Venice: March 1557, 16-25

Pages 976-984

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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March 1557, 16–25

March 16. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 835. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador in Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
Yesterday, at 5 p.m. (23 hore), the promotion of 10 cardinals was published. Many persons who came to my house subsequently say that it causes general dissatisfaction, especially to the Duke de Guise and to these French Lords.
Rome, 16th March 1557.
March 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 836. Giacomo Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Don Juan de Luna having told his most Christian Majesty, on behalf of M. de Brissac, that it was necessary to send reinforcements into Piedmont, the King answered him angrily, “How can there be such great need of troops when, according to the accounts inspected by me, there are 28,000 paid soldiers (paghe) in Piedmont, besides more than 5,000 or 6,000 in the fortresses;” and he immediately gave orders for letters to be written to M. de Brissac to send the muster-roll (la rassegna) of all the troops there, but he is nevertheless sending thither (as mentioned by me) 12,000 infantry, including Switzers, French, and Germans.
It is said very publicly at the court, most especially by the Constable's dependents, that M. de Guise did not well comprehend what was for the advantage of his most Christian Majesty, as even had he halted in the Milanese he might have besieged Asti, Alessandria, and Villafranca, which are said to be scantily provided, Milan likewise being in the same condition, and that having accomplished all or part of these expeditions he might then more freely and with greater dignity have crossed and attended to the Pope's service. To this the adherents of M. de Guise rejoin that, his commission being limited, he had nothing to do but to cross, nor could he delay doing so on any account whatever.
Senlis, 17th March 1557.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
March 20. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 837. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
The particulars heard by me concerning the last promotion of cardinals are as follows:—
On the morning of the 15th inst., when Consistory assembled, the Pope celebrated the mass of the Holy Spirit, and sent for Fra Michiel, the General of Aracœli, (fn. 1) and for the President, (fn. 2) as those whom the Holy Spirit had inspired him to call to the dignity of cardinals. Consistory being assembled, he said that amongst the cardinals there were many absent, and some, being employed in the service of other princes, had their thoughts turned to anything rather than towards the grandeur of this Holy See, as they ought to be; so that he was compelled to provide others, and that his Holiness, having to render account of this operation to the Lord God, for the discharge of his conscience had thought much about it, and having implored the light of the Holy Spirit he had determined on those whom he would propose (era risoluto in quelli che proponeria), concerning which he did not require either opinion or counsel from anyone. Thus did he propose the whole 10 (tutti 10), speaking of them all at great length, and in such a way as he knows how to do. Everybody commended his Holiness' proposal, and the Pope having spoken for a long while about the President, the brother of his Messer Paulo (M. Paulo suo), alluding to the ancient and faithful service rendered by both of them, certain cardinals rose and went to the Pope, requesting him to elect one and the other. The Pope said, “One is enough.”
The length of time during which Consistory sat, namely, from 12 till 5 p.m. (dalle 18 fino appresso le 23), caused it to be suspected that some difficulty might have arisen, but the matter proceeded in the manner now written by me.
I have visited all their right reverend Lordships, congratulating the Marquis de Montebello, and Cardinal Caraffa, and Duke of Paliano on the promotion of their son and nephew. (fn. 3) This office was accepted by all the cardinals with every mark of respect towards your Serenity. As yet their titles are as follows:—
Cardinal of Naples, the right reverend Don Alfonso Caraffa, who is a youth of about 18 years old, and gives great hope of himself (et da molta speranza di se).
Cardinal Strozzi (fn. 4) remains with his family name. I understand he is not in very good health, owing to arthritic pains, although very young, for his age does not exceed 36 years. His name is Lorenzo, and he is in France, it being said that he will be sent for to Rome.
The Cardinal of Nepi, Fra Michiel, (fn. 5) will be styled Alessandrino, from the name of his birthplace. He is a Dominican friar, well known to your Serenity, having long held office in the Inquisition. His age is about 55 years.
Cardinal Aracœli (fn. 6) remains as yet with his title. He is a Genoese, but not born within the city. He is about 53 years old. He is considered a very wise man (molto accorto), and is greatly esteemed here, and such does he appear to me also. His name is Clemente.
The cardinal who was the Pope's vicar, and is Bishop of Ischia, is called Cardinal of Spoleto, from his birthplace, and he is an old servant of the Pope's. His name is Virgilio, (fn. 7) and his age about 68 years.
