Venice: June 1558

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: June 1558', 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 15 July 2024].

'Venice: June 1558', 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 15, 2024,

"Venice: June 1558". 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. 15 July 2024.

June 1558

June 11. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1240. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 4th instant the Duke de Guise arrived under Thionville, and when in the act of encamping many cannon shots were fired at him, but they only killed three or four of his men. He has with him all the French bands, viz., 22 ensigns of Picardy, and five of Germans of the Rifambergo (sic) regiments. M. de Giames is towards Metz on the other side of the river, with the Frenchmen of Champagne, and of that territory, and six or seven hundred horse, and this to secure the road for the victuals which come from that quarter. In a large village towards Luxemburg there is M. de Nevers with all the cavalry and 25 ensigns of Germans, to prevent two ensigns of Spaniards, who had made their appearance for that purpose, from entering Thionville, in which he succeeded. Between M. de Nevers and de Giames there is the Duke de Nemours with the light cavalry; and on the morrow they were expecting a thousand Pistolers or Blacksmiths from Germany. On the 5th the trenches were finished; on the 6th they were to commence battering the defensive works; and yesterday the Cardinal of Lorraine told me that the battery consisted of 38 ordinary guns, two double ones (ct doi doppi), and other pieces to the amount of 46 or 48, and that they had battered for two consecutive days, and were still continuing with good hope of taking it by storm, as was told the King yesterday evening by the brother of Secretary Robertet who was sent express for this purpose by the Duke de Guise; as the platforms were already razed, one at each angle of the curtain, a tower being battered, and part of one of the chief palaces of the town, which being built in the loftiest situation, the guns placed on its roof (in cima) did great damage to the army, which they commanded in every direction. Within the town there are 11 ensigns of soldiers, only one of which is of Spaniards, the rest being of Walloons, their entire number being rather more than 2,000 men, exceeding by one-half what is required, the place being small.
In this other quarter hitherwards M. de Termes has already taken the field with 4,000 men of the territory, and 1,000 veteran infantry, including Gascons and Germans who were in the neighbouring garrisons, and from three to four hundred horse, to get rid of certain small fortresses raised on the confines of the Calais pale, and if possible, to advance beyond towards Gravelines, not anticipating great resistance; and, failing to accomplish anything else, he will do great service by keeping King Philip's forces disunited and diverted as much as he can.
The King of Navarre likewise is intent on his despatch, and has made a great store of arms and other necessaries for the expedition against Navarre which he has resolved to attempt, as written by me heretofore, and for the most part at his own expense, having every day of late attended to pecuniary supply, and he has raised some loans with merchants on his revenues for a reasonable sum; so it may be said that in no quarter of this kingdom, nor on any of its frontiers, can the enemy harass them offensively or defensively.
Concerning the said King and Queen of Navarre, much has been said about them lately, as favourers of these new opinions; and I understand that they having been seen on the days of those great congregations in the meadows of St. Germain, report of this was made to his most Christian Majesty, who having asked him as it were by way of a joke if it was true, he said yes, that he went thither like the rest as a looker on (che vi era stato per vedere come gli altri); and he then took to blustering (di poi si voltò al bravare), saying that if any one had the audacity to say that he did anything against his Majesty's service, or contrary to his own honour and dignity as Prince and King, he would make him know his error; and thus did he rid himself of any opportunity for being ever again spoken to on the subject; but nevertheless when he was lately in Paris, one of the chief ministers of this sect (uno dei principali ministri di quelli di questa seta) having been arrested, the King of Navarre sent word to the Lieutenant of criminal police (al Luogotenente del criminale) not to interfere with the minister, as he was the King's subject (essendo huomo suo), and that he was to send him to the King. The Lieutenant apologized for inability to do so without a license and express commission from the most Christian King, owing to the very stringent order given him about persons of that sort; whereupon the King of Navarre did not scruple to go in person to the Lieutenant and make him give up his prisoner, saying that he would always surrender him whenever required. When this was known by the Parliament of Paris, they issued a command to the said Lieutenant, that if within a certain number of days the minister were not re-imprisoned they would proceed against him, the Lieutenant, both by depriving him of his office and by personal punishment; so in great perplexity from the risk he runs of some bad trick (qualche scherzo di mala sorte) being played, he applied to the King of Navarre to get back the prisoner, and the King seems to have laughed at it, telling him not to mind, as when he (Navarre) went to the Court, he would easily set him at liberty.
