Venice: April 1604

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1900.

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'Venice: April 1604', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607, ed. Horatio F Brown( London, 1900), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Venice: April 1604', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Edited by Horatio F Brown( London, 1900), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Venice: April 1604". Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Ed. Horatio F Brown(London, 1900), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

April 1604

April 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 204. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
On Monday last, the 29th, Parliament was opened, The King went in state. There were many fine liveries, different from those worn at the entry. The King and Prince wore mantles of crimson velvet, lined with ermine. Parliament is composed of three orders, the nobility, which is restricted to those bearing titles such as Earls, Marquises, Barons, and the clergy—these two orders form the Upper Chamber, as it is called, which numbers about one hundred and thirty persons; the third order is that of the citizens or burgesses, who form the Lower Chamber. It numbers about five hundred and fifty persons; each city, town, or big village sending two members. Every member has the right to move the repeal, amendment or passing of laws. The resolutions of the Lower Chamber are then carried by a special officer to the Upper Chamber, where they receive confirmation, and are submitted for approval by the Crown.
His Majesty made a long speech on opening Parliament, so long that it has not been printed yet. He exhorted everyone to work together for the public weal. As his Majesty still declines to decide on the question of precedence between France and Spain the Ambassadors were not invited to the ceremony, but we were each furnished with a house whence to view the procession. On Saturday, the third, Accession Day, there were jousts. Three boxes were erected for the Ambassadors, just opposite the Royal stand, and hung with tapestries. These boxes were touching one another, but divided by wooden partitions, so that from one you could not see what was taking place in the next. The right-hand box was assigned to the French Ambassador, the second to me, and the third to the Spanish Ambassador. This has given rise to endless discussion. Some say that, as France was placed on the right hand, his was the post of honour, others that, as the Spanish box had the best view, it was the place of honour. There is no doubt but that this was done on purpose to allow each to claim the precedence. But all these disputes are breeding bad blood among the Ambassadors, and the fruit is beginning to show; for they no longer visit, speak, or salute, and each does his best to avoid the other.
The Catholics have petitioned for liberty of conscience, and promise allegiance and abstention from plots against the King's life. His Majesty has returned no answer, but the tone of his speech at the opening of Parliament showed a disposition very favourable to the Catholics, and it is a fact that, in spite of the proclamation, very few priests have left the kingdom, and no great diligence is used towards their expulsion; nay, even those who are actually in prison and could easily be expelled have not been moved yet; and the Catholics begin to entertain lively hopes.
Last week seventeen, this week sixteen deaths from plague. The increase is ascribed to the crowds that have arrived for these festivities.
London, 7th April, 1604.
April 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 205. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Spanish Ambassador has recently informed his Majesty that, as during the whole of his residence in England, the King has shown a firm resolve not to send Commissioners over sea, the Constable has been urged to come to England along with Count d'Aremberg, who will act for the Archduke. The Constable has expressed his willingness, and he is expected shortly along with d'Aremberg. The King awaits him eagerly; and both his Majesty and his ministers are anxious for peace; a proof of this disposition is afforded by the fact that orders have now been issued, though hitherto always refused, that none of the English fleet, which is ready to sail for the West Indies, shall touch any places under Spanish rule. A copy of this order has been given to the Spanish Ambassador. The Ambassador, however, is not entirely satisfied, for he desired absolutely prohibition of the whole navigation to those parts.
The Kings of France used formerly to have a Scottish company of men-at-arms, under the command of the Scottish King's eldest son, named the Duke of Albany, a district of Scotland. It does not seem desirable now that he should retain that command, and so they have agreed to bestow it on his younger brother, who will take the title of Duke of Albany. His lieutenant is to be the Duke of Lennox, who will take the opportunity of being in Scotland for the meeting of Parliament, to raise the company of one hundred men, and to bring them to France.
Every day it becomes more and more apparent that between the Lords and Commons there is great friction and ill feeling. It has shown itself on various occasions, but more especially in the case where the county of Buckingham has refused to return Sir John Fortescue (Foschini), (fn. 1) who is a member of the Privy Council, and has elected in his stead a man of small or rather of low condition. (fn. 2) This has caused an altercation and the exchange of threats between certain members of the Privy Council and the burgesses. The King is greatly disturbed, for he desires nothing so much as concord, with a view to the union of England and Scotland, a favourite scheme of his, but one which will meet with many difficulties, as he well knows, and, therefore, he does all he can to secure unanimity. In order to win over Parliament the King has divested himself of the right to nominate an undertaker, a right which Elizabeth had usurped in defiance of the laws of the Realm. It is an office of the highest importance, for it is he who lays all matters before the House, and it is his duty to carry up the bills from the Lower to the Upper Chamber. I have no doubt the King's object is to facilitate the union, but some say he wishes to raise subsidies. He is resolved not to apply to Parliament for money without being sure of getting it.
