Venice: May 1607, 26-31

Pages 501-524

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 10, 1603-1607. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1900.

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May 1607, 26–31

May. 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 738. Zorzi Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
News from Brussels, confirming the engagement between the Spanish and the Dutch, and the defeat of the former with four ships taken and eight sunk.
The King, finding the difficulties in the way of the Union increasing daily, seems inclined to dissolve Parliament, with intent to summon it again after arranging the opposition. And in order to show that by his prerogative alone he can do more than he has hitherto done, he has issued certain constitutions tending to the depression of the Puritans, who include the chief opponents of the Union.
There is no further news from Scotland, and it is expected that the movement will die away without more trouble. Orders have been sent to the Earl of Argyle that he is to use dexterity rather than force. The Scottish are renewing their demand that the King should spend some time among them, but it is not likely that they will be gratified.
The ship that was sequestrated in Spain has arrived.
The King has taken the Prince de Joinville to some of his country houses.
London, 30th May, 1607.
Original Manuscript. Marcian Library, Cl. VII. Cod. MCXX. (fn. 1) 739. Report on England presented to the Government of Venice in the year 1607, by the Illustrious Gentleman Nicolo Molin, Ambassador there.
Serene Prince, my illustrious and excellent Lords, the duties of my mission impose upon me the obligation to render some account of the island and kingdom of England, which at the present time has risen to a position of the highest rank, and by fortune and by chance presents qualities very different from any other State. I know, too, that some account is expected from me of two Sovereigns, whose kingdom is new and offers many points for consideration and comparison with the States of other Princes. I am aware that to discharge such a duty properly would require a man of other qualities of mind and other strength of body, but I could not refuse to discharge this duty without incurring grave reproach, and this necessity in which I find myself must be my excuse, while I further plead indulgence on account of a severe cold contracted on my journey and which will not leave me. In order to spare your Serenity the tedium and myself the fatigue of a long discourse I will confine myself to the most important topics.
Then follows a geographical description of England:—It is well supplied with rivers, “but above all it enjoys a very temperate climate, both heat and cold being far milder than with us. England breeds no poisonous beasts nor rears those that are imported. And so it is the common opinion of doctors that if that people could keep from drunkenness, to which they are greatly addicted, they might enjoy both long and happy life. The land is not really flat, but is broken into little hills, so low, however, that seen from a distance they cannot be distinguished from the plain. The country is most fertile to dwell in and produces abundance of all that is necessary, but comforts and luxuries are imported from abroad, though the export of commodities exceeds the importation of luxuries. The articles in which the country abounds are, as everyone knows, wool and cloth of all sorts, and so important is this branch of trade that I am credibly informed that the export exceeds five millions (fn. 2) a year in gold. Then there is tin, lead, leather, coal, meat, butter, and other grain of all sorts, which goes chiefly to Spain, especially just now that the two nations are on good terms.
It lacks especially drugs, sugar, all kinds of fruit, which come from France and Spain, wine, oil, silk, cloth of gold, woven stuffs, gall nuts for dyeing. On account of these and other important trades and because of its convenient position, the country is not only frequented by strangers from all parts of the world, but the English make voyages in their ships to those places where they think any profit is to be gained; and so this island is held to be comfortable, pleasant, and rich beyond all other islands in the world.
It is divided into two kingdoms, and England is separated from Scotland by the Cheviot hills (Chemosa) and the rivers Solway and Tweed (Solveo et Zuedo).” Molin then says that for brevity's sake he will not name the various counties nor the dioceses, but he notes that the counties have different customs and different speech, there being five or six dialects all different from each other. He then proceeds to describe London, the metropolis of England, “and rightly considered one of the chief cities of Europe for its size, its site, and its population, which in common opinion surpasses three hundred thousand souls. It is full of shops and of warehouses and of all that may serve to the comfort or the use of man. Many noble churches testify to the piety of the earlier English, but they are desecrated and abandoned, only the walls remaining, and serve now chiefly as a walk where business and other affairs are carried on, rather than for the divine service for which they were built. Then there is the Tower, a right noble pile for age, but not for strength, as it has neither bulwarks nor bastions nor other fortifications. The royal treasure, which I shall presently describe, is kept there. There is also an arsenal of arms; but its chief use is as a ward for prisoners of State. There is London Bridge of nineteen arches, spanning the river. The Bridge is covered with shops, which make it very narrow and spoil its beauty, and if two carnages meet there they can hardly pass one another. The river is the Thames, which besides its beauty is of the highest service for the large number of ships from three to four hundred tons burden, which come in upon the tide from all parts of the world, although the city lies upwards of sixty miles from the sea. Not only is the city flourishing in trade and commerce, but it is especially rich in the privileges enjoyed by its inhabitants, the merchant-burgesses and craftsmen, from among whom about twenty-five are elected, called Aldermen, who govern the City absolutely, almost as though it were an independent Republic, and neither the King nor his Ministers can interfere in any way. The other cities of the kingdom follow the example of London. I said merchant-burgesses, for the nobles, as in France and Germany, reside almost entirely in the country.
It is a common opinion that the wealth of these citizens is very great and entirely the fruit of trade and commerce, which is carried on by means of companies. At present there are two such companies, the Muscovy Company, trading to Muscovy, Poland, Russia; and the Levant Company, which includes Italy, The members of the Levant Company have often thought of dissolving the Company, as many of them are of opinion that the Turkey trade is of no profit at present; and I was asked if your Serenity would permit free export from Venice, for in that case they promised to give up the Levant trade route. Your Serenity will remember that I reported and supported this proposal, as it seemed to me to be the sole and sufficient method for stopping English privateering in our waters, which is still going on. I know for certain that many English ships sail from those ports under the name of merchants with a small amount of cargo, but their real intention is piracy. They are content to remain abroad in exile for a while, for they are quite sure that after a little, by the help of bribes, the only way in this country to overcome all difficulty, they will be able to return home and enjoy their gains. I held the proposal to be of great importance for your Serenity, who, as I was well aware, had frequently given strict orders to your representatives at Constantinople to hinder and thwart in every way, even by considerable presents, English trade in Turkey, as being very prejudicial to our city and nation, by the competition in price of goods purchased there, and also because the English now carry their own tin straight to Constantinople instead of to Venice, as formerly, whence it was taken in our ships to the Levant. But I never received any answer or instructions on the subject, and I imagined that your Serenity's wisdom had noted some objection which had escaped me. The result was that the Levant Company was re-united, confirmed, and enlarged. There was a proposal to found another Company to introduce East and West Indian goods; but as, by the terms of the treaty between England and Spain, the English are forbidden to trade to the West Indies—though this clause is differently read by the English—the whole proposal remains imperfect and inconclusive, though many private individuals do send their ships on that voyage.
In order to explain what these companies are and how they are managed, I must state that the Levant Company, and the others as well, is a close guild of men (uomini descritti) trading in the Levant, and no one who is not enrolled in the company is allowed to trade in any territory belonging to the Turk. The Company has its Directors (capi), elected by itself, and it is bound, without any support from the Crown, to maintain at its own charges the Ambassador in Constantinople and the Consuls throughout that Empire, to supply the so-called ' donatives' and to meet all necessary expenses. By royal patent the Company used to enjoy the customs on currants and sweet wines on a payment of 24,000 crowns a year, but now this privilege has been taken from it and has been given by the King to the Lord Chamberlain. His Majesty gives the Company no more than the protection of his letters; for the rest, this company and the others also, govern themselves. In this way many have acquired fortunes of one hundred, one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand crowns, some even passing four and five hundred thousand.
