Spain: April 1540

Pages 227-235

Calendar of State Papers, Spain, Volume 6 Part 1, 1538-1542. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1890.

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April 1540, 1-30

13 April. 106. The Marquis de Aguilar to the Emperor.
S. E., L. 869,
f. 49.
B. M. Add. 28,592,
f. 67.
The people of Perugia, refusing to obey and pay the new tax on Salt imposed by His Holiness, have revolted and taken up arms, sheltering those, among the "fuoruseiti" who are willing to side with them, and have issued a number of proclamations, calling themselves the obedient subjects of the Apostolic See and the enemies of the Farnese. His Holiness is determined to punish them severely, and has ordered, to that effect, a levy of 8 or 10 thousand men. He is now at Ostia appointing the captains, who, under the command of the duke of Castro, are to go thither. He is so determined to take revenge on what he calls the wickedness of the Perugians that no persuasion will avail to make him desist from his plans.
In my opinion this revolution of the Perugians might hereafter be the cause of a general disturbance in Italy, principally in the States of the Church, because the least check or repulse of the Papal troops might bring on similar risings in that State, and the thing is more to be dreaded on account of the Perugians being rightly looked upon as the most warlike people in all Italy. In vain have I tried to induce His Holiness not to employ violent means, but try and reduce them to obedience, rather than venture upon a war with them at this time, when all Christendom is, as it were, threatened by the Turk; he still persists in his determination. At his return from Ostia, I will speak to him again, and in the meantime have written to duke Cosmo, at Florence, and to the Sienese not to help the Perugians with money or provisions. I have also addressed myself to Rodulpho Ballon (Baglione), now in command of Cosmo's cavalry at Cortona, on the confines of the Perugino, not to favor or countenance the Perugians in any way, but move to another part of the frontier.
His Holiness has spoken to me about taking into his pay the Spaniards who are in the Abruzzo. As they have nothing to do at present, as the viceroy of Naples informs me, it would not be amiss to give them employment. He has, moreover, sent for Alessandro Vitelli to serve in this war against the Perugians. I hear from him that the son of the Preor of Capua, Philippo Strozzi, had been planning his death by assassination, for the man who was to do the deed is actually in prison and has confessed his guilt. Vitello himself will be here in three days' time.
Various cathedral churches of Spain have sent to people of this city powers of attorney to represent them in a protest against the tax of the half-fruits. I have privately spoken about this to the persons named in the powers, none of whom have accepted the charge, and when the Pope was applied to, he is known to have answered, "I will allow no contradiction to the favor I have granted to the Emperor." The churches are those of Toledo, Burgos, Leon and Astorga.
The deposit of the 50,000 crs. for Germany has already been made, as the Pope informs me. Cardinal Gambaro confirms the fact. As the consignation could not be made for Augusta (Augsburgh), bills have been procured for Ænveres (Antwerp).
His Holiness' entrance into the League was proposed in two different consistories, and, although there was at first some opposition, principally on the part of cardinals attached, to France, the measure was at last carried.
Letters came yesterday from Lyons, of the 6th inst., stating that the journey of cardinal de Lorraine and the High Constable Montmorency had been put off, and that the King had returned to Normandy.—Rome, 13 April 1540.
Signed: "Marquis de Aguilar."
Addressed: "To the Sacred Imperial and Catholic Majesty of the King our Lord."
Spanish. Original. pp. 4.
26 April. 107. Captain Vergara to Francisco Duarte, the Proveditor.
S. E., L. 1373,
ff. 187–8.
B. M. Add. 28,592,
f. 6.
