Venice: December 1639

Pages 597-606

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 24, 1636-1639. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1923.

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December 1639

Dec. 2.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
738. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassador Aerssens had his first public audience of their Majesties on Sunday, with all the usual ceremonial. After compliments and an expression of the desire of his masters to maintain the old standing correspondence with this crown, he went on to defend the attack on the Spanish fleet not forgetting to intimate that this success had destroyed the ambitious designs of the Catholic and would prove equally advantageous to his Majesty. At a private audience he gave further particulars justifying the spirited action of his masters, and proposed measures calculated to solidify the beneficial relations between the two states. The king answered briefly and with generalities. The ambassador behaved with studied modesty, speaking uncovered for the most part, which is not customary on such occasions. He asked for another audience of the king, which they have so far delayed under specious pretexts, in order to render the king's sentiments more public and make the most of the respect indicated by this mission. This is the sole object of the indignation shown against the Dutch by his Majesty and the most influential ministers. For the rest they are of one mind in the wise intention not to break the ancient union with the Provinces, the trade with whom is what nowadays increases most the wealth of this mart and of the whole kingdom also. Meanwhile, in order to prevent an easy success for the Dutch, the Spaniards repeat their assurances that an ambassador extraordinary will very shortly arrive from that crown with proposals that will lead towards the conclusion of the marriage, zealously manipulated by the Duchess of Chevreuse, between the princess here and their prince. But these reports are hardly enough to make an impression upon the ministry here, as they obtain little or no credit.
The son of the Secretary Wilbanch is selected to go to the Most Christian in the capacity of a simple gentleman, to obtain the release of the Prince Palatine. (fn. 1) He will start as soon as his instructions are ready. From what I can see they will be all for mildness and peace. A courier set off yesterday to take the news of this choice to the Earl of Leicester, whose offices on this affair have not given complete satisfaction here. The report is revived that if Wilbanch does not succeed in inducing France to release the prince, if they want some one of higher rank, his Majesty will send the Earl of Holland, whose consideration ranks highest at Court.
Meanwhile the Ambassador Bellievre has made intimations calculated to mollify the king, assuring him positively, in the name of Cardinal Richelieu, that this incident will in the end redound to the Palatine's great advantage and complete satisfaction to his Majesty. In order possibly to evade troublesome obligations by prudent dissimulation, the king now declares freely that he had nothing to do with his nephew's move, except to please him, and he alone carried on the negotiations with the officers of Weimar's army.
Affairs in Scotland become more and more disturbed. The people stand fast by their determination to uphold the enactments of their parliament. It is now dissolved, with an odious protest to his Majesty that he has not observed the terms of the last treaty, and yet claims that they are bound to carry out their part, which means that they intend to expel by force from the fortresses of the kingdom the garrisons placed there by common consent. These misgivings afford them cause for reflection here and distress the king exceedingly. He knows his insecurity at home, and that he is thereby weakened for confronting other difficulties that may arise, thus causing a decline in the prestige, with his neighbours and distant princes which his ancestors gloriously maintained.
Thirty ships of Barbary pirates are cruising off Capes St. Vincent and Finisterre. After a stout resistance they captured four English ships, on their way home from Malaga, richly laden.
The courier of Italy has been stopped by Weimar's army, understood to be near Frankfort, and has not reached Antwerp this week, so this Court has no letters from that province.
London, the 2nd December, 1639.
Dec. 3.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
739. Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
An extraordinary courier from England recently reached the ambassador here, with letters from the king about the fight between the Spanish and Dutch fleets off their coast. They represent at the palace that the king considers himself greatly affronted by the action of the Dutch in attacking the Spanish fleet in his ports and that he will not forget it for forty years. They immediately announced here that the English monarch desires an alliance, and offers to unite his fleet with that of Dunkirk. Further, if they accept the proposals already made he will join with the House of Austria against the French for the recovery of Lorraine. When that is achieved they will restore the Lower Palatinate to the Prince Palatine and the princess his daughter will be sent here to be brought up in the Catholic faith, and given in marriage to the prince here. The ambassador, however, denies having received any intimations of this character and rather lets it be understood that the Dutch defend their action, and his king will show himself their friend, as heretofore.