The Court removes to Villers-Cotterets tomorrow, to be nearer the frontier for the receipt of news from every quarter. His Majesty's arms and tents are being got ready expeditiously, as he says clearly that he shall at any rate join the camp in person, but will first wait to see what the Duke de Guise may do, and what resolve King Philip shall form.
Paris, 11th June 1558.
June 12. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. File I., Spagna. 1241. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Chiefs of the Ten.
The Duke of Alva told me in secret that the King has advices that Cardinal Caraffa purposes seizing Ancona and keeping it for himself, renouncing the hat if unable to succeed to the Popedom. The Duke is of opinion that this will totally ruin the Church, which he thinks cannot be preserved save through the assistance of some great Prince, nor did he say what Prince; adding that whenever this takes place the whole State of the Church will be sacrificed as prey (sarà dato in preda).
Brussels, 12th June 1558.
[Italian, in cipher; deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
June 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1242. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
After reconnoitring the battery in Thionville, M. de Guise not only advanced his trenches to the foot of the ramparts and to the gate of the town at great risk, there having in the meanwhile taken place many great skirmishes (grosse scaramuccie), in which several of the besiegers were killed and wounded, especially some of the few Italians now in the camp, but he also continued working with the pickaxe at the inner platform to throw down as much as he could of it, so that according to the last advices he purposed making the assault in three or four days, although the sudden and unexpected death of Marshal Strozzi will have cooled the execution of this and of all his other designs, M. de Guise having thus lost one of his principal agents (membri) and instruments for counsel and assistance, as to Strozzi's infinite diligence and incessant exertions are attributed the whole fruit of this expedition, for he himself never rested, and allowed but little repose to the others. As heard this evening the poor nobleman died on the 20th of a musket-shot in the breast, which struck him on the sudden, he having scarcely raised himself from the waist upwards above the trenches (a fatica alzato fino alla cintura fuora delle trincee) to see and consider whether a nearer approach could be made to the ramparts within, to facilitate the assault; being unfortunately without his breast-plate, which he had near him, and was in the act of putting it on; and he was hit so hard that he had only time to say the few following words to M. de Guise, who ran to him immediately, “Monseigneur, I am a dead man; I pray you to be mindful of me, as I die for your service,” and he expired immediately; so much to the regret of this whole Court, especially of the King, but above all of the Queen, whose grief I cannot sufficiently express, that to mitigate the sorrow and repair the loss incurred everybody admits that nothing less than the capture of Thionville will suffice. Fresh troops and provisions arrive daily at the camp, his most Christian Majesty having issued a proclamation to all the towns of the kingdom, earnestly praying and inviting all the gentry of the kingdom to betake themselves thither in person with the greatest assistance they can muster, not from the obligation of the rear bands, which has been cancelled entirely for money, and because of the little service received from that militia, but from the will and free election of each individual, so as not to fail on such an occasion in defending the realm and themselves individually.
I also understand that in Picardy, where M. d'Aumale is the King's lieutenant, they daily receive reinforcements of cavalry and infantry, and some companies of German Pistolers (Pistolleri) have arrived, an indication that they will soon also take the field there, whither, should the Thionville expedition not succeed, it seems that the whole army will march; his Majesty likewise continuing to say that he shall join it, and merely awaits the results of the siege, which, in one way or the other, cannot be long delayed; and the advices from the camp continue their accounts of the daring and spirit of the besieged, who have so much artillery and ammunition that in 10 or 12 days they discharged, not without little fruit (non senza poco frutto), upwards of 4,000 heavy cannon balls; and it seems that the Governor of Hainault (said to be Count Horn) (fn. 1) has entered the town, having passed through the camp secretly with a companion, both of them wearing the white crosses.
