Venice: May 1561

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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'Venice: May 1561', in Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7, 1558-1580, (London, 1890) pp. 310-315. British History Online [accessed 29 February 2024]

May 1561

May 2. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 255. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
With regard to the affairs of religion, which is all that your Serenity can expect to hear of importance in this kingdom, each day witnesses greater confusion and disorder, and had I the wish to describe in detail all the incidents, many sheets of writing would not suffice me, but your Serenity will easily comprehend how this kingdom, of yore most flourishing and most obedient to its King, more so than any other ever was, has quite changed, so that by the disunion of the people, and by that of the Princes of the Government, it has become so weak and infirm that friends have not much to hope nor foes to fear from it. The population have become so disobedient from the licence already introduced in living and customs, most especially owing to the tender age of the King, that respect for the magistrates cannot repress the insolence of the subjects, so that every day in all quarters various disturbances occur, as was the case lately here in Paris, when these new doctrines being preached in certain houses to a great congregation of men and women, ail of them belonging to the nobility and of great account, the populace of this city, which detests the new sects, perhaps because they are favoured by the nobility, whom they naturally abhor, went tumultuously to assault those houses, and to destroy them. On the first attack, they stripped and wounded a lady of high rank, who to escape this uproar endeavoured to save herself in certain neighbouring houses. Hearing the disturbance several French gentlemen, and some Italians, perhaps from the interest they took in some of the ladies who were present at the sermon, armed for their defence. A fight ensued, and as men of judgment and experience were opposed to a base tumultuous unarmed rabble, the populace, though in greater number, were routed and put to flight, many of them being killed and many others wounded and maltreated. But the seditious offenders will remain unpunished, both because amongst them were found many persons of authority, and most especially women, as also because, although the conventicles were forbidden, it was also provided that the populace, on their own authority, should not be at liberty to attack the houses where the conventicles were held; so, as the persons who were thus injured had transgressed the King's command, they have no legal claim to compensation. What favours the heretics still more is another edict which was lately published, first at the Court, and then here in Paris, and which has been sent all over the kingdom, whereby free licence is given to all persons to follow what religion they please, as all outlaws on that account are restored to their country and property, the edict commanding that no stir is to be made against any one on account of religion.
Paris, 2nd May 1561.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 3. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 256. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The Court departs to-day for Rheims, where it will arrive on the 10th; on the 11th the consecration will take place, and on the morrow the Court will move towards Villers Cotterets.
This long delay of the departure of the Court was caused by want of money, and by reports spread through the Court against the Cardinal of Lorraine and the Duke de Guise, to render the King of Navarre suspicious. Many writings were also scattered about, telling the King of Navarre to beware of proceeding to Rheims, as he was going into the house of his enemies, who intended to injure him. Cardinal Châtillon, the Prince of Condé, and the Admiral did everything to hinder this journey, endeavouring to persuade the King of Navarre that the sole reason for the consecration of his most Christian Majesty was to give him additional authority to command as King, in order that, at the persuasion of those whom his most Christian Majesty obeys, he may some day dismiss the King of Navarre and his dependents, which, if desired by the King of France, the King of Navarre and all his friends could not resist, without much danger. But notwithstanding all these perils the King of Navarre arrived in this city yesterday evening to quiet the disturbances mentioned in my letter of the 2nd, and will depart tomorrow morning for Rheims, where he will find the Court, which is going thither by another road.
Paris, 3rd May 1561.
May 4. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 257. Michiel Surian, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Doge and Senate.
I went to the King of Navarre, whom I found in the Royal Palace, in the company of a great number of Princes and Lords, and as much honoured by all of them as if he were the most Christian King in person, for he now exercises such authority as to differ from the most Christian King only in name.
His Majesty received me most graciously, and said that the Kings of France ought to be much obliged for your constant goodwill, and expressed himself ready to maintain with all his power and authority the friendship and union between this Kingdom and your Serenity. The affectionate language of the King of Navarre, although it proceeds principally from natural goodness and affability, might also he caused by some suspicion of war with the King Catholic, about which something has been said lately at the Court. The suspicion arose perhaps from a strong remonstrance made lately about the matter of religion by the Spanish Ambassador, much stronger than on a former occasion; and in addition to this, the bad opinion the King Catholic has of the King of Navarre may have increased the suspicion.
