Description of the Venetian Archives.
The archives of Venice, as they are arranged at the present time, comprise the State Papers of every kind, legislative, judicial, administrative, political, and diplomatic, together with all other documents of public interest which have been collected since the fall of the ancient Republic. The accumulation of MSS. is prodigious; but vast as is the amount, it would have been greatly exceeded if fires and other casualties, which will be noticed presently, had not thinned the records of the Signory.
From a very remote period the whole course of the government had a tendency to multiply official documents; and an elaborate system of centralization exacted the most minute reports and the most frequent correspondence from all who were invested with delegated authority. While the favourite of a despotic sovereign could, like Wolsey, take upon himself the functions of several departments at once, and leave behind him comparatively few traces of his eccentric course, the Venetian official was obliged to report in writing every measure he took, every piece of intelligence he received; and, however great his capacity or his zeal, he could not encroach on the duties of a colleague or go one step beyond what was written.
Every department, every magistracy had its own special “archive,” and in it were carefully arranged the files (filze) of original documents, and the registers (registri) in which they were either transcribed or calendared by secretaries, under the direction of a superintendent specially appointed for the purpose. The muniments of the various confraternities, convents, guilds, and other corporations, lay and ecclesiastical, were kept with not less care, and all these multifarious documents have been collected from their
several depositories by the Imperial Government and transferred to the ex-convent of the Franciscans, commonly called the “Frari,” where they occupy no less than 298 of its spacious halls and chambers.
The depositories (archivj) which have been ransacked to form this great national collection, are, according to the late Abbate Cadorin, (fn. 1) not fewer than 2,276, and the volumes and bundles of papers (fascicoli) are estimated by the same authority at 12,000,000, a number which he adds will not appear incredible when it is considered that the shelves occupy the whole of the space from floor to ceiling; that the book-cases have a linear extent of 17,438 feet, and that the volumes are stowed in double rows, and so packed as to economize space to the utmost. (fn. 2) This vast magazine of universal history has been arranged with care for the facility of reference, according to the character of its contents, and, with certain restrictions, is thrown open to the researches of the student.
The Marcian Library.
But it is not the only depository of diplomatic and official documents in Venice. Many State Papers, the originals or counterparts of which we shall vainly seek at the “Frari,” are now to be found in the Biblioteca Marciana or library of St. Mark This latter noble institution dates its origin from the 10th of September, 1362, and has an especial right to its name, for on that day the Grand Council passed a decree to accept the offer of the “Poet and Philosopher,” Francis Petrarch, who in consideration of a dwelling house to be provided for himself for the rest of his life, proposed to leave his books to the blessed St. Mark the Evangelist, “si Christo et sibi sit placitum.” The library thus commenced, though now but few of Petrarch's books or MSS. are to be found there, was always an object of special care
to the Signory. Its keepers have always been men distinguished for their talents and learning, and the reader will be interested in hearing that two Scotchmen are named in the list, (fn. 3) Dempster in the middle of the 16th and the Abbé Leith at the close of the 17th century. The Cardinal Bessarion also bequeathed his library to St. Mark, and this event is connected with English antiquities by a correspondence, which is still preserved, between the Signory and Wolsey, who desired to obtain copies of the Cardinal's MSS. for his own new College of Christ Church. Since these early times the collection has been enriched from various sources, and at the present? day yields to few of the most important libraries of Europe in the number and value of its MSS.
The Correr Museum; State papers there.
The Correr Museum was formed by Teodoro Correr, or Corrario, who was born in 1750, and, in early life, filled many important offices under the Republic, which it was his lot to survive many years. He died in 1830, bequeathing his magnificent collection to the municipality of Venice. It abounds in state records of various descriptions, and contains some, of which no copies or duplicates are to be found in the archives. (fn. 4)
Design of th present work.
The object of the present work is to give an account of such materials for English history as I find in these capacious store houses of state papers, or can discover elsewhere in Venice. But, in order to obtain further memorials of the very early period during which the Venetian archives are comparatively barren, I have extended my inquiries to some of the principal libraries of Northern Italy, especially such as contain the archives of states which, at that time, were
independent, and are known to have had some direct connection with England or with Englishmen. The papers which have been thus brought to light are highly interesting, and it seemed the more desirable to incorporate them in the present work inasmuch as they are scarcely of sufficient bulk to furnish materials for a separate publication.
First formation of the Venetian archives; Earliest existing State Papers.
The first formation of the Venetian archives seems to have commenced in very early times with the registry of the “Pacta, or Treaties of the Republic” and “Commemoriali,” or miscellaneous memoranda. The nine volumes of the Pacta, which contain the earliest existing State Papers of the Republic, are only copies, though of very ancient date and of perfect authenticity. The work of transcription was begun in the 14th and completed in the 15th century. The originals have since perished. The two earliest documents thus preserved are, a transcript of the proceedings of the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 481, and a diploma dated in the year 883, by which the Emperor (Charles le Gros) determined the limits of the jurisdiction of Venice, confirmed her tenure of territory on the main land, and renewed the privileges of the Church of St. Mark. (fn. 5)
Of the 10th century, there remain but very few MSS. They are on parchment, and may be consulted in the “Busta Ducali prima.” The greater part of the curious documents of that and the two next centuries “disappeared” (to adopt the politely ambiguous phrase of modern writers on the subject) in the confusion which followed the fall of the Republic in 1797; so that it may be safely asserted in general terms that the continuous series of the State Papers of the old Republic begins with the early part of the 13th century, and ends at the close of the 18th. (fn. 6)
Handwriting of the MSS.
With the exception of the transcripts just mentioned, the registers are almost contemporary with the documents to which they refer. The most ancient character
employed is the Gothic, with some uncial capitals. The next in antiquity is that which is called by the Italian archæologists, the “minuscolo antico,” then follows the “minuscolo regolare,” both of which, in their general aspect, very much resemble the writing of coeval MSS. in our own Record Office. And there is also observable a sort of transition character, connecting the “minuscolo” with the “corsivo,” or running hand, which gradually came into general use, and can be described only as the ordinary Venetian writing of the period. Some specimens of these earlier styles may be seen in the frontispiece. The student who desires fuller information may consult, with advantage, the facsimiles together with the illustrations and explanations contained in the “Programma dell' I. R. Scuola di Paleografia in Venezia,” published in 1861–62, by the Signor B. Cecchetti, for the express purpose, says the learned author, of stimulating the youth of Venice to study the history of their country in its state papers, and of affording them the instruction which they will require for the purpose.
Punctuality of dating.
Fortunately, or rather in consequence of the early introduction of strict method into the republican administration, the Venetian official papers are ail carefully and fully dated, and thus the student is spared a great deal of ungrateful labour, the amount of which is scarcely appreciated by the reading public.
State of preservation.
For the most part the MSS. are in very good condition. The Registers especially are well preserved, though the “filze” or files of original documents occasionally show marks of the injuries of time. Of the despatches from England by far the greater part are in good order. Of some, however, as, for instance, those of the Ambassador Michiel, in Queen Mary's time, the edges are a good deal chafed and worn away, but the context is almost always intelligible. Some have suffered much from damp. The letters of the Secretary Agostini, from 1642 to 1645, especially those written in the latter part of 1644, are so much defaced from this cause as in some instances to be
nearly illegible. Others written in later and comparatively recent times, as, for example, the letters of the Secretary Imberti, in 1732, and the Ambassador Capello, in 1746, are very much injured by the corrosive nature of the ink, and cannot be read without difficulty; nevertheless, in the shelves of the Frari good preservation is the rule—defacement and decay are the exceptions.
Probable date of decree for first forming the archives; The first decrees relating to it that now exist, and their dates.
The decree for registering the “Pacta” and “Commemoriali” has not been preserved, nor has the date been ascertained; but it may with great probability be referred to the reign of Doge Andrea Dandolo, the annalist of Venice and the friend of Petrarch, a prince who has left behind him abundant proof of his care of the national archives. (fn. 7) The earliest existing public act concerning the safe custody of the Republic's State Papers was passed by the Grand Council on the 23rd April 1402; and a second edict to the like effect, was issued by the Council of Ten on the last day of October 1459. The former of these two laws, after providing for the due arrangement and preservation of all the political papers of the Republic, enacts that they shall be so kept, that “prying persons shall lack the opportunity of gleaning from them more of our affairs than the Commonwealth intends.”
Increased care of the State Papers; The journals of the different councils change in character with the successive developments of the constitution; The Grand Council the supreme power in the state; In early days exercised the sole legislative authority, the Doge and the Minor Council the executive. Subsequently the Grand Council delegated much of its power to the Senate.
As the importance of the Republic grew and state papers multiplied, we perceive an increased care to arrange and preserve the records; or rather the care which may be traced from early days, became more distinctly and frequently visible. The history of the archives is moulded on that of the Venetian constitution, whose intricate and complicated machinery is faithfully represented by its State Papers. Every public body had its archives, and the fulness and importance of their respective records vary as the substantial power of the State passed in the lapse of time from one portion of the republican organization to another. Thus a
brief review of the changes in the republican machinery of government will much assist us in understanding the character of the archives. From the first to the last, the Grand Council formed the sovereign assembly of the State, and to it in the last resort all power belonged. In it, as ultimately constituted, every male member of the families inscribed in the Golden Book had a seat on attaining the age of 25. It met every Sunday, and elected the officers to fill many of the most important posts. Nothing shows the strength of the secret governing power in the Venetian constitution so much as this proof that it could dispense with patronage. In early days, when the Grand Council formed the sole deliberative assembly, the Doge and the Minor Council, consisting of six members elected from the six districts of the town, constituted the executive power of the State. As business yearly increased, the Grand Council, from its numbers, became less manageable as an engine of government, and a new body was organized—the Senate or the “Pregadi” (so called because in the first instance its members were chosen by the Doge, at his own good pleasure, and invited to sit with him in council for the discussion of state affairs). (fn. 8) Subsequently, the number was definitively fixed at 300, of whom 120 were elected by the Grand Council; the rest had their seats in virtue of the offices they held in the State.
The Minor Council expanded into the College.
In the meantime the original Minor Council was by degrees expanded into the “Collegio,” and formed a privy council or cabinet. It consisted of 26 nobles, who were elected: three deputies from the “Quarantia criminale” (the supreme criminal court); six “Savj grandi,” who represented the Senate; six “Savj di terra ferma,” who governed the provinces, and in fact formed the “home department” and “war office” of the Republic; and six “Savj ai ordini,” who managed the naval affairs, and formed the board of admiralty. At the head of the college were the Doge and his six counsellors, to whom collectively belonged the title of “the Signory,” implying the supreme power and presidency
of the State. They were the visible impersonation of the abstract Republic, which they represented to the Venetian people and the world at large; and their ostensible functions are illustrated by the various “files” and “registers” of the College and the Senate.
Records of the Minor Council are few.
During the first half of the 13th century, the Doge and the Minor Council seem still to have been the governing power of the State; but the only volume now in existence, containing the records of that body, from 1223 to 1253, numbers but 705 entries, of which one alone concerns an Englishman.
The Grand Council continued to register its proceedings to the last; Nature of its entries.
Throughout the whole existence of the Republic, the Grand Council continued to act, though with various degrees of power, and to register its proceedings. Over-ridden by the Doge and his Minor Council in early times, it seems in the middle of the 13th century to have regained a portion of its influence, or at all events to have exercised a great amount of activity. We find that in 1255 it authorizes the Doge, who probably was a sportsman, to grant permits for the exportation of hawks and hounds duty free. (fn. 9) In April 1281 it forbids surgeons to practise until sworn before the justices. In September 1292 it reduces to 20 soldi the penalty of 25 lire, levied until then on equestrians who indulged themselves in riding to and fro from Rialto by St. Salvator to St. Mark's. (fn. 10) In 1292 and
1293 it prescribes the amusements of the citizens, forbidding all games but chess and backgammon; and at the close of the following century, from 1393 to 1396, it regulates the paving and lighting of the town, and even interferes with the winding up of the parish clock at Rialto. (fn. 11) But over-meddling is fatal to the influence of a numerous legislative assembly; and already at the commencement of the 14th century its power had passed over to the Senate; nevertheless to the last the Grand Council exercised considerable patronage, and was at least in theory the sovereign body. By it all organic changes, all important modifications of the constitution, were decreed. In 1296 it passed the famous Act which, by restricting the admissions into its ranks, established an exclusive aristocracy; and five centuries later it assembled for the last time, on the 12th May in the fatal year 1797, to decree the inglorious suicide of the great Republic, at the dictation of the French invader.
Journals of the Senate multiply fast; they are arranged under different heads; their titles and contents.
When the Senate became the great engine that ostensibly, and to a great extent, really, worked the wheels of the State, its papers multiplied rapidly. Unlike the journals of the Grand Council, they are subdivided into various classes, the earliest of which is
entitled “miscellaneous” (“Misti Senato”), and was commenced in the year 1293; but from the catalogue of the Secret Chancery, compiled by Secretary Negri in the year 1669, (fn. 12) we know that already at that period the 14 first volumes down to the close of 1331 had disappeared. The contemporary indices on parchment, however
ever, remain; and although they are in many parts well nigh illegible, and throughout are scarcely intelligible from the perplexing abbreviations and the barbarous latinity, yet it was necessary to attempt to decipher them in order to ascertain what little can be known respecting that very early commercial intercourse between England and Venice, which was maintained for two centuries and more by the socalled Flanders galleys. The earliest series of the Senate's decrees now in existence, dates from March 1322 to February 1421, and is continued under the titles of “Secreta Senato,” “Corti Secreta,” “Senato Terra,” and “Senato Mar,” down to the year 1797.
The registers “Secreta Senato” fill 140 parchment volumes, from 10th April 1401 to 30th June 1630. The “files,” or original minutes of these registers, from the 1st March 1510 to the 31st August 1630, are contained in 143 volumes.
The registers “Corti,” likewise on parchment, are in number 163; and. the corresponding 442 files, date from 6th September 1630 to 29th April 1797.
The third class of the Senate's registers is entitled “Land” (Senato Terra), as relating to the government of the main land. They likewise are on parchment, in number 411, from October 1440 to February 1778; the files date from 1545 to April 1797, and are in number 3128.
The fourth class “Sea” (Senato Mar), concerning colonia government, Venetian trade in foreign countries, the London “factory,” in the 15th century, &c., consists of 247 parchment registers, from October 1440 to April 1796; the corresponding files being 1286, from March 1545 to April 1797.
The Council of Ten constituted in 1310; gradually engrosses the chief control of the State.
But early in the 14th century a new element was introduced into the Venetian constitution, which gradually wrought in it an essential change. In order to prevent a repetition of the conspiracies of Marino Bocconio and Boemondo Tiepolo, the Grand Council instituted the Council of Ten in the year 1310. It was designed in the first instance
to be a supreme criminal tribunal, but by degrees it arrogated to itself the power of meddling with every department of the state. It was, however, a controlling and checking rather than a governing body. It did not direct the ordinary movements of the State machinery, but interfered in cases where the ordinary movements were to be suspended or extraordinary impulses applied.
Inquisition of State definitively established in 1539; Papers of these two bodies very numerous and interesting; First mention of Council of Ten in connection with England; First despatch addressed to the Inquisitors of State that relates to England.
The leading idea of the Venetian constitution was to combine the greatest possible vigour of the executive body with the least possible power of the individuals who composed it, and for this purpose on all occasions an ingenious system of reciprocal checks was devised. The Council of Ten consisted in reality of seventeen. The Doge and his six councillors belonged to it ex officio. The other ten, from whom its name was derived, were elected for a year, and of these none could be of the same family, nor in the remotest degree connected with the Doge. But in process of time there was needed another controlling and motive power, less numerous, more secret, and more prompt than even the Council of Ten; and from the members of that redoubted tribunal were elected, in the year 1539, for the first time, as a permanent body, the three Inquisitors of State. The various papers of these two Councils are very numerous, and full of interest to the historian. The first time that the name of the Council of Ten appears in connection with English history is at the close of 1508. Amongst the favourites of Henry VII. was a native of Brescia, Don Pietro Carmeliano, an ecclesiastic, the King's Latin Secretary; and with the hope of obtaining Henry's support against the league of Cambrai, the Ten wrote to a Venetian merchant, resident in London, and also to the Consul Giustiniani, instructing them in return for Don Pietro's good offices to promise him preferment for his nephew, a student at Padua. The name of Carmeliano is not recorded by Lord Verulam in his list of the confidential advisers of Henry VII., but the well-known sagacity of the Ten may vouch for the reality of the credit which they supposed the Latin Secretary to enjoy with his
master. In the archives of the Inquisitors the earliest document hitherto discovered by me relating to England is a letter from the Ambassador Hieronimo Lippomano, dated Madrid, 6th February 1587, announcing a plot to poison Queen Elizabeth, and to burn the shipping in the Thames.
Decrees relating to archives gene-rally proceed from whichever Council at the time takes the lead in the State. No decrees of the other Councils exist relating to the papers of the Council of Ten; Proof of its general care to preserve historical documents; Remarkable instance of suppression.
The decrees relating to the preservation of the archives generally proceed from the Council, which at the time is found to be taking the most prominent part in the administration of affairs. The first, as we have seen, were issued by the Grand Council; latterly they emanate occasionally from the Senate, but more usually from the Council of Ten. But no decrees are anywhere to be found which presume to direct the registration of the papers of this latter tribunal, or its offset the Inquisition of State. These bodies had power of their own to preserve or to suppress. Their archives are carefully kept, and we have on record a strong proof of their unwillingness to destroy original documents. In 1406, when Padua had passed under the rule of Venice, and the state papers of her former princes were brought to the ducal palace, a motion was made in the Council of Ten to burn them all. But it was negatived by a majority of nine to seven, and an amendment was carried that they should be locked up in a chest by themselves, as are the minutes of the State trials. (Misti Consiglio X, vol. viii, p. 132). The Council could also, when it thought proper, suppress. The fourth volume of the “Misti Consiglio X” contains its decrees in the year 1355. On Friday the 17th April in that year, Marin Falier was beheaded. In the usual course, the minutes of the trial should have been entered on the 33d page of that volume; but in their stead we find a blank space, and the words—
”Be it not written.”
Care in registering and calendaring very great; Manner in which calendaring was executed by secretaries of the Republic.
The regulations respecting the archives, whether proceeding from the Grand Council, the Senate, or the Council of Ten, arc very precise; the registering is very exact, and
the calendaring is performed with extreme minuteness. In the calendars of despatches every paragraph is noted; the ambassador's reasons for writing or not writing; the visits of ceremony he has paid or received; his protestations of zeal, his promises of vigilance, his professions of respect, all are recorded. In some cases the calendars exist where the despatches are wanting, and from their minuteness they may very adequately supply the place of the originals. In 1668 the archives contained upwards of 2,000 calendared letters written by diplomatic agents from England between 1602 and 1629, though the original letters alone remain: the calendars are at Vienna, but their loss does not entail much additional trouble on the historical student. Calendars so minute require hardly less care of investigation and selection than the original documents. As it may be interesting to the reader to see the method pursued by the secretaries of the Republic in the olden time, a despatch and its calendar have been inserted in the present volume as a specimen.
Secretaries appointed to take care of the archives; Rules to prevent intrusion of unauthorized persons.
Secretaries to superintend the various archives were appointed from time to time, and were multiplied in number and increased in dignity as the charge became more onerous and more important. At the commencement, of the 17th century a patrician superintendent was appointed to take care of the secret archives of the Senate, with a sufficient staff of under secretaries; and in 1632 the Senate elected a second superintendent for the safe custody of legal documents of a more public nature. Strict decrees were made from time to time to prevent the intrusion of unauthorized persons into the “Secreta;” but by the frequent repetition of these decrees, not less than by the complaints with which their preambles abound, it is clear the regulations of the government were frequently infringed; and, moreover, many special decrees are extant for the admission of learned men, and also strangers of distinction.
Patrician historians in connection with archives.
From 1505 the Signory had a paid historiographer, whose duty it was to avail himself of the papers in the archives,
to which he had constant access for the purpose of writing the history of the Republic. The series of these historians comprises 19 names, all of whom, with the exception of Sabellico, were patricians; of their works, none have been published excepting those of Sabellico, Bembo, Paruta, Morosini, Nani, Foscarini, and Garzoni, of whom the four last named were superintendents of the archives.
Diarists; The first, Marin Sanuto, self-constituted.
