Pages vii-xxxviii

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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The contents of the seventh volume of the Calendar of the Venetian State Papers date from the 17th December 1558 to the 28th December 1580, and are derived from despatches and documents preserved in the State Archives of Venice, the Library of St. Mark at Venice, the State Archives of Mantua, and from MSS. which the late Mr. Rawdon Brown bequeathed to the Public Record Office.

The entries in this volume, dating to the end of the year 1564, and numbered 1–357, have, with some few exceptions, been edited by me from the translations made by Mr. Rawdon Brown at Venice, in conformity with the instructions which he received from the late Sir T. Duffus Hardy, by the direction of the late Lord Romilly and the late Sir George Jessel; and I am responsible for the remaining entries, which I have translated and prepared from the transcripts of original documents which came into my possession as the executor of Mr. Rawdon Brown, and also from the bequeathed MSS. referred to above.

The Reports which have been made by the late Mr. Rawdon Brown, and on his behalf, to the Master of the Rolls, will have indicated that during the last half of the sixteenth century the entries written directly from England would be very few in number, and that the explanation of this result was not far to seek. The Ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, left England on the 5th July 1557, in attendance on King Philip, and from the date of his departure until the year 1602, no authorised diplomatic functionary was accredited by the Signory of Venice to the Court of England. It is unquestionably a singular circumstance that no successor was appointed to Michiel in England, so much so that Mr. Rawdon Brown entertained the idea that the Ambassador resident with King Philip in Flanders was considered by the Signory to be a sufficient protection to Venetian interests in England during the lifetime of Queen Mary; but there is no evidence to support this view. When Queen Elizabeth succeeded her sister, her ill-concealed hostility to Rome, and the organic ecclesiastical changes which her policy brought about, sufficiently explain why no overtures for diplomatic intercourse were made from Venice, and no steps taken by the Governing Power of the Republic to procure their renewal.

The silence of the Venetian Archives at this most interesting and critical period of English history is, no doubt, a great misfortune; but the void is to some extent supplied by a series of valuable letters dating from the 17th December 1558, to June 27th, 1559, which were discovered by Mr. Rawdon Brown in the State Archives of Mantua, and which are addressed by an individual signing himself “II Schifanoya,” to the Mantuan Ambassador and the Mantuan Secretary resident at the Court of Brussels, and also to the Castellan or Governor of the City of Mantua. Mr. Rawdon Brown always believed that the designation of “II Schifanoya,” which in English signifies a lazy, idle fellow, was an assumed name, but, as I could see no reason why “II Schifanoya” should have desired to conceal his identity, I obtained, through the kind intervention of the late Commendatore Bartolomeo Cecchetti, Director of the Venetian Archives, a communication from the Cavaliere Antonio Bertolotti, Director of the State Archives of Mantua, and Signor Davari, Keeper of the Gonzaga Archives at Mantua, who gave their joint opinion that “Schifanoya” or “Schifenoia” was the true name of the writer; firstly, because there is in the province of Mantua a small district now called Schifenoglia, but described in ancient documents as Schifenoia, and, secondly, because, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, several Mantuans of note bore the name of “Schifenoia” and “Schifenoia,” to one of whom, the most reverend Don Luigi Schifenoia, the Duke of Mantua is recorded to have given a recommendation to the Imperial Court in 1563, and this personage is mentioned to have been alive in 1565.

II Schifanoya, as appears by his letter of the 6th February, was in the service of Sir Thomas Tresham, the Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in England, and was apparently himself a member of that Order. Sir Thomas Tresham died on 1st March 1558, and, the house of the Priory and the property belonging to it having been seized by order of the Crown, II Schifanoya went to reside with Monsignor Priuli, the intimate friend and testamentary executor of Cardinal Pole, and he seems to have remained an inmate of Priuli's household until the 28th of June, which is the date of his last extant communication.