The Archbishop of Cosenza is called Cardinal de' Gadi, he being of the Gadi family, and nephew of the late Cardinal Gadi. He is of a Florentine family, but was born in Rome. He is a man of about 38 years of age, and went lately to your Serenity with Cardinal Caraffa. He is a Doctor of Laws, and took his degree at Padua, and he has rendered assiduous and important service to the aforesaid Cardinal Caraffa. His name is Taddeo. He has about 13,000 crowns revenue, 8,000 of which are in King Philip's territories.
The Cardinal Toulon, nuncio with your Serenity, is called Cardinal Triulzi. His qualities are so well known to your Serenity that I could tell you nothing new about them. His right reverend Lordship, being greatly esteemed at this court, everybody is therefore very much satisfied with this his new dignity.
The Cardinal Vitelloccio, for such is his name, of the Vitelli family, remains with the title of his house. He was Chierico di Camera, and held other offices, which may yield in all about 30,000 crowns. He was the son of the late Signor Alessandro Vitello. He is about 26 years old, and is considered to be of quick and ready intellect. He was at the university of Padua, and gained the favour of the Pope's nephews by such ways and means that the Duke of Paliano asked his promotion of his Holiness and obtained it.
The right reverend President, by name Giovanni Battista, who, with all his kinsfolk, has until now been called “di casa Barona,” is styled Cardinal de' Consiglieri, in conformity with a certain ancient genealogy of his family. He is the senior of Messer Paulo by nine years, (fn. 8) and thus some 66 years old. He has had two wives, one of whom was a widow. He is an ancient servant of his Holiness, and one who spoke freely to him, without any restraint, about everything, the Pope joking with him very familiarly, so much so that even in giving him the coif (la beretta) he put it on his head several times and then pulled it off, and Consiglieri said to him, “Give it me if it please you” (datemela se vi piace).
Of the French Cardinal all I know is that he is about 75 years old, and keeper of the seal of the most Christian King. His name is Jean Bertrand, and the Pope is sending him the hat and coif both together (ad un tratto) by his Holiness' ex-chamberlain, M. de Mana (sic).
The French ministers here are dissatisfied with this promotion, as they proposed the Bishop Salviati, who was very earnestly recommended by the Queen [Catherine de' Medici], the Archbishop Orsini, brother of Giordano, the Bishop of Troyes, son of the Prince of Amalfi, and Almerigo San Severino, Bishop of Ada (sic, Agen?), in France, not one of whom has been made, and the French suspect that many of these now elected will not choose, and others will not have it in their power so far to bind themselves to the French crown as not to be influenced either by their ancient partialities or by those of their kinsfolk, or else by self-interest, their revenues being under the control of several princes. The only one of the new cardinals of whom his most Christian Majesty could avail himself is the Frenchman, and they say he is so old that were the popedom vacant the King could not make use of him in Italy.
Through the election of the Cardinal of Naples [Alfonso Caraffa] two places filled by him fell vacant; the one, that of sleeping in the Pope's chamber, being filled by Messer Alessandro, who assists his Holiness to say the office, and is very modest and affable; the other place of cup-bearer has been again conferred on Messer Biasio, who held it previously. It is not yet known whether the Cardinal of Spoleto will retain the vicarship (il vicariato) or whether it will be given to others.
The office of president of the “Camera” was purchased by Cardinal Consiglieri for six thousand crowns, and he demands something more for it.
Having met Marshal Strozzi in Cardinal Caraffa's chamber, I did not fail to congratulate him on his brother's promotion, for which he expressed himself very grateful, assuring me that all his kinsfolk would always be the Republic's most affectionate servants.
It is said that of these new Cardinals three were made at the suit of the three nephews; Don Alfonso, at the request of his father the Marquis of Montebello; Gadi, according to the demand of Cardinal Carlo Caraffa; Vitelli having been promoted out of regard for the Duke of Paliano. Strozzi's appointment was in acknowledgment of the exertions made by his brother the Marshal. The two friars, the president and the vicar, were made for the Pope's satisfaction; the Frenchman to satisfy in part his most Christian Majesty, and Toulon, the nuncio with your Serenity, from the opinion entertained of his ability, for the services rendered by him on that legation, and also because he is of a family well affected towards the affairs of France.
Rome, 20th March 1557.
