Venice: March 1560, 26-31

Pages 174-181

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7, 1558-1580. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1890.

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March 1560, 26–31

March 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 141. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
An ambassador arrived here from the King of Algiers with a present of six horses and some dogs and birds, and he brought a letter from Sultan Soliman to King Francis reminding him of the many services rendered to the most Christian King, his father, and praying him not to change this friendship ; the Sultan having heard that owing to the new matrimonial alliance with the King of Spain, his most Christian Majesty had bound himself to assist the said King in an expedition against Algiers, which was under the Sultan's protection; and exhorting his Majesty to remain neutral.
Concerning the affairs of Scotland and England, the Cardinal told me yesterday that the French troops with the Queen Regent were in the fortress of Little Leith (Pettilit), and that the Scottish rebels had held a long conference with the Duke of Norfolk, who commands the troops of the Queen of England on the frontiers. From what the Cardinal heard they were not well agreed on its termination, the English perhaps desiring higher terms than the Scots would grant them. Nevertheless the suspicion increases that the English will at any rate wage war, but until news arrives of the negotiations of the Bishop of Valence, and of the other person who followed him, nothing can be known of the hope of an agreement, to effect which the King Catholic has already sent M. de Glajon, captain of the artillery, (fn. 1) to England.
The heads of the Italian merchants, who had hitherto failed to come from Lyons on a call to arrange the affair of the great loan have arrived and had audience last week, when a Florentine used very violent language, saying that in Turkey they would not do the things that were done here. The Cardinal of Lorraine and the other members of the Council were so enraged that had they not apologised for him on account of his intense mental anxiety, being interested to a very considerable amount, they would have put him in prison and have treated him even worse. The only reply they had was the one given them lately by the Chancellor, viz., to give them credit for the five fairs, and to pay the capital with several sorts of securities, but they do not despair of getting something more. The parties concerned have been greatly injured by the separation of the Germans and Switzers, and also of the Genoese, who retired each to negotiate separately; thinking to do better thus.
Amboise, 28th March 1560.
March 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. (2nd Letter.) 142. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The executions of the insurgent prisoners continue daily, two of the chief of them having been beheaded yesterday, namely, the Captain Masières, one of the heads and leaders of the insurrection, heretofore lieutenant of two companies of infantry in the service of M. de Vendôme, now King of Navarre, when he was Governor of Picardy, and in great credit with him and universally considered very brave and courageous, but unlike his fellow sufferers in dying he showed great cowardice; the other was a certain M. Raunai (Rene), a very wealthy person of condition, to whose house, one league hence, the chiefs of the conspiracy were to repair and be received by him, for which purpose he had laid in a store of grain, wine, hay, and the like. His father had been Governor of the present King of Navarre, and his wife is one of the principal ladies of honour of his Majesty's Consort [Mary Stuart]. This circumstance greatly increases the suspicion entertained against the King of Navarre, as not only these persons but others are also known to be either his dependants, or those of his brother [the Prince of Condé]. Then to-day another gentleman was beheaded ; and ten individuals of less importance, after having been taken as far as under the gallows with the rope round their necks, were then by the Kings mercy condemned to the galleys for life. When I was with the Cardinal of Lorraine, before I had audience of the King, he told me that the two who died yesterday were previously taken to the rack and had revealed the facts fully, especially Raunai, together with [the names of] numerous accomplices, of whom there being very many in prison, some of them were examined face to face with Masières and Raunai, so as to proceed more justifiably to their sentence and its execution. The Cardinal also told me that they have now thirty-two gentlemen in prison, who will all be put to death, and with them the Baron de Castelnau, his near relative, although he denies all that [was alleged against him] when confronted with Captain Masières, declaring himself to have been moved solely by religion, and not by evil intention either against the King or his Ministers.
According to the Cardinal's statement this conspiracy was originated seven months ago at Geneva, one month after the late Kings death, and was discussed and approved both publicly and privately by the inhabitants of that city, contrary to what was said of late (fn. 2) and subsequently the conspirators conferred with some Princes of Germany, one of whom last January warned the King by letter of the conspiracy, which was also fomented by the Queen of England. Its object was to kill the King and his brothers, and these Guise lords, under pretence that the severities used by them prevented the Word of God, though embraced internally by the whole kingdom, being thus suppressed, from extending and divulging itself to all the other Christian kingdoms and provinces; and the conspirators purposed, by the death of the King and his brothers, to put the kingdom at liberty, and reduce its provinces to the form of cantons, like those of Switzerland. Of this intention and conspiracy the Cardinal added that at the close of the trials his most Christian Majesty would send an account to all the Princes of Christendom.
