Venice: December 1560

Pages 274-284

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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December 1560

Dec. 1. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 211. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
After my despatch of the 25th ultimo, his Majesty's inflammation of the head with slight fever continued till the eleventh day; viz. the 28th November, when it seemed advisable to these physicians to give him another dose of rhubarb, greatly to the derangement of his stomach, which rejected it, as on the former occasion, but until yesterday he felt tolerably well, everybody hoping that the malady would terminate favourably. But last night, which was the fourteenth [from the commencement of the illness], his Majesty had no rest both from very violent pain in the head and sickness and from fever, so he is in a bad way (in un mal termine), and in some danger. Although they endeavour to conceal the malady more than ever, the Queen Mother cannot suppress the signs of her sorrow, which is increased by the recollection of the predictions made by many astrologers, who all prognosticated his very short life. Contrary to custom the gates of the Court have also been closed during the whole of this day; no one entered his Majesty's chamber except the Queens and the three Guises, and no one is allowed access to the ante-chamber, which used to be crowded.
Orleans, 1st December 1560.
Dec. 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 212. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I wrote this night that the most Christian King was worse. I have now to tell you that laborat in extremis, and he can live but for a few hours.
Orleans, 2nd December 1560.
Dec. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 213. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 1st instant I informed your Serenity that the King was worse, and this last night I wrote that his life was despaired of. He now still continues lingering without any other hope than in the mercy of God, and in the event of his death, which according to human judgment may be considered certain, it will take place at a time when all the three Estates will be assembled in this city as already summoned, with all the nearest in blood, and all the greatest and chiefest personages of the kingdom, so that it may be hoped, by the will of our Lord God, that the government of the new King may be settled by universal consent and without the din of arms, which is greatly feared from the rivalry of the nobles and the evil humours of the people about religion, and because the present government is not loved. From the result an estimate may be made of the good or evil about to befall this realm. As yet the general opinion is that the House of Guise will do everything possible to unite with the King of Navarre, and there is already some talk of releasing the Prince of Condé, and that the most Christian King's sister, Marguerite, will be given in marriage to the son of the King of Navarre, one of whose daughters will be given to the son of the Duke de Guise.
The whole Court is now constantly engaged at prayers, and processions are being made in all the churches of the city, which are attended very piously by the brothers and the sister of his most Christian Majesty, by the King of Navarre, and many other personages. May our Lord God grant that such fruit may be derived thence as shall be most beneficial for the Christian commonwealth.
I am this moment informed that a serious insurrection of 12,000 men has taken place at Bordeaux, caused by the arrest of the Prince of Condé, and the Spanish Ambassador (fn. 1) has been sent for to the Court, that he may write to the King Catholic for his assistance to quell this and other commotions which may arise in those parts from this opportunity of the death of the King.
Orleans, 3rd December 1560.
Dec. 6. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 214. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It has pleased our Lord God that the most Christian King, last night a little before midnight, should pass to a better life and end the agony in which he lay from Saturday evening until the day of his death.
The Crown descends to the late King's brother, the Duke of Orleans, by name Charles, a youth ten years of age, of handsome presence, gracious, and high and noble spirited. His governor hitherto has been M. de Cipierre, (fn. 2) a Knight of St. Michael, who being a soldier by profession has also trained the youth accordingly. This King will be in ward till he is fourteen years old, during which interval the kingdom will be ruled by others. It is believed that the Queen Mother will still retain her authority, but it cannot yet be known authentically what other persons will have the chief care of the Government. As this is a very rare case, and one which has never occurred in France, no certain rule has been laid down, but it is generally said that with the Queen Mother there will be associated the King of Navarre, the Constable, the Cardinals of Tournon and Lorraine, the Duke de Guise, the Chancellor, and the two Marshals Brissac [Charles de Cossé] and St. André [Jacques d'Albon]. But amongst the chief personages there are many old and new enmities, and most especially between the King of Navarre, the House of Guise, and the Constable ; and besides this the said Constable is of such a nature that he will admit no one to be equal to himself nor will the Cardinal of Lorraine tolerate any superior. It is believed that the Queen Mother will favour the House of Guise as much as she can ; because from them she has derived, the whole or the greater part of the repute enjoyed by her hitherto; but although the Luis de Guise is popular, and above all with the nobility, yet everybody so detests the Cardinal of Lorraine that, if the matter depended upon universal suffrage, not only would he have no part in the Government, but perhaps not be in this world. It is already reported that his Right Reverend Lordship has sent his favourite and precious effects into Lorraine for greater safety ; it being also said that at any rate he will withdraw into that territory and free himself from these functions, in which, having for colleagues his equals or persons of greater authority, he may lose much and gain nothing. The King of Navarre is naturally pliant and tractable, and very dear to the kingdom both on this account and also perhaps because of the new religion, to which the majority seem greatly to incline ; and heretofore his Majesty favoured this sect, of which the leader is supposed to be his brother the Prince of Condé, who, as he is daring and resolute, were the said King head of this Government, would be apt (saria atto) to make him consent to many things which might produce such divisions in the faith as the Cardinal of Tournon told me he dreaded. The Papal Nuncio has also urged the Queen Mother several times to confirm his Majesty [Charles IX.] in the good will always evinced by him for the affairs of the religion, which offices are very acceptable to the Cardinal of Tournon, and very favourable to the Cardinal of Lorraine. The like has also been done by the Spanish Ambassador, though no one in this Government can please the King Catholic more than the Constable for his own respects (per sui rispetti). So by reason of this most grievous catastrophe the affairs of this great kingdom are in such danger as every one can understand. May our Lord God vouchsafe to stretch forth His hand for the universal welfare of Christendom.
