Venice: November 1605

Pages 283-298

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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November 1605

Nov. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 437. Ottaviano Bon, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
An English berton of five hundred tons has been brought in here as a pirate. The English Ambassador declares it to be a merchantman. If he succeeds in establishing this he will have achieved something that no one believes possible, for the English are hated here and held for pirates.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 6th November, 1605.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Nov. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 438. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Letters from Sevile announce the death of Sig. Charles Elman (fn. 1) (Helmano).
Valladolid, 8th November, 1605.
Nov. 9. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 439. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I have had occasion recently to speak to the Earl of Salisbury, and I told him that I had orders to present your Serenity's thanks to his Majesty for the orders he had given as to the conduct of English ships when they meet the galleys of the Republic. Lord Salisbury said there was still some slight difficulty on the point, not enough to cancel the orders issued however. The difficulty is this that the English may mistake Turkish for Venetian galleys and send their boat aboard, when the men would be made prisoners. I replied that Venetian galleys can easily be distinguished from all others, more especially by their ensign. “That is true,” he said. “But if the Turk chose he might run up a false ensign and take our sailors in; and once prisoners there would be great difficulty in liberating them. However,” he added, “I do not wish to insist on this point here; for the English Ambassador resident in Venice writes that the sagacity of the Venetian Government will find out a remedy. I will pass on to another point, that is, the sentence recently issued in favour of a gentleman named Balbi. One cannot say that it is unjust, but one may affirm that it came as a surprise to everyone, including Sig. Balbi himself; for if he knew himself innocent and able to prove it, why should he have sent his relations more than once to our Ambassador to beg him not to make representations to the Doge nor to take any further steps in the matter, and offering to make a suitable recompense to the relations of the dead man.” I replied that I knew nothing about the visits paid by Balbi's relations to the English Ambassador, but that as far as the sentence was concerned he might take it for certain that it was as just and sound as any that could emanate from whatsoever judge in this world. It was passed by the Council of Ten, of which the Doge and the most honourable gentlemen in Venice form a part; and as it would be both very improper and indecent to say that a sentence pronounced by the King of Great Britain (Rè della gran Bretagna) was unjust, it would be precisely the same to use that epithet of a sentence pronounced by the Council of Ten. “I do not,” he said, “nor will I ever say that the sentence was unjust, but I do say it was unexpected.” “That often happens,” I replied, “to those who judge by the canon of interests, not of duty, and who let their passions persuade them that anything contrary to their desire must be unjust and unreasonable.” “Well,” said he, still holding the Ambassador's letters in his hand, “let us pass on to another point; our merchants complain of being very badly treated in all places subject to the dominion of the Republic; they say they are oppressed by new taxes, and they particularly object to two, the tax on anchorage and the cottimo. (fn. 2) Our Ambassador writes that he has frequently petitioned for the removal of these burdens, but as yet without avail.” I replied that if the Ambassador had taken the trouble to inform himself of the nature of these taxes and whether they were ancient imposts applied to all alike or new ones falling on the English alone, he probably would not have made such representations to your Serenity; but that he had taken his information from English merchants only, who, in their own interests and in order to grow rich the quicker, wish to be relieved of all burdens. It is, therefore, no wonder if he has met with no success as yet, and, may be, he will not in the future, unless the question is dealt with from the point of view of pure justice; for if his Majesty considers it right to support and favour his own subjects and merchants, it is clear that the Republic is entitled to do the same by her merchants, who, beyond doubt, are more heavily burdened here than the English in Venice. I reminded him that a year ago he had told me that a Commissioner would be named by the Council to deal with me on this subject. Some accommodation might have easily been reached, but no one had ever presented himself to me, although in previous conversations I had dropped hints to recall the matter to his mind. “My Lord,” he replied, “this is all most true; the fault is ours, but it has arisen thus; the idea of naming a Commissioner was the result of the vigorous complaints addressed by merchants to the Council; when they ceased the matter was forgotten. Now it seems they have been approaching our Ambassador in Venice with a view to raising the question there.” I said they were quite right; the business could be settled far more speedily in Venice; but meantime I wished to inform him that the two imposts complained of were neither new nor levied on the English only. “Your Lordship,” he said, “assures me then that this is so?” “Certainly it is so,” I replied. “Then, “he rejoined, “we will leave the matter to be settled in Venice. I only wish to assure you that, though the King does not communicate all the affairs he entrusts to his Ambassador, the Ambassador takes no steps without the King's orders, and all his despatches, usually addressed to me, are shown to the King. I say this to secure absolute credence for our Ambassador such as we here repose in your Lordship.” I told him that it was superfluous for me to write or represent this, as absolute credence was given to their Ambassador as well as to all others. Soon after I took my leave.
London, 9th November, 1605.
Nov. 9. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 440. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to Doge and Senate.
