Venice: May 1603, 1-15

Pages 16-28

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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May 1603, 1–15

May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 31. Simon Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
No sooner had the King received news of the Queen of England's death than he sent orders to all the ports to prevent the departure of any foreign ships until further orders. There is endless speculation as to the friendship or hostility of the new King, but nothing positive is known. What I gather is that on this side at least they will do all they can to establish friendly relations on account of the drain caused by Flanders; and therefore the Irish expedition will be abandoned, as well as all acts of hostility. But as it is not impossible that in this new conjuncture of affairs they might succeed in recovering some of the strong places in Flanders which were pledged to the Queen, they will not forego any steps such as bribery which may conduce to this result. They will argue that the death of the Queen has dissolved the oath of loyalty, and that any attempt to recover the patrimony of this crown cannot be interpreted as a hostile act towards the new King of England. They add that in England both the ministers and the people are anxious for peace. The whole question, however, turns on this point, will the support of the Flanders' rebels cease or not, and only time can settle that I enclose a copy of the proclamation of the King of Scotland as King of England, and also a copy of a letter, written by the French Ambassador in England, to the French Ambassador here. The latter tells me that the Queen's niece is laying claim to the throne.
Valladolid, the first of May, 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 32. Letter from the French Ambassador (fn. 1) in London to the French Ambassador in Spain.
A few days before the death of the Queen all the nobility and commons of England prepared themselves for the immediate election and nomination of the King of Scotland as her successor. To-day, the third of the month, at three o'clock in the morning, she died. She was almost unconscious, and for three days she had lost her speech. She had no fever and suffered no pain during the whole course of her illness, nor did she lose her intelligence and consciousness till the end. The King of Scotland was at once proclaimed in the Court at Richmond, and the same day was proclaimed in the city by the King-at-Arms on horseback, surrounded by all the Lords of the Council, the Archbishops, Bishops, Earls, Barons and Knights to the number of three hundred. Cecil read the proclamation I now enclose. The change has been accomplished in this manner, though for years all Christendom held for certain that it must be attended with trouble and confusion. The satisfaction is universal among the English, and so miraculous is the unanimity of the King's own nation that one sees his hand or his luck to be great, and his prudence even greater; for on this question of his assumption of the throne, which he dared not have broached to the Scottish earlier, he now finds such conformity to his wishes and such rapid union among all, notwithstanding the great difference of temperament which exists between the English and the Scottish, not merely in the matter of religion, but on account of the last events of the Queen's reign, and of that rooted and ancient hostility of the English to the Scottish, which seemed destined to retard the arrival of the King at the throne of England. But his title is most legitimate and is supported by the good opinion the English have of his character, by the fact that he has sons, and because he is already versed in government. Add to this the alarm that everyone feels lest discord should open the door to foreigners. All these considerations have counselled to unanimity and promptness in receiving and recognising him. We shall see him here in a few days, and we will observe how he proceeds in his ideas, what order he will restore upon the Catholic question, how he will bear himself to his neighbours.
