Venice: May 1557, 16-20

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6, 1555-1558. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1877.

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'Venice: May 1557, 16-20', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6, 1555-1558, ed. Rawdon Brown( London, 1877), British History Online [accessed 14 July 2024].

'Venice: May 1557, 16-20', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6, 1555-1558. Edited by Rawdon Brown( London, 1877), British History Online, accessed July 14, 2024,

"Venice: May 1557, 16-20". Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 6, 1555-1558. Ed. Rawdon Brown(London, 1877), , British History Online. Web. 14 July 2024.

May 1557, 16–20

May 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 891. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
The Government are diligently intent on raising money, and besides a subsidy in course of payment, the Queen is having so much Crown property (tante possession della corona) sold, as will yield 10,000l. sterling annual rental. The competition of buyers is great, and they are bound to disburse the money fourteen days after the purchase; nor is it necessary to inspect or measure the sites (li luoghi) as they are sold according to the entry made of them in the public registers, where the quality of the estates (del luogo) and the revenue derived from them by the Crown are described, which is a great advantage for the purchasers; so this entire fund, amounting to not less than 800,000 crowns, will shortly be in her Majesty's hands. The whole of this entire sum, with other additional ones (con delli altri appresso), will all pass to the King, as the Queen thinks solely of giving his Majesty every possible assistance, nor does she attend to anything else.
The fleet is fitting out, and the Admiral [Lord William Howard] will depart in two days to assemble it, to which effect orders were sent to stop all the foreign vessels in these harbours, so that the ship “Contarina and Moceniga” was detained, and its master Manola da Paris wished me to petition the King for its release; but having been informed that any demand would prove vain, and that in case of war it is customary always to make use of all foreign vessels, I did not venture to attempt a thing the grant of which I was certain not to obtain, as it would merely be a loss of repute, which is not mine, but your Serenity's, and I know of what consequence it is ever to preserve it, especially in these times, and I therefore use every effort and turn all my thoughts to this end, and hope hitherto not to have laboured in vain. The ship will be paid, and well paid, so without suffering any harm it will derive profit from this employment.
Part of this fleet will remain for the present in these seas, and another part will go to convoy the fleet expected from Spain, of which no news had been heard for more than a month; but yesterday Don Pedro de Guevara arrived, who sailed from Coruña on the 26th ultimo, and does not bring any letters as he expected to accompany the fleet, which he says put to sea three times, and was thrice driven back by contrary winds. Concerning the supplies from Spain, he asserts publicly that they are very great, but does not enter into any particulars, thus causing no slight suspicion that the hopes from that quarter will not be verified; though on the arrival of the fleet the truth will be ascertained, as it will then be impossible to conceal it.
As yet no provision of troops has been made in Flanders, beyond those in ordinary on the frontiers, and they have merely made a muster of some 700 light cavalry; more would be done were it not for lack of money and victuals, which increases daily, without hope of remedy until harvest time, unless in the meanwhile some assistance arrive from the Hanse Towns (dalle terre marittime), as expected since so many months, though nothing is seen hitherto.
I have given orders for tents, baggage waggons (carri), and other necessaries to follow the King to the war, although on this occasion my expenses are so increased that I know not how I shall be able to bear them, most especially as the past thus far has been very onerous, not only exceeding all my means but consuming them. I do not say this by way of complaint, as being on this service I shall perform it willingly so long as intellect (spirito) and life remain to me, being bound to this debt by nature and my own free will.