But leaving this point, which is generally well known and not highly important, I will, before touching on the Sovereign and his Ministers, dwell briefly on the forces of the kingdom.
In the past the power of this kingdom was divided, Scotland being united to England only in the person of the present King. All the same the difference and opposition of temperament between the Scottish and the English are considered to render the kingdom not stronger, but weaker than it was. So violent is their hatred of one another that they scheme against one another's life in all sorts of absurd ways; and many of the leading Scots would have returned home had it not been for the efforts which the King made to stay them.”
Molin then proceeds to give a sketch of English history in its relation to France. He says that for three hundred years England held Normandy, Brittany, Guienne and Gascony; and for sixteen years was absolute Sovereign of France, Henry V. being crowned in Paris in 1418. Now only the title survives. All the same, in spite of such serious losses, England remains so powerful that it would be difficult if not impossible to conquer her by force.
The navy has fallen off greatly from the days of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., when it consisted of upwards of a hundred ships fully manned and found, with officers on full pay, ready to put to sea in force at a moment's notice. Now it numbers only thirty-seven ships, many of them old and rotten, and barely fit for service. “I know not if this is the result of negligence or of a desire to save the money; any way these few vessels and those of private persons and even foreigners, which the King could use on occasion, would be sufficient not only for defence, but to a certain extent for offence as well. These ships, scattered about the kingdom, represent a fleet of upwards of two hundred sail, not counting the foreigners. Nor would it be difficult to fit them out, for England is as well supplied as any country with artillery, powder and arms, and, more important still, is full of sailors and men fit for service at sea. It is true that if England remains long at peace and does not make up her mind to keep up a larger navy and to stop the sale of ships and guns, which is already going on, she will soon be reduced to a worse condition. For the King does not keep more than three vessels armed, and that not as they used to be, and private individuals have no need to keep theirs armed for the Crown is at peace, privateering forbidden, the Indian trade half stopped; and people do not know what to do with their ships, and so take to selling them, and their crews take to other business.
As to the land forces they would be innumerable if one took into account all who are fit to bear arms in defence of the country. For one county alone of the thirty-nine, the county of York, numbers 70,000 men, of whom at least the half are capable of bearing arms. But owing to the small care, or rather absence of any care, to drill them these men would be of little service on a sudden attack; indeed they might produce more confusion than aught else, as witness the year 1588, when the Spanish armada sailed up the Channel to attack England, which threw the whole kingdom into such panic that though the Queen sent out her chief officers to muster all troops for the defence of the coast the operation could never be carried out, and the Queen herself was forced to mount her horse and take the field as an officer, to command, to encourage, or to punish those who showed themselves backward in taking arms for the defence of the country. She soon discovered how badly served she had been by her Ministers, for although herself was present there was great difficulty in putting together twenty thousand men, and those only half armed. When news came that the armada had been driven north by the storm and was all wrecked, she returned thanks to God for the protection he had bestowed upon her island and herself, confessing that had the Spaniards effected a landing her Crown was in the direst peril. After this orders were issued to arm and train the troops, and for a time that was done, but I am now informed that they are in a worse state than ever; although their natural adaptability to arms would render it an easy matter to bring them to a perfection; for, as everyone knows, there is not a nation in the world that fights with a greater disregard of death.
Their principal arm of offence is the bow and arrow; their number is incredible, as everybody is trained to use them, not only because they like to, but in virtue of an Act of Parliament, which compels each head of a house to keep a great supply, even for the children, and all the strength and the hopes of England lie in the bow and arrow. It would seem, however, that for some time past this exercise also has fallen into disuse like all the other things.
The cavalry is considered no less necessary for defence than for offence, and as far as light horse goes, would be very numerous if it were only good, for England abounds in horses; but they are weak and of little last, being fed on grass only. Heavy horses, fit for men-at-arms, are not bred in any part of the island except a few in Wales and some belonging to the royal stables. Neither the King nor the nobles take any pleasure in this breed; they are quite content with their hacks. All the heavy horses are foreign, though there is an ancient law obliging certain persons to breed them for the service of the King and country, a law but little observed.
The kingdom is strong in the defences supplied by nature. It is surrounded by the sea, and sea quite different from any other kind of sea. Nowhere else is there known such currents as flow on the coasts of England or Brittany opposite it, nor a tide that varies so remarkably, there being a difference of twelve or fifteen fathoms between high and low water. The result is that the island being a fortress in itself the Kings have never paid much attention to special fortresses, considering them either as superfluous or even dangerous, the civil wars having taught them that special fortresses give courage to those who wish to upset the established order, and that if fortresses do not exist whoever is master of the open country is master of the kingdom. And so in case of civil war fortresses are ruinous, in the case of foreign war they are useless, and reliance is placed upon the general fortress-nature of the island, upon the fleet and the vast population; and they promise themselves that in case of attack by a foreign foe, every man would rush to defend his country. Consequently there is only one fortress of any moment in England, that is Berwick on the borders of Scotland. This place the English have always held most carefully, experience having taught them that they were liable to attack by their natural and bitter enemies. Since the Union, however, Berwick has fallen into neglect. There are other forts for the protection of their harbours, but of small importance. They rely for their defence on their fleet and the arrangements they have made in case of a suspected attack.
Passing now to the question of the revenue; and first, of the Treasury, it is the common opinion that the King has not a sou, for the late Queen sank a great deal of money in her wars with Ireland and Spain, and it is a wonder that she did not leave debts rather than cash. Then the present King was obliged to spend a large amount on his succession and to make many presents, especially to those who had served him so long in Scotland, where the poverty of the kingdom had forbidden him to do so. When he came to the rich and opulent throne of England he showed the liberality of his nature. It is commonly calculated that between money, jewels and real estate he must have given away two millions, mostly to the Scottish, though some English, too, were participators. The consequence is the Crown is in debt, but not deeply. It owns jewels, plate, hangings of most beautiful quality, valued, they say, at three millions of gold.
The ordinary revenue is of two kinds; the income from Crown lands bringing one hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds sterling, which equal about five hundred thousand crowns. I must say that if the Crown would let out its land on new leases it would draw beyond a doubt three times as much, for the rents have not been raised for the last three hundred years, yet everything has gone up four or five fold. All the same the King may be said to make all he can out of it, for when he wants to reward anyone he lets out part of the Crown lands at the old rent, and the tenant then raises the rent three or four times over. In this way the King rewards his servants without putting his hand in his pocket.