On the 18th December 1551, in addition to the patrician “historian” of the republic, the Council of Ten determined to appoint a secretary as “annalist,” (fn. 13) an idea which was probably suggested by the voluntary labours of an individual who for many years was the self-constituted and unpaid diarist of the State, and we might almost say, of the civilized world.
Marin Sanuto, who inherited one of the most illustrious names in the Golden Book, was born in the year 1466. He attained no mean reputation in the literary world of his day, and the eulogistic dedications to him by the elder Aldus prove how highly he ranked as a scholar. His Lives of the Doges, which have since been published in part by Muratori; his History of the War of Ferrara; his Itinerary of the Venetian provinces, and other literary works, were
much admired by the critics of the time for their accuracy, their careful research, and their lively and spirited style. But his most remarkable work was little seen by his contemporaries, and till lately was still less known to the world, though its value has always been appreciated by Venetian historians and antiquaries.
Detailed account of his great work;
For 37 years, from 1496 to 1533, Marin Sanuto, in the exercise of his duties as hereditary legislator of Venice, and occasionally filling high official posts, made it his business to attend all the assemblies which he was privileged to enter, and also to gather all the news which the “Broglio” (the noblemen's walk”) on St. Mark's, or the Campo S. Giacomo (the “Exchange“) at Rialto, could furnish; in short, by every means which a man in high position could employ, by special privilege or personal influence, he collected and chronicled from day to day the news of the world as it was transmitted to the prudent, far-seeing Republic, by her officers and agents of all descriptions.
Moreover, by a special decree of the Council of Ten, he was permitted to have access to the public records; to make extracts from the despatches of ambassadors and governors, and generally from all papers “containing advices of current events from divers parts of the world,” and has thus preserved innumerable notices of official and diplomatic correspondence which no longer exists in any of the archives. The work extends to 58 folio volumes, closely written, of an average length of 500 pages each. A diarist has not the power of selection which the historian enjoys: he chronicles the news as it arrives; he describes the actors as they pass before his eyes; he cannot foresee what may become important, nor who may become famous; he records with the fidelity of photography the scene of the moment. The extreme minuteness of the narrative and the multiplicity of details relating to the magistracies and the machinery of the republican government make Sanuto's pages a laborious study for writers and readers of this impatient age. To print the whole would be too hazardous an enterprise for an individual publisher. It
is understood that more than once eminent literary men have proposed to the French Government to undertake the publication. But it is probable that the object would be quite as effectually promoted by inducing the French or some other of the leading Governments of Europe to instruct its diplomatic agents to inquire at the Courts where they severally reside how many copies would be required for the public libraries of each; and when a number of subscriptions was obtained sufficient to cover the cost of publication, there would be no lack of publishers. To make selections from the Diary so as to satisfy the varying tastes and different pursuits of different readers would be difficult. Nevertheless, in this present year 1863, the librarian of St. Mark's Library, Don Giuseppe Valentinelli, has edited for the Historical and Archæological Society of Agram a volume of 476 pages, which contains extracts from Sanuto's Diaries from 1496 to 1515, relating to Southern Sclavonia, and if no publication of the entire work takes place, other literary societies might follow the example and produce very interesting contributions to history by extracting from the diaries the notices relating to their respective countries. In the meantime, to assist the student to the best of my ability, I have given in a preliminary table a concise analysis of the chronological course of this marvellous work.
his ultimate employment by the government;
The Diarist's toil was ill-requited in his lifetime. He began his great work at the age of 30. It was only a very few years before his death that he received a pension of 150 golden ducats, on condition he should bequeath his volumes to the State, a salary which in his will he mournfully “vows to God is as nothing in comparison with the time and labour he is obliged to bestow on his task.” He was poor, and on one occasion was subjected to the humiliation of arrest for debt for 24 hours, through the vindictive malice of a fellow noble; and with his habitual minuteness and ingenuousness, he records all the details of the “horrible mischance” (l'orribil caso); the precise spot where the bailiffs seized him, and the “sponging
house” in which he passed his brief and unmerited imprison ment. (fn. 14) Sanuto devoted all his income to literary pursuits, which in his day entailed a heavy expense; and occasionally he was obliged to deprive himself of the necessaries of life, to procure the paper and the binding for the greatest of his works. This confession is wrung from him in his reply to the Council of Ten, who asked him to allow the historian Bembo to gather materials in the Diary, and he doubtless felt something of jealousy and mortification at the idea that the verbose and pedantic cardinal would carry away the fame which was the only meed he could hope to obtain for his ill-remunerated labour.
Could he have foreseen how much importance would be attached to his volumes in later days, and how their possession would be disputed by rival sovereigns, his longings for posthumous fame would have been gratified.
Annalists and their works
Of the “Secretary Annalists” who were subsequently appointed by the Ten, and who may be considered Sanuto's successors, five volumes exist in the archives, and 58 at Vienna; but so far from resembling his lively and graphic journals, they are a mere collection of official protocols and summaries of the decrees and diplomatic correspondence of the Senate, extending from the year 1549 to 1719; so that besides various subsequent breaks, there is an interval of 16 years between Sanuto's last volume and the commencement of the “Annals” by Antonio Mazza, who was the first of his successors of whose labours any trace remains.
Notwithstanding all this care the records much thinned by casualties.
But although the archives of Venice seem to have been guarded with more care than those of any other State, and though her steady government preserved them up to its close from the perils incident to civil war and revolution, yet they have had more than their full share of casualties.
First fire did little damage.
In 1483 a fire broke out in the ducal palace, but though it did irreparable mischief by destroying the contemporary
portraits of the Doges of the 14th and 15th centuries, with other works of art of the highest value, it did but little damage to the MSS. It called forth, however, many precautionary laws for the prevention and extinction of conflagrations; which, like all the other police arrangements of the Republic, prove how much the Signory was in advance of the great feudal monarchies of Europe in administrative science.
Second fire very destructive.
But no legislation will prevent the recurrence of the usual average of human carelessness in combination with untoward accident. In May 1574 the Doge Alvise Mocenigo had given the accustomed state dinner to commemorate his election, and was presiding in the Grand Council, when volumes of smoke which issued from his private apartments above announced that some accident, arising probably from the preparations for the feast or from its consequences, had produced a fearful conflagration. The flames, fanned by a high wind, spread rapidly. The College hall, the antechamber, and the adjoining entrance hall were consumed, and likewise the Senate hall, besides the attic of the Chancery, together with its bookcases and some chests containing papers and “files.” The whole pile of buildings, including even the attic of the Ten and the church of St. Mark's, was menaced. A night of frightful confusion ensued. By the minute but not very clear account which is given in the “Cerimoniale,” or Book of Ceremonies of the Ducal Palace, No. 1, it would seem that the confusion was augmented by a popular riot, in the course of which some of the prisons were broken open and the prisoners were set free. But all that could be done was effected by the coolness and promptitude of the heads of the government: the Doge with some of his council retreated to apartments on the Place of St. Mark, belonging to the knight and procurator the noble Zuan da Leze or Giovanni da Legge, a name of which we shall hear more presently as that of the first ambassador to England, and which, though no longer found in the Libro d'Oro, is still retained in the British peerage, for the ambassador was the
ancestor of the Earls of Dartmouth. The “Ponte della Paglia,” which connects the Place of St. Mark with the long terrace or quay leading to the arsenal, was cleared of the mob and kept by troops, to facilitate the passage of the workmen of the arsenal; and by the courage and dexterity of the latter the flames were ultimately subdued. The Signory to mark their sense of the services of these brave men ordered them a gratuity of 500 ducats, but they refused to accept any payment. On being repeatedly pressed by the Doge, they consented to consult the chapter of their corporation, and by them all remuneration was unanimously declined.
In the meantime the secretaries and their assistants devotedly risked their lives to remove the archives from the attics where they were deposited. In the utmost confusion the MSS. were carried to the Mint, to the neighbouring dwellings, to any receptacle that could be found for them; and there for some days they were left in the greatest disorder. As soon as it was possible they were collected together and taken in sacks to the attic of the chiefs of the Ten and to the Chancery. But that which was wanting could not be numbered, and it was by no means the part which had actually perished in the flames that caused most anxiety to the Signory They were haunted by the dread that portions of the secret archives might have fallen into the hands of the profane vulgar. A rigorous decree was published, by which all persons of every condition whatever were warned to bring within a certain time to the office of the Ten all books and papers of whatever kind or description belonging to the Republic, which might have fallen, no matter how, into their hands, on pain of death; and further enjoining all persons to denounce those who might act in contravention of this decree, on the penalty of being considered accomplices of their crime and of sharing their punishment. Numerous loose fragments and many books and papers were in consequence brought back; but though we do not hear of any persons being convicted and punished for disobedience, it may be inferred from
the known principles of human nature that some, without any adequate motive, incurred the fearful risk of withholding what belonged to the State. To many the possession of prohibited goods holds out a temptation which is only made more irresistible by the consciousness of the attendant danger.
Losses in consequence.
The “Cerimoniale” gives no account of the loss sustained by the archives on this occasion. There is reason, however, to believe that the destruction of diplomatic papers was very considerable. From a memorandum in the file No. IX. of the Minutes (Notatorio) of the Council of Ten, it appears that the calendars of the despatches from Spain were kept in the book-case of the College, which was destroyed; and it may hence be probably inferred that many similar documents, and especially the letters from England by Venetian ambassadors and secretaries from 1497 to 1554, shared the same fate.
Gaps in diplomatic correspondence.
The diplomatic agents employed in England during this period were amongst the most remarkable of the statesmen of the Republic, but no records of their despatches are preserved, except the summaries of their contents given by Marin Sanuto, and such copies or drafts of their letters as have found their way to private collections and to St. Mark's and other public libraries. The earliest despatches from England now existing at the Frari are those of Giovanni Michiel, whose credentials to Queen Mary were delivered in the summer of 1554; but the consecutive series of his despatches does not commence until March 1555; though the file contains three earlier letters, dated London, 11 and 12 June, and 12 July, of the previous year. It is therefore probable the rest of his correspondence perished in the fire of 1574.
Third fire not less destructive.
Only three years later, on the 20th December 1577, another fire broke out, which ravaged that part of the ducal palace and the archives which the former conflagration had spared. On this occasion it was the hall of the Grand Council, that of the Senate, and that of the Scrutiny that suffered. Works
of art on the walls by the early Venetian masters, of not less beauty than historical interest, were destroyed; amongst which the “Cerimoniale” enumerates pictures by the three Bellinis, by Titian, by Tintoretto, and by Pordenone. The archives suffered much, but still more perhaps from the confusion of removal than from the effects of the fire.
The flames were extinguished as before by the workmen of the arsenal, who, as before, declined all remuneration, though this time the reward of their exertions was tripled, having been raised to 1,500 ducats. Again, from the edict-stone at St. Mark's, and from the “Hunchback” at Rialto, (fn. 15) was thundered forth the denunciation of capital punishment to all who should presume to retain in their possession any fragment of the papers of the Signory, and we may presume with much the same results.
These disasters were thought sufficiently important to be communicated to foreign courts. The ambassador at Madrid, Badoer, writes that the Imperial ambassador bad spread such exaggerated reports of the calamity, and had maliciously persisted in offering such hyperbolical assurances of condolence, that on receiving the true account he himself as the representative of the Republic could not wait for the return of the King to Madrid, but immediately addressed to His Majesty a letter to undeceive him as to the extent of the damage sustained. Philip II., as may be supposed, on learning the misfortune which had befallen the most serene Republic, was vastly concerned; and then, in the see-saw phrase which Goldsmith ridicules, (fn. 16) —but which, in spite of ridicule, must remain the stereotyped form of condolence to the end of time,—on hearing that the consequences were
less serious than was apprehended, he was “vastly glad again.” But little as the haughty Philip might care for the losses of his ally, the modern student will find in all that remains of the lost documents in the shape of calendars, indexes, or incidental notices, good reason to regret the void thus made in the series of Venetian despatches.
French invasion in 1797.
From this time the precautions taken by the Signory against fire were effectual, and there are no further losses from that cause to record. But in the year 1797 the last hour of the Republic had arrived. The stately routine of the aristocratic government, its complicated machinery, its imposing ceremonies, all presented to the eye the same aspect as of old; but vital energy was extinct. The French under the victorious General Buonaparte advanced to the shores of the Lagunes; and with that mixture of fraud and force which made the progress of the revolutionary armies so abhorrent to all generous natures, the French secretary of legation (fn. 17) organised within the city all the agencies of treason to second the foe without. The Council of Ten, the Inquisitors of State, were not less vigilant nor less well informed than of old, but the spell of their power was broken. They feared to provoke by resistance an enemy whom they might have known no submission could mollify. A deputation was sent to learn the fate of the prostrate Republic from the irresistible invader. It consisted of the noblest and the most respected of the Venetian statesmen. They were received with the studied indignities which were among the general's choice weapons of diplomacy. His practice was first to mortify and degrade, and then to negotiate. But it is not our present purpose to tell the sad story any further than it affects the archives. The commissioners returned bearing with them the doom of the Republic. She was to die—and, like the slave of some Roman Emperor or oriental despot, she was ordered to be her own executioner.
Fall of the Republic; new constitution;
On the 12th May 1797, the Grand Council, confirming two previous motions, made on the 1st and 4th of the month, gave its commissioners full powers to treat with the commander-in-chief of the French army; 512 ayes against only 30 noes, and 5 neutral balls, decreed the establishment of a provisional government; (fn. 18) and forthwith a democratic republic affiliated with that of France was proclaimed. Old prophecies, some of which had been gravely recorded, and commented on by Sanuto three centuries before, referred the final doom of the Republic to France; but considering the probability which in all ages has been obvious of such a fate, there is no need to attribute this prediction to more than ordinary foresight.
subsequent confusion and unauthorized pilfering.
Instantly on the change of government, as is usual in such ebullitions of the body politic, the scum rose to the surface, and robbery, more or less disguised, was practised in all departments.
Francesco Donà (or Donato), the last patrician superintendent of “the archives of the Privy Chamber,” retired. The Provisional Government took possession of the “Secreta” in the name of “Liberty, Equality, and the Sovereignty of the People,” and the work of spoliation commenced.
In the first instance, the liberating republic insisted on sharing her adopted daughter's plunder.
Surrender of 500 MSS. by treaty; Pillage of the archives.
By a secret article of the treaty of Milan, it was stipuluted that 20 pictures and 500 MSS. were to be surrendered to the conqueror. No mention was made of the archives; they were probably forgotten, but when the arrival of the citizen Bertholet, and subsequently of Monge, Tinet, and Barthelemi, was announced to make the selection, it was further proposed that as the French republic might not want so many as 500 MSS. from the library, the citizen commissioners should treat with the Republic of Venice for the exchange of some of these MSS. for other objects of
interest and value; an arrangement, it was added, “which would be highly advantageous to both the republics.” (fn. 19)
To this vague and arbitrary proposal no resistance could be offered,—
Vuolsi così colà dove si puote
Ciò che si vuole:”—Dante; Inferno, Canto III.
and the despicable body calling itself “La municipalità provisoria di Venezia” had as little the inclination as the power to question the despotic will which called it into life.
Under the name of an “exchange” for imaginary MSS., were taken away the antique cameo exhibited in the library, and the bronze horses of St. Mark, together with many other objects of rare beauty; and, what most concerns us, a despotic order from the commander-in-chief (who did not even palliate the rapine by the pretext of “exchange”) decreed the removal to Paris (fn. 20) of the entire series of despatches written by the diplomatists of Venice accredited at foreign courts, from the middle of the 16th century to the fall of the Republic. For these, and a great variety of maps and other papers of curiosity and interest, formal receipts were given, the authenticated transcripts of which are now preserved in the archives, and were obligingly communicated to me by the present director, the Count Girolamo Dandolo. And besides all these acts of spoliation, the archives of the magistracy of fiefs (feodi), containing the title deeds and the judicial decrees affecting the greater part of the landed estates of individuals, were forcibly taken away; for what purpose it is not easy to say.
Cession of Venice to Austria by treaty of Campo Formio.
At such a time, when the property of the Republic was in the hands of an irresponsible and ephemeral government, and was exposed, moreover, to the depredations of foreign commissioners who represented the despotism of their employers, and to all the subordinate agents of those commissioners; it is no wonder that many precious objects not named in the above-mentioned receipts were lost for ever; and in the impossibility of apportioning the blame with certainty between foreign plunderer and native thief, the bare fact of the loss can alone be stated. The public and avowed depredations, however, were a direct infringement of the treaty of Campo Formio, by which, in the meantime, Venice had been made over to Austria, and by the 13th Art. of which it was expressly stipulated that all the archives, maps, and public papers of every description should on both sides be given up with the ceded countries to which they respectively belonged; and, of course, justice and common sense required that no fresh abstraction of property should take place from a territory already assigned to another. But a time of revolutionary war is not the season of justice and common sense.
Removal of certain MSS. to St. Mark's Library.
In the meantime, before the arrival of the Austrians, the Provisional Democratic Government, at the instance, doubtless, of the learned keeper of St. Mark's Library, Don Jacopo Morelli, made some efforts to enrich that noble establishment with part of the spoil of the fallen Republic; and, together with many other treasures, they transferred to it from the archives the 58 volumes of Sanuto's Diaries, which luckily had escaped the rapacity of the French Commissioners.
When, in virtue of the treaty of Campo Formio, Austria took possession of Venice, in January 1798, the new government made the most active exertions to collect the receipts which the French commissioners had given, and to obtain accurate information as to the amount and the whereabouts of all the missing property of the late Republic.
These receipts are highly curious: the first of them is dated
in the month of “Annebbiatore” as the month of November was nicknamed, for the affiliated Republic had adopted, in a monkeyish spirit of imitation, the calendar and all the other fooleries of her elected mother; but in spite, or rather in consequence, of her servility, she had been treated as the prize of war, though she had never struck a blow, and had been sold to Austria by the victorious general to suit his convenience, or, if his own declaration may be believed, to gratify his resentment. (fn. 21)
Disputes between the French and Austrian governments respecting the Venetian MSS.
The missing State Papers immediately became the subject of remonstrance and negotiation between the foreign offices of France and Austria, but the conqueror was not prone to make restitution, and he probably from the first considered the arrangements of Campo Formio as merely temporary.
Removal of some of the MSS., M. Sanuto's diary included, to Venice.
Early in the year 1805, when a renewal of the war was imminent, the Austrian cabinet thought it desirable to remove Sanuto's Diaries, together with other historical records, to Vienna for safe custody: and there were accordingly sent from Venice 44 cases, containing, among other State Papers, the calendars of those despatches which had been previously carried away to Paris.
Treaty of Presburg; cession of Venice to France; Renewed disputes between the governments respecting the MSS; Final restitution in 1815.
The precaution was not taken too early: war quickly ensued, and as quickly ended in disaster. On the 5th of December of the same year, by the treaty of Presburg, Venice was ceded to France, to become part of the kingdom of Italy. Again, in the treaty of cession, an article was inserted similar to the 13th of the treaty of Campo Formio, which stipulated for the restitution of all archives, public papers, maps, and plans; and accordingly in lieu of the 44 cases which bad been sent to the Austrian capital, 45 were returned; but they did not contain either the diaries or the calendars. It was now the turn of the French Government to remonstrate · but before the dispute was settled the astonishing events which succeeded each other with such stunning rapidity on
the battle-field diverted the imperial foreign offices on both sides from the diplomatic routine of complaint and subterfuge, till the final settlement of Europe, in 1815, left the Austrian Government in undisputed possession of the prize. At the general peace, 417 MSS. and printed books were restored to the Library of St. Mark's, and 2125 files of Venetian despatches written from foreign courts in like manner found their way eventually to the Frari.
Copy of M. Sanuto's diaries in the Marcian Library.
The original diaries of Marin Sanuto remain at Vienna, but a careful copy had been made of them by the last historiographer of the Republic, the patrician Francesco Donà, who died at Padua in the summer of 1816, and by him was bequeathed to St. Mark's Library. In consequence of the confusion into which his affairs had fallen, his executors neglected, for some months, to comply with his directions; but at length, in February 1817, this precious legacy was recovered for the Library by the Abbate Morelli; and for all practical purposes it is more useful, inasmuch as it is enriched with ample indexes and is more legible, than the original MS. Permission to peruse these Diaries is granted most liberally, and it is no small addition to the student's enjoyment to be enabled to pore over Sanuto's graphic pages amidst the scenes to which they refer and the memorials of the men whose deeds they record.
Decrees for collecting all archives and muniments at the Frari in 1817.
