Venice: March 1606

Pages 323-329

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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March 1606

March 7. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 488. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador in Flanders is urging peace, and offers that his master should act as intermediary. But the Archduke does not desire it.
The Marquis de San Germano is getting ready to go to England. Valladolid, 7th March, 1605 [m.v.].
March 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 489. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Last week I had audience of his Majesty, to announce your Serenity's accession to the throne.
London, 10th March, 1606.
March 10. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 490. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
Parliament is entirely occupied with repressive measures against the Catholics, and meantime the examination of the Jesuit prisoners proceeds with all diligence, and even with torture. Their object is to reach the very roots of this plot, if possible, for though it seems pretty certain that the plot did not extend beyond the kingdom, still it is remarkable that a scheme of such magnitude should have been devised by a number of young men of no fortune, who had no sufficient reason in themselves to plot such wickedness, and but little hope of success unless supported. But since the hand of the Jesuits is seen in the matter, as they say, it is thought that the whole plot may have been unfolded to others by their means. And so, when the Papal Nuncio at Brussels visited the English Ambassador to express horror of the deed, and to say that if the priests found guilty of such a wickedness were sent to Rome they would be most severely punished, the Ministers sent orders to the Ambassador that he was to abstain from any discussion of the subject with the Nuncio for the future. And upon the suspicion that the levies for Flanders are required to swear allegiance not only to the Prince they serve, but also to the Pope, it is proposed that the oath of supremacy to the King should be administered to all officers before they leave, and that all English troops already at the wars should swear the same oath to the Ambassador. But I understand that his Majesty wishes to support this claim with sound arguments, and has ordered the great Universities of the kingdom to discuss and handle the subject, not calling in question the validity of the request, but merely advancing arguments in its favour. The question has likewise been submitted to a meeting of Bishops, who are convened here for the sittings of Parliament.
The large forces, which the Spanish are said to have this year in Flanders, and with which they propose to deliver a triple attack, alarm the King and the Council, who foresee their own danger in another's; but though they are anxious to support the Dutch the way of doing so is not easily found. They propose to forbid either side to raise levies in these kingdoms, and hope that by this move they will hamper the Archduke far more than the Dutch, with whom a considerable number of troops would certainly take service without fear of punishment, in spite of the prohibition. Meantime the movement of his Most Christian Majesty against the Marshal de Bouillon is interpreted by these subtle minds—ever ready to persuade themselves of what they desire—as a ruse not so much to capture Sedan, as to come to terms with de Bouillon and then to disband these troops, which would subsequently pass over to Flanders to assist Count Maurice. Though this calculation is a refinement, founded, probably, on little else than their own wishes that it might be so, still I have felt it my duty to report it to your Serenity.
I have also to report that a man, who closely resembled one who is held to be a Jesuit and a conspirator, took the opportunity of Ambassador Molin's departure to cross over in his company. This man was arrested at Dover by the officers appointed to that service, and sent up at once to London, and examined that same evening by the Council. He was discovered to be a simple priest and quite innocent of the plot, and was at once released and ordered to be conveyed to Calais at the public charges and handed back to the Ambassador with apologies to him. The same have been tendered to me by the Earl of Salisbury. The episode caused some complaint at first, but the issue has enhanced the honourable position of your Serenity's ministers. (fn. 1)
London, 10th March, 1606.
March 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 491. Agostino Nani, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Sir Anthony Standen, the Englishman, who was Ambassador from his King to the Republic of Venice, has come to Rome, and out of compliment has been to visit me. He told me that after his imprisonment of one year, on the charge of having brought letters, rosaries, and other holy objects to the Queen, in the name of Pope Clement, he was set at liberty by the intercession of her Majesty, and the King gave him leave to travel out of England for three years, in lands belonging to allied Princes, however, in order to exclude Rome. He added that the Ambassador Molin had shown himself full of charity towards the Catholics, that the Queen delighted in making him speak Italian, and that Ambassador Giustinian was worthily carrying on the tradition.
He mentioned a certain Canon of Vicenza, (fn. 2) who is in relations with the English Ambassador in Venice, and wishes to be sent to England as Archpriest, in place of the old one (Blackwell). He told me that it would be difficult for Spain to succour Flanders, for in the terms of peace between England and Spain there was a clause which forbade the latter to send more than six armed vessels inside the Channel, or more than two at a time into English ports. He added that the English Catholics were disgusted with the Spanish who never would support them.
Rome, 11th March, 1606.
March 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 492. Piero Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador Nicolo Molin has arrived on his return from England. The English Ambassador praises him.
Paris, 14th March, 1606.