The other source of revenue is the customs dues. All exports and imports pay duty, but once inside the country they circulate freely. This brings about 700,000 crowns. Then there is the revenue of the kingdom of Scotland, which may amount to 100,000 crowns. Ireland not only yields no revenue, but even causes a loss. Among the taxes is one called Wardship. It was founded by William the Conqueror, who bestowed lands on his followers on the condition that during a minority the revenues reverted to the Crown. This has always been farmed out at 80,000 crowns. Grave abuses have crept in, and the subjects cry aloud to heaven and do all they can to avoid such an inheritance, which brings a plague and ruin upon their estates. Those who farm this impost are always the great Lords, and in order to enrich themselves the more easily they have gradually introduced this usage that if a man possesses two acres in ward and one hundred free the two acres bring the hundred under the operation of the wardship, and so there is hardly an estate that is not subject to this burden. Moreover, if a father dies leaving his children minors and debts on the estate the whole income of the estate goes to the Crown and to the farmer, and not to the payment of the debts; when the children come of age they are confronted with their father's debts, which might have been paid off during their minority. There is another evil, that on the death of the father many persons apply to be appointed guardian, and if, as often happens, they are not relations, they ruin the estate of the unhappy wards. If the wards are of good estate and rich their guardians marry them to a daughter or a niece, assigning them any dower they please; should the ward refuse to marry the estate is obliged to pay the amount of the dower of the lady he has refused. Various efforts have been made to shake off this burden, but in vain; Parliament offered the King one hundred and twenty in place of the eighty thousand crowns he draws and also a donative of four hundred thousand crowns, but as the mastership of the wards is in the hands of the Earl of Salisbury, who is supreme, and as he draws a large revenue from it, the bill was rejected. In fact the ordinary revenue of the Crown does not exceed 1,300,000 crowns.
To pass to the extraordinary; it consists of subsidies which may vary in amount, but taking the practice of the late Queen they amount to about 600,000 crowns a year. This sum can only be obtained with the consent of Parliament. I must mention an expedient adopted by the late Queen and employed last year by the present King, and that is the issue of obligations under the sign manual and privy seal. On these money is raised. These loans were never paid off by the late Queen, though the King declares his intention to do so.
The ordinary expenses of the Crown amount to about a million. The King's private expenses are 500,000 crowns, a very considerable sum, in spite of the fact that the Court has the ancient privilege of purveyance and carriage, both being paid at a very low rate; what was worth ten not fetching more than two; an intolerable burden on the subjects. And if the officers contented themselves with taking only what was required for the use of the Court that might be endured, but the mischief is that if the Court requires, for example, twenty couple of cappons the officers call for a hundred, which are resold at market price, to their enormous profit; and in this way they soon grow very rich. What I say of the cappons applies to everything else.
Parliament thought to remedy this abuse by offering certain concessions to the Crown, if only they could be rid of the tyranny of the Court officials; but the interested parties have had such weight with his Majesty that he has refused any kind of compromise, to the great damage of his subjects.
Upon his fifty gentlemen pensioners, who on State occasions accompany his Majesty, he spends about forty thousand crowns; upon his salaried servants he spends one hundred thousand; on the scanty garrisons of the ports about sixty thousand. He keeps three hundred archers of the guard; a hundred of them are always in attendance. The guard and its officers cost about twenty-five thousand crowns. He usually keeps three ships in commission, and these and the salaries of the dockyard officials cost about one hundred thousand crowns. His stable and the expenses of the chase amount to sixty thousand crowns. A hundred thousand crowns go in minute expenses; the total is about a million; so that without the subsidy there would be a balance of three hundred thousand crowns, but this and the subsidy as well is consumed by the malversation of his Ministers. The King himself gives to his favourites with a lavish hand. In the revenue I have not included confiscations, which amount to a very large sum, because the King gives away all that he receives. No sooner is it known that a confiscation will take place than five-and-twenty applicants appear, and the King is very openhanded.
I must now proceed to speak of the Government. It is quite different from that of other kingdoms. It is based not on imperial or civil law, but upon municipal law, as is the case with the Serene Republic; these laws were established by William the Conqueror, and, as is natural, they are all in favour of the Crown, not of the subject. They are very intricate, full of contradictions and difficulties. Were it not tedious I could point out some. I will only say that all justice, both civil and criminal, is in the hands of special officers; but all that concerns the State is absolutely in the King's discretion; he, like his ancestors, is absolute lord and master. It is true that the Kings either for their own convenience or to enhance their dignity or for some more recondite motive, as I think is more probable, established a council consisting of the great lords of the nation and the deepest in the King's confidence. This Council follows the King about and has always board and lodging in the Royal Palace. The Council spares the King the trouble of governing, and not only do all subjects transact their business with it, but Foreign Representatives as well, and one might say it was the very ears, body, and voice of the King.
The three or four great officers of the realm, the Chancellor, the Treasurer, the Lord High Admiral, as well as the great officers of the Household are admitted to this Council, which is called royal. Its members are all either great Lords or their dependents. It is entirely subject to the royal will, for it is not to be supposed that the King would admit any to an office of such importance except great Lords and those who are in his confidence. Besides these, as the number of the Council is not fixed, his Majesty is wont to summon others without any consideration of their nobility or ecclesiastical rank, but simply because they please him and are acceptable. And one sees in England what is frequently seen in other Courts, the lesser merit winning the higher place; and this is the result of the King's will.
The Government is in the hands of the Council, who rule as the King desires; but occasion may arise where the public weal or ill is concerned, such as the introduction or the amendment of laws, supply, etc.; in such cases the King, out of modesty, is accustomed to continue the old practice and to summon Parliament in its three Estates of the Realm, the Clergy, Nobility, and Commons. It cannot be denied that originally and for many years later the authority of members was great, for each one was permitted, without fear of punishment, to speak his mind freely on all that concerned the State, even to the touching of the King's person, who, to speak the truth, was rather the head of a Republic than a Sovereign. But now that the Sovereign is absolute, matters move in a very different fashion. This absolute authority dates from the reign of Edward III. in 1327. The authority and power of Parliament was greatly curtailed, and while now possessing its ancient shape, it has lost its original independence and authority; for no act is valid unless it has received the royal assent. Parliament can pass no law, nay, may not even assemble without the royal consent. The Crown, too, by various means, secures the exclusion of those whom it does not like and the inclusion of those upon whose support it thinks it may count. The Sovereign has now reached such a pitch of formidable power that he can do what he likes, and there is no one who would dare either in Parliament or out of it, except at the grave risk of ruin, I do not say to oppose him, but even to make the smallest sign of running counter to his will.
It is true that the present King, who came to the throne as quietly as could possibly be desired, wishing to show his gratitude to his subjects, announced that he intended to leave the elections free. He thought that so gracious an act would be met with respect and reverence on the part of his people, and that they would grant him all he wanted and agree to every request he made. But he presently repented and saw that the course pursued by his predecessors was the true one. For in the Lower House were some members who, moved by public zeal or private interest or a blend of both, persistently opposed all his demands, and that so boldly that more than once his Majesty regretted having adopted a policy different from that of former Sovereigns. This was the cause of the opposition to the Union and of the difficulty in the way of subsidies. The latter he overcame, not through the goodwill of Parliament, but through their pockets; for he gave out that unless the subsidy was voted he would be unable to repay the money he had borrowed.
The owner of this most fair and noble island, which embraces England and Scotland, is James Stuard (sic) VI. of Scotland, I. of England, who came to the throne by legitimate succession and right of blood. He was never named, however, as her successor by the late Queen during her life; not that she had any objection to him as her heir, but because of that jealousy which Princes feel even towards their own children. It was only when she knew herself to be dying that she indicated rather than actually declared him as her successor. Her last moments approaching, the members of Council who were present asked her what might be her will in this matter, and she replied not to a “rogue” (rogh)—which in English means a low-born fellow—but to one who wore—and here her speech failing her she made with her hands the sign that signified a crown. Asked if she meant France she shook her head, as she did when Spain was named; when asked if she meant Scotland she assented. A few hours later she died.
