Venice: September 1609, 11-20

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 11, 1607-1610. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1904.

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'Venice: September 1609, 11-20', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 11, 1607-1610, (London, 1904) pp. 337-347. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

September 1609, 11–20

Sept. 11. Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni, Roma. Venetian Archives. 617. After the resolution in the Senate, dated yesterday, had been read to the English Ambassador, he said that he understood what had been read, but before replying he asked whether this had been voted in the Senate. On being told that this was the resolution of the Senate, the Ambassador replied in the following terms.
“I see that the most excellent Senate has taken hold, but in a wrong sense, of the remark I made when presenting the book, the remark that his Majesty had no intention to impugn the faith of any Prince nor to sow the seed of new doctrine in their States, but only to confirm his subjects in their allegiance. For this the book has been prohibited. The meaning of my words is this, that as his Majesty was forced by his enemies to alter the original scope of his book, he found himself obliged to rehearse his creed, but has impugned no one who reads his book. He did not discuss dogma but merely stated his own belief, leaving each to the belief that seemed best to him. Before presenting the book I remarked that his Majesty had acted like a prudent Prince, and that he presented the book as a pledge of affection. But the prohibition of the book is a breach of this affection, which is quite incompatible with the prohibition. I know that copies of “Tortus'” book—written by Bellarmin under the name of “Tortus”—have reached Venice, have been received at the bookshops and are freely read though, they attack my Master, nor are they prohibited, yet his Majesty's book, written in his own defence against this attack, is prohibited. I also know that this Inquisitor or his successor gave, in exchange for other books, a book called “La Strega del Pico;” a few passages were cancelled and then it was handed to the booksellers for sale, and yet in that book there are passages contrary to morals and instructions for practising witchcraft. The Inquisitor, notwithstanding the fact that his Majesty's other book—the Basilikondoron, addressed to his son, was prohibited—has allowed the libraries to sell it. If the author of this book were an ordinary person it might be possible to treat him in an ordinary way, but being a Prince and a great Sovereign, and seeing that he has written with moderation, not with a view to introducing a new religion—for it is one thing to simply rehearse one's creed and another to discuss it,—seeing, too, that I said all this before presenting the book—in vague words if you like—on all these grounds the matter should have been left in the same ambiguity, and the book having been presented as a pledge of friendship should not have been excluded after it had been received, for the exclusion of the book means the exclusion of the author, and I must repeat that in my opinion the exclusion of the book is not compatible with friendship. The servant should be very jealous for the honour of his Master, and I, as representing his Majesty, must inform your Excellencies, by your leave and with all due respect, that, not on instructions from home but in the discharge of my conscience, I must be no longer recognized by your Excellencies as a fully-accredited person, as heretofore, for it is no longer seemly that I should appear as such, but from this time forward as a private person until I receive his Majesty's instructions. It is not permissible for me to judge what may be his Majesty's resolve. Until I receive his orders I will reside here as a private individual if it so please your Excellencies, not as his Majesty's minister.
Kings and Princes command and order as they please; it may be that my Master will abandon his personal reputation, I cannot say. Friendship and this prohibition are incompatible. They might have been compatible had the book not been accepted; other Princes have rejected the book, nevertheless my master has not taken offence; but to receive the book and then to exclude it, this I say is an impossible situation. It was presented as a pledge of friendship; if this friendship ceases to exist my qualification also ceases until such time as it may please his Majesty to requalify me. I have never failed to serve this State and to exert my poor talent in fostering this friendship, in short I have done all I knew. It grieves me to find that I have not succeeded.”
Councillor Renier replied, that the ability and value of his Lordship were well known and they trusted he would put this matter before his Majesty in the proper light. His Majesty may rest assured that all that has taken place is due solely to considerations of religion, and that the Republic desired to continue in friendly relations. The Savii would add whatever more was necessary to say.