Shortly before his execution Captain Masières seems to have confessed to the Queen-mother, to the Cardinal of Lorraine, and to Marshal St. André that a similar conspiracy had been made against the King Catholic by some Spaniards who had retired into Switzerland on account of religion, and who had an understanding with many others who live in Spain according to their creed, and they were to accomplish their object at harvest time. Whether this information be true, or was givenby Masières to save his life, as requested and promised, provided he could prove what he said, the Spanish Ambassador resident here was duly warned that he might inform his King, in exchange for the great offers made by the latter to his most Christian Majesty of armed assistance to quell these insurrections, and even of coming in person, nor could the Cardinal of Lorraine sufficiently commend these demonstrations of piety and great affection on the part of the King Catholic towards his most Christian Majesty and his Ministers. When I asked him whether since these disturbances he had heard of any commotion in any other province, he confirmed to me what I had already heard that at Rouen, in Normandy, the populace were masters of the city, keeping the gates closed, making their preachers preach in public, using certain innovations and insolences in the churches, and deriding the Catholic worship and ceremonies; and that in Provence six or seven towns had alienated themselves, including the episcopal city of Riez, where 3,000 or 4,000 persons had risen in arms for the cause. He then added, “So it will be more than necessary to apply violent remedies and proceed to fire and sword, as otherwise, unless provision be made, the alienation of this kingdom, coupled with that of Germany, England, and Scotland, would by force draw Spain and Italy and the rest of Christendom to the same result” I also hear that besides the above-named provinces, Guienne and Gascony are in movement, with greater danger of alienation than all the others; Valence in Dauphigné having already alienated itself The Governor of Lyons moreover is hourly and most earnestly representing to the Marshal de St.André, who holds supreme command there, the bad state of that city, he not relying on the provision made by him and the consuls and other chiefs of the foreign merchants, but demanding some stronger remedy and assistance, owing to the fear they have of a popular outbreak, and lest they might be plundered and sacked.
Here, in the meanwhile, it seems determined not to await the meeting of a Council General, the decision of which would be tardy, but to convene a national one, assembling in a Synod all the bishops and other leading and intelligent churchmen of the kingdom to consult and provide for the urgent need of France in matters of religion, which admit of no delay. The King has already sent to apologise to the Pope, letting him know that should he choose to appoint a Legate he will be received willingly, so that he may authoritatively take part in the decrees and notices which will be discussed (che si faranno), as his most Christian Majesty does not intend to withdraw his obedience from the See Apostolic. During the interval they do not fail securing the personal safety of the King and his Ministers, his Majesty intending to keep his Easter at Tours, and to add greatly to his men-at-arms, half of the companies (now on leave) having been ordered to join; and a great number of harquebusiers were also to have come, having been levied by the four captains despatched for that purpose, but they were disbanded and made to turn back.
Amboise, 28th March 1560.
March 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 143. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
A courier arrived from England this morning with very sure news of war between Queen Elizabeth and France, her Majesty making such preparations as will suffice both for defensive and offensive warfare.
Amboise, 29th March 1560.
March 30. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 144. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
The King has not yet quite recovered, for although two days ago he seemed much better and was up, he has since had a relapse and went again to bed, where he has remained till to-day; so as the Holy Week is approaching (fn. 3) the cane game and the bull bait have been completely given up, and during the present week these grandees depart for their own homes, being weary of the excessive cost incurred by them here.
Three days ago the Duke dell' Infantasgo's son, Marquis del Zenete (sic), died, had he survived his father he would have been the richest nobleman in Spain, with upwards of 110,000 crowns rental. The cause of his death was a fall from his horse at the King's tourney, nor would he allow the physicians to treat him as they wished to do, so he at length remained the victim of this accident.
