Venice: February 1561

Pages 290-297

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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February 1561

Feb. 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 234. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
I communicated to the Nuncio your Serenity's orders to let him know whatever I heard about the Council and affairs of religion, and to exert myself in all such ways as could be beneficial to Christendom, and satisfactory to his Holiness. When speaking to the King about the death of his most Christian Majesty and the state of religion in France, I said that French affairs would doubtless take a good turn under favour of his Majesty, who had given too evident proofs of his piety, in procuring the publication of the Council, which would not only benefit France, but Germany, England, and all Christendom, in the matter of religion. I also said that as his Majesty must be acknowledged as the prime mover of this commencement of the world's commonweal and of the salvation of mankind, so it was universally trusted that he would proceed favouring the public good, that it might produce the expected fruits, and that he would not allow any Prince whatever to take precedence. These words I uttered because at that time it was generally reported at the Court that the French had accepted the Council General, though this proved to be false. His Majesty replied that he should always be ready to afford such becoming favour as he could for the benefit of Christendom, and that he felt certain your Serenity likewise would not fail on your part.
The Nuncio told me afterwards that the Duke of Alva said to him he hoped the bull [proclaiming the Council General] would be accepted.
The most Serene Queen has returned to Toledo so pitted with small-pox that she does not allow herself to be seen by any one, so I shall be unable to present your Serenity's letter of condolence; and to-day she had a slight attack of fever.
Besides the other candidates for the generalship by sea, in succession to Prince Doria, many more have declared themselves, including the Duke of Sessa and the Marquis of Pescara; and what causes much greater surprise here is that in an autograph letter addressed to King Philip by the Duke of Savoy, he offers to accept this charge in case his Majesty increase the fleet
The Spanish infantry from Flanders were driven by stress of weather to Corunna, and refused to go back to Laredo, from which port they might more easily have reached Barcelona, where they were to have embarked for Italy, which they would not hear of, being but too much exhausted with the hardships of the voyage from Flanders.
Toledo, 3rd February 1561.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Feb. 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 235. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
The Papal Nuncio has showed me a writing received from the French Ambassador resident here, narrating how the most Christian King and the Queen Mother had desired that the Council should be held at Trent, but after inspecting the published bull of the Council, they remarked certain words which prevented it from being general, as required by the need of Christendom; implying that unless a new Council were held, many would absent themselves; so their Majesties had urged the Pope to amend, the bull, lest from the absence of a few words the benefit anticipated by all Christians might be frustrated. Their Majesties were also determined to do in this matter whatever was done by the Emperor and the King Catholic. After perusal of this writing the Nuncio said he considered it certain that the French would avoid (fugissero) the Council General, as they desired a National Council, and that to find an apparent excuse in the face of the world, they feigned, a reference to the Emperor and King Philip, being well aware that the Emperor and his Catholic Majesty could with difficulty agree; and owing to their discord the French think they can gain their point and obtain the National Council.
The Nuncio therefore determined, to persuade King Philip to cease making difficulties, and to accept the. Council; and he proposed to ask his Catholic Majesty what he had said to me about the French, and their project to exculpate themselves, should the Council General not take place, by referring themselves to the Emperor and to the King Catholic, who ought to keep well on the watch, and not to let himself be charged with the sins of others, that he might never be accused of having failed in any particular; and to free himself there was no better expedient than to accept the Council, thus demonstrating to the whole world his good and holy mind; then by his example, and by some strong action, he should endeavour to persuade the French to do the like, they having already referred themselves to him. He (the Nuncio) would request that the Emperor should inform the Queen Mother, and the other [French] Ministers, that although at the commencement his Imperial Majesty had some objection to the bull of the Council, yet having considered that this matter entirely concerns the Pope, he determined to refer himself to his Holiness, and exhorted the kingdom of France to do the like, giving that realm very clearly to understand that he could not but evince resentment against those who chose to raise a difficulty about summoning the Council; he being certain of having with him the Pope and all the Italian potentates.
The Nuncio asked me what I thought of his project. I replied that to dissuade the Catholic King from his repugnance to accept the bull of the Council would, I thought, prove beneficial, because his example might be followed by others; but I remarked that his Majesty could with difficulty be persuaded to make so violent a remonstrance to France, as desired by his Lordship. To this he replied, that the King ought to do so, as every good Christian is bound to shed his blood and spend his life for the Catholic religion; and then he inquired whether I would assist him, and on my answering that provided I saw a good and convenient opportunity I would not fail to do so, he added, “I would that you also should go to the King and endeavour to persuade him in accordance with the attempt that I shall make, assuring his Majesty that the Signory will always be united with him in whatever may occur for the service of the Council, so that King Philip, knowing Venice to be his ally in all cases of need, may so much the more easily dispose himself to perform the office mentioned by me in France” To this I replied that I could not act thus without an express order from your Serenity. We at length settled that his Lordship should speak with the King, and we would then see what could be done.