Meantime I must inform your Lordship that the common opinion of the Queen's doctors and of those who were most closely in attendance upon her and waited on her, is that her illness was entirely due to a profound sorrow which had fallen on her secretly a few days before she succumbed to it. They found this opinion on the fact that she showed no symptoms of any malady sufficient to cause death, unless it were old age; her pulse and her eyesight were good to the last. Throughout the whole of her sickness she declined all remedies that were proposed, notwithstanding the prayers and menaces of her creatures and her doctors, who told her she would die; as though her old age or some other secretsorrow—which I can attribute to no other cause than to the death of the Earl of Essex—were prompting her to desire and seek her own demise. However that may be, certain it is that the moment she felt herself stricken she declared that she wished to die. She left no will, nor did she name her successor; she would not go to bed till three days before her death. For fifteen days she lay on a mattress without undressing, with her eyes fixed on the ground, refusing to speak or to see anyone. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of London, along with the Almoner, (fn. 2) ministered to her in the hour of death, when she displayed great devotion and gratitude to God. (In questo mezzo dirò a V. S. Illustrissima che la commune opinion dei medici della detta Regina, et di quelli che più stavan giunti alla sua persona et la servivano, è che la sua infirmità nonprocede da altra cosa, che da una tristezza grande che le diede secretamente alcuni giorni avanti, che si lamentasse d'essa; et fondan il suo parer perchè non ha mai in essa veduto apparenza nessuna di male che se potesse causar la morte, se non questa della vechiezza, havendo tenuto sempre il polso et l'occhio buono fino che mancò; et principalmente che in tutto il corso della sua malatia non ha voluto usar nessun rimedio che le sia stato proposto, non ostante i prieghi et minaccie che i suoi creadi et medici le facevano che si moriria, come se o sua vechiezza o alcun altro secreto sentimento, che non posso attribuirlo ne creder nascesse de altra cosa se non della morte del conte di Esses, l'avesse mossa a desiderarla et cercarla essa medesima. Sia come si voglia, è cosa certa et vera che subito che si senti tocca del mat, disse che desiderava la morte. Non ha fatto testamento, ne dichiaration nissuna di successor, ne stette nel letto se non soli tre giorni avanti che morisse, essendo stata più di quindeci sentada in un cussino senza spogliarsi, tenendo gli occhi sempre verso terra, senza voter parlar ne veder nessuno. L'Arcivescovo de Cantorberi, il Vescovo di Londra giuntamente col suo limosiniero, non han lasciato d'assisterle all'hora della morte nella quale ha dato qran segni de devotion et riconoscimento di Dio.)
London, 3rd April, 1603.
May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 33. Simon Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The people of Scotland are opposing the departure of their King for England, out of hatred for the English. The King is endeavouring to overcome their opposition.
Valladolid, the first of May, 1603.
May 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 34. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The King continues to support those houses and persons who were oppressed by the late Queen. In pursuance of that policy, besides what I have already reported, he has named the Earl of Northumberland of the Privy Council. The Earl had been as it were banished from Court because his estates on the borders of Scotland, near the North Sea, were so great, and because the Queen had some suspicion of those secret intelligences with the King of Scotland, which are now apparent. The King has conferred the same honour on Lord Thomas Howard, son of the late unhappy Duke of Norfolk, beheaded for being affianced to Queen Mary, his Majesty's mother. The fact that he has bestowed a similar honour upon the Viceroy of Ireland proves that his Majesty was not in secret correspondence with the discontented nobility only but also with the Queen's most intimate advisers. He was afraid of the Queen's intentions and of the negative attitude of the English people towards his succession, and so he always thought it necessary to maintain not merely such internal supports but foreign force as well, in order to win in the struggle. This was the cause of all his past negotiations, not only with France and Spain but with the Pope too, on various occasions, quite recently through the Grand Duke by means of one of the Guicciardini family who was here. His Majesty was resolved that the question of religion should assist him to the throne, and he calculated that if he should find repugnance among the heretics he might rely upon the Catholics and draw his profit from risings in various parts of the country. But his supporters say that now that he has learned by experience that his prospective arrangements have brought him good fortune and resulted in the happy success of his succession to the throne, all his plans will be allowed to drop, and all those intrigues,—which never had any other object than the confirmation to his Majesty of the absolute independent dominion of these kingdoms without acknowledging any spiritual allegiance or temporal jurisdiction as due to the Pope, an independence of which the nation is proud,—will be broken off. And although rumour runs that peace is made with Spain and consequently with Flanders, where the Archduke has already issued orders in Dunquerque that English shipping is not to be molested, nevertheless as the minds of a part of the old Privy Council are deeply impressed by the lofty aims of the late Queen and are convinced that the best way to preserve oneself is to harass one's neighbours, there is a disposition on their part to propose to the King the continuance of the war in opposition to some members of the Council and the general wish of the English people, who in the interests of commerce desire peace.