March 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 493. Ottaviano Bon, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
I enclose a letter from the Consul of Melos, containing many details about the English berton captured by privateers.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 14th March, 1606.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 494. To my most Excellent Lord and Honoured Master:—
Via Chios I have already written a full account of all that the ship “Vidalla” has done. I now add that on the 24th an Englishman arrived here in the Gulf of Melos. She was bound for Constantinople with a cargo as below. On the same day there arrived, from a different quarter, in the harbour of Argientera, (fn. 3) called Polognia, other two bertons, westerlings, each one with a tartana and a felucca. One of the bertons was flying the Maltese flag, commanded by the Chevalier Monsieur (Mussur) de Rochefort (Dirocaforte), a Frenchman. The other was flying the colours of the Duke of Savoy, and was commanded by the Chevalier Monsieur di Balio, hailing from Villefranche. As soon as they cast anchor in the harbour of Polognia they were informed about the Englishman lying at Melos; they immediately set sail and came round to the Gulf of Melos, where the Englishman was at anchor. They captured the Englishman without any fighting, and put all the crew in prison. They then transhipped all the cargo and put it on board a Perastina, intending to take it to Malta. The cargo consisted of two hundred bales of kerseys and English woollens, seven hundred barrels of gunpowder, one thousand harquebuss barrels, five hundred mounted harquebusses, two thousand sword blades, a barrel full of ingots of fine gold (moreli d'oro fino) twenty thousand sequins, many great dollars (tolori molti grossi ? dobloons), and other things of high value. Further there was found a note written in Turkish character on parchment, issued by the Sultan's orders. There was a Jewish supercargo, but his name I do not know.
Milos, 28th November, 1605. O.S.
Your most humble servant,
Januli Piperi.
March 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 495. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The King of England fearing that he might offend the King of France by his efforts to bring about peace with the Dutch, instructed his Ambassador here to keep in close touch with the Ambassador of France. As I am on very intimate terms with both the English Ambassador requested me to be instrumental in bringing them together. Although I am far from well I invited both to dinner, but I obtained a promise from the English Ambassador that in my house he would yield precedence to the French.
Valladolid, 14th March, 1606.
March 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 496. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English Ambassador (Cornwallis), seeing that there was no intention here of consigning to his master the two conspirators, (fn. 4) who are with the Archduke Albert, has presented a memorial to the Council of State to induce it to yield. But it is thought indecent to consign to heretics two Catholics, old servants of Spain, especially as one is a Jesuit, and various excuses are brought forward. I have had an opportunity of seeing the English Ambassador's memorial, and enclose a copy.
Valladolid, 18th March, 1606.
Enclosed in preceding Despatch. 497. Memorial presented by the English Ambassador (Cornwallis) to the Council of State.
“The King of Great Britain” demands from the Archduke the consignment of two of his subjects, on the ground that they are traitors.
Although the Archduke and the King of Spain, his Superior, are not bound by any law or convention to grant this request, still the law of piety and honour, as well as considerations of interest, gratitude and justice may move them to consent.
As to piety, it is of the pure essence and substance of the kingly office to reward the good and to punish the evil, and their states ought not to become cities of refuge for malefactors.
As to honour, Sovereigns are bound not merely to the letter but to the full spirit and intention of the terms of peace established between them. They are also bound to imitate the honourable example of the ancient Romans who were wont to consign traitors.
As to interest, the act of consignment would breed a terror in all ill-doers, and a consequent safety for monarchs. To grant the request would assure the English of the desire for peace, to refuse it would arouse suspicion, and would jeopardize the peace.
As to gratitude, the King of England has since his accession to the throne taken such a line as he now solicits, though no one asked him, and no Sovereign raised any question; that was in the case of Antonio Perez, although Perez was not nearly so deeply-dyed a traitor as these men are.
The consignment of these traitors is not opposed by any canonical law, any Civil law, any pragmatic. Nor is it contrary to the authority of the Church of Home over persons secular and ecclesiastic, seeing that in this case all laws divine, natural and international (delle genti) are so obviously violated.
The consignment would not be contrary to the custom of Spain, for when Castille and Portugal were separate kingdoms extradition existed.
But even if the consignment were contrary to law canonical, civil, pragmatical, natural and international, and contrary to the custom of the country, still the action of these traitors is so horrible that it has deprived them of the benefit.
March 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 498. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
I presented your Serenity's letters of congratulation for the escape from such a peril. His Majesty went through the whole story of the plot, and endeavoured to impress upon me the fact that he was under divine providence and protection, proving it by many other accidents, from which he had been miraculously preserved. He especially desires that everyone should hold this belief. I understood that his Majesty was highly pleased with the idea expressed by your Serenity to his Ambassador, namely, that in the interpretation of the last words of the letter his Majesty may truly be said to have been inspired with the gift of prophecy. He desired to convince me of the great difference there was between the natural sense of the words and the reading given by himself. He said that even to himself, thinking of it afterwards, it seemed a marvellous thing that he should have hit upon the meaning of the writer, which none of his Council had divined. I thanked his Majesty for these marks of confidence.
