Appendix I: Gonsalvo of Cordova Papers

Pages lxii-lxviii

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 2, 1509-1519. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1867.

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Gonsalvo of Cordova Papers

Papers Relating to Gonsalvo of Cordova, (fn. 1)

The first mention of Gonsalvo's offer to assist the Signory against the Leaguers of Cambray, is made by Francesco Cornaro, as follows:

“To the Chiefs of the Council of Ten.
“Valladolid, February 17, 1509.
” Most Excellent Lords,
“A few days ago, after the King's departure from this city for Burgos, the Great Captain sent to me one Antonio Spinola, (fn. 2) a Genoese, who was a condottiero in his service in the kingdom of Naples, in my opinion a most agreeable person; and on behalf of his Lordship he condoled with me on this league, which is said to have been formed to the detriment of the State, acquainting me that the Great Captain wanted to speak to me, and would that I should go the next morning to mass at La Merced, a church not much frequented, at the extremity of the town. My reply to Spinola purported that first of all I thanked the Great Captain, adding that 1 could not bring myself to believe that this news was either true or reasonable, as none of the Christian powers had cause to attack the State. I also said I would gladly go to the appointed spot, where on the following morning I met his Lordship, who after the usual compliments, said,—

“I will not stay long with you, to avoid rendering any one suspicious. Any message which you receive from me through Francesco [Spinola], consider as uttered with my own lips.'

Doña Maria Manrique, wife of the Great Captain. Letter from her concerning the League of Cambrai, dated Genoa, 29 January 1509.

“Subsequently, this evening, he sent Spinola to me in his name, with a newsletter, which is the copy or summary of a letter received by him [the Great Captain] from his wife, now resident at Genoa, of the following tenor:

“'The coming of the King of France into Italy is certain, and he himself has written accordingly to the governor of this city [Genoa], that he shall be in Milan at Easter, and will have an interview with the Pope and the Emperor at Bologna, and that the Queen of France is coming hither. The King has demanded of this city for the undertaking four . . . . . (fn. 3) [galleys ?], and two others at his own cost. The town in reply promised him this, and more.

” 'The war has not yet been proclaimed. According to public report it is against the Venetians, and signs of their fate begin to be visible.

” 'Throughout the duchy of Milan, the exportation of victuals and horses is prohibited; they say that the King of France is bringing a great amount of troops with him, namely, 2,500 men-at-arms, and 20,000 infantry. They say that the Duke of Guelders is captain of the infantry, and that Mons. de la Trimouille will be commander-in-chief.

” 'It is said that the Spanish fleet will come here to Genoa, and also that his Majesty will come to join these other potentates; and this is current amongst the French.

” 'It is said in many quarters that your Lordship [Gonsalvo of Cordova] will assuredly come into Italy. This your Lordship must know best; here all say for certain that your Lordship is coming with his Majesty.

” 'To-day, which is the 29th of January, another courier has arrived from the King of France, hastening greatly the . . . . . (fn. 3) [outfit of the galleys]. He chooses them to be six at least, and desires the Genoese, if they have merchandise or anything else in the Venetian territories, to get it away in time.

” 'They say that the Duke of Savoy is raising many troops, to take the kingdom of Cyprus, which belongs to him.

” 'That the King of France has written to Milan acquainting them with his coming, and with the amount of his forces, and that he means to take all the possessions of the duchy of Milan now held by the Venetians, and that the Milanese are to let him know with what amount of troops they can accommodate him. They replied that at their own cost they would recover all the towns of the duchy.

” Thus far copy of the above-mentioned newsletter. Spinola told me moreover, that by way of Flanders the Great Captain is informed that in the conference at Cambrai, the Signory's territory was partitioned, giving to the Emperor the Friuli, Treviso, Padua, and Verona, and all the rest of Lombardy to the King of France, who was to pay the Emperor 100,000 ducats on account of Brescia, about which there was a dispute between them. The Pope was to have the Romagna; the Duke of Ferrara, the Polesine, for a certain sum of money; and the Marquis of Mantua, Peschiera and other places which belonged to his ancestors, he in like manner paying for them.

Gonsalvo's offer of his own services.

” In the next place Spinola told me on behalf of his Excellency to write to the Signory that he offered himself and all his forces and influence (valor suo), to the State for whatever might occur (in omnem eventum), specifying to me the troops at his disposal in the kingdom of Naples, the fortresses adjoining the Republic's territory (in Puglia), the popularity enjoyed by him in Naples and in Spain, and the dissatisfaction caused him by the King through the injuries received in the person of his nephew, without the slightest regard for the Great Captain himself, who also resents the small reward received for his exertions in obtaining the kingdom of Naples; and, in conclusion, Spinola said that his Lordship wished for a speedy reply.