The King would have remained longer in the country at the chase had it not been that the time for the meeting of Parliament is approaching. That will take place on Tuesday, and so his Majesty is expected here to-night without fail. Many people say that he will leave again after six or eight days. The Queen, who is expected to-day week, will remain till spring with all the Court. The principal business before Parliament is the granting a subsidy, which the King greatly desires, but it is generally supposed that he will meet with serious difficulties, and that it will be refused; for many members openly declare that as there is no war with Spain, no war in Holland, no army on the Scottish border—which they say cost the late Queen upwards of a million a year in gold—they cannot understand why the King, who has the revenues of Scotland, should want money. They add that the people are far more heavily burdened than under the late Queen, for the King stays so continually and so long in the country, where the peasants are obliged to furnish beasts and waggons for transporting the Court from place to place, and whenever he goes a-hunting the crops are mostly ruined. Further the Court is far larger than in the late Queen's time, and the peasants are forced to supply provisions at low prices, which is an intolerable burden. The late Queen insisted that her officers should take care not to requisition more than was necessary, but now no attention is paid, to this, and the officers exact twice as much as is required and sell the surplus at high prices, thus enriching themselves and ruining the peasants. All this is put about by those who have little wish to satisfy the King; and the issue, is extremely doubtful. (fn. 3)
The other point is the question of the Catholics. Parliament is full of Puritans, who desire new laws against the Catholics. The King is said, to share this desire; and so, unless the good God stretch out his holy hand, we must look for great calamity.
Taxis, the Spanish Ambassador, before his departure had, with the King's leave, come to terms with certain officers for a levy of two thousand Irish for service in Holland. He has even paid out a small sum of money for this purpose. It was agreed that these troops were to pass straight from Ireland to Holland without touching England. When the troops had been raised they were embarked, but falling in with the Dutch fleet they were forced to put back to England, and the officers, who had no more money, came on to London to endeavour to raise some from Taxis' successor, the present Ambassador (Zuniga). He, however, replied that the agreement had been made with his predecessor; that he was ignorant of its terms, and that he would do nothing. The Ambassador of the Archduke gave them a similar answer, and the King, in order to save them from starvation, sent them back to Ireland with injunctions that on no account were they to go over to Flanders, and has issued a proclamation, forbidding any levies at all in Ireland. This whole affair has caused astonishment that the Ambassadors, for such a trifle, should have lost the services of so large a body of ferocious soldiers, admirably adapted to carry the horrors of war over the country, and have sacrificed their credit and reputation not only in Ireland but in England as well.
The deputation of Scottish ministers returned home and reported that the King's will was that they should obey the Bishops. At this the Puritans flew into a rage, and summoned one of their usual assemblies, but without summoning the Bishops, who are wont to attend. They then discussed the way to resist the royal orders, and made use of many troublesome and scandalous expressions. When these came to the ears of the Scottish Council they reported all to the King, who ordered the imprisonment of the leaders, which was done, and all assemblies were forbidden. But the people, who actively support their ministers, insisted on continuing their assemblies, and took care that all their proceedings should be forwarded to the twenty imprisoned ministers. Matters came to such a pass that they feared an outbreak of rebellion. The King is seriously alarmed, and intends to go to Scotland in the spring, as it is thought that nothing but the royal authority can settle the business. Many think he will be dissuaded from risking his royal prestige among that fierce and fiery people, who are ever ready to rebel.
London, 9th November, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 10. Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni Principi. Venetian Archives. 441. The English Ambassador says that he hears that since his last audience the Government has farmed out the anchorage tax, in spite of his representations. “This is,” said he, “a vilipending of my master. What would the Republic say if, to take an example, he invited to Court all the Ambassadors of small states, but left out yours? And it is not true, as some foolish persons maintain, that matters of state are to be conducted coldly, phlegmatically. No ! when one's master's reputation is at stake one must cry aloud, and grow warm, for the chilliness of a servant in such a circumstance is, as it were, a treason to his lord.
This tax, as far as we are concerned, cannot yield more than five hundred ducats a year, and for this small sum is such a difference to be made between the subjects of my master and those of other Sovereigns?
Again, it seems to me that in continuing this tax, after my most just request for its abolition, the Serene Republic has abandoned her fundamental ideas, for in equality was she founded, in equality has she grown up, by equality is her present glory and greatness assured; and this equality, of which I speak, resides not merely in a certain equal and balanced distribution of honours and offices, but also in the observation of an equal conduct towards all Princes of equal rank. It is, therefore, manifest that by imposing this tax on the English alone, after my remonstrances, the Republic has departed from its usual practice.