It was in this same year 1817, that it was determined by the Imperial cabinet to collect together the scattered archives. Some partial efforts of the same kind had previously been made. In 1807 what then remained of the contents of the Secret Chamber had been removed to the Scuola di S. Teodoro. The judicial records had been deposited in the ex-convent of St. John Lateran, and the documents relating to the revenue were collected at S. Provolo, but now one general measure of consolidation was decreed. The situation of the convent of the Frari in the centre of the town, and its vast size, recommended it as the fittest building for the purpose; and to this receptacle, in the year 1818, the contents of the various archives were removed.
Labour of arrangement and classification; Both the latter described by the Abbate Cadorin,; but planned by J. Chiodo.
There now remained only the work of arrangement and classification, a herculean labour which has been accomplished with great ability. The thanks of the literary world are due to the municipality of Venice, for the first attempt to give to the public a detailed account of the manner in which this task has been executed. By their directions, the late Abbate Cadorin furnished an interesting paper on this subject as a contribution to the Guide Book, which they were preparing as an appropriate greeting to the Scienziati, or Literary Institute of Italy, on occasion of their first meeting in Venice, in the year 1847. Since then some alterations in the arrangement have been made, but not important enough to affect materially the utility of the Abbate's essay. His work, however, was not original; it was compiled from a MS. entitled “Piano sistematico per la distribuzione e collocazione di tutti gli archivi, &c.,” which was written by the late director of the archives, Jacopo Chiodo, and is still preserved at the Frari. (fn. 22)
Chiodo's division into four compartments, according to subject matter.
According to this “systematic arrangement,” the great collection at the Frari is divided into four compartments (“Riparti”),—political, judicial, commercial, and territorial, and each compartment into divisions, containing separate archives, and subdivided again into heads and sections
corresponding with the complicated organization of the public offices of the Republic.
The infinite network of subordinate divisions are useful study for the historian of Venice; Difficulty of rejecting any of the papers from a perusal of their titles only; Instances of miscellaneous information to he found under the least promising heads.
It would be foreign to our present purpose, and uninteresting to the general reader, to give a detailed description of this minute classification. Nothing, in fact, can at first sight appear more dry and repulsive than the intricate labyrinth it presents to the eye; but to the student whose object it is to illustrate the history of the Republic, no preliminary study could be more useful for the right understanding of its constitution than to trace the various ramifications of its administration, and to thoroughly understand the refined and elaborate mechanism by which the great Republic maintained for centuries its complicated system of government. Nor is it safe without examination to condemn any portion of the archives as uninteresting, for it is impossible to guess what may lurk under the most unpromising titles. For instance, (fn. 23) if the student desires to learn anything respecting the buildings and the architects of the Republic, he must turn to the records of the salt office—because the salt tax furnished funds for the public buildings. Thus, too, all particulars relating to wills are to be found in the “water-bailiff's” office, because the legacy tax defrayed the expense of keeping the lagoons in repair, and we may find in one and the same page of the Senate's journals a contract, a patent, and a treaty. The materials for the history of science, to be found in these archives, are very abundant. The practical arts and the applied sciences were carried to a high state of perfection in Italy, before they were spoken of north the Alps. The drainage necessary to redeem the alluvial lands formed by the rivers which bring their tribute of soil as well as water to the Adriatic; the prodigious breakwater constructed to roll back the waters of the Gulf, and many other works of a like nature, make the records of the magistracies “delle Acque,” and “del Piovego” of the greatest interest to the engineer. The papers relating to the navy, the fortifications,
the cultivation of waste lands, and many other similar matters are highly curious. Nor was abstract science neglected. Venice had the merit of patronizing Galileo. There is still existing a decree (fn. 24) which appoints him to the chair of mathematics in Padua, and praises him for having lately invented an instrument derived from the secrets of perspective, for rendering objects visible at a great distance.
The first of Chiodo's divisions, which is headed political, engrosses the English reader's interest; Synoptical view of the classification premised in preliminary table; No general catalogue exists of the State Papers.
It is obvious, however, that for the foreign student the first or “political” compartment possesses an engrossing interest, and in order to assist him in tracing its intricate ramifications, and in mastering its technical nomenclature, I propose giving in a preliminary table a synoptical view of the classification of those portions of the collection in which the materials for history are most abundant. In the meantime I shall only attempt to give the reader a general notion of some of the chief sources of information, and of the use to be made of them. But as yet no general catalogue has been made, and till this important deficiency has been supplied, little at the best can be done to lighten the toil and difficulty of the student's researches.
Popular account of principal sources of information.
The political compartment is composed of three leading divisions:—1. The Ducal Chancery. 2. The Secret Chancery. 3. The Papers of the Council of Ten.
The Chanceries of the ancient Republic were two; one styled Ducal, the other Inferior, both having for their president the Grand Chancellor, an officer elected from the order of secretaries (the highest class of citizens), and not from the ruling aristocracy. In the Ducal Chancery were preserved the public state papers of various kinds. In the Inferior Chancery, or “Archivio proprio del Doge,” were set apart the laws and regulations affecting the Doge, (“promissioni ducali,” (fn. 25) ) the investigations into the conduct of the deceased Doges, all papers relating to their elections, their patronage, and in short everything that concerns the
functions, the duties, and privileges of the ducal office. These two are now united.
The ancient division of the papers into secret and ostensible.
In the far famed “Secreta,” adjoining the Senate hall, which is now occupied by “alligators stuffed and other skins of ill-shaped fishes,” (fn. 26) were kept of yore the papers relating to the more delicate and difficult transactions of the State. These now, since their removal to the “Frari,” are included in the same department with the Ducal Chancery; and may of course be expected to furnish the most interesting materials for the historian.
The Ducal Chancery, however, amid the various legislative decrees of the Great Council and other public bodies, contains much that throws light on the history of foreign countries. The nine volumes of the “Pacta” before referred to have also supplementary portfolios containing treaties down to the 12th May 1797.
The registers of the “Pacta” and the “Commemoriali,” contain treaties, and beside them drafts of acts, diplomatic instructions, private correspondence, tariffs, commercial transactions, lists of prices current, reports of government officials, and of unaccredited merchants trading in foreign parts, respecting commerce, sanitary laws, political economy, though the name was not yet invented; and amongst these many notices are to be found relating to this country and the early development of its commerce, and illustrating generally the history of civilization in Europe.
The transactions with the Court of Rome occupy a prodigious amount of space in the Republic's files and registers of all sorts, and are of considerable value to the student of mediaeval history. The great magazine of all ecclesiastical lore, the Vatican, is virtually closed against the prying eye of historian or archæologist; but the shelves of the “Frari” are open, and there is probably no other collection which affords such facilities for becoming acquainted with the complicated ecclesiastical system of the
“Corte Romana.” The heading of “Roma expulsis,” which is given to some of the public decrees relating to church matters, might at first sight puzzle the student, but it refers to a custom which is carious and highly characteristic of the long-sighted caution of the Signory: it is prefixed to decrees in the discussion or passing of which no part could be taken by patricians who bad any connexion with Rome by means of dignified ecclesiastics of their family dependent on the Pope; and who, accordingly, were compelled to withdraw when matters on which their judgment might be biased were brought forward.
The archives of the Council of Ten, embrace every variety of subject: discovery of the correspondence of E. Courtenay.
The papers of the Council of Ten are of the highest value and embrace every variety of subject, inasmuch as they appertain to a body whose supervision was universal, and whose powers were without definition or limit. When the printing of this volume was far advanced, the Signor L. Pasini obligingly communicated to me some papers belonging to the archives of this redoubted tribunal which he, in conjunction with the Cavalier Toderini, had been instructed by the Director, Count Dandolo, to examine. They were remarkable as being the first series of letters written in the English language which had as yet been found at the “Fran,” and they proved to be a portion of the correspondence of Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, who died at Padua of low fever, though not without suspicion of poison, in September 1556. We know from Mr. Turnbull's Calendar (p. 253) that at the instance of Peter Vannes, ambassador from Queen Mary to the Republic, all the papers found in the deceased Earl's chamber had been consigned to the “Podestà” of Padua, (fn. 27) till the Queen's pleasure was known, and that they were ultimately given up to her representative. But upwards of ten years ago, in looking over the letter files of the Council of Ten, I found several entries respecting these papers which much
excited my curiosity. In the first place it was ordered that they should be brought with the utmost secresy to Venice; next that the cabinet which contained them should be opened by a skilful workman sworn to silence, in so careful a manner that no trace of his operations should be left; then, that the papers should be inspected by the Chiefs of the Ten; and finally, that certain letters marked with a cross should be subtracted, after which the cabinet should be closed and returned to the Podestà of Padua. There is good reason to believe that at this time Edward Courtenay was a tool in the hands of the French Court, and the Signory probably had some strong interest in obliging the French ambassador, or in concealing from Mary the intrigues of her weak and ambitious subject. As I have been unable to discover the mark of the cross on the letters now brought to light, it is impossible to identify them with the papers referred to in the minutes of the Council. But if they are not the same, when did they pass into the possession of the secret tribunal? or were other letters also, besides those marked with a cross, subtracted from the deceased Earl's cabinet? Further search may perhaps explain the mystery, but in the meantime it is premature to discuss the question, more especially as this correspondence does not belong to the period embraced in the present volume.
their state trials important to the historian: e. g. investigation into the attempted murder of Fra Paolo Sarpi by a bravo,; who turns out to be a Scotchman.
Not unfrequently the records of the state trials before this secret tribunal may be found to throw important light on history. In their archives are 45 portfolios labelled “Processi Criminali.” The earliest of these is dated 5—10 October, 1607, and contains at great length the investigation of the attempted assassination of Fra Paolo Sarpi. These papers, when compared with the despatches of Francesco Contarini, ambassador at the time to Paul V., strongly confirm the suspicion of the wounded man, who exclaimed “Agnosco stylum curiæ Romanæ!” when they showed him the dagger which was extracted from his temples, and is still preserved in the Correr museum. We find too from
an entry in the “Esposizioni,” under which title are registered the statements of foreign ambassadors, that this attempted murder is connected in a way altogether unexpected with English history; for on the 15th October, 1607, Sir Henry Wotton told Doge Donato that the blow was struck by a Scotchman, who frequented the English embassy; although he passed by the name of “Giovanni Fiorentino figliolo di Paolo.” (fn. 28)
One circumstance mentioned in the investigation curiously illustrates the manners of the day. A druggist was commissioned to ascertain if the dagger was poisoned, and in due time reported to the chiefs of the Council of Ten that he had tried it on a dog and on a chicken, and that as both these patients were convalescent, he hoped the theologian of the Republic would recover also.
The most fertile source of information the diplomatic papers; but the intelligence respecting one country often to be found in the papers relating to another.
But it is to the diplomatic archives that the student of foreign history turns with chief interest. I must premise, however, that it is impossible to collect all that relates to any given country by searching only the papers that professedly relate to it. Much valuable material varying in amount according to the political importance of the country in question, will be found in the correspondence of ambassadors at other courts.
Instances of this.
Thus, for instance, the love letters of Queen Elizabeth (Sept. 1579) to Anjou, are enclosed in the despatches of Lippomano, the Venetian ambassador at the court of the Louvre. From Brussels in July, 1556, the ambassador Badoer writes that, to counteract the policy of Charles V. and Philip II., who proposed bestowing the hand of Elizabeth Tudor on the Archduke Ferdinand, Henry II. would affiance Mary Stuart to Edward Courtenay. In November, 1559, Giacomo Soranzo, who had formerly been accredited
to King Edward and Queen Mary, wrote from Vienna that Queen Elizabeth complained of never having received any love token from the Archduke Charles, with whom her marriage was then in course of negotiation; whereas Tiepolo writes from Toledo on the 30th January 1560, that she was more inclined than ever towards the Archduke, and that she had placed his portrait at the head of her bed. In June 1566, Leonardo Contarini announces from Augsburg the arrival of Dannet (a diplomatist of whom mention is made in the “Compleat Ambassador,” p. 136,) to resume the long-suspended negotiations. In September, 1567, we find the ambassador Michiel at Vienna, discussing this marriage with the Earl of Sussex; and early in 1568 he transmitted to the State the copy of a letter from Gratz, to the effect that the match was more than ever distasteful to the Archduke, who eventually gave his hand to Mary Anne of Bavaria. From Rome on the 6th May, 1570, the ambassador Surian transmitted the Bull of Pope Pius, which excommunicated “the Pretender “Elizabeth”; remarking that, “now and then, his Holiness assuredly allows himself to be too far transported by his zeal, which, although such becomes a good Pope, yet would it profit much more, if exercised with greater caution; and in this matter of England the least mischief thus caused will be the persecution and martyrdom of the best catholics in the kingdom.” On the other hand, the Bailo or Venetian ambassador at the Porte announces that the Sultan Amurat is so much pleased with Elizabeth's embassy to him (the first ever sent by an English Sovereign to Constantinople (fn. 29) )—that he compares her to the Queen of Sheba, and himself to Solomon. From Spain, as might be expected, the Venetian despatches transmit the most minute and accurate intelligence respecting the preparations of the
Armada from 1585 to 1588; and similar instances might be multiplied without end.
Language of the diplomatic papers.
Conformably to the general practice of Europe, Latin is the language of all the documents in the archives, with rare exceptions, down to the close of the 15th century, and of the missives of the Republic to its ambassadors, among the rest; but from the few despatches of early date which remain, we may infer that the ambassadors began to reply in Italian about the year 1470. In St. Mark's library there is a portfolio of letters from the ambassadors Contarini and Priuli in Hungary, A.D. 1479, which are written in Latin; but in the same library the series of letters written by Zaccaria Barbaro from Naples, between 1471 and 1473, are in Italian. In the “Deliberazioni Senato” we find the Republic still writing in Latin to the ambassador in France, Hieronimo Zorzi, on the 4th of January 1488; but on the 9th of October 1492, two missives from the State, the one addressed to the captain of the Flanders galleys, the other to the Venetian consul in London, are both written in Italian, although the decree for writing them is registered in Latin. In February, 1496, the Republic wrote to Francesco Capello, the ambassador in Spain, in Latin, announcing its assent to the admission of Henry VII. into the “Holy League,” but on the following 29th March a ducal missive on the same subject, addressed to the Signory's negotiators in London, Contarini and Vallaresso, is written in Italian, which language was thenceforth used habitually for official correspondence with diplomatic agents, although the commission given to the ambassador Andrea Trevisan on the 12th June 1497 on the eve of his departure for England, is in Latin. At Burgos, in May 1524, the ambassador Gaspar Contarini presented Charles V. with a Latin letter from the State, whereupon the Emperor observed, “I am a bad Latin scholar, I will have it read to me bye and bye.” In February 1603, Doge Grimani wrote to Queen Elizabeth in Italian, and four of her letters to the Republic, from March 1582 to March 1585, are in the same language, though in general our sovereigns corresponded
with the State in Latin. The English ambassadors generally used Italian in all their communications with the Signory, though some few instances of the use of Latin may be found as late as the close of the 17th century. The general use of French was not introduced till later, and it is only in very recent times that English diplomatists make their written communications with foreign courts in English.
The diplomatic papers of the State may be ranged under the following heads:—
The diplomatic papers may be classed under six heads.
- I. The instructions or commission given to the ambassador on his departure.
- II. The despatches written by the State.
- III. Newsletters which accompanied the despatches, having been compiled in the ducal chancery, for the information of foreign powers; these newsletters were styled advices, “avvisi,” and although they no longer exist in the archives, a collection of them, commencing with the year 1510, may be seen at Vienna. (fn. 30)
- IV. The despatches written by the diplomatic agents during their missions.
- V. Advices transmitted by the ambassadors from foreign courts.
- VI. The “report” which the ambassador read to the College and Senate on his return.
Account of each.
The instructions which were given on his departure are interesting, as showing what was the great object which the Signory had in view in sending the mission. The despatches of the Government contain their directions for the guidance of their agent in all the various changes which affairs may undergo, and not unfrequently do both these classes of documents suggest the reflection, how little the wisest politician can foresee the points on which the results he dreads or desires, ultimately turn.
The despatches to whom addressed,
The despatches of the Envoys are written with the most perfect regularity, and with the utmost minuteness of detail.
According to official form, the bulk of them are addressed to the Doge as the head of the Republic whom he represents; this part of the correspondence containing the ostensible business of the embassy was destined for the College and Senate; but matters of more intricacy and delicacy were communicated in separate letters addressed to the Doge and the Council of Ten; and a third series of letters more secret still, bore the address either of the chiefs of the Ten or of the Inquisitors of State, who in like manner, when necessary, corresponded directly with the diplomatic agents of the Republic.
except in one set of despatches from England cypher rarely used.
Of the letters sent from the Court of Queen Mary by the ambassador Michiel, about one sixth part is written in cipher. But other instances of cipher in the despatches from England, now preserved at the Frari, are rare. Some of the secret passages written in the month of April 1555, evidently relate to the release of the Earl of Devonshire from the Tower, and of the Princess Elizabeth from Woodstock.
Of the “advices” or “newsletters” the most interesting to the student of English history are those forwarded by the Venetian ambassadors in France; they are in number 239, all with the date of London, and ranging from the 21st June (N.S.) 1645, to the 16th May 1652 (N.S.)
The Reports, their origin;
Very early in the history of Venetian diplomacy, on the 22d December 1268, the Grand Council decreed that all ambassadors on their return should report their diplomatic proceedings; the Signory being bound to supply them with a clerk to write out the narrative (fn. 31) ; and on the 24th July 1296, the ambassadors having apparently reported of late years solely to the Doge and his councillors, it was further ordained by the Grand Council, that the reports should be delivered in the council by which the ambassador had been appointed.
By these two acts, within 15 days of his return the ambassador was bound to acquaint the State with the result
of his observations in such fashion as he believed to be “ad “proficuum et honorem Veneciarum.”
their nature; their value;
Such was the origin of the famous Venetian “Reports” or Relazioni; and by degrees it became the custom to add a geographical description of the country, and also an account of its climate, its products and manufactures, the temper and disposition of the people, their manners, laws, and customs, the sovereigns and their ministers, and all that was known of their characters and tempers, down to a description of their personal appearance and their dress. These reports were listened to with critical interest, and much pains were usually bestowed on their composition. They do not profess to narrate historical facts; they are compendiums of the information which the writers had collected, the records of the impressions they had received. As it was the rule, though often infringed in practice, that no envoy should remain at the same post more than two years, a series of the reports of successive ambassadors gives the changes in manner, temper, and appearance of the same personages in their progress from youth to age, and thus imposes an useful check on the modern historian, who is apt to form his idea of each personage in the great drama from the exhibition he makes of himself at some particular period, and practically to forget that he was ever otherwise, or appeared in other light to his contemporaries. It is not easy now to remember that Mary Queen of Scots was not always fair and young, that Elizabeth was not always wielding a truncheon as at Tilbury Fort; that Henry VIII. was not always “corpulent and cruel.”
their frequent publication in violation of the law;
When these reports had been read it might be supposed that they were all deposited in the secret chamber, but from the Negri Index, compiled in 1669, we learn that the number to be found there was then very small, whereas the quantities which have been found in other quarters is very considerable. In early times public curiosity was much excited respecting them. The Envoy of the Signory was always
an object of great respect at the court where he resided. The Republic was singularly careful to choose fit representatives, and no government in the world was ever more free from the defects of favoritism or jobbing. Wicquefort holds up the agents of Venice as the model of diplomatists, and Lord Chesterfield advises his son in whatever court he resides to cultivate by all means the society and friendship of the Venetian ambassador. It is not wonderful then that their reports were eagerly sought for, and that many of them got abroad in versions more or less correct. Even in the 16th century there was a sale of Venetian MS. reports in Rome at the rate of 15 pauls per hundred sheets. In 1616, the Secretary Lionello found a series of his countrymen's reports, also in manuscript, in the Bodleian library at Oxford; (fn. 32) and in the year 1621 we find the Venetian ambassador in Rome, Francesco Contarini, purchasing there a report of England, compiled by himself eleven years previously, which, he remarks, “contained in substance divers particulars existing in the true report “delivered in the Senate; “nor did he know how they had transpired. (fn. 33) Nearly a century later, Alvise Contarini has recorded in a MS. diary, (fn. 34) that on the
5th August 1713, he heard the Ambassador Tiepolo complain that in Rome MS. reports were sold in great abundance, and without the least attempt at concealment, and he entreats the Senate to prevent an irregularity which must have the ill effect of either sealing their envoys' lips or of divulging to the public what ought to be kept secret. This was probably the last time any attempt was made to draw the attention of the Executive to this standing grievance.
