Venice: February 1557, 16-28

Pages 956-963

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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February 1557, 16–28

Feb. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 818. Giacomo Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Fresh disturbances in Picardy and Champagne are announced daily, the territory being exhausted by the late war, so that the troops on both sides are unable to keep the field, notwithstanding which the King of England is sending reinforcements thither. France likewise is sending German and French soldiery into those parts, as also to Piedmont; all these preparations having for object an attack upon the Milanese, to which the King is urged by the Duke of Ferrara. His most Christian Majesty has also been informed that the Queen of England has promised the King her husband pay for 10,000 infantry and 2,000 horse, on condition that he cross over to England; which resolve, if true, will greatly harass his most Christian Majesty.
Here every effort is being made to obtain pecuniary supply, and the King has already contracted a loan with the merchants at Lyons for one million and a half of gold, including the sum written by me heretofore, bearing interest at the rate of 16 per cent., of which the fourth part to be paid at each fair, the King disbursing simultaneously at each fair one per cent. of the capital, which being diminished at each fair yet will the disbursement (of the 16 per cent.?) not be diminished, although at each succeeding fair the amount due for interest will be lessened; but the surplus in the King's hands through the debatement of the interest will be added to (query the sum required for) the repayment (sfalcatione) of the capital; so that in 41 fairs, which will have been held in 10 years and one quarter, the payment of the capital and the interest will be completed; and in the said term of ten years and one quarter his Majesty, to those who now disburse 100 crowns capital, will have paid only 204 crowns, including capital and interest, thus saving 60 per cent. on what he would have had to disburse had he during the said period paid interest at the rate of 16 per cent., and on its expiration chosen to repay the capital. This contract is so satisfactory to everybody that, besides that of the merchants aforesaid, another sum of the same amount has been offered to his Majesty, and the greater part by German merchants. In addition to this, the King is demanding a loan from all the merchants and other persons in easy circumstances throughout the kingdom, limiting the sum according to each individual's quality, the contribution varying from four to twenty crowns, no one to pay less than four nor more than twenty, which will yield him nearly a million of gold. Of this city of Paris he has also demanded a loan of 400,000 francs, payable in two instalments, which have been granted him; and the ten years' monopoly of the salt duty having expired, the Constable put it up to auction for another ten years, to the highest bidder, a thing never done in this kingdom until now, and has thus increased it to the amount of 400,000 crowns annually; and of this revenue the King will avail himself as much as he can, by paying a certain amount of interest. Whereas it was customary to leave the moneys derived from the revenues of the kingdom in the “chambers” of several places, making assignments when required, his Majesty has now decreed that all his moneys from all parts are to be brought to this city to a place called the Louvre, all the assignments being made in this place alone; and although he will incur some additional expense for the conveyance of the moneys from place to place, he nevertheless thought it more for his advantage, both because the money will not remain in many hands, and he will always be able to make use of it without revising so many accounts. To commence the execution of this order by facts, and to see the money collected into a heap, many steps are being taken, especially that of suspending for three months all the pensions paid by his Majesty to private individuals who received their assignments for that term, whereas now all the money is to come hither. As nearly the whole of these arrangements have been made since his Majesty's return to this city, it has seemed fit to me to give detailed account of them to your Serenity.
Paris, 18th February 1557. (fn. 1)
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Feb. 20. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 819. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
I went yesterday to ask audience of the Pope at 3.20 p.m. The Duke of Paliano and Marshal Strozzi were with him. Whilst I was there waiting, two Venetian prelates and others told me they had heard from Messer Paulo (fn. 2) that your Serenity would not only not assist him, but gave passage to his enemies who were coming to destroy this Holy See, and indeed all Italy. On the departure of Paliano and Strozzi his Holiness had the Marchioness his relation introduced, together with the General of the Friars Minor, and then the Commissary-General, after which he commenced saying vespers and complin. The office being ended he sent for the Bishop of Pola, although he had been with him a long while on the preceding evening, and simultaneously I also was called, and then stopped at the door and made to sit down on a stool prepared there for me. After his Holiness had remained with the Bishop more than an hour, it being 6 p.m., the Pope sent to tell me that I must take patience, as he wished to say matins, (fn. 3) without letting me know that I was to return another day.