There is a third consideration more important than all others, and I beg your Excellencies graciously to hear me. The orders given by his Majesty to his ships are still fresh in the memory; well just let us draw a comparison; the King of Great Britain, as a proof of his special regard towards the Republic, has ordered his ships to show more honour to the galleys of the Republic than they are called on to show to any other flag; and in return the Republic says, ' I desire that the King's subjects shall pay a tax of four per cent, on the value of all cargoes, while no other Christian state is so taxed;' I pray you what is this but an abuse and a wresting of my master's good nature ? I can use no milder terms. I recall the expressions of esteem which have been employed in this place when speaking of my master; where is that esteem now? where that regard? And although my master has taken me from the study, and sent me here, all unskilled as I am in worldly matters, yet Aristotle teaches me quod veritas est in verbis, and when the substance is hostile what faith can I bestow upon appearances? The readiness with which my master embraced the proposal to re-open friendly relations is well known; and I came here with the full intent to serve this noble Republic and each one of its members as truly as I serve the subjects of my King. I hold myself honoured far above my merits by this office, but I am not so puffed up with the title of 'Ambassador' that I should place my own interests and ambitions above the honour of my King. For myself, seeing the small store your Serenity sets by my words, though spoken in due season, that is before this tax was farmed out, I would advise, were I worthy to advise my King, either to send here another of more weight and experience or to save himself the charges of an Ambassador, who is, after all, of no more moment than a mere statue. Meantime I appeal to your Excellencies not merely as judges of what I have said, but as witnesses this morning that I have done my duty as a servant jealous of his master's honour. For the rest the Republic will act as she considers fit in justice and in prudence, my King will protect his honour as may seem him best.”
Alvise Sanudo, Vice-Doge, replied, “The anchorage tax is a very ancient impost. It is impossible to meddle with it until the matter shall have been fully examined, as shall certainly be done.”
Andrea Moresini. Savio for the week, added that the remarks of the Ambassador had both hurt and surprised the Cabinet: and it is obvious that, as the Ambassador admitted at the beginning of his speech, he was transported by passion. The question of the anchorage tax belongs to a special magistracy, not to the Cabinet. If it has been renewed that was merely in accordance with ancient custom. However, every effort would be made to content the Ambassador. At this answer the Ambassador turned pale and remained silent for a while, then he said, “I am glad to learn that the new contract does not preclude the possibility of satisfaction to my King, and that the affair is not so serious as I was led to believe it. I sincerely trust some good results may follow both for the question in itself and also in order that his Majesty may see that he has here a servant who is able to preserve his honour.”
He then complained that an English ship laden with grain from Ancona had come into Venice, and the Five Savii alla Mercentia claim that she may not lade there; but as the said ship went into Ancona in ballast the law does not apply.
The Vice-Doge said that the Savii were aware of the intention of the Republic to favour the English, and the Savii themselves asked for a memorandum, which the Ambassador promised.
Nov. 16. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 442. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The King came to London on Thursday evening, the 10th of this month, and made all preparations for opening Parliament on Tuesday, the 15th. This would have taken place had not a most grave and important event upset the arrangement. About six months ago a gentleman, named Thomas Percy, relation of the Earl of Northumberland and pensioner of the King, hired, by means of a trusty servant, some wine cellars under the place where Parliament meets, and stored in them some barrels of beer, the usual drink of this country, as well as wood and coal. He said he meant to open a tavern for the use of servants who attended their masters to Parliament. But among this beer, wood, and coals he introduced thirty-three barrels of gunpowder, besides four tuns, the size of Cretan hogsheads, intending to make use of it at the right moment. About two months ago Lord Salisbury received anonymous letters from France, warning him to be on his guard, for a great conspiracy was being hatched by priests and Jesuits; but, as similar information had been sent about a year ago by the English lieger in France, no great attention was paid to these letters, and they were attributed to the empty-headed vanity of persons who wished to seem more conversant with affairs than became them. Finally, on Monday last, a letter was brought by an unknown person, for it was dark, about two o'clock of the night, to a servant of Lord Monteagle, who was standing at the door. The unknown said, “Please give this to your master; and tell him to reply at once, as I will come back in half an hour for the answer to carry to my master.'' The servant took the letter, and went upstairs and gave it to his master, who opened it and found it was anonymous, nor did he recognise the hand. The substance of the letter was this, that the writer, in return for the favours received at various times from Lord Monteagle, had resolved to warn him by letter that he should on no account attend Parliament the following morning, as he valued his life, for the good party in England had resolved to execute the will of God, which was to punish the King . . . . and the Ministers for their bitter persecution employed against the poor [Catholics] . . . . . . in such brief space . . . he could burn the letter, which he earnestly begged him to do. Lord Monteagle read the letter, and in great astonishment took it to the Earl of Salisbury, who at once carried it to the King, and under various pretexts ordered a search of all the neighbouring houses to see if arms or anything of that sort, which might furnish a clue, were hidden there. Meantime the King read the letter, and in terrified amaze he said, “I remember that my father died by gunpowder. I see the letter says the blow is to be struck on a