She was counted the most remarkable Princess that had been seen for many centuries. In all her actions she displayed the greatest prudence, the proof of which is that for forty-three years she preserved her kingdom in peace, in spite of religious dissensions which filled it with dangerous humours. So well could she suit herself to the moment that she overcame every difficulty, and although there were some troubles in her reign they were of slight importance. With constancy and admirable magnanimity she always withstood and defeated her foes. She supported the Dutch at a time when they were not as firm and strong against Spain as they now are; for she was well aware how vital it was for her own kingdom that Spain should not be master of the Low Countries; and so with manly courage she strove and warred with them for many years. But, not to enlarge on the qualities of the late Queen, I will merely say that she was right prudent, most diligent in government, present at all negotiations, far-sighted in council, punctual in execution. She won the love of her people, who mourn her to this day; she struck awe into her foes, and in short had all the qualities that can be looked for in a great Princess. Immediately on her death the Council was summoned and many gentlemen not of the Council attended, for during an interregnum all titled persons may assist. There was a unanimous resolve to summon the King of Scotland as their lawful Sovereign, in spite of the law against aliens; but having been born in the same island they concluded not to reckon him an alien.
So then King James VI. of Scotland and I. of England is now on the throne. He was born in 1563, and will complete his forty-third year on the 19th of this month. (fn. 3) He is sufficiently tall, of a noble presence, his physical constitution robust, and he is at pains to preserve it by taking much exercise at the chase, which he passionately loves, and uses not only as a recreation, but as a medicine. For this he throws off all business, which he leaves to his Council and to his Ministers. And so one may truly say that he is Sovereign in name and in appearance rather than in substance and effect. This is the result of his deliberate choice, for he is capable of governing, being a Prince of intelligence and culture above the common, thanks to his application to and pleasure in study when he was young, though he has now abandoned that pursuit altogether. He is a Protestant, as it is called; that means a mixture of a number of religions; in doctrine he is Calvinistic, but not so in politics and in police; for Calvin denies authority not merely spiritual but temporal as well, a doctrine that will always be abhorred by every Sovereign.
That nation embraces three religions, the Roman Catholic and Apostolic, the Protestant and the Puritan. This latter, besides the ruin of souls, tends also to the ruin of principalities and monarchs, for it is entirely directed to liberty and popular government. Now, as the word liberty sounds sweet to everyone and is readily embraced, we may believe that a third of the population is Puritan, although the King and his Ministers employ every art to destroy them. But many members of the Council are themselves Puritans, and support the Puritans from interested motives, so that harshness is not employed against them, and their errors and transgressions are excused and palliated, and the sect instead of declining is on the increased The Protestant religion, which is the King's, is Calvinistic in doctrine, but very different in theory of government. It admits Bishops and high ecclesiastics, and of course the secular and royal authority. This religion embraces another third of the population it is thought. The King tries to extend this creed. His great desire is to have one religion, as there is one King. Another third or perhaps a little more maintain with the greatest constancy and singular display of virtue the Catholic religion, which, as your Excellencies are aware, began to decline in the reign of Henry VIII., when the King desired to divorce Catherine of Aragon and to marry Anne Boleyn. The King won the great Lords over to him by the grant of ecclesiastical lands, which amounted to about half the real estate in England. His Majesty caused the clergy to continue their functions in the Church; but the new Sects of the Lutherans and Calvinists were not slow to seize so excellent an opportunity for spreading. When Edward VI, a mere boy, not fit to govern, succeeded, the Mass was banished and the Catholic faith completely destroyed. On the death of Edward his sister Mary ascended the throne and set herself with all her might to restore the Catholic faith; but the seed of heresy had struck root and she encountered insuperable difficulties, and although the Catholic religion was practised throughout the kingdom that was more through fear of the laws, which were very harsh against heretics, than from any love, which is the true foundation and base of religion.
Elizabeth succeeded Mary, and at the opening of her reign she was much opposed by her Ministers, who, as I have said, were all interested in ecclesiastical property. They did all they could to gain her over, and the chief argument they used was this, that as she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, whose marriage was never recognised by Rome, it was certain that if she made submission to Rome she would at once be proclaimed a bastard and incapable of succeeding to the throne; and although the Pope might make large promises to restore religion in England, yet she might rest assured that, if not this Pope, one of his successors would on the smallest occasion raise this difficulty. This would give birth to a thousand evils, for the Popes claim power to make and unmake everything in this world as well as in the next. It was, therefore, her best policy to establish the Calvinistic creed and to declare herself head of that Church, confirming her mother's marriage and thereby her own legitimate succession. This she resolved to do; and thereupon the Pope Pius V., urged by others who were moved by worldly rather than by spiritual interests, fulminated excommunication against her, though not till some years after she had ascended the throne. Meantime, though the Catholic religion was proscribed, everyone did as he chose in his own house nor were inquiries instituted against anyone; so that except for the public exercise of religion, freedom of conscience may have been said to exist in England. Those who wished to set England in a blaze, finding that the excommunication failed in this intent, turned to other methods and persuaded the Pope to send Jesuits into that kingdom. The Pope immediately despatched many English Jesuits, for without a knowledge of the language, which is very difficult, it is impossible to make any progress; these, then, in secular garb carried on a propaganda in favour of the Holy See. They taught the doctrine, held by the Jesuits at Rome, that subjects of a heretic Sovereign are freed from the oath of allegiance, and may with a clear conscience embark on rebellion, sedition, conspiracy. This doctrine made great, way among restless spirits, and bred many conspiracies against the Queen's life. The result was a number of severe laws against the Catholics, with which I will not weary your Serenity. I will only say that a Catholic recusant is obliged to pay eighty crowns a month, if he can; if he cannot he loses two-thirds of his property; if he be poor or an artizan the officers visit his house once a month and carry off everything, even down to the bed. If a man hear Mass or harbour a priest or Jesuit, or even be seen speaking to one, he is convicted of lœsa majestas and loses life and property. A Catholic is outlawed, and if he be creditor he has no action against his debtor; if he be injured by word or deed he has no redress. The King hopes by these measures to annihilate the Catholic religion; but God, who is over all Sovereigns, has endowed the unhappy Catholics with such strength and vigour that they survive each storm and tempest. It cannot, however, be denied that the Jesuits by the inculcation of their doctrines have done much harm to the faith; for there is an infinite number who, through fear of the laws, live a life contrary to their conviction. If representations are made to the King and his Ministers on the injustice of these laws they reply that it cannot be helped, for every Catholic in the country must be reckoned a foe. Things grow worse and worse, and a recent Act of Parliament has taken from the Catholics the custody of their children. Unless the Lord God open a way it is to be feared that the Catholic faith will disappear; and the cause of all this severity is the harsh—not to use another title—doctrine of the Jesuits.
The King is a bitter enemy of our religion, not merely because he holds it to be full of abuses and corruption, but because of this said impious and unjust doctrine. He frequently speaks of it in terms of contempt. He is all the harsher because this last conspiracy against his life seems to him, as it is in fact, the most horrible and inhuman that ever was heard of. He said himself to me that the murder of a King had happened before, the extinction of a house had been dreamed of before, but the ruin of a whole kingdom along with the King and his offspring, that truly was without parallel; and yet it is understood that the Jesuits had a hand in it.