Inferring that the cause of my being thus dismissed could be nothing but what I had heard about his Holiness being angry on account of the passage conceded to the Germans, he having also spoken to me on the subject a few days ago, and not having any business of importance, I let this week slip away (scorrer) without audience, it not appearing to me for your Serenity's service to demand it, as either he would have given it me or not; not giving it, I do not think it would have been for your Serenity's dignity, that your ambassador who has been so much honoured by his Holiness, and preferred to all the others, should not be heard by him for two days running, which in these times would have been interpreted and perhaps written to all the Courts; because had it happened twice, concealment would have been impossible, whereas about this first time nothing is said. Moreover, had he given me audience during this his first perturbation, there was danger lest, according to his nature, he might burst out in such language as it might have displeased your Serenity to hear; and I being aware of the cause of his anger, by importunately presenting myself before him, should in a certain way have been the cause of this, not having, as aforesaid, any business of importance to transact. Having neither “advice” nor any order about this passage of the Germans, I deemed it well to delay giving opportunity for this first outbreak; and that he might not think me angry I sent my secretary this morning to Messer Paulo, and had him told that having merely Constantinople newsletters to communicate, I had not chosen to inconvenience his Holiness to-day, but imparted them to the Duke of Paliano, who promised to acquaint the Pope with their contents. Messer Paulo promised to apologize for me accordingly, adding that when I was dismissed he entered the Pope's chamber and told him I had waited for four hours, and his Holiness replied that the Bishop of Pola had stunned him (li havea rotta la testa), and that he could give no more audiences.
Rome, 20th February 1557.
Feb. 20. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 820. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The colours of the two Spanish companies in Vicovaro (Vignar) have been sent hither, and the Pope says he shall have them put in St. Peter's as testimony of this victory and of the justice of God. The Duke of Paliano having returned to Rome says it was impossible to prevent the soldiers in their fury from slaughtering those of the enemy in Vicovaro, and most especially the Germans, these last being the remains of those who were cut to pieces by the Spaniards at Port-Hercule, which circumstance was thus brought to mind. There was also a company of Siennese, who were very glad indeed to take this opportunity of revenging themselves upon the Spaniards, and the Duke of Paliano says the Spaniards were little less than 500, because besides the two companies, there were 60 of them in the citadel, and 60 more got into Vicovaro on escaping lately from Signor Matheo Stendardo, when, as written by me, he lately took the sacks of flour from them; though others say that they were not more than 400 in all, of whom about 70 are safe, and made prisoners.
They have left Francesco Orsini in Vicovaro with four companies, and say they mean to fortify it, as counselled by Marshal Strozzi, because the site is a very convenient one. Of the troops who were at that attack a good part returned to Rome to amuse themselves, though it is believed they will shortly make some other expedition, as said by the Duke of Paliano to a Cardinal who sent me word of it. As yet it is not known what undertaking they will attempt, but the Count di Populo having in these parts (but scattered about in several places, such as Anagni, Montefortino, Terracina, Frosinone, and others) some 3,000 infantry, and a certain amount of horse, those forces might make them act very reservedly, as the Imperialists say there are letters from Naples purporting that by the 15th all the barons there were to be in readiness. It is said besides that so long as the war lasts, the kingdom has promised to pay the Duke of Alva a good sum of money monthly, in addition to which they say that in the castle of Naples there are 300,000 crowns deposited there in the time of Don Pedro de Toledo, on condition of their not being expended, save for the defence of the kingdom. Here they have a want of powder, and although certain contractors would have brought some, the difficulty about money makes them withdraw, as the supply which they furnished some months ago has not yet been paid for, and it seems that by bad luck the little they got, exploded. At the capture of Hostia a few barrels blew up, as written by me; the like having also taken place now with a few barrels at Vicovaro, causing the death of a few soldiers, besides those killed at the assaults, said to be from one to two hundred infantry.
There is much mortality amongst the troops; and in truth all say that the Spaniards did their duty bravely, and the Imperialists here hold in greater account the loss of Spanish soldiery incurred hitherto, which is said to exceed 500, than the places recovered; attributing the blame of this to the imprudence of those who put them into places which they could not hold; or the little faith of some of them, and the too great daring of certain others.
The Spaniards who were brought hither from Vicovaro, after being examined as to whether they were the soldiers of Philip, and that they came to attack the See Apostolic, and all their replies having been put to writing, were sent home, with half a crown per man.
The Bishop of Pola arrived here on Thursday, having left Reggio on Tuesday after the conference, and on that evening Cardinal Caraffa was to be at Bologna, where he would wait for the French army, which on Sunday halted at Reggio, and was to be at Bologna in three days; and then Cardinal Caraffa will come on to Rome, and be perhaps accompanied by the Duke de Guise, after he shall have been at Ferrara to see the Duchess his mother-in-law. I also hear that the said Duke has informed the Pope by letter, and through M. de Carnevaletto, who came here lately, that he is commissioned by the King his lord to do whatever the Pope shall wish, although he might effect something of importance in the parts where he now is (nelle parte di là).