From Exio (fn. n1) I wrote to your Worship what news I could then procure, and also that I had not yet been able, up to that time, to hold an interview with Barbarossa. I left Exio (Scio) on the 5th of February last, on board a "galeota" (big galley) sent by Barbarossa, apparently to buy oranges for the Grand Turk, but in reality to ascertain whether there was in the island any person appointed to prosecute the negociations between the said Barbarossa and Juan Gallego. (fn. n2) Finding the passage good, and that the captain (arraez) who was in command of the "galeota" knew something of Barbarossa's intentions, I determined to go on board her without waiting for a safe-conduct, because no passport or safe-con duct of Barbarossa himself is valid between the Castles (Dardanells). (fn. n3) I said to the "arraez" and to the other Turks on board that my object was to procure a safe-conduct for two vessels bound for the Coral fishery, and at the same time treat with Barbarossa as to the duties to be paid for the coral. In this way I entered Constantinople on the 13th of January, and remained there until the 7th of March, in Barbarossa's own house, shut up in a room of the apartments of Doctor Romero, where we dined at midday by candle-light, no visitors being allowed save Barbarossa himself, his chief chamberlain, called Hamezabey (fn. n4) —a renegade native of Valencia, son of a gentleman named Don Juan de Villanova—and Ferrataga (this last a eunuch), "who is his soul and idol." Through the means of the above two, one acting as faraute (herald) and the other as interpreter, I was able to communicate daily with Barbarossa as follows:—
On Saturday, the 15th of February, Barbarossa sent his chamberlain Hamezabey (Hazen-Bey) for me at three clock of the night, (fn. n5) accompanied by the renegade (D. Juan) and Dr. Romero. On my entering the room I found Barbarossa sitting in an armchair lined with green velvet. I knelt down before him and attempted to take his hand to kiss it, but this he would not allow, but placed his on my head and afterwards kissed it. Then getting up from his chair, he made me rise and sit down on a box or stool lined with ivory. In this manner I was for two hours and a half talking to him and answering his questions, and after delivering the letters I had for him, and expressing myself as my instructions prescribed, he ordered me to return to my room, taking as gracious a leave of me as his reception had been kind, and I found my room equally well provided with every necessary.
Next Thursday, the 20th of the said month, Barbarossa sent for me by the same renegade, and at the same hour of the night. I found him laying on his couch. On my attempting to kiss his hand, as on the previous day, he made me sit down on a stool by the side of him. He then asked me what I thought of Constantinople. My answer was that I had seen nothing of it, and that my object in coming was not to see Constantinople, but himself, deliver my letters, and tell him verbally the message which the viceroy of Sicily (Ferranie Gonçaga) had intrusted to me. "With that duty (I added) I have already complied; it now remains for me to know what else can I do for Your Highness' pleasure."
On this occasion Barbarossa gave full credit to my words, and shewed great inclination to come over to us (acá), saying that the Emperor was a very good lord and master, and that he loved him greatly on account of his high deeds and virtues, notwithstanding which princes and lords were continually conspiring treacherously against him. Who the princes and lords alluded to by Barbarossa were there is no need to declare here. In this manner, after a two hours' conference, I was sent to bed.
Friday, the 28th of the same month, he (Barbarossa) again sent for me at the accustomed hour, and opened his heart to me much more than on the previous day, declaring what his intention and will were: "This year (he said) the Grand Turk will not send out his fleet; the Venetians are trying to make peace with him; but if the negociations fail, as I believe they will, my intention is to arm 300 galleys and upwards of 100 corsairs' 'galeotas,' 10 mahonas, (fn. n6) and many other vessels, and with them sail first to Corfo (Corfu), take that island (all the time describing to me on which side he intended making the attack), and after that sail for Venice, for which expedition I have caused no less than 1,000 boats or "landros" to be made, with only one foot draught, every one of which is to carry and land 25 men."
Barbaroja's purpose is to attack Corfo (Corfu) (fn. n7) by landing on the side where the two towers stand, because there are no traverses there, then approach the wall of the city by means of trenches, galleries "galapagos," (fn. n8) or covered ways (carretones), so as to sap the walls, and as in the lower place, between the inner and outer walls, are magazines of timber and planks, to throw into them 3,000 or 4,000 hand grenades so as to burn every thing inside.