Madrid, the 3rd December, 1639.
Dec. 9.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
740. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
After the Dutch ambassador had waited eight days for another private audience of the king, they granted one last Sunday. In a long and ornate office Aerssens repeated that the sole object of his masters in the attack on the Spaniards was to break the ambitious designs of their enemies, to the mutual advantage, in accordance with the permission granted by the last alliance. He went on to complain seriously that under the specious pretext of neutrality this kingdom had supplied the Spaniards with everything they could have enjoyed even if they had had an open alliance with this crown, and he asked his Majesty not to permit it in the future, and to add some articles to the old alliance which would prevent dissatisfaction and unite the two states by indissoluble bonds, their interests being uniform and their friendly ties so strong. His Majesty answered formally charging the ambassador to set down his proposals in writing. He stated, however, that in subsequent treaties with the Catholic he had denounced the article upon which the Dutch base their case, whereas they want it confirmed with new conditions. People think that the ambassador will mollify the king, and will return home without any change in the old agreements. He claims that the ambassadors must visit him first, and so far keeps away from all. When he came I did everything proper. I not only sent my coach to his house, but the Secretary Agostini, to pay my respects. He responded with great reserve, avoiding titles. Subsequently he claimed absolute parity, and is trying hard to get the French ambassador here to concede it. If he succeeds the example will not affect me, unless I have express orders, as in such cases French ministers generally act solely in accordance with the circumstances of the time and the interests of their master, without regard for any prejudice, which might prove irreparable in the case of your Serenity.
Mr. Wilbanch set out last Sunday for France, with all diligence. He takes letters from his Majesty to the Most Christian pressing earnestly for the release of the Prince Palatine. They hope to obtain this by these offices as well as by the lively remonstrances of the leaders of Weimar's army, who have expressed their resentment here at the unexpected arrest of the prince of whom most of them profess themselves vassals.
They have sent the Agent Curtius as minister of this crown to the Princes of Germany. He looked after the interests of the Palatine House at this Court. He has instructions to go to Frankfort to take part in the diet and in all congresses held in that province, and to urge the princes there to protect the Palatine, endeavouring to prevent anything prejudicial to that house at those meetings. If his efforts prove in vain he is to protest in the king's name that such hurtful decrees are null.
The dismissal of the Scottish deputies has greatly increased the disturbance in that kingdom. Since the dissolution of parliament they have assembled the Council which they call the Board, and have unanimously decided not to carry out the agreement made with the king but to keep their troops and prepare for a vigorous resistance. Such decisions prove more and more that it will be impossible to avoid a fresh appeal to arms. In order to do this with success the king has held long conferences with his ministers, consulting about how to compel that people to obey ; but with the continued shortness of money, the lack of experienced commanders and the need of everything else that is wanted, all their deliberations languish and prove to those who are least prejudiced the exceeding difficulty of the task. The Scots, on the other hand, are perfectly aware of the difficulties which limit the king's purposes, and march straight forward to establish to their own satisfaction a government entirely free from their natural dependence on this crown.
London, the 9th December, 1639.
Dec. 12.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Haya. Venetian Archives.
741. Gieronimo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador at the Hague, to the Doge and Senate.
The ambassador extraordinary reports his first audience. Being threatened with exclusion from the Court he had recourse to stratagem. The king received him graciously and he found his Majesty much better than he had expected in treating upon the most essential point, namely the exclusion of the Spaniards from these seas, and the conclusion of an alliance. He says he found that the queen gave great assistance owing to the connection of these Provinces with France. Accordingly the government believes that all cause for anxiety is at an end and that more favourable impressions will have their course.
The Hague, the 12th December, 1639.