The Duke of Ferrara, after the army was made over to him, as Captain General of the League, by the Duke de Guise, wrote to the Pope that he is ready to advance; to which his Holiness replied by a brief that his Excellency in person is to remain where he is for the guard and defence of the places in Lombardy, without saying anything at all about the army. Should the French army come hither, the progress it may make is spoken of in various ways, and which of them may be the true one, time will demonstrate, but all agree in this, that at this season [the scarcity of?] victuals and fodder will be a very great impediment; in addition to which there is the want of ammunition, so that they are asking it even of the Duke of Urbino; whilst the subsequent approach to Naples in the summer months will be opposed by the climate there; (fn. 4) and yet greater difficulties will perhaps also hinder the Tuscan expedition. Certain persons in authority believe that the coming to Rome of the Duke de Guise will be to let the Pope know, that with so many impediments, to march that army to Naples, which the Pope has principally at heart, and always talks about it, is to remove it from a site where many honourable feats might be performed, and to bring it to a place where, having need of so many things, it will be unable to achieve anything of importance; and they now revive the discourse about an attack upon Parma.
From France, and especially from Lyons, many private individuals have received letters from the French Court announcing the despatch by the King to the Duke of Florence of a Bishop (fn. 5) to sign the articles drawn up by his Excellency lately with his Majesty; and they also write details, about marriages, states, &c., on which I do not dilate, because when the Florentine ambassador is asked about it he laughs and declares that there is no truth whatever in the report.
The Spanish nation here is half in despair, owing to a decree of the Council of Spain, the copy of which I enclose. (fn. 6) but in yet greater despair is the Court of Rome, as this is the ruin of the “Rota” and of the Chancery, and in short of the whole Court, and is the commencement of the withdrawal of the obedience of all his [King Philip's] States from this See. With regard to this matter Cardinal Carpi [Ridolfo Pio] told my secretary that his right reverend Lordship being with the Pope a few days ago, his Holiness commenced abusing the Emperor and King Philip, and above all for this impiety in waging war on the See Apostolic. The Cardinal, having asked leave to speak freely, and obtained it, said that he could not commend King Philip's having waged war on the Church, but that on the other hand he could not blame the wish, which it was said publicly the said King had, to give every satisfaction to his Holiness, whom the Cardinal prayed humbly to take every opportunity to adjust matters, because were his Holiness to know one half of what others who are outside know (la mità di quello che sanno li altri che sono di fuora via), he by reason of his goodness and piety would lament the ruin not only of this Ecclesiastical State, which threatens entire dissolution, but also of its spiritual power, which dissolution (fn. 7) could not be greater than it is at present, but would vastly increase (sic) were his Holiness to proceed to deprive the King, because this would be by word (perfectly valid with regard to right), while his Majesty by deed would deprive the Apostolic See by withdrawing the obedience of all the kingdoms under his rule, besides other detriment which he might inflict in the course of time. To this the Pope replied that as for temporal interests, he saw the loss that had, been incurred, though he hoped in God that now it would be quite the contrary; that with regard to the injury done to religion, if those kingdoms were to alienate themselves, it would be a sign that they are infidels, for which his Holiness ought not to take heed, as it is sufficient for the faith to remain in a few; and that in the next place, the Lord God has the means of maintaining it and of causing its increase. So (to use the Cardinal's phrase) having entered the sacristy it was requisite to talk of something else. Notwithstanding all this, I understand that on Thursday in the congregation of the Inquisition, the Pope spoke of the vietories his army had obtained, extolling them greatly, and adding that should Philip nevertheless do what would become him, he would not fail to pardon him. Cardinal Carpi thereupon respectully inquired of him if it was true what he had heard, that King Philip had sent a commission to the Duke of Alea to do all that Cardinal Caraffa had demanded of him on the island; (fn. 8) to which the Pope replied that he would not do anything that might be proposed by Cardinal Caraffa, nor by other Cardinals, but solely what he himself knew and commanded, as he did not intend anyone to have the power to bind him (che alcuno la potesse obligar) to anything whatever.
Ascanio da Nepi, who was sent heretofore by Cardinal Farnese, came to visit me in the name of his right reverend Lordship and of Duke Ottavio, telling me besides that he was ordered by his masters to inform the Pope that the passage, victuals, and all that was necessary for the accommodation of the French army on its march to assist his Holiness, was in order, and that by this he might know their goodwill to be the obedient and devoted sons and servants of his Holiness and of this Holy See; and that he had asked leave of the Pope for his Cardinal to go and reside at Padua; and that as to the preparations for the accommodation of the French army, the Pope said they were agreeable to him; and that concerning the permission for the Cardinal to go to Padua, he could not then decide about it, but that Ascanio was to return. I heard subsequently that as yet he has been unable to obtain audience; and it has moreover been told me that he (Ascanio) endeavoured to raise (ha cereato) 20,000 crowns for the service of those most illustrious lords, and could searcely get 4,000.
