day there was a great concourse to pull to pieces the royal
monuments in the church of Westminster, which was one of the
finest ornaments of this city, admired by all foreigners for its
antiquity and the perfection of the beautiful marble carving.
They have sent orders to the earl of Warwick to send a squadron
to the coast of Ireland, fearing that if the Scots move to
help them here the king may bring over a good number of Irish
to this kingdom, who are already armed and ready to serve him.
Prince Maurice has gone with a few troops to encounter Waller,
who is near Bristol. There was a report of an engagement
between them in which the prince was worsted and slain, but
it is not verified. The county of Devon has risen against viscount
Obton, reducing his army to a wretched plight, incapable of
offering further resistance in Cornwall to the parliamentary
forces. However, the king does not lose heart and has laid
siege to Northampton.
The States General refuse audience to the deputy of this
parliament, though he is supported by the province of Holland.
In spite of this, he himself realises that he exceeded the limits of
etiquette against the Prince of Orange, and so it seems likely
that they will accept any explanation here and will moderate
their violence against the Prince. Joachimi, who was ambassador
here and still bears the title, is co-operating to this end,
with letters to his friends of the parliament. His Highness
postpones taking the field not only because of this disturbance
but because he is disinclined for any enterprise this year, although
the defeat and rout of Mello by the French (fn. 12) may supply
him with a motive.
London, the 29th May, 1643.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]