Very little is going on just now in Parliament. It will be adjourned for Easter in four or six days. The King is on the point of leaving London on a hunting expedition forty miles away from here. He is only delayed by his desire to smooth away the disagreement between the two Houses. His Majesty is inclined to be favourable to the Lords, but the Commons show great firmness in standing by their privilege.
London, 8th April, 1604.
April 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 206. Anzolo Badoer, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Scottish gentleman (Hay) sent here by the King of England has been highly favoured, and has dined twice with the King, and been out hunting with him. At his last audience, in his master's name, he recommended to the King the Calvinists. This disgusted his Majesty; and the Envoy's present was reduced to a jewel worth six hundred crowns. This mission has given his Majesty much anxiety, as the German Princes threaten to conclude a league with England. The King of England is credited with intending to call both Calvinists and Puritans by the name of Protestant.
Paris, 13th April, 1604.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
April 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 207. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The quarrel between the Lower House and the Privy Council over the case of the county of Buckingham and the exclusion of Sir John Fortescue is more active than ever. Neither the authority nor the entreaties of the King were of any avail, and he has gone to the chase. The Council is very ill-pleased; and his Majesty has shown himself clearly of their part, for he has used contemptuous language of Sir John's opponent, calling him a “Bankrupt, outlaw” (forfante, fallito), (fn. 3) and threatening to clap him in the Tower. The Council hoped that with the help of the royal authority the affair would be concluded as they desired; for they could not believe that the Commons, the county of Buckingham, or the member would venture to continue long in their pertinacity, when they saw the King's obvious displeasure. Some members of Parliament, desiring to accommodate the affair, wrote to the county of Buckingham, urging it to hold a fresh election; but at that election Sir John polled very few votes, while his opponent polled one hundred and fifty more than on the previous election, and the county has announced its resolve to maintain his cause to the death, as a just cause and one based upon the ancient privileges of the Realm. The affair is in such a state that no one can guess how it will end. The King's return is awaited. I am informed that he regrets the extremity to which the affair has been pushed, for he sees that he must either give or receive considerable damage.
The Spanish Ambassador has begged the King to grant the use of Somerset House for the Constable. It is the most splendid house in London, after the Royal palace. Somerset House, by ancient usage, belongs to the Queen, and so his Majesty replied laughing, “The Ambassador must ask my wife, who is the mistress.” The Ambassador did so, and the Queen readily assented. The King is to bear the charges of the Constable and his suite. This disturbs the French faction, for his Majesty did not show such honours to M. de Rosny, and because this is taken as an indication of goodwill towards Spain.
I enclose the King's speech at the opening of Parliament. This week seventeen deaths from plague.
London, 15th April, 1604.
April 17. Minutes of the Senate, Venetian Archives. 208. Instructions to the Ambassador in England.
We look for good results from the punishment inflicted on certain English corsairs, from the favourable disposition of his Majesty, and from the promised despatch of a man-of-war to suppress piracy inside Gibraltar.
But meanwhile complaints continue. You are, therefore, to recall to his Majesty's mind the promise he has made, and to press for the deposit of sufficient caution money by all ships sailing from England. You will also ask that a King's officer shall sail with each ship; you will suggest this as of yourself. We enclose letters from the Governor of Zante in proof of the injury; they explain the case of the “Phœnix” and the “Greyhound.”
Ayes 168.
Noes 0.
Neutrals 2.
April 21. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 209. Maffio Michiel, Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 5th of this month there arrived in this port the English ship, the “Pearl,” Captain Ezechiel Cripps (Chrieps), from Constantinople. The owner and supercargo came up, as usual, to the castle to report. I told them that, if they wished to stay in harbour, they would have to give me security that they would not take in currants, and that they would not sail until they had been searched. They said they had no business to do here, and that as soon as they had landed some passengers they would sail. I said I would give them the whole day, but that they must sail before night; and with that they went down to the harbour. At sundown I learned that they were still lying in port and making no signs of sailing, so I sent my officer down to tell them to clear out at once, or I would have to take other steps. They demanded a written statement of the reasons for their expulsion. On this impertinent and insolent answer, and clearly seeing that they meant to stay here and carry out some secret design, I ordered a piece of artillery to be trained on them, and instructed the magnificent Alvise Marcello, who was lying in harbour with his galley, to exact compliance with my orders, but not to expose his ship or crew to any risk. He immediately trained his guns on the Englishman, and then a shot was fired first from the castle and then from the galley. Neither struck the “Pearl,” and she at once weighed anchor and sailed away to Glarentza, where she lay for several days.