March 20. (2nd letter.) Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 838. Bernardo Navagero, Venetian Ambassador at Rome, to the Doge and Senate.
I went to the Pope yesterday to communicate to him the last advices from Adrianople. He made many inquiries of me about that city, asking how large it was, if it was near the sea, and if it had rivers, and I being sufficiently informed about those matters to answer him, he commenced discoursing about the Sultan's forces by land and sea, about his janissaries and his revenues, and then said, “These are in truth great forces, and our sins allowed them to multiply, as also the bad faith of those who failed you.” After this he addressed me as follows: “Magnifico Ambassador, we will conceal nothing from you. Every day reveals to us more and more the plots of certain persons, thus showing the especial care had for us and our affairs by the Almighty, He causing us even from the depths of the sea, and through low-born persons, to know things of much importance. It was of no use for that individual to sink the letters; the sea disgorged them, and some fishermen delivered them to our dependents. They reveal other new facts, so that that Florentine Secretary has again been arrested and put in the Castle; (fn. 9) we hope to discover many plots which were laid against us in many quarters. Our Cardinal does not fail using diligence, and has been with him twice in the Castle for a long while; but we cannot give you particulars at present, not choosing to tell you anything that is not quite true, but we will let you know the result with that readiness with which we communicate all that happens to us, for we cannot fail to impart all our fortunes and thoughts (tutte le nostre fortune et pensieri) to the Signory, whom we have dearly loved ever since our earliest years; besides which we owe much for the many courtesies received from your magnificent city during the time that we remained with you. We have in the next place to add this important point of state policy (questo importante rispetto di stato), and of the preservation of these afflicted remains of Italy, which cannot be effected without a good understanding between the most illustrious Signory and this Holy See; and to tell you how we meant to bring it about, had not those Lords been so inflexible we knew that we two united, without calling others, would have been able to drive these enemies of God out of Italy and close the door against them; but as what remains—they having so great a part—not being tenable, we had recourse to these others; and you already see with what forces the Duke de Guise is come, being also aware of the amount of troops that have remained with Brissac; and, moreover, how in Flanders this good son of the Church the King of France attacks the common enemy; but we again say that we would fain have been able to do without them, and that the honour and increase of territory (stato) had fallen to the lot of Italian potentates. Neither for ourselves nor for this See do we wish for anything, either of the kingdom of Naples or of the duchy of Milan. We should wish all, or the greater part, to be yours. You should also bear in mind what an increase of repute your Republic obtained through compelling that heretic, by your forces and counsel, to make a Duke of Milan, who was subsequently dealt with and crippled in such a way and for such an end, as you know. (fn. 10) That investiture was perhaps as fine a feat as any performed in our times, and will be acknowledged as such by posterity, to your immortal praise. (fn. 11) We open our heart to you and talk as if speaking to ourselves, not indeed that we are dissatisfied with our good son the King of France, for we should be too ungrateful; we will neglect no opportunity for embracing and honouring him; and we believe that this stir made by Sultan Soliman was induced by him, for they are one and the same thing, and have a very good mutual understanding together. You see clearly in what way we speak to you, and if we say too much, attribute it to our excessive love.”
I returned endless thanks for this confidential mode of addressing me, and as it seemed that he was about to repeat what has been said over and over again, to turn the conversation, I congratulated him on the election of his nephew, in such terms that replete with tenderness he embraced me, saying, “You have quite comforted us, and we wish you to know that he was put to reside with us very early, and we treated him so austerely as not to allow him even to approach our presence chambers (le nostre prime camere), and we had intended to dismiss him, lest in this city and with so many opportunities for sinning he might contract bad habits. At length my Messer Paulo, (fn. 12) a man of such goodness and holy conduct, as known to you, educated him with one of his own nephews, initiating him in literature. It happened subsequently that that youth of ours whom we treated as a son, and who slept in our chamber and was so good a Greek and Latin scholar, and of such morality, left us, to our regret, so we were compelled to get another, and as this young man is our kinsman we chose to make use of him. We assure you that in waiting on us thus he gave so many proofs of prudence, gravity, and patience, performing also such menial offices as perhaps did not become him, that on this occasion we could not fail him, and we are confirmed in the opinion that to educate with severity those we hold dear is the greatest boon that can be conferred on them. We are glad that his election will be agreeable to the Signory, who may make use of him and of all our family like any of the most affectionate servants they have.”