His Majesty is by nature placid, averse from cruelty, a lover of justice. He goes to chapel on Sundays and Tuesdays, the latter being observed by him in memory of his escape from a conspiracy of Scottish nobles in 1600. (fn. 4) He loves quiet and repose, has no inclination to war, nay is opposed to it, a fact that little pleases many of his subjects, though it pleases them still less that he leaves all government to his Council and will think of nothing but the chase. He does not caress the people nor make them that good cheer the late Queen did, whereby she won their loves; for the English adore their Sovereigns, and if the King passed through the same street a hundred times a day the people would still run to see him; they like their King to show pleasure at their devotion, as the late Queen knew well how to do; but this King manifests no taste for them but rather contempt and dislike. The result is he is despised and almost hated. In fact his Majesty is more inclined to live retired with eight or ten of his favourites than openly, as is the custom of the country and the desire of the people.
The Queen is very gracious, moderately good looking. She is a Lutheran. The King tried to make her a Protestant; others a Catholic; to this she was and is much inclined, hence the rumour that she is one. She likes enjoyment and is very fond of dancing and of fetes. She is intelligent and prudent; and knows the disorders of the government, in which she has no part, though many hold that as the King is most devoted to her she might play as large a rôle as she wished. But she is young and averse to trouble; she sees that those who govern desire to be left alone, and so she professes indifference. All she ever does is to beg a favour for some one. She is full of kindness for those who support her, but on the other hand she is terrible, proud, unendurable to those she dislikes.
By this marriage the King has had four children, two boys and two girls. The eldest, Henry, is about twelve years old, of a noble wit and great promise. His every action is marked by a gravity most certainly beyond his years. He studies, but not with much delight, and chiefly under his father's spur, not of his own desire, and for this he is often admonished and set down. Indeed one day the King, after giving him a lecture, said that if he did not attend more earnestly to his lessons the crown would be left to his brother, the Duke of York, who was far quicker at learning and studied more earnestly. The Prince made no reply, out of respect for his father; but when he went to his room and his tutor continued in the same vein, he said, “I know what becomes a Prince. It is not necessary for me to be a professor, but a soldier and a man of the world. If my brother is as learned as they say, we'll make him Archbishop of Canterbury.” The King took this answer in no good part; nor is he overpleased to see his son so beloved and of such promise that his subjects place all their hopes in him; and it would almost seem, to speak quite frankly, that the King was growing jealous; and so the Prince has great need of a wise counsellor to guide his steps.
The nearest relative the King has is Madame Arabella, descended from Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., which makes her cousin to the King. She is twenty-eight; not very beautiful, but highly accomplished, for besides being of most refined manners she speaks fluently Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, reads Greek and Hebrew, and is always studying. She is not very rich, for the late Queen was jealous of everyone, and especially of those who had a claim on the throne, and so she took from her the larger part of her income, and the poor lady cannot live as magnificently nor reward her attendants as liberally as she would. The King professes to love her and to hold her in high esteem. She is allowed to come to Court, and the King promised, when he ascended the throne, that he would restore her property, but he has not done so yet, saying that she shall have it all and more on her marriage, but so far the husband has not been found, and she remains without a mate and without estate.
I have remarked that his Majesty is devoted to the chase and to his pleasures, and hates all the trouble and anxiety of Government. He readily leaves all to the Council. It seems to me, therefore, desirable to say something about the Council, which numbers twenty-five persons at present, though its number is not fixed and depends on the pleasure of the King, who has the right to introduce even foreigners, though that has never taken place. There are four Scots on the Council; the rest are English. They are all great Lords, either by birth or by the favour of the King. Most of them are Earls, a title of the highest esteem in England, bear a coronet on their arms, and are served on bended knee, though as Earls they have no power to judge suits even for a penny, nor to imprison, much less to punish, but it is all smoke and vanity, of which the English race is full.
The Council usually follows the King unless he goes privately on a party of pleasure, and then it stays with the Court, ordinarily in London. Their power is great, nay excessively great; not that they have it of right, but because they have slowly usurped it. It was never greater than now, thanks to the indulgence and carelessness of the King. Though divided among themselves upon many points they are united on this, to preserve their authority, which they use not merely to aggrandize but to enrich themselves as well. The Council deals not only with affairs of State, but of finance and of justice also; there is no one who sooner or later is not forced to apply to Council, and everyone, therefore, seeks the protection of some member, and that can only be gained in England by presents and gifts. Who receives most is most esteemed. And these gifts they take not only from British subjects, but from foreigners and Envoys of Princes as well. So great is their authority that they are like so many Princes. No one else is of any account, and many ancient and noble families are downtrodden and despised; which breeds a great hatred of these Lords, who are openly styled “kinglings” and “tyrants,” for in very truth they permit themselves any action that suits their turn.
Greatest and most eminent of all is Robert, Earl of Salisbury, first Secretary of State, whose authority is so absolute that he may truly be called the Kino. About him then I must say something, so that your Excellencies may judge if that kingdom be well governed or not.
The grandfather of this person was a man of low estate. There are those living who remember seeing him a taverner. He then became groom of the wardrobe to Henry VIII. and acquired a small estate, enough to let him send his son to school at Canterbury. This lad showed extraordinary promise and, in the reign of Edward VI., he entered the service of the Duke of Northumberland, the King's tutor, in the quality of secretary, but not in capite. There he became well informed about many State secrets, and acquired a great reputation. He continued in the Duke's service till his execution under Mary. Then, seeing that the Queen could not live long and that her sister Elizabeth must succeed, he set himself to win her regard, and served her as spy and adviser. When Elizabeth came to the throne, as he had foreseen, she did not prove ungrateful; she made him first Secretary, then Treasurer. He became rich and powerful, and he and Walsingham may be said to have governed England as long as they lived. He had two sons, one the Earl of Somerset (Exeter), the other this Earl of Salisbury. His father, noting his greater ability, gradually introduced him into the management of affairs when he was about fifteen or sixteen, and so the length and excellence of his training rendered him capable of sustaining this great burden and of adding to his fame. On the death of Elizabeth it was thought that he would fall, chiefly because the new King was well aware that the father of Lord Salisbury was the prime author and adviser of the death of Queen Mary, the King's mother, and people generally held that he would take vengeance on those who had done so unjust a deed as the Queen's execution, and would reward those who had served her. But things have turned out very different, for the latter are neglected and despised, the former favoured and caressed. And so the Earl not only retained all the authority he had enjoyed under Queen Elizabeth, but gained much more. It is true that the support of George Hume has been of great service to him. Hume is now Earl of Berwick (Baruich), and is the most intimate and the most favoured of all the King's servants, though no one can say why, for he is a man of weak character in every respect, ungracious, ungrateful to his friends, incapable of winning friends, lacking in all the qualities which make a man beloved; in short, everyone wonders how he has reached such a pitch of favour with the King. Hume, grown rich by great presents, is the chief cause why Salisbury is maintained in his present place of reputation and power, which are so great that he often cancels and annuls the graces granted by the King himself, and claims that everything must pass through his hands. He is a man of about forty-eight years of age, short, crookbacked, but with a noble countenance and features. He speaks his own tongue admirably, French very well. In matters of State he is of great weight; he is astute and sagacious and a bitter persecutor of his foes, a characteristic he has proved in fact, for he has had many enemies, but all have fallen, though men of high estate, as for example the Earl of Essex, the greatest favourite the Queen ever had, and yet by his intrigues Salisbury broke his neck for him. On the other hand he is a friend to his friends, and ready to do them a service, though he is more ready for revenge than for affection. He is haughty and terrible, he uses violent language to all sorts of people, a bitter foe to the Catholics, and as long as he lives and governs there is no hope of any alleviation for them. He is closely united in affection and relationship with the house of Howard (Euard), a most ancient and noble family; there are three or four Howards in the Council, and partly by his authority and reputation, partly by these alliances, Salisbury moves and guides the Council as he likes; and with truth it may be said that he is the Prince of this kingdom. Of his wealth I will not speak, for it passes the bounds of all belief. The whole of it is in specie invested in various markets of Europe, but under various names. I am told that in Holland alone he has five hundred thousand crowns, which by itself gives him a sufficient income; and this is said to be the chief cause of his liking for the Dutch.