Orleans, 6th December 1560.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Dec. 8. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 215. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It was determined yesterday in the Council that the “Estates” were to be held at the appointed time, which will commence this week, this decision being so much the more in favour of the religion, as it does not allow time for those who desire change to carry on their clandestine designs with the cities and provinces to make them send mischievous persons, as they might easily have done had this assembly been deferred; and it is credible that the persons already appointed are of such a sort that they will not propose any innovation, having been elected during the lifetime of the late King, who both of his own will and by the advice of his Ministers always evinced very great ardour about the affairs of the religion.
Until now the Queen Mother is considered the chief personage and superintendent of the government in all things, and application will be made to her about negotiations, both to give supreme authority to her Majesty, and also not to appoint any President of the Council and to prevent competition. Orders have been already given for the Ambassadors and others, who wish for audience, to ask it of her Majesty through the Secretaries. By this new regulation it will not be necessary to give account of one's business first of all either to the Cardinal of Lorraine, or to the Constable, or to anyone else, as was usually done hitherto, but at once to address the Queen, who, should the matter need to be referred to the Council, will propose it and give the reply according to their decision: and if the members of the Council require any special information, the Ambassador or others who have to treat the business will be introduced to the Council, and be heard and expedited.
The personages who will rule with the Queen are the eight mentioned in my last, viz., the King of Navarre, the Constable, the Duke de Guise, the two Cardinals, Tournon and Lorraine, the two Marshals, Brissac and St. André, and the Chancellor. As not one of them will be superior to the others, all may remain well satisfied, provided the ambition of some of them do not exceed their reason and their duty. More honour will be rendered to the King of Navarre than to the others on account of his rank, and because he is next of kin and in great favour with the kingdom, but he will not have greater authority than the others in the decisions, and he, like the rest, will pay respect to the Queen Mother, who is maintained in this eminent position through her ability and industry, and by the advice of the House of Guise, and by various other means, including the assistance of the Papal Nuncio and the Spanish Ambassador, who all exercised influence in favour of her Majesty's authority, saying that their Princes desired this. The late courier was sent by the Nuncio to the Pope at the persuasion of the Queen and of these Guise lords, to induce his Holiness to write hither warmly on the subject of the religion, commending the Queen and her good will, and exhorting her to continue in it, offering also all his forces and authority in her favour and for the benefit of the kingdom; which proceeding is expected to be very beneficial in confirming the sentiments of those who are well disposed and in curbing their opponents.
The new King has confirmed in his service all the gentlemen and courtiers employed by his predecessor, and this morning the Order of St. Michael was given in public to his most Christian Majesty and to his brother the Duke of Angoulême. So by degrees every one will forget the death of the late King except the young Queen, his widow, who being no less noble minded than beautiful and graceful in appearance, the thoughts of widowhood at so early an age, and of the loss of a consort who was so great a King and who so dearly loved her, and also that she is dispossessed of the Crown of France with little hope of recovering that of Scotland, which is her sole patrimony and dower, so afflict her that she will not receive any consolation, but, brooding over her disasters with constant tears and passionate and doleful lamentations, she universally inspires great pity.
The body of the late King has been opened, and the whole brain was found diseased (et hanno trovato guasto tutto il cervello), so that no medical treatment could ever have cured it. They have made his statue as usual, and go to serve it daily, performing the ordinary ceremonies; but the funeral will either be less stately than usual, or postponed, owing to the present straitened state of the finances of the Kingdom.
