Milan: 1581

Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan 1385-1618. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1912.

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'Milan: 1581', in Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts in the Archives and Collections of Milan 1385-1618, (London, 1912) pp. 602-607. British History Online [accessed 23 April 2024]


Oct. 18.
F. 98. Inf.
Lettera 156.
fol. 352.
1011. Giovanni Francesco Parro, Canon of S. Maria della Scala, to the Cardinal of S. Prassede.
The ordinations of Vigevano were already arranged as your Eminence directed, but owing to the absence of Scotto who has them, I cannot send them yet. I will do so on his return.
The vicar general will inform you about S. Gonzaga. When accompanying the Bishop of Vercelli, I propose to visit the monastery of S. Elisabeta above Como and then those of Tradate, Varese and del Monte, as well as Monsig. Grafidio and D. Vincenz' Antonini. I hope not to be away from this city more than ten days.
Milan, the 18th October, 1581.
F. 91. Inf.
Leterra 84.
fol. 172.
1012. Advices of the Affairs of England.
Extracts from letters of William Allen, Rector of the English College at Rheims, to the Rector of the English College of the 8th August, and from the letters of others from France and England written in July and August.
Father Edmund Campion, the Jesuit, towards the end of July was taken by the heretics near Oxford in the house of a gentleman named Edward Sates, where he was with about 70 Catholics of both sexes, including many distinguished men, to worship. Most of them had dispersed after mass, but thirteen were taken with the father and brought to London. Their names are John James of Oxford, Edward Keimes Somerdunensis, William Hulseby of Exeter, John Ducton of Southampton, Humphrey Keimes, Edward Sate, John Maxfield, William, John Peter, Tillian Harmon, Catherine Kinsmil, Mistress Sates, Mistress Keimes, Thomas Latirel and Father Edmund Campion, Jesuit. They were all taken through the perfidy of a Judas present with them who took information to a justice. But for this traitor Campion would have escaped, as they were ready to ride off without him with the other captives, but the traitor kept saying he was sure Father Campion was still lurking in the house. So he took them over the house and they at length came to the chamber where Father Campion lay, a strong room with tapestry hangings, and searching with their swords they would have killed him, had he not spoken in the nick of time. He was taken to prison with the others. The traitor's name is George Eliot, a servant of D. Petre the elder and afterwards of D. Ruperius, sen. Two hundred well-armed horsemen brought Father Campion and the others to London as they feared the Catholics might rescue them, and the other captives preceded Campion, who wore behind and before the inscription: “This is Campion, the seducer of the people.” When they entered London, Campion uncovered reverently at the great cross in Cheapside, whereat the people called out “Idolater.” All the way through the City to the Tower a shouting crowd followed them, but Campion never flinched and kept smiling and erect. They reached the Tower on Saturday, when Campion was thrown into a dark narrow cell, where he could neither lie nor stand, and gave him bread and water. On the third day Dean Nowell of St. Paul's came with another preacher to dispute with Campion; but he demanded a public colloquy with notaries to keep a faithful record. For you, said he, are lying reporters and I will do nothing except upon such conditions, so they left him in prison. On the following day he was taken publicly to the house of Robert, Earl of Leicester, before him the Earl of Bedford and two secretaries of the realm, in the same clothes he wore when he went to the Tower, where they had allowed him no bed or pillow. He answered them with such learning, prudence and gentleness as to draw praise from the earls. He said he had come to England for no other purpose than to show the men of his race the way of salvation and not to plot against the state. If, said he, you convict me of any other crime, I ask no grace but the extreme rigour of the law. The earls greatly admired his virtue and learning and said it was a pity he was a papist, the thing in which he gloried most. They ordered his heavy irons to be removed and that the Keeper of the Tower should treat him more humanely, giving him a bed and other necessaries. He was taken back to the Tower. We do not know what they did to him afterwards. Cecil, the Royal Treasurer, also spoke with him, ordering Campion to be brought before him.
A priest named Evan Duchetus, a student of the English College at Reims, who was imprisoned for the faith, has left us an example of the highest constancy. He was tempted in various ways by his enemies to recognise the Queen as head of the Anglican church, but he steadily refused, declaring that on earth there was only one head of one body, Pope Gregory XIII. Seeing that they prevailed nothing, his enemies first stoned him and then hung him up in prison by his feet for some time. Unable to bend him, they passed sentence of death last July. They cut him down half alive and divided him into quarters, while the glorious martyr prayed for us and for our afflicted country.
Don Antonius of Lusitania, a personage held in great honour, made attempts to have him taken to Lusitania. (fn. 1)
Ex literis P. Roberti ex Londino, 26 Junii.