The Baron de Cler set sail lately from Dieppe, and steering towards Flanders with several vessels he captured some English ships loaded with wools and woollens to a great amount, exceeding three hundred thousand francs, as told me by the Cardinal of Lorraine. Amongst these vessels were some cutters or smacks (scute), and on board of them were found letters written from England to the King of Spain about a great rebellion and tumult (gran sollevatione et tumulto) which had happened in Ireland, part of the Queen's ministers having been slain, and part expelled. It seems that the Earl of Kildare [Gerald Fitzgerald], one of the chief Lords of that part of Ireland held by the English, has been proclaimed and published (gridato et pubblicato) King; others adding that he has also been crowned. By descent he is a Florentine of the Gherardini family, a youth of great promise and with many followers, and for the most part of his life he was educated in Italy.
Ferté Milon, 22nd June 1558.
June 24. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1243. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
Yesterday I wrote by a King's courier despatched to Italy, (fn. 2) and then to day his Majesty received advice of the loss of Thionville, which took place towards the evening of the day before yesterday, because the greater part of the defenders being killed in the assault given them on that day, the survivors, being for the most part wounded, and seeing that they could no longer resist, agreed to surrender the town on condition of their lives being spared (salve le loro persone), and some 400 or a few more, the remains of so large a garrison, went out of the place; the French having thus gained a very important site, and very great repute, without any other loss than the death of a few soldiers, including, it is said, Pietro Strozzi, which will be the best news that could be heard by the Duke of Florence, as clearly demonstrated by his Ambassador here, who seems beside himself with joy.
Owing to this advice, the Duke of Savoy has returned to Brussels, to consult about what is to be done, especially as the march of the French towards Oalais and Boulogne causes great fear for Gravelines.
Brussels, 24th June 1558.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
June 25. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1244. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I yesterday announced the surrender of Thionville on the 23rd, and to increase the general joy intelligence has also been received that M. de l'Ange, the Governor of Dieppe, having put to sea with several armed ships, took an island near Jersey and Guernesy, opposite to the confines of Normandy and Britanny. (fn. 3)
Ferté Milon, 25th June 1558.
June 26. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 1245. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
I have nothing to add about the loss of Thionville, except that the French are very diligently repairing it, surrounding the place with a great number of pioneers to put it as speedily as possible into such a condition that they may never again fear its being stormed. They have thus opened the road for farther advance either in the Luxemburg territory or in that of Liege, or Treves, at their option, as neither on one side nor on the other have they any impediment from fortresses, though the town of Luxemburg might offer some slight obstacle, not so much from the strength of its position nor from engineering skill (nè per artificio) as from the amount of its garrison, numbering 4,000 efficient troops, amongst which it is indeed true that there are some companies quartered in the town since a long while, whom it would be well to replace by men of more experience, as has been recommended to the King, but no decision has been formed about this hitherto, both because affairs usually proceed slowly, and most especially with so strange and troublesome a combination of circumstances as this present one, it being also attributable to the necessity for other provisions requiring immediate despatch, caused by the suspicion about Gravelines, which is in the greatest danger should the French attack it, as feared; for although the Spaniards have commenced fortifying it in a form which if completed would render it quite safe, yet, being unfinished, Gravelines is now weaker than it was before they commenced the repairs, for they have filled up the ditches, and cleft the walls in some places, levelling the old platforms, which were unsuited to this new design; having also commenced the bulwarks, though they are still so low, that they would serve the enemy for a ladder, in like manner as they would use the cleft in the wall for a gate.
