Venice: May 1605

Pages 237-242

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 1605

May 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 364. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Council,—perceiving that the Levant trade is almost entirely ruined, and that the Ambassador in Constantinople has not the wherewithal to maintain himself, as the company no longer pays him his salary as it used to do; and considering that it is necessary to keep a public representative there for the sake of trade as well as for other reasons,—has summoned the directors of the company, and told them, on the King's orders, that in concert they are to study how to keep the business alive and to maintain an Ambassador in Constantinople, as that is his Majesty's firm resolve. The Council then privately offered to restore to the company its patent to levy the new impost if it would pay the same price that the Chamberlain is now paying. The directors called a meeting of the principal members and discussed the question at length, but always without reaching any decision, as there is great difference of opinion among them; and some have embarked on other business, and do not wish to abandon their profitable trade in order to resume this possibly losing business, which many hold to be of little or no value at all. For when the trade was started from two-hundred-and-twenty up to two-hundred-and-fifty thousand crowns of capital were yearly engaged in it, whereas it would seem that in these last years not more than thirty or forty thousand have been turned over, the rest being appropriated to the pay of the Ambassador and other necessary expenses, which have to come out of profits. As long as these expenses were spread over a capital of two-hundred-and-fifty thousand crowns everyone paid his share willingly, but now that the burden falls on a capital of only forty thousand it has become insupportable. They, therefore, wish to wind up the company, affirming that the trade is a loss instead of a gain. I have endeavoured to discover the cause of this falling off in the traffic, and I am assured that it depends on the ease with which the English and Dutch can now go to the East Indies, from which they transport at less cost and outlay all kinds of spices and quantities of silk, which they used to ship from the Levant. I am assured that it costs those who ship from the Indies a third less and even more, than it costs those who ship in Turkey: and the shops and warehouses of England and Holland are full of such goods (poiche si come da principio che fu introdotto questo viaggio, ogn' anno andava in Levante per 220 sin m/250 scudi di capitali pare che in questi ultimi anni non ve ne andasse più di 30 o m/40 scudi, dovendosi cavar il danaro per sostentar l'ambasciatore et far le altre spese che son necessarie in quelle parti, dalla medesima mercantia; mentre la gravezza era divisa sopra il capital di m/250 scudi ogn' uno contribuiva volentieri, ma dovendosi hora cavar da m/40 la gravezza si fa cosi grande che li mercanti non la possano sopportar et pero non vogliono intender che si habbia a continuare, affermando che di questa maniera il negotio è più tosto di danno che di utile alcuno. Ho procurato anco di intendere la causa perche il negotio si sia tanto diminuito di quello che soleva essere al principio, et mi viene aff ermato ciò procedere dalla facilità con la quale al presente cosi l' Inglesi come l'olandesi vanno all' Indie orientali, dalle quali trasportano con molto manco spese et interessi tutte le sorti di spetiarie et molte sede che si solevano havere da quest altra parte; essendomi aff ermato che a quelli che le pigliano all' Indie le costano un terzo meno' et fosse d'avantaggio, che a quelli che le comprano in Turchiu; onde cosi in questo Regno, come in olanda li magazini et le case sono piene delle sodette mercantie.) The affair is now at a standstill, though the Council continues to urge the company to oblige his Majesty in the matter. But the more it is discussed the greater are the difficulties that arise.
Don Giovanni de' Medici is expected in eight days; they say he is coming to amuse himself, and that he will be very well received, as the brother of the Grand Duke, who won the favour of the sovereigns and of the Court by his presents, though they were no great things, consisting of wine, cheese, Genoese vermicelli (paste), cloth of gold, silk, and so on; but they are acceptable, as his Highness shows a disposition to make them every year.
In the City of Oxford, the chief University of this kingdom, there was a man (fn. 1) about forty-five years old, who it seems has been studying medicine all his life. Recently it was found out that at night, while sleeping, he holds debate upon the most abstruse points of theology, to the amazement of everyone who hears him, for they marvel how a man can talk so profoundly in his sleep upon a subject which he has never studied. This rumour reached the King's ears, and he sent for him to Greenwich, where he heard the man twice, to his vast astonishment, for when awake the man seems a very ordinary person, rather below than above the average in education, but in his sleep he talks wonderfully well. If it is a trick, as is generally supposed, he is very clever at deceiving. The King himself is in doubt, and has handed the person over to some very learned persons to find out what it means. The discourses are in favour of this religion, and that is why they take so much notice of it all, perhaps.
London, 4th May, 1605.