The Ambassador rejoined that his Majesty had been forced by his adversaries to change the scope of his book. He stated his beliefs; he did not argue on dogma, nor did he demand a creed contrary to conviction. He had no wish to change the religion of the States. “But there is another point of great importance; it seems strange to me and will seem strange to his Majesty that, without having read and considered the book in the Senate, they should have resolved to destroy it. How can you know that there are in it dogmas hostile to religion? You could not have known before the book was presented, nor after, unless it was read. To condemn the book unread, that was a serious step. It should be read and it would prove something quite different. Of course if you rely on the opinion of our adversaries every one knows that the book would be excluded. I speak of this rupture of a friendship well advanced, with pain; if it be not rupture still it will be merely a loose friendship such as existed under Queen Elizabeth. Anyhow the preservation, grandeur, power and forces of the Serene Republic do not depend upon England, nor on anyone but God alone. Further I must say that if there is a power that has little need of alliances it is England, which has no interest in the Province of Italy. As far as I am concerned I will not represent the affair to my Master with any exaggeration, it is, indeed, so crude that it requires no emphasis. Stated in its nudity it will stand out clear enough. I must repeat what I said; Your Excellencies are not to reckon me as an accredited Envoy but as a poor gentleman, until his Majesty's pleasure be known.”
Signor Ottaviano Bon, Savio of the week, remarked that the resolution of the Senate had two objects; “one to preserve the religion of the State, the other to preserve his Majesty's friendship. If the Senate did not read the book it acted on the strength of Your Excellency's statement, when presenting it, that it contained dogmas contrary to our religion. As to the books which you say have come from Rome, in which his Majesty is attacked, this Government has no information thereon. If they had you may be sure they would have taken the steps they took in reference to the famous libel.” (Pruritanus.)
The Ambassador repeated his argument and again asked why the book had not been read.
Nicolo Sagredo replied that, “here one must draw a distinction; the book was received as a most precious gift, and preserved as such. The Doge is at liberty to read it when he likes. The book is therefore in the precise position it was in when presented. As to the copies which might get into circulation and introduce some germs of infection, the Inquisitor had given orders that the book should not be seen.
In this way his Majesty's honour and the requirements of the State have been reconciled. We trust his Majesty will accept this explanation kindly, especially if it is put before him with your Lordship's wonted prudence and kindliness.” The Ambassador rejoined, “By your good leave I will answer. I do not question the good-will and affection of the Republic towards my King; but when I look at the outward effect, pardon me, I see the very reverse. This book is to be read either by the learned or by the mob. If by the learned there is the Papal prohibition which has been forwarded to me from France and which, I am aware, has been forwarded to all Sovereigns, among them to this Republic; in this memorandum the points alleged to contravene dogma are set out. Now the nobles, the educated, warned by this memorandum cannot receive infection; the mob on the other hand, will not read the book for it is written in Latin, and the Curia Romana has forbidden the translation of the work so as to prevent the mob from understanding it.” The Ambassador repeated his statements about the intention of the passages; and added that he has always used his good offices where possible, but in this case, upon his conscience, it was impossible.
As to what had happened in London he had, on his Master's orders, made a simple statement; he had not asked the Senate what was to be done with the priest and the porter. This step was taken in order to prevent reports about the Venetian Ambassador from being spread in abroad. The Ambassador throughout this affair has shown the utmost rectitude. He had made no request that the priest should be consigned to his Majesty; he had no orders to do so. His Majesty could have the priest when he liked, for it was a case of læsa Majestas in the first degree, and his Majesty could send to arrest the culprit wherever he might be. All Sovereigns had this right, and the Republic herself had used it when she trained a gun from the Arsenal on the French Embassy, in order to arrest some rebels. That was as it should be. Rebels ought not to be safe anywhere. His Majesty has handled this affair with the greatest delicacy and regard to save the honour of the Ambassador.
He added that he had other letters from his Majesty to the Republic but he would not present them until further instructions as to how he was to proceed in the present circumstances. “Meantime,” he added, “by your Excellencies' leave I will retire to my Villa, and should your Excellencies give me any commands I will not fail to execute them in my private capacity as I am in duty bound and will ever act;” with that he took his leave.
Sept. 11. Minutes of the Senate. Rome. Venetian Archives. 618. To the Ambassador in England.