This will let your Serenity see the insolent behaviour of English ships in your harbours; they being resolved to ignore all orders, and to do what they like. If the illustrious Signor Giacomo Giustinian, Proveditore of the galleys, would scour these waters matters would go better, and this insolent race would either keep away or would conform to the regulations.
Zante, 21st April, 1604, O.S.
April 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 210. Lunardo Zorzi, Podestà in Cittanuova, Istria, to the Doge and Senate.
The doings of the English and such people in the very bosom of your Serenity have reached my ears and taught me their perfidy. It is, therefore, possible that what took place a few days ago was not, as I first fancied, the result of accident or a drunken frolic, which I need not report; in any circumstances I now consider it advisable to send in a detailed account.
At the end of last month there sailed into the port of Quieto, which is under this jurisdiction, an English ship hailing from Venice, as the Commander, who is called Captain Giovanni Bianchini (John King), informed me. He is a fine looking man, about thirty years old. He and some of his crew landed and came to the Palace. They displayed every sign of respect and of courtesy, and saluted several times with fanfare of trumpets and tuck of drum, until at last I was induced to offer them some slight refreshment, as is the custom of the country. They then sent to say they would like to come upstairs to pay their respects to me in person. They were, accordingly, all of them introduced, and after the exchange of compliments the Captain invited me to visit his ship, as she was the most beautiful ship of her kind that ever was built. I refused several times and was quite determined not to satisfy him, but the Father of the preaching Friars and other principal people of the place, who were present, being bitten with curiosity to see something new and beautiful, as they were promised, persuaded me, and I gave my word that I would come. The next day I and the Friar, a Canon, a Judge, some citizens, my chief officer, and the son of the Chancellor, embarked in a boat and went on board. While we were being taken round the ship, first to one place, then to another, on the plea of showing us the best they had, sail was set,—the anchors had already been weighed,—under the colour of showing how well she could cruise about; but, as for a long while we kept on one course, I began to be suspicious, to be frightened, to be terror-struck at the prospect of assassination. I turned my whole heart to God, and made urgent signs to go back with the ship, not in the boat which was being towed astern. As we all went towards the companion (barchizo) to leave the ship they stopped us at first in joke, declaring that they meant to carry us off to England, then they changed their tone and said the same in earnest, all giving us to understand that this was their revenge for having been imprisoned on a charge of smuggling, and to show us what they could and would do. But after earnest entreaties by us all, and inspired by the Holy Ghost, they agreed to let us go. We had not got far when they fired a gun with a great big ball, which struck the water near the boat, and shortly after another gun also loaded. The ball passed over us without touching us, thanks be to God, and the ship went on her way.
Citta Nuova, 22nd April, 1604.
April 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 211. Maffio Michiel, Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
Certain Greeks report that a pirate, a Frenchman, called Vinciguerra, has captured some English privateers. The Frenchman fitted out his ship at Malta; she has two-hundred-and-twenty men and thirty-six guns.
Zante, 27th April, 1604. O.S.
April 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 212. Anzolo Badoer, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Relates the episode of Tes, the ciphering Secretary of M. de Villeroy, who for four years had been telling the King's secrets to Spain. Villeroy suspected.
Paris, 27th April, 1604.
[Italian; deciphered.]
April 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 213. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Difficulties have arisen about the issue of the Charter to the Levant Company. They have been raised by those who desire to enter the company, and who, in accordance with the recent order, are called upon to pay fifty pounds sterling, that is, two hundred crowns, as entrance fee. They say that this is unjust, as the funds thus raised would go to enrich the old company, for the number who wish to enter is very great. They offer to contribute to the ordinary and extraordinary expenses. The old company proposes, however, to appropriate the entrance money to the extinction of its debts, and so it puts forth all its strength to uphold the present order. The others say that the old debts should be paid by the old company out of its gains and not out of the pockets of the new members. The negotiations are at a standstill, although many have attempted in vain to end the deadlock. Meantime the new impost is not levied, and it is generally held for certain that it will be entirely abolished, in the hope of a similar concession from your Serenity. I am told that the Ambassador, who will leave England in fifteen days to take up his residence in Venice, will be commissioned to deal with this matter. Their hopes are based on the decree of the Senate, 14th August, 1586, where it is expressly stated that the impost is to be removed at Venice if it is removed in England.
A few days ago Henry Constable was sent to the Tower on account of some intercepted letters, which he had written to the Papal Nuncio in France (Del Buffalo), in which he said that he held it for certain that the King had no religion at all, and that everything he did was governed by political expediency. The members of the Council are of a disposition to follow his Majesty in matters of religion; and so the King's will is the sole cause of all that may occur.