The Pope then added that in this number he had chosen to include Fra Michiel, because having published him at the time when your Serenity sent that honourable embassy, and then not having proceeded farther, for certain reasons of his own, the good friar did not evince any resentment like a person rejected, but served the Holy Office of the Inquisition. That he had long pondered whether he ought to make that Frenchman [Jean Bertrand], but that partly to oblige the King and the Duke de Guise, who had asked for this one Frenchman, he promised it him; and that for the same reason, although he had intended that, being Cardinal, he was no longer to exercise the office of keeper of the seal, he had nevertheless been content that he should hold it, many cardinals having prayed him to do so, and he having ascertained that other cardinals, moreover, at divers periods have exercised similar offices. My audience having then lasted two hours I took leave of the Pope, who still detained me, again saying, “Let not this opportunity be lost, for within the last two hundred years there never has been a greater one for augmenting the territory of those Lords and their posterity, as also their glory; great things, as you know, are not accomplished without risk and danger, although in this present case there would be none at all. All the rest of Italy would follow you, and every one would seek your protection and favour. We shall proceed on our way like an honest man, and moreover leave others to think what they ought to do, nor shall we ever repent of not having told it them;” whereupon, it being said to him that the Cardinal of Naples and Consiglieri had been already more than an hour waiting for him outside, I took leave.
Rome, 20th March 1557.
March 20. Deliberazioni Senato, Register. 839. Motion made in the Senate by the Sages of the Council and the Sages for the Mainland, for a letter to the Venetian Ambassador at Rome.
This morning the ambassador resident here from the Catholic King, after presenting us with letters of credence from his Majesty dated the 28th ultimo, spoke on his behalf, declaring his good will for peace, and his wish for us to perform some office in that matter. The ambassador also showed us a letter of the 4th instant from the Duke of Alva, informing him how his Majesty consented to put in execution (di metter in executione) all that Cardinal Caraffa proposed to his Excellency on the island of Hostia, (fn. 13) adding that he had first sent Alvise dalla Marra, who was not allowed to go beyond Tivoli, and he recently sent a gentleman for this same purpose to Cardinal Caraffa.
We therefore give you advice of the above, and with the Senate charge you to communicate it to Cardinal Caraffa and the Duke of Paliano, and if they so desire you will make this same communication to his Holiness.
Ayes. 130. Noes, 6. Neutral, 10.
March 23. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 840. Giacomo Soranzo, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It being supposed that in case the Duke of Florence does not make the agreement with France, it will be determined to wage war on him, the Constable sent yesterday for Domino Luca Maneli (sic), a Florentine gentleman now here, to negotiate the offers made to his most Christian Majesty by the Florentine outlaws (as written by me heretofore), and said to him that the Duke de Guise had written to his Majesty that at Rome the outlaws there (fn. 14) made certain offers to his Excellency, and that he wished to know in detail what Maneli in like manner had to say on the subject, he (as written by me) not having chosen to make his statement, being aware of the close negotiations on foot with Duke Cosmo. Maneli then told the Constable that, in the name of all the said refugees, he offered to find means whereby the most Christian King should have 400,000 crowns in ready money at his disposal, and on payment of very low interest, they, moreover, paying entirely at their own cost, for six months, 4,000 infantry, so that with this additional aid the most Christian King might make this attack on Florence, and give back to that republic its liberty, whereupon, when established, they offered to reimburse the King for the costs of the war with a million of gold, such time being allowed them as reasonable.
The Constable replied that these were the offers made to the Duke de Guise at Rome, and that the King was very glad to hear of their goodwill, which the Queen had not failed to lay before his Majesty on every occasion; and here the Constable expatiated very diffusely to prove to him under how great an obligation they were to the said Queen, from whom they must chiefly acknowledge whatever success they might hope for. (fn. 15) He then commenced narrating what the Florentine Republic had done in favour of this crown, of which his most Christian Majesty being mindful, the Constable said that they might expect and hope every benefit from him, but that nothing having been yet decided at Rome, the Constable would impart the resolution to Maneli as soon as it arrived. Montmorency then added that, for the advantage of the King and of the outlaws, it would be much better to shorten the period of six months during which the 4,000 infantry are to receive pay from them, and to add proportionally to the number of the troops with the money saved by shortening their term of service. Maneli rejoined that the King might rely on the same goodwill as demonstrated towards his predecessors by the Florentine Republic, and by so much the more as the benefit he was about to confer on them exceeded any other that they could expect from him; and that they in like manner acknowledged their eternal obligation to the Queen, who he knew had never ceased affording all favour on every occasion to procure the liberty of her country.
