Venice: October 1654

Pages 264-273

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 29, 1653-1654. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1929.

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


October 1654

Oct. 4.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
322. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 1)
During the last few days Cromwell and his Council and supporters in parliament have been trying to induce the restive members to sign the test, which was drawn up for the sole purpose of securing his supremacy. So the House adjourned for three or four days to discuss ways and means, but chiefly to induce the opponents to accept the Protector's plan. Some of the opposition have been won over by his confidants and signed the document, though others have voluntarily left London rather than accept. But this is no great loss to the Protector since it has already been decreed that 60 members form a house, and, notwithstanding the opposition there are some 190 present, so their decisions have ample force, the numbers are ample and serve to give vigorous support to the dominant authority of his Highness.
Maj. Gen. Harrison who has always shown himself jealous of Cromwell's rising fortunes and is the recognised head of the Anabaptists, having stated that he held a list signed by over 20,000 persons hostile to the Protector, has been deprived of his seat (fn. 2) and banished to the country for a long time by order of his Highness and the Council of State. Thus some of the opponents of the present government hold aloof while other influential and respected men are ousted from their seats and banished. The House consequently consists merely of the creatures of his Highness and has already passed an act approving the present rule as vested in one person and a succession of parliaments. Everything so far has gone with complete satisfaction to Cromwell who, with his universal vigilance has marched a number of troops into London where he is also beating for recruits under the pretence of requiring soldiers for the fleet. To obtain men more readily he and his Council have issued a proclamation that all British subjects serving in the navy or army are to be at liberty, after one or two years' service, to exercise any trade or profession in London or anywhere else in the kingdom. By this means the government has won the heart of all the young apprentices many of whom, rather than serve the term of 7 or 8 years in some trade, as usual here, will gladly enlist as soldiers, so as subsequently to be free of any company they please, without paying fees. This step affords another proof of the extreme astuteness of Cromwell, who by one stroke captivates the army and adds to its numbers with ease, while checking any hopes any might have of raising troops in the city or forming a party there. On hearing that the Companies resented this measure as prejudicial to them Cromwell sent for the Lord Mayor and Aldermen and told them in mild language that he was determined to carry out his orders assuring them that these would always be devised for the general good and the benefit of every individual, obtaining from them a promise of compliance and obedience. Thus does the Protector exercise his official power and military command, and so long as these two elements are united his sway will become more and more despotic and undisputed. But if any dispute arises between the chief magistrate and the military the Protectorate will certainly be attacked. This is considered the only thing that can suddenly affect his present good fortune.
Owing to these fresh events the main body of the fleet, which is well manned and found with every requisite, does not move to any distance, but remains within call to back the Protector's schemes and render all the neighbouring powers uneasy, in spite of the repeated assertion that it is to act far afield.
Since the affair of Arras and the agitations here the treaty with France seems to progress favourably in one respect though in another a great difficulty has arisen, for whereas the claims for indemnity seemed to be settled two other important matters remain undecided and may possibly prevent a settlement. In the first place England demands the total exclusion of the Stuarts from France, and second, protection for the Huguenots practically re-establishing them by the grant of every liberty and security, giving them certain places of repair. Both points are difficult of adjustment and if insisted on there is scant hope of a successful end to the negotiations. It thus becomes evident that the Protector espouses the cause of the Huguenots, relying on their support in the event of an open rupture with France. Yet peace is not despaired of here and a decision must be taken before long.
Although some of the chief insurgents in Scotland have laid down their arms and made terms with the present government it appears that some of their comrades still hold out, having mostly retreated to the Highlands where it will be difficult to reduce them by main force. Gen. Monch has orders to avail himself of any opportunity for cutting them to pieces, but as they merely come down on the sudden to make as much booty as possible and then retreat at once into the most inaccesible parts of the Highlands he will not easily encounter them.
Bad news has come this week from Ireland that the Anabaptists there have held armed meetings in great numbers and resist the orders of the commander in chief. Further details are awaited, and if the disturbance continues the Protector will have to quell it by force. With matters in this state it behoves him to have troops all ready for action in any part of these realms and so his chief endeavour will be to keep the soldiery well affected.