He also purposes building a large tower (torreon) at the point of Our Lady of Gallipoli, in the said island of Corfu, and another of the same size on the nearest point looking towards the Morea, both so placed that the fires may cover each other, and no vessel approach Corfu on that side for the succour of the garrison. Should he be unable to take the place by storm, he intends to blockade it until it surrenders. Peace once made with the Venetians, he has decided to come with his fleet to Otranto, land on the coast of Naples, make incursions into the interior, and strike for Pulla (Puglia); then, leaving there his landing force, both infantry and cavalry (men and horse), sail with his fleet to Rijoles (Reggio) and sack that town. From Otranto, by land, go to Rijoles, and thence by sea to Mesina with the whole force, (fn. n9) landing at the Paraiso (Paradiso) with his fleet in sight, march to Nuestra Señora della Grotte, pitch his tent in the valley of Paraiso, on the road to Melaço and to the castle of Matagrifor, and then raise two batteries—one against the latter castle, the other to tire lower down between the redoubt (cavellero) now being constructed in San Francisco and the said Matagrifon. This castle once taken, Barbarossa thinks that he will easily become master of Mesina and its port, as well as of the Salvador, in which calculation he is not altogether mistaken, though methinks he and his people are reckoning (fn. n10) without their host in that respect.
After executing his design, as aforesaid, Barbarossa intends if successful, to sail with his fleet to the conquest of Tunis. His plan of campaign has been submitted to, and approved by, the Council of the Grand Signor. Such, indeed, are Barbarossa's intentions and those of the Sultan, his master, and if fortune is only favorable to that corsair he will become the master of Tunis, which is his chief aim. This he will achieve (as he says) more with the help of the Christian princes themselves and of the Tunisian Moors, than by the valour of his own Turks. Such may be the case, for I can assure your Worship that, apart from Barbarossa, the Grand Turk has no captain near him of sufficient authority and experience in military affairs to deserve being placed in command of his armies and fleets, and that Solyman's great armaments and innumerable forces are more calculated as a bugbear to frighten people than to do efficient work with the sword. This is also Barbarossa's opinion. I have often heard him relate anecdotes and say things in confirmation of that; I only wish I was more accomplished and had a better memory to be able to record them here!
But to return to Barbarossa, which is the principal object of this discourse. (fn. n11) The Grand Turk can hardly encamp in the enemy's country unless it be at a place where he can be succoured by land. The reason is that Barbarossa is in possession of the forty best galleys in the whole Turkish fleet, all commanded by servants of his own or men at his devotion. That in addition to that there are no less than fifty more belonging to corsairs or privateers, under the protection of whom all the robbers and pirates of Turkey flock. (fn. n12) So it is, that notwithstanding their number the few frighten the many. Would to God we could learn one-half only of the truth of what is passing now in the Turkish camp, and their total want of organisation; for, certainly, one Christian would then be equal to ten of those brutes, who only know how to die boldly, like so many beasts. Should the Grand Turk find himself once without the help of the innumerable masses who follow his standard, he would be irretrievably lost and disheartened for ever, notwithstanding this last unlucky affair of Castilnovo, which has made him over-proud and boastful.
This is in substance what Barbarossa said to me the night I was with him; I took it all to heart as if I were an Artiaga (fn. n13). I have no more to say on this chapter. If not well ordered, I beg your Worship's pardon, for he who knows little must say his prayers quickly.
Friday, the 19th of March, I was again summoned at the usual hour to take leave and so to arrange my departure from Constantinople that it might remain a secret. I was again assured by him of his resolution, should his terms be accepted, of coming over to the Emperor with 30 or 40, or as many as he could, of his own galleys, as well as with those of the privateers, his friends, which will be in considerable number. And let there be no doubt as to Barbarossa's promises, for he seems so anxious to come to an agreement on that point that every day that passes without receiving an answer to his overtures seems to him a year. The greatest difficulty about leaving Constantinople in former times was his harem, but now that some of his wives have died of a suspicious malady, and the whole have been removed to a pleasure garden and villa he has outside this city, on the road to the port where he is to embark, the difficulty will be partly removed; for, in order to conceal his plans, he is now building houses and mosques in that locality, with what intention God only knows. The night I saw him last, he said to me that if the weather was favorable he would send Dr. Romero—the same man whom your Worship left in Castilnovo as chief physician—to be there on the 1st of May, but that it behoved the Emperor to have also some person of his own with his final resolution on the affair. The doctor will be accompanied thither by another person in Barbarossa's confidence, or, if not so, Romero himself will be empowered to accept or refuse proposals in his name, and dispatch a galley with the news, so that in case of his terms being accepted, he may try and leave Constantinople secretly.