I will omit any mention of other members of the Council, for though they may be Salisbury's superiors in birth, they are his inferiors in weight. I will only say that his dependants are of no account.
Before proceeding to deal with the foreign relations of England, I will say a few words as to what one may conjecture to be the temper and the intentions of the King. And although this is always a difficult subject to handle, owing to the tease with which one may be deluded in matters so intimate and so liable to change with changing circumstances, nevertheless, from the actual conversations I have had with the King himself and with Salisbury, I seem to discern that the King is greatly inclined to peace and quiet, and, as we say, to “the enjoyment of the Papacy.” He does not desire war with anyone unless it is forced on him, and although he has many claims against France, whose title he still bears, and against Spain [on the subject of Cleves], etc., still they will never induce him to take up arms, as he does not think it wise to go to war over ancient pretensions. He thinks there should be a limit to claims, and when they are more than fifty years old they ought to be dropped, for if Sovereigns began to examine what provinces belonged to their ancestors two or three hundred years ago and took up arms to recover them, it is clear we should never be at peace; the Emperor, in particular, as legitimate successor of the early Emperors who, as one knows, owned half the world, would never be at rest. These and similar discourses indicate a mind made up for peace, and he in common with all the English thinks that there is no Prince so firmly established on his throne as is the King of Great Britain, especially as the Crowns of England and Scotland are now united; and they hold that they possess a world entirely to themselves and separate from the rest, and that they neither need nor fear anyone else.
To begin with, his Majesty lives in very distant relations with the Pope, whom he looks upon both as a spiritual and a temporal Prince. As a temporal Prince he holds the Pope in no regard, for he is too far off and can do little harm and little good, more especially as the Papal States are a dominion subject to variations, as his Majesty observes, owing to the continual change of Sovereigns. It is obvious that any good one Prince may do is arrested by the brevity of his reign and undone by his successor; and moreover the Popes are chiefly concerned to enrich and benefit their own families, and are therefore entirely dependent on those sovereigns who are best able to furnish fortunes to their relations.
As a spiritual Prince the King hates and abhors the Pope, calling him a monster and declaring that there exists no Sovereign and no Court so imperfect and corrupt as those of Rome. When his Majesty gets on to this topic he talks at great length and tells horrible stories that shock the ears of his hearers. He says he cannot understand how so many Sovereigns, wise as they are, not only esteem but adore such a Prince, though the wonder ceases if one considers that they do so for their own temporal ends, so that under cloak of religion they may achieve whatever seems good to them. All the same it causes him anxiety when he considers the number of Catholics in his kingdom, who either through innocence or maliciousness allow themselves to be swayed by the Pope and to plot against the king's life and for the destruction of his kingdom. This alarms him, and, therefore, increases his hatred and fury against the Catholic faith.
His relations with the Emperor are cool but not unfriendly. He has a great respect for the nobility and antiquity of the empire, and, moreover, is of opinion that were the Emperor a man of spirit he might easily unite the German and French princes into a compact body for any great enterprise. His Majesty considers this Emperor very poor-spirited, and says so quite openly. He also bears him a grudge for having refused to release a German in whose favour the King had sent a mission to the Imperial Court.
There are many reasons why the relations with the King of France should not be good. In the first place the French and English are bitter enemies, as is usual between neighbours; and although there is the sea to divide them still the ships of each enter the other's ports, and frequent conflicts arise with the officials, which, reported, if not falsely, yet with exaggeration, to the sovereign, gives rise to continual misunderstandings. The King lays claim to France though he does not insist; but this claim serves all the same to keep the nations apart. Personally the King likes the French rather than otherwise, having been born and brought up in Scotland, which, as is well known, is intimately connected with France, Scots enjoying certain privileges as native Frenchmen, and the King of France being furnished with a bodyguard of Scotchmen. I must not omit to report what a Scot of high position said to me, that if the King of England were to attack France he could not look for any sure support from Scotland. The King allows his second son, the Duke of York, to draw a stipend from France as captain of a body of Scottish lances. This post originally belonged to the eldest son of the King of Scotland, but when the two crowns were united the King thought it beneath the dignity of his eldest son to be a stipendiary of France. Accordingly after much negotiation the post was bestowed on the King's second son.
When M. de Rosny was in England to congratulate the King on his succession he did his best to unite the crowns of France and England by a treaty. The King of England but recently come to the throne, not yet alive to his true interests, and uncertain if he could conclude a peace with Spain, showed every disposition to carry out the league, and matters went so far that the terms were actually drawn up in writing; but when the Council explained to the King that this was not to his true interest he informed M. de Rosny that he must take more time for consideration before signing. The negotiations remained incomplete, although the rumour was carefully spread that the treaty was concluded, and this the French maintained with great cunning, for it not only redounded to their credit, but they held it to be an admirable weapon for preventing the peace between England and Spain, which at that time was their principal object.
His Catholic Majesty sent Don Juan de Taxis as his Ambassador to England to conclude a peace, which he eventually did. But although his Catholic Majesty had always maintained close relations with the King of England while he still lived in Scotland, yet he would not allow the English Ambassador to enter Spain until assured of the King's mind; the reason for this was that the King of Spain observed that the councillors of the late Queen were all retained in office, and as these had always supported the Spanish war he thought they might induce the King to follow the same policy. But when he was once assured that the King of England was most disposed for peace, the Ambassador was allowed to enter, and by large presents to all sorts of people he made such way that the longed-for peace was concluded, in spite of the French. The peace being concluded on the terms I reported, the Spaniards began to lay the foundations of an alliance. Besides the use of presents they also endeavoured to gain the support of the Queen, who, they thought, as a woman and much beloved by the King, would have a large voice in affairs. The task was not difficult, for the Queen was thoroughly disgusted with the French Ambassador; but the Spanish were utterly deceived, for the Queen had not the smallest weight in affairs of the government.
Another object of the Spanish was to effect the marriage of the Infanta with the Prince of Wales; but they did not desire to pledge themselves beyond a certain point. The negotiation is still on foot, but feeble. If I were to declare my opinion I should say that if England really makes an alliance with Spain the marriage will take place. But they have an idea, repeatedly impressed upon me by the Earl of Salisbury, namely, that the Crown of England is like a maiden, to whom two powerful princes are paying court; if she favours one she angers the others; her policy, therefore, is to preserve herself isolated and alone, more especially as she is in a position to do so quite easily, as she need neither fear nor want anybody; and in this way she may preserve the love of both her suitors.
