Venice: August 1531

Pages 284-289

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 4, 1527-1533. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1871.

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August 1531

Aug. 5. Sanuto Diaries, v. liv. p. 651. 678. Lodovico Falier to the Signory.
In England likewise the comet is visible.
London, 5th August. Registered by Sanuto 3rd September.
Aug. 13. Sanuto Diaries, v. liv. p. 611. 679. Prothonotary Casal.
In the morning the ambassador of the King of England came into the College to obtain possession of the bishopric of Cividal, as the Pope chooses to give the abbacy of the Holy Trinity to some other person.
Aug. 17. Sanuto Diaries, v. lv. p. 14. 680. Letters from England.
The King has conferred the archbishopric of York on his Almoner, Dr. Lee, and the bishopric of Winchester on Dr. Stephen [Gardyner], which sees are worth 40,000 crowns. He has appointed Dr. Fox his Almoner.
London, 17th August. Registered by Sanuto 7th October.
Aug. 19. Sanuto Diaries, v. liv. p. 666. 681. Carlo Capello, Venetian Ambassador in England, to—.
Arrived there on the 11th. The King is abroad, taking his pleasure in various parts of the island.
London, 19th August 1531. Registered by Sanuto 12th Sept.
Note by Sanuto, that the letter was not from Capello himself, but a private one from one of his household; who writes that the master is in such grief from having heard of the death of his wife, that he is unable to write. On the 20th he was to go and see the King; the ambassador, Falier, being with his Majesty.
Aug. 25. Sanuto Diaries, v. liv. p. 668, and following. 682. A Tour in England.—Mario Savorgnano to—.
I quitted the Imperial Court, which was here at Brussels, on the 27th July, and mounting a little carriage (caretta) as usual in all these places (and which is a very great convenience), arrived at Ghent, a distance of 25 Italian miles, on that same day. On the 28th, I took another carriage, there being very great plenty of these vehicles in every town in Flanders, and went a distance of 20 miles to Bruges, which is considered the handsomest and most magnificent city of any in all these countries. It contains an infinite number of large palaces, inhabited by men of divers nations, in which they carry on their mercantile traffic. Then there are houses without end, belonging to private gentlemen, part of which are by the water's side, with very handsome quays in front, with seats all made alike; and looking on the canals, I fancied myself at Venice; and barges with merchandise are constantly passing to and fro. There are also very large and most beautiful churches, and it is well peopled.
On the third day we went to another town of Flanders, not very remarkable, of the same description as Gemona, (fn. 1) called Nieuport, 20 miles from Bruges. On the fourth day, passing through two other small towns by the side of certain rivers which form divers harbours, having the sea near at hand, we arrived at Calais, a distance of 30 miles. It is a very strong place, as I will tell on my return, and is very closely guarded by the most serene King of England, who has no other fortress than this one, and another near it. It is on the sea, and is the port of passage to the island. On that same night, two hours before daybreak, we embarked on board a middling-sized vessel, and with a pleasant south-west wind, and a calm sea, crossed from Calais to England in six hours, without trouble or inconvenience of any sort. The distance is 40 Italian miles. The island has the appearance of a fortress, the sea having advanced and given form to the cliff, producing a fine effect. It is difficult to land elsewhere than in the harbours. Having got into port we found a little town called Dover, and I inspected a certain very ancient castle—erected for the custody of the harbour—in which were some suits of armour and spears, and several sorts of weapons, in use 800 and 1,000 years ago—a very ridiculous thing. We were here supplied with horses of marvellous speed, riding post as it were, according to the custom of travellers, so that on the fifth day after my departure from the Imperial Court at Brussels, I reached Canterbury, distant 12 miles from Dover. The place is very famous by reason of the veneration for the glorious Saint Thomas, and there is a superb and magnificent shrine containing his tomb, ornamented with precious stones and sundry jewels, with so much gold that its value is inestimable; this is a singular thing, nor do I expect to see anything handsomer or more costly. From Canterbury we passed to a small town called Gravesend, traversing a most beautiful country, with many hills and very pleasant, seeing many small streams, and the great river Thames which disembogues in the sea; and on the sixth day, which was the 1st of August, having ridden 20 miles, we embarked in a small boat, and came up this large river a distance exceeding 25 Italian miles, to London.
London is the capital of the kingdom and the residence of the ambassadors and merchants; it is a very notable city situated on the Thames, a magnificent river, navigable for vessels of any burden, 60 miles from the sea, and with a very strong tide. This river is convenient for trade, embellishing the city, and rendering it cheerful, and over it is a very large stone bridge.