In addition to our despatch of yesterday we have resolved to send you these further orders by courier express, so that you may be immediately informed of the representations made in the Cabinet to-day by the English Ambassador, in reply to what was read to him on the subject of the “Apologia.” On this topic, under violent excitement, the Ambassador allowed himself the expressions you will see from the enclosed. These were both unwonted and disturbing to us, but it seems, and he himself says so, that he spoke on his own impulse only, and we therefore consider it highly important that his Majesty should be informed before the Ambassador's report reaches him. We, therefore, along with the Senate, order you to seek audience instantly and to tell his Majesty how deeply we feel the representations his Ambassador has made to us. We cannot help feeling so when we see the friendship and love of his Majesty placed in doubt, as the Ambassador has done in terms that are as little merited by us as, we are sure, they will be little pleasing to the King, without whose knowledge or assent the Ambassador has allowed himself to be swept away to remarks so offensive. We are convinced his Majesty will be angry, especially when he considers that all that has taken place has been done out of our duty to our Religion and that respect which every prudent Sovereign must have for its preservation in the interests of the State. In our procedure we have used every possible regard. You will use every argument to convince him that we received the book in the spirit in which it was presented to us in his Majesty's name by his Ambassador, that is as a present and a pledge of regard, not that it might be seen and read by the populace. You will conform your observations to the actual phrases employed by the Ambassador when presenting the book.
As to the remark of the Ambassador that he intended no longer to consider himself as an Envoy but as a private person until further orders from his Majesty, you will enlarge on this as far as you think good, and will impress upon his Majesty our certainty that this statement of his Ambassador, seeing that it is not the result of either the intention or the orders of his Majesty, will not be approved by him, but that he will insist on the Ambassador continuing to discharge his duties in a manner becoming the unalterable affection we bear to his Majesty.Φ
If when you receive this despatch, his Majesty is absent from the City, we instruct you, for the due execution of the above orders, to seek him out wherever he may be; nor after seeing the King, will you omit to speak to the Earl of Salisbury, in such terms as you may think fit in order to secure his support. You will see that the Ambassador informs us that the Flemish priest and the porter are under custody in your house, held at the King's disposition; although we gather that your intention is not quite the same in this respect, we think that for every consideration you should get quit of them as soon as possible, and we charge you to beg his Majesty to give such instructions regarding them as he may think fit. For the rest you will carry out our instructions of yesterday and report at once by the same courier.
Ayes 23.
Noes 1. See amendment at the sign. Φ
Neutrals 3.
Amendment, that after the sign Φ be added “and as will be more fully set forth by an Ambassador especially sent by us, who has been already elected and will be sent to his Majesty as soon as possible.”
Further that an honourable Noble be elected as Ambassador to England. He may be taken from any post, Council, College, Government or Office even if permanent. He may not refuse under pain of all the penalties decreed for those who decline Embassy to Crowned heads. He is to leave within eight days with such instructions as shall seem right to this Assembly. He will receive five hundred golden ducats a month, for which he need render no account. For horses, wraps and trunks three hundred ducats of lire six soldi four, nor for this need he render account. For extra expenses another three hundred ducats for which he must account. His secretary shall receive a hundred ducats as a donation, and the two couriers who go with the Embassy forty ducats a-piece.
Ayes 146.
Sept. 12. Senato, Secreta. Despatches from Florence. Venetian Archives. 619. Giacomo Vendramin, Venetian Resident in Florence, to the Doge and Senate.
The Englishman (Sherley) has not left yet, and I am told he will not get complete satisfaction of his request for money, but only one thousand crowns' worth between chain and robes. The whole Court wishes him away.
Florence, 12th September, 1609.
Sept. 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 620. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Persian Ambassador has had audience and assured the Pope that his Master intended to continue the war with the Turk and begged his Holiness to urge Christian Princes to make common cause with him.
Rome, 12th September, 1609.
Sept. 12. Collegio, Notatorio. Venetian Archives. 621. The Riformatori of the Studio di Padova, by authority of the Senate, order the Prior and Gastaldo of the Guild of Booksellers in this city, under pain of banishment, the galleys or other penalties as may seem to them fit, to see that no member of the trade receives, sell or circulates either by himself or by others, the libel on the King of England entitled “Pruritanus.”
