Venice: October 1562

Pages 344-349

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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October 1562

Oct. 4. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives 300. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
On Wednesday, the 31st of last month, the King's army took up its position under Rouen, which city showed an intention to defend itself bravely as long as it could. A herald was sent in the name of his Majesty to demand its surrender, and was answered by those within in their usual manner, that they knew this demand was made by others than the King himself, inferring that his Majesty was kept prisoner by his governors. Preparations are being made for battering the place with sixty guns. The Queen threatens to allow it to be sacked, but this result is doubted.
The Queen of England has, I understand, finally resolved to declare herself in favour of the Prince of Condé under her accustomed pretext, which is, that she wishes to undertake the protection of the most Christian King, and to obtain, as far as possible, the observance of the Edict made last January at St. Germain by his Majesty touching religious matters, contrary to the opinion of certain seditious persons, meaning Mons. de Guise, towards whom that kingdom [of England] has always had an evil disposition, on account of the poor understanding which the Queen of Scotland, the Duke's niece, maintains with England. Notwithstanding this declaration, I do not hear that the English have as yet set foot on this side of the sea, although some of their preparations for this purpose are reported. [Three lines in cipher.]
D'Andelot is said to be coming with three thousand German cavalry and five thousand foot, the Duke of Lorraine being unable to oppose his passage. The Cardinal of Lorraine is on his way to the Council [general].
The besieged at Rouen have made a sally, and burnt the suburbs. They have also thrown up a strong fort, called Fort St. Catharine. (fn. 1) Their captain for the war is the Scotchman [the Count de Montgomery] who killed King Henry [II.] at the joust; a man who in these disturbances has done very evil acts against the King, and has used words worthy of punishment, which will probably be the heavier in regard of his former sin (peccato).
I am afraid this circumstance will render the enterprise somewhat difficult.
Paris, 4th October 1562.
Oct. 13. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 301. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The people of Rouen have dismissed the last herald, saying they mean to give battle to the Catholics, who are determined to try the assault as soon as possible, as it appears that on the 10th instant eight companies of infantry, that is, four of French and four of English, entered into Rouen. It is also asserted that the English have also entered into Havre de Grace and Dieppe; and it is said that the English, being unwilling to trust in the Huguenots, have insisted on keeping the munitions and artillery in their own hands. It is further stated, though not on good authority, that the same Maligni who was in Havre de Grace, has sold the place to the English entirely (liberamente); whereby it appears that matters are continually becoming more complicated, although letters from the camp give hopes of recovering Rouen very shortly, and then of attempting Dieppe and Havre de Grace. But these projects are more difficult of execution than men think. It is also written from the camp that if the city had been attacked immediately after the capture of the fort St. Catharine, it must have fallen, but as the Queen subsequently proceeded with her accustomed clemency, the besieged have taken fresh courage.
Paris, 13th October 1562.
Oct. 14. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 302. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
A friend of mine has just arrived, having left the camp under Rouen on the 12th. The Catholics were battering the town with forty-two guns. The succours of French and English had entered, as mentioned in the foregoing letter, though the besieged seemed inclined to treat after the loss of the fort, in order to give time for the arrival of much stronger reinforcements from those portions which had remained behind. As the succours had been divided into three bodies, that portion which had entered Rouen was only the vanguard. The middle portion followed in ships up the river, subject to the tides of the sea, and was captured by Mons. de Montmorency, there being three hundred men, six pieces of artillery, and other munitions. The third body, which was the rearguard, returned to Havre de Grace. I hear that all the [French] troops which entered Rouen belong to Havre de Grace, because the English made themselves secure by sending forth the French, and remaining themselves free masters of the fortress; and they are doing the same at Dieppe.
Notwithstanding all this, an Ambassador [Sir Thomas Smith] is hourly expected to appear at the court of his most Christian Majesty; he remains on the sea coast, and says he is waiting to be presented by the first Ambassador [Throckmorton] to this King, and who still remains at Orleans. Meanwhile, they seek to make believe that the English who occupy the King's fortresses have not entered by the Queen's order, but are people who have done so of their own accord; but these are mere pretences for the purpose of gaining time. Also, in the meanwhile, the Huguenots continue to strengthen themselves, and it is heard that d'Andelot is increasing his forces.
By the same gentleman who came from the camp I am informed that the war is now beginning to be made in a cruel fashion, and that those who are taken are hanged (appicati), as was done to those English succours who could not enter into Rouen quickly enough, and who were all put to death. Those within do the same to those who fall into their hands, and they defend themselves valiantly, having much artillery and harquebusery, with which they kill or wound many of the King's camp. Count Sarra Martinengo has been wounded in one arm by a harquebus shot, for which I am very sorry, as he is a valorous gentleman.
Paris, 14th October 1562.