Toledo, 16th February 1561.
[Italian; deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Feb. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 236. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
The audience given by the Pope to the Ambassadors of Monsieur de Vendôme as King of Navarre, although the rights of King Philip were reserved, has caused very great resentment here, so that some of his Majesty's councillors complained grievously (gravemente) to the Nuncio, telling him that this Pope did what had never been done by Clement VII., heretofore the Emperor's enemy, nor by Paul III., who had very serious complaints and causes of dissatisfaction against him, nor by Julius III, nor yet finally by Paul IV., who waged war against this King; adding that there were other things done to the disparagement of this King's greatness, and of his observance for the Church, referring to what took place about precedence. The Nuncio replied, that of the Pope's mind towards his Majesty he knew not what more certain testimony to give than the favours conceded by his Holiness to his Majesty, viz., the “Cruzada,” the subsidy from the clergy, and the fitting out of the fifty galleys. To which they rejoined that the Pope when granting those favours made very little or no difference between King Philip and other minor potentates, and that the favours were not so important as the Nuncio seemed to consider them. On hearing this language the Nuncio said he could not tolerate its being alleged here that his Holiness bore less goodwill to the King than any of the Pope's predecessors had borne him, as never did a Pontiff bear more affection to this Crown nor wish his Majesty more advantage than the present one did. So the councillors, seeing the Nuncio angry, added, to appease him, that he was not to interpret their words as signifying that they had not the best possible opinion of his Holiness, it being on the contrary peculiar to friends and confidants to express freely any dissatisfaction they had, that it might be remedied, whereas those who were less well inclined wsually remain silent, and retain offences in their own breasts, so that all they had said should be taken in this sense, that his Holiness might remedy the prejudice done to his Majesty in the matter of Navarre. But notwithstanding all this the Nuncio complained to King Philip, adding that the Pope thought he was doing a good action of great importance to Christendom by bringing back to the straight path Monsieur de Vendôme, who had been hitherto considered a schismatic, and who has now such great authority in the government of France; and that the Pope therefore trusted that he was not only at liberty to prejudice his Majesty to some extent, but also to deprive him of something, and that King Philip would remain satisfied with his proceeding in this way; but that in the present case his Majesty had neither been deprived of anything nor in any way prejudiced, for at the audience given to the Ambassadors of the King of Navarre the right of the King of Spain was reserved; so the Nuncio could not but complain greatly of the words uttered by his Majesty's councillors. King Philip made answer that he had commissioned his councillors to consult about this matter, which greatly concerned him, and that as yet he had not heard their decision, though he assured the Nuncio that his goodwill and reverence for the Pope had not at all diminished, and that he was to assure the Pope that the King wished to be always his good son.
The Pope's nephew, Count Hannibal Altemps, has been honourably received by this King, who permits him to remain covered in his presence and precede all the Spanish grandees. The chief business of this Count is to effect his marriage with the sister of the Duke of Montalto, which is impeded by the mother of the Marquis of Pescara, the bride's aunt.
The Count requests King Philip to favour the marriage, but gives it openly to be understood that Don Iñigo, brother of the Marquis of Pescara, will never be Cardinal, till his (Hannibal Altemps') marriage takes place. This King requested his Holiness very earnestly to make Don Iñigo cardinal, and considers the thing a point of honour.
The Queen is still rather indisposed, but not dangerously.
The Duke of Alva, accompanied by Don Antonio de Toledo, went lately to conclude the marriage of his son to the daughter of the Count of Benavente, one of the chief grandees in Spain (fn. 1); so the number of his Majesty's Councillors of State is very much reduced, Don Juan Manrique being still in France, and Don Gutierre Lopez de Padilla still in bed and dangerously ill.
Toledo, 17th February 1561.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Feb. 17. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 237. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I had hoped to send the account of what was determined last month by the three Estates, but as their proceedings have not yet been published, I can only give the summary. The three chief questions are, the religion, pecuniary supply for the King, and the regulation of the courts of judicature. Each of these heads is divided into an infinite number of articles, as to part of which all the three Estates, consisting of prelates, nobles, and commons, as to another part two alone, and as to a third part not one of them, are agreed. The law offices are held by purchase, and as the sums paid by the purchasers cannot be repaid at present, that point remains undecided.
The noblemen and commons were too wary to inspect the King's accounts, and when the prelates examined them they found that the debt exceeded 9,000,000 of crowns, other debts to the merchants doubling that amount.
The prelates could not refuse to recover what belonged to the King (il Dominio del Re), which is one-half of the amount, as the commons said they would see to recovering the rest, it having been declared that the noblemen who have the wealth are exempt, under pretence that they render the King personal service in war; but as the prelates are not commissioned by their principals to bind them to this, it is settled that on the first of next May each province (they being in number altogether fourteen or fifteen) is to send one representative with absolute authority to treat and conclude what shall be approved by the majority of votes.