Orleans, 8th December 1560.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Dec. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 216. Andrea Badoer and Augustino Barbarigo, Venetian Ambassadors Extraordinary, and Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador in Ordinary, with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
His Majesty, having appointed us audience for Sunday, sent his Maggiordomo the Marquis de las Navas, (fn. 3) who took us to him, there being present the Duke of Alva, and many other chief lords and gentlemen of his Court; his Majesty doffing his bonnet, and receiving us with a cheerful countenance.
Next day we went to the Queen, and afterwards to the Prince [Don Carlos] and Princess [of Portugal], son and sister of the King Catholic, and also to his illegitimate brother, Don John of Austria, performing with her Majesty, their Highnesses, and his Excellency such offices as commissioned us by your Serenity, and with which they all seemed much satisfied.
Toledo, 13th December 1560.
Dec. 14. Delib. Senato (Secreta), vol. 72, f. 37. 217. The Doge and Senate to [Charles IX.] King of France.
A letter of condolence on the death of his brother the late King [Francis II]
Dec. 14. lb. f. 38. 218. The Same to the Queen Mother [Catherine de' Medici].
A similar letter.
Dec. 14. lb. f. 38. 219. The Same to the Queen Widow [Mary Queen of Scotland].
A similar letter, referring to the goodness and promise of her late husband.
Dec. 14. lb. f. 38. 220. The Same to [Michiel Surian,] their Ambassador in France.
Commanding him to condole with the new King of France on the death of his brother, and to congratulate him on his succession; and also to condole with the Queen Mother and the Queen Widow, and with the principal personages of the Court. And as the writers have chiefly at heart the affairs of the religion, the Ambassador is to favour and assist the offices which the Papal Nuncio has performed and will perform on this account with the Queen Mother and every one else with whom it may be necessary.
Dec. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 221. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Since my last of the 8th instant, I went to visit the new most Christian King and the Queen Mother, and I found them both together, which was I believe arranged on my account, both not to give me occasion to go and speak apart to his most Christian Majesty, who from his tender age cannot know how to receive or answer an Ambassador as becoming, as also to spare me fatigue, the Queen knowing that I had a slight attack of gout; and I was very glad of this favour, by so much the more as her Majesty chose me to remain seated the whole time for my greater convenience, although many Cardinals and Princes present remained standing. I endeavoured to convince her that her joys and sorrows and the advantages and disadvantages of this kingdom are felt by you like those of a sovereign and of a realm to whom you are bound by the most friendly ties. The Queen answered me most kindly, making such a demonstration that it seemed to proceed from a well affected disposition towards the most excellent Republic ; and the most Christian King [Charles IX.], young as he is, said, “Well do I know what a good friend the Signory was to my father and to this kingdom, and therefore write to them that I shall always assist the maintenance of that friendship with all good will.”
I also visited the Constable, who received me so much to the honour and favour of the Republic that nothing more could be expected, and though he is said to be more than 70 years old, yet he is so hale and with such a good constitution and so vigorous that he may fully suffice to disquiet all his juniors in this Government, and he is supposed to have introduced into the Council of Affairs, in addition to the eight persons mentioned in my last, three others of the blood, viz., the Cardinal de Bourbon, brother of the King of Navarre, the Duke of Montpensier [Louis de Bourbon], and the Prince de la Roche-sur-Yon [Charles de Bourbon], who, the more they are akin to the King of Navarre, by so much the more are averse to the House of Guise. It is also suggested to introduce into the Council Admiral Coligny, the Constable's nephew, but this proposal has many difficulties. It is true that the Admiral is greatly favoured by the Ambassador from Spain [Thomas Perrenot, Count de Chantonay], who in talking with me shows himself entirely on the Constable's side and opposed to that of Guise; but the Nuncio, although apparently impartial, favours the House of Guise as much as he can, which renders him very dear to the Queen, who, although she shows herself neutral, cannot in reality bear the Constable from old enmities. I do not interfere in these matters, both because I have no interest in either one side or the other, as also from being unable to discern which of the two parties would be most favourable to your Serenity, seeing that both of them have turned their backs on the affairs of Italy either wilfully or from necessity, and that it is in contemplation to ignore them completely, for I hear that they intend to disband part of the companies garrisoned in Piedmont. Although the King and many members of the Council have been warned that this would put all the fortresses there in danger not only of being taken by storm but of being plundered (robate), as the present garrisons are reduced to the least possible number, these warnings are not listened to, it seeming on the contrary that they are negotiating some fresh treaty with the Duke [of Savoy] to give up the fortresses to him before the appointed time; yet it is known that by ceding what little remains to them, Lyons, which used to be in the middle of the kingdom, would remain the frontier, and from Lyons to Marseilles the whole country is open, without any fortress, and at the mercy of any power.
