Venice: June 1650

Pages 146-150

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 28, 1647-1652. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1927.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. All rights reserved.


June 1650

June 4.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
406. Pietro Basadonna, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The envoy from the English parliament, who left Port St. Mary's a fortnight ago, is travelling towards the Court by easy stages, on account of a recent indisposition. By the king's order he is accompanied by a cavalry escort which he himself demanded, as he believes himself in danger from the royalists. All the way he is lodged at the expense of the crown, with much display and courtesy, a proof that his coming has an important and amicable aim, as was always supposed and as I reported.
The ambassadors of the king have laboured in vain to prevent his reception. Besides the political considerations advanced by them to support this, they have strong personal objections to the envoy himself, and exhibit a book written by him against the royal prerogative, in which he demonstrates that kingly government is contrary to the law of nations and generally proves violent and tyrannical. (fn. 1) He illustrates his argument by examples from the Spanish monarchy and especially from the causes of the Neapolitan insurrection. But positive advantages, or the hope of what may come, prevent any attention being paid either to the book or to the ambassadors who criticise it.
Madrid, the 4th June, 1650.
June 8.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
407. Pietro Basadonna, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The envoy of the English parliament reached the Court on Whit Sunday, an omen portending that he would speedily repent of his coming. On the next holy day at noon, when he was in his house with four companions, six Englishmen entered it, armed with pistols and daggers, and murdered him without mercy, as well as a Genoese who was once a Franciscan friar of the reformed order and turned Calvinist, and was now acting as interpreter. (fn. 2) He is generally supposed to have instigated this correspondence with the Spanish crown, taking part as mediator.
The king and Don Luis deplore this catastrophe as impugning the public faith, disconcerting such arrangements as may have been in train, and endangering Cardenas, the ambassador in England. To avoid possible demonstrations against them Lord Cottington and Sir Edward Hyde are endeavouring to exculpate themselves from all complicity. They declare that the deed proceeded from the individual impulse of the doers, five of whom are in custody, who, they vow, had never entered the English embassy, and were in Madrid by chance, for the purpose of claiming some bounty due for five years' service in the army of Catalonia, while the sixth accomplice, who is actually the house steward of the ambassadors, has not yet received his arrears.
I do not know how the government will receive these excuses, although the belief in their innocence is practically universal, from a conviction that if the deed had been premeditated better provision would have been made for the safety of the delinquents, who lost themselves, though they had abundant opportunities for escaping. Moreover, everyone is of opinion that the two ambassadors have not the money for such exploits, which are usually very expensive, nor would they have ventured, by so perilous a feat, to risk the bread which is supplied to them by the king of Spain. The prisoners and time will disclose the truth.
Meanwhile cabinet councils are held frequently and I believe that a courier is being despatched to London to-day, as the safety of Cardenas is highly important, and they are also extremely anxious that this accident may not interrupt the negotiations already begun. I have learned, indeed, on very good authority that the Baron de Batteville was to have been succoured at Bordeaux by the ships and troops of the parliament.
Although it is of the slightest consequence, I will relate what happened to me in this affair. The six Englishmen, after perpetrating these acts of homicide, not knowing where to flee, ran with their naked and bloody weapons for shelter at this house, under the wings of the lion of St. Mark, which is over my door, and the steward of the ambassadors, (fn. 3) whom I had known previously, sent word that he wished to speak to me. He was introduced, although I chanced to be at dinner. After offering him a chair I asked his errand which he refused to tell, as there happened to be some guests with me, so I took him into another room, when he narrated his adventure and asked for my protection. I replied that I had never harboured malefactors, a fact on which I pride myself, and I was determined to persevere in the course I had set myself. If they liked to remain as the servants and dependants of the English ambassadors, I could not expel them, but they must know that I felt it my duty to send one of my gentlemen at once to Don Luis d'Aros, to tell him what had happened. The five who did not belong to the embassy, said that as they were Catholics they would be safe in church, and at once proceeded to that of a neighbouring hospital, from whence they were removed half an hour afterwards by the police. As these have not sought any explanation, either by interrogatories or by torture they fancy that they have all the culprits in their hands, and know nothing whatever of the sixth, who, being a Calvinist, refused to quit my house, nor could I persuade him to do so. Accordingly I decided to send word to the ambassadors that I could not keep him any longer, either on my own account or in the interest of the youth himself, who would infallibly be demanded. They must devise means for saving him, the only offer I could make was to let him out by the back door from my garden, which opens on a different quarter from that of the front entrance. In reply they asked me simply to allow him to remain until nightfall, as his abode was unknown in Madrid, when they would send for him. I consented to this thinking it safe to grant this act of courtesy. Thus I had the good fortune to receive simultaneously the thanks of the king for declining to receive the murderers of the republican envoy, and those of the royalist ambassadors for saving their steward. Thus ended my share of the business.