London contains many houses on either side of the river, and two large churches of extreme beauty, in one of which the present King's father is buried. In various parts of the city there are many palaces of divers citizens and merchants, but the larger ones and the most superb are on the river, the owners being the chief personages of the kingdom. Besides the two belonging to the King and one to the Queen, the three dukes, (fn. 2) the two marquises, (fn. 3) and several bishops have mansions there, each of them worth 12,000 crowns, with very delightful gardens.
The population of London is immense, and comprises many artificers. The houses are in very great number, but ugly, and half the materials of wood, nor are the streets wide. In short, I am of opinion, all things considered, that it is a very rich, populous, and mercantile city, but not beautiful.
Having arrived thus on the 2nd [August], and being well received by the most noble the Venetian ambassador [Lodovico Falier], who chose me to lodge with him, I met Messer Marco Rafael, who was of yore my preceptor for the Hebrew tongue, and is now in very great favour with this most serene King; and he sent for two of the royal councillors to show me his Majesty's palaces and rarities.
Besides our Venetian ambassador, there are ambassadors from the Pope, the Emperor, the most Christian King, and Milan, resident in London, where I passed five days, seeing the churches, and the King's palaces, and the whole city; remarking, also, the manners and customs of the nation. I saw a palace, built by the late Cardinal, which now belongs to the King, together with other property of that prelate. The building is now being enlarged; and I saw three so-called “galleries,” which are long porticos and halls, without chambers, with windows on each side, looking on gardens and rivers (fiumi) the ceiling being marvellously wrought in stone with gold, and the wainscot of carved wood representing a thousand beautiful figures; and round about there are chambers, and very large halls, all hung with tapestries. The King and Queen, and their daughter, were out of London. I next saw a palace called Hampton Court, which, with its furniture, is supposed to have cost the Cardinal, who built it, 200,000 crowns. Here there is space for the King to inhabit the centre-floor, the Queen the one above, and the Princess the ground floor; in addition to which there are dwellings for the rest of the Court. On the day after, I went to another palace of the King's, built by his ancestors, in which I only saw a very beautiful chapel. On the third day, I went to a park some 30 miles from London where the King was, taking his pleasure in a small hunting-lodge, built solely for the chase, in the midst of the forest. I saw the King twice, and kissed his hand; he is glad to see foreigners, and especially Italians; he embraced me joyously, and then went out to hunt with from 40 to 50 horsemen. He is tall of stature, very well formed, and of very handsome presence, beyond measure affable, and I never saw a prince better disposed than this one. He is also learned and accomplished, and most generous and kind, and were it not that he now seeks to repudiate his wife, after having lived with her for 22 years, he would be no less perfectly good, and equally prudent. But this thing detracts greatly from his merits, as there is now living with him a young woman of noble birth, though many say of bad character, whose will is law to him, and he is expected to marry her, should the divorce take place, which it is supposed will not be effected, as the peers of the realm, both spiritual and temporal, and the people are opposed to it; nor during the present Queen's life will they have any other Queen in the kingdom. Her Majesty is prudent and good; and during these differences with the King she has evinced constancy and resolution, never being disheartened or depressed. I returned to Windsor Castle, (fn. 4) and from thence, on the fourth day of my departure from London, arrived at a palace called the More, where the Queen resides. In the morning we saw her Majesty dine: she had some 30 maids of honour (donzelle) standing round the table, and about 50 who performed its service. Her Court consists of about 200 persons, but she is not so much visited as heretofore, on account of the King. Her Majesty is not of tall stature, rather small. If not handsome she is not ugly; she is somewhat stout (piuttosto grassa) and has always a smile on her countenance.
We next went to another palace, called Richmond, where the Princess, her daughter, resides; and having asked the maggiordomo for permission to see her, he spoke to the chamberlain, and then to the governess, (fn. 5) and they made us wait. Then after seeing the palace we returned into a hall, and having entered a spacious chamber where there were some venerable old men with whom we discoursed, the Princess came forth accompanied by a noble lady advanced in years, who is her governess, and by six maids of honour (donzelle). We kissed her hand, and she asked us how long we had been in England, and if we had seen their Majesties, her father and mother, and what we thought of the country; she then turned to her attendants, desiring them to treat us well, and withdrew into her chamber. This Princess is not very tall, has a pretty face, and is well proportioned (disposta) with a very beautiful complexion, and is 15 years old. She speaks Spanish, French, and Latin, besides her own mother-English tongue, is well grounded in Greek, and understands Italian, but does not venture to speak it. She sings excellently, and plays on several instruments, so that she combines every accomplishment. (fn. 6) We were then taken to a sumptuous repast, after which we returned to our lodging, whither, according to the fashion of the country, the Princess sent us a present of wine and ale (which last is another beverage of theirs), and white bread. On the next day, which was the 6th, we returned to London to the house of our ambassador, where we remained two days, and then by boat went down the Thames, which is very broad, and covered with swans, and thus we got to Dover the passage port.
