Venice: July 1563

Pages 359-365

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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July 1563

July 5. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 333. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The Huguenots who had come to inhabit Paris are apparently departing, because this populace begin again to make a stir against them; and the other day, a Huguenot having been condemned to death for another cause than for religion, the populace, after he had been hanged, took down the corpse, mutilated it, and threw it into the river. As it therefore seemed just to the authorities to repress the insolence of these people, two of them were taken, and condemned to the gibbet, but on their way to execution, a new and great tumult arose on the part of the people, so that the condemned persons were rescued, and some people were killed. Thus it maybe feared that affairs here will grow worse, unless other precautions be taken.
Paris, 5th July 1563.
July 5. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 334. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
Last year, when the Prince of Condé treated with the Queen of England to give her Havre de Grace in consideration of a money payment, he sent Mons. de Lasso [Lassaux ?], his very intimate friend, to England, to give written security in satisfaction of the money to be paid by Queen Elizabeth. The Prince then delivered a blank sheet, signed by his own hand, to Lasso. This sheet is now in possession of Queen Elizabeth with other securities for her payment. It is also said that the Prince of Condé bound himself to restore Calais to her, and, therefore, during the present treaty the Queen holds him strongly (gagliardamente) to this restitution. The Prince says that he never made such a promise, nor could he make it, because Calais was the King's, and not his; on this he dilates, saying the whole thing had been done when he sent Lasso to England, and asks the Queen not to give him (Condé) occasion to discover to the world the manner in which the Queen got possession of that writing, which the Prince says was by chance, because whilst Mons. Lasso was treating that business in England, the blank signed sheet was taken out of his hands by force by two emissaries of the Queen, and after this they wrote whatever they pleased, without his consent. The Prince therefore prayed her Majesty not to compel him to disclose this act of violence to the world, which, if the affair proceeds, he must do in order to justify himself, not only with his King, but with all other persons likewise. He also declares that he never promised or treated to give the towns of his most Christian Majesty to any one, and he complains greatly that he should have been accused to this effect.
Thereupon, as I understand it, the Queen of England replied that the Prince would not make her blush further on this account, as she would prove that she might have had Calais from Mons. de Guise, had she chosen to cease favouring the Huguenots, and that she possessed a writing about the matter from Guise; so the world would well know, that being able to have that place of hers from one who held it in his hands, she would not have refused that bargain, without some promise of having it through another channel; and as Mons. de Guise, who had the place in hand, offered it to her, the Prince of Condé would be so much the more excused for having promised what was heretofore hers. On this subject many words passed.
The negotiation is still in this state, and it remains to be seen what may happen, the English having a determined intention to recover Calais with this opportunity, as otherwise they never hope to get it again, and the Queen of France having an equally ardent desire to exclude them from all claim under the agreement of peace made in 1559, whereby Calais was to be restored to them at the expiration of eight years. But should the English lose Havre de Grace in battle, the Queen of France is of opinion that, they having been the first disturbers of that agreement, their claims to what they might otherwise pretend are forfeited on this account. Whether her Majesty will be able to act accordingly, considering the condition in which her kingdom now is, your Serenity will be able to judge.
Paris, 5th July 1563.
July 14. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 335. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
I arrived at the Court on the 12th instant in obedience to letters written me by the King. On presenting myself to the Queen, she replied that an order had been given to all the Ambassadors to come to Louviers, because she wished to inform them, all together, of the causes which had justly moved the King her son to take up arms against the English, so that the whole world might know that this Crown had undertaken the present war on reasonable grounds; and that this announcement would be made when all the other Ambassadors arrived. The Queen added that in the meanwhile I was to remain at Louviers, ten miles from Gaillon, where the Court is.
During this interval, Louviers not being very far from Rouen, I remained at the latter place, most especially as last year the Huguenots made many alterations there, and it was much injured by them. One of their acts was so barbarous that those who inspect the fortification then made, can see that part of the walls is built with the heads, arms, and mutilated bodies of statues, which the Huguenots destroyed in all the churches of this town.
The members of the Parliament of Rouen will not present themselves at Court, as they refuse to accept the Duke of Bouillon as Governor of Rouen, he being considered the great favourer of these new Evangelists. Marshal de Bourdillon is therefore coming hither as Governor.
Rouen, 14th July 1563.