Orleans, 18th December 1560.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Dec. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 222. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
It is still doubtful whether the Estates will be held at present, or postponed till another time, as the difficulties between these Commissioners (Commissarii) are endless, partly from the diversity of their commissions and of the requests they have to make, partly from individual caprice, as it is difficult for upwards of two hundred and fifty persons, such being the number of those who represent the provinces, counties, and bailiwicks, to agree, they consisting of three orders, viz., prelates, noblemen, and commons, and they are therefore called the Three Estates. To effect some arrangement and regulation among them, provision was made that the orders should meet separately in certain churches appointed for this purpose, that they might agree to unite together, which has apparently succeeded with the majority, so that the order of the commons and that of the prelates are almost agreed. But it is not so with the noblemen, because the representatives of Guienne and of some parts of Britany, Normandy, and Champagne will not consent to treat with this Government without a fresh commission from their constituents, saying that their commission was to the late King Francis, so that they cannot treat with the Council; an invention of those who are not satisfied with the 'present Government and dislike the Queen's supremacy ; and by so much the more as they say that according to certain ancient privileges these provinces also lay claim to send a person on their behalf who is to be admitted into the Government. Perceiving this fresh obstacle, and the agreement seeming difficult to her, the Queen sent for the President of La Rochelle, who is one of the chief of them, and told him to have an autograph list made out of all those who dissent from the others, with their names and surnames, and to bring it to her. So all these noblemen having assembled in a church, disputed violently, nor did any one dare to be the first to sign this list, and it is hoped that finally the matter will be well settled, which would be of great consequence, because if the Estates treat with this Government they would in a certain way approve its legitimacy by general consent, although they did not observe the usual system in electing it. It is evident that neither in the Council nor in the Government is there the union required for the safety of this Kingdom, there being persons so intent upon their private interests that to gratify their appetite they would not care to see the public in trouble. Who these persons are may be easily imagined by every one. The disturbances in Gascony, Bordeaux, and Navarre have all been quieted since the King's death was known, although the reports on this subject vary, it being said that the Spaniards had raised forces on the frontiers to attack Navarre, but the King of Navarre's agents apologize for him by saying that he raised troops to oppose them, whilst on the other hand the Navarese by rising are accused of giving occasion to the Spaniards to move; but notwithstanding this the King of Navarre gains repute and popularity daily, so that, as the Constable s faction and that of Guise both seek to gain him, he is courted by one and the other. His brother the Prince of Condé, who was a prisoner, has been released on the said King's security, and the prevalent opinion is that he would be quite free if they could induce him to be reconciled to these Guise lords, against whom alone he is resentful, considering their authority the cause of all his troubles. The Vidâme de Chartres also was likewise released from the Bastille, but has subsequently suffered a serious illness, and his life was in danger.
The King of Navarre is sending to Rome to urge the Pope to admit into public consistory the agent he sent him lately to tender obedience as Ambassador of a King, which his Holiness has not chosen to do hitherto lest it prejudice the King Catholic, who has the title of King of Navarre, which was given him by Pope Julius the Second when he excommunicated and deprived the Duke D'Albret of the Kingdom of Navarre for having assented and given favour to the Council convoked against his Holiness in those times.
Orleans, 20th December 1560.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Dec. 22. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 223. Andrea Badoer and Augustino Barbarigo, Venetian Ambassadors Extraordinary, and Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador in Ordinary, with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
His Catholic Majesty delayed our audience until today, having been for some days in retirement owing to the death of the most Christian King; so it was only this morning that he graciously received us, in the same place and with the same ceremony as when we first presented ourselves to his Majesty, of whom having taken good and grateful leave, in such terms as seemed fitting to us, he, by the great kindness evinced to us, and in every other way, showed that he was greatly satisfied with the performance of this ceremony by your Serenity through us, saying that in like manner as he returned you many thanks for it, so he will always demonstrate the excellent will he bears the Signory.
Toledo, 22nd December 1560.
Dec. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 224. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
On the 17th instant the news of the death of the most Christian King arrived here, for which the King Catholic showed the sorrow he felt, and would not allow himself to be seen for some days, going into mourning, together with the Queen, and almost the whole Court. His Majesty will send a gentleman to France, to condole with the new King and with the Queen, and other personages at the Court of France.