Paris, 4th May 1561.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 258. Marin di Cavalli, Knight, and Giovanni da Lezze, Knight and Procurator, Venetian Ambassadors Extraordinary in France, and Michiel Surian, Knight, Venetian Ambassador in Ordinary in France, to the Doge and Senate.
We, Marino and Giovanni, having heard at Lyors that it had been determined to crown his most Christian Majesty, took the Burgundy road to be near Rheims and this city, which determination Surian announced to the Queen and to the King of Navarre, asking them where it pleased their Majesties to give us audience; and their Majesties, although apart, agreed nevertheless in saying that as the most Christian King was to be consecrated (dovendosi fare il sacro) and to remain at Rheims only two days, all the rest of the time being employed in visiting several places of the Constable and of the Guise family, there was no site in which they could receive us conveniently and with becoming dignity, so that we were to sojourn in Paris, where we arrived on the 7th instant, being met on our entry and accompanied by the Ambassadors and by the entire Italian nation. Having heard that the King was to arrive at Rheims to-day, and to be consecrated to-morrow, the Secretary Bonrizzo is gone to Court, and will receive the Queen's orders about the audience.
I, Surian, wrote in former letters of the confusion about religion, and the dread that everything would go from bad to worse; but since the return hence of the King of Navarre to the Court things have taken another turn, and by the new edicts published in Paris, conventicles and private congregations can no longer be held in private houses to preach new doctrines, under penalty of rebellion, and all persons of every condition are bound under the same penalty to observe the Catholic religion and its rites; so many preachers, who had come hither, will be compelled to depart or to change their mode of life. The King of Navarre, who until now has been considered the abettor of this novelty, now shows himself quite opposed to it, and it is said that he has exhorted his brother the Prince of Condé and the Admiral and other heads of this sect to return to the true religion, and not to encourage the divisions and disturbances of France. He has also written to his wife, who is still in his dominions, to provide that no trouble whatever should be given to the churches nor impediment to the priests, friars, monks, or religious in performing their offices, so that neither complaint nor remonstrance may be sent thence. Thus from the quarter where this evil seemed to be most encouraged, there is expected even greater fervour and warmth for what is good, which result gives great hopes to the Catholic party; and already Cardinal Châtillon, who seemed more ardent than the others, has greatly cooled down; so it is probable that the dread of severity may produce what reason and judgment ought to have done.
Paris, 14th May 1561.
May 16. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 259. Marin di Cavalli, Knight, and Giovanni da Lezze, Knight and Procurator, Venetian Ambasadors Extraordinary in France, and Michiel Surian, Knight, Venetian Ambassador in Ordinary in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The change in this Kingdom in matters of religion has been greatly promoted by many and various offices performed here and at the Court during the last few days, because in Paris the populace is very numerous, and wholly Catholic, and hostile (nimico) to the innovations; besides which, the University of the theologians, the Sorbonne, and the chief Parliament of the realm, both of them having great authority, made strenuous demonstrations in this matter; part opposing the proclamations issued by the Court, which encouraged heretical and seditious individuals; part representing to the King of Navarre the mischief that might arise from such divisions in the Kingdom, and the danger there was of rebellion on the part of the people. With regard to themselves, the Sorbonne and the Parliament gave it very freely to be understood that they would never obey any order issued against the Catholic religion, and the innovators were to take good care what they were about, as whenever the Grown changes faith and religion, the people are absolved from the oath of fealty, and are not bound to obey. Besides these remonstrances others were made by Cardinal Tournon, and by a certain other member of the Council. Then there was the respect entertained for the Pope, and above all for the King Catholic. The King of Navarre seems to incline to the Catholic religion not so much from suspicion of war with the King of Spain, as to make some arrangement about his affairs with that King; for the Papal Nuncio, Monsignor di Fermo, tells me that they are treating to give him back his Kingdom of Navarre by way of recompense; and that the Spanish Ambassador told the King of Navarre that although it was impossible for him to obtain what he claims from his Catholic Majesty by mere force, it was in his power to make a fair agreement, by maintaining France in the Catholic religion and the Queen (Mother) in her authority, which two things are desired by the King Catholic more than anything else, from universal respect for Christendom, and from a personal sentiment for the most Christian King his brother-in-law, and also for the benefit of his own neighbouring territories.