The King is of opinion that the Pope [Julius II.] was not authorized to grant the dispensation for his marriage to the present Queen, she being his brother's widow.
The Princess is much beloved by her father, who does not make any demonstration against the Queen — always treats her with respect, and occasionally dines with her.
This country is very beautiful, and most fertile of everything except wine, though there is great plenty of malmsies. The greater part of the island is not much peopled, but laid out in parks, from which the King and the nobility and gentry derive great pleasure. It is customary after speaking once or twice to any lady (donna) on meeting her in the street, to take her to a tavern (where all persons go without any reserve), or some other place, the husband not taking it amiss, but remaining obliged to you, and always thanking you, and if he sees you with her he departs; and if a gentleman gives a lady any present of flowers, she must continue to wear them for three months, when they are exchanged for others; and should the man find her without them, he may exact what fine he pleases, so that you constantly see women with flowers of every sort.
The women are all extremely handsome, nor did I ever see the like, save at Augsburg, and their head-gear is graceful. They wear a sort of coif of white linen, from under which a few tresses are visible over the forehead, but the coif fits close behind, so that towards the ears everything is covered, the coif concealing their hair; and on the top of the coif they wear large four-cornered caps of white cloth, this being the head-dress of such as are not of high birch, these last wearing a velvet top-knot instead of the cap, which gives them a very elegant appearance.
The men are more discreet in drinking than the Germans, but more idle. (fn. 7) They use certain bucklers—a ridiculous device—and swords made differently to ours; and they always have their bows at hand, with which they shoot marvellously, for they do nothing else. They are tall handsome men, and dress well. As the country is more to the northward, I expected to find the climate cold, and more windy, and worse than in France, but it was the contrary. There is an island, further off, where the men live to a great age, and when tired of life, they destroy themselves, or throw themselves into the sea from some rock, or migrate to other countries.
On reaching Dover, I was requested to cross on the morrow, as I did, and we went off to the ship in boats, the wind being so high, and the surf off the beach so heavy, that they tossed the little boat here and there, as if it had been a box. Having reached the ship, and got on board with difficulty from the constant motion, we found a tremendous sea; and having set sail, all hands were greatly alarmed. The waves were like mountains, and looked as if they would sink us, so the vessel being an insecure one, we remained the whole time in suspense; but by the grace of God and of the glorious Saint Rocco, on whose festival we found ourselves at sea, we reached Calais in less than four hours, having ran very great danger. On landing we were searched at a certain office, to ascertain the amount of money brought by us, only 10 ducats being allowed for each person, and the surplus was seized. I remained at the inn, the sea having prostrated me; my companions inspecting the town, near the walls, when they were immediately arrested as spies, and then sent to prison, from which they were released when their quality was known. The town is neither handsome in itself nor large, but it is surrounded by a very fine wall, with bastions and platforms. I consider it very strong, and it is under very close custody Having departed thence, I returned in four days—by the same road as the one by which I came—to the Court [at Brussels], where the most noble ambassador (fn. 8) was anxiously expecting me. (fn. 9)
Brussels, 25th August 1531. Registered by Sanuto 12th Sept.


  • 1. Gemona in the Friuli, in which province the Savorgnano family held large estates.
  • 2. Howard, Duke of Norfolk; Brandon, Duke of Suffolk; Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond.
  • 3. Grey, Marquis of Dorset; Courtenay, Marquis of Exeter.
  • 4. From this it may be inferred that the chapel alluded to above was St. George's at Windsor.
  • 5. The Countess of Salisbury. (See Strickland.)
  • 6. “Sicchè tutte le virtù è raccolte in Lei.”
  • 7. “Ma più poltroni.”
  • 8. Query Nicolò Tiepolo, “whose report of his embassy to Charles V. was made to the Venetian Senate in the year 1532, and is printed in Albert's Collection, Series 1., vol. i., pp. 31–144.
  • 9.