I must not omit to say that the common opinion is that this peace cannot last long; this view is founded on the fact that the English, moved by hatred of Spain and their own interests, desire war, for the peace has stopped them from privateering by which they grew rich, and under the pretext of attacking enemies they plundered friends, as is only too well known to your Serenity. Moreover, the terms of the peace are frequently violated, for example, by the permission to take service with the Dutch, by the assistance rendered to them, which is in direct defiance of the clauses and by the navigation of the Indies, another manifest infraction. On the other hand the Spanish adopt a certain harshness towards the English who trade to their ports, all of which, however, is greatly exaggerated and amplified in the reports by the English officials, partly because the English are by nature proud and vainglorious and expect that everyone should not only court but, as it were, worship them (perchè essendo l'Inglese per natura superbo et glorioso crede che ogni'- uno sia obligate non solo d'accarezzarlo ma, per dir così, d'adorarlo ancora), partly from the desire which, as I have explained, they feel that the two crowns should go to war once more, as it is so profitable. Any way my opinion is that during the life of the present King, who is so desirous and anxious for peace, things will remain quiet, unless indeed the rupture come on the Spanish side, which is unlikely as long as the Dutch war lasts, for the Spanish know by experience what the union of the Dutch with the English crown means for them.
With the King of Poland and with the Muscovite, owing to their distance from England and the absence of any conflicting interests, relations are excellent. As I have said, there is a company of merchants trading to those parts and everything goes on to the satisfaction of both parties.
The King of Denmark, brother of the Queen, is naturally on very intimate terms, more especially as he is a Lutheran, and though that is not the same as the religion of England it is sufficient that it is opposed to the Catholic faith. Some slight friction arose over the Danish claim to the Orkneys, but Denmark will not press the point, being well aware that she would gain nothing and would lose the friendship of England.
With the heretic princes of Germany relations are not cordial. More than one of them has proposed to his Majesty to declare himself head of the reformed religion as they call it, and to pledge himself to an alliance offensive and defensive. But the King, who dislikes change and loves peace, has let the matter drop, a thing that a prince of greater spirit would probably not have done. If it be true that the King of Denmark is going to visit England this will perhaps be the chief cause of his journey, this and the question of the election of King of the Romans, a title to which the King of Denmark aspires.
The King speaks of the Grand Turk with disdain. He hates him and wishes that the Christian Powers, instead of fighting among themselves, would unite to drive him out. This idea is so firmly fixed in his mind that he frequently expresses it in terms of great decision, declaring that he would always take the lead if other princes would do their part. He says he keeps an ambassador at the Porte not for his own pleasure or interest but to satisfy his subjects who are merchants there, and who bear all the charges of the Embassy; he has no other share in it beyond consent.
About the Archdukes I have little to say; the same considerations apply to them as apply to the Spanish, and they are in fact one and the same thing. I must not omit to report that at my departure the King was highly displeased with the Archdukes for refusing to hand over to him the two English prisoners, against whom there was serious evidence of being accomplices in the late conspiracy, one of them [named Owen] is believed to have been the chief and author of it all (uno de' quali nominatamente (fn. 5) si credeva anco che fosse stato capo et auttore di essa). The Archdukes pleaded that this person was a servant of the Spanish Crown, and that it was necessary to approach the King of Spain first, and as he had held high posts in the Flemish wars they could not surrender him to a king who might interrogate him not only about the plot but also about Flemish affairs. The King did not admit this excuse, and many thought that the matter could not rest there as it seemed monstrous to the King that he should be refused the accomplices in so diabolical a conspiracy.
Distance and absence of conflicting interests renders the relations between Savoy and England neutral. Since his first congratulations the Duke has made no recognition of the King. I shall accordingly pass on to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. His Majesty is deeply attached to his Highness, who is a relation through the house of Lorraine. His Highness keeps a secretary at the English court, but without letters of credence, though he is recognised and honoured as a secretary. His charming manners render him highly agreeable to the King. The Grand Duke omits no opportunity of ingratiating himself, and not a year passes without the despatch of some present, such as wine, preserves, horses, bales of silk and cloth of gold. When I was in England there was some talk of a marriage between the King's son and a daughter of Savoy or of Tuscany, but all without any basis, for this I can say that when the rumour reached the Queen's ears she was very angry, and said she would sooner drown her son than marry him to a woman who was not a King's daughter. There was another and more probable rumour that the King's daughter Elizabeth might marry the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but all was talk. All I can say is that as long as the King lives he will do all he can to avoid a Catholic match. Nothing need be said about the other princes of Italy.
The King is very well disposed towards the Dutch, but not so well disposed as they would like, and as public opinion, perhaps, desires. They would have liked the King to undertake their protection openly, as did the late Queen, from whom they received support in money and all else. But since the King has made peace with the Spanish and the Archdukes he seems to have grown cold towards the Dutch; and I am well assured that there is nothing else that moves the King to a certain regard for them but religion. If that reason were removed he would certainly abandon them, for he has frequently expressed the opinion that it is impossible to wish well to rebels, and that all princes ought to hold this view in order to prevent their subjects from revolting. On this topic he expatiates when speaking of the Dutch. All the same, be it on account of religion, be it on the score of interest, his Majesty desires their preservation. The interest, or rather the debt, which they owe to the crown of England is about two millions in gold. As security he crown holds two fortresses in Zealand and garrisons them. These fortresses were consigned to the late Queen as security for four millions which she had advanced from time to time. Of this sum they have paid back two millions, and the remainder they are pledged to repay to the King in annual rates of eighty thousand crowns a year until the extinction of the debt, though as yet they have disbursed little or nothing. His Majesty does not insist, either on the score of their common religion or because in fact he thinks it the policy of his crown to support them. This conduct does not escape the complaints of the Spanish, who affirm that this is tacit succour, and a breach of the treaty of peace. His Majesty also allows his subjects to draw salaries wherever it pleases them, but while the Dutch have in their service as many English and Scottish as they wish, the Spaniards find great difficulty in raising any; for though the King consents in appearance he privately causes it to be known that his subjects should abstain and that he will never hold for good and faithful friends those who take service with princes of another creed. And so the Catholics, in order not to declare themselves, and the Protestants, through liking for the Dutch, abstain from taking service with the King of Spain. In these two ways the Dutch receive a help which is of no great moment, and would not be conceded were it not for the conformity in religion and the support of the Earl of Salisbury, as the King has no liking for them except on the grounds specified. All this is well known to the Spanish, who, seeing that they cannot succeed on these lines, have taken to another course of action, namely, to persuade his Majesty to interpose and to induce the Dutch to make peace with Spain. They have given him ample and absolute powers to propose to the Dutch any and every sort of condition, and in short, as the phrase is, he has carte blanche, and the King of Spain will accept any terms and capitulations, provided they recognise his supremacy (dandogli ampla et assoluta potestàdi proponere ad essi Olandesi ogni et qualunque sorte di condizione et come si suol dire carta bianca, contentandosi il Rè di Spagna di qualsisia accordo et capitolazione purchè sia da Olandesi conosciuto per Superiore et Principe loro). The King has been at great pains in this business, both to satisfy the Crown of Spain, which has besought him so warmly, and also to free himself from the continual difficulties which arise, owing to Dutch and Spanish ships meeting in his ports, when incidents take place that call for the interposition of the authorities, which cannot take effect without offending one or other party. But all has been in vain, for the Dutch declare themselves resolved, after spending so much blood and money, to maintain the liberty they have acquired, and they say that if the King of Spain likes to deal with them as with an independent Prince and free Republic they will treat with him and make peace on reasonable terms, but that if this point is refused they will not listen to any terms of any sort soever. And so it seems that the peace will never be effected, for it is not to be thought that the King will ever consent nor will the Dutch yield except upon extreme necessity. The Spanish urge the King to press the matter home in his own interests, for if peace is not made the Dutch will become masters of these seas, as they keep, as a rule, upwards of a hundred armed ships in commission, and although these are scattered about in various places, yet one may say with truth that they are masters of those very seas for supremacy in which the ancient Kings of England undertook long and costly wars with the most powerful Sovereigns of Europe. The King knows this, but he thinks that upon a sign from him the Dutch would surrender all they have acquired. This is true as long as they are at war with Spain, for it is not to be supposed that they could carry on war simultaneously against two of the most mighty Princes in Christendom; but if, in the course of time, which ripens all things, they were to make peace with the Crown of Spain, I am not sure that they would be so ready to yield, as the King of England promises himself; for the profession of the sea declines steadily in England, while it steadily acquires force and vigour among the Dutch. I have been told by a person who has adequate means of knowing that the Dutch have upwards of three thousand ships with tops (navi di gabbia), and more than forty thousand sailors, which seems incredible, though all who know those waters are aware that it is true.