The Spanish Ambassador has again announced the arrival of the Constable, which, however, has been put off for a week or two; the feeble health of the Constable is pleaded as excuse for the delay.
Count d'Aremberg has got the gout again. It is conjectured, however, that the Spanish may be anxious to capture Ostend first, which would enormously enhance their prestige in treating for peace. The Constable will ask for the restitution of the cautionary cities, Flushing and Brill, and will, in return, pay the sum due from the Dutch to the English; but no one believes that the King will consent.
Twenty deaths from plague last week; the returns for this week are not yet to hand. They are issued on Thursdays only, and as the courier has changed his day from Thursday to Wednesday I cannot furnish this week's list.
London, 28th April, 1604.
April 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 214. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The King came back from the chase on Maunday-Thursday, more in compliance with the prayers of the Council than from any particular wish of his own. All Friday was spent in a discussion between the Privy Council and a committee of the Commons (alcuni deputati del Parlamento), which was held in his Majesty's presence, the subject being the Buckinghamshire election. On Saturday the King ordered the county to proceed to the election of another member, as neither Fortescue nor his opponent were members for the county. He hoped in this way to remove all occasion for further scandals, as blood was growing warm on both sides. This settlement was with difficulty acepted by the Commons, who held that the King was therein committing a breach of privilege of the counties, which had always enjoyed full liberty of election, and of Parliament as well, for no case had ever occurred in which a member, elected by a county and admitted to the House, had been expelled without any legitimate reason (questo accommodamento fu acettato con qualche difficoltà da quelli del Parlamento, poichè pareva a loro che per questa via havesse il Rè interrotto in qualche parte li antichi privilegii delle provincie, le quali hanno havuto sempre la elettione libera, et del parlamento ancora, non havendosi mai più veduto, che una persona eletta da una provincia et ricevuto nel parlamento, sia, senza alcuna causa legittima et evidente, stata dismessa). However, when they saw that the Council, in spite of all its weight with the King, was unable to carry Fortescue, they finally calmed down. A writ has issued for a fresh election in Buckinghamshire, and it is hoped that it will take place at once. (fn. 4)
Nothing of moment has taken place in Parliament as yet; they have merely declared the succession of this King and the right of his legitimate heirs to the throne; and reinstated some Barons and Earls in their titles and possessions, notably the Earl of Arundel, son of the eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, the son of the Earl of Essex, and the Earl of Southampton.
On Monday the question of the union of England and Scotland came up. The King greatly desires it. hut various difficulties arise; first, the Scottish claim the capacity to hold all honours and dignities, which the English hold; the English are willing to agree, but only on condition that the four great offices of Lord High Constable, Lord Chancellor, Lord Keeper, and Lord Chamberlain shall always be held by the English, and that no Scotsman may be appointed to any English office till the expiry of twelve years; during which period they hope to win the affection of the King to themselves, which now is chiefly bestowed upon his fellow-countrymen. The second difficulty is that the English insist that Scottish Peers shall not rank in England, while the Scots claim equal rank for their peerage with that of England, and that seniority of patent alone shall count. The third difficulty is that the English claim that Scotland shall be taxed as England is taxed. In Scotland there used to be no direct taxes, the country being so poor, and everyone being bound to military service at his own charges instead, but now that the Crowns are united the fear of war disappears, and the burden of military service, which was considerable, is removed, and so, say the English, the Scottish ought not to decline to contribute towards the burdens of England, whose dignities and immunities they are going to share. On the other hand the Scottish plead their poverty, and declare that they cannot pay a penny more than their present charges. These points are sustained and argued by both sides with such heat that the King doubts whether he will be able to surmount the difficulties. They say Parliament is to be prorogued in four or six days, till Michaelmas in September. (fn. 5)
London, 28th April, 1604.


  • 1. Sir John Fortescue, Master of the Wardrobe and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
  • 2. Sir Francis Goodwin. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1 April, 1604.
  • 3. James' Proclamation of January 11, addressed to the constituencies, ordered them to elect neither “bankrupts” nor “outlaws.” Cal. S. P. Dom. January 11, 1604. The Court of Chancery declared Sir Francis Goodwin's election void on the grounds that he was an outlaw. Gardiner. 1. 167.
  • 4. See Gardiner. 1, 169, 170. Molin's account is substantially correct.
  • 5. A commission of twenty-eight drawn equally from both Houses, was appointed to confer with twenty-eight Scots and to report. Cal. S. P.Dom. 1604, pp. 97–105.