Madrid, the 8th June, 1650.
June 15.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
408. Pietro Basadonna, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Whether the sanctuary of the Church is to be admitted in favour of the English prisoners, according to the general opinion of the jurists, or not, it would seem that owing to the popularity of their crime with the whole Court, the anger of the government has subsided, though it was at first extremely irritated, for the reasons given. The ambassadors of King Charles are not only acquitted of all participation, but are even allowed to defend the culprits. To this end they have had several audiences of Don Luis, who is said to have remarked that for himself personally, he feels most envious of such faithful subjects, (che in quanto a lui tiene grandissima invidia a sudditi tanto fedeli), but that the affair must proceed through the ordinary courts of justice. The best informed, however, are of opinion that severity or the reverse will depend on the replies from London, to which two couriers have already been despatched since the accident.
Madrid, the 15th June, 1650.
June 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
409. Pietro Basadonna, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The cause of the English prisoners remains as before, as it is not yet decided whether sanctuary will be allowed in their favour. This delay comes from the judges not knowing whether the affair is to be dealt with on ordinary lines, that is, independently of politics. But the king has now declared by a special decree that he does not wish any political consideration to interfere with the law, so we shall soon have the decision. In the common opinion the culprits will be restored to the church, as their case does not come under the six exceptions which papal bulls debar from benefit of clergy.
Common opinion is increasingly in favour of an acquittal, the whole Court speaking in terms of the deepest horror of the murdered envoy. Tainted as he was in a thousand other ways, the following circumstance has brought him into extreme odium. A medal was found stitched in his doublet, the obverse of which bears the device of a crown pierced through with a dagger, and the reverse the words "Duodecim obstricti Newarch Anno MDCXLVI," proving that he was one of the chief conspirators against the life of the King. (fn. 4)
His secretary, (fn. 5) who had the good fortune to be out of the house when the deed was done, after remaining in concealment for some days, has at last come to light, and by the king's order he is residing in the house of an alcalde, with a guard. The government has delivered to him all the papers belonging to his principal which came into their hands. When they asked him if he intended to continue the negotiations which led to the mission, he said he was not authorised to do so and could not meddle with them without orders from parliament. He has written to them at the request of the ministers here, and from the pains taken by the latter to keep the negotiations on foot they are evidently very loth that these should evaporate.
Madrid, the 20th June, 1650.
June 21.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
410. Michiel Morosini, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The King of England is preparing at Breda for his voyage to Scotland. He is resolved to venture his person and to trust that very nation which betrayed his father, knowing that in his unhappy position any effort is praiseworthy.
Compiegne, the 21st June, 1650.
June 25.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni. Corti. Venetian Archives.
411. To the Resident at Naples.
The Proveditore of Zante advises us that in the middle of May two well armed English ships appeared in those waters and began to attack the shipping. The Senate is sure that this was without the knowledge of the Cav. Major and the ministers as it is very hurtful to the republic and to Christendom. The Senate wishes him, in a suitably moderate manner, to point out the consequences, in the name of the state, to Don Beltrame, so that he may make representation to Don Giovanni which will serve for the issue of suitable orders which will be adequate to prevent further mischief.
Ayes, 134. Noes, 1. Neutral, 5.


  • 1. "A Discourse wherein is examined what is practically lawful during the confusions and revolutions of Government," London, 1648.
  • 2. Gio. Battista Riva. The murderers were John Guillim, William Spark, Valentine and Henry Progers, John Halsel and William Arnel. Harleian Misc., Vol. IV, page 282. Whit Sunday was the 5th June.
  • 3. Henry Progers. Clarendon : Hist, of the Rebellion, 1712, Vol. III, pages 370-1.
  • 4. The medal is referred to in the speech made in defence of the murderers, where it is described as having the crown and dagger with the word Nebart on one side, and on the other Duodecim and obstricti. Harleian Misc., Vol. VI, page 245.
  • 5. George Fisher. He was recalled, and left Madrid on the 2/12 July. Gardiner ; Hist, of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, Vol. I, page 311.