Venice: December 1605

Pages 298-307

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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December 1605

Dec. 3. Collegio Secreta. Esposizioni Principi. Venetian Archives. 449. Secretary Valerio Antelmi reports that he has waited on the English Ambassador to communicate the resolution of the Senate as regards the ship “ Davis.” The Ambassador expressed himself well pleased.
Dec. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 450. Piero Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador (Parry) has received news express from London with an account of the plot, and went straight to St. Germains to inform his Majesty. After much discussion as to the probable authors the King said that he was a good and loyal friend to the King of England and, laying his hand on his sword, he declared that at need he would willingly use it in his service.
The English Ambassador then came to see me, and gave me, as he says on his master's orders, a full account of what took place in that kingdom. They are in hopes that the confessions of the leaders will throw a full light on the matter.
The French ministers discuss the event, and are unanimously of opinion that the plot must have been known to the Spaniards, though the sketch of the whole design more particularly belonged to Don Juan de Taxis, the Spanish Ambassador, who has already left the Court. The opportunity was suggested by the King of England's neglect of his business, and the fact that his councillors are suborned by Spanish gold. I gather that the French propose to send an Ambassador-Extraordinary to England to offer all assistance and to alter the King's attitude towards Spain. A courier from the Archduke has just passed through to Spain, this increases the rumours flying about.
M. de Beaumont, French lieger in England, has arrived, and it is thought just as well that he was not in that kingdom when the conspiracy exploded. The Nuncio is disturbed at the report that the Pope may have given his consent. He came to visit me for the express purpose of persuading me by various arguments that these rumours are all inventions of the enemies of religion. I begged him to waste no pains on me, for such an idea had never entered my mind; and I added that such justification may be necessary with others, but never with your Serenity's Ambassador.
Paris, 6th December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 451. Piero Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty informed me that the Spanish have been plotting to surprise Marseilles. The Secretary of the Spanish Ambassador has been arrested. “Just look at that,” said the King, “and the Spanish intended to ruin England, too, at one blow, and to aggrandise themselves on the plea of protecting the Catholics.”
Paris, 6th December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 452. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
News of the plot in England has been received. The English Ambassador (Cornwallis) at once reported the fortunate failure of the conspiracy to the King, who, the following day, sent the Duke of Lerma to congratulate; the Council of State was summoned at once and sat till past midnight, and next morning again for upwards of four hours without arriving at any decision. All the Council called on the Ambassador. No courier has been openly sent to England as yet. The Count of Villa Mediana, who arrived from England six days ago, has been in lengthy consultation with the Duke of Lerma and Franquezza; and last night after Council Don Juan d' Idiaquez was a long time with the Count. This induces people to think that under these outward signs of joy there is a secret annoyance, all the more so that the Ambassador of England told me that he intended to celebrate the happy discovery of the plot by fireworks, fanfares of trumpets, roll of drums, distribution of food and money, and that it would be seen later on that he had not refrained from doing so without good cause, though out of regard for the company present he did not explain further.
Valladolid, 8th December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 453. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
On Monday the King went to Richmond, intending to go on to Hampton Court, where he proposes to stay six or eight days for his usual amusement of the chase. This journey is disapproved by the Queen and by all who have the King's interests at heart; for it seems unwise, in a time of such turbulence and commotion, that the King should go into the country attended by few persons and, as often happens, when lured on by the pleasure of the chase, should stay out late into the evening, thus offering an easy occasion for any who desires to injure him to do so. These and similar considerations have been laid before his Majesty, but he, though he recognises their truth, is resolved to rely on the divine mercy and to place his pleasure above his peril. Nay, he lets it be understood that when he comes back from the country he will only stay four or six days in London, and then will return to the country with the intention of going much further away than he has hitherto done.
Every day there is further confirmation that with the spring his Majesty will be forced to go to Scotland to arrange the differences between the Bishops and the Puritan ministers, differences which grow greater daily, so that the supreme authority of the King's presence is deemed necessary by everyone. All the same it is pointed out to him that it is possible that the accommodation might not be effected after all, in spite of his presence, and, therefore, that it would be better to deal with the subject by other hands, and so avoid risking the reputation of the Crown. Up to the present, however, it seems that the King is determined to go to Scotland, unless matters are settled in the meantime.