Generally speaking our trade progresses satisfactorily considering the time and place and the numerous drawbacks. We have not a few buyers and even more admirers. Edmund works hard and makes a great impression; he could not write to you now because of necessary business in which he is engaged. He wrote three months ago, but it did not reach you. In religious affairs there are very sharp disputes between Catholics and Protestants. Here all talk is of the Jesuits of whom many tales are told as of the monsters of old, but contradictory and manifestly false, not only in private discussions but in printed books. They are said to be sent by the pope as traitors and overthrowers of states. These calumnies have been answered in books printed by the Jesuits in the common opinion, and so a new branch of the inquisition has arisen, but they have not yet found the printers, although they used torture.
Of the Jesuits,, they mention two in particular, Campion and Parsons, one remaining in London, the other scouring the country they say. The latter was lately called a roving, vagrant Jesuit by some speaker at a public meeting. Both are said to be very busy, one in directing affairs, the other in carrying them out. They address meetings almost daily in the early morning. After dinner they write, and meditate on horseback what they will speak about next day. After supper they hear confessions or settle cases of conscience. They have ready hospitality whereever they go, the Catholics receiving them even at peril of their lives.
Great numbers of spirited youths flock to them, with whom they often change clothes, horses and even servants so that they may be more difficult to identify.
Many perils of Campion are told and Parsons escaped thrice almost by miracle. First, the house where he was, was surrounded in the middle of the night by pursuivants; he hid in a haystack against it, and got away. Second, being invited by a priest to a supper to convert some schismatics, Parsons failed to find the house, although it was an inn and be had been there three days before with the priest; after enquiry and search he went away tired without finding it, to the house of a noble lady near by, where he spent the night. Next day he heard that the house had been watched the whole night, men being sent by the secretary to take him if he came. I do not know how the Queen's secretary learned that he was going to that inn, but as he did not come they took the priest named Riston and six others to prison.
The third danger avoided was, he had a convenient chamber inside the house of a Protestant, situated on the bank of a river, so that priests could meet secretly. There they kept all their secret things, such as books, clothes, etc. necessary for ecclesiastical uses. This place was betrayed by a bookseller who bound books there; so on the following night the magistrates came with a great troop of swordsmen and surrounded the place; but by God's providence, Parsons had transferred all his most important things to other places, so they found nothing there but crosses, bronze medals and consecrated grain, of which there was a larger quantity in other places, together with some books and exercises of small moment and clothes left behind by Campion.
That same night they arrested a priest in a neighbouring house, whom they took to be a Jesuit, probably Parsons, and therefore treated very cruelly, putting him twice on the rack till he almost died. When asked what he had to say he replied he was most content and did not mind if they recked him a thousand times. After racking him till he was a foot longer than before, they say, his tormentors let him go. The priest's name was Briantus.
I have written before of the priests in the Tower of London and how almost all were racked because they came from Rome. After the torture they took them by force to Protestant churches and meetings and tried to make them recant, but at the end of the address they always drew the speaker into disputation, all the people listening. The governor would not permit this and threatened to punish those who spoke first, but they would not desist. Their persistance induced the preachers out of vain glory as arguers, to follow them back to prison, but disputing badly they came near to losing. For these went afterwards through the City, praising the erudition of the Catholics, but reserving the essence for themselves. These addresses were rather philippics, as instead of argument they concluded: Therefore you are traitors, rebels, idolaters, blasphemers, impious, thievish knaves and Antichrists. They hope soon to be freed from this annoyance as their enemies can extort nothing from them and they cannot live longer at the expense of the realm, as all do who are detained in this prison, and it is proposed to send them back to other prisons from which they were ejected, although it is observed that in all prisons the Papists are treated more rigorously than any other malefactors.
At the beginning of the superior meetings which are generally held in London four times a year, a priest named Clifton at the public tribunal before an immense crowd, when the pope was accused of maliciously and treacherously asserting himself to be head of the Anglican church, which is high treason by English law, asserted this was not treasonable but Christian truth, and he did not fear a traitor's death in the cause of Christ. Seeing the steadfastness of the man, they sent him to prison, unheard, and never said a word about it afterwards, although all thought he would be forthwith condemned to death.
Our Pondus was kept rigorously separated from the rest in a solitary dungeon, and laden with irons because of the freedom with which he censured the evangelicals. Access to him was difficult and even dangerous, but a priest was sent to him to administer the sacraments for which he asked; but being intercepted on the way the priest was taken to the London superintendant and thrown into the prison in his own palace from which he miraculously escaped on the following morning by the carelessness of the gaoler, and is now free and merry with us.