In the consultations held about the measures to be taken the opinions therefore were contradictory, the diversity consisting in this, that some of the councillors wished to increase the number of troops in Gravelines, thus remedying the defects of the fortress by its multitudinous garrison; whilst others recommend the sending of reinforcements, not that they should think of defending the place by remaining within it, but to form a larger body capable of taking the field, and fortifying itself by trenches on the front and flanks, keeping the town in their rear, which would be the safest manœuvre, but there are two objections to it, the one, that the soil around is all sand so that trenches cannot be made conveniently, nor sufficient shelter (riparo) against artillery, the other being that there is not time enough for this provision.
King Philip, therefore, after much consultation, determined that Don Luis de Caravajal, who is on board the fleet in Zealand with those Spaniards, some 700 strong, should go and join that Colonel of the Germans who has the custody of Gravelines, nor have they yet settled which of the two modes is better for the defence of the place, either to remain within or to go outside; but until farther orders be sent it is understood they are to stay inside the fortress. When this was determined, the Duke of Savoy mounted postwise, and returned towards Namur, and has already countermanded the troops on their march towards Luxemburg, desiring them to turn to the right, and to take the Valenciennes road to make the muster in that vicinity. The object of his undertaking, and his means for effecting it, are alike unknown, as necessary to keep the enemy in the dark, but so far as can be seen by his proceedings he will go into some quarter where he thinks a diversion may be most easily made, which is perhaps the safest counsel, as he has not yet sufficient troops to equal those of the French either in number or force, neither when they took Thionville, nor when they now think of attacking Gravelines; and had this been done betimes they might perhaps have given more assistance to Thionville than they did on that occasion. In the meanwhile they will reinforce the army, troops being expected from Germany and eleswhere, and according to report the Duke of Brunswick has arrived with his cavalry at Boisle-Duc (Bolduck), and will be able shortly to join the rest of the troops. I also hear through several channels that ere now King Philip might have mustered a large body of troops, and wished to do so, as he knew that in this present year the advantage would rest with him who was first in the field, and he had enough money to suffice at least for mustering the troops, but the thing was so long delayed, because Erasso, who has the administration of the money, chose to attempt making a new form of contract with the Germans, and contrary to their custom, whereby his Majesty would have saved from thirty to forty thousand crowns, but they seeing this new subtlety grew angry, and there was a difficulty in engaging them on the old terms; so throughout the whole Court Erasso is blamed publicly because this his untimely attempt has been the cause of the losses suffered from the French, and of what they may inflict in the course of this campaign.
Such is the state of affairs at this Court, and the King's departure seems delayed by this casualty (accidente) of Thionville, and because they are expecting the Duke of Parma; but nevertheless all those who have to follow his Majesty are in readiness since many days, and each individual has his baggage waggons appointed him, and all things necessary prepared for mounting on horseback at the trumpet's sound, and yesterday morning public proclamations were made all over the city for the sutlers to follow the army as usual. I am thus in readiness to go with his Majesty anywhere, and the Almighty grants me this grace, that I feel myself stronger now and better disposed than I have been during all the past months, so I hope to be able to bear the fatigue and inconvenience, which I was determined not to shun, even had I found myself somewhat unwell.
For the last two days, at the time of the greatest heat, when the sun is most scorching, a burning vapour (un vapor acceso), like a star, is visible in the air, which although it proceeds from the nature of the weather (dalla qualità dei tempi) is nevertheless universally considered by the people a prodigy, and for the most part it is interpreted sinisterly for King Philip, and favourably for the French. This, although a superstition, makes great impression on the ignorant and vulgar (nei populi et nella gente ignorante).
Brussels, 26th June 1558.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]


  • 1. The Flemish commander in Thionville was Jean de Quarible, a gentleman of Brabant. (See Père Daniel, vol. 9, p. 867.)
  • 2. Letter not found.
  • 3. Alderney See letter dated 25th July, where this island is called Origni, which may mean Alderney, but cannot signify Sarke, as in Naval History, vol. 2, p. 276.