The English Ambassadors, having not yet had audience, although they have requested it several times very earnestly, are much dissatisfied, and one of them came to me yesterday complaining greatly of this delay, which they know not how to interpret, as they neither see nor hear anything that pleases them. He also complained that they have had lodgings unbecoming their official character, and that many things are disseminated through the Court against their Queen, the French endeavouring to make her appear culpable of the commotions in France, of which she is absolutely innocent; that since their arrival this King had sent an express to France, notwithstanding that by reason of similar reports, it would have been becoming to hear them before doing anything further; and that these circumstances increased their suspicion that the King had gone abroad purposely, and on his return feigned indisposition to avoid receiving them, having possibly some bad impression against the Queen generated by the evil reports of the French Ambassador [Sebastien de l'Aubespine] a most astute man. He therefore prayed me, invoicing that true friendship which has always subsisted between the kingdom of England and your Serenity, to tell them sincerely what I thought about this matter. I replied that what has befallen their Lordships is by no means uncommon at this Court, as the King is wont to go abroad very often to amuse himself for several days without transacting business, from which he with reason chooses to be exempt when indisposed, and that I was assured that his Majesty's malady had been real and not fictitious, but that he was already better; so their audience could not be much longer delayed, and that, prudent as they were, they would then very well comprehend what his Majesty's mind was towards their Queen.
The misunderstanding between England and France weighs heavily on King Philip, who desires to find means for reconciliation ; so he has given orders in Flanders to send his Master-General of the Ordnance, M. de Glajon, to England, to negotiate with the Queen; and it is said that they will accredit some member of the Council of State from hence to France for the same purpose; the persons named being Don Juan Manrique, or Don Gutierre Lopez de Padilla.
The Spanish forces which were to have been removed from Flanders, according to the promise given to the inhabitants, will now remain, as many persons who were hitherto in favour of the measure now object to it, knowing the danger of some commotion, most especially on account of religion.
The Count of Tendiglia is on the eve of departure for his embassy to Rome, but the Ambassador Vargas has not been recalled, and his supporters maintain that it is well to keep him there on account of the question of precedence between Spain and France., as if an Ambassador in ordinary were kept there, and any prejudicial act in that matter were to occur, they could then no longer defend the Spanish claim; whereas if Vargas remain, it might always be said that he was not Ambassador at Rome, but an agent, sent for a certain term, he having been removed from the Emperor's Court; but in case of Vargas' recall taking place, it will be effected with all regard for his honour and repute.
Since the supposed loss of the ship with the state papers on its voyage from Flanders, (fn. 4) they have been endeavouring to collect documents from every quarter, and the Bishop of Arras was written to to send copies of several of them, and especially of those that passed with Cardinal Caraffa, the Signor Montesa likewise giving copies now in his possession of many Italian documents.
The city of Lucca has sent twenty exquisite pieces of velvet, satin, and damask, as a present to the Queen, to whom they were very acceptable.
The Bishop of Terracina [Ottaviano Rovero] is to arrive to-day, on a mission it is said from his Holiness.
Toledo, 30th March 1560.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
March 31, Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 145. Giovanni Michiel, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The news of the rupture with England was brought by a French captain, who returned express from Scotland, having come through England, saying, as an eye-witness, that he had left the English troops far advanced into the Scottish territory, in order to unite with the inhabitants and to besiege much more closely the French troops and the Queen Regent, who had all taken refuge in the fort of Little Leith (Pettilit), only forty miles from Berwick, the English frontier; the said captain reporting by word of mouth, and by letters which he had secretly brought from the Queen Regent, that she would be in very great difficulties unless speedily succoured, not being able to obtain provisions from the island or elsewhere, the Scots occupying all the passes both by land and sea, and so she must of necessity be assisted from hence. This captain also said that by orders given at the passage ports, Queen Elizabeth had prevented the Bishop of Valence from proceeding on his way, adding that she apologised for these proceedings by saying that she did not wage the war in her own name but in that of the Scots, who being old friends and confederates of England, she could not prevent them from availing themselves, for their money, both of her soldiers and fleet, and of such commodities as cannot be denied by friends to each other in their need and necessity; she not intending on this account to break with France, but to continue maintaining the peace. After this relation, trust being reposed in the captain, war was proclaimed throughout the Court, and they instantly commenced not only thinking about it, but, carrying into effect the measures for executing it. M. d'Aumale has been despatched to Normandy that his presence and authority may hasten the outfit of the ships, and the supplies of ammunition and victuals, five other companies of men-at-arms being also ordered besides the three first, making a total of 400. M. d'Andelot [François de Coligny], General of the French infantry, is also destined to go thither with 20 companies raised from the frontiers of Picardy, militiamen (legionarii) being put in their places; orders having also been sent to Marseilles for the galleys there to come into the Channel. Another gentleman is on his way to England, though the object of his mission is unknown, but the English Ambassador conjectures that it is to enlarge the commission about the agreement, saying that if the English have joined the Scots, the Queen Regent and all the French troops will be at their mercy, as it is impossible for succour to reach Scotland until long after everything is at an end, besides the difficulty of crossing without a very serious naval engagement with the English fleet, which is equal if not superior to the one which will be sent hence. The embarrassments of these ministers owing to the civil insurrection and to war abroad are now increased by the refusal of the inhabitants of Normandy to furnish their contingent of vessels, or any sort of cost; and the government for this once, neglecting the dignity of so great a kingdom, will possibly accept such terms as they can get, to avoid endangering domestic affairs for the sake of attending to those abroad.