This seems to have been the cause of the present visible change; and the report in circulation at the Court, that the King Catholic intended to wage war on the confines of France, originated in a muster of troops in the Low Countries, which as the Constable told the Ambassador from Ferrara was not on account of war, but because the King Catholic, like other sovereigns on the occasion of the general peace, had his troops inspected before disbanding such part of them as were not required.
Paris, 16th May 1561.
[Italian; deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 18. Original Despatch. Venetian Archives. 260. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Cardinal of Este has sent Signor Camillo Gualegno to this Court, to kiss the hands, in his name, of his Majesty, the Queen, the Prince [Don Carlos], and the Princess [of Portugal], after the performance of which offices he will depart. Gualegno, talking about the death of the Duchess of Ferrara (fn. 1) told me that when he was in France (before her death) he heard many persons say that were the Duke of Ferrara to become a widower he would marry the Queen of Scotland. Here also certain persons experienced in French affairs do not dissent from this opinion, owing to the great affection which the aforesaid Duke and Queen bear to each other.
Toledo, 18th May 1561.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
May 18. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 261. Marin di Cavalli, Knight, and Giovanni da Lezze, Knight and Procurator, Venetian Ambassadors Extraordinary in France, and Michiel Surian, Knight, Venetian Ambassador in Ordinary in France, to the Doge and Senate.
The consecration of his most Christian Majesty took place at Rheims on the 15th, and was most imposing, both from the many handsome tapestries with which the church where the ceremony took place and the whole palace were decorated, and also from the many jewels worn by the twelve Peers of France, who have the principal charge in the unction, and by the whole Court. But one of the finest things was the manner in which the ceremonies of the consecration and unction were performed by the Cardinal of Lorraine, one of the ecclesiastical peers, to whom this office (loco) appertains. This was reported to us by Secretary Bonrizzo, who by our order was present, having gone thither to communicate the news letters [from Constantinople], and to learn something about our going to the Court; and we have also heard from many persons that nothing could be better than the manner in which the Cardinal of Lorraine executed this charge.
After the news-letters were communicated, the Duke de Guise told the Secretary that they had news that Oran was in great danger from the infidels. The Pope has invited the Cardinal of Lorraine, as an experienced statesmen, to go to Rome, to serve him in important affairs, but it is said that his right reverend Lordship will by all means endeavour to excuse himself.
The Secretary heard at the Court that within a month the Queen of Scotland will go to her kingdom, and be accepted by her subjects as their Queen; and that the Abbate Martinengo, having been some days in Flanders, on his way from the Pope to Queen Elizabeth, to exhort her to send her prelates to the Council, was not allowed to pass over to England, because his Holiness not having communicated to her the convocation of the Council, as he did to the other Sovereigns, the coming of Martinengo would cause some commotion (alteratione) in England; notwithstanding which, were the Queen to understand that the Council would be free, and not held like the last one, she would not fail to send to it persons of piety and religion who were her subjects.
Paris, 18th May 1561.
May 29. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 262. Paulo Tiepolo, Venetian Ambassador in Spain, to the Doge and Senate.
The Papal Nuncio here has advice from Rome that the Pope, owing to the demand made of him by Don Juan de Ayala to declare the summons to the Council to be a continuation and not a fresh indiction, would not consent to do anything further; so the Spanish Bishops, who had assembled by order of the King, are still consulting what they are to do, and from what I hear they will abide by his Majesty's will.
Toledo, 29th May 1561.


  • 1. Lucrezia de' Medici, Consort of Alfonso II., Duke of Ferrara, died on the 21st April 1561.