Uproar and riot in Ireland on the score of religion. The King wishes to reduce all his realms to a single creed, the Protestant, as it is called, which is really Calvinistic, or rather a mixture of all sects, for everyone interprets it after his own fashion. In truth there is only one object, that is, to extinguish the Catholic religion if possible. About three months ago they sent several of their best preachers over to Ireland, with orders to instruct that people, who are all Catholics, except the descendants of the colonists, planted there by the late Queen for the express purpose of introducing the Protestant faith; in this they did not succeed, for the Irish, both nobles and Commons alike, remained steadfast in the Catholic faith. The King has issued orders to his representatives that first by admonitions and then by threats they are to induce the Irish to attend the sermons of these preachers. In this they failed, and as the Irish Parliament is on the point of meeting the King intends to cause the recusancy laws, which exist in England, to be passed in Ireland. With this object in view he is endeavouring to prevent the return of any as members except those who are descended from the English, who, as I have already said, are Protestants. The Irish are quite aware of his Majesty's design, and do all they can to thwart it; hence the whole country is in commotion and violent wrath.
The Grand Duke, after having bought a lot of powder, is now securing cannon; and although the export of artillery is prohibited, still his secretary, by means of presents to the officials, has managed to ship some, and more will follow.
At last I have news that the illustrious Ambassador Giustinian has arrived at Dieppe. I have arranged for a royal ship to meet him, and I hope if the weather permits he will be here in six or eight days.
London, 8th December, 1605.
Dec. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 454. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The King has named seven Commissioners, the Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Suffolk, the Earl of Northampton, the Earl of Devonshire, the Earl of Mar, a Scot, the Earl of Worcester, and the High Admiral to attend at all the examinations, which may be made in regard to the plot; not only at the examination of the first prisoner, who has at length revealed his accomplices and given details about the conspiracy, but also of all other prisoners, who may be arrested from day to day. For already large numbers have been put in the Tower, among them three Barons, Montague, Mordaunt (Morder) and Stourton, (fn. 1) all professing Catholics. It is quite clear that none but Catholics had a hand in the plot. Yesterday, an hour before dinner-time, the Earl of Northumberland was lodged in the Tower. There are evil prognostications for him, first because it seems impossible that, in so vast a conspiracy, which had for object to overthrow the kingdom and to set it in a blaze, there should not be at the head of it some great nobleman, who aspired, if not to reign, at least to govern; as no one else has been discovered up to now, they think the Earl may be the man; that Percy was his relation gives a reasonable ground for suspicion, and it is considered a very lucky thing for the Earl that Percy is dead of the gun-wound. The second reason is that the Earl is known to be a malcontent, and has given frequent signs of his feelings. He professes to be especially hostile to Salisbury, who at present has the whole government in his hands, and who may fairly be styled the King, and it is not likely that Salisbury will let slip so good an opportunity of laying him by the heels. Further the house of Percy has always been Catholic and patron of Catholics, though the present Earl seems disposed to adapt himself to the times. All this makes people think he will be put to death, or at least will never leave the Tower; for it is a most remarkable fact in this country that if a nobleman is put in the Tower he either loses his life or ends his days there. The Council have summoned a secretary of the Earl, who a few days before the plot was discovered was [sent] by him into France. He has been examined, but as yet I know no particulars. The examination hitherto has revealed this fact, that the conspirators, as far back as the time of the late Queen, had plotted with the King of Spain. The agreement was that the King should disburse one hundred thousand crowns, in order that the conspirators might raise the Catholics and put together two thousand five hundred horse, while the King was to send ten thousand infantry into Flanders, who were to assist the Catholics in England, and thus throw the whole kingdom into disorder. The death of the Queen broke off the negotiations; but six months after the King came to the throne they were set on foot again, as it seemed to the conspirators that his Majesty was not going to keep any of the promises he made in Scotland that he would grant liberty of conscience, the King of Spain, however, then replied that he had no intention of injuring a great Prince, with whom he was in excellent relations, and with whom he desired a sure and lasting peace. It has also been discovered that the scheme for mining the Parliament House was devised in Flanders by an Englishman named Owen, who many years ago was in Spanish service in that war, and now, it would seem, is in special service with the Archduke. Owen, on representations by the English Ambassador-Resident, has been arrested, but the Archduke has not as yet promised to surrender him, and it is thought that before coming to any decision they desire to write to Spain to learn the wishes of his Catholic Majesty. They mention another man, Thomas Stanley, who has been a long time in Flanders, and is now a member of the Council of War, though an Englishman; but seeing that the indications against him are far from clear his Majesty has taken no steps in his regard except to ask his Highness to see that he does not escape; though it is thought that he will eventually be demanded.