“On hearing this, I thought fit to allude to the good understanding and friendship subsisting between the State and the King of Spain, and I said I could not bring myself to believe in such great discourtesy on the part of the Christian powers as that now narrated to me, but that to oblige Don Gonsalvo, whom I thanked for his goodwill and desire to benefit your Excellencies, I would write you the whole, cautiously and speedily, as Spinola requested me to do in his own name, and that of the Great Captain.”

To this letter the Chiefs of the Ten replied on the 17th of March 1509.

To our Ambassador in Spain.
“We have been long expecting letters from you, and attribute the delay to their having miscarried, especially those sent by way of France. On the day before yesterday, we received your despatches of the 27th January and 17th February. * * *

Inter eœtera, you acquaint us by your said letters with the offer of that 'friend ' therein mentioned; and with our Council of Ten and Junta, we charge you to take an opportunity, and in the most cautious and secret manner possible, so as not to cause suspicion to the King, inform the 'friend' in our name, that it was most agreeable to us to learn the disposition of his Lordship, whom we have always loved and greatly esteemed, by reason of his rare abilities and endowments, endeavouring to convince him of our goodwill and good opinion of him. We employ these general terms, because we really cannot persuade ourselves that the proceedings of his Catholic Majesty towards us can be otherwise than loving, and in accordance with good friendship, both because his Highness has no cause to act differently, nor would it be for his interest to do so, as any mischief and detriment incurred by the State would be immediately followed by that of Spain. We therefore cannot bring ourselves to believe many things which are said and disseminated about his Majesty's hostility towards us, as they are contrary to all reason. Should you nevertheless have proof of his intention to attack us, and if he dismiss you, thus leaving no doubt of his enmity, in that case, your language to the above mentioned 'friend' will be more free and forcible (efficace); nay' you will come with him to particulars, endeavouring to ascertain his full intention in detail, and arranging with him the mode whereby the negotiation may be continued so as to bring it to a good end; but above all, we repeat that you must proceed with such caution and extreme secresy as not to produce an effect contrary to our desire and to our need.

“Ayes. 25. Noes, 2. Neutrals, 1.”

Cornaro replied to the Chiefs from Valladolid, as follows, on the 22nd of April:—

Slowness of the Signory to act.

“I answered 'the friend' in conformity with the letter of your Excellencies dated 17th of March. I met him in the church of S. Francesco. After thanking your Excellencies, his Lordship said, 'The Signory is very slow in her resolves; it might come to pass that when she wishes to act, the opportunity will he lost. When you write, say that I am the State's most affectionate servant.' “

“In the course of conversation, he said to me that the King of Spain had joined the league by force and unwillingly, but that he could not do otherwise; and that in his (the Great Captain's) opinion his Majesty would not declare against the league without some manifest gain to himself, or [advantageous] agreement, to which I did not think fit to make him any reply.”

After this Cornaro ended his correspondence with the Chiefs of the Ten concerning Gonsalvo of Cordova, by a letter of the following tenor, dated Valladolid, the 1st of May 1509:—

“After my dismissal by the King, as mentioned in the public letter, in execution of the commands contained in your Excellencies' missive of the 17th March, I had it intimated to 'the friend' that, should he not have changed his mind, I was charged to let him know something more than I bad told him on former occasions concerning the will of your Excellencies, and to learn his intention.

“He therefore took an opportunity this morning, and had a long conversation with me at San Francesco, in a remote place, and having heard that your Excellencies were willing to continue the negotiation, he said to me:—

” 'I give you notice that I have always been the Signory's affectionate servant, and have been very ill recompensed by his Majesty here, for after doing for his Highness what is known to the whole world, I have not been rewarded; nor has he kept any of the promises made me. Nay, without any regard for me, he has acted against my kindred [the Marquis of Priego] in the form with which you are well acquainted. Should life be spared me, what remains of it shall be passed in the service of the Signory, because I know how grateful she is to her good servants. If the Signory chooses to accept me, I offer her good faith, and to place in her hands all my fortresses and places in the kingdom of Naples; namely, in Calabria, Gerace, and Rocca-forte on the coast to the eastward; the towns of S. Georgio and Gioia with their castles, on the western coast. In the 'Terra del Lavoro' the following towns and castles: Pietra Molina, a strong town; Castel Tiano, a large town; Carinola, a city and strong castle; the town of Francolino, a strong place , Pietra Molina (sic), a town with a castle; Verstano and Martinello Calvario, Gaianello. In the valley 'de' Fiumari Monte Fossetolo, a large town; Vico, a town with a very strong castle, and other walled towns, but of no great strength. In the county of Molise: La Cività (the largest town), La Dragonara, Castel-rotto, Luceto, Cartapelagio, Mozzone. In Puglia: Venosa, Andrea, Bitonto, the Castle of Monte S. Angelo, Verte (sic), and S. Giovanni.