Oct. 19. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 303. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
I wrote yesterday to your Serenity, (fn. 2) and I now add the contents of letters received from the camp on the 16th. The news of the occurrence on the day before is confirmed, it being stated that the killed and wounded in the King's camp amounted to 300. Mons. d'Aumale, brother of the Duke de Guise, received six harquebus shots, but all in the corslet, which owing to its fine temper saved him. As to the harquebus wound of the King of Navarre, he was struck in the joint of the left shoulder, and it will be a great thing if he is not maimed for life.
Although the besiegers had been roughly handled, it is held that the besieged were treated still worse; and on that morning, the 16th, the Lieutenant de Montgomery (Mongombri), captain in the town, and two of the chief men of the city, had come out of Rouen, and spoken with the Queen. They also returned a second time with fresh proposals, so that it was said that an agreement was almost concluded, and that on the 17th the King would enter into Rouen. In that case, by this agreement with Rouen, the King will also obtain Havre de Grace and Dieppe, because, as it is said, the troops in those places depend on the aforesaid Captain Montgomery, and not on the Queen of England. In anticipation of still further successes, it is also reported that the Queen [Mother] has despatched some one with a large sum of money to corrupt the Germans who are coming with d'Andelot, and to induce them to return.
Paris, 19th October 1562.
Oct. 20. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 304. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
It is considered certain that the parley made by the besieged in Rouen for an agreement was for no other object than to gain time, and to find means of repairing the damage done by the battery. They demand, first of all, liberty of preaching, and also of living according to their religion. Besides this, they insist that the King shall not put a garrison in Rouen. As security for the observance of these conditions, they require hostages from his Majesty, to be kept by them at Havre de Grace. These demands are so outrageous that I hardly dare to state them.
The King of Navarre was suffering from fever, the ball not having been extracted.
Paris, 20th October 1562.
Oct. 27. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 305. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The besieged in Rouen, in their proposals for agreement, went on enlarging the conditions required by them, which were, in short, that the Edict of January should be observed, and that they might preach freely in the city, although by the Edict preachings are permitted only outside cities, because, as the suburbs were destroyed, they said they were forced to preach in Rouen, in which place they were all united. They also demanded liberty to live according to their religion. Moreover, they insisted on this agreement being extended to the other towns of France which might wish to live in this new fashion; and in order to give this convention a general effect, they desired to write to the Prince of Condé so that he might confirm it, and required that in the meanwhile the King's camp should retire some leagues away from Rouen. They added further that the King should not put any garrison in that city. For the observance of all these conditions they demanded as hostages the Prince de Joinville, eldest son of Mons. de Guise, and Mons. de Ugonort (sic), superintendent of the King's revenues, and brother of the Marshal de Brissac, whom they intended to send into England.
Such was the firm ultimatum of the people of Rouen, and I understand that a great part of these conditions would have been granted to them if the condition as to the agreement serving for the whole kingdom had not broken off all the negotiations. Then, returning suddenly to arms, the besiegers commenced making mines and holes (forni) under ground, in order the more easily to obtain possession of the city, as in these days engineers use certain new inventions for facilitating the storming of fortresses. By this means Rouen has been taken by the King, as the Marshal de Brissac and Madame de Guise have been informed this morning by three couriers who witnessed the fact, and say that the mines on being fired produced great effect, whereupon the King's troops entered the city by force, fighting their way in, and that Captain Montgomery had retired into a palace with some of his men, and was being attacked.
It is said the King of Navarre has recovered and is out of danger.
Paris, 27th October 1562.
Oct. 30. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 306. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
Besides what I wrote yesterday (fn. 3) I have to add what was told me by an Ambassador here in Paris, which is, that the Captain Montgomery, who fled from Rouen, has been taken, and is found to be wounded, and that the other “President” of Rouen was likewise taken, and then hanged, with many others. Endeavours had been made to stay the sack of the city, and it lasted only the first day. D'Andelot is said to be at Auxerre in Burgundy, with nine thousand foot and two thousand five hundred horse, on his march to join Condé.
Paris, 30th October 1562.
Oct. 31. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 307. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The King entered into Rouen the day after its capture, making his way over dead bodies which had been spoiled by the soldiers. This victory may indeed be regarded as a disaster to the kingdom.
It was intended to attack Dieppe, but that city sent an offer of surrender, and to put itself at the King's discretion. This is good news, if true, as all the King's forces can be turned against the Germans who are coming with d'Andelot, in order to prevent them uniting with the Prince of Condé.
Paris, 31st October 1562.


  • 1. On the 8th October Barbaro announced the capture of this fort by the Catholics, when the King of Navarre was struck in one leg by a blow from a stone, but not seriously hurt.
  • 2. The letter does not appear in the Barbaro Register, but doubtless alluded to the affair of the 15th, as in Père Daniel, x. 201–203.
  • 3. Letter not found.