It is heard here that the King of England has arrived at Calais, and although (according to report) with the intention of going over to England to obtain from his Queen both military and pecuniary assistance, as she at least promised lately to Don Ruy Gomez, (almeno come la promise già al Signor Rui Gomez,) his Majesty is nevertheless not yet known to have crossed the Channel. This stay of his at Calais causes it to be suspected here that he may intend to make himself master of that fortress, which, being of such importance, cannot but render his most Christian Majesty very suspiciously vigilant, though as yet no stir is heard of here on account of this passage. Should anything be determined, either about sending fresh troops to Scotland or reinforcements into Picardy, I will give your Serenity notice of it; but owing to the great scarcity of victuals on both sides of these frontiers the means for forming the body of an army there are very small. This scarcity increases daily, not merely in those parts but throughout the kingdom, and as no relief can be expected from the next harvest until August, as usual in these western regions, and no assistance being procurable from neighbouring countries, as they are all in similar straits, there is therefore great apprehension for the future.
Senlis, 23rd March 1557.
[Italian, partly in cipher; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]


  • 1. Clemente Dolera, born in the diocese of Genoa.
  • 2. Giambattista Consiglieri, a Roman, brother of “Messer Paulo,” the Pope's most confidential familiar, as already mentioned in the course of this correspondence.
  • 3. Alfonso Caraffa, then in his 18th year. He is said to have been endowed with every virtue, and (shortly before the final disgrace of his father and uncles on the 1st of January 1559), on the 28th November 1558 he became the Pope's prime minister, as seen by his official seal, the inscription on which is recorded by Nores, p. 272, edition Firenze, 1847.
  • 4. Lorenzo Strozzi.
  • 5. Ghislieri. (See Cardella, vol. 4, p. 359.)
  • 6. Clemente Dolera. (See Cardella, vol 4, p. 363.)
  • 7. Virgilio Rosario. (See Cardella, vol. 4, p. 368.)
  • 8. This serves to correct Cardella (vol. 4, p. 368), who writes that Paul IV. had intended giving the red hat to Messer Paulo, implying that he was the elder brother, but that Messer Paulo persuaded him to confer it on Giovanni Battista. As the two brothers were both very virtuous men and much trusted by the Pope, these notices of them are interesting, nor are they recorded elsewhere. Cardella styles this Cardinal “Presidente” della camera.” Navagero does not say where he presided.
  • 9. The seizure of this Florentine secretary, and the fact of his having thrown the letters into the sea, is recorded by Sir Edward Carne. See Foreign Calendar, Mary, March 6, 1557, p. 291.)
  • 10. The Pope is here alluding to the investiture of the Duchy of Milan, given by the Emperor Charles V. to Francesco Sforza at Bologna on the 23rd December 1523. (See L'Art de Verifier les Dates, p. 840, ed. Paris, 1770.)
  • 11.
  • 12. By name Barona, alias Consiglieri. (See letter of this date.)
  • 13. alias Fiumicino (see p. 961).
  • 14. In the summer of 1538 Duke Cosmo attacked the Florentine outlaws, amongst whom were Filippo Strozzi and his accomplices in the murder of Catherine de Medici's half-brother Lorenzo II., the predecessor of Duke Cosmo. Strozzi committed suicide in prison; several of his comrades were executed, the rest being pardoned; but the survivors did not renounce their ideas of establishing republican government in Florence, and of expelling Duke Cosmo, to effect which they found a powerful ally in the Queen of France, as seen by these ciphered paragraphs.
  • 15. Catherine de Medici was 37 or 38 years old when she first attempted to dethrone Duke Cosmo, and I believe it to be her first stroke in polities, though I am not aware that her biographers allude to it. The writer of this despatch, in his “Report of France,” says, “The Queen likewise shows herself as averse to Duke Cosmo as possible, and as he is not of her branch she gives all favour to the outlaws, evincing a wish for her country to recover its liberty.” (See Alberi, Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti, serie I., vol. II., p. 467. Firenze, 1840.)