Account of several of these publications.
Nor was it long before specimens of the reports were seen in print also. The earliest publication of “Relazioni” appeared at Cologne in 1589; (fn. 35) it contained several reports of Venetian ambassadors, which, though very incorrectly given, were much admired, and in the course of ten years the work went through several editions. In the next century it was followed by the letters of Bulifon, by the “Tesori della corte di Roma,” and by many similar works, which all contained Venetian reports.
The first English translation of a Venetian report (that of Rome by Angelo Correr) was published in London by John Bultell in the year 1668.
In more modern times many single reports have been published. In England, for instance, a few copies of the report of the court of Edward VI. were privately printed in 1804, at the expense of George, Earl of Macartney, in quarto. (fn. 36) In 1827 Sir Henry Ellis published a translated abridgement of the report of England, A.D. 1559, by Giovanni Michiel. (fn. 37) In 1847, the late John Holmes, F.S.A., of the British Museum, furnished a most valuable account of Venetian MS. reports existing in England, as an introduction to the report of Andrea Trevisan (1498), so admirably edited and translated for the Camden Society by Miss Sneyd.
Other single reports have also appeared elsewhere, especially at Venice, where of late years the custom has prevailed of printing some curious old document connected with the ancient glories of the Republic, and presenting it as a marriage gift. Collections also have been made of reports both by private societies and by official authority. In 1838 Signor Tommaseo published two volumes of Venetian reports in Paris, under the auspices of the French minister for public instruction; and in the following year at Florence Signor Eugenio Albèri published the first volume of the fifteen now in being, entitled, “Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti al Senato, raccolte, annotate ed edite da “Eugenio Albèri, a spese di una società.”
Despatches also got abroad; Carte the first English historian who made use of them; Rymer praised “by the last Venetian historiographer for his use of original documents.
In like manner, though with less frequency, the copies of the despatches of Venetian ambassadors found their way to the public. The first historian with whom we are acquainted, who avowedly made use of similar documents, was Thomas Carte. At the commencement of the last century he consulted at Paris, in the Royal Library, the London letter books of Alvise Vallaresso, and to this day they are still accessible to the public, in the very same place. Our countrymen were among the first to perceive the value of original documents, and Rymer is especially
praised by Francesco Donà, the last historiographer of the Republic, for having made diplomatic records subservient to history.
Sir H. Ellis's statement that no list of English diplomatists to any foreign court has been made out.
A modern historian, who appreciates Venetian diplomatic remains as fully as any of his predecessors, Sir Henry Ellis, remarks in his interesting collection of original letters published in 1846, that “No complete list of the ambassadors “sent from England to any of the powers of Europe, greater “or smaller, is anywhere to be found at present.” (fn. 38)
Possibility of supplying defect with respect to Venice.
I felt convinced that the records at the “Frari,” together with the diaries of Marin Sanuto, and other MSS. to be found in St. Mark's library, would enable me to supply the deficiency with regard to the Republic of Venice. Nor was I mistaken. I have given in a preliminary table the entire series of diplomatic agents accredited to the Signory by England, Scotland, or Great Britain, together with a reference to the authorities by which each link of the chain is established. These authorities are very various. To mention some of them may be interesting, as it will supply an example to illustrate the use of the various files and registers, whose titles have previously been briefly enumerated.
List of authorities from which the information has been obtained and mode of using them.
I. The volumes entitled “Commmemoriali” which are not mentioned in the report made by Andrea Morosini in 1602, (fn. 39) although by the Negri Index we know that they were kept in the bookcase No. VI., shelves 1 and 2. They extend from the year 1295 to 1787. They contain, together with the variety of matter already mentioned, statements made by foreign ambassadors, previously to the separate registration of them in the “Esposizioni Principi,” which commences in 1541.
II. The “Esposizioni Principi,” a series which was begun
as above-mentioned for the purpose of registering the statements made to the College by the diplomatic agents of foreign potentates; but besides their more immediate subject matter, the “files” from which the Registers were compiled frequently contain original credentials, and a great variety of miscellaneous documents, many of which relate to British subjects.
III. The unregistered “Patti;” which are of various kinds, and comprise, besides treaties, letters from crowned heads and prime ministers.
IV. Two portfolios, containing upwards of 200 original letters from British Sovereigns and Princes addressed to the Republic.
V. The despatches of Venetian ambassadors.
VI. The communications made by the Council of Ten to the Senate and College, which fill 32 bulky folios without any index, and embrace a period of 205 years, from 1582 to 1787. They contain matters which required momentary concealment, and subsequently were allowed that limited publicity which was given to a certain portion of that council's state papers.
VII. The books of ceremonies of the Ducal Palace and of St. Mark's Church, which, under a restricted title, contain much that is matter for history, and by recording the honours paid to persons of distinction, often give information respecting them, to be found nowhere else. Thus, the last letter in our own State Paper office of Edward Harvel, (fn. 40) ambassador to the Signory from Edward VI., is dated March 20th, 1547; nor is anything more known of him, till two years later we find a minute account of the public funeral decreed to him by the Venetian Senate. It is a curious fact, recorded in the same volumes, that in the year 1635, when the same honour was intended for Viscountess Fielding, who died ambassadress at Venice, her husband was obliged
by the Government at home to decline it, although the deceased was a Roman Catholic because the “ceremonies proposed were contrary to the usages of the Anglican religion.”
The first volume of the book of Ceremonies of the Ducal Palace, besides other matters indicated by its title, registers the presents made by the Republic, even to ambassadors, of whose negotiations, from their apparent insignificance, no note is taken in the journals of the Ten, the College, or the Senate; yet even thus, curious minute fragments of history are to be found. By an entry in this volume, it appears that in August, 1598, Lord Sanquhar, who is styled the Baron of “S. Chierio,” presented himself as ambassador from James VI. of Scotland. The real object of his journey to Italy, Lord Sanquhar avowed subsequently to the Venetian secretary in London, was to obtain from Clement VIII., then at Ferrara, his support for the Scotch monarch's claim to the throne of England; while James himself, having obtained the object of his desires, went out of his way to talk to the same secretary of Lord Sanquhar's mission, and to represent him as accredited solely to Hungary.
VIII. The journals of the Senate (“Secreta Deliberazioni,”) whose accurate entries will be found most useful in correcting the coloured and unfaithful statements of foreign envoys who quote from memory, or misrepresent by design.
IX. The common registers of the Council of Ten.
X. The Diary of Marin Sanuto, that is to say the copy kept in St. Mark's library.
Lists of diplomatists on both side also of captains of Inlanders galleys, promised in preliminary tables.
It is obvious that if in calendaring these various documents, the notices relating to British envoys had merely been extracted and inserted in their proper place, the student who desired to make out a list of our ambassadors at Venice must encounter an amount of trouble inferior only to that of researches among the original documents. To the list of ambassadors I have added one of the English consular agents at Venice, as likewise of the Venetian diplomatists and
consuls in London, as far as I have been able to discover them, and of the captains of the Flanders galleys, who in early times were far more efficient than the agents of diplomacy in maintaining the connection between the countries.
Use of such lists; Instance of this use.
Such lists will probably be found useful to future antiquaries in explaining and arranging many a fragment of documentary evidence which may hereafter be discovered in ancient records; and will, I trust, prove a not unacceptable contribution to the yet unwritten history of English diplomacy. The subject is one which it is advantageous to consider as a whole; nor can it fail to assist the historical student, to be enabled to comprehend in a single survey the rise and progress of internuncial relations between the two countries. While the present volume was going through the press, an incident occurred which illustrates the bearing of these lists on inquiries with which they have no obvious connection. Sir Charles Eastlake obligingly informed me that he had purchased for the National Gallery, from the Manfrini collection, a small portrait by an unknown painter of the Van Eyck school. It represented a man of about the age of 35, who holds in his hands a letter addressed to “Marco Barbarigo, son of the late Francesco, Procurator of St. Mark, London.” Marco Barbarigo was born in 1414, and lost his father in 1448. By reference to the list it is shown that he was consul in London in 1449, and at that time the elections for the most part were annual. (fn. 41) By thus fixing the date of the picture, the number of Van Eyck's pupils to whom the work can be assigned is much diminished, and a material help is obtained for ascertaining the authorship.
Rise of diplomacy; Early reception of ambassadors; Reception of an English. Lady on “business by the College.
In England and Venice, as everywhere else, we find that the system of diplomatic and consular agency was gradually developed to meet the requirements of advancing civilization. In the first instance messengers were sent only when there was something special to say. The consideration of the two parties for each other was shown by the ceremonial with which the messengers were received; and the minute accounts of these receptions with which the diplomatic archives abound, are not the effusions of gratified vanity, but rather the narratives of facts of political significance. As times and fashions change, it is interesting to observe the alterations of the ceremonial. In Venice the ambassador's reception presented the same grave solemn pageant from the first to the last. The travelled reader cannot have forgotten the Sala del Collegio with its gorgeous ceiling, and its walls glowing with the richest colours of the Venetian school. There, in seats arranged like the stalls of a choir, with the Doge's throne in the midst, sat the Signory, dressed in the same picturesque robes which the Venetian painters have made so familiar to us; and there the ambassador, after the verification of his credentials and other matters of form, was received by the College standing, and placed in the seat of honour at the Doge's right hand. On one occasion, and I believe on only one,—it is hoped the reader will pardon the digression,—a countrywoman of our own was admitted by the College to an interview on business. On the evening of the 21st April, 1622, the Countess of Arundel, who was residing in the Venetian territory to superintend the education of her sons at the University of Padua, was stopped on her way from her Villa at Dolo to Venice by a special messenger from Sir Henry Wotton, the English ambassador, who warned her not to proceed, for on that very morning had been found suspended between the columns in the Piazzetta the body of the noble Foscarini, who had been executed in the night for high treason; and it was confidently said that he had found facilities for carrying on his intrigues in Lady Arundel's drawing room in Casa Mocenigo —the very same since tenanted by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
and by Lord Byron. The spirited lady, on receiving this message, desired her servants to redouble their speed She went straight to Sir Henry's residence, though the night was far advanced, and could with difficulty be persuaded to defer her demand for an audience of the Signory till the morning. The next day she was introduced to the college by the ambassador, and placed in his seat of honour by the Doge's side. Wotton on her behalf gave the fullest and most complete denial to every particle of the charge. She had not even seen the deceased since her last return to Italy. The Doge made the amplest apologies and explanations to the lady herself, and promised also to transmit them to her husband, the Earl Marshal, through the Venetian ambassador in London; and subsequently the Senate voted 100 ducats to be spent in confections and wax, the usual present of ceremony to persons of exalted rank, which were to be offered to her on the part of the Signory. (fn. 42)
Rules of the Signory respecting their ambassadors.
The Republic from a very early date took the most minute precautions to secure the honesty and independence of its envoys, and even their popularity. A Venetian ambassador was forbidden by law to accept the smallest present from the sovereign to whom he was accredited; (fn. 43) he was not
allowed to take his wife (though in later times this rule seems to have been occasionally infringed), and he was positively ordered to take a cook. A decree of the Grand Council, 22nd December 1268, enjoins “et si erit tantum unus, habeat unum cocum.” The Venetian ambassador was always a patrician; the secretary must by law be of the upper plebeian class or order of secretaries.
First ambassador from England and his message.
The English court was fettered by no such rules, nor even by any established custom, limiting the class or condition or even the country of the envoy. The first ambassador, as far as I can ascertain, sent by any English sovereign to the Republic of Venice, was the Friar Richard, Bishop of Bisaccia, in the kingdom of Naples, the subject and chaplain of King Robert. He was accredited in 1360 by Edward III. to Doge Gradenigo, to announce officially the challenge sent by that King to Philip de Valois, and his offer to prove himself the “Lord's anointed “by braving ravenous lions, in the company of his antagonist; or (a much safer ordeal) by touching for the evil. The Bishop also asked for the loan of 40 galleys, and offered on the part of his master to receive one or two of the Doge's sons for education at the English Court.
Last English ambassador and his last official communication.
The last English envoy at Venice was Sir Richard Worsley,. and the last official intelligence he communicated to the College was the naval victory off Cape St. Vincent. But this gleam of light in the horizon was too distant to raise the courage of the doomed Republic. On the 12th of May, 1797, Worsley received his passports, not from the Signory, but from the French Secretary of Legation, Villetard.
Venetian ambassador to England.
Zuan da Leze, who was sent to the Court of Edward II. in the year 1319, to settle some disputes arising out of an act of piracy, may be considered as the first of the Republic's ambassadors to this country, inasmuch as he was the first who arrived in England with the title and functions of ambassador only; but three years previously, in 1316, Gabriel Dandolo, the captain of the Flanders galleys, had
been furnished with credentials, and authorized to combine the duties of diplomatist and of admiral.
First appointment of resident agents; By degrees the series becomes continuous.
From this time ambassadors were accredited to England as occasion arose. In February, 1496, Sanuto records that the Senate 'considering that the road to England was very long and very dangerous,” appointed two merchants then resident in London for their own affairs, Contarini and Vallaresso, to present themselves to the King “as subambassadors,” for the purpose of including him in the “Holy League “then negotiating against France. Subsequently, in June, 1497, the Signory accredited Andrea Trevisano to Henry VII., that he might cement the new alliance; and soon the succession of diplomatic agents became so regular that few intervals occurred in which the Republic was left without a representative. But the narrations of their respective receptions, the details of their missions, and summaries of their despatches, are to be found chiefly in Sanuto's diaries.
Interrupted by Henry VIII.'s schism; Restored in reign of Edward VI; and of Mary.
In the first volume of the “Ambassadorial Statements,' (Esposizioni Principi,” p. 9,) there is a note written apparently in January, 1591, to explain the irregularity with which ambassadors had been sent to England, since the latter part of Henry VIII.'s reign. It is eminently curious as illustrating the system of Venice, and the position of England during the state of transition from the ancient to the reformed faith. In 1534 the wary Republic did not choose any longer to keep an ambassador at the court of a Sovereign who had quarrelled with the Holy See; and still less to offend so irritable and powerful a prince as Henry VIII. Carlo Capello was instructed to return to Venice on “urgent private business,” leaving his secretary behind him to transact the affairs of the embassy. In 1541, a motion was made in the Senate to send an ambassador as usual; but, “for reasons good,” it was negatived. In 1546, Henry, who had at intervals communicated with the Signory through his own ambassador at Venice or the Venetian secretary in London, insisted on being honoured with an embassy;
but a reply to the demand was rendered unnecessary by the King's death. A series of ambassadors, three in all, were then sent to Edward VI. On Mary's accession all scruples as to orthodoxy were removed, but the ambassador Soranzo made himself so obnoxious to Charles V. by his intrigues against the marriage of Philip with the Queen, that he was recalled. His successor, Michiel, remained till 1557, when the Signory resolved to retrench the expense of an ambassador in England, notwithstanding Mary's orthodoxy. It was thought sufficient to have one resident envoy at the Court of Philip, King both of Spain and of England, and the Venetian Board of Trade made arrangements for filling up the places of ambassador and secretary by the consul.
No diplomatic agents sent to Elizabeth.
On the 30th May 1559 it was moved in the Senate to appoint an ambassador to Queen Elizabeth, but an amendment was carried to delay the appointment “till it was seen “how matters went in that kingdom, and for other reasons “well known to the Senate.” Again, in 1576, the secret register tells us the proposal to send an ambassador was renewed and was negatived.
Her anxiety to renew diplomatic relations with the Signory; Arrival of a secretary six weeks before her death; Rise of the consular system; Nature of the consul's office in the first instance.
It is a proof how much the Signory was respected, and how painfully Elizabeth felt her insulated position, that, haughty and imperious as she was, she spared no pains to obtain this mark of consideration from the Republic. Throughout her reign every Venetian noble who arrives in the country is treated with the distinction due to an ambassador, and he is more or less directly charged with a message to the Signory to invite a renewal of diplomatic intercourse. A very interesting letter, which will be given in its place, was written at the close of 1575 by three young patricians, especially charged by Elizabeth with the task of mediation. In 1578 she makes the same overture through the noble Bon, a wholesale dealer in currants and sack, who chanced to be in London on business. At different times (each of which is recorded in the above-mentioned note), almost every Venetian ambassador at foreign courts was assailed by the English
diplomatic agents on the subject, but in vain. Not even a hint that the currant duties, that everlasting bone of contention between the two states, shall be reconsidered, produces any effect. Human wisdom after all often chooses the worst of two evils, and excess of caution only leads to danger. Venice by her long delay to acknowledge any but an orthodox sovereign in England, had attached an importance and a difficulty to the recognition which greater promptitude would have avoided. Successive Popes interfered in the matter. Gregory XIII. positively insists so pious a Republic cannot countenance a “sorry jade” (Una trista), who, he·says, is the source of all the mischiefs in the Netherlands and the sole cause of the Catholic King's defeat. But at last circumstances are too strong for piety and prudence, and English corsairs effect what English courtesy failed to accomplish. After 44 years of fruitless civility and solicitation on the part of Elizabeth, the Senate, alarmed by several acts of piracy, decide by 96 ayes against 44 noes and 58 neutral votes, on sending the Secretary Scaramelli to England. They expressly stipulate that the plundered merchants, not the State, are to defray the cost of the mission, and the envoy is entrusted with no other commission than to complain of the damage done to the Signory's trade, and to ask redress. He arrives just six weeks before Elizabeth's death in 1603, and obtains a first and last interview with the aged Queen.
Commencement of English consulates at Venice; Disputes on the subject.
The consular system was called into being by the requirements of commerce, and in early times it would seem that the consul was a magistrate elected by the merchants to watch over their interests at a foreign port, and to govern the little colony resident in a foreign land, rather than what he afterwards became, an officer appointed by the State to represent the commercial interests of its subjects at the seat of a foreign government. He was paid by fees fixed by the merchants themselves, and in England his nomination was vested in the Trinity House. It is a proof how little of the early trade with the republic was carried on by English vessels, that for a long time there is no mention of a resident English consul at Venice. I am unable to name any one
previously to the year 1620, although a commission of inquiry reported to the Senate in 1760 that the British consulate had been recognised by the Signory ever since the commencement of the 17th century. After the departure of Killigrew in 1652, Oliver Cromwell wrote to urge the reception, as English consul, of one Hobson, who is styled by Evelyn “a worthy merchant, at whose house he had eaten excellent potted venison.” The recommendation was backed by the Venetian Board of Trade, who felt the absence of such an officer as an inconvenience, and after many difficulties, Hobson was acknowledged; yet from 1653 to 1669 the “Esposizioni Principi” contain no trace of business transacted with English agents of any description; although during that interval letters were written to the Republic by Speaker Lenthall, as also by Oliver Cromwell and by his son, the originals of which are still existing at the “Frari.” The interests of our trade seem to have been advocated with the Senate, by our diplomatists exclusively. Nor was an audience ever vouchsafed by the College to an English consul till 1670, when George Hailes, who then filled that post, was admitted to announce the arrival of Lord Fauconberg as Ambassador Extraordinary from Charles II.
Difficulties respecting the consulate in consequence of the revolution.
It was on the occasion of the petition of the above-mentioned Hobson to act as consul, that the attention of the Signory seems to have been drawn for the first time to the English consulate. The real cause of their hesitation in the matter was no doubt their unwillingness to acknowledge the Protector's government; and when they found it expedient to waive their scruples on this point, and to send the Secretary Paulucci to England, the recognition of the English consul had lost all its political interest and became a mere question of commercial convenience. On the Restoration, Cromwell's patronage of course proved fatal to his client. The frequently recurring changes in the constitution of church and state in England, gave infinite trouble to the cautious Signory, who only wished to remain on good terms with good customers, without being supposed to express any opinion on their civil or ecclesiastical polity. On the revolution
in 1688, they were perplexed by another Hobson, who was a Romanist and a Jacobite, and had a public Te deum sung at Sta. Maria Formosa for the birth of James Prince of Wales. The new Sovereign quickly sent out as a substitute Hugh Broughton, who was acknowledged by the Signory, though his master was still styled by them Prince of Orange. By this person the Signory was soon entangled in a dispute, which, though it involved some difficult points of international law, was chiefly complicated and inflamed by religious differences. The Abbé Leith, who has before been mentioned as librarian of St. Mark's, had died intestate; and Broughton, as consul, claimed the keys of his effects. But was the deceased Abbé a naturalized subject of the republic? Had he the power, if he had the will, to change his allegiance? How did his proscription in England affect the question? As a matter of fact, was he proscribed? And above all, what at that time were the limits of consular jurisdiction? These are the questions which were hotly debated between the Signory and the Earl of Nottingham, William's secretary of state. The one took part with the Presbyterian heir-at-law in Scotland, the other with certain Roman Catholic claimants in Venice; and neither as to the facts nor the law of the case, was it possible to agree.
