Venice
December 1666

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Institute of Historical Research

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Allen B. Hinds (editor)

Year published

1935

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107-117

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'Venice: December 1666', Calendar of State Papers Relating to English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 35: 1666-1668 (1935), pp. 107-117. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=90208 Date accessed: 21 August 2014.


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December 1666

Dec. 1.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
116. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
In a conversation which I had with Medina he told me that three or four days ago a slight difficulty arose which might destroy the fruit of many months. They had surmounted the point that the king of England would bind himself to the same conditions which the deceased ambassador had arranged. This passed under the title of a new treaty, but in substance it was the old one. His Britannic Majesty undertook that the Portuguese should content themselves with just and not exorbitant conditions. If they are not satisfied with these the king will detach himself from union with them and from assistance. In addition to this the ambassador declares that it is enough to treat with the crown of Portugal, not with Braganza; that in the treaty there will be set down on the one side “the king of Spain” and on the other “the crown of Portugal.” The ambassador expected the queen to approve of this and to sign the treaty. Here they say No, and that it is necessary first to know the inclination of the Portuguese, and for the Council of State to have in hand a power from Braganza that he will stand by what is arranged with him. The ambassador objects to this as unnecessary and as showing want of confidence. His king had pledged himself, and his interposition should be accredited without fine spun considerations. He protests that if the treaty is not signed he will go.
After much opposition it is brought to the point that he will rest satisfied with a declaration from the queen approving of the treaty, without it being put in writing, when the powers arrive from Lisbon. The Council of State was satisfied with this, but there are some ministers who contend that this avails nothing, representing it as unbecoming for the signature to be on the pledge. The remembrance of what took place with the other ambassador gives rise to suspicions, so the issue is uncertain. He did indeed tell me that if they cut the thread this time it will not be easy to take it up again, and instead of having quiet with Portugal we shall be led into war with France and into bitterness with England.
Madrid, the 1st December, 1666.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 1.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
117. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The French ambassador has roused himself again about the negotiations of this crown with England, and he tries to upset them. He has accordingly informed the ministers that he has powers to treat for an alliance. The government, unwilling at present to enter into negotiation, avoids committing itself. They recognise that this is not the time to give occasion for fresh jealousies and bitterness in the mind of the English ambassador who is prone to suspicion and to anger. Now that they stand upon the point of concluding or of breaking with Portugal, the slightest breath of air is sufficient to produce a storm. Ambrun makes loud complaint and says now that most ample powers have been sent by his king at their instance, it is treated with derision and contempt and they attach no importance to it.
Madrid, the 1st December, 1666.
[Italian.]
Dec. 4.
Senato,
Secreta.
Deliberazioni,
Corti.
Venetian
Archives.
118. To the Ambassador at the Most Christian Court.
We hear with regret from the diligent advices from England, of the great exasperation of the English people and of their inclination for war. Nevertheless, you will seize any opportunities for instilling sentiments of peace and you will continue your accurate attention to events here, taking note whether the queen is going to return to England, and the intelligences of the princes, without losing sight of the affairs of Flanders.
Ayes, 134. Noes, 4. Neutral, 0.
[Italian.]
Dec. 7.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
119. Marc Antonio Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It would seem as if the exhalations mutually exchanged between the two nations, England and Holland, both orally and in writing, have served in part to clear their spirits of scorn and wrath. Mons. d'Estrades, ambassador of this king in Holland, writes that he has had an inkling of some transactions introduced between the said parties, to bring them, once and for all, to a composition and tranquillity. The advice is rather a plausible conjecture than something known for certain. The conjecture obtains a better foundation for its truth from an announcement that has been made that the Swedish mediators have again named two places for the congress, one being Bruges and the other Liège; but nothing is said of the reply obtained from the English. Here they receive this news with caution and attention. It is not credited that the Dutch are about to conclude a treaty without the inclusion of this crown, which will never make any objection to approving of a peace which will be able to relieve it of the great burden which is involved in the maintenance of double armaments. It is also true, however, that they are by no means sorry to see the continuation of the embarrassments of those two powerful nations, and they will not neglect openings which serve for this.