I cannot discharge my commission to the Queen just yet, as she is suffering from pregnancy. I ought to add that, while the King was talking to me, he let fall that last night one of the Jesuits. (fn. 5) conscience-smitten for his sins, stabbed himself deeply in the body twice with a knife. When the warders ran up at the noise they found him still alive; he confessed to having taken a share in the plot at the suggestion of his Provincial, and now, recognising his crime, he had resolved to kill himself, and so escape the terrible death that overhung him, as he deserved. Public opinion, however, holds that he died of the tortures inflicted on him, which were so severe that they deprived him not only of his strength, but of the power to move any part of his body, and so they think it unlikely that he should have been able to stab himself in the body, especially with a blunt knife, as they allege. It is thought that, as he confessed nothing and is dead, they have hoodwinked the King himself by publishing this account, in order to rouse him and everybody to greater animosity against the Catholics, and to make the case blacker against his companion, the Provincial. It is expected that, in a few days, he will be tried and condemned. Meantime several others, already convicted, have been sent to various places to be executed, so that throughout this island the memory of the crime and the punishment may remain for ever.
London, 23rd March, 1606.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 499. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
It seems that the friction between the King and the Archduke, caused by the refusal to surrender the soldier (Hugh Owen) to the English, is increasing instead of diminishing. The King does not admit his Highness' plea that he cannot surrender the soldier without the consent of the King of Spain, and it makes it all the worse that his Highness had imprisoned a Jesuit at his Majesty's request on the same charge, but, a few days afterwards, had set him at liberty on the Nuncio's request, without saying a word to the King. And so upon this pretext they will carry out their design of assisting the States this year. The King has refused leave to any officers to raise levies for his Highness' service, though he granted the same men leave to raise them for service with the Dutch. This is an open violation of the terms of the peace and greatly disturbs the Archduke's Ambassador; more especially at this moment, when the King of France is concentrating troops on a scale not justified by the reason he alleges. All this leads him to think that the intention is to forestall those military operations which the Spanish proposed to carry out this year.
It is thought that the whole of this has been arranged by the Baron de Tour, who, three months ago, came to congratulate the King on the discovery of the plot. The Spanish and French Ambassadors are urging the observation of the terms of peace, which allow free right of levy to both parties; but as long as the King of England has the excuse that his rebels are sheltered in the Spanish camp, which, he says, is a graver violation of the peace, these Envoys will achieve little. The arrival of the Marquis de San Germano as Ambassador from Spain may alter the attitude here.
They have finally decided to vote subsidies to the amount of two millions in gold or thereby. This vote passed the Lower House with great difficulty and with very free attack upon the administrators of the revenue and on the royal expenditure. The King is far from pleased, for before the money was voted it was settled that the royal household and expenditure should be reformed.
There is no talk of the Union, and in spite of its being a thing greatly desired by his Majesty, it is thought that nothing more will be heard of it, so full of difficulty is the subject. And herewith, to your Serenity and each of your Excellencies, I beg the Lord God to grant a joyous and pious Easter and long and happy life.
London, 23rd March, 1606.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
March 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 500. Francesco Priuli, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
After Don Balthazar de Zuniga arrived here the Marquis de San Germano has been urged to leave for England, not so much that his presence is needed there as that, on his way through France, he may see his Most Christian Majesty, note his attitude and, if need be, make some representations to him in favour of Spain, whose chief alarm is lest the King should come to terms with de Bouillon when all those troops would go over to the service of the Dutch.
Valladolid, 29th March, 1606.


  • 1. Cal. S.P. Dom., Feb. 15, 1606. “The Venetian Ambassador, setting sail for Calais, had a man in his train resembling the second priest described in the proclamation. He utterly refused to leave him behind to be examined but gave the authorities a note for their discharge.” Sir Thomas Fane to the Earls of Nottingham and Salisbury, dated Dover.
  • 2. Dr Whorwell. See “The Sherley Brothers,” p. 46.
  • 3. Argentiera or Kimolo, with the adjacent island of Polino.
  • 4. The Ambassador in Flanders was Sir Thomas Edmondes. Birch's “Historical View,” p. 249. The conspirators were Hugh Owen and Father William Baldwin. Gardiner 1, 270, Cal. S.P. Dom. 1603–1610, p. 290.
  • 5. Nicholas Owen, alias Littlejohn, servant of Garnet; captured along with Chambers at Hindlip House.