I must tell your Serenity that the Queen, as I understand from those who may be said to speak almost with her voice, suffered deeply because she could never find a safe and suitable occasion to propose to the Republic means for reducing the King of Spain; and that she was delighted with the arrival of a Secretary, through whom she proposed to suggest the first method, which was to stir up dissensions in Portugal, although the opportunity of availing themselves of him who was called King of Portugal was gone by. She declared that however luckless he might have been, every Prince, your Serenity and the Grand Duke in particular, should have supported him, as sent by God to be the scourge of Spain, which was insidiously aiming at the dominions of all other Sovereigns. She proposed that her fleet and the fleet of the States should attack the India fleets of Spain, in which the King's strength resided, and should eventually destroy that traffic. This would assist Venice on the other hand to extend in Italy by expelling the Spanish and weakening them even if the Pope would not consent. Not only those Councillors who retain a lively recollection of the Queen's designs, but all the others as well, are anxious that without a moment's delay the King should send to succour Ostend. They point out the consequences of its fall, for the Spanish could keep in that port their vessels both armed and unarmed, and make an arsenal for building others, which owing to their proximity to England would be a standing menace. Secretary Cecil, who has gone to join the King at York, one hundred and fifty miles away, where his Majesty will keep Holy Week and Easter, writes to the Council that the King has listened to but not accepted his advice about helping Ostend. The Earl of Tyrone has sent back to the King the pardon recently granted him by the Queen, and has told the King that he renounces all the conditions of the pardon, and throws himself entirely on the King's good will; he adds that he has laid down arms, had an interview with the Viceroy, and that peace is established.
Lady Arabella has been released and has gone to meet the King with three hundred horse; after that she will attend the Queen's obsequies.
Ambassadors from most of the powers are coming here; from Spain among the number, though the Spaniards are in the habit of saying that England is but a hand's breadth of ground compared with the worlds possessed by his Catholic Majesty. It is rumoured that the Landgrave of Hesse and some other Protestant princes will attend in person. Secretary Herbert, just returned from his mission (to Copenhagen), which is no longer necessary on account of the close relation between the two sovereigns, says that the King of Denmark will himself make the journey or send a brother to be present at the Coronation, which is to take place both for King and Queen on St. John's day, old style, as far as present arrangements go. In the meanwhile the expenses for the funeral, the entry and the coronation are really great as is usual in this country.
I have your Serenity's orders as to the saltpetre and will attend to them.
London, 1st May, 1603.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 35. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I have made enquiries as to the saltpetre. I find that it is only in recent years that any quantity has been made in this country. All that was consumed before that date came from abroad, chiefly from Frankfort, where it is collected and sold at the time of the fair, and brought down the Rhine through Holland. They also got it from Lorraine and earlier still from Morocco and other places in Barbary. Saltpetre is a royal monopoly, and none has ever been sold to other princes, so far as I know, except a certain amount granted by the late Queen to the King of France and the States. I had a tender for three hundred tons at one hundred and forty ducats the ton, but I hope to cut that down to one hundred and thirty or a little more. These goods are to be delivered in Venice free of cost and at the entire risk of the vendor. I enclose a draft of the contract, and to the Directors of the Artillery I send a sample. I hope that I can make the payment at the rate of thirty-two deniers (denari) of English money, for each Venetian ducat of six lire four soldi, which are really at thirty-four, thereby making a gain for your Serenity. Perhaps, however, it would be quickest to pay in bills of exchange, for in this way nothing more than the exact amount of the price, would issue from the treasury, and you would always have a hold over the vendor for the quality of the goods. The tender is made by an Italian merchant, who desires to remain anonymous.
I have used my best endeavours; will your Serenity instruct me, after consulting the enclosed, whether I am to deal with the King or not, for without your express orders I will take no steps? I have begged the tenderer to keep silence, so that no competition may spring up. From the saltpetre merchants or public farmers of the monopoly here in London, it would be impossible to get more than ten tons, even with the King's consent, unless the King should sell the military stores, which is not credible. If the affair is too long it would be possible to buy it at the Frankfort fair and bring it to Venice, viâ Holland, a route no longer than that from England to Venice.
London, 8th May, 1603.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch For the satisfaction of your .Lordship upon the matter of the saltpetre I will now set forth the conditions which should bind both parties, but I reserve to myself the choice as to whether I will or will not carry out my proposal, supposing your Lordship consents to accept the terms I am about to offer, after you have received an answer from Venice, as it is not fair that you should be free while I remain bound, in view of possible accident which may arise to hinder or to modify my plans; although humanly speaking I foresee no grounds for alarm.
I charge myself to supply three hundred tons of saltpetre made in England, refined, up to sample I have furnished.
I will lade the saltpetre on one or more ships for one or more voyages, within six months of my receiving, from your Lordship or from others his Majesty's licence to export.