July 15. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 336. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
Since I left the Court, a gentleman has arrived from England about a new treaty of agreement, and it appears that Queen Elizabeth will accept the terms which this Crown is inclined to concede; a proof that the English know themselves to be weak in Havre de Grace, and that the French have greater hope of occupying that place, which will be taken without the difficulty anticipated.
Louviers, 15th July 1563.
July 19. Original Letter Book Venetian Archives. 337. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The King having appointed us Ambassadors to meet him at Rouen, his Majesty in person spoke to us, which he had never done before, the Queen having always 3poken in his stead; so he has now commenced exercising his majority. The King's proposal was substantially thus: That having treated with the Queen of England about the restitution of Havre de Grace, and sent his ministers several times to get back what belonged to him, and not having been able to obtain his demand in any way by means of agreement, that Queen, on the contrary, still doing many injuries to his places, ships, and subiects, he had determined to march forward, to recover Havre de Grace by force; which intention he had chosen, first of all, to communicate to the foreign Ambassadors, so that every one of them might acknowledge the just right which his Majesty had on his side. He then said, that if he could not come to an agreement (which is apparently being negotiated), he hoped to recover his fortress by arms. When the King had said these words, the Queen added some others of the same tenor; saying subsequently that the King her son had done this duty in order that all Sovereigns might know that the Queen of England had been the person who commenced disturbing the quiet of the peace, by harassing the subjects and state of this Crown; and that the King her son had done everything to avoid hostilities, but was now compelled by that Queen to commence them.
The Ambassadors from Spain, Venice, Ferrara, and Florence (the Nuncio being indisposed) gave their approval in general terms; after which the Queen spoke aside with the Spanish Ambassador in a low tone of voice, whilst we conversed with the Constable, who repeated what the King had said, and also gave us account of the enterprise of Havre de Grace, showing its facility, and saying that the trenches had approached within thirty paces of the wall; and that the defenders having made a sally, taking with them a piece of artillery, the assailants captured the gun, and killed many of the artillery men. The Constable, in short, gave fair hopes of a speedy surrender, should no agreement be made; but the French very well know that no time must be lost, because after the rains of August, that marshy site might increase the difficulties; so they are adding to their forces as fast as they can. The Constable told us that the King would have twenty thousand infantry for that undertaking; and this day he goes to the camp in advance of the King.
Rouen, 19th July 1563.
July 27. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 338. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The King departed hence, and went to Fécamp, eight leagues from Havre de Grace, to be nearer the siege. In the meanwhile his Majesty's forces have approached so near the walls that they are almost able to batter them point blank.
I sent one of my attendants to the camp for news, and have had several letters purporting that a tower in the direction of the harbour has already been battered, the defensive works in some parts being destroyed; and to-day the battering was to commence, and we at Rouen hear it plying briskly. The fact is that on approaching Havre de Grace victory was very speedily anticipated.
I have also heard from another quarter that the besieged went out to parley, and demanded four days' time to communicate with England. The Constable answered that they must let him enter Havre de Grace, and that he would then give time. The demand for this delay might perhaps arise from two causes, the one, because they find themselves really weak, and therefore wish to make terms after first giving news to the Queen of England for their justification; the other, because they expected some succour, as to-day a Florentine captain, who left England on Monday, dined with me, and said that on that day he left there fifty ships which were to succour Havre de Grace, or to attempt some other place on these coasts; but I hesitate to believe him because he is a Huguenot. He also told me that another Ambassador was to come from England to this Court to treat an agreement, which it was said would take place; and that in England they feared the loss of Havre de Grace, most especially as there were so many of the King's forces under it. He moreover told me that there was very great mortality from plague in Havre de Grace, and that more than one hundred per diem died of it, which would be too many considering the small amount of troops there.
About the agreement, it only remains for the English to leave Havre de Grace to the King without any of the conditions which the English might have made previously. The camp being now at a distance of thirty paces from the walls, and almost masters of the moat, the French could hardly make any other agreement than to have the town, the most Christian Queen having evinced a strong desire to take that fortress so as to deprive the English of any pretension to Calais. This cause has moved her to attempt the undertaking, nor is there any doubt of its succeeding to the repute of this Crown through her prudence, though contrary to the opinion of many of the ministers, and notwithstanding the confusion which prevails in the kingdom.