May 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 365. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador of the Archduke, along with the Spanish Ambassador, has asked his Majesty's leave to raise two thousand English, two thousand Scottish, and two thousand Irish, and they beg his Majesty to name the colonels and to give orders that the levy be made to tuck of drum. It seems that his Majesty has given permission for a levy of four thousand, but without tuck of drum or the royal commission to the colonels. M. de Caron feels no little displeasure, for he thinks the King is acting in opposition to the spirit of his promises. He believes that this action is not the outcome of the King's own will, but is the result of the presents made by the Ambassadors, by means of which they overcome all difficulties. The Ambassador of the Archduke has brought a present of eight or ten thousand crowns for the five (fn. 2) who were the English Commissioners for arranging the peace, and has given it to them in a most public manner; and this leads everyone to conjecture that what is done in secret is far greater. By such means, beyond a doubt, they will obtain all they may desire. This greatly alarms de Car on, who knows that his masters are quite unable to compete in making presents. He does his best; and his chief card is to cause his Majesty and the Council to observe that if the Dutch are abandoned here they must seek the protection of some other Prince, meaning France, a thing which the English do not like to hear. This is the basis of all his hopes, but whether it will produce the desired effect I do not know.
These Ambassadors have made many suggestions as to the means for keeping the Flemish trade open.
On St. George's Day, old style, a Chapter of the Garter was held. The French Ambassador was summoned because his master is a Knight of the Order. The Ambassador of the Archduke was also present, as he has never seen the ceremony, and the Count Palatine of the Rhine. I am informed from a sure quarter that when the Archduke's Ambassador was invited, he enquired if I was to be present; on hearing that I was not, as I had already seen the ceremony last year, the Ambassador said, “I am glad to hear it; for when I left Brussels I received strict orders, under severe penalties, that I was not to yield precedence to the Venetian Ambassador, and I am to inform his Majesty of these orders.” I believe the Court has determined to deal with this question as it deals with that between France and Spain, that is to say, never to invite the Ambassadors except apart.
London, 4th May, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 366. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Admiral of England is expected on the 20th of this month. He is accompanied by five hundred persons on horse, and two hundred pack horses. All at the charges of the King, and is exempt from all customs dues.
Valladolid, 7th May, 1605.
May 14. Collegio, Secreta Esposizioni Principi. Venetian Archives. 367. The English Ambassador announces the birth of a Princess.
Presents a memorial in favour of Thomas Seget, a poor Scot, condemned to prison by the Council of Ten. The evil machinations of his adversaries, in suborning two youths, Lorenzo and Giosepho, to bear false witness against him, have just come to light. Seget now implores your Serenity and your Excellencies to cause an inquiry to be instituted.
The Ambassador said, “This is the Scottish gentleman, of whom I spoke to you in my first audience. I had a courteous answer, but the Council of Ten condemned Seget to three years' imprisonment and subsequent expulsion. This was a severe sentence, but I resolved to let justice run her course. When, however, the subornation came to light I felt compelled to appeal to your Serenity, and I now demand that Giacomo Piemontese or da Isola be secretly arrested and examined.”
The Vice-Doge replied, promising due attention to the case.
The Ambassador then presented another memorandum on the case of the English merchants against the Government of Zante.
The Vice-Doge promised attention to this also.
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 368. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
At the last Chapter of the Garter the Duke of Holstein and the Earl of Northampton were invested, which brings the number of Knights up to the full twenty-four.
On Saturday the King created three Earls, one of them, the brother of Cecil, took the title of Exeter, Cecil himself took the title of Salisbury. The third was Philip Herbert (Arber), a youth of twenty, who has acquired this title of Earl, which is highly prized here, by the mere will and grace of his Sovereign; he has received the title of Montgomery and property to the value of eight thousand crowns a year, in addition to the six thousand crowns the King gave him a year ago. Besides this the King created one Viscount, the Queen's Chamberlain, and four Barons. (fn. 3)
Don Giovanni de' Medici has not arrived yet; the Secretary of the Grand Duke went to meet him, but returned without any news of him except that he was still at Brussels waiting till the Earl of Hertford should arrive. On Sunday the Princess was baptized, the sponsors were the Duke of Holstein, Lady Arabella and the Countess of Northumberland. She was called Mary after the King's mother.
An English gentleman, who has been for some years resident in Italy, has recently published a book in English, in which he discussed the Italian Princes and their government. It is full of lies and vanity, and he must have been very badly informed. In specially he says all the ill he can of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, declares he is hated and predicts a revolution. When the Tuscan Secretary heard it he complained to Cecil. Cecil sent for the printer and made him surrender all the copies, and all those that are already sold have been called in, so that the book will be suppressed.
After that Oxford preacher (Haydock) had been some days in the hands of the doctors and ministers named by the King to find out if he were a charlatan or not, the King saw that opinion was divided among them, and resolved to summons the man to his presence; that done, he told him that he knew all, would pardon him if he confessed, but would punish him if he denied. The man, after a little hesitation, confessed that it was all a sham, suggested to him by the Puritans; that when at Oxford he had read the manuscript studies of some persons, which he committed to memory and repeated, feigning to sleep, but being really awake. The astonishment of the King and everyone else is thus dispelled. The man will be pardoned.