Piero Duodo.
Andrea Morosini.
Sept. 12. Collegio, Lettere Venetian Archives. 622. To the Rectors of Padua.
We the Riformatori of the Studio di Padova hold commission from the Senate to issue express orders that no bookseller, under pain of banishment, the galleys and other penalties as may seem good to us, shall receive, sell or circulate neither by himself nor through others, the libel on the King of England called “Pruritanus.” We require your Illustrious Lordships to summon the leading members of the trade and to communicate these orders.
The same to Treviso, Vicenza, Verona, Brescia, Bergamo, Crema, Rovigo, Udine, Feltre, Cividal di Belluno, Cividal di Friuli, Bassano, Conegliano, Salò, Chioggia, Capo d' Istria, Zara.
In virtue of the resolution of the Senate, 10th Sept., 1609.
Sept. 15. Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni Roma. Venetian Archives. The Savii report to the Cabinet that, in spite of what he has said at his last audience, the English Ambassador sought audience for this morning.
After some debate it was agreed that the Ambassador had probably perceived that he had gone too far; that he should now be received and that the Doge should, if possible, be present and give as gentle an answer as the occasion called for.
Sept. 15. Collegio, Secreta. Lettere. Venetian Archives. 623. To the Ambassador in Germany.
Giving an account of the violent and unexpected representations made by the English Ambassador which have led us to elect Francesco Contarini to proceed on a special mission to the King. We forward copies for your information.
The same to the Ambassadors in France, Spain, Savoy, and to the Residents in Florence, Milan and Naples.
In virtue of the resolution of Sept. 12, 1609.
Sept. 15. Senato Secreta. Despatches from Milan. Venetian Archives. 624. Francesco Marchesini, Venetian Resident in Milan, to the Doge and Senate.
Marchesini presented a memorandum to the Count of Fuentes in favour of Gradenigo who is in prison at Milan on the orders of Sherley, the Persian Ambassador.
Milan, 15th Sept., 1609.
Sept. 15. Collegio, Secreta. Esposizioni Roma. Venetian Archives. 625. The English Ambassador came to the Cabinet this morning and seated in the usual seat of the Ambassadors close to the Doge he congratulated his Serenity on the recovery of his health. The Doge replied and expressed satisfaction that the Ambassador had come to see him the very first day he had left the house.
The Ambassador then said that in these days some troublesome points had arisen but he hoped all would end well. He went on, “Most Serene Prince and Illustrious Lords, Although I was forced in discharge of my office to close my last audience with remarks excessively sharp (assai garbo) and disagreeable, yet now that rumour informs me that an Ambassador-Extraordinary, a gentleman of the highest rank, has been elected to go on a mission to my King, I recognise the good-will of the Republic. Enough; this election restores my honour, gives me occasion to resume the habit I had laid aside and allows me to return to the position of Envoy. Verily by this election, made motu proprio, my Master's prestige has been restored and everything replaced as it was. I have now come to return thanks and to assure your Serenity that I will represent all that has happened without passion. That you may see that I have not been precipitate, I must tell you that I have sent home no report as yet except that the Papal officials desire to prohibit the book. That is all I have said; and I admit that during these last few days I have been in very great anxiety between two desires, one my duty to the Republic, from whom I have received favours, the other my duty to my Sovereign. Between these two rocks I was in a most difficult plight. I am now greatly relieved, for the matter is now referred to his Majesty, who may possibly be less scrupulous on the subject than I, his servant, could be. As to the person of the gentleman who is going as Ambassador I have little weight and few friends at Court or out of it, little credit with his Majesty if it be not the credit of an honest man which I believe he entertains of me, but I will do all I can, and will use both hands to secure that the Ambassador be received with every mark of honour that can be desired, and that there shall be no reason to regret the steps taken, though I am sure that without any representations from me every Ambassador of the Republic would be received and treated by his Majesty with the honour that befits his regard for the Signory.”