Rome, 20th February 1557.
Feb. 27. (1st letter.) Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 821. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
A Cardinal in authority, and who can know things, most especially such as relate to the French, told my secretary that the most Christian King having undertaken a war of such great importance, at the earnest request of the Pope, he will do everything to have a promotion of cardinals as soon as he can; and that the Duke de Guise is perhaps coming to Rome for this purpose rather than for anything else, and will possibly not depart until the cardinals are made, as the Pope is old and a human being (è vecchio et homo). That the most Christian King did not demand any of his own nation in particular, but referred himself to his Holiness, who would have been informed about the conditions of the prelates of his court by Cardinal Caraffa, he having known them when in France. Many persons, including cardinals, have had it intimated to me that the Pope complains of your having granted passes to Lutherans and enemies of God, to the ruin of His Vicar, which I believe, as besides what I wrote in my last, when I sent to ask audience of him yesterday, he had me answered that I was not to go, because his Holiness having announced public audience for Tuesday, he chose to go thither, although the weather was bitterly cold, with snow; so that those who declare that snow is very rarely seen on the ground in Rome, and that such cold in mid-winter, and yet more at this season, is an unusual thing, go saying a variety of things about the calamities of Rome likewise; and they call to mind that at the time of the sack there was similar weather. After giving audience for a short while the Pope departed, being unable to bear the cold.
Rome, 27th February 1557.
Feb. 27. (2nd letter.) Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 822. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Being certain that the fact of the Pope's not having given me audience yesterday would not be known at the Court, as I had not been to the palace, in order not to give occasion to the Pope to think that I was the least angry, I this morning sent my secretary to Messer Paulo with orders to tell him that I perfectly well knew his Holiness' very important occupations, wherefore I did not wish to molest him by demanding audience, but that on the other hand I would not fail to pay my respects to him, according to my duty and to your Serenity's intention; so I referred myself to his Lordship (Messer Paulo) to demand or not to demand audience for to-day, as might seem fit to him. He replied that after the mass he would say a word about it to the Pope, as he did, and his Holiness answered him in the negative (et il Papa le rispose di non).
Rome, 27th February 1557.
Feb. 27. (3rd letter.) Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 823. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
At this very hour, 7h 35m p.m. (le due di notte), a person of authority has come to let me know that he has heard from an individual who may be almost considered the Pope in person, that his Holiness complains beyond measure that you should have given passage, victuals, and money to the enemies of God, and says that the Queen of England acts with more reserve, and that the Venetians might possibly repent of this; adding that the Florentine ambassador, to whom the Pope has unbosomed himself, negotiated the marriage of one of the daughters of the King of France to his Duke's son, that it may be settled, the Archbishop of Vienne having come hither for this purpose; and that if settled, it will be done without the Venetians. This same person told me that the other day the Pope got into a rage with the French ambassador, because he required a certain affair which they were treating to be put in writing, and his Holiness answered him angrily that his mere word ought to be credited, and the ambassador rejoining that he had this order, they parted in anger. I will not remind your Serenity to have what I write kept secret, as you will perceive how much your affairs would suffer were what I write to be known; most especially in these times, and with the nature of this Pope, who, I moreover fear, will some day have my letters opened, as has been done several times by those, one may say, of all the other ambassadors.
Rome, 27th February 1557.


  • 1. The foregoing is the last despatch in the first file of the French correspondence now preserved in the Venetian Archives; the letters are dated from the 11th May 1554 to the 18th February 1557, and the ciphered portions of them remained unintelligible until the year 1872, when Signor Luigi Pasini commenced deciphering them.
  • 2. Paulo Consiglieri, alias Ghislieri, alias Barona, “Maestro di Camera” of Pope Paul IV.
  • 3. On the 20th February the sun sets at 5h. 21m., and apparently from that time forth until 7 a.m. on the morning of the 21st, matins might be said ad lib.
  • 4. Et che l'avicinarsi poi a Napoli li mesi dell' estate sia un dar occasione a quel cielo et a quell' aere di combatter contra di loro.
  • 5. Qu. Charles de Marillac.
  • 6. Not found.
  • 7. (Che questo Stato ecclesiastico si stilla lambicca (sic) tutto) ma del spiritual, el qual non potria far maggior iattura di quello che fa al presente, et faria molto maggior se Sua Santità, &c.
  • 8. In Giannone (Vol. 4, p. 120) this island is called the island of Fiumicino.