One of these last days Van Boninghen went to audience of his Majesty. The king repeated to him his resolution to send to sea in the spring a fleet of sixty great ships; that he had sent his gentleman to the Provinces to make a purchase of eight; but he had added a fresh commission for him to buy four more, making twelve in all. He therefore desired that the States should facilitate this manner of executing this commission, which was intended for their advantage, adding that it was his pleasure that Boninghen should write about it to the Assembly.
The Sieur di Bellefont, who set out last week for Holland for this purpose, has been recalled and the task has been entrusted to Mons. Martel in his stead. Bellefont is to go on board a ship of sixty guns which is waiting for him at St. Malo, to join itself then to a squadron of twelve other well armed ships which will be commanded by Signor du Quesne, to show themselves in the Channel. This decision was taken by the Council after some opposition, in order not to yield voluntarily to the English the dominion which they claim in those waters, but possibly even more to keep alive by this fresh appearance of insults, the anger of that nation against the alliance and to break off any negotiations that may have been introduced with the Dutch. It would seem, however, that the principal regulator of such events may be the issue of the fortress of Brem, since it is hard to believe that Denmark and Holland mean to support such grievous and powerful enemies upon their arms for long.
Paris, the 7th December, 1666.
[Italian.]
Dec. 14.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
120. Marc Antonio Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Battered by many blows and surrounded by so many and such pressing difficulties, the English have relaxed in part that severity about the negotiations which up to the present they have sustained, and they have at length agreed to the nomination of the city of Liège as the place destined for the congress, proposed to them by the mediators. This step gives hope of good progress for the adjustment and opens the way to obtaining peace soon. They were waiting for the choice of deputies by the parties and here they think of entrusting this duty to Mons. Colbert, maître de requêtes, who had good fortune and showed prudence in concluding the adjustment of the Dutch with Munster.
A combination of accidents, or, to speak more correctly, an accumulation of misfortunes, is bringing England to reason. Some of their privateers have damaged and subsequently occupied certain islands belonging to the Spaniards in the Indies, including that of Santa Cattarina. The ambassador of that Monarch resident with the English king has remonstrated about this in the strongest terms, characterising the action as one of insidious hostility, since at the very time when Spain is being asked to make fresh connections with England, that country is proceeding to usurp her dominions and to despoil her of her possessions. He protested further that if a prompt remedy is not speedily applied by the restitution of what has been occupied, the Catholic will join with the enemies of England and will seek redress in every way possible.
The quarrel mentioned in previous letters between the duke of Albemarle and the chancellor was genuine and serves to keep the two Houses out of harmony and at cross purposes, with notable loss to the interests of the country. To these internal dissensions must be added the adjustment which has taken place between the magistrate of Brem and the crown of Sweden. (fn. 1) The news arrived here in France these last days by a courier of Holland. It is certainly a striking advantage for the Dutch and Denmark, whose hands are thus left more free to operate against their enemies, and to make them feel the greater strength of their arms. It is nevertheless true that no certain feeling of well being can be based on that government, with its agitations and hesitations, divided internally into factions, and no permanence can be looked for from their proposals.
The Dutch on the other hand leave nothing untried to bring about quiet. They know that their ruin is manifest if the troubles continue; jealousy scourges them, expenses annihilate them, and where they might expect to find the greatest advantages they experience the most serious losses.
The requests presented to them by the Ambassador d'Estrades on behalf of the king here for permission to take away all the French sailors who are in Holland and every one besides who is skilled in naval matters and is willing to enter the service, the foundries of Amsterdam and the purchase of twelve powerful ships of war in those parts make the Dutch fear that there is an intention to despoil them of those means which render them powerful at sea, to obtain a superiority of force over them and to dispute the dominion of the sea. The request of d'Estrades has accordingly been much debated and examined. It has met with powerful opposition and the answer is still held up.
Paris, the 14th December, 1666.
[Italian.]
Dec. 15.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
121. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The gentleman who reached the English ambassador (fn. 2) has brought the most definite news from Braganza, but the most contrary for the successful issue of the negotiations. They reject every sort of compromise which had been proposed here and insist with absolute rigour on having an absolute peace or else war. He must be recognised as king or else as an enemy. Such are the positive declarations of that government, which are always fixed and constant. From the time that the negotiations began up to the present moment they have always maintained this high tone, and under present circumstances, with the troubled and disturbed state of this monarchy, it is unlikely that they will recede from it.