As to the religion, articles without number have been proposed by all three of the Estates. The clergy were in conformity with the Canons and with the Catholic ritual. The noblemen inclined in part to the new doctrine; and the commons, though they did not desire novelty, seemed nevertheless to wish for a general pardon for all the insurgents, and that everybody should be restored to favour; that the election of prelates should be regulated, so as to insure the nomination of fitting persons to reform the life and customs of the clergy, and that the revenues of the churches should be limited by persons appointed for that purpose. But I will now mention the most important matters, the first of which will be, what has been determined about these new opinions, which are apparently favoured by many noblemen, by some bishops, and especially by Cardinal de Chastillon, by the Admiral [Gaspar Coligny], by the Prince de la Roche-sur-Yon, and by the Chancellor (fn. 2) and besides these by some great ladies who are always with the Queen Mother and have supreme authority with her. At present, through the authority of these persons, and also of some other individuals, it has been determined to grant a general pardon to all throughout the kingdom, without obliging any one to retract, or to make any other canonical recantation, which proposal is quite at variance with the constitutions of the Holy Church, and exceeds the bounds of the authority of the King and of his Council, cognisance of matters of this nature appertaining to ecclesiastics and not to laymen. The same persons would perhaps have proceeded further in favour of these new sects had they not been opposed by Cardinal Tournon, the Constable, and the Duke de Guise, who by their authority not only repressed the ardour of those others, but also mitigated in part the determination already made.
To this declaration it has been added that the pardon is not understood to be granted to those who preached this doctrine, nor to the King's judges who have authority in the cities and provinces of France, and who followed it, but I hear for certain that no one will be prosecuted on this account. On the contrary, when I was lately at Orleans, after the departure of the Court, my attendants told me that that city has returned to its former style, and holds the mass there in little account, psalms being sung in many houses in the Lutheran fashion; and here in Paris the preachers have been desired to cease preaching against the Lutherans and Huguenots (as thus do they call those who deny the most Holy Sacrament), and that they are not to speak either against the sects or their opinions; which is generally interpreted as a tacit consent from the Privy Council for all to follow such opinions about the faith as most please their ideas.
This very great kingdom has therefore much need of the holy hand of God for its preservation.
At this assembly of the Estates it was also proposed by the clergy that the election of the bishops and prelates should be taken out of the King's jurisdiction, and remitted to the clergy; and to satisfy the people, they added that together with the clergy the election was to be made by twelve noblemen and twelve commoners, together with the governors and judges of the city of which a bishop is to be elected, giving laymen the same authority in the election as ecclesiastics. This will not please the Pope, neither did it please the clergy (sic), who would have been content that according to the rite of the primitive church the people should have authority to demand whom they pleased, but that the clergy alone should elect. Another matter also has been determined which will please his Holiness least of all, viz., that, moneys are no longer to be sent to Rome for the Annates or for other compositions on account of benefices, as it appears that these charges draw a large sum of money from the kingdom, and are the cause of its present great penury; but as it would seem strange were the Pope not first informed of it, they have elected one of these Presidents of the Parliament, that he may go to Rome to give account to the Pope of this matter; nor is it yet known whether he will ask this as a favour from the Pope, or merely state the causes which moved this Government thus to decide. These are things which seem to me of importance, as they all tend to diminish the Papal authority; and it would be quite at an end were they to lay hands on the Church property, as desired by many persons. Many of these things have not been printed, nor do they publish anything but some general resolutions, though I have chosen to give account of the whole, naming also some of those who favour these new opinions.
Paris, 17th February 1561.
[Italian; the portions in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Passini.]
Feb. 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 238. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
The Nuncio sent to me this morning to communicate what he had informed the King about the Council, and in the protest which he exhorts the King Catholic to make to the most Christian King should he not assent to the Council, he omits all mention of any ally but the Pope.
Toledo, 18th February 1561.
[Italian; deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
Feb. 19. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 239. Michiel Surian. Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Court left Orleans on the 3rd, and the Earl of Bedford (fn. 3) is now here, having been sent by the Queen of England to condole with his most Christian Majesty on the death of the late King, and to congratulate the present King on his accession.
Paris, 19th February 1561.
Feb. 20. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 240. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador with King Philip, to the Doge and Senate.
Nothing has been settled about the Generalship of the Sea, and according to report it will not be decided till the return of the Duke of Alva.
Toledo, 20th February 1561.


  • 1. The family name of the Count of Benavente was Pimentel,
  • 2. Hôpital Michel de (see Foreign Calendar, 1552–1560. General Index, p. 625).
  • 3. See also Collins, Vol. 1. p. 271.