Succession of Consuls.
The notices of the English consuls in the tranquil times which followed, relate only to the pretensions of these personages to be received as diplomatic agents in the occasional absence of the ambassador, and to receive the honours reserved for diplomacy. (fn. 44) At all times the
consul derived the best part of his official gains from the advantages which his situation afforded him for trade; and in the last century of the Republic's existence, the English consuls were much in the habit of exchanging the traffic in woollens and currants for a more lucrative, though not, it is to be feared, more honest trade in the fine arts. Many stories are told, especially by Giacomo della Lena, in his MS. biography of English “virtuosi” (fn. 45) of the unscrupulous dexterity with which some of them contrived to procure pictures of great value for foreign sovereigns—among whom is mentioned the Pope Pius VI.—by substituting in churches and galleries cleverly forged copies for the original masterpieces. But as it is impossible, if the statements are true, to acquit these illustrious personages of concurrence in the fraud, we may hope that the accusation is one of the many fictions which from time to time have been invented to account for the existence of pictures professedly the same in rival collections.
Venetian consuls in England.
The precise date of the establishment of Venetian consuls in England is uncertain. Early in the 14th century Zuan da Leze on his way to Edward II. was instructed to pass through Flanders, and to use his best endeavours “quod “nostri fideles possint habere consulem, qui jus faciat inter “nostros de questionibus quæ orirentur inter nostros;” but I can discover no trace of any Venetian consul in England until the following century. This wording of the ambassador's commission confirms the view we have taken of the consul's duties, So also does the regulation that he should be assisted, and, of course to a certain extent, controlled in the discharge of his office by a committee of twelve of the resident Venetian merchants, an arrangement which could only refer to the internal government of the factory, and not to his intercourse with the English government.
Wholly discontinued after the war with Candia.
The Venetian consuls in London until the year 1570 were
of necessity patricians, although at the out-ports we find two aliens who were permitted to act in that capacity in the 15th century; and, at least down to 1533, it seems that they were elected for the most part annually on the spot by their fellow merchants and countrymen, subject probably to confirmation by the Senate. The names of these commercial agents were doubtless registered amongst the acts of the overseers of the “Cotimo di Londra;” an office in Venice connected with the Board of Trade, and especially charged with the control of the London Consulate; but as yet I have been unable to discover the complete series. We know, however, that after the war with Candia in the 17th century, consuls were finally withdrawn from London.
Declension of the trade inferred from the insignificance to which the consulship in London had sunk.
The strongest proof that the trade with England was declining is the insignificance to which the consulship in London was reduced. In the year 1588 the Signory wrote to the ambassador at Paris to inquire if there was any Venetian consul in London, and by what authority he acted. To this the ambassador replied that a self-constituted official, a certain Giovanni da Riviera, a native of Corfu, took upon himself the functions of consul, and had repeatedly applied to the embassy at Paris to adjust some differences between the Queen and the Signory on “a matter of importance.”
The last mention of consuls connected with the currant trade; Importance of that trade.
This “matter of importance” related to currants. Long previously and long subsequently to the date of this letter the English sovereigns, who naturally liked to gratify their favourites in the way that seemed least costly to themselves were in the habit of granting monopolies, one of which was that of currants, much to the detriment of trade and the discontent of their subjects; but if the remonstrances of the Commons and a sense of their own true interests had no effect, the complaints of Venetian ambassador or consul were not likely to prevail. For years the currant duty remained a standing grievance, and in 1662, when the diplomatic relations of the two countries were reestablished, the dispute seems to have been farther from
adjustment than ever, for the ambassador Contarini could find no better topic of consolation than to assure the Signory that, “with regard to the utter prohibition of currants, that “cannot take place without discontenting the entire population of England, which consumes a greater amount of “this fruit than all the rest of the world; being so accustomed to the luxury, and loving it so dearly, that individuals have been found, who, from lack of money to purchase it on certain high days and holy days when it is the “customary fare, are said to have hanged themselves.”
Account of the Flanders galleys. They form the first link of connection between the two countries.
But though the trade with Venice was not a matter of life and death, in the literal sense of the ambassador's letter, there can be no question that commerce formed the most important link of connection between the two countries. Previously to the days of ambassadors and consuls, and long subsequently, the chief intercourse between them was maintained by a small fleet of trading vessels called the “Flanders galleys;” and so powerful was the influence which these galleys exercised in developing English trade and manufactures, that I venture to enter into their history with some minuteness. This is the more necessary, because the many regulations and notices respecting them, which are to be found in the archives, though very interesting as illustrating the history of commerce generally, are not so obviously and directly connected with this country as to warrant their admission into the body of the present work, and in fact they will be inserted only where the connection is apparent or the name of England occurs.
Their first voyage.
The alliance between Baldwin, Count of Flanders, and Venice, which began in conquest (A.D. 1202), was more beneficially perpetuated by trade. In the first instance the traffic was carried on by land, though there is evidence that even in the 13th century shipping was occasionally employed. The Flanders galleys, under the immediate auspices of the State, appear to have made their first voyage in 1317; and though they superseded the inland traffic to a considerable
extent, the latter was never wholly abandoned; but to prevent its competing with the shipping interest, goods sent over land from Venice to any port, and vice versâ, whilst the Flanders galleys were on the voyage, or even “on the berth,” were compelled to pay a freight or fine for their advantage, the land carriage being always resumed without restrictions whenever the maritime communication chanced to be suspended.
Various rules and regulations respecting the galleys, their captains, their officers, and crews.
The regulations under which these early trading adventures were carried on are very peculiar. When the markets at home seemed favorable to an export trade, the government proposed to the Senate to vote a certain number of galleys for some given voyage. The points of destination were various,—and of these Flanders was only one. When the motion was carried, the galleys were put up to auction. The prices at which they were knocked down are known: we find by an entry in the “Misti Senato” that in the year 1347 three galleys averaged the price of about 67 lire each, and in the year 1375 five galleys averaged a little more than 81 lire—sums which are much larger than the student would suppose; for the lire mentioned are the lire grosse, and these have been ascertained to be each worth 12 golden ducats or sequins. The captain or commodore was elected by the Grand Council, but he was paid by the “masters, patroni, or merchants,” to whom the vessels were knocked down at the auction; and in the lists of these captains and merchants are to be found the noblest names of the Republic.
In 1517, the pay of the Commodore Andrea Priuli was 600 golden ducats for the voyage; but even in the 14th and 15th centuries, when the salary fell far short of that sum, the captain was expected to keep three servants, and to board the naval officer or sailing master who was engaged to work his ship. As time went on the regulations became more minute. A notary public, two fifers, and two trumpeters, formed an indispensable part of the expedition, and to these a certain number of physicians, functionaries of more obvious utility,
were added as early as the year 1320. (fn. 46) There were also minute regulations with respect to pilots, scribes, and craftsmen of various specified denominations, whom the masters were obliged to engage. Each vessel was also ordered to take on board 30 archers for its defence, and these were to be commanded by four young patricians, who were to be sent out, in order, says the decree, that the noble youth of Venice may see the world, be inured betimes to toil and peril, and learn to expose their lives for their native land. The consideration in which they were held is proved by the amount of pay, which was not less than 70 ducats each, and the regulation that they were to board at the upper table.
It was expressly ordained, moreover, that (with certain not very important exceptions, which are noted from time to time), the captain should have no share whatever in the cargo; and in order to prevent the collision of interests and inclinations between the merchant masters and a captain appointed by the State, it was enacted that the captain should consult the merchant passengers, and the committee of Venetian merchants resident at Bruges, as to the ports to be entered and the course to be pursued. But the Senate never chose to give up its supreme control, and we may infer that the spirit of gain was found an unsafe guide for the movements of the fleet, as the Senate continued to give its own special directions respecting each voyage. On one occasion, for instance, it prescribes what steps the admiral shall take to ascertain whether it is safe to enter Malaga and Almeria, in consequence of the wars with the Moors, and what ports in Flanders are rendered insecure by the disputes between the municipal governments and the Duke Maximilian. The final decision on these points is by special decree reserved to the captain; and it is further provided, that if that decision be contrary to the commercial interests of the masters, he shall be protected
against all actions for damages which may be instituted by them in consequence.
The oarsmen, 180 in number on board each galley, were chiefly Sclavonians from the Venetian possessions, a rude and simple, but withal a hardy and dauntless race. They established in England a confraternity similar to that which they possessed in Venice, for the purpose of ministering to each other such temporal and spiritual aid as might be needed, and especially the last rites and consolations of religion. They had their special place of sepulture in the neighbourhood of Southampton; and at this day in the pavement of the north aisle of North Stoneham Church, four miles from that port, is to be read an inscription, which has much puzzled English antiquaries: (fn. 47)
Around the representation of a spread eagle is carved in Lombardic characters,
“sepultura de la schola de sclavoni, ano dni MCCCCLXXXXI.”
Their course; Trade with certain English ports and with Flanders.
The Flanders galleys formed the most remarkable trading fleet of the Republic because their ultimate destination was so remote, that the adventure involved an intermediate trade with the principal ports of Southern and Western Europe. The track of the Flanders galleys seems, with little variation, to have taken the following course:—In the first place they made for Capo d'Istria, then passed on to Corfu, Otranto, Syracuse, Messina, Naples, Majorca, the principal ports of Spain and Marocco, and then Lisbon. On reaching our coasts they generally repaired to Camber before Rye, or the Downs, where they parted company; those destined for England proceeded to Sandwich, Southampton, St. Catherine's Point, or London, creating in our English marts as great a sensation as ever did the arrival of the Indian fleet at Calcutta some sixty years ago, while their consorts continued their voyage to Sluys, Middleburg, or Antwerp. On the homeward voyage they reassembled either at Sandwich or
Southampton. London was almost deserted by them in the latter half of the fifteenth century.
Imports from the Mediterranean and the East.
The object of the Flanders fleet was in the first instance to convey to the West the produce and manufactures of Venice, and of the inland and eastern marts with which she traded, and more especially the wares and produce of Persia and India. These were collected at Trebizond, Constantinople, Damascus, Aleppo, Alexandria, Cairo, and other cities under the jurisdiction of the Soldans, whose subjects monopolised the carrying trade between the Carnatic and the Red Sea. Besides this the galleys also carried on an intermediate trade, buying cargoes at each port, of such objects as experience proved were marketable at subsequent stages of their progress. It was a trading voyage, which seems to have occupied the greater part of a twelvemonth. The minute details of the various articles of trade are very interesting, as throwing much light on the state of European commerce and civilization; they are too voluminous to be inserted here, but will be given in a preliminary table. At Messina the galleys loaded for the English market sugar and molasses, comfits, preserved fruits, large coral beads or buttons, Maltese cotton, yarn, and spun cotton, silk yarn, and saltpetre. The depot of currants was at Patras, and the first mention of this important article of commerce is in the year 1317, on occasion of the first voyage of the Flanders galleys, but there is reason to believe that it was one of the earliest imports into this country, on the commencement of commercial intercourse with the Republic.
Glass and earthenware, though not included in the tariffs published by Dino and Paxi (fn. 48) , were certainly sent to England from Venice, as early as the 14th century. We find in the
commemoriale, No. IX, p. 3, the registered transcript of a safe-conduct from Richard II. relating to their importation, and given on one of the last days of his unhappy reign; for the document is dated after his arrival in London from Flint Castle. (fn. 49) Thirteen days later, according to the accounts inserted by the order of Henry IV. in the rolls of Parliament, his abdication took place.
Sale of Bibles prohibited by the Inquisition.
Of an unexpected article of Venetian trade there is mention on at least one occasion. In December, 1524, at the port of Almazarron, some officers belonging to the Venetian galleys were arrested by the Holy Office for selling Bibles, with commentaries by the Rabbi Solomon Raschi, a writer of the twelfth century. The prisoners were conveyed to Murcia; nor could the ambassador, Gasparo Contarini, obtain any immediate redress from the Emperor, who assured him he would do everything to preserve the friendship of the Republic, but the Inquisitors had told him the delinquents had been arrested for selling books against the faith.
The English exports to Bruges and Flanders are stated in a MS. of the thirteenth century, now in the Bibliotheque Imperiale, which was kindly communicated to me by M. L. de Mas Latrie, to be “laines, cuirs, plombs, estains, charbon de roche, fromage,” all which produce, with the exception of coal, cheese, and lead, finds a place in the “manifests “of the Flanders galleys. The Flemings wove cloth for themselves, and required merely the raw material.
But that English cloth found its way to Venice as early as 1265 is proved by an entry of the Grand Council, which regulates the duty on each piece of English “Stamford.” The English cloth was at that time generally dyed abroad; but subsequently it was brought in great quantities, both died and undyed, to Venice, together with kerseys and other similar manufactures; and by Venetian merchants these products of English industry were distributed throughout the great fairs of Italy and the ports of the Mediterranean.
Vigilant supervision of the Senate.
The supervision of the Senate extended to the most minute details regarding the Flanders galleys, and was exercised with equal vigilance over all their officers and crews, from the highest to the lowest. In 1408 special decrees were passed to regulate and enforce the payment of the sailors' reckonings at the taverns, and we find by an entry in the “Misti Senato,” of the date of 1402, that Lorenzo Contarini, the admiral, received an express permission to go on a pilgrimage from Sandwich to the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury, but not to sleep out of his flag-ship, and consequently without permission he could not even for a few hours absent himself from his post. A similar leave of absence granted to another member of the same family in 1429 was thought important enough to be mentioned in the index, which unfortunately is all that remains of the last seven volumes of the Misti Senato from 1422 to 1440; these volumes “disappeared” probably in 1797, and by their loss we are deprived, if we may judge by the index, of many interesting particulars relating to the trading fleets of Venice.
The admiral's commission and responsibility; Turbulence of the time.
The commission of the captain of the Flanders galleys in 1517 begins by charging him in the name of Christ, and as he values Christ's favour to do his duty uprightly, and to do justice truly and righteously between the subjects of the Signory committed to his care. This was the usual form, but it probably meant much more than a pious exhortation, and, in fact, conferred those supreme powers which were conveyed by the vague vote of the Roman Senate, “providerent
consules ne quid detrimenti Respublica caperet,” and without which the captain could hardly fulfil his responsible office, in those days the maxims of international law were not yet established. The people were turbulent and the governments weak. One act of imputed wrong was held to justify reprisals ad infinitum. Piracy was common, and not always distinguished from private adventure of a peaceful character. The captain of the galleys must not only be a warrior but a diplomatist. He must have the courage to defend the people intrusted to his charge, and the tact not to commit, any further than was inevitable, his mistress the Republic.
Late in the history of the Flanders galleys,—precisely on the eve of Bosworth Field,—there occurred a tragedy which brings into view a source of danger, the magnitude of which would scarcely have been appreciated by the modern historian. It is difficult at the present time to realize to the imagination the full operation of a Papal excommunication in the middle ages. Off Lisbon, on the 21st August 1485, the Flanders galleys, on their voyage to England under Bortolomeo Minio, were attacked by a corsair who is called “the son of Columbus” and amongst whose comrades was the discoverer Christopher Columbus. The pirate vessels were six in number, and bore the French flag. 130 Venetians were killed and 300 wounded, and an enormous booty was taken; a demand for restitution was made to Charles VII. But the deed was justified on the plea that the Republic was put under interdict by Sixtus IV. (fn. 50)
Quarrels at Southampton.
The first notices which we have of the Flanders galleys, at the commencement of their trade with this country record scenes of turbulence and bloodshed. In the year 1319 the
captain or “super cargo “of a Venetian merchant vessel who was instructed by his employer to sell his sugars in London, and buy wool at Boston for exportation to the Low Countries, was attacked off the “Wash “by English pirates, and lost his life in defence of his vessel. It was to obtain reparation for this outrage that the first Venetian Ambassador was sent to England; but in 1322, while the dispute was still pending, the Flanders galleys arrived at Southampton, and either with the intention of making reprisals, or, on some fresh provocation, began an affray which terminated in serious loss of life, and which is so recorded in our national annals, (fn. 51) as to show both the magnitude of the event, and the importance attached by the government of Edward III to the Venetian trade.
Scenes similar in character occurred from time to time. In 1488 Malipiero, the captain of the galleys, complained that he had been attacked by the captains of three English vessels who claimed the salute, and that eighteen of the assailants and two Venetians had been killed. (fn. 52) The charge sounds grave; but the assailants had suffered most; and we may presume there were faults on both sides, for Courtenay, bishop of Winchester, who was sent down by the King to inquire into the matter, recommends that the affair should be compromised with what the Venetian despatch calls a “poto di vino.” The bishop probably spoke French and used the term “pot de vin,” in the sense of donative or deodand.
Admiral Capello's visit to Henry VII
On another occasion Henry VII., whose chief merit as a ruler was a rigid enforcement of the law, executed summary justice on some highwaymen who had murdered certain Venetian travelling merchants, and hanged them at Southampton in sight of the Venetian fleet. In 1506 we have to calendar the particulars of a visit which Vincenzo Capello, the captain of the galleys, was invited to
pay to Henry VII. The King treated him with the greatest familiarity, and, taking him into a small apartment of the palace at Richmond, showed him Catherine of Aragon, then widow of Prince Arthur, practising on the spinet with the Lady Maria Tudor, who at that time was 9 years of age. He offered to the admiral the honour of knighthood, which was declined, but Capello consented to quarter the lion of England on his heraldic shield; and he is recorded on his tomb at Sta. Maria Formosa as the man whom “Henry King of Britain delighted to honor.”
Voyage of Flanders galleys suspended by the league of Cambrai; Finally discontinued in 1532.
It is a proof of the King's sagacity that he foresaw the storm gathering round the Republic which afterwards burst upon her in the notorious league of Cambrai. Henry assures the admiral of his own attachment to Venice, but warns him that all the other Princes of Europe were only watching their opportunity to ruin her. Venice at the beginning of the sixteenth century was so steadily advancing in dominion and power that the great continental sovereigns who aspired to rule in Italy feared she might prove a bulwark to their ambition. The Pope found her not less in the way of his plans of territorial extension, while the petty Italian States feared she might absorb them, and so make some advance to that unity which is now supposed to be the great object of desire to modern Italy. All agreed in plotting her ruin. In 1509 the conspiracy took effect, and for nine years, during which the republic was engaged in a struggle for existence, the Flanders galleys never appeared in Southampton Water. During this long interval it is natural to suppose that her place in English commerce must have been filled up to a certain extent by other nations, and her trade with England when she resumed it was probably less valuable than it had been. On the 22d May, 1532, the Flanders galleys set sail from Southampton never to return. After that date, the merchants of Venice, like Shakespeare's Antonio, sent their “rich argosies “at their own risk, and regulated their movements at their own pleasure.
Even in the earliest days the Flanders galleys did not exclusively engross the maritime trade with England. Vessels belonging to private Venetian merchants were occasionally to be seen at other ports, as for instance Boston, Sandwich, and Margate; and a considerable number of Venetian merchants always resided in London. Italy was the instructress of Europe in commerce, as in all other branches of civilization; even to this day account-books are kept by the “Italian method,” and the technical language of commerce is obviously derived from the Italian.
Great facilities for studying history of commerce in Venetian Archives.
In consequence of the interest taken by the government in the commercial transactions of its citizens, the Venetian archives present materials such as are to be found no where else for studying the history and antiquities of mediæval commerce. We may there find duly entered the rates of exchange from time to time, even in the fifteenth century, stating the number of silver pennies current for a ducat. The original protests of dishonored bills, the marks of the notaries, and the names of the parties concerned are thus all preserved. We may learn how the protest was made and registered on the “merchant's walk” in Lombard Street, and trace every link of the transaction as easily as we might now follow the progress of a ruined trader through the bankruptcy court. (fn. 53)
Early Venetian charts.