The Spanish have tried another device, which certainly would be very prejudicial to the Dutch if it succeeded; they have told the King that it is not to the interest of himself or of his subjects to allow the herring fishery in the northern waters about Scotland to be open to the Dutch. That fishery yields upwards of two millions of gold annually, though many say more, as the herrings are taken all over Europe. This same consideration was brought to the notice of Queen Elizabeth, who though very avaricious, like most women, and sometimes in straits for money, would never meddle in the affair; for she held that any injury inflicted on the Dutch might prove an injury to herself; and up to the present it seems that the King is of the same opinion; although he listens to Spanish proposals to rent the fishings to their dependents. In short the King appears to be rather favourable than otherwise to the Dutch, but not so favourable as they say or as people think; and one may conclude that as long as the Earl of Salisbury lives their affairs will be fairly well off, but if he dies or falls they will have cause for anxiety.
Towards your Serenity the King is excellently disposed, and frequently praises your good government; he desires to gratify you on all occasions, but it is not possible to secure the full fruit one might reasonably expect, for he is wont to leave everything to his ministers, who are so guided by self-interest that unless one employs the ordinary Spanish methods one cannot secure what one desires. One may, however, be sure that the King, as far as he himself is concerned, is ready to assist the Republic with all the commodities of his kingdom, ships, artillery, saltpetre, powder, corn, men, etc. It is true, however, that should necessity compel us to employ them we must bear in mind that the English and Scottish are in great part heretics and pertinacious heretics, which is worse; moreover they are not accustomed to hardships, and they say themselves that if they miss [their three Bs], beer, the drink of the country, beef, the flesh of oxen, and bed, they are done for; and this is the reason why the English are better sailors than soldiers, for on board ship they can have all these things. And so if your Serenity should be under the necessity of employing this nation, I am of opinion that it would be far better to enlist the Irish, who are almost all Catholics, bred in the country on milk, vegetables, fruit, etc., and for this reason are looked upon as savages quite able to support all hardships without suffering.
His Majesty has always shown all due regard towards the Republic. I have had proof of this on various occasions, especially when his brother-in-law, the Duke of Holstein, tried to take precedence of me; and in the present controversy between the Ambassador of your Serenity and the Archiducal Ambassador upon the point of precedence I can affirm that when the question first arose his Majesty was much surprised at the Archiducal claim, and declared it to be baseless. Upon this point during the whole of my Embassy I have always been on the alert that your Serenity's prestige should take no harm, and I have faithfully obeyed your instructions of the 7th of June of last year.”
The Ambassador then recapitulates the arguments he used to upset the Flemish claim based on the rights of the Duchy of Burgundy. He says he especially explained the point to Sir Lewis Lewkenor—the receiver of Ambassadors—but he was entirely of the Spanish party; he produced an order of ceremonial at the obsequies of a Sovereign, in which he said it was clear that the Venetian Ambassador took a lower rank than the Ambassador of Burgundy. The Venetian Ambassador said he took his stand on the length of his undisputed tenure of rank among Crowned-heads. “I am of opinion,” he continues, “that no decision will be reached, not because the King does not understand the justice of your Serenity's case or is favourably inclined to the Archduke, but because his ministers will not allow him to make any decision. The same thing is taking place in the question between France and Spain.”
The Ambassador says that on his way to England he passed through the Grisons and Switzerland. He was honourably received and given presents of wine as usual; three or four of them always stayed to dinner. He continued his journey by the Rhine, visiting the Archbishops of Mainz and Truer, electors of the empire. He was honourably received, but on his first rival and on his demanding audience both of them pretended to be greatly surprised, and to hardly know that there was such a state as the Republic of Venice, so long was it since an envoy of the Republic had passed that way. He recommends that Venetian Ambassadors should sometimes take that route. He reports that many other German princes are in the same condition, and says that the Bishop of Cherso and Ossero, Papal Nuncio in Cologne, told him that the Elector Palatine had left some inland home of his to come down to the borders of the Rhine in the hope of seeing the Ambassador, but found him already passed by. He did not see the Elector of Cologne, who was away. He came to Amsterdam and lodged in the house of one of the principal gentlemen and was sumptuously feasted. This happened everywhere, and more especially at the Hague, where Count Maurice has his usual residence, and where the Council sits. The Council consists of nine members, one for each province. From the Hague he went to Antwerp and thence to Calais and crossed over to England.
The Ambassador praises Ser Nicolo Barbarigo, son of Ser Leonardo, one of his suite; and his brother Ambassador Duodo, etc. His secretary of Embassy was Girolamo Girardi, son of Signor Giulio, who is warmly commended to the generosity of the State, as he has only drawn [eight ducats a month] (fn. 6) during eleven years of service.
“Before leaving London his Majesty made me a present of the silver which now lies at your Serenity's feet, and which I received as a present made to you; and a few days later the Queen sent me her portrait and that of the Duke of York, enclosed in a jewel which also I lay at your feet. If it pleases your Serenity and your Excellencies to allow me to keep them, as I humbly beg, I will receive them as a sign that my labours have not been altogether distasteful, and not as payment for my extra expenses, for these I do not reckon, but only beg your Serenity to give me every opportunity to serve the Serene Republic.”


  • 1. There is another codex in the Marciana, and one at the Museo Civico which Barozzi used When publishing the “Relazioni d' Inghilterra.”
  • 2. See Appendix III. on “a million of gold.”
  • 3. June.
  • 4. The Gowrie conspiracy.
  • 5. Sie cod. mexx. “Nominato” cod. dcccciii. “Nominato Owen” cod. cic. 805.
  • 6. Cod. cic. 805.