The earl of Sanduich reported to the Junta the reply which he had. He expressed regret at a difficulty which has now been rendered insurmountable, increased by repeated engagements and by the publicity owing to divulgations. Nevertheless they must not despair, and must display at times in a flash (alle volte in un instante) the hearts and interests of princes. In reply they told him that it was the affair of his Britannic Majesty to fulfil his promises, to employ threats with Portugal, since pacific and prudent advice was of no use; to withdraw their assistance from them, because when they have not the means to maintain their forces they will cool off in their determination to maintain the cause punctiliously by arms. The ambassador made no reply and all negotiation seems to be completely dissolved.
It is certain that the peace and the royal title are as much abhorrent to them here as they are desired in Lisbon. Thus unless accidents of the hardest necessity do not arise for that government it will never consent to such unworthy proposals. They will prefer to continue, with infinite prejudice, a bitter but useless war.
I know that in the Council of State they lay the blame for such haughty and obstinate resistance on the French envoy who resides with Braganza. (fn. 3) The Most Christian avails himself as usual of his most sagacious arts. On the one hand he caresses this crown; on the other he scourges it.
I have been told that the earl of Sanduich is somewhat distressed and dissatisfied. Besides the glory which such a great employment brought to him, he was inspired by the greatest hopes and looked for generous rewards. Now all this has faded away he does not see how he can any longer sustain the credit of his mediation, enfeebled and scorned as it is by such answers. When he was conversing with a minister the latter told him quite roundly that if the crown of Spain has to buy the adjustment with Portugal at such a severe price, it has no need of mediators. In such case it should get out of its difficulties by itself, without having to profess an obligation for prejudicial and injurious treaties. I hear that this is the feeling of many ministers. It is quite true that they suspect that Braganza, being so closely united with the king, his brother-in-law, both in blood and by pledges, is unable to consent to any proposal unless it is supported or put forward by his mediation. In such a state of affairs it will be curious to see what course the negotiations will take, if they will be allowed to drop, or, if they continue during the winter, if they will find fresh expedients, if not to conclude, at least to keep things going by vanity and by delusions.
In some Juntas they have begun to discuss the question of settling the difficulties of trade with England. Many capitulations have taken place on this matter in the past. The secretaries have orders to look them up and to make report. The business will be long and difficult. The English claim much alteration of ancient compacts, to their advantage. The government does not desire any innovation but merely the ratification of what is already established. It is feared that England will not agree, and seeing itself so powerful at sea, it may choose to lay down the law to the weaker party. The ambassadors of France and Holland are watching this particular question with the closest attention. If the government makes any concession in favour of the British king, they will immediately wish to forestall it, especially for free trade in the Indies. Accordingly the ministers will proceed with the most weighty deliberation in order not to create a precedent.
Madrid, the 15th December, 1666.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 15.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
122. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Upon the resolution to introduce negotiations with France the English ambassador expressed himself to Medina with no little resentment. He pointed out that this, by clouding the mind with jealous suspicions, is prejudicial to the common service. In London the news would excite at once astonishment and disgust. In all sincerity he advised them instead of beginning the negotiation, to shut it out altogether. In that way his king would be bound to undertake with fervour to bring Portugal to reason; in any other way he feared that, with feelings growing more bitter, more harm would be done than any advantage that could be obtained. When Medina reported this speech to the Council of State they similarly gave him leave to encourage the earl of Sanduich with lively hopes, assuring him that not only had they no inclination for arrangements prejudicial to his king, but they shrank from the very talk of them. They desired for that crown every fortunate combination and success. It is perfectly true that in the business of Portugal they would like to see this recognised, instead of being answered with evil. The policy of the government aims at steering such a course that none of the crowns shall take offence; with France to avoid bitterness, with the British king not to cut short the conversations about joining combinations and alliances, the reason for this being that he may not come to an adjustment with the Most Christian.
Madrid, the 15th December, 1666.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 21.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