sudden. Search the basements of the meeting place.” The Chamberlain, with three or four attendants, went straightway to carry out this order. First he enquired who had hired the basements; then he caused the door to be opened and went in. He saw nothing but beer barrels, faggots and coal. Meantime those who had searched the neighbouring houses came back and reported that they had found nothing of any importance, and when the Chamberlain returned and reported that he, too, had seen nothing but the barrels, faggots and coal this increased the alarm and suspicions of the King, who said, “I don't like these faggots and coal. Go back and shift all the wood and all the coal and see what is underneath, and use all diligence to come to certainty in the matter.” The Chamberlain went back, and after shifting the wood he found underneath some barrels of powder, and after shifting the coal he found more barrels. In confusion he returned to the King and told him; and orders were at once given to a certain knight to take a company with him and to set sentinels in various posts to watch who approached the door of the cellars. About two in the morning they saw a man approaching with a dark lantern, but not so well closed as to hide the light completely. The guards cunningly drew back and left him free passage to the cellars, the door of which had been securely fastened as it was at first. The man went in, laid a train of powder and fitted a slow match, the powder and the tinder reached the powder barrels. His intention was to fire the train in the morning. When he had finished his business, as he was coming out, he was surprised by the guard, who asked what [he was doing] at that hour at that place. [He replied] that he had come there, as he had a fancy to see his property. They saw a bag in his hand, and found in it little bits of slow match, and when they turned on the light they saw the train of powder. Thereupon they bound him and took him to the Palace, where some of the Council were awake, waiting the issue of this affair. The man was brought into their presence, and at once confessed that he was servant to Thomas Percy, who had left the evening before, he knew not where for, and was quite ignorant of these facts. He further confessed that it was his firm resolve to have set fire to the mine that morning while the King, Queen, Princes, Clergy, Nobility, and Judges were met in Parliament, and thus to purge the kingdom of perfidious heresies. His only regret was that the discovery of the plot had frustrated its due execution, though it was certain that God would not for long endure such injustice and iniquity. The rest in my next despatch.
London, 16th November, 1605.
Nov. 17. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 443. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
After the Lords of the Council had briefly examined the prisoner, they informed the Lord Mayor, who is like our Podestà, so that he might place the whole City under arms, and keep a sharp lookout. This was done, and not only that night, but all next day, which was Tuesday, the citizens were kept under arms. The other Lords of the Council, who had gone home, were summoned, and two hours before dawn they all met at the Palace. The prisoner was then introduced under strict guard. “When questioned he replied, “My Lords, I cannot and will not say more than I have already said, namely that I was resolved to obey the will of God, who wishes to punish severely in every way the King and the Ministers for the persecutions they employed and still employ against the poor afflicted Catholics. I am deeply pained that I have failed to carry out so pious and holy a work.” Asked if there were many who were aware of this design, he replied that there were very many, but that he would never name them. That he knew quite well that he would suffer a martyrdom of most cruel torments, which he was resolved and ready to endure, but from his lips nothing should ever issue that might hurt or injure another. That he was guilty he confessed, but no further confession need be looked for from him. He was remanded under strict guard, and the Council went to report to the King. His Majesty was amazed that so vast and so audacious a scheme should have been hatched in the mind of a man of such low and abject estate. “Let us go,” he said, “not to Parliament, but to Church to thank God, who has saved me, my family, all you nobles and the whole kingdom from a great and terrible disaster. For, beyond a doubt, had the plot succeeded the kingdom would have been in such confusion that God only knows when it would have recovered. The city would have fallen a prey to these wild people, and all strangers, who are hated, would have been put to the sword. In short, had it been successful, it would have been the most stupendous and amazing event that ever was heard of” (interroqatolo risp: Sigri io non posso ne voqlio dirvi più di quello che ho detto cioè che io ero rissoluto di obbedir alla volontà di Dio, che vuole in ogni maniera castigar severissimamente il Rè, et li ministri per le persecutioni usate et che tuttavia usano contra li poveri et afflitti Cattolici, et io ho grandissimo dolor di non haver potuto esseguir cost pia et santa opra; li fu dimandato se vi erano molti consapevoli di questo trattato, risp: egli che si che erano moltissimi ma che egli non era per nominarli mai, che conosceva molto bene di dover 'esser martirizato con tormenti crudelissimi, li quali egli era rissolutissimo et prontissimo a sopportar, ma che della sua bocca non uscirebbe giamai cosa che possa apportar danno ne pregiudicio ad alcuno; in somma che egli era reo lo confessava ma che da lui non. aspettassero di intender altro; però fattolo di nuovo metter sotto diligentissima custodia andorono a trovar la Maestà, sua per rifferirgli tutto quello che havevano fatto et inteso dal priggione, la quale restando meravigliatissima che attione cosi grande et magnanima potesse cader in animo d' un huomo vile et abietto, disse, in luogo di andar in parlamento anderemo in chiesa a render gratie a Dio che habbia liberato mi, la mia famiglia, tutti voi altri nobili et tutto il Regno insieme da sciagura cosi grande et horribile, poiche non ha dubbio se il dissegno riusciva il Regno sarebbe stato in tanta confusione che Dio sa quando havesse potuto più rimettersi; questa Città era tutta messa a sacco da questo popolo fiero et indomito, et tutti li forestieri odiati . . . da loro messi a fil di spada, in somma se il caso succedeva er . . . . . . pendo et ammirabile che si fosse sentito giamai).