I will send the saltpetre to Venice at my own risk and charges and will order it to be consigned by my agent there to the person or persons indicated by your Lordship, but the consignment shall take place on board ship and at no further cost to me.
In case from some cause or other the whole or part of the saltpetre should be lost on the way before reaching Venice, it shall be permitted me to replace what is wanting, and that within six months' notice of the loss, without in any way altering the conditions of the contract which may be stipulated by us.
Your Lordship shall bind yourself in your own name and in that of the Republic to the observation of the following conditions, under pain, in case of failure in all or part, of making good any expense, injury, loss or protested bills. Before I begin to act your Lordship will hand to me the King's licence to export from England the said amount of three hundred tons.
Should this licence be opposed or recalled or should any other difficulty arise by which I am prevented from sending the saltpetre in whole or in part to Venice, your Lordship shall be obliged to accept here the quantity that I may have procured but can not, for whatever cause, not my fault, export; and shall pay me for it the sum agreed, less the cost of carriage to Venice and insurance to be awarded by mutual friends.
The price shall be one hundred and forty ducats of six lire four soldi the ducat, Venetian currency, for every ton light weight of Venice (fn. 3) (di pesso sottile di Venetia), reckoning fifty-four pence of English money to the Venetian ducat.
The value of the saltpetre, that is six thousand ducats or their equivalent, shall be paid to me in London upon the stipulation of this contract; the remainder shall be paid upon the presentation to your Lordship or your representative.
I shall be at liberty to retain the said six thousand ducats till the last consignment, and they shall be deducted from the price of that consignment. For this sum of six thousand ducats I will give security here or in Venice against any damage that the saltpetre may suffer by sea.
May 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 36. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Secretary Cecil has come back from being presented to the King as the principal minister, who for eight years running has been Chief Secretary to the Queen. Among the many points which are anxiously gathered from his report there is this, that when the danger that Ostend would fall was brought under the King's notice he said “What of it? Was not Ostend originally the King of Spain's and therefore, now, the Archduke's?” From this everyone concludes that his Majesty's inclination is for peace with Spain. Besides we know that in his almost private and studious days in Scotland he used to say that it was a King's duty to govern his people in peace rather than to enlarge his kingdom by force of arms. All the same part of the Council is determined to urge war. Couriers are flying backwards and forwards between England and France, and the French Ambassador does his best to impress upon everyone, if possible, that by this peace the Spanish would become supreme over all other Sovereigns, including England itself, which he describes as an ample kingdom full of people, arms and all the necessaries for war, and, therefore, compelled not to allow those forces which are valuable outside the kingdom but hurtful inside, to rot in idleness. It is well known how important this question is for France, but it will not be decided till Parliament meets, that is after the coronation.
Meantime an Ambassador from the Archduke is expected here. They say he is to be Count d'Aremberg, (fn. 4) if the gout allows him to cross the sea, or else Don Gaston Spinola. The Count has always had in hand certain threads of negotiation for this peace with Lord Cobham and the High Admiral. (fn. 5) On the other hand four Ambassadors from the States are also expected, they are Count Henry of Nassau, younger brother of Count Maurice, Barneveld (Barnavel), the Councillor, a man of great worth, and two others. Their mission is to prevent the King from abandoning the States. Meantime M. de Caron, (fn. 6) the ordinary agent for the States, in understanding with the French Ambassador, goes putting it about that the States when they find themselves isolated will consult their own interests, and yielding to necessity will come to terms with the King of Spain. He points out the double advantage to the King and the consequent danger to others, one that he would save the enormous cost of his war in Flanders, the other that the naval power of the States will be at his disposal for acquiring supremacy on the sea; and the importance of these considerations every wise Prince perceives, at least in general. But although all this is put about with a purpose, and more to throw light on the situation than in hope of being credited, yet I am informed from a sure source that the States really have opened negotiations with the Archduke, taking advantage of the occasion offered by the Archduke's most important proclamation, made in Bruges on the death of the Queen, whereby all those who had taken refuge in the States and been deprived of their homes and property as rebels, are allowed to return freely and enjoy them.