I am assured on good authority that his Majesty intends to recall the English in service with the Archduke, but he wishes to do it cautiously, so that it shall not be perceived. The ground for this is that some of his advisers have pointed out to him that it is not desirable that his subjects should declare themselves Catholics, as all who take service with the Archduke do, and learn the art of war, which they can eventually use against his Majesty. Great attention is being paid to the examination of prisoners, whose number is increasing daily; many women, who had knowledge of the plot, have been arrested. This causes amazement that they were able to keep it hidden so long. Sentence is not expected at once; it is thought that the whole will be laid before Parliament and new regulations issued against the Catholics. On all hands one hears nothing in the mouth of the people and of the preachers except curses and insults against the Catholic religion, which, so they say, permits and approves such iniquitous and inhuman actions as to blow into the air thirty thousand persons at a single stroke. Although this is the result of the ill-will of the people towards the Catholic religion it does not lack some secret encouragement from high quarters, with a view to increasing the hatred of Catholics and terrifying them, so that in despair they will be driven to embrace the Protestant religion; although every day shows the number of the Catholics to be so great and their temper so firm and constant that such an end is almost despaired of. I know that it has been pointed out to his Majesty that it is no wise policy, considering that the Catholics number a half and perhaps more of the population (essendo la metà et forse più del Regno Catholico), to press them so hard that they should be driven to band together and try their fortune to the utter ruin of one party and of the other. All the same the King and his ministers are greatly inclined to persecution, and openly discuss it. Nothing will be done till the meeting of Parliament, when we shall see what turn affairs take. It is to be hoped that as this is a matter affecting the Lord God his Divine Majesty will protect and favour his own.
London, 8th December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 455. Piero Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador tells me that each of the conspirators had a key to a secret door in the house of the Arciducal Ambassador. He added that this was a great secret.
Paris, 20th December, 1605.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Dec. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 456. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Every day something new about the plot comes to light, and produces great wrath and suspicion. The result is that both Court and City are more than ever in a bubbub, nor can they quiet down; everyone is armed and ready for any event. Lately among the prisoners' effects a paper has been found, containing the list of all houses inhabited by Scots. When asked as to the meaning of this the prisoners said that it was intended, after the explosion of the mine, to massacre all the Scottish in this country, for they could not submit to the share which their natural enemies now had in the government. The publication of this news has increased the hatred between the two nations, and rendered them quite irreconcilable. Many Scots are thinking of returning home, for they fear that some day a general massacre may take place. Among others who are already gone are the Earl of Mar, a great noble and member of the English Council, and the Earl of Dunbar, Treasurer of Scotland, member of Council, and a prime favourite with his Majesty, of whom he may be called the very breath and spirit. The first will probably not return, at least for a bit, the second told me that his Majesty had only granted him forty days' leave, and that is very likely, for the King cannot live without him. It is certain that the meeting of the Scottish Parliament is not the cause of their going, for that does not take place till the middle of February. Many reasons are assigned for their departure. One is that when news of the plot reached Scotland many Scots appeared before the Council and offered to send fifty thousand men into England for the protection of his Majesty and his family and for the punishment of the criminals. His Majesty is now supposed to be desirous of thanking these gentlemen. He is also credited with a design to send the Prince to reside in Scotland; in this way he hopes to secure his family, for it is clear that there are many who hate not only his own person, but his whole race. There is a suspicion that the Marquis of Donall (?), a great Scottish gentleman, had some knowledge of this plot, and the Council are ordered to use all diligence to come at the truth. The mission of these gentlemen is very secret, and it is difficult to find out the facts. All this annoys the English, who cannot endure that his Majesty should show so much more confidence in the Scottish than in themselves. His Majesty is aware of this, and on this account he has not accepted a bodyguard of Scottish light horse. The King has ordered the re-administration of the Oath of Supremacy to all courtiers and ministers. Some Catholics, who refused to take the oath, have been expelled from Court and deprived of office. All the same his Majesty cannot refrain from going into the country, though he adopts some precautions more than usual. But those who wish him well do not approve, and they fear that some day some mischief will befall him.