The Lords of Council sent out [that] night upwards of one hundred men in various directions and chiefly to the coast to prevent Percy from escaping over the water, and if possible to arrest him, but the result is not known yet. Yesterday the prisoner was taken to the Tower, where almost all the Council went to examine him under every conceivable torture (per esaminarlo con tutti li tormenti possibili), in order to discover the accomplices in this plot; but as yet there is no report that he has confessed nor named anyone, and men's judgments remain undecided.
Yesterday, about dinner time, on the orders of his Majesty and Council, a secretary of the Council visited me, and to say that in a matter of such importance and of such serious consequence his Majesty and Council thought it right to inform me how the facts really stood, in order that I might more readily send the news to your Serenity. The secretary then related all that I have reported above. (Heri (sic) circa l'hora del dissnar venne a trovarmi di ordine di Sua Maestà et del consiglio un segretario del medesimo consiglio dicendomi che in cosa tanta importante et di tanta conseguenza haveva Sua Maestà et il consiglio stimato bene di informarmi veracemente come la cosa era passata, affine che dandone io conto a Vostra Serenità possa più facilmente farlo; raccontandomi tutto il negotio nel modo che é scritto.) I said that I returned my most hearty thanks to his Majesty and to the Council for this favour, which I highly appreciated, for it would allow me to report the truth. I could assure his Majesty that the Republic would learn the news with great displeasure, on account of the peril run by his Majesty, his family, and his realm, but it would also rejoice at his escape, which was a proof that the Lord God had his Majesty and his kingdom under His special care. The affair so far stands as above. I send this in duplicate, one by the ordinary route, the other viâ France.
I am in duty bound in such a grave affair to report the current opinion, though as yet it is very difficult to arrive at the truth. People say that this plot must have its roots high up, for it is not to be supposed that Percy, if guilty, embarked on this affair alone and without an object; for it was not a question of simply killing the King, but his sons and all the nobility as well. Had it succeeded upwards of thirty thousand persons, and those the most prominent, would have been slain. The first suspicion then falls on the disaffected nobility, among the chief is the Earl of Northumberland, a gentleman of a most noble and ancient house, with a very large following and vast riches. While the King was still in Scotland Northumberland kept up secret relations with him, and claims to have had a large part in the King's succession. But he now considers himself inadequately rewarded. His family has always held for the Catholics, and Percy is a relation and an intimate of the Earl, and so suspicion reached such a pass that on Tuesday morning, after the prisoner was examined, the Council sent to warn the Earl to keep his rooms, in order to avoid attracting attention. He, however, derided the advice and declined to accept it, so that in the afternoon he was commanded to retire to his house, (fn. 4) and guards were placed round it to his great disgust. There is also a grave suspicion that the Pope may be the source of the plot, for, as it is a question of religion, it seems impossible that he should not have assented, even if he took no active part in it. I know that one of the principal Ministers made use of these actual words: “We shall wait to see whether the Roman Church approves of such wicked actions; “and when he was assured that the Church did not approve, he said,” Well, the Pope ought to take some step to convince the world of his intentions.” Finally they have a deep suspicion of France, whose Ambassador left eight days ago without awaiting his successor. (fn. 5) When they learned that on account of the weather he had not been able to cross the Channel the same night the plot was discovered, they sent orders to Dover that he was not to cross till further instructions. They have also chosen six persons, who, under the guise of merchants, are to go over to France to discover the doings of the King and to report the opinion there current, though their departure is postponed till they have wrung from the prisoner all the information they can get. I am told that the prisoner remained obstinate and firm, and bore all the tortures with great constancy, refusing to name anyone; but at length he said that if they would send him a Catholic priest he would take his advice as to how he ought to act about revealing his accomplices. This makes them expect that he will yield at length to the torture and confess all.
London, 17th November, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Nov. 20. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 444. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador-Elect to England, to the Doge and Senate.
I arrived in Paris to-day. I cannot have audience, as his Majesty is at St. Germains. The English Ambassador advises me to cross by Dieppe, as that passage, though longer, is less dangerous than by Calais.
Paris, 20th November, 1605.
Nov. 21. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 445. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The prisoner was taken to the Tower, as I informed your Serenity, and for two successive days he underwent the most excruciating torture without saying anything, except that the conspirators were twelve in number, whose names he would not mention. But presently came news that Percy, with ten or twelve others, had broken open various stables, stolen the horses and endeavoured to raise as many men as they could, on the plea of fighting for freedom of conscience; thereupon it was surmised that these were the twelve conspirators referred to by the prisoner.