Dec. 13.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
742. Anzolo Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Prince Palatine is still strictly guarded. Savigni told me that the King of Great Britain is sending a son of the Secretary Windebank to demand his release ; but it will not be so easy. Wrongs received from friends are less bearable than from enemies.
Paris, the 13th December, 1639.
Dec. 20.
Senato, Secreta, Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
743. Anzolo Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The son of the Secretary Windebank has arrived from England in the capacity of a gentleman merely, to ask for the release of the Palatine. He has been to visit the Prince today, with the Ambassador Leicester, in the presence of Savigni ; and tomorrow he is to have audience of the king ; after which we shall perhaps see a little more clearly into the depths of this affair.
Paris, the 20th December, 1639.
Dec. 23.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
744. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Treasurer of Scotland arrived at Court last week with the Marquis of Ontlet. From their reports his Majesty obtained a more precise account of the confused and dangerous state of that kingdom. After long discussion his inveterate objection was overcome by extreme necessity and he finally consented to grant a parliament to England, in the hope of consolidating the love of the people and so obtaining prompt contributions, sufficient to enable him to begin to repair with energy the civil disorders as well as to restore the former prestige of this crown with neighbouring princes. Accordingly on Friday he solemnly assembled the Council of the Realm and announced the proposal. All the councillors approved and the decision was acclaimed by universal applause, especially by the Puritans, who have always sighed for this advantage more than anyone else.
The Catholics, many ministers of the Court, and others of the magistracy, who fear severe censure, do not approve of the measure, and try hard to prevent its fulfilment, declaring that the immoderate claims of parliament with the reforms which they pretend to introduce, will be like a powerful medicine and do more harm than is caused by the present weakness.
On the other hand, the parliamentarians, in order to strengthen the king in his decision, carefully circulate the idea that they will arrange everything to please him, and will confine their demands within the limits of a praiseworthy modesty, so as not to alienate him from summoning other parliaments in the future. Such things are always said upon these occasions, but those best able to judge from past experience do not believe them and predict that once parliament has met they will not be able to wind it up satisfactorily without offering the sacrifice of some victim, from those most in his Majesty's favour. Meanwhile, in order to hasten the military preparations proposed the royal Council has granted his Majesty a loan of 300,000l. on the security of the subsidies to be voted by parliament.
They think of sending the Viceroy to Ireland to hold parliament there also and ask the people there for fresh succour for the maintenance of sixty large ships, which they propose to send out very soon, for the purpose of alarming the Scots by the stoppage of their trade, but equally to cause misgivings to the neighbouring powers, and to the Most Christian in the first place, the detention of the Palatine and other very important considerations having increased ill-feeling and disputes with that crown. The French ambassador has made serious complaint of the offices which Sir [Oliver] Flam is performing against him with the Swiss. He obtained an unsatisfactory reply from his Majesty, who pointed out that the violence shown to his nephew compelled him to do everything that might facilitate his release. In order to help that prince by the use of suspicion they try at the palace to create the impression that his imprisonment has afforded them a reasonable stimulus for arming thoroughly and for assembling parliament. But these remarks do not cause the supporters of France much apprehension as they know quite well that to carry them into effect will involve insuperable difficulties. On the other hand they are still suspicious here that the secret negotiations between the two crowns for an accord are going on and they have directed their ambassador in Spain to operate cautiously in order to stop their progress.
The Dutch ambassadors, as directed, have given their proposals in writing as instructed. But they do not go beyond the original general ideas about the desire of their masters for a perfect understanding with this crown. They only enter into details in their complaints about the facilities afforded to the Catholic to transport money and men to these shores, but stop short at asking that this may be stopped in the future. By fresh verbal offices they have repeated the request for the punctual fulfilment of the treaty of Southampton, which means that they may freely attack Spaniards off the coasts and in the mouths of the rivers of this kingdom. To all this the king replied that he could not prevent his subjects trading with those of a friendly and allied prince, as with respect to the treaty of Southampton, the peace with Spain had completely destroyed it. Aerssens does not accept this answer and labours, so far in vain, to improve the terms for his masters. But apart from his success in mollifying the first resentment, it is considered certain that the ambassador will not obtain anything more. By his adroitness and prudence he has made himself very agreeable to his Majesty.