The Spanish, who have been for six months in Dover, refusing to return to Spain and prevented by the Butch from crossing to Flanders, put out at last, under cover of the long nights and a great storm. They hired several small boats, and in the face of great difficulties they made Dunquerque.
The Baron de Tour, French Ambassador, is expected here to convey congratulations on the King's escape. He is to return at once, and the Count de Crumaille (fn. 2) (Gramaglio) is expected as Ambassador in Ordinary. I am very anxious because the illustrious Giustinian has not arrived yet. It is twenty days since I heard from him. The weather is bad.
London, 22nd December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 22. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 457. Nicolo Molin, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
His Most Christian Majesty has, I hear, written an autograph letter to the King, congratulating him on his escape. At the close he says that he understands that rumours are flying about to the effect that his Ambassador (de Beaumont), who has just left England, may have had knowledge of the plot. He says he cannot believe that any minister of his could ever be so iniquitous and perverted as to have a hand in such wickedness. No Prince is safe against traitors. He gave his word of honour that should he at any time discover the very smallest indication that his Ambassador had had the tiniest part in this plot, he would make such an example of him as that they should clearly see how he hated and abominated all such actions and their authors. But for all this the suspicion of the Ambassador does not diminish, nay, it grows daily; and especially on account of news arrived from France that the moment the Ambassador reached Calais, that was on Tuesday, the day the mine was to have been fired, he sent a courier to l62 (fn. 3) (his Most Christian Majesty) with a letter, in which he said, “To-day a crushing blow against the King, his house, and all the nobility of England is to be delivered, but the issue is still uncertain.” If that were true it would undoubtedly follow that he must have had knowledge of the plot; but he is in such disgrace with the Court, the ministers, and even with the royal family that they will lend an ear to any charge against him.
A Dutchman has just told his Majesty that he has discovered another plot against the King's life, which is possibly no less serious than this last one, because the persons who have a hand in it are far more important, but he says he will speak to no one but to his Majesty in person. The King, accordingly, has sent to Amsterdam to have him brought here, under promise that no harm shall come to him, but that if his statements are verified he will be handsomely rewarded.
The business of the Earl of Northumberland stands where it did. As a matter of fact there is nothing . . . . . he will not answer the interrogatories addressed to him. [He says] that as an Earl he is not bound to answer; and that if there are any charges against him they ought to appoint a commission of his Peers, before whom he could very easily exculpate himself. Salisbury said to him, “My Lord, you ought not to refuse to do what others your Peers have done,” naming the Earl of Essex, who submitted to interrogatories, and always replied. The Earl of Northumberland answered, “The Earl of Essex was a gallant gentleman, but towards the end of his career he went mad, that cost him his life. I do not intend to imitate another's madness, and claim my legal right to be tried by my Peers; if I am found guilty I shall deserve to be severely punished.” On Sunday the Countess went to the King with a petition, praying not for grace, but for justice and a speedy trial. “If the Earl,” she said, “has done wrong let him be severely punished, but do not allow him to be questioned and examined by other than by a legal tribunal.” She begged that the trial should take place at once, and that his Majesty should not allow the ill-will of a certain great personage to ruin the Earl in fame, fortune, and life when he was innocent. The King treated her very gently, and the Countess has hopes that her husband's affair will pass off well, so have his relations and friends; but others, who judge the present by their recollection of the past, greatly doubt whether he will ever leave the Tower; for there is no instance of a great noble, who had once been committed to the Tower on political charges, ever being set free. Add to this the hostility of Salisbury, now patent to the whole world, which of itself would be sufficient to secure his imprisonment during Salisbury's lifetime.