” 'I assure you, moreover, that all the Spaniards in Italy will follow me, in number upwards of 300 men-at-arms and 400 light horse, besides much infantry; and, in addition to the Spaniards, I have so many partisans in the kingdom of Naples, that for love of me they would in a few days revolutionize the whole country. It is true that, as the Signory has a commander-in-chief, I do not know how she could engage me, but she must divide her forces; if she sends me into the kingdom of Naples I will do as aforesaid. Should the war be kindled in France, I have adherents there likewise, and could embroil matters; and if employed to harass the Papal States, I will also do the like. Even should it be necessary for me to join your commander-in-chief, I will do everything to serve the State.

“I thanked his Excellency greatly for his goodwill and excellent offers, and said I would acquaint your Serenity with the whole, but that as it behoved me to quit Spain, it would be requisite to make some good arrangement for continuing and conducting the negotiation; and that I thought it would be well for him to have some one at Venice, or to send some one thither with a power, that it might take effect.

“His Excellency replied, that it did not appear to him consistent with his dignity to send any one to Venice to negotiate this matter; and that, secondly, no person of note could pass; whilst, on the other hand, to send an unknown individual post to treat on such a business would be insufficient and insecure; but that in Rome he had his brother, the Bishop of Gaeta, to whom he would send his power, and with whom, through the Signory's ambassador, or through any other person that might be thoughtfit, your Excellencies could treat, or even, if you pleased, with his wife at Genoa. Perceiving this to be his will, I said there would be no means of treating at Genoa, but that, provided the Signory's ambassador had not been dismissed from thence likewise, the matter might be very well negotiated at Rome. His Lordship rejoined, that even in the event of the ambassador's departure, the State could employ the father of the Cardinal Grimani, or the Cardinal -, or some other person; adding, 'I give you notice that I have the means of quitting Spain in safety, and have ships and companions, and everything necessary. Would that the Signory had contrived to embroil the King of Spain with France, by promising him the [Venetian] towns in Puglia, as perhaps from cupidity he would have made the bargain, and then have stood so much in need of the Signory, as to give her back the towns, with others; and thus she would have ridded herself of this war. And you must know that this King trembles at France, and knows not how to be otherwise than obedient, because he is afraid to resist; and should France and the Emperor not turn round and expel him—the one from Castile and the other from Aragon—yet does he know for certain that his kingdom of Naples is lost, unless the Signory prevail against France. For this reason he delayed sending you away until compelled by France, who sent to tell him three things:—one, that he was not to send me into Italy; the other, that he was to allow the Florentines to have Pisa, for the sake of rendering them the allies of France; thirdly, that he was to attack you in the kingdom of Naples, as he certainly will do; and before you get to Naples (by which way I recommend you to go to Venice) you will hear this; and don't listen to his fair words, for he never kept faith or promise or his word, save so far as they prove beneficial to him.'

After perusing this correspondence it is difficult to refuse credit to Henry VIII., when at a later period he accused the Great Captain of wavering in his allegiance to his Sovereign. In the autumn of 1515 the Spanish ambassador in London reports that the King said to him,—

” I well believe that the King my father in-law has some ground for distrusting the 'Great Captain,' as I know that he held a negotiation both with the late King of France [Lewis XII.], and with the present King [Francis I.]. If I were in my father's place, I would sift the matter to the bottom, and, if it were proved against the Great Captain, I would punish him for it, and if it were not proved I would make use of his services. I must further tell you, that the Great Captain once made an offer of his services to me, sending one of his own followers to Tournai, where I then was, for the purpose, but although I was at that time not on the best terms with King Ferdinand, I did not choose to give him encouragement.” (fn. 4)


  • 1. See p. lvi.
  • 2. Query, ancestor of Ambrose Spinola, who was thus, by descent, a soldier of a good school, and destined to serve Spain.
  • 3. Blank in MS.
  • 4. See Prescott's “Ferdinand and Isabella,” vol. ii. p. 368, note. (Ed. London, 1834.)