Having written thus far yesterday, when riding through this town I recognised some of the attendants of the English Ambassador [Sir Nicholas Throckmorton], who was at this Court last year, they having come postwise, and they told me that their Ambassador had also arrived in this city; so he having been a great friend of mine, and having remained here this night, I went to see him.
He told me that he left England the day before yesterday, and that he was on his way from Queen Elizabeth to the Court of France, where he was to propose fair terms for the agreement; and that if the King would consent to what was just, he hoped that matters would be arranged.
He added, in justification of his Queen, that she had obtained Havre de Grace from those who were the greatest in this government, in such a way as was notorious, and that she was content even at present to do whatever should be judged reasonable, provided that she be assured she would receive what she required, in like manner as King Philip, the Duke of Savoy, and others had been satisfied; the Ambassador alluding to Calais, although he did not express this clearly.
He also said that if this Crown rejected what was reasonable, the Queen of England would announce the fact to all crowned heads, and would risk her whole kingdom to maintain her dignity and security, and that she was not yet so weak in forces and friends as not to be able to do much.
I hear that the King leaves Fécamp to-day to see the end of this enterprise; so I shall likewise depart hence this day to approach the camp, and I expect to witness the attack very easily from a hill near the fortress.
Rouen, 27th July 1567.
July 29. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 339. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
Yesterday, on my arrival at the camp, the troops within Havre de Grace were parleying with the Constable to surrender the town, and come to an agreement to depart thence safe with their baggage. So they have obtained four days' time to cross the sea, and in the meanwhile they have surrendered the fort with a large tower of the city.
On my arrival here there was a truce for the convention, so I was able conveniently to inspect the outer walls, the trenches, and what had been done thereabouts. The garrison within were in fact reduced to a sorry plight, for the besiegers were about to storm the place, as they had already battered effectually and dismantled a bulwark and several towers of the port, and filled up the whole moat, so that with but a little more work they would have opened the road for themselves securely with the spade.
The besiegers had battered so furiously that I know not what fortress could have withstood them; and they had moreover a battery of forty cannon, so that whereas at first they used only to fire twenty or thirty shots each day, they now discharged more than one hundred and twenty, so that it is almost incredible to conceive the actual force which was poured forth from the batteries; and notwithstanding that the besieged have used their powerful artillery and harquebuses, and killed more than one thousand of the besiegers, the latter are so confident that they make light of their losses.
This capture, according to military opinions, has been one of the greatest achieved for many years past, both on account of the nature of the fortress, considered to be very strong, as well as for the service, reputation, and advantage of the Crown. The locality is surrounded for the distance of one mile by a marsh, and by the waters of the sea, which are cut by inaccessible canals. There is a strand of sand on the seaside only, which may be about thirty paces distant from the wall. The besiegers passed along the shore somewhat concealed by the sand and gravel cast up by the sea, and established themselves and their artillery between this strand and the sea, and opened fire. The besiegers were placed below the high-water mark, and if the tide had overflowed the artillery, they must have retired with the less of it. Your Serenity may now imagine the joy felt by the Queen at the result of this undertaking, which is so beneficial to the kingdom and which has come to pass solely by her will and contrary to the opinion of all the chief ministers. This event has deprived those of the new religion of all heart, and it is hoped that the affairs of the Catholics will henceforth, God willing, proceed in better form, and indeed the Catholics themselves seem in high spirits. The King and Queen are to come this morning to the camp, and I intend to go immediately to their Majesties, to congratulate them on so great a victory, and I shall then think of departing hence, because all these parts are infected with plague; nor can one dwell otherwise than in tents in the open country with such inconveniences as usually follow armies.
Lord Warwick is in Havre de Grace wounded by a harquebus shot in the leg; he is the brother of the Lord Robert [Dudley].
Under Havre de Grace, 29th July 1563.
[Italian; the portion in italics deciphered by Signor Luigi Pasini.]
July 29. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 340. Marc' Antonio Barbaro, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
I wrote to your Serenity this morning concerning the capture by the most Christian King of the fortress of Havre de Grace. Subsequently his most Christian Majesty having come here, with the Queen, I thought it well to congratulate them. My compliments were received most graciously.
There were present the Constable, the Cardinal of Bourbon, the Duke of Montpensier, and the Marshal de Brissac, each of whom were in like manner complimented by me, most especially Brissac, who has been in truth the first foundation of the acquisition of this fortress.
Under Havre de Grace, 29th July 1563.