London, 17th May 1557.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives (Second letter). 892. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in England, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 13th I wrote what I had then heard about the affair of Piombino, since when I have ascertained that the lord of the island merely ceded the fortresses to King Philip, reserving for himself both the state and its revenues, which arrangement is more advantageous for his Majesty, who is thus dispensed from making him any compensation; and as yet Appiano has had no other promise than that of being made a Knight of the Fleece, his Majesty consenting to reward him with this vain-glory (con questo fumo). The matter is still a secret, and will remain so until the resolution of the Duke of Florence be heard, and lest his Excellency complain of having to cede that state, it has been provided to pay him what he claims for it, and the expenses incurred in the war of Sienna, a total of 800,000 crowns, one half of which to be assigned him in the kingdom of Naples and the other half in Spain; and the Duke's brother-in-law, Don Luis de Toledo, who is here for this affair of Piombino and of Sienna, being cajoled with fair words, the ambassador from Florence, perhaps on this account, when talking with me a few days ago, accused the Royal Council of neglect and want of judgment, telling me that he finds more decision (più risolutione) in the King than in any of the others, but that his Majesty dares not do anything without the Council. Speaking of his Duke he said that he had always run the same chance as the Emperor and King Philip, but that they did not know him, and that he was suspected without reason; and I can assure your Serenity that the Duke of Florence is suspected, and they fear that even were his Majesty to grant him all he desires, yet would he not go to war for King Philip, although everything possible will be done to restrain him, and not render him utterly hostile.
The Duchess of Parma has departed for Italy, and from one of her household I heard that she made two demands; one that the state of the Duke her husband should be restored to him entirely, nothing more being said about compensations, and that the fortresses be given back to him; the other that her son, who had been appointed to reside in Spain with Don Carlos, may remain with the King, it seeming to her that in Spain he would be ruined by idleness, whereas here, where there is business and war, he would have experience of many things. With regard to her son the King consented, and placed the Duchess at liberty to take him with her to Italy, but she has not chosen to do so. Respecting the affairs of Piacenza and of the Duke, the King gave her good promise and intention, but in word and course of time, and with this her Excellency departed very well satisfied. I could learn nothing more, the affairs between the King and the Duchess having been treated face to face, which disables me from asserting anything positively, nor do I believe that anybody but themselves can know what they negotiated.
By advices from Italy it is heard that the galleys from Spain arrived at Genoa with 2,500 Spaniards and 300,000 crowns, so although the money is not much it is nevertheless hoped that it may somewhat stem the strong tide of good fortune now enjoyed by the French in that quarter, which is supposed to be in greater peril than any of King Philip's other possessions in Italy; and yesterday a person of consequence told me as a great secret that his Majesty would easily consent to place a Duke in Milan if he thought your Serenity would renew the treaty made heretofore with Duke Francesco, and that I should perhaps be spoken to on this subject.
London, 17th May 1557.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 19. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 893. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Yesterday, in the presence of his Holiness, a congregation of all the Cardinals was held. The cause of the congregation was to impose a tax of one per cent. on the value of all real property (tutti li stabili) in Rome and in the Papal States; and as it was rightly conjectured that many Cardinals would not approve, Cardinal Vitelli was sent to those who were suspected to demonstrate to them the Pope's need of money and his will concerning this tax, persuading them not to oppose his Holiness. This preparation having been made, the Pope, on entering congregation yesterday, explained the necessity of the present war, narrated the injuries and damages done him by King Philip and his ministers, styling them impious, heretical, schismatic, accursed, and the like, as on former occasions; he confuted the slanderous charges brought against him purporting that his Holiness desired the war, and rejected the terms of peace proposed to him by the Imperialists, coming to the conclusion that, being engaged in so important a war, and having great need of money, after much consideration on his own part and that of his ministers, they at length determined on this imposition of one per cent, as fairer and more supportable than any other, being payable solely by those who have means, the poor being exempt from it, whereas in the other imposts, such as the grinding tax (masena), (fn. 1) and the like, the poor pay more than the rich, as they eat more bread and labour more, nor have they wherewithal to accompany it. (fn. 2) This tax would also yield more, and precisely such an amount as required for maintaining the army and defraying the necessary expenses. Having finished his speech, the Pope caused the bull, which was already transcribed, to be read, the document setting forth that it was “de consilio fratrum S. Beaf et Cardinalium.”