The most powerful reasons which induce the King to lean to peace are that he knows the rebellious nature of the Scottish, especially should they in his absence, be corrupted by gold; that he is well aware what years of toil and what promises it cost him to acquire favour in England, and he has an inner doubt that if he is not able to satisfy everybody he may find it more difficult to reign in peace than it was to acquire the throne.
Lord Kinloss came to visit me, the Scotsman of whom I wrote on the 24th of last month. In conversation upon weighty topics, wherein he showed himself capable of conducting the most important affairs, he pointedly told me that the King was deeply indebted to the Pope and spoke of him as truly Clement, for though often approached by Princes, not through religious zeal but for political ends, yet he never consented to dishonour his Majesty by placing him under excommunication. His Majesty is aware what importance might attach to this in certain eventualities, and desires to show his gratitude if he can. Lord Kinloss added that as long as the Catholics remain quiet and decently hidden they will neither be hunted nor persecuted. I, replying as was suitable to this friendly and agreeable discourse, remarked that this would hardly fulfill the expectations reposed in the King, which had already reached the ears of various Princes, that his Majesty sooner or later would restore the Kingdom of England to the Roman cult, he answered “No! beyond a doubt this will never happen; our bow which hitherto had two strings will have but one for the future, for he who wishes for the peaceable enjoyment of a kingdom must take care how he changes the religion of it, the smallest suspicion of such a thing is too serious a matter in a people firmly rooted in one faith.” He added, “True it is that if the Pope wished to summon a General Council, which, according to the ancient usage, should be superior to all Churches, all doctrine, all Princes, secular and ecclesiastic, none excepted, my master, upon whom, as they will soon find out, depend in this and in other matters, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Free Cities of the Empire and the States as though upon an Emperor, would be extremely willing to take the lead and to prove himself the warm supporter of so great a benefit to Christendom. Beyond a doubt abuses would be removed on all hands, and a sound decision would put an end, perhaps for ever, to the discords in the Christian faith, nor would his Majesty think he could act more nobly than to be the first to offer complete obedience to Council's decrees.” He then went on to assure me of the excellent disposition of the King towards the Republic, and added that the Duke of Lennox and Lord Home (fn. 7) (Huuen), the Scottish Ambassador in France, had expressed the same sentiments to Ambassador Cavalli. These gentlemen, he told me, are coming with the King, and I will find them very much attached to Ambassador Cavalli.
This morning the body of the late Queen was committed to the tomb in the famous fane of Westminster, dedicated to St. Peter by Segbert, King of the East Saxons, exactly one thousand years ago. After the Anglo-Saxon period the building received such magnificent additions and decorations from so many holy men and saintly Kings that even now in spite of the change in religion it still remains in admirable preservation. The coffin will lie for a month under a catafalque, and on it is the Queen's effigy, carved in wood and coloured so faithfully that she seems alive. She will then be laid near the bones of Edward the Sixth, her brother, in the earth, not in a vault, at the foot of the high altar and at the head of the tomb of Henry VII., her grandfather, a small structure of such richness and beauty that even a hundred years ago it cost sixty thousand crowns.
The magnificence of the ceremony consisted merely in the universal mourning worn by all the ladies and gentlemen of the Court, which cost an immense sum; but at the actual funeral service. little else was done except the chanting of two psalms in English and the delivery of a funeral oration, as I have been informed; for although the Council, as is the custom of this kingdom, sent to me and to all representatives of Princes, cloth to make mournings for myself and four servants, which is all that we are allowed to take with us into the great crowd, and also repeatedly and cordially pressed me to be present, I declined the invitation, and offered a good reason for my refusal. I did this because it was not my place to go, and also to avoid entering the church and attending heretic services, and thereby causing inevitable scandal and a danger to myself. The French Ambassador expresses extreme grief, not merely on account of the relationship but because of the long alliance which has existed between his master and this Crown. He attended the ceremony in hood and mourning cloak, whose train was more than six yards long. He not only entered the church but was present throughout the whole ceremony, upon orders received by courier express from France in answer to the question he addressed to the King. This is contrary to the custom of the French Ambassadors, who, since the rebenediction of the King, have never taken part in church ceremonies, such as Coronation Day.