As the Venetians were among the earliest navigators, it is not surprising that they should possess some of the
earliest specimens of hydrography. In the library of St. Mark are preserved ten coloured charts on vellum by Andrea Bianco. They bear the date of 1436, but are supposed by Vincenzio Formaleoni, who published an account of them in 1783, (fn. 54) to be copies of still more ancient hydrographical attempts. One of them, which gives the British Channel and the adjacent coasts, has been thought so interesting that a lithographic impression of the tracing, taken by special permission from the original, has been prepared for insertion in the present volume. By its help I have been enabled to identify “Camera “or “Portus Camera” with Camber before Rye and “Caput Doble” or “Dople” with the Downs, points which, I believe, had not as yet been settled by antiquaries, and which it is necessary to clear up in order to understand the account of the early trade with England.
Difficulty of defining what relates to any given country; Rule proposed for author's guidance; The application exemplified.
In dealing with such a prodigious mass of miscellaneous materials, it is not easy to select those which may be said with certainty to relate to any specified country. As civilization advances, certain members of the European family are so closely interconnected by community or antagonism of interests, that scarcely any event which materially affects the one can be uninteresting to the historian of the other. But it is obvious that to calendar every paper, which might in some way or the other be of use to the student of English history, would involve a responsibility of selection which no one could undertake, where the mass of original materials is so prodigiously large, and would, besides, swell the present work to a preposterous bulk. Moreover the literary men of other countries are engaged in similar researches; and in order that the republic of letters may derive from their aggregate labours the greatest possible advantage, it is desirable that each should devote
himself to the materials connected with his own country. 1 have, therefore, prescribed to myself the rule of calendaring every document in which the name of any one of the three kingdoms appears, or any of their subjects are mentioned, admitting none others, except perhaps in some rare case where the event mentioned or the matter discussed is instantly recognized as pertaining to English history (such, for instance, as would be the sailing of the Spanish armada), and excluding none, where Englishmen are concerned, however unimportant the incident recorded may appear. It is for others to decide what bearing the disinterment of a fact or the fixing of a date may have on existing controversies or future discoveries; and the student who is in search of the minute details of history may reasonably expect to be gratified in a work like the present. I can feel no doubt as to calendaring the letters of Queen Elizabeth in favour of the firm of Parvis &Co., with whom the well-known Paul Pindar was serving as an apprentice, or the documents which throw light on the career as currant merchants of the brothers Hyde, two elder brothers of the great Lord Chancellor, whom it has suited biographers, in the dearth of better information, to dispose of by saying they died young. It throws light on the history of commerce and civilization to show the mode by which the Signory defeated the monopoly of wool which Edward IV. had been weak enough to grant to one of its subjects, to the detriment of the rest, or the steps which it took to satisfy Anthony Widvile, Earl of Rivers, the King's brother-in-law, who had been robbed of his jewels at Baccano on his road from Rome, and who complained that the plunder had been brought to Venice for sale.
Very recently my attention has been drawn to a curious old document, a relic of the fifth crusade, and of its hero the “blind old Dandolo,” the celebrated ancestor of the present keeper of the archives. It is on parchment, dated from the Island of St. Erasmus near Lido, in October 1202, and
purports that then, in the presence of Doge Henry Dandolo, of Louis Count of Blois and Clermont, of the Marshal of Champagne, and of several other Barons, Baldwin, Count of Flanders and Hainault, pledged himself to pay at the next fair of Ligny, to Marchesino Soranzo, Pietro Giuliani, Marino Gradenigo, and Luca Ardizone, one hundred and eighteen marks, sterling, and three ounces, at the rate of 13 shillings [soldi] and 4 pence [denarii] for each silver mark; the document is signed by Renier Dandolo, the Doge's son, as Vice-Doge. The interest of this extract to the English antiquary consists in the satisfactory proof it affords that the word “sterling “was not used (as Ruding has asserted) “all over the continent of Europe for the purpose of peculiarly designating the money of England,” (Ruding's Annals of the Coinage of Britain, vol. i. p. 22), but that in these early times, at least, it also designated the received standard of Flanders, and probably of other portions of Western Europe. (fn. 55) I believe I am acting in the spirit of my rule by calendaring this document, and another of the year 1295, though an explanation is necessary to make their connection with England apparent to the general reader.
Very first entry relates to England.
One of the least important notices expressly relating to England and its subjects is the very first, but I give it, if for no other reason, because it is the first. It refers to a lawsuit brought in the year 1224 by one Raymond, who is called an Englishman, against Agnes, of Marseilles, who had promised her daughter to his son in marriage. The
mother pleads that the intended bride has died at Marseilles, and the Signory write to the bishop of that town to inquire if this is fact; the bishop confirms the statement, but probably the marriage had been promised in liquidation of a debt, for the “minor Council” assign considerable damages to be paid to the plaintiff in spices and specie. It is very probable that many papers relating exclusively to France and French interests may be more useful to the writer of English history, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, than any of the above, but the only distinct and intelligible rule of selection under the circumstances seems to be that which I have laid down.
The documents which I design to notice in the present work will naturally fall under two divisions: those which refer to a time when no regular and continuous diplomatic intercourse was established between the two countries, and those which belong to a subsequent period.
Materials of the present work divided into those “which precede and those which follow the establishment of continuous diplomatic relations.
Before concluding these observations, I propose to give some account of the materials of these two very different periods.
Some account of both proposed.
The notices of the pre-diplomatic times, if I may be allowed to coin the word, are comparatively few and meagre; they are connected with trade rather than politics, and more frequently relate to individual Englishmen than to the English government; but such as they are, in the dearth of fuller information, they will not be unacceptable to the reader. In a dark night the faintest gleam has its value. It is fortunate, however, that some of the individuals to whom the principal notices relate, are so eminent that every addition to their biography is a contribution to history; and the names of others are so familiar to the readers of Shakespeare that nothing which concerns them is without a certain degree of interest.
Trade of war.
Trade, we have seen, was the first bond of union between the two countries; but besides currants and wool, there was another kind of merchandise which found a still readier and
more profitable market—the most lucrative, and, as it was then thought, the noblest of trades, was the trade of mercenary war. The period was one of turbulence and strife, even religion took the form of warfare; a life of bloodshed and rapine might be expiated by taking the cross, and then perhaps committing acts of wanton outrage against the Turk or aiding a turbulent, pontiff in some scheme of ecclesiastical usurpation. The spirit of knight-errantry and independent adventure leads rapidly to mercenary service. Few can make war at their own cost.
The practice of engaging foreign troops was not peculiar to Italy; but to Italy alone it proved fatal. In that favoured country the small states had amassed wealth which the great kingdoms of the north might envy. Every petty tyrant, every ambitious ecclesiastic, could afford to pay a band of soldiers which might be hired as easily as a gang of navigators in modern days, and he was thus enabled to play the terrible game of war.
Nothing could exceed the reckless indifference with which these mercenaries of every nation changed their masters. Not only did the generals pass over from one service to another, but the captains with their troops abandoned the general, and the privates deserted their captains with no more consciousness of treachery than a modern footman feels on leaving his place for better wages.
Sir John Hawkwood.
The most eminent of these captains of free bands, or “condottieri,” raised themselves to the importance of sovereign princes. They kept about them a staff of officers, and Latin secretaries to conduct their correspondence, and for the most part possessed as much accomplishment as any cavaliers of their day. Some of them were native Italians, but almost every country in Europe had its representative among them. A prominent figure in the group is Sir John Hawkwood. He first crossed the Alps in 1361, and his first feat of arms in those parts was to take prisoner the “Green Count” of Savoy at Cirié, a small town of Piedmont, to the
north of Turin. He was an Essex yeoman, the born vassal of John de Vere, 7th Earl of Oxford, with whom he seems to have made his first campaign in France in 1343. His talents and his daring soon gained him followers of his own, and he rapidly acquired among his contemporaries a reputation for generalship which is admitted even by Italian historians of the present day.
In 1376, Pope Gregory XI. bestowed on him the two castles of Cotignola and Bagnacavallo near Faenza, the earliest instance on record of the grant of a sovereign fief by any Italian potentate to an alien; and although he disposed of these fiefs in 1381, yet to this hour in their neighbourhood the traveller finds a record of him in the “Strada Aguta,” or “Hawkwood Road,” which tradition affirms to have been made by his orders for military purposes, and which has perpetuated his name for well nigh five centuries. (fn. 56)
His relations with the Signory; His comrades.
In May 1378, the Council of Ten offered him a very large sum to ravage the Paduan territory, but he declined, on the ground that the Lord of Padua was his friend. He was again requested by the Signory to take the command of their foreign troops at the siege of Chioggia, but was unable to comply; and it was probably owing to the indiscipline which prevailed in consequence of the absence of this master-spirit that an affray took place between the Italians and the trans-Alpine troops (Germans and English), so serious, that the sands at Palestrina are said to have been strewed with corpses. The consequences might have been yet more
disastrous, but an Englishman, whose name is hardly known in history, came forward to restore order. William Gold succeeded in pacifying the combatants, and in drawing up articles of peace, which stopped all further discord in the Venetian camp. This treaty (fn. 57) is preserved in the Commemoriali, as also are the patents of citizenship and of a pension bestowed on Gold as a reward for past and a retainer for future services. (fn. 58)
Researches in other archives for their letters; and the result.
As the states of northern Italy employed so frequently the captains of free companies, it seemed advisable to look for records of English soldiers in other archives besides those of Venice. At Mantua, among the correspondents of the Marquis Ludovic Gonzaga, from May 1377 to 1381, we find (besides Sir John Hawkwood and his wife Donina Visconti, the natural daughter of Bernabò) the above-mentioned William Gold, John Thornbury, and Walter Bonet, all of whom were condottieri. The letters by English soldiers which have as yet been discovered in these archives amount to 34. (fn. 59)
Letters relating to English Freebands at Cividale del Friuli.
Some curious documents have also been found in the capitular library of Cividale del Friuli, a small town four leagues to the north-east of Udine. They relate to a negotiation between certain English free bands and the Patriarch of Aquileia.
It seems that in the year 1388 a company, numbering 800 Englishmen, men-at-arms and archers, and calling itself the “Brigade of St. George” (it was the fourth military
company formed in Italy under the patronage of that warrior saint within the century) had seceded from a larger corps, commanded by Sir John Belton, then in the service of Pope Urban VI., having been bribed to do so by the Florentines. (fn. 60) They appointed Sir John Hawkwood their commander, and established their head quarters in the March of Ancona; but while there they addressed the letter now preserved at Cividale to the Patriarch of Aquileia, without the slightest reference to their nominal Commander-in-chief. The Patriarch, it seems, desired to avail himself of the distress of the house of Carrara, which was then nodding to its fall, and took the opportunity of advancing his claims to some neighbouring castles. The quarrel was taken up by other parties connected with it in various ways by the intricacies of the feudal law. Force was the only possible arbiter of the dispute, and the Patriarch treated with Sir Robert de Felton, who brought credentials from the brigade, for the purpose of engaging their venal services.
Ill success in looking for letters at Verona,
Two years previously, a stepson of the Black Prince fought under the banner of the Lord of Verona, Antonio della Scala. He was then in exile for the murder of Ralph de Stafford, and probably bore the name of “Stockwood;” this anagram being doubtless adopted with reference to his mother's barony of Woodstock, for the Paduan chronicler calls him “Messer Giovanni Sochuit fratello del Re d'Inghilterra.” (fn. 61) He was captured by the Paduans on the 25th June 1386, and it might therefore be expected that some correspondence relating to his release, or in some way springing out of this event, might be found; but the search which has been made in the libraries of Verona has hitherto proved fruitless.
and at Padua.
The intercourse which had long subsisted between Sir John Hawkwood and the house of Carrara made it highly probable that some interesting documents relating to him might be found in the Paduan archives; but in reply to
my inquiries I have been informed that a fire in the year 1420 destroyed all the papers that remained there of the ancient dynasty. The more important part of them, it has already been stated, was removed to Venice, when the republic took possession of the sovereignty.
Success at Milan; Early connection of the Visconte with the Royal Family of England.
In the archives of Milan, it seemed reasonable to hope that some documents relating to Englishmen might be found. The connection with England was of very early date. In June 1368 Galeazzo Visconti married his daughter to Lionel Duke of Clarence, second son of Edward III; and, in May 1377, his brother, the wily Bernabò, secured to himself the aid of English lances, by marrying his natural daughter to Sir John Hawkwood.
Letters of the legate Coppini.
To a considerable extent the search has been successful. Among the most important of the documents which have been found, is the correspondence of the legate Francesco de' Coppini, bishop of Teramo, with the Yorkists, and with Francesco Sforza Duke of Milan, to whom he transmitted a copy of the identical letter to Henry VI., which has been already published in England from the Vatican transcript. (fn. 62) In this Milanese copy, however, there is a marginal note additional, purporting that the letter was then of old date, but that it had been transmitted, to clear the legate from certain imputations; evidently those which eventually caused his disgrace and imprisonment.
Written in sympathetic ink.
The other letters connected with the legate, the Lancastrians, and the Yorkists, are in number 23, bearing date from 15th August 1460 to June 10, 1462. Amongst the writers are Henry VI., the Earl of Warwick, George Nevill, bishop of Exeter and Lord Chancellor, and Richard Beauchamp, bishop of Salisbury, all which correspondence has been calendared, with considerable minuteness, in its proper place. The dates of the later documents, in number 102, range from 1464 to 1531. The Signor Luigi Osio, the director of the Archives at Milan, obligingly supplied
me with copies of the whole series, and from my friend Alessandro Marcello, who was on the spot, and kindly aided in procuring me this favour, I ascertained that Coppini's letters appear to have been written in sympathetic ink. The Signor L. Osio writes on the subject as follows:—“Nell' “anno 1461 diversi documenti dì assai difficile lezione “scritti, per quanto sembra con inchiostri simpatici, pro “venienti dall' Inghilterra, &ca. &ca.”
Bolingbroke's (Henry IV.) visit to Venice in his way to the Holy Land.
In the Venetian archives, during the fourteenth century, there are to be found occasional notices of the arrival of travellers important enough to deserve the Signory's attention, and thus we are enabled to account for a portion of the life of the Earl of Derby, “the ingrate and cankered Bolingbroke,” afterwards Henry IV., of which our own historians are totally silent.
In the year 1390 the Doge of Genoa, Antonio Adorno, having declared a crusade against the Moors applied for aid to France, and probably, also, to Christendom generally. At that moment there was a truce between Richard II. of England and Charles VI. of France, and the martial spirits of both countries were disengaged. The Duke of Bourbon put himself at the head of 1,500 men at arms, with the usual proportion of archers and infantry. Among these crusaders was Bolingbroke, accompanied by 300 English knights. The zeal and unanimity of the troops were all that could be desired; on one point only there was a difference of opinion—who was to bless the fleet? The English acknowledged the newly elected Pope Boniface. The French held to the anti-pope Clement; so as priests, both orthodox and heterodox, abounded at Genoa, it was agreed that the champions, being all on their way to attack the Church's enemies, and unanimous on that point, should leave the primacy of the Church an open question, and should all and each be blessed according to their individual views respecting its legitimate head.
On Bolingbroke's return from this expedition, we find in
the miscellaneous journals of the senate a notice of him, dated in November 1392.
The preamble of the document states, with the most ingenuous gravity, that whereas it has always been the policy of the Republic to oblige potentates and the great of this world, especially in such matters as are easily granted; and whereas the magnifico, the Lord Henry of Lancaster, all of whose other titles are given with marvellous correctness, had sent an embassy of knights and noblemen, backed by a letter of recommendation from Albert IV., Duke of Austria, requesting to be furnished with a galley completely equipped, to be armed, however, at his own expense, for the purpose of conveying him to Palestine, to visit the Holy Sepulchre; so, “it is put to the ballot and carried, that the “request be granted (we obliging him thus generously, in “consideration of the advantage which may result to our “subjects visiting those regions)”; and in order that the great man may know the exact amount of his obligation, it is directed that the embassy be informed of the precise sum expended by the Republic for his accommodation. This vote was passed on the 11th November, and on the 30th the Earl appeared, having probably come direct from the court of the Duke of Austria, whose intercession was evidently held in great account by the Signory. Whereupon according to the custom of the day the Grand Council voted 300 ducats to be spent in such presents, to their guest, as might seem fit to the executive. The average length of the journey from Venice to Jerusalem was at that time between six and seven weeks. The track was by Parenzo, Zara, Liesina, Ragusa Corfu, Modon, Candia, Rhodes, Cyprus, and Jaffa, touching, probably, at all those places. Bolingbroke's stay at the Holy Sepulchre must have been short; for in the following year, on the last day of March, another vote of a hundred golden ducats is passed, to honour the illustrious pilgrim on his happy return.
His rival Norfolk's visit.
The next Englishman of note who applied to the Senate for aid to reach the Holy Land was Bolingbroke's antagonist,
Thomas Mowbray, who brought a letter from Richard II. which he presented in February 1398–9, and obtained the same favour which had been granted to his rival. These details serve to correct the inaccuracies which some writers have fallen into respecting the supposed displeasure of the King and the consequent imprisonment of Norfolk at Windsor; but their chief interest to the general reader is derived from the touching lines of Shakespeare, in which the Bishop of Carlisle announces Norfolk's death, in answering Bolingbroke's promise to restore him “to all his lands and signories:”
“That honourable day shall ne'er be seen.—
Full many a time hath banish'd Norfolk fought
For Jesu Christ; in glorious Christian field
Streaming the ensign of the Christian cross
Against black Pagan, Turk, and Saracen:
And, toil'd with works of war, retired himself
To Italy: and there, at Venice, gave
His body to that pleasant country's earth,
And his pure soul unto his Captain, Christ,
Under whose banner he had fought so long.”
It is singular that the title under which the Duke is presented by his Sovereign to the Signory is that of “Guildford” I can show no evidence to prove why or when he assumed this title, nor how long he bore it, but no reasonable doubt can be entertained of his identity. In two subsequent Venetian documents, dated 1403–4, and published by Sir H. Ellis, 3d series, vol. i. p. 46, he is styled Duke of Norfolk: they urge a claim on the part of some of his noble Venetian friends, a Bembo and a Zane, to recover a debt which he had incurred in the year 1399 to defray the expenses of his pilgrimage. The duke had been already dead more than three years when Doge Steno pressed Henry IV. to compel the heirs to pay the demand.
Norfolk's monumental or memorial tables.
Some 128 years after this date Marin Sanuto tells us of a request made, through the ambassador Capello, by Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk (uncle of Queen Anne Boleyn),
to have the bones of his ancestor transmitted to England for entombment among the Mowbrays and the Howards. The Deliberazioni Senato show that there was some difficulty in identifying the actual place of interment; but there is evidence that, in 1682, a monumental achievement, without inscription and of enigmatical design, bearing the banner of England—the white hart of Richard II., the white swan of Bolingbroke, and Mowbray's cap of maintenance—was to be seen in the external gallery of the Ducal Palace, where it had long been embedded in the wall fronting the sea, and immediately opposite to St. Georgio Maggiore, a church dedicated to the patron saint of England. (fn. 63) In 1810, during the French occupation of Venice, this stone attracted attention. It bore the arms of England, and consequently was ordered to be defaced. The workman, a poor mason, by name Domenico Spiera, who was commissioned to “raze out the impress,” was shocked at the vandalism, and, instead of destroying the carving, which is of very fine workmanship, he inserted the stone in the pavement, with its face downwards.
On Christmas eve 1839 the writer, in making inquiries for this monumental tablet, had the good fortune to discover the humble antiquary by whom it had been concealed, then the only person living acquainted with the transaction; by this man's assistance he was enabled to recover the stone. For its future safe custody he sent it to England, and presented it to one of Thomas Mowbray's descendants.
Bolingbroke assisted in his warfare against the Turks.
But we have not yet done with Bolingbroke. In 1394, his father, the Duke of Lancaster, was negotiating as an independent sovereign with the King of Hungary, the Dukes of Burgundy and Orleans, and with Venice, the league against Bajazet I. which ended in the disastrous rout of Nicopoli, September 1396. On that occasion Bolingbroke commanded a thousand English lances (fn. 64) ; and
after the rout saved himself on board the Venetian and Genoese fleet, which, in virtue of the treaty with his father, had been stationed at the confluence of the Otzuma and the Danube in Bulgaria. (fn. 65)
Various entries relating to these events in the journals of the Senate.
The documents relating to this negotiation curiously illustrate the feeling of the age. In one of them, after reciting in the preamble every reason of policy, and of what now would be considered good faith and common sense, for remaining at peace with the Turk, who on his part was honourably keeping his engagements; and further, after recapitulating the loss to the State and the probable ruin to individuals which will be occasioned by a rupture, nevertheless, the Senate goes on to say, so paramount is the duty of abetting all attacks upon the enemies of the faith, that it will not refuse the 25 galleys which the League require for the transport of their troops.