The Doge replied that the reason for electing an Ambassador was to honour his Majesty and demonstrate to the world the love which the Republic bears to him. “We never dreamed that we should come to this, that that friendship should be called in question. This episode may give occasion to the world to say that this friendship is relaxed, whereas everything should be done to confirm it; but such accidents should never have the power to disturb our good understanding. We are greatly pleased that your Lordship has resumed the garb of Envoy and will continue to deal with us as heretofore. We are very glad to see you on account of your virtue and prudence. This is what we have to say to you. These gentlemen who have heard your observations will take them into consideration and if there is anything to be said will inform you.”
The Ambassador said “I implore your Serenity to allow me to touch on the points you have so prudently raised and to explain what happened in this troublesome business. I made three representations: the first was reserved; I begged that the prestige of my Master be not allowed to suffer, for I saw great luke-warmness and my Master's present, given as a pledge of affection, prohibited. At the expiry of twelve days I had received no answer and I returned again and, pressing the point home, I said that who rejects the present rejects the friendship; that I could not fail to be jealous for the honour of my King; nor could I suspend action till I knew his Majesty's will, for the affair was now public property. His Majesty's prestige was too deeply involved; they talked of it in the streets; the Envoys of other Sovereigns, more than one, more than two, came to my house to ask what the prohibition of such a book meant. I could not hide it. I took that step. I wish to assure your Serenity that we never expected the Pope or his Ministers to prohibit the book, for it was written in Latin; he does not prohibit Latin sacred writings. The Pope neither made nor sent to make request to this Serene Republic to prohibit the book. This prohibition was the work of the Jesuits in order to disturb the good relations between the two States. I know it was hatched at Rome and is the pride of the Jesuits. One knows how they boast about their affairs, and this they have done in order to say that they have obtained the prohibition from the Senate. In view of such considerations I could not do less than I did; and I received an answer from the Senate quite contrary to my expectations. I was therefore obliged to renounce my position as Envoy—my conscience would not allow me to act otherwise when the honour of my Sovereign was at stake—and to await his orders. May be I appeared too jealous, but in my view servants ought to be much more sensitive than their Masters where their Masters' honour is concerned. I will repeat what I said on that occasion.” He did so. He attributed the episode of the books found at the Venetian Embassy in London to the Jesuits. Declared that he never expected such difficulties to spring up between Princes so closely and so publicly allied; but would not lose hope for the conservation of the amity.
The Doge replied that the undoubted object of the Embassy-Extraordinary was to honour his Majesty. That owing to his own serious illness he had not been aware, till after, of what had taken place. The Cabinet, so as not to add to his indisposition, had not informed him. Had he been present he would not have accepted the Ambassador's renunciation of his office, especially as that renunciation was his own individual act and not the King's orders. The Ambassador had come to Venice with credentials addressed to the Doge as head of the Republic, and it was only right that the Doge's consent to renunciation should be obtained. But the Doge would never have granted his consent until orders arrived from the King. He would have continued to recognise the Ambassador as still accredited. “In sooth, my Lord Ambassador, there was another course open; when you had received the Senate's answer you could have communicated it in the usual way to the King and awaited his reply. We had already instructed our Ambassador to inform the King and to justify the Senate and the reasons which governed its action with a view to avoiding scandals. On this we will not enter now; but we trust that his Majesty, who is so full of prudence and wisdom, would have been satisfied with what, may be, was displeasing to your Lordship. We repeat that this tangle of affairs must be handled more than once in order to find out the way to disentangle it. In short, my Lord Ambassador, there neither has been nor is the smallest intention to prejudice the King's prestige, of that you may be sure. We exhort you to represent the matter to the King as a prudent Envoy should. We will endeavour to hit upon some satisfaction. These gentlemen will report your remarks to the Senate, and if necessary will make what reply seems fit.”
The Ambassador said “I beg your Serenity to allow me to reply to the point which seems to accuse me for not acting in a different and more proper way, by delaying and awaiting his Majesty's orders. I say that if I am blamed for this the Senate also might have said that the prohibition came from Rome and could not be avoided by them. The King, seeing the necessity of the case, would have agreed, and all would have been accommodated. I will say something further by way of preparation, let the Ambassador-elect be prepared to answer one question from his Majesty. I hear that in the Senate there is an opinion that the King of Great Britain's Ambassador has come here to separate the Republic from the Faith. Nothing could be falser, more baseless, nor do I believe that during the five years of my residence here could a single action of mine be discovered that could have caused a shadow of a suspicion that such was my intent. On this point I appeal to the final judgement of your Serenity and your Excellencies, and although it is the wish and desire of every Christian to see all others of his way of believing, still, what the Devil, pardon me, does it matter to my King that some draw to the Papal rather than to his side. Clouds come and clouds go. I trust that the amity between the two powers will endure to the end of the world.”