The King has issued the enclosed proclamation; he has also named a General to take command against the rebels, namely, the Earl of Devonshire (Devincer), who willingly undertook this office, as he hoped to gain the King's favour thereby. He was soon at the head of one thousand two hundred gentlemen, partly English, partly Scottish, but when it was found that the rebels numbered three hundred at most and that they were already deserting their leaders, it was thought undignified for the Crown to send into the field a gentleman of such importance as the Earl of Devonshire. It was much noticed that all the Scots who had offered to follow the Earl presently withdrew. The King had let it be known that he wished to have the Scots about his person, as he has not much confidence in the English, who know this and are greatly annoyed. The King is in terror; he does not appear nor does he take his meals in public as usual. He lives in the innermost rooms, with only Scotchmen about him. The Lords of the Council also are alarmed and confused by the plot itself and the King's suspicions; the city is in great uncertainty; Catholics fear heretics, and vice-versa; both are armed; foreigners live in terror of their houses being sacked by the mob that is convinced that some, if not all, foreign Princes are at the bottom of the plot. The King and Council have very prudently thought it advisable to quiet the popular feeling by issuing a proclamation, in which they declare that no foreign Sovereign had any part in the conspiracy. God grant this be sufficient, but as it is everyone has, his own share of alarm.
The suspicion about the Earl of Northumberland goes on growing every day rather than diminishing, for it seems impossible that so vast a plot should have been hatched unless some great Lord were interested in it, and there is not the smallest indication against anyone except against this nobleman. Percy is his relation and his intimate, and as late as Monday last is known to have been in long conversation with him. The King has ordered the Earl to the Archbishop of Canterbury's house until the affair is cleared up, and there he is kept under strict guard.
The conduct of the French Ambassador is much criticised, not only on the ground of what I have already reported, but because he would not wait for the letters the Queen was writing to France. He insisted on crossing on Monday evening, though the weather was bad, and the French ship, which he was expecting, had not arrived. He embarked three hours before the King's orders to put off his departure reached Dover, and his passage was both troublesome and dangerous. They argue from this that the Ambassador, if he had not a share in the plot, at least had some knowledge of it; and there is no doubt but that these suspicions, though resting upon very weak evidence, may still produce a bad effect, especially if fomented, as they will be, by the Spanish, who never lose an opportunity to sow suspicions and diffidences between the English and the Crown of France. And unless the Lord God guide them to a clear and certain knowledge of the facts it is likely that this event may work great wrath. (Si ragiona assai dell' Ambasciatore di Francia, perchè oltre le cause scritte si mette in molta considerazione che egli non habbia voluto aspettar le lettere che la Regina scriveva in Francia con occasione delta sua partita, che egli habbia voluto passare il mare sebene di sera ancorche il tempo non fusse buono et la nave che di Francia aspettava non arrivata; ma imbarcatosi 3 hore inanti che arrivasse l'ordine del Ré di doversi fermare se ne passasse ancorche con tempo molto fastidioso et pericoloso; onde da questa et altre simili cose vano argomentando che l'Ambasciatore se non vi ha havuto la mano almeno ne havess qualche notitia; et non ha dubio che queste sospittioni ancor che (fn. 6) siano fondate sopra cose assai legere possono però causare molti mali effetti massime essendo aiutate come senza dubio saranno da Spagnoli, li quali stanno vigilantissimi ad ogni occasione che se le rappresenti di nutrir tra questi et la Corona di Francia diffidenze et gelosie; et se il Signor Dio non opera lui che qui possano venvir in certa et chiara (fn. 7) cognitione del fato si può dubitar che questo accidente habbia da causar qualche grande alteratione.)
London, 21st November, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Enclosed in preceding despatch. 446. Proclamation:—
Orders for the arrest of Percy and his accomplices, named at foot of the proclamation. Foreign Princes had no part in the plot, for all their representatives had applied for leave to attend the opening of Parliament.
Westminster, 17th November, third year of our reign.
Nov. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 447. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
On Saturday last the King was in Parliament, where he made a long speech about the plot, beginning, “Misericordia domini super omnia opera ejus,” and went on to say that he was not aware that he had ever given cause to anyone to plot such infamous schemes against him. It is true that he might have bestowed more attention on affairs, but he trusted to his councillors, whom he held to be well-fitted to govern, thanks to their natural goodness and their long experience in the management of this kingdom. However, in future, he intended to devote more time to the affairs of State. Although it appeared that religion was the cause of the conspiracy, yet in reality it had another object. All the conspirators were gentlemen, though of broken estate, which they hoped to better under the cloak of conscience, as one frequently sees now-a-days, when every kind of iniquity is covered by the mantle of religion. He bore no ill-will against the Catholics as a body, for he knew very well that he had among them many faithful subjects.
After more in this vein he said that he was obliged to adjourn Parliament till the first of February, as he and his Council were deeply engaged in dealing with the plot, which he was resolved to probe to the bottom. He concluded with, these words, “Misericordias domini in eternum cantabo.”