London, the 4th October, 1654.
Oct. 7.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
323. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
Letters of marque and reprisal are beginning to appear, which the English are granting against Spanish ships because the Irish shareholders have not been paid what is due to them for the levies made in the service of this crown. In addition the Ambassador Cardines writes that 24 ships have left the English Channel, strengthened with troops and a certain number of cavalry, and in spite of all the efforts he has made to find out their instructions he has not succeeded in doing so. They are in an extraordinary state of alarm here as to what may happen as the news has been far too long delayed in the event of their having steered their course towards the Strait where, it is commonly stated, they will be able to turn off to the island of San Domingo. The possession of that would close the passage for navigation to the Indies, without hope of ever being able to recover it again. This would be something very different from the defeat at Arras in Flanders. However, two days ago, they despatched from Cadiz, with the utmost secrecy, a ship with advices for that island exhorting the governor and the inhabitants to offer the most strenuous defence. But should the attack take place they certainly would not be able to sustain the full shock of those forces, from which they have derived the saying : War with all the world, but peace with England.
Madrid, the 7th October, 1654.
Oct. 12.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
324. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 3)
Several members of parliament who had expressed disapproval of the present government are beginning to show themselves in London and are disposed to sign the test and join the main body of parliament. It is understood that some have already taken this step. But others continue to absent themselves, obstinately refusing to violate the parliamentary franchise, the electoral privileges and the liberty of the people. They loudly assert that an appeal to arms was made and so much blood shed in order to maintain this. Such arguments make a great impression, but though much approved, the wish of the majority to have them enforced is not gratified because everybody acknowledges and fears the supremacy acquired by the Protector, knowing that he means to preserve it, both through his supporters in parliament and above all through the military.
In spite of the signatures given in favour of Cromwell parliament apparently continues to occupy itself with the machinery of government. It consents to invest the Protector with the sole command of the army, but only of such forces as are now embodied, during his life. It is also trying to regulate the succession, to prevent confusion in the event of his death. Above all it watches over the employment of the public money and the incessant taxation.
Parliament further intends to exercise its authority in the election of a new Council of State. To this the Protector does not dare to object openly and to prevent trouble he employs address rather than severity, manifesting complete subservience to the parliament. He recently cajoled them by a state visit with his retinue, when he communicated various important matters, chiefly about the navy. He told them that besides the fleet of Gen. Blach, destined for the Mediterranean, there was another powerful squadron in a state to keep the sea for a long term, capable of any great exploit and calculated, if necessary, to support the Protestant cause. But this squadron should never act without the previous knowledge and approval of parliament. All his actions had hitherto been directed to this end and he meant to pursue the same course for the future. This action won over the parliament who told him that they knew his zeal for its service and his goodwill and prudence also. This led them to confirm his actual command and they could entertain no doubt about his wielding the military and naval resources of the country to his own repute and for the advantage of the people. Accordingly, in view of the secrecy required for great undertakings, they left everything to his discretion in the confidence that all his resolves would tend to the glory of the republic of England and to the advantage of religion.
Both parties were thus satisfied and for the present naval and military operations will depend on Cromwell and his Council, though not to the exclusion of that Jus which parliament claims for itself. If disputes arise between the two powers, as is likely if the Protector exercises his authority too freely, in general questions and upon the fleet in particular, it is probable the members would not keep silence, for the English consider parliament the soul of their government and may be said to worship it. They are as jealous as possible of its ascendancy which they consider the palladium of their liberties and so both the House and his Highness must use great caution and address to avoid such extremities as might arise from the fact that one is the popular favourite while the other enjoys the support of the military, who will probably always remain paramount.