The Doge replied that any discussion of what the Senate has passed would be an offence to that body. There is no reason for surprise at delay, the body is a large one; absence and indisposition of members may easily retard business. As to religion his Majesty is wise and prudent, and if he desires to continue in his own faith he will not complain if the Republic desires to abide in the faith in which she was born; “may be some day, when it pleases God, we may be more one in faith to His greater glory.” The Doge again exhorts the Ambassador to discharge his duties with his wonted dexterity. It is well to let the clouds roll by, for thus are they dissolved; if they are gathered together then comes rain and other ills. The Ambassador replied in a low voice that he would not fail to do what was right and took his leave and left.
Sept. 16. Collegio, Lettere. Venetian Archives. 626. To the Ambassador in England.
The petition presented by the faithful Zorzi Silvestri, merchant in this city, as appears from the memorial he has submitted, is so just and reasonable, and his interests are so important as regards the debt of ten thousand ducats due to him from Edward Facner, Englishman, that, although well assured of your continuous attention to the protection of our subjects and their affairs, we now particularly recommend to you the protection of the said Silvestri and the recovery of his debt.
Ayes 21.
Noes 1.
Neutrals 0.
Covered by preceding document. 627. Most Serene Prince,
Zorzi Silvestri, Venetian merchant, is creditor of Edward Facner, an Englishman, for the sum of ten thousand ducats, begs for a letter of recommendation to the Ambassador in England, where he is obliged to go.
Sept. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 628. Girolamo Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Luis Fasciardo is cruising off the African coast with twelve galleons and chasing the buccaneers. Simon Danziker withdrew into Algiers. Don Luis learned that in Goletta there was lying the French privateer Duarte. (fn. 1) Under cover of night he sent in all the ships' boats, with artificial fire, and burned them all in less than four hours without suffering any loss himself. But what robs this news of its full satisfactoriness is the fact that some French merchant ships were also burned. It is thought that this will be resented in France, where they will hold this for reprisals for the affair of the Aragon frontier.
Madrid, 16th September, 1609.
[Italian; the part in italics deciphered.]
Sept. 17. Despatches from Zante. Venetian Archives. 629. Michiel Priuli, Governor in Zante, to the Doge and Senate.
I enclose the evidence on the capture of the ship “Pasqualiga” and another.
Zante, 17th September, 1609.
Enclosed in preceding despatch. 630. Nicolo Stanello da Prevesa, arrived to-day from Tripoli, deposed that at Tripoli he heard for certain from eyewitnesses that about two months ago about fifteen bertons, partly French and partly English, entered the port of Tunis and burned seven bertons belonging to Captain Ward, one fusta and one saettia from Zante whose master was Georgio Vlacho. The saettia had a cargo of wine. He did not know what route these bertons had taken nor did he know who was in command.
Sept. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 631. Simon Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Constantinople, to the Doge and Senate.
News from Algiers that Slanà, an English pirate, who made prisoner the son of the Marquis of Vigliena, has fitted all the ships he captured and is going to take the sea again.
Dalle Vigne di Pera, 19th September, 1609.
[Italian; deciphered.]
Sept. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 632. Giovanni Mocenigo, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The Pope said he had heard about the despatch of an Ambassador-Extraordinary to England. He showed himself very well informed of all that had occurred, and said it proved the patience and the prudence of the Cabinet to have endured the conduct of the English Ambassador, whom he knew to be extremely fiery and bold as are all the Ultramontanes. The Venetian Ambassador explained that the cause of the whole affair was the refusal to allow the King's book to be seen or read. The Pope praised the action of the Republic.
Rome, 19th September, 1609.


  • 1. This is probably Ward, the English pirate.