On Sunday morning, while the King and Council were discussing the advisability of sending out the Earl of Devonshire to put down the rising in the country, letters were brought from the Sheriff of Warwickshire, saying, that he had pursued and driven into a house all the conspirators, that he had first of all removed the horses, and then set fire to the four corners of the house. The conspirators, seeing themselves in evil straits, resolved to come out and to die fighting rather than be taken alive. This happened to three of them. Percy, head of the conspiracy, was wounded by a musket, and along with five others was taken alive. As soon as the King heard this he sent off two of the best surgeons and a doctor to attend the said Percy, and also a litter to convey him to London. His Majesty is extremely anxious to keep him alive, as he hopes to wring from him all the details of the plot, for up to now he has been considered the leader. But Robert Catesby, one of the conspirators, just as the fight with the Sheriff was beginning, came forward and said, “I know you want Percy, most of all, as you think him the leader; but you must know that he has only recently been initiated, and I had great difficulty in inducing him to join. The consequence is that he knows little or nothing of the origin and the details of the plot. And this I desire to announce to all before my death.” The combat began, and Catesby was killed; this has caused profound satisfaction to the King and Council, for they think that there is no further cause for alarm, now that all the chiefs are either dead or prisoners. No other accomplices are discovered, though not a day passes but what some one is arrested or some Baron confined to his own house, or placed in the custody of others. This is merely a precautionary measure, because they are leading Catholics, and they arrest them till full light can be thrown on the whole affair. The Earl of Northumberland is clearing himself more and more completely every day. It is thought certain he will be set free.
On Monday I had audience of his Majesty to congratulate him on the special protection which God had bestowed on his person and his kingdom, by which they had been saved from such ruin and peril. I enlarged on this topic, and assured him of your Serenity's and your Excellencies' affection. His Majesty thanked me, declaring that he believed it would be impossible to find any Sovereign who did not heartily hate so abominable an action. He then went on to relate to me that the prisoner had eventually yielded to torture and confessed various things, most important among them the admission that it is now eighteen months since the conspiracy was set afoot; that he had been in the service of the Archduke in the wars in Flanders and at the siege of Ostend more especially; when that came to a close he said, “I wish to return to England, where I hope to carry out an enterprise that will bring me more renown and honour than I can acquire if I spend the whole of my life in the wars.” From this his Majesty concludes that the plot was hatched on the other side of the water. Further the King told me that he had discovered the person who administered the Sacrament to all the conspirators when they pledged their faith and their honour not to name each other; and although his Majesty did not tell me who this person is I hear from other quarters that it is thought he is a Jesuit, nay, they say that the prisoner himself is one, though not a priest. All this, however, is very uncertain, and may have been invented by those who hate the Catholic religion and intend to give it a deadly blow, and thus complete its ruin, as is only too likely to happen, unless the Lord God stretch out His holy hand. The King also added that about six months ago it was reported to him that there was a rumour that the Catholics intended to make a great effort when Parliament was sitting; but he and the whole Council took it that this would take place through supplications and petitions, and he could never have imagined such a thing as this. All the conspirators are gentlemen, but owing to their disordered lives they are poor and malcontent, though they assume the mantle of religion, the usual cloak of those who desire to cover their crimes. It is six months that they have been working in the mine, and never have they entrusted the smallest detail to others. The conveyance and arrangement of the powder, the transport of the earth, the breaking through certain walls, was all the work of their hands alone, unassisted by anybody. (Passando a raccontarmi il fatto disse che il priggione finalmente haveva convenuto ceder alli tormenti et che haveva confessato diverse cose, fra le quali la prina era che sono hormai 18 mesi che la congiura è principiata; che lui haveva servito l'arciduca nella guerra di Fiandra et nell' impresa di Ostenden particolarmente; la quale finita disse io voglio voglio tornar' in Inghilterra dove spero di far un attione con la quale mi acquisterò maggior fama et honore che se io mi fermassi tutto it tempo di mia vita in questa guerra; da che venne a concluder Sua Maestà che di questa congiura se ne sia trattato di là del mare. Disse in oltre che haveva saputo la persona che haveva dato il sagramento a tutti li congiurati, dove si diedero la fede et la parola di non parlarsi l'uno l'altro; et se bene la Maestà sua non mi disse la persona intendo però da altra parte che si crede esser un gesuita, anzi vogliono che il medesimo priggione sia gesuita lui ancora ma non sacerdote; queste sono però cose assai incerte et che possono esser inventate da quelli che abhoriscono la Cattolica Religione per darli maggior crollo et finarla di rovinare, come grandemente si dubita sia per seguire se il Signor Dio non vi mette la sua santa mano; mi disse di più che erano circa sei mesi che le era stato detto che si intendeva da diverse parti Cattolici in tempo del Parlamento esser per fare gran tentativi, ma che però questo fu creduto da lui et da tutti li suoi consiglieri dovesse seguire per via di suppliche et di petitioni, ma che una cosa simile non se l'haverebbe giamai pensato; che tutti li congiurati erano gentil huomini ma molti di essi per la loro mala vita ridotti in povertà et però malcontenti per altro, ancora che havessero preso il pretesto della religione, mantello ordinario di quelli che vogliono coprir le loro sceleratezze; che sono sei mesi che questi lavorano nella mina, non havendosi voluto giamai fidare di alcuno in nessuna imaginabile cosa, intanto che il condur la polvere, l'accommodarlo, il cavar la terra, romper certi muri, tutto fu fatto per le loro mani sole senza partecipatione d' alcun 'altro.)