As the negociation, however, has become so public among Christians, as well as among the Turks themselves, of Constantinople and other towns of the Levant, Barbarossa thinks that Romero cannot well go thither, but should rather go to Algiers, where the whole matter can be discussed without fear of its being divulged. Were it possible to do the thing to day instead of to-morrow let there be no delay, for the later the attempt is made the more difficult will it be for Barbarossa to join. That his departure from Constantinople may not create suspicion, and that he may take with him the greatest possible number of galleys, nay, that he himself may remove out of Constantinople the whole of his servants and wives with their property and so forth, that admiral himself told me that one of two things was wanted: either to get a fleet of 50 or 60 galleys and 40 or 50 ships ready to sail for the Levant and Lepanto, and batter the walls of the latter with artillery on the land side, where the trench is—a very easy undertaking, since the place has no other available defences—and then waste and sack the neighbouring district in three hours' time, or else spread the rumour of the Emperor's naval preparations and formidable fleet, so as to oblige the Grand Turk (Solyman) to command Barbarossa to go out against him with the whole of his force. This, as I said before, would enable Barbarossa to take out of Constantinople his own servants and harem, besides dividing and diminishing his maritime forces. For I can assure your Worship that, setting aside Barbarossa and his servants and allies, the Turkish fleet is nothing at all.
The above was the admiral's last resolution, without one more word being said or written about it. Nor was there means of putting it on paper, as otherwise Barbarossa's life and my own would have been in extreme danger.
I left Constantinople on Sunday the 7th of March. In order not to raise suspicion the admiral liberated eighteen Christian captives of his own, with whom I departed from that city furnished, as the rest of them, with letters of freedom (carta de franqueza). In this manner I left Constantinople dressed as a slave (con librea de esclavo), and reached Exio (Scio) with them. I arrived at Mesina on the 10th of April, thinking I might have found there the viceroy of Sicily (Ferrante Gonzaga), but he was absent, though I was told that he would return soon.
Until the Viceroy's arrival I intend keeping the whole of this matter a profound secret; you are the only person to whom I have now imparted any part of it, so that you, who are my master, may be sure that until the Viceroy's arrival no living soul shall know anything about it.
Of other news afloat I can only say that they are either untrue or grossly exaggerated. For instance, I hear that Barbarossa is no longer the Grand Turk's admiral. The news was spread at Exio (Scio) when I was there, on the 20th of last December, but it is entirely false; never, at any time, did he (Barbarossa) enjoy greater favor with the Turk than at this present moment, for when, after the taking of Castilnovo, he went to Constantinople his salary and estate was increased to three sangiaquias, equivalent to 6,000 ducats every year, and he continues, as ever, in command of the Turkish fleet, though very envious of the other bashaws. (fn. n14) It has also been reported that he is suffering from hemoragia; but these are maladies (malatias) which he takes when he likes and cures himself of them.
On the 10th of February last, the ambassadors of Venice reached Andrinopoli, where the Grand Turk, who was then hunting in the neighbourhood, went to meet them. Barbarossa was then summoned to Andrinopoli for the express purpose of meeting there the Venetians, as well as one French ambassador who happened to be with them. The interview was tixed for the 10th of March, but Barbarossa feigned illness, and answered that he could not possibly obey the summons. Upon which the Grand Turk, believing that he was really unwell, wrote to him not to move from where he was, and that he himself would be at Constantinople on the 15th, when peace or truce with the Venetians would be discussed. I hear that the French ambassador is now busily engaged in forming a league between the Turk, the Venetians, and king Francis, against His Imperial Majesty, at least, so I was told by Barbarossa himself.
It was also reported about the same time that the Sophi of Persia (Thamasp) had strengthened himself considerably against the Grand Turk by marrying a daughter of his with a certain very powerful lord, whose title is the Prince of the Green turbans, an inveterate enemy of Solyman. It is therefore thought that both the Sophi and his son-in-law will soon molest and give the Grand Turk some trouble.
I wrote to your Worship from Exio (Scio) by Pedro del Campo, as well as to Master Joan Gallego, advising all the news I could obtain during my journey to the Levant. Both letters were sent from this place (Mesina) to the Imperial Court, enclosed in a despatch for the Viceroy, and, as I hear from Master Joan Gallego, I am afraid that your Worship has not received them. I say this that I may not be considered neglectful, as you told me when you left Mesina.