In the Tower of London, owing to a lack of foreign silver, they are melting down a large quantity of silver plate for coining money with the royal die. The gold and silver mines of England are not worth working. The Treasury, too, is exacting the existing subsidy in order to collect as large a sum of money as possible. It is reckoned that what with the crown jewels, the dresses and private jewels of the late Queen, the rich hangings of so many palaces, the silver and gold, including many sacred vessels,—the heritage to which the King succeeds amounts to six millions in gold, not counting the two millions of revenue.
London, 8th May, 1603.
May 10. Minutes of the Senate. Venetian Archives. 37. Order for the release of Anthony Sherley, and an intimation to him to leave Venice and the Venetian dominions within eight days, nor is he ever to return, under pain of our indignation, and his papers are to be restored to him.
Ayes 99.
Amendment that Anthony Sherley be set free on no conditions at all.
Ayes 44.
Noes 0.
Neutrals 15.
May 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 38. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambasador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Archbishop of Glasgow is dead. He held a rich abbey of four thousand crowns a year, which the King has conferred on one of his old Scottish ministers.
As there are many questions pending between England and France his Majesty has been advised not to employ his Scottish guard any more for the present. They are the troops which are nearest to his Royal person.
The King of England is expected to make his entry into London on the 14th of this month, after the funeral of the late Queen. Before his departure from Scotland the heretic ministers endeavoured to gain authority to act as they might think fit, but the King replied that he was leaving behind him the Council, to which they could appeal, and if any serious questions arose, although far off he would issue whatever orders might be necessary. Many Catholics have flocked to the King to recommend themselves to his Majesty; he has answered that they will not be molested, as they were under the late Queen, if they continued to live quietly until he has issued his orders. Besides his Secretary he has advanced to the Council board three English nobles, none of whom is held to be hostile to the Catholic faith.
The Baron du Tour, French Ambassador in Scotland, who has followed the King on his journey, is expected here day by day. He has been summoned to give a full report of the situation before M. de Rosny is charged with a mission.
It is reported that the King may move into Picardy, partly to inspect the strong places, but much more in order to be within easier reach of M. de Rosny.
Paris, 12th May, 1603.
May 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 39. Marin Cavalli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Archduke hoped to conclude the siege of Ostend, for he had captured some fortified positions round the town, which were held by the Dutch, the bombardment from the platform was heavy, and he had nearly succeeded in closing the harbour; but three thousand men and fresh provisions have been thrown into the town, which is now prepared to stand the general assault which was to have been delivered. From Ostend the Archduke went into Dunquerque and Gravelines, which he has fortified. The Dutch, meantime, have sent four Ambassadors to the King of England. The Archduke intended to send Don Gaston Spinola as his envoy to England, but it seems that he now inclines to Stephen le Sieur (fn. 8) (Count de Sur), a Councillor of great importance, but nothing will be done till answer comes from Spain.
It is now confirmed that the English will be admitted to trade in Flanders, and orders have been issued that they are not to be molested.
Paris, 12th May, 1603.
May 15. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 40. Giovanni Carlo Scaramelli, Venetian Secretary in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Neither the King nor Arabella was present at the funeral of the Queen. The King has declined to put on mourning, although he knows that the Queen wore strict mourning when she took the life of his mother. He has sent orders to bury the body without the usual delay, and has summoned Council and the Court to attend him. Three days ago his Majesty began to live with English attendants in the English style at Theobalds (Tibals) up to that time he had followed his Scottish custom.