During this crisis the negotiations with France have remained in suspense. M. de Bordeaux is waiting to see the government well established before he puts the finishing touches to the treaty. Opinion varies about it being signed. News has come to-day that Belle Isle, whose governor was brother of the fugitive Cardinal de Retz, (fn. 4) has rebelled and made itself over to the Spaniards. If this proves true and the treaty is not ratified in a few hours the English fleet might steer in that direction, since it has at last put to sea. It has not been possible to ascertain its real object and the more it is reported to be going to the Indies the more convinced are many that the report is false and delusive.
For the better arrangement of affairs in Ireland and to quell instantly certain disturbances there the Protector's younger son is preparing to go over there immediately, to examine the true state of affairs and to deal with them, in the capacity of Viceroy.
There is a general desire to make some regulations on the important question of religion, reducing the numerous sects here to a single one which will probably always be the Protestant. But as this is a matter of great importance and replete with consequences likely to produce violent agitation, the question is put off, the present confusion being tolerated from inability at this moment to apply the desired and necessary remedy.
Acknowledges letter of the 3rd inst.
London, the 12th October, 1654.
Oct. 14.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Spagna. Venetian Archives.
325. Giacomo Quirini, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The English squadron has appeared in these waters. Don Luis remarked to me that it might turn into the Mediterranean and create a great disturbance in the dominions of the Grand Duke. He could not persuade himself that Cromwell would make the voyage to the Indies and if he meant to devote his attention to a foreign war he would be more likely to help Holland against the other Provinces because of the interests of the House of Orange. He did not tell me, what I have on good authority, that Cromwell sets his face steadfastly against signing the peace with Spain without these two requisites : (1) open trade and free navigation with the Indies, and (2) that the Catholic shall satisfy the Irish for the money he owes them for the levies, in which many English merchants are interested. They have begun here to make arrangements for dealing with the second, the amount of the claims having been settled, and the rest in assignments or monthly according to the custom of the country.
From this one draws the inference that Cromwell is dealing with all the powers on the basis of hard cash and to the one who offers most he grants the most profitable bargain. It is already reported publicly that the peace with Portugal was bought for a million of crowns.
Madrid, the 14th October, 1654.
Oct. 17.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Firenze. Venetian Archives.
326. Giovanni Ambrosio Sarotti, Venetian Resident at Florence, to the Doge and Senate.
The Grand Duke is advised of the squadron commanded by General Blach and destined for the Mediterranean that it has taken on board a quantity of material to enable it to proceed to the capture of some port. But his Highness does not believe that either this or the more powerful squadron of General Pen will go far away from English waters before the assembling of the members of the new parliament is completed. In any case, in order to be ready and provided his Highness has given orders for 7000 soldiers of the bands here to hold themselves in readiness, and he has increased the numbers of the bands themselves, supplying arms to 10,000 more men.
Florence, the 17th October, 1654.
Oct. 19.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
327. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 5)
I was taking steps to assure them here of the Senate's disposition to send an ambassador if assured of reciprocity when an accident has hindered communications with several members of the government, especially the Secretary of State the only minister acquainted with everything of whom audience can be obtained, and there is much difficulty in conferring even with him as he is seldom apart from the Protector. I managed to say something in confidence to Sir [Oliver] Fleming, who expressed satisfaction and a desire to see me before I did more, so I am expecting him. I shall be careful to keep within the limits of my instructions.
The negotiations of all the foreign ministers have been delayed by an accident which endangered the life of the Protector, whose escape may with good reason be ascribed to one of those strokes of fortune which of late so constantly befall him, rendering age less irksome and reviving in him the spirits and buoyancy of youth. A few days ago (fn. 6) he went out for his pleasure in a coach drawn by 6 fine spirited horses which he took into his head to drive himself for a little while. The animals instantly felt the strange hand and when he merely raised his whip some kicked over the traces and others became unmanageable. After vain efforts to stop them the Protector, realising the danger, threw himself from his seat. The shock caused a pistol in his pocket to discharge though without hurting him, but it made the horses wilder than ever, and they dragged the coach where they pleased together with its inside passengers, who chanced to be the Secretary of State with two others. They also threw themselves out, the Secretary dislocating his leg and his companions receiving some contusions.