A few days ago the Archduke's Ambassador held out hopes that his Highness might consign to the King a certain Englishman named Owen (Juen), who, as I reported, was one of the leaders of the plot. His Majesty, accordingly, sent men over to Flanders on purpose to receive him. It seems, however, that the Archduke excused himself, on the ground that Owen had served many years in the wars, and, was enrolled among the pensioners of the King of Spain, and, therefore, his Highness considered that he could not surrender him without first reporting to Spain. The men, who had been sent to Flanders, returned and reported all to his Majesty, who showed little satisfaction at this answer. I hear that the King has given strict orders to his Ambassador at the Archduke's Court to inform all English, serving the Archduke, that his Majesty does not at all approve of his subjects fighting for a Prince who professes a religion different from his Majesty's, and that they would please him by throwing up their commissions and returning to England, while on the other hand he will form a very had opinion of those who continue there, nor will he ever consider them as good and faithful subjects. It seems, too, that his Majesty is about to fulminate a very severe sentence against the Earl of (sic) Arundel, head of the English in the Archduke's service, because, in defiance of orders, he crossed the sea on board the royal ships, and has not returned to England within the month of November, in compliance with the orders issued. They will, perhaps, charge him with knowledge of the plot, and all the more so as the Earl openly declares that he will not return on any account. There are not wanting persons to call his Majesty's attention to this disobedience, and to urge that it cannot have any other cause. The King is so angry with the Earl that it is thought he will soon be made to feel it.
London, 22nd December, 1605.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Dec. 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 458. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador-Elect to England, to the Doge and Senate.
Has been waiting at Dieppe for a royal ship, in order to cross the Channel. One was ordered to Dieppe, but the Captain put into Calais. Finds great difficulties in the way of getting a ship, and cannot say when he will be able to cross.
Dieppe, 23rd December, 1605.
Dec. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 459. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Inquisitor of Venice has sent to the Congregation of the Index the King of England's book (the Basilikon Doron), containing instructions to his son. As it expresses many impious and detestable sentiments, entirely opposed to our fundamental dogmas, consultation was held as to what ought to be done. Some opined that one of the Cardinals should be deputed to refute it, but seeing that this would add to the importance of the work and would stimulate many heretics to a rejoinder, it has been resolved to place it on the Index.
In the house of the English Ambassador at Venice there has been for some months a Canon of Vicenza; (fn. 4) he professes to have credentials from the King, authorizing him to deal with certain questions of religion. He is the man who, in Pope Clement's days, went at his own charges to England. The Pope placed little confidence in him, though he produced the royal letters addressed to himself and to Anthony Sherley. The present Pontiff has dispensed him from residence to see what he can accomplish.
Rome, 24th December, 1605.
Dec. 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 460. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
I enclose the King of England's proclamation, exculpating foreign princes. They have printed and published it here, and sold it publicly in the streets, in order to counteract the accusation that they have had a hand in the plot. The Marquis of San Germano, who was to go to England to congratulate the King, has put off his journey, lest he should meet with some insult in the excited state of that kingdom, and instead, under pretext of securing passports, they have sent a courier with a present of trappings for the King.
In Portugal orders have been received to fit out as large a number of vessels as possible, and Don Diego Brochiero is designed to the command.
Valladolid, 24th December, 1605.
Dec. 30. Collegio Secreta. Esposizioni Principi. Venetian Archives. 461. The English Ambassador condoles on the death of the Doge. “Neither prominence of rank nor natural goodness, not charity to the poor nor love of justice, not civil wisdom nor holiness of living have availed to privilege him against that great decree of nature, Orta ut moriantur.” He expresses his personal loss. Says this is not the occasion to enter on other business, though he has orders from his Majesty to communicate the discovery of the gunpowder plot, which he will take another occasion formally to do.


  • 1. Anthony Brown. Viscount Montague: Henry. Lord Mordaunt; Waad writes to Salisbury from the Tower: “My Lord Mordaunt is fallen into an extreme pensiveness.” Edward, Lord Stourton. These were the three Peers whom the Conspirators wished to save. Cal. S.P. Dom., Dec. 2, 1605.
  • 2. See Birch. “Court and Times of James I.” Vol. 1, p. 34.
  • 3. Here the cipher reads l62 which has not been deciphered in the original decipher, I presume, because of the serious nature of the news. l62=Sua Maestà. Xma.
  • 4. The Canon of Vicenza was Dr. Whorwelle. See “The Sherley Brothers,” p. 46.