123. Marc Antonio Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The king has used his utmost address and dexterity to bring about a good understanding between the duke of Altemar and the Lord Chancellor and to make them lay aside their quarrels. He clearly foresaw the disorders that might ensue from the ill will between persons of such authority and leading men in the country, as well as the peril to which he personally was exposed by this. His efforts have succeeded and a sincere reconciliation has taken place. However, differences have come about between the two Houses, as the House of Commons has taken in ill part the assent given by the Upper House and the king to the nomination of the third place for the peace negotiations, insisting that they ought to be conducted in England for the honour and greatness of the country. Against this it has been pointed out to them that the neutral place is for treating with the crowns of France and Denmark and that the Dutch must send some one to London. They have accordingly intimated to the Lords States that the mission of one of their gentlemen to England will be necessary to pacify by this specious appearance many of that government. By this they do not claim in substance more than a compliment to show the good will of the States towards peace and a desire to renew the friendship with that crown, giving further authority by word of mouth to the expressions set out in their last letter which was printed. It is believed that the Dutch will show no objection to this, being always prepared to show themselves ready for an adjustment.
In the mean time the British monarch is applying himself to obtaining money from the two Houses, and to settling the ways for the exaction of the tax last imposed. When provision has been made for this, parliament will dissolve and they will devote themselves to transactions for an accommodation with more liberty.
Van Boninghen, the resident here, has ventured to say to a person in his confidence, that within a short space he hopes for peace in the North. The queen of England, who is still staying at Salio, has declared to a foreign minister her confident belief that before next spring arms would be laid aside.
Denmark, which did little or nothing last year although bound by the alliance to make some move, being stirred and piqued by an insulting paper published to his detriment by the English, (fn. 4) has given an assurance to the Lords States that this year he will send thirty powerful ships to join their fleet. That in addition he will make a landing in Scotland, and for this purpose he would desire from them a succour of four or five thousand men. But the Dutch, intent on not irritating the English further or altering their favourable disposition, while pointing out their own need of these troops, have declined to grant them, adding moreover that attacks on Scotland would have been more opportune in the last campaign.
The Dutch are in addition trying hard, by means of their minister at Stockholm, to get the act of neutrality altered which has already been signed by the Swedes, whereby they undertake to hold their hands, without doing any offence to Denmark, during the mediation which they have undertaken. The Dutch would like to alter it so that when matters have been adjusted between princes who are now enemies, Denmark may remain free from Swedish attacks, as they are much afraid that Denmark may be troubled by Sweden to please England.
Paris, the 21st December, 1666.
[Italian.]
Dec. 22.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
124. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The ministers have been in prolonged agitation about writing to London on the last replies received from Portugal. About imparting the news to that king every one is agreed, but the discrepancy and dispute is as to the way of expressing it. Some contended that they should adopt a passionate tone, with high and biting phrases. Others favoured dissimulating their offence, writing suavely and expressing confidence. Amid the variety of opinions they have selected an excellent expedient. This is to direct the Ambassador Molina, at a special audience, to set forth the entire series of events, the readiness of this crown for convenable arrangements, and the alienation of Braganza from moderate proposals. He is to assert the hope entertained here of seeing the authority of so great a king employed with determination. It would redound to his own dishonour and would cause dissatisfaction to leave a question of such importance confused and imperfect.
The ambassador is to confine himself to open declarations of this character, but with the ministers he is at liberty to draw attention to various considerations, using some tact. Above all there is to be a royal promise not to assist Portugal or to terminate the agreement.
Thus it was resolved and the despatch sent. The English ambassador was informed of the deliberation. It was considered fitting to perform an act of such estimation and sincerity in this manner. They gave him the information as a sign of confidence, not to hear his opinion. He also was able to conceal it, as he replied to this demonstration in a formal manner, without disclosing what he thought. Afterwards in an aside he remarked to one of his friends: If the Spaniards have decided on this as a way of making complaint, they will irritate; if it is an attempt to provoke to punctilios, they will soon come to realise the vanity of their intentions. This remark being carried to the Junta by a minister who found out about it, left them all in perplexity. They reflected that there must be some understanding between the two brothers-in-law. Here the earl of Sanduich makes show of so much fervour, while in London they operate with extraordinary coldness. The Portuguese either have no incitements from that quarter, or they despise them. As one of these two alternatives must be true, their spirits are perturbed and distressed. They do not know what course to adopt, but all of them foresee that if they continue to avail themselves of his Britannic Majesty as mediator the way will become more entangled instead of being cleared up.