Señora Esperanza (fn. n15) is still in Barbarossa's house, within his harem (el cerrage de sus mugeres), very well treated, only that she can no longer dance about as she used. Her daughter is growing very pretty, though by no means a good Christian, because, even in this respect, her mother—as wilful and light-headed as ever—would not have her baptized unless your Worship and I should be the child's sponsors. I could not speak to her because it is not customary to do so among the Turks; besides, had there been any opportunity for it, I could not have seen her, because when I received the message it was too late; I had already been in Constantinople secretly some days, and was about to depart.
Master Juan Gallego has brought here his nomination to the wardership of the Castle of San Salvador, which he wishes me to govern as his lieutenant during his absence. I have accepted the charge, and thank your Worship very much for a post which I intend to serve as faithfully as I possibly can.
Doctor Romero, (fn. n16) the physician, the same who remained at Castilnovo by your order, kisses your Worship's hands, and begs to be kindly remembered. He visits almost daily Señora Esperança, and gives her good advice. I fancy that if this present business goes on steadily we shall soon recover her and that she will get her freedom. To accountant (contador) Vergara I beg to send my best compliments, and when you have occasion to write, that you inform him of my return from Constantinople, as well as convey to him kind messages from Esperança.—Mecina, xxvi. April 1540.
Signed: "Joan de Vergara."
Spanish. Holograph. pp. 12.


  • n1. Scio, Chio.
  • n2. See above, pp. 211 and 221.
  • n3. "Dentro de los Castillos."
  • n4. "Y su mayordomo, que se llama Hamezabey, que es renegado, hijo de un cavallero de Valencia, que se llama don Juan de Villanova, y Ferratagá, ques el anima de Barbaroxa y su idolo. Este es capado; los quales todos dos son farautes, y por medio de ellos hablé," &c.
  • n5. "A tres horas de la noche."
  • n6. Galeota is the name generally given to a Turkish galley. Mahona is likewise a large-oared barge.
  • n7. "A Corfo tiene propuesto de tomarlo por la banda de la tierra, que los dos torreones de los cantones (carretones?) son sin traveses baxos."
  • n8. Galapago is an ancient military structure in the shape of a land or freshwater tortoise. Carreton is literally a large cart, being the diminutive of carreta. In the present instance it is used as a term of fortification, covered way, or gallery approaching the walls of a besieged city.
  • n9. "Está acordado de se venir con la misma armada á Otranto, y con mucho mayor aparejo de pasar caballos para la Pulla, y hechando alli la gente y los cavallos, la armada venirse [ha] á Rijoles y saquearlo, y desde alli pasar la armada á Mesina."
  • n10. Aunque no han hecbo cuenta con la hueste (hucspeda?).
  • n11. "Pero comenzando por la primera, que es tener en estas partes a Barbaroja que es todo el fin del armada, y principio y medio de todo lo resto (restante?)."
  • n12. "Y á la sombra de estas y son de gruessa armada vienen quantos pastores turcos se hallan en Turquia."
  • n13. "Esto es lo que en estas dichas noches platicó Barbaroja conmigo, y lo que de él aprehendi a modo de Artiaga, y esto para que[conste] quanto a este capitulo, y sino fuere bien ordenado, perdone su merced que quien poco sabe presto lo reza."
  • n14. "Aunque harto envidioso de los demas baxaes."
  • n15. "La Señora Esperança está en la casa de Barbaroja en el cerrage de sus mugeres, muy bien tratada pero no pued saltar, como ella hera (era) acostumbrada. La hija esta muy bonita, y no christiana porque hasta en esto quiso ser loca, que no la quiso baptizar, sino fuesemos compadres V. M. y yo. No se le pudo hablar porque no es costumbra de los Turcos, y ya que se pudiera no hera (era) tiempo, porque estuve muy secreto, y asy convenia."
  • n16. "El Doctor Romero, medico que en Castilnovo quedó por mandado de v. md. besa sus manos. El visita cada dia á Esperança, y le da buenos consejos; pienso que la avremos si los negocios fueren adelante."