But God opened an easier way of sending to Pondus and we received various letters from him in which we learned of his frequent contests with the ministers. He is said to live in a place underground generally without light, unless he has a lantern obtained by money or favour. His hair is very long and he sleeps on the bare ground; he wears two iron chains and yet he sometimes jokes with us in his letters as if he suffered nothing.
John Nicholas apostacised and went through London to betray his colleagues. He recently met Firellus (fn. 2) who called him traitor to his face. That night a crowd gathered and Firellus was taken and led to prison, being placed in the same cell as Riston. Firellus sends letters to you about this. In the previous week Nicholson was taken, a layman who never belonged to the English College, but lived much at Rome and has travelled a good deal. The Catholics were at first doubtful of his steadfastness, but now they hope better as he is said to have refused a large reward of four crowns a day if he would betray the rest.
Sledus, who was a while at Rome and served Dr. Sanderson, persecutes us all more than any. He has authority from the royal Council to enter the houses of all at pleasure and examine all places. He does this most diligently, wherever there is the least suspicion. He recently entered by force the house of Father Robert Middlemore, who is with us, saying he was looking for Jesuits and made him open not only his closets, but all chests and most secret places. When he found nothing he departed in confusion with his troop of men. It is incredible how much we are afflicted by these traitors. May the Lord deliver us through His mercy.
John Nicholas has now published a second book in which he puts the speech he said he made to the pope and cardinals. He says much and lies about your College. He promises soon to publish a book about pilgrimage with much against his Holiness, the cardinals, bishops, monks, and especially the Jesuits, but I imagine the edge of most of his fury is dulled by a Catholic book recently printed, entitled, The Discovery of John Nicholas.
This first shows his character, that he is not a Jesuit, as publicly asserted, is not learned or of any account and discounts all he says in his own praise. It then answers his lies about the pope, cardinals, clergy, religious, the scholars of the English seminary, private individuals and lastly about Rome itself. It first refutes his lies and then sets forth the virtues opposite to the vices he instances. Much is said in praise of Rome, turned admirably against the adversaries, so I fancy they are not a little offended that our cause has profited so much by his imprudence or iniquity.
He repents of his lapse. Before many days he was with Riston in prison and gave some hope of coming to his senses. Cervinus and the others who are in the Tower of London still retain a wonderful liberty of speaking by which they marvellously annoy all those sent by the Council to pervert them. Quite lately Hart in debate with an orator who said he had come to demolish him, won great praise even by the testimony of the Protestants, for no once else was admitted. That conflict is most celebrated and was most beneficial. Bosgrave, who is said to be of the society and is in the same prison with Cervinus, has the testimony of all to his virtue and erudition. They threw Metamu, a colleague of Pound who was thought to have done much good in London, into a remote prison with the Bishop of Lincoln, the Abbot of Westminster and many other doctors and prelates handing them over to a fierce Puritan, who beat them barbarously. All their books and notes are taken away, only the Bible being left. Many ridiculous falsehoods have been spread about them, books being printed to take away every shred of their character. One night a loose woman was shut up in their cells, unknown to them, so that they might incur the charge of incontinence; but now they are so rigorously guarded that no one can approach them. We have devised this way to help them. When any one wishes to hand something to them he walks on the preceding day through the neighbouring fields and raises his voice like a huntsman. Upon that signal one of them looks out of the window; then the man in the fields makes a sign that he has something for them, and departs. Later at night when all are asleep he comes quietly back to the walls and one of them lets down a basket from the window from which the sign was given and receives the alms.
Oct. 21.
F. 98. Inf.
Lottera 182,
f. 397.
1013. Cesare Speziano to the Cardinal of S. Prassede.
I have received your Eminence's letter of the 12th inst. from Brescia by way of Venice. I am looking out for young men for your Chancery, but find great difficulty.
I will inform the Cardinal of S. Sisto as you command and get on with the affair of the College of S. Maura. I enclose the reply of the agent about the placet and ask for instructions. Case of Durante. Case of imprisonment of regulars who go to nunneries. Case of the Bishop of Brescia and the Inquisitor.
The fathers of the English College have sent me the enclosed papers about a martyrdom which took place in England a few days ago and begged me to send them to your Emminence.
Archbishop of Genoa in bad case. Cardinal Comensis says you may accept in the Swiss College here the youth recommended by the Bishop of Basel. He says that when the sons of heretics are resolved to be good Catholics they are generally preferable to others; and the object of these Colleges is to convert heretics, etc.
Rome, the 21st October, 1581.


  • 1. The foregoing portion is printed in the original Latin by T. F. Knox: Letters and Memorials of Cardinal Allen, pages, 101–103. Don Antonius is presumably Don Antonio, prior of Crato, the Portuguese pretender.
  • 2. Anthony Tyrell.