Ambrun, who is perfectly informed of these discussions, employs his confidents to increase jealousy and suspicion of the English among the people. They blame the government which, being able to make use of the Most Christian, who has so great an interest in this crown, prefers the brother-in-law of the rebel himself, leaving him as arbiter, with excess of hopefulness. By such disseminations he tries to win applause for himself, and smoothe the way to render his own mediation acceptable, which it is believed he means to propose again.
The nuncio, in speaking with some ministers of the negotiations hitherto supposed to be concluded but subsequently upset, remarked that the mediation of a heretic king will not bring forth good fruit. They ought to have regard for the faith and establish admirable arrangements about the bishoprics, circumstances which a prince outside the Roman Church neither cares about nor appreciates. I gather that they told him in reply that points of such gravity will not be passed over, no matter by whose hands the treaty may pass. The queen's piety kept her attention closely fixed upon this and superior to every other advantage.
The powers of the French ambassador have not yet been presented. By an indirect way he has suggested the difficulty of setting forth his intentions to ministers appointed not simply to transmit them in writing. They will have to decide upon his pretension. A strong opposition is being prepared. Medina, acting in concert with the earl of Sanduich, is determined to use every means to prevent it. The ambassador of Germany likewise concurs in the same sentiments. I fancy that they have conferred together to look into the question and to make arrangements for acting in concert. Accordingly they would like the ambassador to extend his scope so as to have fresh motives for discussion and dispute. But those who profess the opinion that they should open negotiation with France in any way, base their view on many arguments. The chief of these is that to oblige England to moderation both about the proposals for Portugal and to those for trade it is necessary to cause them jealousy, provide an opposition to their negotiation and show a greater inclination towards the other crown, which will improve their offers and projects. The affair is as curious as it is important.
Madrid, the 22nd December, 1666.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 28.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Francia.
Venetian
Archives.
125. Marc Antonio Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Castel Rodrigo is trying to stir up jealousy between this crown and Holland. He tells them that he knows for certain that the French are working their own affairs secretly in England. Friquet, the imperial resident at the Hague, spreads abroad the same notions. The States have informed Van Boninghen about it. In reply he denies it but for the rest shows himself very uncertain and confused. Rovigny is seeing the queen of England frequently, and this does not pass without notice. There is talk about some neutral place for negotiations. If some understanding about peace should ensue between this crown and England the Dutch would have to put up with French designs on Flanders.
The rising which broke out in Scotland and which threatened a total revolt of that country, has fortunately been stamped out by the punishment of the prime movers of the disturbance. (fn. 5) That country is staggering with blows from every direction. There is not a corner in England which has not experienced disasters. The wrath of Heaven is not satisfied with one scourging.
Paris, the 28th December, 1666.
[Italian.]
Dec. 29.
Senato,
Secreta.
Dispacci,
Spagna.
Venetian
Archives.
126. Marin Zorzi, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
It has been decided to grant audience to the French ambassador about his proposals. He has asked for a Junta, such as was conceded to the English ambassador without hesitation. This has thrown a shadow over the Council and caused much confusion. Those who favour Sanduich oppose it strongly, the others strenuously uphold the contrary. It has at length been decided to answer suavely, but without altering their previous decision. With respect to the English ambassador they answered that knowledge of his negotiations had already preceded him and nothing was obscure at his arrival and that was why they were able to form the Junta for him at once. It is expected that the ambassador will write to Paris for fresh instructions.
The earl of Sanduich professes himself obliged by this decision and content with it. Medina made this clear to them by pointing out the advantage for this crown in making it difficult for the enemies of the British crown to make any beginning of negotiations, instead of plunging into engagements. I learn that the proposals from Paris consist of mediation with Portugal; a defensive and offensive alliance against England, and the renewal of the ancient treaties.
Madrid, the 29th December, 1666.
[Italian; deciphered.]

Footnotes

1 On the 15th November. The terms are given in Dumont; Corps Diplomatique, Vol. vi, Pt. iii, p. 131.
2 He was a son of Col. Werden, who had been sent by Sandwich to Southwell with the proposal to treat from crown to crown, and to prolong the truce to sixty years. Southwell Papers, Brit. Mus., Add. MSS. 34329, fol. 129.
3 Melchior de Harod de Senevas, baron de St. Romain. See the preceding volume of this Calendar, p. 235 note.
4 About the affair at Berghen in August, 1665. See Aitzema: Saken van Staet en Oorlogh, Vol. v, p. 910.
5 The revolt broke out in Dumfries in November. The rebels were routed by Thomas Dalziel, lieutenant-general of Scotland, at Pentland Hill on the 28th of the month. London Gazette, Dec. 3–6, 1666. Burnet: Hist, of His Own Time, Vol. i, pp. 326–31.