At this moment the Duke of York, second son of his Majesty, about five years old, came into the chamber where we were. His Majesty turned to him and said, “This poor boy's innocence and that of the Prince and of others has had more power with God than the perfidious malignity of men.” I said that was very true, and that his Majesty must feel a singular satisfaction from the very evident protection of God. “Certainly” he replied, “I cannot imagine that God would favour such wickedness, which was not only planned, but nearly executed, for had the scheme been carried out thirty thousand persons would have perished at a stroke, the city would have been sacked, and the rich would have suffered more than the poor; in short, the world would have seen a spectacle so terrible and terrifying that its like has never been heard of.” I asked if his Majesty had as yet discovered the real object of the conspirators, for it was probable they had made arrangements for governing the country when the King, Queen, Princes, nobles, judges had all been killed. His Majesty replied that their intention was to crown and proclaim as Queen his daughter, who is in the charge of a Baron,* who lives about ten miles out of London. The draft of the proclamation, which they intended to publish immediately after the explosion of the mine, has been found. It names her as Queen, and themselves as protectors and governors of her person and of the kingdom. To secure the populace the proclamation announced the abolition of certain burdens. Thus they hoped to make themselves masters of everything. He also told me that Percy was an old servant of his, who had been in his service while he was in Scotland before succeeding to this Crown. (Le dimandai se la Maestà sua haveva per ancora penetrato qual fosse finalmente il dissegno di questi congiurati, perche morti che fossero le Maestà loro, li figli, tutta la nobiltà li guidici del Regno era cosa facile, che havessero pensato anco al modo di governare, mi disse lei che questi havevano dissegno di incoronar et publicar per Regina la sua figlia che è in governo di un Baron lontano da qui circa dieci miglia, et che si è trovata la minuta del proclama che intendevano di fare subito seguito l'effetto della mina, dichiarandola Regina et loro medesimi protettori et governatori di lei et del Regno, et che per guadagnar l'animo de' popoli dichiaravano che s' intendesse levate et annullate alcune gravezze che hora sopportano, et di questa maniera restar loro patroni di ogni cosa; mi disse in oltre che quel Perci era suo servitore antico poiche prima che succedeva a questa Corona egli era stato in Scotia.) That he liked Percy and would have done him a benefit, that he liked to have him about his person, and that he had trusted him completely, and so on.
I saw that other councillors were waiting to transact business. I took my leave after thanking his Majesty in your Serenity's name for the orders given to his ships. He said he was always ready to oblige the Republic, but that he looked for a return; referring to a certain sentence, about which his Ambassador has sent in a report as being unjust; λ also he says that English merchants are harshly treated in Venice, and recommends his subjects to your Excellencies, promising like treatment for Venetian merchants here. I wished to reply, but he said, “I am much occupied; speak to my secretary, he is better informed than I am, for I only know what is told me.”
I see quite clearly that the English Ambassador in Venice is hostile, and shows himself very dissatisfied. I shall do what I can to have an interview with the Secretary, and will put forth all my powers to enlighten him fully about the case, though I know that he has a very bad impression on the subject. I will endeavour to disabuse his mind on the points where he has been misinformed by the English Ambassador.
London, 23rd November, 1605.
Nov. 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 448. Girolamo Corner, Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
The Admiral, a few days ago off Clarentza, sighted an English berton, which had recently discharged grain in this port. He called the supercargo on board with his books, and saw that she had contraband currants in her cargo. The Admiral sent for the Captain to find out the names of the smugglers. The Captain absolutely refused to obey, and during the night set sail. He was followed up and attacked by the Admiral as far as Patras, where he found shelter.
The Admiral has sent me the supercargo and four sailors. I have found out nothing as to the smugglers from their depositions enclosed.
This contraband export of currants is very easy, for all the coast is open.
Zante, 28th November, 1605.


  • 1. See Cal. S.P. Ven., Vol. IX., under “Charles Elman.”
  • 2. A tax of two per cent. levied by Venetian Consuls in the Levant, in London and Bruges, on goods exported by Venetian merchants; levied also, in Constantinople, on goods imported from the Levant, Bruges or London. The proceeds went to support Venetian Consulates, and to the benefit of Venetian merchants, for whom an exchange house, church, chaplain, barber-surgeon, beadle, expert samplers, interpreters, were maintained. The fund also supplied relief to indigent, deserving Venetians. It was administered at first by the Consuls and their Council of XII., but in the 16th century, owing to corruption, this management was transferred to Venice.—Rezasco. Diz. Storio ed Amministrative. Firenze. 1881.
  • 3. As to the abuses of cart-takers and purveyors, see Gardiner, op. cit 1, 171–174. Hallam, Constit. History, cap VI.
  • 4. See Cal. S. P. Dom. John Chamberlain to Dudley Carleton, Nov. 7.
  • 5. Nov. 7, Chamberlain to Carleton, ut sup.
  • 6. The decipher reads “non,” but it should have been deciphered “che.”
  • 7. Decipher reads “chiarara.–