It is characteristic of the time, that on receiving this favourable reply, the Hungarian ambassadors desire the Signory to specify on what account they lend their aid, whether for the love of God, or respect for the King their master. The Signory cautiously reply that they are moved by both considerations, and they hint a very reasonable expectation that the King should acknowledge his share of the obligation by closing his ports in the Adriatic against any enemies of Venice who may in future enter the Gulf with hostile intentions. Subsequently, on the rout of the Crusaders, the King of Hungary owed his escape to the Venetian galleys, but, in as far as the Republic expected her reward from his gratitude, he was disappointed, for, subsequently, he took the earliest opportunity of invading the territory of Treviso.
Bolingbroke made his way homewards, having spent the period during which he disappears from English history in pilgrimages and in active warfare against the Moslem, and in thus laying in a stock of merit which according to his
own notions would not only wipe out the many offences of his youth, but go far to sanctify the usurpation which it is probable he had long meditated. And at last the longsighted courtesy of the Republic seems to have been rewarded; for among the documents registered in the Commemoriali, we have to calendar a letter addressed by Henry IV. to Doge Venier, and written on the 4th October 1399, only four days after Richard's deposition, to announce his own accession “by the right of blood and the unanimous consent of Lords and Commons;” and in this letter, which is written in a tone of jubilant and exulting cordiality, he promises to treat with all favour as his own subjects, “ut nostros proprios ligeos,” all Venetians who may arrive in any part of his dominions by land or sea. (Commemoriali, No. 9.)
Registers relating to English Kings; Wolsey's treaty with Ferrara.
The Registers' of the Senate and the first Book of Privileges exhibit a variety of entries connected with England in the reigns of Henry IV., Henry V., Henry VI. and Edward IV. The volumes containing copies of registered treaties (the index of which, compiled from the transcript now at Vienna, was published at Munich by Drs. Tafel and Thomas in 1855,) do not afford a single document of especial interest to Great Britain; but, on the other hand, amongst the unregistered treaties we find several to which our Sovereigns were parties. Not a few of their original letters are preserved, and I may here mention that in the 21st volume of the “Commemoriali” there is registered the identical:—
To Gregory de Cassalis, to conclude
Without the King's will or the State's allowance
A league between his Highness and Ferrara.”
(King Henry VIII., act iii. sc. 4.)
In it Wolsey styles himself the King's lieutenant-general, and after reciting his appointment to that office, states that the King had given him the amplest powers to treat and conclude with every Sovereign in Christendom. It is dated Amboise, 26th August 1527; nor have I ever met with it elsewhere;
the document is in Latin, signed by Wolsey, and countersigned by Peter Vannes.
Forty letters of English Sovereigns.
Forty letters on parchment addressed by English Sovereigns to various Popes, and now classed amongst these same “unregistered treaties,” demand particular attention: they bear dates from 1476 to 1506, and are authenticated by the original signatures of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII. By what means they passed from the “Vatican” to the Signory's “Secreta” is a mystery I am unable to explain; and nine other missives, evidently of the same series, though written on paper, are in like manner preserved in St. Mark's library. Being of a more perishable material, it is possible that they were considered mere literary curiosities, and as the Ten occasionally transferred similar historical records from the archives to the public library, this explanation seems not improbable. Of these royal letters on paper, the earliest is written by Edward IV. in 1471 to Sixtus IV. One is from Henry VII., date February 1505; and the remainder, signed by James IV. of Scotland, date from 1490 to 1492.
The first described; Letters from Henry VII. to the Pope and the Duke of Milan.
The earliest of these royal missives, on parchment, is especially interesting as showing how actively and how long the leaven of the Reformation was fermenting in the country before the final separation from Rome. It is written from Windsor, on the 24th February 1475–6, by Edward IV. to Sixtus IV. The object is to obtain from the Pontiff fresh letters of condemnation against that pupil of iniquity and perdition (maximus iniquitatis et perdicionis alumpnus) Reginald Pecock. The learned editor of the “Repressor” has already stated that “in 1476 Edward IV. denounced “him, his books and followers, which last were numerous in “Oxford; (fn. 66) and this letter of the King to the Pope, dated in the preceding year, sets forth that “the letters which his
“Holiness' predecessor, Paul II., had given, have remained “without effect, owing to the Pontiff's demise, and also to “civil strife; “whereas after the death of the said Reginald (supposed to have taken place before 1464), (fn. 67) his writings were multiplied in such wise, that not merely the laity but even churchmen and graduates scarcely studied anything else, so that the “pestiferous virus would have spread far “and wide, had not the Almighty revealed the secrets “of certain penitents “[nisi Deus aliquorum penitencium aperuisset occulta]. Then follows an earnest petition for permission to persecute; and a promise to do so to the utmost. Under the dates of Dec. 1491 and January 1492 respectively, will be found two letters written by Henry VII. the one to the Pope Innocent VIII., the other to the Regent Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza il Moro, which are highly interesting. They exhibit the same apprehension of French ambition, and of French thirst for territorial extension, which has been felt by politicians since the commencement of modern history, and they express it in terms which with little change might be adapted to the circumstances of the present day. Henry expatiates in detail on the combination of artifice and violence by which the territories of his ally the Duchess of Brittany have been invaded and annexed to France, and he proceeds to caution his Holiness that this lust of dominion may “extend “itself even to the detriment of certain Italian potentates, “and likewise inflict some trouble and injury on your “Holiness and the Apostolic see, through that Pragmatic “Sanction, which we always condemned,” and which being thus introduced into Brittany, alienates that country also from its due dependence on the Holy See.
Letter from Dereham to the leaders of the Council of Pisa in Henry IV.'s time.
Among the documents which have been found in places where they were not to be expected I may mention a letter communicated to me by the Count Pietro di Montereale Mantica of Pordenone. It is dated London, 16th July 1409,
and is written by Richard Dereham, (fn. 68) chancellor of Canterbury, to the two cardinals, Antonio Caetani and Francesco degli Aguzzoni, the leaders of the Council of Pisa, assuring them of the cordial support of Henry IV., “usque ad sanguinis “effusionem.” Such was the interest which he professed to take in the suppression of the great schism. That such a document should exist in the Friuli may perhaps be accounted for, by the fact that the cardinal Caetani was Patriarch of Aquileia.
Passage to the diplomatic period; Abundance of materials; Impossibility of preserving always the exact chronological order without the help of a catalogue; Necessity of comparing one document with another; Example.
In passing to the diplomatic period, when business of all kinds and the papers relating to it were indefinitely multiplied, the same laborious gleaning is neither necessary nor possible. The student feels like a traveller who has emerged from a desert region where he could barely find a subsistence, and suddenly enters a land where abundance makes him fastidious. But I shall not intentionally omit any notice relating to Great Britain, its possessions, or its subjects; though I shall feel much less confident of having gathered all that can be found; and in the impossibility of discovering, without index or catalogue, every document precisely at the moment that is fittest for its insertion, I must claim indulgence if the exact chronological order is not always preserved. The deficiencies in this respect, it is hoped, may be compensated by a general index. If historical truth is to be tracked through the intricacies of contemporary documents, the search must be as general and as extensive as possible, or it will bring to light only partial truth, which in many instances is positive error. The various State Papers of the same country are needed to explain and check each other, and the MS. documents of the different countries of Europe must be brought to confront each other at the bar of criticism. It is not fair that the statement which chance has first put into print should have a monopoly of credit with the public. The following example relates to a fact which is not of much historical importance, as the event turned out, but it is so much in point that I venture to quote it in detail.
In the 2nd series of Sir Henry Ellis's original letters, vol.3, p. 218, the English ambassador, Sir Gilbert Talbot, relates that he gave to the Doge such an affecting account of the battle of Marston Moor as to draw tears from the good old man, and, what is more important, a promise to aid the King with men, money, and arms. It sounds improbable that Doge Erizzo, who was of a family little given to the melting mood, (fn. 69) should be so carried away by his feelings as to promise more than Doges of the olden time, who were really the moving power of the state, could have ventured to undertake. But Sir Gilbert goes on to add that the Doge called an extraordinary assembly of the Pregadi, and procured a vote in accordance with his promise. In flat contradiction to this statement, the entries in the journals of the Senate and College, which will be calendared in their proper place, show that the Signory contented itself with the usual phrases of esteem and condolence; and in reply to a request for a loan cautiously excused itself on the plea of the expensive warfare then going on against the Turks.
Too much must not be expected; The solution of the great historical puzzles of rare occurrence; Examples of the notices in the Venetian MS; First intimation of the intention to divorce Queen Catherine.
The reader must not, however, raise too highly his expectations of the service which the study of the Venetian archives may render to the cause of historical truth. It is by the aggregate of little corrections, rather than by the importance of each taken singly, that the value of contemporary records is tested. We must not too confidently hope to be rewarded by the solution of some one of the great problems of history; such a prize is to be kept in view as a possibility to animate our zeal; but must not be looked to as an object of probable attainment. It is much if we are enabled to explain some of its minor puzzles, to clear up characters, and motives which have been misunderstood, or to settle a disputed point in biography. It is satisfactory to ascertain from Giustinian's despatches the exact nature and extent of Henry VIII's canvass for the Imperial crown, of which his contemporaries knew so little and modern historians have said so much more than they
know. A despatch of the ambassador Badoer contains the account of a mission to Henry VIII., on his accession, in August 1509, which is given nowhere else, and which is highly illustrative of the young King's proud, imperious temper, and of the jealousy with which from the first he regarded his French rivals. He takes fire at a phrase in the oration of the ambassador Antoine Duprat, Abbé de-Fécamp, which implies that Henry himself had, in the first instance, expressed a desire to continue amicable relations. He fiercely asks which of his servants has dared to compromise him by such language; demands the immediate payment of what he calls his tribute, and treats the envoy, during the remainder of his brief visit, with marked disrespect. The earliest hint of the divorce of Queen Catherine is to be found in the two following passages of Marin Sanuto's Diaries. As early as 1510, on occasion of the Queen's miscarriage, which the ambassador, Badoer, reports on the 8th June of that year, he obscurely intimates that there had gone abroad a vague anticipation of some change, for the purpose, as he implies, of securing the succession, “fanno nuovi pensieri.” But though the succession was the chief object of every Englishman's political speculations at that time, it was so obviously premature to calculate on Catherine's sterility, that it is probable other considerations also pointed to the possibility of a divorce. In 1514 (August 20) Andrea Lipomano writes from Rome (the place where no doubt the project, when really formed, would be first distinctly mentioned), that it is said to be the intention of King Henry “to repudiate his present wife, the daughter of the King of Spain and the widow of his brother,” and he goes on to name as her destined successor a daughter of the French Duke of Bourbon. In after years, much light is thrown on the state of public feeling during the discussion of Catherine's divorce, by certain advices received through the French ambassador which are recorded by Sanuto, on the 18th December, 1531. They state that a mob of 7,000 or 8,000 women had, a few weeks previously, sallied from London with the intention of killing Anne Boleyn, “l'amata del Rè d'Inghilterra,”
who was supping in a summer-house on the river, “the said King not being with her.” But the intended victim was warned of her danger in time to escape across the river in a wherry. Again, in the May of the following year, a preacher who was advocating the divorce at St. Paul's was stopped by a woman who told him “that he lied, and that this example in a king would be “the destruction of the holy tie of matrimony, 'che contiene l'uomo nel civil et Christiano viver.'” For her outspoken boldness this unflinching champion of her sex was arrested, but we hear nothing further of her fate.
Early visit of Cromwell to the Low Countries; Admirable Crichton.
A Venetian despatch enables us to verify an early visit of Cromwell to the Low Countries, which has frequently been disputed by his biographers. The following instance not only clears up a point in the biography of one whose name is still familiar in men's mouths, but also illustrates the difficulty of extracting from a vast mass of miscellaneous papers the information bearing on a special subject. I had long been desirous of finding in the archives some notice of the “admirable Crichton,” whose arrival in Venice is mentioned by the younger Aldus in a letter to the Duke of Sora, dated 10th October 1581, and I had frequently made search in what seemed likely quarters. Very lately chance directed a kind friend, the Signor Lorenzi, to the desired discovery. In the archives of the Ten, register 35, “Commune,” p. 60, is the following entry:—
“A.D. 1580 (Register, Council of Ten and the Zonta or Junta of the Ten), 19 August.—A young Scotchman has arrived in this city, by name Giacomo Critonio (James Crichton), of very noble lineage (from what one hears about his quality); and from what has been clearly seen by divers proofs and trials made with very learned and scientific men, and especially by a Latin oration which he delivered this morning extempore in our college—of most rare and singular ability [virtù]. In such wise, that not being above twenty years of age, or but a little more, he astounds and surprises everybody. A thing which in like manner as it is altogether extraordinary, and beyond what nature usually produces, so ought it extraordinarily to induce this council to make some courteous demonstration towards so marvellous a personage;
most especially as from accidents and foul fortune which have befallen him, he is in very straitened circumstances: Wherefore, it will be put to the ballot, that of the monies of the chest of this Council there be given to the said Crichton, a Scottish gentleman, one hundred golden crowns. Ayes, 22; noes, 2; neutrals, 4.”
Venetian despatches resemble contemporary memoirs; Their uses illustrated.
Aldus's letter, besides giving a loose and inaccurate version of the story, seems to refer the date of this visit to 1581, and the correction of a year is not unimportant in the biography of so brief a life, for Crichton was struck down by the dagger of an assassin in the flower of early youth. Even where no historical fact is elicited, contemporary state papers have the interest of original memoirs, with a stronger guarantee for their veracity. In truth, ancient gossip becomes history, and trivial things, when they tend to illustrate the manners of the times, cease to be unimportant. It is not uninteresting to be introduced to the Protector's family circle, and to learn that Mary Cromwell's marriage with Lord Fauconberg, which Clarendon says was celebrated “with all imaginable pomp and state,” was, in fact perfectly private. The Lord Protector had intended to make it more splendid than that of his daughter Mrs. Rich, which had taken place a few days previously, and the sum he intended to spend must have been very considerable, for Lord Fauconberg thought it worth while to request that he might have the cost of this proposed splendour in hard cash. Subsequently on the Restoration, Lady Fauconberg made frequent efforts, during her husband's embassy at Venice to be allowed to join him and to be received there as ambassadress, but the Court would not allow itself to be represented by the daughter of the regicide, she on her part would not remain at home alone to face the slights of the triumphant party, and Lord Fauconberg, after having managed to make his services acceptable both to the usurper and the restored monarch, is at last forced to relinquish diplomacy by his wife.
The despatches of the Venetian ambassador inform us that the grant of Chute forest which Charles I. is supposed to have made to his prime minister, Weston, Earl of Portland was in fact, a sale made by the Lord Treasurer under
a false name to himself, that he was accused of the fraud before the Council Board, and made so lame a defence, that his guilt was supposed to be proved. The envious and the curious all went to Court on the following Sunday, expecting to witness the signs of the Lord Treasurer's approaching fall; but speculation was baffled and intrigue was set to work again, on seeing that all went off as usual, and then before the expiration of the year the sudden death of the Lord Treasurer himself gave an unexpected termination to the whole struggle.
Nor must we expect that the revelations of unpublished MSS. will make black and white change places in our estimation of character, and suddenly alter the notions we have formed of the great actors in the drama of history. With respect to characters, as well as facts, it is rather by minute and repeated touches that the form and colour of truth are to be restored, than by substituting a new picture for an old one. After prying into contemporary documents it will be less easy to throw off a bold striking sketch of historical personages, but we shall have more trustworthy materials for a finished portrait. If the lights are less broad, the shadows will be less black. It is, no doubt perplexing to be compelled to note the weaknesses of the strong and the follies of the wise; we are loth, it may be, to discover the delinquencies of those whom we have been accustomed to call great, and would fain believe to be good. Thus perhaps the reader may regret to find on record a piratical proposal to seize and plunder Genoa, which was made to the Duke of Savoy, in the beginning of the year 1617, by no less a personage than Sir Walter Raleigh, whose bravery, talents, and tragic end have cast a veil over his errors. But, on the other hand, we learn to appreciate the temptations and the difficulties of those whom the verdict of posterity has condemned, to understand their real positions, to enter into their feelings, and thus to become more just and more charitable in our judgments.
Historians, especially those of the old school, in their eagerness to explain the sequence of events as they occurred often so shape their narratives as to convey the
impression that nothing could have turned out otherwise than as it did, and consequently that the actors in the drama who dreaded or desired any other than the actual result, must be taxed either with folly or perversity. In judging them we are apt to use the knowledge we now possess, to apply the opinions that are now current, and the standard of morality that is now received. For all these natural mistakes, the study of contemporary documents is the specific remedy. In the difficulty which English writers experience even now in writing with calmness the history of Charles I.'s quarrels with his Parliament, it is instructive to study the despatches of the Venetian ambassador, Anzolo Correr (Angelo Corrario), who records, from week to week, the progress of events and of opinions with the calmness and accuracy of an impartial spectator. It would be difficult to find a clearer or fairer account of the origin of the celebrated dispute about ship money than the following:
“The reports here of naval preparations are hourly more and more confirmed by facts: it is supposed that by fitting out a fleet they aim at the complete recovery of that maritime supremacy maintained for so long by the English flag, and which is now somewhat diminished or but slightly acknowledged.
“By an ancient law of the realm all the provinces bordering in the least on the sea were bound to furnish a certain sum for the cost of the Royal navy in ordinary, both to guard the coast and to protect trade.
“At this present His Majesty is in the receipt of other funds for the defrayment of this charge, as derived especially from the duties on wine, silk, &c., which are very considerable; and thenceforth those provinces became completely exempt from this tax; and they assert that it has not been levied for centuries.
“Now, however, availing himself as a pretext of the necessity for reinforcing the fleet, the King, or rather his Lord Treasurer, has, without more ado, thought fit to order the immediate exaction of this tax. The measure has exasperated the whole country; by so much the more, as it diminishes the chance of any immediate meeting of Parliament.”
It is highly interesting also to mark the changes in national customs and habits which contemporary documents record, though it must be owned they sometimes draw largely on our faith. France was always famous for cookery,
and when young Francesco Gradenigo, son of the ambassador in Paris, tells us in 1596, that he got a better dinner in London for 10 sous than he got in Paris for 60, we presume he was predetermined to be pleased. But what shall we say, when we find that the Venetians in the 17th century were better shots than the English? Sir Henry Wotton in a conversation relating to the Papacy (which is duly registered, Esposizioni Principi Roma, A.D. 1606, p. 108,) told Doge Donà that he was delighted with seeing the wild fowl shooting in the Lagunes, for that shooting flying was to him a novelty. This is scarcely credible without confirmation; but, as late as 1727, Jeremiah Markland published a poem, which he called Pteryplegia, or the art of shooting flying, and in his preface he says, “it is as rare for a marksman of the French nation to miss a bird flying, as it is for one of ours to kill.”
Character of the diplomatic correspondence; Specimens; Quirini's letter, describing the stay of Philip and Joanna in England.
For the general reader perhaps the greatest charm of original documents is that they present the actors in all the reality of life, and not as puppets danced before the reader's eyes in the plausible and measured narrative of the historian; and for the merits of graphic description and truthfulness the Venetian State Papers are conspicuous. The correspondence of the ambassador is marked by a confidence in the sympathy of the reader, which is very rare in State Papers, even of an early date. There is apparent an anxiety to report everything just as it was said, to describe men and things just as they appeared, as if to enable the Signory to form its own conclusions and to check the writer's inferences by his own statements. It is difficult in such an abundance of materials to select any one example as especially illustrating the above remarks. As an early specimen I would call attention to the letters written by Vincenzo Quirini in the beginning of 1506. He had been appointed ambassador to Queen Joanna and her consort the Archduke Philip, who, in virtue of his crown matrimonial is styled King of Castile, and accompanied them in their sea voyage from Flanders to Spain. In the channel the fleet was overtaken by a violent storm, and driven into English ports for shelter. The vessel which contained the ambassador, after having as he calculates,
according to the geographical notions of the day, reached the “edge of the Bay of Biscay,” with difficulty made Falmouth. During his detention on our coast of not less than three months, he not only kept the Signory accurately informed of all that was passing, but he also gathered materials for a report on England. He speaks of his own perils and of his feelings with the confidence and unreserve of one who is writing to a familiar friend. The account he gives of the courage of the Queen, and of the composure and good feeling displayed by the Archduke in moments of extreme peril, is a valuable contribution to the history of personages who so soon disappeared from the political stage. He tells how the ship royal was for a long time on her beam-ends, and thrice was on fire; how the Prince remained on deck encouraging the crew till he was struck down by a wave with such violence that he was thought to be killed; all was lost, it was believed. He then took leave of his attendants; expressed his regret for having been the cause of the death of so many brave men, for, as his own vessel was the best, he nothing doubted the whole fleet would perish. He declared his resignation to the divine will, and only lamented the tender age of his helpless children, and the confusion and ruin which his death would cause in his unsettled dominions. But when man was powerless, God was merciful. Then follow minute details of the movements of the Court, and the pains that were taken to inform all the scattered attendants of the safety of their Sovereigns.