Last Friday, the 29th, the Baron de Castelnau, and with him another individual, a preacher by profession, were beheaded; and twelve others were taken as usual with ropes round their necks to make the amende honorable, as they say here, and [when at the scaffold] they were then condemned to the galleys.
Although this Baron, when confronted with the other leading conspirators who were executed lately, denied what they said to his face, he nevertheless, when tortured, confessed, and in like manner revealed everything in conformity with their statements, with many other additional things, which are of such importance that they are kept most secret.
The night before his execution he asked to be taken to the King and to the Queen-mother, with each of whom he spoke separately for a long while, and the result showed that he denounced some other persons, for the next morning three other gentlemen, said to be in the service of the King of Navarre, were arrested at the Court, one being his treasurer, and the others his chief officials, who were found here. This Baron with the other chief conspirators had suborned fourteen archers of the guard, and two or three gate-keepers (portieri), who made their escape. He was of very noble lineage, being most closely related to the Queen of Navarre and to the Guise family; he was lord also of many castles in Gascony, and kinsman of all the nobility in France, who greatly regretted his death, which he bore with much fortitude.
It was subsequently told me this morning that the Master of the Horse of the Prince of Condé has been arrested, the which Prince, though I omitted to mention it in my previous despatches, immediately after his arrival at the Court after these disturbances, notwithstanding the very great suspicion of his having been as it were privy to the conspiracy, was made a member of the royal Privy Council.
Yesterday the final decision was announced to the parties concerned in the great loan by the Cardinal of Lorraine, who told them that his Majesty, choosing to have regard and consideration for many widows and wards who represented themselves as having no other maintenance than the interest from their capital, was content notwithstanding all his need and inconvenience to pay five per cent. on the capital in course of payment, but that owing to the present serious disturbances of the kingdom, and those which were imminent (in allusion to war with England), his Majesty could not commence paying any interest till next January of the year 1561, when according to his means he will then prolong or curtail the period of payment to more or fewer years. This proposal was not however accepted by the parties concerned, they being of opinion that at the period named they could not come to worse terms, and that in the interval they might do better.
The Chancellor has departed this life, to the regret of everybody. He was 63 years old, and fell sick from the many and assiduous fatigues of his office. The post has been offered by his Majesty to the Bishop of Orleans, heretofore M. de Morvilliers, who was Ambassador to your Serenity, a person greatly esteemed, as besides being a man of learning and judgment, his integrity is uncommon; but he excused himself on account of his delicate constitution, which was unsuited to so important a charge. It is now said that it will be given to M. de l'Hospital, late governor to Madame Marguerite.
Amboise, 31st March 1560.


  • 1. The name of this Master-General of the Ordnance seems to have been Philip d'Estade. In these despatches he is called Mons. de Glaion, Glaton, Glason, or Glajon, the last being apparently the correct spelling.
  • 2. See before, despatch dated 23rd March 1560.
  • 3. In this year Easter Sunday fell on April 14th
  • 4. See before date Toledo, 14th November 1559.