The Protector thus had a miraculous escape, but it is said that on that evening he became speechless and had to be promptly blooded, which gave him great relief, for he came to himself at once and as he steadily improves it is hoped that he will soon be quite well. The others are also convalescent but after this accident Cromwell will hardly want to drive high mettled horses again but direct his energies to the government of his subjects. These fear and obey the more they know him, though many do not scruple to assert that this adventure should warn his Highness that bad driving leads to a bad end and that those who meddle with what does not belong to them experience what they do not expect or even imagine. His supporters vow that the Divine grace is manifested by his preservation, the welfare and quiet of the commonwealth being thus evidently maintained. It cannot be denied that fresh civil strife and immense confusion would result from his death, for although the military will always have the upper hand, yet on any emergency they will be more inclined to support parliament and submit matters to the voice of the many rather than to one alone, and for this very reason many of the soldiers regret seeing the whole army under the Protector's control.
General Blach reports his voyage towards the Strait of Gibraltar, the wind having blown fair for some days. His squadron numbers 30 sail of fine men of war, with which he will exact the salute from any ships he may meet, for which he had special orders on his departure.
A report circulated that General Penn's large squadron had put to sea, but it is still ready to set out on some great enterprise which cannot yet be ascertained. It is still stated that this fleet will seize Cuba or Hispaniola, to which end a double complement of hands is to be embarked, as a precaution against the mortality to be expected from the climate. The ships will touch at Barbadoes and other English colonies and land their men, taking others already inured to the hot climate. But as everything here is conducted with great cunning and secrecy these facts must wait for confirmation, though the time cannot be long.
I have already reported the expected arrival of an ambassador extraordinary from Spain. The mission was possibly delayed by the late crisis, but this reported attack on the Indies may induce the Spaniards to send him at once, if anything else transpires on the subject.
Since the disputes between Spain and Genoa a minister has been accredited here by that republic, (fn. 7) but although he was appointed a long time ago he has not put in an appearance, and may also be detained by the reports about the government here, though it becomes more and more consolidated in the person of the Protector, 300 members of parliament having already signed the test required by him.
London, the 19th October, 1654.
Oct. 20.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
328. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Bordeaux, the French ambassador in London, has been charged to flatter Cromwell more than ever and to urge him not to lose so favourable an opportunity for making himself master of the Indies as with the Spaniards being attacked in so many quarters by France they can only make a feeble defence anywhere.
I have written to Paulucci as instructed in the letters of the 12 September about the state sending an ambassador, but I cannot send his reply because owing to the stormy weather of the last fortnight the boats between England and Calais have not plied, so the mails are overdue.
Soissons, the 20th October, 1654.
Oct. 26.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
329. Lorenzo Paulucci, Venetian Secretary in England, to Giovanni Sagredo, the Ambassador in France. (fn. 8)
Neither the Protector nor the Secretary of State is sufficiently recovered from the accident to give audience, but I have seen Sir [Oliver] Fleming and told him of the Senate's intention about nominating an ambassador. He expressed his gratification which he said would be shared by the whole government. He confirmed that an ambassador was expected from Spain and another from Genoa. The Venetian mission would be honoured as those of other powers had been. The government would now turn its attention to the despatch of other embassies, the first foundations of a solid and well regulated state were now beginning the causes of the recent numerous changes being utterly annihilated. He approved of my intention to write to the Secretary, and when he was recovered I could confer with him or with the Protector himself. I have accordingly written the letter. On parting Fleming remarked that now a good understanding was reached the republic might reap very considerable advantages from here, especially if the war against the Turks goes on. He told me that General Blach had sailed but was driven back by contrary winds and had to remain at anchor for some days. This fleet would furnish matter for speculation, but the cause was just. Besides the provisions on board it was furnished with bills of exchange and had liberty to draw for money, payable in London, from any port it might chance to make. He admitted that the fleet had been delayed here beyond all belief, but declared it had lost no time and the same might be said of General Penn's fleet of 60 sail. Those who thought differently might have an awakening, as the secrets of this government were impenetrable, being confided only to a few. He promised to see me again and if he could not tell me everything what he did tell would be true. After I had complimented him he expressed his gratitude and took leave.