These letters are further interesting for as much as they throw light on a disputed point of history. The detention of the royal party in England has been represented by historians, and more especially by Lingard, as a “splendid captivity.” But the ambassadors narrative proves that the length of the visit, which probably has confirmed the modern historian in this belief, was caused by the necessity of refitting the shattered fleet, the anxiety to secure good weather, and perhaps in some degree by the eccentricities of Joanna herself.
Its bearing on the assertion that constraint was put upon them.
The public opinion of the day immediately assumed that Henry would avail himself of this opportunity to obtain, perhaps to extort, some political concession from his involuntary guests, and the speculations of their suite immediately are directed towards those dynastic marriages which fill so large a space in the diplomacy of the time. Forthwith the espousals of an infant son of the Archduke to the infant Lady Maria Tudor, and of Henry himself to Lady Margaret, the Archduke's sister, are reported. But above all, the extradition of “White Rose,” Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, is pointed out by public rumour as the prime object of Henry's negotiations: and so far the public were right; the Earl was given up. But it is probable that flattery rather than menace was the engine employed to work upon the Archduke. Quirini speaks of the civilities lavished on the royal party, the meeting at Winchester, and the interchange of their respective orders of chivalry: “The Archduke accepting “the garter, and in return conferring the golden fleece on “the Prince of Wales, to the great contentment,” he adds, “of both parties as if they had been father and son.”
On the 17th April Quirini writes that the Council of Malines had refused to give up the Earl till they were assured that their Sovereign was safe out of England; but that the Archduke considered his honour engaged, and insisted on his orders being executed without delay. A further and quite unexpected difficulty seems to have been created by the extravagant humours of the Queen. During the residence of the Court in Flanders, her irrational jealousy had caused her to dismiss all her ladies but one “ancient countess,” and unluckily when it was decided to go to Spain by sea, no power could persuade this ancient countess to stir. Philip did not think it right that his wife should return to her dominions without one female attendant, and accordingly engaged a Flemish lady of rank the Countess de Fiennes, “a very superior woman,” to accompany her. But before they left England, Joanna's jealousy of this lady had grown to such a frantic height
that during the whole of Passion week she refused to leave her room unless the offensive stranger was dismissed. How she was induced to embark at last, we are not told; but this and all the other causes of delay are mentioned by the ambassador with a calmness and indifference, which clearly indicate that to his apprehension, neither the Archduke nor his suite had at any period of their stay felt real alarm as to their forcible detention in the country.
Contarini's letter describing the entry of Wolsey into Bruges.
The next despatch is instanced merely as one which confirms by a singularly lively and graphic narrative the popular conception of a well-known historical character. A letter from Gasparo Contarini in St. Mark's library, dated August 16, 1521, gives an account of Wolsey's entrance into Bruges, when the Emperor and the whole court went out of the gates to meet him, and there he kept them waiting an hour and a half; and when they did meet, “his Right Rev. Lordship did not dismount from his “mule, but after doffing his bonnet he from saddle to “saddle embraced the Emperor, who did the like by his “Right Rev. Lordship, cap in hand.” The Cardinal travels with a retinue of 1,050 horse, and he has “at his stirrup” 20 English gentlemen in silk dresses and with gold chains. He is admitted to walk under the same canopy with the Emperor and to share his kneeling desk at church. The foreign ambassadors all kiss his hand, and so much is he occupied with sovereign princes and princesses, (the Lady Margaret, Governess of the Netherlands, amongst them,) that he is obliged to put off from day to day the Venetian ambassador, who every morning sends his secretary to demand an audience, in vain. The whole letter is too long for insertion and too full of detail for analysis; but the impression which it conveys of Wolsey's assumption, not by complaint or invective, but by the plain narrative of each day's occurrences, exceeds all that we ever before imagined of the great Lord Cardinal's state.
The following is an instance of despatches which correct and modify the commonly received narrative. Queen Elizabeth died without any very apparent or known disease, suffering much from distress of mind and weakness of body.
It is generally believed that her physical powers were gradually failing under the cares of a long reign and the “tœdium vitœ” which so often assails old age.
Scaramelli's letters, giving an account of his interviews with Queen Elizabeth and her death.
But the letters of the Secretary Scaramelli whose mission to England has already been mentioned, prove that six weeks before her death she was in all the vigour of a green old age. He does not describe the scene at the Countess of Nottingham's death bed, but from about that time the Queen's illness dates. The Secretary attributes her seizure to indignation at the ambitious designs of Arabella Stuart, whom he calls “omicida delta Regina” and to this he considers all other causes of mental distress as merely secondary.
Something which then occurred so violently agitated the Queen, as to bring on one of those acute liver attacks which are rare in England, but are a common result of extreme agitation amongst the more susceptible temperaments and weaker constitutions of the south.
The whole of the correspondence is extremely striking, but I venture to transcribe only the envoy's first letter, which gives an account of his interview with the Queen; besides its other merits, it is perhaps almost the only letter of sufficient brevity to warrant its insertion in this place as a specimen of the diplomatic correspondence of the Signory:—
A.D. 1602–3, February 19, N.S., London.
“Most Serene Prince
“The Queen and the Council being acquainted with your Serenity's resolve and the causes of my coming, both through Paul Pindar, now here, who is intimate with Secretary Cecil, as likewise from what I myself told those members of the Privy Council whom I visited; it having been arranged for my audience to take place on Sunday the 16th inst., one of Her Majesty's fifty gentlemen pensioners came to me on the evening of Saturday, to announce that the Queen had commanded him to conduct me to her on the morrow at 2 p.m.
“At the hour appointed for my departure, the pensioner having passed all the fore part of Sunday with me, I went to Richmond, although the weather was bad; and on arriving there, several gentlemen received me below at the foot of the stairs, making civil
speeches out of respect for your Serenity; and above, I was met by the Lord Chamberlain, (fn. 70) who first took me into the “presence chamber, and very soon afterwards into the other where Her Majesty was.”
“The Queen wore a dress of silver and white 'Tabi,' edged with bullion, and rather open in front, so as to display the throat, enriched with pearls and rubies midway down the breast (fn. 71) ; the swell (fn. 72) of her gown was much greater than is the fashion in France, and descended lower; her head-dress being of fair hair, such as nature could not have produced; on her forehead were large pear-shaped pearls, and with frontlets (fn. 73) resembling an imperial crown or cap; she made a great display of jewels and pearls, her person even below the boddice (fn. 74) being well nigh covered with jewelled golden girdles, and with detached precious stones, such as carbuncles, balass, rubies, and diamonds; and on her wrists in lieu of bracelets were double rows of pearls above the middle size, and although seventy years of age, she bears them well, from nature's great bounty to her, rather than through the aid of art.
“Thus in regal dignity sat the Queen on a chair, raised by two steps on a small square platform, below and around which stood the Archbishop of Canterbury, the metropolitan of this kingdom, the Chancellor, the Treasurer, the Admiral, the Secretary, and the whole Privy Council, all uncovered; the rest of the apartment being filled by lords and ladies, and by the ball musicians, (fn. 75) who had played until my entry; whereupon, the Queen stood up, and I advancing with the due obeisances, on reaching the platform, was in the act of kneeling on the first step to kiss her garment, (fn. 76) but this Her Majesty would not permit, and with both her hands, well nigh raised me, giving me the right, which I in fact kissed, and saying simultaneously, 'Welcome to England, Mr. Secretary; it is high 'time for the Republic to send to see a Queen who on every occa'sion has done it so much honor.'
“I then made a slight retrograde movement, and adapting my discourse to the greeting she had given me, said in substance that
during a long course of years, a variety of accidents had prevented the verbal announcement through any special envoy, of that great affection and observance borne by the Republic towards Her Majesty individually; and of the vast esteem in which the Signory held this her most ample and noble kingdom; but that notwithstanding the lapse, of so long a period, and the passage to another world of so many of ourselves, (fn. 77) yet had there not passed away from the Republic, who is always the same, that most ardent desire to do what was agreeable to Her Majesty, towards whom the State maintained that fullness of affection with which it has ever loved and revered her, and been ever anxious for her life and prosperity; that should she on all occasions have honoured the Republic, this she did in acknowledgment of its constant good will; and that in like manner as your Serenity evinced reciprocity, so would I fain have it in my power adequately to express your gratitude and sense of the obligation; but at any rate I should give her an opportunity of now proving in effect through her great justice, all that her own lips had so courteously announced to me.
“Before going further, however, I said that in execution of the first clause in my commission, I congratulated myself in your Serenity's name on the perfect health in which, by God's grace, I found her, vowing that the entire Republic wished her the greatest possible happiness and contentment.
“Although I made a full stop at the close of this compliment, the Queen vouchsafed it no reply; so I proceeded to business, and after presenting my credentials (fn. 78) stated briefly the excellent treatment received by Her Majesty's subjects throughout your Serenity's territories; and on the other hand, the grievous excesses perpetrated by English corsairs, I expatiated on the important losses incurred by Venetian subjects within the last few years, saying how much the Signory had at heart the speedy restitution of the plunder by Her Majesty's order, concluding by a remark on the consequences of mutual misunderstanding, and expressing hopes that the world might see the result of this mission appointed by your Serenity on such just accounts.
“The Queen, who held your Serenity's letter in her hand, then gave it to the Secretary, who, having opened it, returned it to her; whereupon she sat down and read it through; after which, again standing up, and again giving the letter to the secretary, whereas until then her countenance had been placid and well-nigh smiling, it suddenly became rather more grave, and she spoke as follows:—
“'I cannot but feel deeply that throughout the forty-four years 'of my reign the Republic has never made itself known to me, save 'by demands; and for the rest, whether my affairs were prosperous 'or adverse, never did the State ever give any sign of holding me 'and this kingdom in such account as that wherein she holds 'other princes and potentates. I am not indeed aware that my 'being of this sex can have degraded me, for this my sex has 'committed no fault, nor can it injure those who treat me as 'other sovereigns, (to whom the Signory sends her ambassadors,) 'are treated; but I well know, and with this I in part excuse the 'Signory, that throughout the many debates held on this subject 'she could not obtain permission from certain powers.
“'For all this I will not be discourteous with her; but, with 'regard to the affair in question, I must tell you that this 'kingdom's population is not so small as not to contain rascals and 'ribalds; though as the matter concerns my own subjects I will 'appoint commissioners to confer with you and report to me, and 'will do as much as I possibly can to give satisfaction to that 'most serene Republic, for I do not choose to be discourteous.'
“She then assumed a listening attitude, and, in reply, I said,—
“'Madam, I am glad your Majesty mentioned having worthily reigned over this your most ample realm during 44 years, 'as it proves you no novice in the affairs of this world, and aware 'that all sovereigns regulate themselves according to circumstances, 'so I will say no more about your proposition, save that the 'Republic of Venice, a power, by the grace of God, great and free, 'although it proceed with great respect towards those to whom 'such is due; yet has the State never been accustomed to ask per'mission for its resolves of any sovereign in the world, either 'spiritual or temporal.'
“Her Majesty contented herself with the truth of this reply, and then remained almost always laughing, still standing, until my departure, before which I added that since for the thorough comprehension of my business she meant to appoint me commissioners,
I besought her to do so without delay, and to remember that services are by so much the more acceptable, inasmuch as they are rendered easily and generously.
“To this the Queen said, 'I will do it and let you know; but 'am not sure whether I spoke well in this Italian tongue, though 'I think I did, and that I have not forgotten it, for I learnt it as a 'girl;' and then graciously offering me again her hand to kiss, she said in conclusion precisely thus:—
“' For the present I will not detain your lordship any longer.'
“Whereupon I took leave, and returned to London on that same evening by night.
“Then this morning Her Majesty sent me word that she had appointed the admiral, the secretary, and the counsellor, Edward Wotton, to hear my demands and report them to her; and shortly afterwards, they themselves sent to me saying that if convenient to me, the conference should take place to-morrow afternoon in the house of the Lord Admiral, to which I readily consented, and thus will it be, and of the result, the principal parties concerned, shall be acquainted in due time.”
The position of the Secretary in this dialogue is sufficiently embarrassing. There is no doubt that the deference of the Venetian Government for the Pope and for the King of Spain had prevented their keeping up their diplomatic relations with Elizabeth, and the only possible excuse to her for this was the constraint which these powerful and overbearing neighbours imposed; but the Secretary is obliged to disclaim this apology in order to save the dignity of the Republic. Elizabeth knew exactly how matters stood; she had long ago told one of the many Venetian travellers to whom she had already addressed her complaints on this subject, that she well knew the cause of the Republic's neglect was “that old man,” “meaning,” he says, “his Holiness,” who was in fact a few years younger than herself. But the Queen, with remarkable forbearance and dignity, waived the further discussion of this unmanageable point. When the Secretary next applied for an audience, she declined seeing him till all matters in dispute were amicably settled and she had none but agreeable topics to
dwell on. But that time never came. Soon a vague report of the Queen's illness was spread abroad, and then the alarming certainty of it was averred beyond the possibility of doubt.
The letters which follow are very interesting. Some are written in duplicate, on strips of paper to be smuggled across the water as they can; for when the Queen's danger could not be concealed the ports were closed. The various rumours; the alarm of the citizens; the supposed movements and the actual arrests of the Roman Catholics; the difficulty of maintaining order in a town “scarcely less than Paris and incredibly ill fortified; “the interview of the Council with the dying Queen; her suggestion in favour of the King of Scots; the decision of the Council and the departure of Baron Gree (Sir R. Carey), for Scotland, when all is over; the Queen's own directions respecting her person after death; the details of the Court ceremonies previous to interment; the attempts made by some of the Roman Catholics to claim the deceased as a co-religionist, from her dying expressions of regret, and the ornaments of her chapel when alive,—all these, and many more such particulars, are told with an awe-struck earnestness which almost makes the reader a contemporary witness, as the writer of the despatch was, of the events which marked the last scene of the great Queen's life.
Period embraced by the present volume.
The period to which the last-mentioned letters relate will not be reached in the present volume, which concludes with the death of Henry VII. in the year 1509.
In the first instance I have given the following tables:—
Summary of the preliminary tables.
- 1. Chronological view of the classification of the documents in the Venetian archives most interesting to the student of general history; who must, nevertheless, bear in mind that this summary has no pretension to be a catalogue.
- 2. List of Venetian ambassadors accredited to England, together with a numerical and chronological table of the despatches written by them from thence, and
preserved in the archives from the year 1554, (previously to which date no despatch of theirs is to be found in the national collection,) to 1787, when the series closes. I also subjoin a list of the reports of England by Venetian ambassadors which now exist at the Frari.
- 3. List of the Venetian consuls in England from the year 1427 to 1568.
- 4. List of captains of the Flanders galleys from 1317 to 1533.
- 5 and 6. Lists of goods conveyed between England and Venice by the Flanders galleys.
- 7. List of English and Scotch diplomatic agents accredited to the Republic from 1340 to 1797.
- 8. List of English consuls at Venice.
- 9. Chronological table of Marin Sanuto's diaries.
- 10. To these tables is subjoined a specimen of an ancient calendar.
Before concluding these prefatory observations, I am anxious to offer my thanks to many from whom I have received assistance, and to whom I have incurred a long arrear of obligation.
To his Excellency the Chevalier de Toggenburg, Imperial Lieutenant in the Venetian Provinces, and all the members of the Imperial Government to whom I have had occasion to apply, my acknowledgments are due for the most courteous and obliging attention.
I am indebted to Count Girolamo Dandolo, the director general of the archives of the kingdom, for facilities of every sort, and also for procuring copies of original papers, both at Venice and Mantua, and for much very valuable information.
All the officers dependent on him have rendered me every possible assistance in my researches. To one of them, the Cavalier Toderini, I have already expressed my obligation for particulars concerning the Mantuan archives. To another, the Signor Luigi Pasini, I am also much beholden for most diligent aid; nor can I omit to mention
gratefully, the patient, intelligent labour whereby one of the assistants, Luigi Guadagnin, has greatly helped my researches.
The librarian of St. Mark's, the Abbate Giuseppe Valentinelli, the vice-librarian, Giovanni Veludo, and the coadjutor, Giovanni Battista Lorenzi, have on every occasion given me the most cordial and efficient help. To the latter I am indebted for all the assistance that the most active friendship, backed by profound antiquarian knowledge, could afford.
To Sorley Count MacDonnell, whose translation of the Diary of an Austrian Secretary of Legation at the Court of Czar Peter the Great, has recently proved his thorough acquaintance with modern Latin, I am indebted for every assistance that could possibly be rendered by the zeal of an able and patient investigator, and a sincere friend. During upwards of a year, he has steadily afforded me the utmost aid of his critical acumen and antiquarian skill, which were particularly valuable in deciphering the crabbed barbarisms of mediaeval Latinity; and many a document which would otherwise have escaped my notice is by his care comprised in this calendar.
To the Signor Cesare Foucard, who at the time I refer to was employed in the Venetian archives, I am obliged for the discovery of the letters at Cividale, in the Friuli, and to Count Pietro di Montereale Mantica, of Pordenone, for a copy of the letter of Richard Dereham, and also for an original bill of exchange protested in Lombard Street on the 4th of November 1475; and lastly, I am greatly obliged to my friend Alessandro Marcello (late Podestà of Venice), for procuring for me from the Signor Osio, the director of the Milan archives, and at that time a servant of the Imperial Government, copies of the letters relating to Henry VI. and Edward IV. in 1460 and 1461, a period of which few epistolary remains are to be found, as likewise of the correspondence between the Dukes of Milan and later English sovereigns. My special thanks are due to the
above-named gentlemen, but I should be wanting in gratitude if I failed to add that on every occasion I have experienced from all with whom my employment has brought me into contact the kindest sympathy and co-operation.
1st January 1864.
Since the foregoing pages were printed, I have heard from a learned fellow labourer that he does not consider the phrase “fanno nuovi pensieri,” quoted at p. xe, as indisputably indicating new matrimonial projects of Henry VIII. The passage in the original stands thus:—
(A.D. 1510, July 15, Venice.) “Di Ser Andrea Badoer orator nostro “in Ingalterra, date a Londra adi 8 Zugno.”
. . . . “Item la Raina a fata una mole, con gran dolor di tutti: fanno “nuovi pensieri.”
The plural verb with the suppressed nominative has exactly the force of the French “on.” For my own part, I entertain no doubt but that the writer meant to imply that vague whispers were abroad on the subject of a divorce, to which he did not choose to give a more distinct expression.
The main objection to this interpretation, namely, that in the year 1510 it was premature to despair of Catherine's giving birth to a son, is scarcely less applicable to the following entry in the year 1514, where the meaning is unmistakable.
(A.D. 1514, September 1, Venice.) “Di Roma di Ser Vetor Lipomano, “di 28” [August], “. . . . . . . Si dize etiam che il Re “d' Ingalterra vol lassar la moglie ch'el ha, fia dil Re di Spagna, qual “fo moglie di suo fradello, per non poter haver con lei alcuna heredità, “et vol tuor per moglie una fia del Duca di Barbon (sic) Francese.” Again, “E zonto lettere di Franza dalla corte di 14” [August] “al “suo orator.” . . . . “Si dize che il Re d'Ingalterra . . . . vol “desfar le nozze, e dal Papa otegnirà quello che vuol, come fè etiam “Franza con Papa Julio.”
The same learned historian above alluded to is puzzled to make out who the lady designated as the daughter of the Duke of Bourbon could be. It is out of my province as calendarer to offer any solution of this difficulty, but I may perhaps be allowed to suggest that Lippomano or Sanuto himself may possibly have taken a sister for a daughter. Be this as it may, the interest of the passage consists in the proof it affords that so early as 1514 politicians were speculating on Henry's taking a new wife, and their guess as to who that wife would be, is, I conceive, comparatively immaterial.