London, 18th May, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 369. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassadors of Spain and Flanders have been to the Council several times. They have dealt mainly with two points, an open trade route to Flanders, which the Dutch blockade more closely than ever. The Ambassadors claim that the treaty obliges the King to keep the passage open, by force of arms if not by persuasion. They insist that the advantage to England would be great. The Council replies in his Majesty's name that he has done all that is possible by way of persuasion, which is all he is bound to do by the clauses of the treaty. He says he certainly is not bound to maintain a fleet of forty or fifty ships—which is what keeping the passage open by force would mean—at a cost of six hundred thousand crowns a year. The Ambassadors replied that they did not ash that his Majesty should go to war with the Dutch, only that he should make vigorous representations and employ threats if need were. The Council answered that the King had, done all he was bound to do.
Meantime the Dutch have about eighty well armed ships in these waters, and with this fleet they intend not only to blockade Flanders but to attack the Spanish fleet, which they say is on its way from Spain.
The second point is that, when his Majesty declined to commission Colonels for the levies, they finally selected a brother of the Earl of Northumberland, and made all arrangements with him for the command of the English regiment to be raised. But when the King and Council heard this they informed the Earl's brother that he must renounce his post, and this intimation was conveyed in very sharp language, pointing out that no great personage had any right to take service with a foreign prince without the King's permission, and that he deserved not merely rebuke but punishment. He accordingly went to the Ambassadors and told them that on account of certain private business he was obliged to resign his commission. The truth, however, reached the Ambassadors' ears, and they made loud complaints to the Council; the Council could not deny the facts, and so they said that if that gentleman had asked for permission it would have been granted him. Meantime the King, in order to pacify the Ambassadors, has appointed Stanley, a man of no birth and less experience, to raise this regiment. All sorts of difficulties occur, and the Flemish Ambassador said to me one day that he did not believe the troops would ever be raised.
London, 18th May, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
May 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 370. Anzolo Badoer, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The father of the Marquise de Verneuil has had his prison changed to one of his country houses, The Englishman who acted as go-between in this business with the Spanish Ambassador, has been exiled in perpetuity.
Four thousand Spanish troops are on their way to England; they are embarked on eighteen English ships with an escort of eighteen galleys. They have reached Brittany.
The King of England sent to thank the King of France for releasing the English cloth, but in order that such things should not happen again he begged the King to send a Commissioner to England. His most Christian Majesty replied that the King of England ought to send his Commissioner to France; he further complained of the Lord High Admiral's embassy to Spain, and the use that was made of English ships to convey Spanish troops. The English Ambassador endeavoured to satisfy his Majesty, but he could not induce him to send a Commissioner to England.
Paris, 24th May, 1605.
May 28. Collegio, Secreta, Esposizioni Principi Venetian Archives. 371. The English Ambassador renders thanks for the steps taken to conclude the case pending now for five years between the English merchants and the Government of Zante.
He would have been still more obliged had his petition in favour of the Scot, Thomas Seget, been granted. This morning the two boys, Lorenzo and Gioseppe, have confessed to him that they had received money to bear false witness against Seget.
Passing to public matters, the Ambassador announces that he has just received the King's answer as to the conduct of English ships in Venetian waters. All English ships in future, on meeting Venetian galleys in Venetian waters, are to strike their topsails and send their boat on board the flag-ship. Any disobedience to these orders will expose the ship to be taken for a pirate.
Begs that a certain Alessandro Alessandro, sailor on board the “Moresina,” at four ducats a month and now creditor for seven months, may be paid his due by the Moresini, who say his pay is suspended, owing to a sentence of the Ten.
Touches on the case of Nicolo Balbi, represented by the Advocate Finetti. Accuses directly Nicolo Balbi of being the author of the murder of Nicolas Pert, Englishman, and claims that the cause should be heard by the Cabinet.
Doge replies, asking the Ambassador to present a memorandum on the case of Alessandro Alessandre, and declaring that the case of Balbi belongs to the Council of Ten, and not to the Cabinet.
May 31. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 372. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Admiral of England arrived on the 26th of this month. The entry was very fine, but ruined by rain.
To-day he will have private audience, and will present the lieger.
Valladolid, 31st May, 1605,


  • 1. Richard Haydock, of New College, “the sleeping preacher.” Cf. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1605, pp. 212, 213.
  • 2. Dorset, Nottingham, Devonshire, Northampton, and Cecil. Gardiner 1, 208.
  • 3. Robert Sidney Viscount Lisle, and Sir George Carew, of Clapton; William Cavendish, of Hardwicke: Sir John Stanhope, of Harrington: Thomas Arundel, of Wardour. Cal. S. P. Dom., 1605. May 4.