Parliament continues to sit daily, offering no opposition to the present government, but rather seeking to consolidate it, endeavouring to satisfy the Protector and the people at the same time, in all its resolves. They may regret its dissolution which will take place at the height of this popularity and leave Cromwell the absolute master of all affairs, both at home and abroad.
Hopes of a good result from the prolonged negotiations with France were recently stronger than ever, but it now seems they are more embroiled than ever, and almost entirely at an end. By to-day's report the whole treaty is broken off and there is small chance of an amicable adjustment, especially as the English are more determined than ever to seize all the French bottoms they can meet. The Protector has lately received a list of 12 which have been seized by the English frigates, so that unless a speedy adjustment is effected an open rupture seems inevitable, as the irritation caused by these reprisals outweighs the desire for an understanding.
The third Dutch ambassador, representing Friesland, being on bad terms with his two colleagues from Holland, is on the eve of departure. (fn. 9) Friesland has espoused the cause of the Prince of Orange, who is understood to be prospering. As the secret articles to his detriment accepted by Holland are resented by the other Provinces they will provide occupation for some while for the two representatives of the Province of Holland with whom the Protector continues to maintain the most confidential relations.
No news of importance has been received lately from either Scotland or Ireland, nor does the Protector pay much attention to events there, being firmly convinced that the military are in sufficient force to stifle any remaining embers of insurrection.
The Resident of Parma who left Paris and arrived here a few days ago (fn. 10) is negotiating his return. Meanwhile he asks the honour of an audience of the Protector, which may possibly be granted when his Highness recovers. He told me that if admitted he would not forget the most serene republic and being well acquainted with the Levant he would urge Cromwell to attack the Turks for his own glory and that of all England.
London, the 26th October, 1654.
Oct. 27.
Senato, Secreta. Dispacci, Francia. Venetian Archives.
330. Giovanni Sagredo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I have transmitted the orders of the 26th September to Pauluzzi, whose letter is enclosed.
Paris, the 27th October, 1654.
Oct. 31.
Senato, Secreta. Deliberazioni, Corti. Venetian Archives.
331. To the Ambassador in France.
A report is circulating that the English who are sending ships into the Mediterranean, propose to take a port in Italy which will suit them best for the requirements of their ships. You will write to Pauluzzi to do his utmost to obtain information and evidence upon this but without displaying jealousy or suspicion, and to report to us.
Ayes, 99. Noes, 0. Neutral, 0.
332. To the Resident at Naples.
It is reported that the Protector Cromwell is sending a squadron to the Mediterranean. We desire that you shall take note of what is said about this at Naples and that you try and find out, with due circumspection, what are their true designs.
Ayes, 118. Noes, 1. Neutral, 0.
333. To the Resident at Florence.
We suppose that the Grand Duke, in his own interests, will have some information about the plans and proceedings of the English. You will send a complete report about this as further evidence of your diligence and zeal.
Ayes, 118. Noes, 1. Neutral, 0.


  • 1. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 6th October.
  • 2. levato dal corpo del parlamento stesso. Gardiner interprets this as meaning that he was arrested in parliament. Commonwealth and Protectorate iii. p. 28 ; but it does not necessarily mean this.
  • 3. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 13th October.
  • 4. Bellisle was the property of the Gondi family.
  • 5. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 27th October.
  • 6. It happened on 9th October new style.
  • 7. Ugo Fiesco. He did not arrive in London till January. Atti de la Societa Ligure di Storia Patria, xvi. p. 217.
  • 8. Forwarded with Sagredo's despatch of the 3rd November.
  • 9. Jongstal. He obtained leave of absence and returned to the Hague on 1 Nov. Aitzema : Saken van Start en Oorlogh iii., p. 1085.
  • 10. Leonardo Villeré. He was in England on or before 25th Sept.; reported to have been expelled from France. Brit. Mus. Add. Mss. 27962. O. f. 316.