He has adjusted his differences with the Frenchman, who agreed to call first at Joachimi's house. For the rest Bellievre professes to have enjoyed the title of Excellency and to have replied in the third person. Aerssens persists in his claim to parity with me, so our relations are interrupted.
They continue their vigorous preparations at Dunkirk for equipping twenty six ships, with the idea, so I gather, of attempting an important stroke against Normandy, with the opportunity of a rising there. The French, however, watch the enemy closely, and are preparing their fleet to thwart the designs of the Spaniards. The Prince of Orange has asked the queen to act as godmother to his last born son. (fn. 2) They are expecting Count William of Nassau soon, with the formal invitation.
Fildinch speaks openly of his speedy return to his embassy. He has called upon me and repeated the assurance. He says that after he has served his Majesty in the masque, which is to take place within six weeks, he will start without further delay, so that I fear to suggest a different destination would only earn his resentment, without doing any good. He has influence at the palace owing to the protection of his mother and of the Marquis Hamilton, a minister who has great credit with the king.
I have your Excellencies' letters of the 25th ult. I ask for pity if I have not done all my duty. For thirty days I have kept my bed in acute pain, caused by the dampness of the climate, which does not suit me at all. Perhaps the Senate will afford me some relief from the deplorable condition to which this noxious air has reduced me. I enclose the certificates of the physicians.
London, the 23rd December, 1639.
Enclosure. 745. Certificate that the Ambassador Giovanni Giustinian owing to the humidity of the climate, is suffering from chronic catarrh, with almost perpetual hæmicrania, with general lassitude, which disturbs his nights and makes him sleepless. The remedies tried have proved vain, owing to the severity of the attack, which it is not in the power of a physician to mitigate or heal. If he remains longer in this kingdom he is in great danger of falling into a decline. If he leaves this district, purer air may prevent the mischief.
Dated at London, 13/23 December, 1639.
[Signed] : John Collartus, medicinæ doctor.
746. Certificate that the ambassador has consulted him about hæmicranica catarrh and general lassitude ; many remedies tried, but all in vain, and he has come to the opinion that if the ambassador wishes to recover his health he must leave these parts as soon as possible for the more subtle air to which he is accustomed, as if he remains here any longer his lungs will be affected by the chronic catarrh and become flabby.
Dated at London, the 20th December, 1639.
[Signed] : Th. Mayerne, Archiatrorum Reg. Comes.
Dec. 24.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
747. Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English ambassador is certainly carrying on negotiations here, although he announced otherwise. He has been several times at the palace with the king and the Count Duke. It is confirmed that he spoke of the marriage between the prince here and their princess, and of the need to check the Dutch, who have become too insolent. For some days past the affair seems to have cooled off. It is not known whether this is due to some difficulty or to artifice, because as a matter of fact the full truth has not transpired from beneath the appearances. The ambassador has not yet sent back the courier from England.
With regard to the offer of forty English ships, the one who suggested it asks for time to allow him to build them in England. It is seen that this would take too long and would be inadequate for their serious requirements.
Madrid, the 24th December, 1639.
Dec. 24.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Haya. Venetian Archives.
748. Gieronimo Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador at the Hague, to the Doge and Senate.
Harsem's negotiations proceed slowly. The most discerning here favour the view, which is supported by the experience of previous negotiations with England, that the king there will interpose delays in coming to a decision upon the petitions of these States until such time as the tenor of the Spanish offices is heard at that Court. From what we hear they intend to despatch an ambassador to the English Court about this event of the two fleets on the English coast. Some of the ministers here interpret the unfavourable attitude of the king as a presage of the rejection of their project. The king might have made up his mind to this already did not the troubled state of affairs in Scotland keep him in suspense.