At this beginning of his reign the King's virtues are represented as heroic and he is said to lack no kingly quality. Among other actions he has declined all the valuable gifts, which, according to custom, the owners of the houses where he lodged brought to him, and has displayed much magnanimity and judgment. The great lords of Council recently created, and who were one might say almost despised by the older members, are now doing all they can to make the King proud and resolute in place of lukewarm and languid as he is said to be. They are resolved to show that these kingdoms depend entirely upon the supreme will of the sovereign. At every place where the King has halted they have caused a great number of cut purses and other criminals to be brought before him and executed on his royal warrant alone, this he has frequently done; on one occasion sixteen were hanged at a time, including two gentlemen. He is also entertained with stag-hunting and other rude sports, as they say to accustom him to death and blood. On the other hand the most intimate councillors of the late Queen, who in truth are of inferior birth, and of whom some may almost be said to have their hands red with the Queen of Scotland's blood, fearing lest their necks should depend one day upon their action on that occasion, have extracted from Queen Elizabeth's most secret papers a proof in writing, got God knows how, that the said Queen Mary, after putting Henry Stuart, her husband, to death for having slain with his own hand Gioseppe Rosso, a Piedmontese, whom she brought with her from France with the title of secretary, and who had taken refuge in her lap,—intended to kill her only son as well, and to marry for the third time. They hope to make it appear that Elizabeth, full of compassion for this innocent nephew of hers, resolved, under the impulse of this secret stimulus far more than on the grounds adduced by the thirty-six members of Parliament, to put Mary to death. They are in all the greater alarm because the King has declared that he intends to pardon all the nobles condemned for political offences by the late Queen, that is by her Privy Council. The King asserts that he wishes to restore the nobility so that his kingdom may be adorned again by its ancient pearls. This makes it quite clear that there never has been any plot against the late Queen in which the King had no hand. But more than that, it has now been discovered that the whole action of Essex in 1601 was based upon a document signed and sworn by six conspirators. This embraced two points only, first, there was to be a rising in which Secretary Cecil and Councillor Raleigh were to be killed as the cause of the Earl of Essex's disgrace; second, they were immediately to cry “Long live the Queen, and after her long live King James of Scotland, the sole and rightful heir to the English crown,” and in this way to make that declaration of James as heir, with the approval of the popular voice, a declaration which the Queen had always refused to make; and so keenly did she feel about it that she proclaimed as a rebel anyone who should venture to mention the subject either in public or in private. On his journey his Majesty meantime, has destined to great rewards the Earl of Southampton and Sir Henry Neville, as I have informed you, and also others, and has received the twelve-year-old son of the Earl of Essex and taken him in his arms and kissed him, openly and loudly declaring him the son of the most noble knight that English land has ever begotten. He has appointed the lad to bear the sword before him on his entry into the city, and has destined him to be the eternal companion of his eldest son, the Prince of Wales. All this helps to show not merely that change of Kings means change in kingdoms, but also that what is impossible at one period becomes easy at another.
Three Englishmen, charged with complicity in a conspiracy of the Catholics, have been arrested. The plot was to murder the King ten days after his coronation in case he should refuse to grant the petition of a certain Earl to allow the Catholics to employ the Latin rite. And although one of the three has already confessed under torture, the name of the Earl has not been published yet, nor do they seem to attach much importance to the whole occurrence. Besides this the King has issued a proclamation offering rewards for anyone who will discover and seize two Scottish brothers, who left Scotland with the desperate intention of following him and murdering him in revenge for the murder of the Earl, their brother, whom the King caused to be put to death for a reason which no one dare mention, though they say it was because he was in love with the Queen. And so one sees that Kings at the height of their external glory sometimes suffer from an inner wound; and especially at this juncture, for the King left great discord among the Scottish nobles when he crossed the border. A Scottish Bishop, (fn. 9) to whom the Pope had conceded a See in the district of Avignon, writes from Paris to the King, asking for a safe conduct. It is said that for the present he will not get it. Moreover one of the English Catholic priests has had the audacity to preach to the King at one of the places where he stopped. He ventured to say that the Catholic religion had died out with the King's mother, and that without this religion no one can rightly bear the title of King. That Solomon by neglecting the statutes of his father brought about the division of the Jewish kingdom. His Majesty enquired what college the priest belonged to, meaning what English college, the which are almost innumerable and all of them hotbeds of heresy, and if he had any companions. He replied that he belonged to the true College of Christ, and that in this kingdom he had forty thousand of his religion, whereupon the King said, “Well then, among so many, have you never found a chief to take ten of your tribes and lead them elsewhere?” The priest was sent to London under arrest. When some of the Catholic gentlemen who were with the Court withdrew, so as avoid going to church on Easter-day in the city of York, the King said that they should all come to church, for “Who can't pray with me can't love me.” He has sent orders under his sign manual and seal to all the preachers in the kingdom, and especially in London, that they are to announce from the pulpit his intention to have only one God in heaven, one King and one Christian religion only in England, and assuring them that for his part he would make no change. No one can say whether all this is done for conscience-sake or in order to bind the popular feeling to him and to ensure quiet in that great concourse of people, which is gathering together for his Coronation.