Some Genoese merchants have made a compromise with King Philip about their credit with his Majesty for one million of ducats, the interest upon which has now been reduced to five per cent. per annum; and the compromise is, that his Majesty consents to give them seven per cent. per annum with any security they please, the merchants binding themselves to supply the King in eighteen months with another million of ducats, on condition that he gives them security for repayment of this million upon the revenues of the province of Toledo for the year 1563, and that in the meanwhile they are to receive interest at the rate of ten per cent. per annum.
The Spanish troops in Flanders twice embarked, and were twice driven back by contrary winds, many of them having suffered much at sea from various inconveniences, especially from cold, of which some of them died; nevertheless, the United Provinces, still distrusting their departure, continue determined not to grant the smallest subsidy so long as they are visible. They had however despatched some captains to raise infantry to replace the usual Spanish garrisons in the fortresses and on the frontiers, so that they (the United Provinces) would have in their pay about five thousand infantry and three thousand cávalry.
There was much suspicion in England that the war would continue with France, which has never confirmed the treaty, though possibly owing to the death of the most Christian King things may take another turn.
They are sending Don Pedro Velez de Guevara, brother of the Castellan of Piacenza, to Sicily, that from thence he may provide La Galetta with the necessary supplies, from the fear prevalent here lest in the spring the Turkish fleet attack it.
Toledo, 27th December 1560.
Dec. 27. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 225. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
Since my last of the 20th the only important intelligence is that the three Estates are coming to an agreement (si vanno accommodando), and these Lords of the Council are doing all they can to expedite affairs as soon as possible. As one of the chief things for consideration is the question of finance, which comprises the administration of the royal revenues, they are now discussing their regulation, a very difficult business owing to the infinite disorder in which the revenues are from the mode of raising them and of their expenditure. Many important sources of profit are neglected and left at the mercy of one person and the other, so that what should yield the Crown one hundred produced but ten; and as the Treasurers, who axe innumerable (infiniti), have no method, and each of them can dispose at his convenience of the sums levied by him, the fixed assignments for current expenditure are either not paid, or no account is kept of them. Amongst many other consequent evils is the following one of no slight importance, viz., that such persons as receive stipends from the King, being soldiers and others, if they wish to be paid, negotiate with one Treasurer or another and are compelled to compromise, giving up twenty or thirty per cent. merely to obtain what belongs to them. The Government are now endeavouring to remedy these abuses, which they find very difficult, as the evil is already of ancient date; but to make a commencement they have disbanded all the soldiery raised in this city and throughout the kingdom by the late King, the author of this resolution having been the Constable, both for the benefit of the kingdom, as also perhaps to gain to his side the King of Navarre, in opposition to whom all these precautions were taken, and as a reproach to the House of Guise, who devised them. Nothing has yet been done about the new agreement with the Duke of Savoy, nor will the Queen consent to anything of such importance during the King's minority, her opinion being shared by the majority of the Council; but as they are expecting a personage from the King of Spain to condole on the late King's death, it is possible that on his arrival they may arrive at some other condition.
Orleans, 27th December 1560.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Dec. 28. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 226. Baulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
The Ambassadors Extraordinary departed the day after they took leave of the King, having executed all their commissions much to your Serenity's honour, and to their great praise, especially with these Spaniards, who delight in pomp and display, so that their liberality and splendour will always remain on record, and vie with their prudence and ability.
On the evening of their departure the King sent each of them a handsome gold chain as mark of the satisfaction he derived from the mission performed by them. When their Lordships took leave, I told the King that they would acquaint your Serenity with his Majesty's pious and holy intention about the Council, as also with the favour he would afford it, which would greatly gratify your Serenity, who had not only desired the Council, but solicited it through your Ambassador [Marcantonio Damula] with the Pope, by reason of the need which you knew Christendom had for it. His Majesty replied that he in like manner had desired and urged it, nor would he fail doing his utmost to that effect.
The King has appointed Don Juan Manrique de Lara to perform the office of condolence in France, and he will depart to-morrow.
Toledo, 28th December 1560.


  • 1. Thomas Perrenot, Count de Chantonay. (See before, Despatch dated November 22.)
  • 2. Philibert de Marcilly, Seigneur de Cipierre, Governor of Orleans. (See the late Sir W. Hackett's Index to Foreign Calendar, “Mary,” p. 434.)
  • 3. Don Pedro de Ayala. (See the late Sir Wm. Hackett's Index to Foreign Calendar, “Mary,” p. 421.)