The Hague, the 24th December, 1639.
Dec. 27.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
749. Anzolo Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The King and Cardinal gave courteous audience to the son of the Secretary Windebank. He spoke of the Palatine's affairs, but only received general replies. From what His Eminence has intimated to me they think of profiting by this occasion to constrain the king of Great Britain to take steps in the interest of the public cause to which they have not yet been able to bring him. They will offer the Palatine an army, the command and money, but they require his uncle to give real assistance.
Paris, the 27th December, 1639.
Dec. 30.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Inghilterra. Venetian Archives.
750. Giovanni Giustinian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Lords of the Council show great punctuality in the payment of their portions of the loan of 300,000l. promised to his Majesty. He has not abated one jot of his determination to arm powerfully, and in addition to the orders for a numerous fleet at sea in the spring, he has made arrangements for enlisting a force of 25,000 men and 5000 horse, which they will begin to get together in the middle of this month. The public pretext for these extraordinary preparations is given as the need for checking the ardour of the Scots, but I find that his Majesty and his more confidential ministers have other and more secret intentions. The chief one is to keep within bounds, by the fear of these forces, the parliament which they have decided to open on the 13th April. Meanwhile the king has decided to call one in Ireland, in the confidence of obtaining such proofs of obedience and liberality from the people there, that their example shall pave the way for the satisfaction which he claims from the English also.
At the report of these movements it seems that the Scots have become less exacting and have sent to ask permission to send two commissioners to his Majesty. This was promptly granted with a promise that they should be heard patiently. They have sent back the Treasurer to that kingdom with orders to confirm the news of the meeting of parliament in England, and to see that the instructions to the deputies are arranged so as to allow the crown to be able to embrace the new overtures with dignity and safety. If this is managed, and they seem to place their hopes upon him, and if the parliament here produces the results desired, the king does not mean to leave this army idle, but will use it to encourage revolts in Normandy, in order to express his resentment with France for the arrest of the Palatine and the secret pecuniary assistance afforded to the Scots, as well as to prevent any designs upon the islands of Jersey and Guernsey, to which the Earl of Leicester asserts that the Most Christian aspires. Thus incitements for no longer temporising with that crown are being increasingly multiplied, and they cherish dark designs here, and they even think of stirring up the King of Poland to the same ends. These are vigorously supported by the suggestions of the queen mother and by the malcontents of France who sojourn at this Court.
The Catholic makes attractive offers to the merchants of this mart to induce them to bring to his service twenty large and well armed ships, with a special obligation to transport from Spain to Flanders his men and money. The Spanish minister here has strongly urged his Majesty, in his master's name, to permit his subjects to complete this bargain. The Dutch ambassadors oppose it strongly, pointing out that to grant this request would mean the absolute contravention of the old agreements, and would compel their masters to throw aside every consideration and prevent the enemy by force from enjoying these advantages. But such threats make no impression on the king, who inclines to give the Spaniards this satisfaction out of which he counts on fresh acts in favour of his ancient claims to the sovereignty of these seas.
A very rich ship has reached these ports from Virginia, bringing goods worth 600,000 crowns. Count William of Nassau arrived here on Sunday to give the queen the invitation I wrote of, and Colonel Gorin is selected by her Majesty to go to Holland to ask the young princess Palatine to take part in her name at the christening of the son recently born to the Prince of Orange.
London, the 30th December, 1639.
[Italian ; the part in italics deciphered.]


  • 1. Thomas Windebank. He crossed to France on the 24th November, o.s. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1639-40, pages 147, 158. In reporting this mission Bellievre speaks very slightingly of the father. Bellievre to Chavigny the 2nd Dec. P.R.O. Paris Transcripts.
  • 2. The prince's second son, but he died of colic on the 19/29 December and was buried at Delft on the 24th. Letter of Sir Thomas Manwood of 24 Dec. S.P. For. Holland.