The tax exacts one per cent, on real property exceeding 500 crowns, half per cent, on what is rated at from 500 to 100 crowns, immoveables valued at from 100 crowns to 20 being exempted; concerning which the Pope exhorted the Cardinals to give their opinion freely; so the “Decano” [Bellai], after deploring the calamities of the present times, commended what his Holiness had said, and approved the bull. Cardinal Carpi [Ridolfo Pio], who was the second, thanked his Holiness for having granted freedom of speech, wherefore as a good servant of the See Apostolic and of the Pope he would say what he thought, and first of all that with regard to his Holiness being calumniated, the Pope had cause to lament his ill fortune, as it was in fact true that he had been subjected to these calumnies, which Carpi hoped would be remedied by a good peace, the gift of God, and which had been sought by the Pope's extreme prudence and goodness. Then respecting the impost, he was of opinion that the Pope might avail himself of his subjects, and ought to do so, most especially in such great need, but that he indeed could not approve of so new and heavy a tax, by so much the more as he knew that several subjects had come hither to complain of the extraordinary imposts paid by them, demanding their exemption, so that Carpi feared lest this fresh burden might alienate them entirely, from the necessity to levy it arbitrarily, causing universal discontent, as there would not be time to make the necessary estimates.
At this point the Pope, in a rage, cut short (tagliò) the Cardinal's discourse, saying he had evidently a foul stomach (lo stomaco guasto), and that he spoke with passion, from partiality. The Cardinal replied that he was as spotless (netto) and sincere as anyone else (quanto altri), and that for conscience sake he said what he thought, and would die with this opinion. The Pope rejoined, “We are well known, and we remember that in consistory, in the time of Paul III., (fn. 3) you chose to contradict him, saying that “timebatis,” and he answered you, “quid timetis?” but with us these bugbears (questi spaventi) are unnecessary, as we are neither timid nor pusillanimous. Cardinal Carpi, although the “Decano” pulled him by the cape to make him sit down, and not to exasperate the Pope farther, did not cease replying that his Holiness said most truly that they were known, as he Pio believed himself to be known for an honest man (per huomo da bene), and as such he could not approve of this tax; whereupon he sat down in his place, and was seconded by the Cardinal S. Giacomo, (fn. 4) who commended his Holiness for availing himself of his subjects, though he should like (a lui piaceria) the amount of the tax to be limited to about 500,000 crowns or more, as he disliked an indefinite impost. The Pope—mdash;his whole frame quivering with passion (tutto già tremando da sdegno)—mdash;said, “Monsignore, we shall find persons who will speak without malignity.”
The other Cardinals, terrified by the example of these two, comported themselves reservedly, and those who would not approve of the tax passed it over in general terms without censure. The majority confirmed it; and amongst the rest, Cardinal Fano [a Dominican friar by name Pietro Bertano] demonstrated that the tax might be imposed, and was a fair one, alleging the authority of many doctors of the Church; Cardinal Mignanelli adding that it was so fair and tolerable as to admit of being repeated three or four times; and the Cardinal of Imola [Gieronimo Dandino, a native of Cesena] said that, having come lately from Romagna, where the project for imposing this tax was already known, the people there were content with it, and awaited the exaction cheerfully. The bull was passed accordingly, and was sent to-day to the Cardinals for signature. Cardinal Carpi would not put his hand to it, and in the presence of my secretary (whom I sent to him for authentic news of this event) he dismissed Fior di Bello, who took it to him, telling him to apologize to his Holiness for not choosing to approve of this bull, for the reasons given by him in consistory, and on the preceding day to Cardinal Vitelli; and that with regard to himself individually, the Pope might take all that he possessed, which he would give as willingly as his blood, if needed, everybody knowing how much he loves the See Apostolic, and how much he reveres his Holiness. The tax is laid, its exaction is deemed difficult, and the money either tardy, or so contrary to the wish of the people, that it must be levied arbitrarily, and from a people who as notorious have suffered so much in Romagna and in the March of Ancona, and yet more in the Campagna and in this city, where experienced statists say that, being exacted from persons of every description, it will amount (if paid in full) to two millions of gold.
Rome, 19th May 1557.


  • 1. Now called “macinato,” a tax lately revived in Italy, where it is considered a very great grievance.
  • 2. “Non havendo con che compagnarlo.” These words of Paul IV. give the etymology of the Venetian term “companàdego,” which signifies “whatever is eaten with bread.”
  • 3. Ridolfo Pio had been made Cardinal by Paul III. on the 22nd December 1536, at the same time as Reginald Pole and Gianpietro Caraffa. (See Cardella, vol. 4, p. 173.)
  • 4. Juan Alvarez de Toledo, transferred from Burgos to St. Iago of Compostella by Pope Julius III. (See Cardella, vol. 4, p. 201.)