The Coronation is put off till the fifth of August, the feast of St. James, the King's name day. Until that date the King will not make his entry into London, but will merely take possession of the Tower, according to ancient usage, as representing the throne and royal seat; for it holds the treasure and the armoury, that is the very forces of the kingdom. Until his Coronation he will occupy the royal residences and pleasure houses in the neighbourhood of London, and will await the Queen. Six great ladies of the Court with an escort of two hundred horse have already set out to meet her across the Scottish border. The object of this all is to make one entry, one Coronation, and consequently one single expenditure. For bills of exchange for Irish service, to the amount of two hundred and fifty thousand ducats, and some other debts, fall due, and although this is no very heavy burden for this Crown, still the expenses of the Coronation must be very large, and the Council wishes to proceed so carefully and cautiously that when all is over there may be no debts, even if there is no ready money. So much about public expenditure, but the drain on private purses is enormous, to such an extent that even the smaller members of the Council, the lesser Peers and gentlemen, appear in public with forty or fifty pack-horses and some with teams of horses to the number of one, two or three hundred horse with double sets of livery, one for the valletaille and the other for the gentlemen of the suites. They keep open house, and, as is the custom of this country, the table is always laid, one may say, with abundance of provisions. And although the English usually hold that interest and honour coincide (in modo che, seben gli Inglesi communemente hanno opinione che dov'è il commodo sia anco l'honore), and many of them do not reckon, shameful that which breeds gold, still in the act of spending no one can say that this is the realm of avarice.
For the Coronation, the Heralds—whose office it is to arrange the pageant—are examining precedents, even remote ones. I have quietly endeavoured to find out anything which might interest your Serenity on this point, and I am informed that the Ambassadors of Saxony and Bradenburg, and, earlier still, of Burgundy, have had precedence of the Venetian Ambassadors. The news which I sent you that the King of Denmark would come in person or would send his brother, and that other Protestant Princes would be present, has not as yet received confirmation. The Ambassadors of the States are already here, and it remains to be seen whether the Ambassadors of Archduke Albert will also arrive, in which case a conference might take place between them in the presence of the King if his Majesty's inclinations still lie in the direction of peace with Spain.
The English merchants (fn. 10) trading in currants have agreed at a secret sitting to name one or two persons who shall yearly buy all the currants required for the English trade; this with a view to cutting out other dealers and putting the currants on the market at the lowest possible price. They are only waiting to begin operations until they have obtained a renewal of the Charter of their Company from the King, including the right to levy taxes, for which they pay annually to the Crown the sum of four thousand pounds sterling, that is sixteen thousand ducats. This is a scheme that I think I can certainly upset for the present, not without hope of re-opening honest traffic and restoring the ancient freedom of trade for Venetian merchants and ships, and thus breaking the ice.
London, 15th May, 1603.


  • 1. M. de Beaumont.
  • 2. John Whitgift, Richard Bancroft, and Anthony Watson, Bishop of Chichester.
  • 3. Peso sootile or peso Veneziano; a measure for precious merchandize. The pound = 0,301,2297 kilo. Cf. Rezasco, Dizionario de Linguaggio Italiano storico ed amministrativo Firenze, 1881. Thomas. Capitulari del Fondaco dei Tedeschi. an. 1479.
  • 4. Count d'Aremberg came as ambassador. He was also in correspondence with Arabelia Stuart. Cal. State Pap. Dom. 1603, pp. 22, 31.
  • 5. Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham.
  • 6. Sir Noel de Caron.
  • 7. See Cal. Border Papers, published by the Register House, Edinburgh, 1896. Vol. II., p. 791. Alexander, Lord Home, left Scotland in July, 1602, as Ambassador to France. He seems to have been in London in October of the same year, on his way back to Scotland. He accompanied James VI. to England in 1603.
  • 8. See Cal. S. P. Dom., s. v. Le Sieur.
  • 9. Chisholm, Bishop of Vaison. See Gardiner, 1, pp. 80–97.
  • 10. The Levant Company had surrendered their charter; causing a loss of £4,000 per annum to the Crown. Proposals for the restoration of the Company were submitted in February, 1604. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1603–1610, pp. 51, 79.