II Schifanoya had ample opportunities for observation in England, and his letters will be read with interest, because, as he asserts himself, he took the greatest pains to acquaint himself with the circumstances of the country, and to report faithfully and honestly to his principals all that he heard and saw there.

He gives a detailed account of the ceremony of the Queen's first entry into London, and of her coronation. He describes at length the church observances consequent upon the change of ritual, the disputation between the Protestant and Roman divines, and the treatment of the deprived Bishops; he notices minutely the proceedings at the Court, even with regard to such small matters as the inconvenience caused at a Royal supper given on the 24th June to the French Ambassadors, at Whitehall Palace, by the prodigious size of the dresses worn by the fashionable ladies; and he states that three days afterwards the Queen was blooded from one foot and one arm, owing, as he mysteriously hints, to an infirmity which was not known, but concerning which many persons said things which he should not like to write. Moreover he furnishes curious and useful information relative to the Parliamentary practice of the House of Commons in those days, for on the occasion of the opening of the Queen's first Parliament in January 1559, he tells the Mantuan Ambassador (No. 15) that the Speaker (il speccher) was the personage who went to and fro expressing and reporting the will of the Lower House, and that the Members of the Lower House, notwithstanding their established privilege of free speech, were most careful how they spoke, for fear of incurring either wrath or contempt.

But II Schifanoya's testimony is valuable in another respect. Although he was an unwavering and conscientious adherent of the Church of Rome, to such an extent that he was convinced that, by the seed sown by “these cursed heretics,” with whom his conscience would not allow him to associate, “this kingdom must come to ruin,” yet he does not breathe a word against Queen Elizabeth, and stands forth as a truthful, though unwilling, witness to the excellence of her accomplishments and her popularity with her subjects, and also to the favour with which the change of religion was received by the vast majority of the nation.

II Schifanoya in his last letter (27th June 1559, No. 82) observed that the Queen had promised him a small pension charged on St. John's Priory, though the patent was not then made out, but as this document does not appear to be recorded on the Patent Rolls, the evil influence of the planet under which he believed himself to be born, may have intervened to prevent the Queen's intention in his favour being carried into effect.

For two years after the Queen's accession the Venetian Government forbore to send any representative whatever to England, and the inconveniences arising from this abstention would appear to have so prejudicially affected Venetian interests, that the Venetians resident in London and trading there took the initiative, by electing, on the 13th December 1560, and on their own responsibility, a Vice-Consul in the person of one Placido Ragazzoni, who was a member of a family of merchants of long-standing connexion with England. But when, in the following January, a motion was made in the Venetian College (App. 6) praying for a confirmation of this appointment, the election was declared to have been held contrary to law, and was allowed to stand good only until St. Mark's day in the following year. The Venetian authorities however, notwithstanding this treatment of their subjects' appeal, soon perceived that the exigences of commerce must prevail over religious prejudices and political apprehensions, and the College, by a decree dated March 6th, 1563 (No. 321), and by a majority of 154 to 6, elected the nobleman Giovanni da Cà da Pesaro as Venetian Consul in London. He shortly afterwards came to England, and resided there in that capacity until June 1570.

No event of any great importance connected with Venetian commerce is mentioned to have taken place until the close of 1569, when the seizure of two Venetian merchant vessels by the Huguenots in British waters on the 7th December, gave rise to a protracted series of negotiations and transactions, which are detailed at length in the despatches and reports written to the Doge and Signory by Alvise Contarini, Venetian Ambassador in Prance. Contarini was so strongly of opinion that the only hope of any restoration of the plundered property depended upon the intervention of England, that his urgent representations induced the Doge Pietro Loredano to risk the displeasure of Pope Pius the Fifth, who had but lately published his well-known bull excommunicating and depriving Queen Elizabeth, and to write a letter to the Queen (unfortunately not preserved) beseeching her to undertake the protection of the ships belonging to Venetian citizens which had been captured and despoiled by the French subjects of the Queen of Navarre.

The Queen replied to the Doge by a letter dated June 29th, 1570 (No. 483), informing him in cordial terms that “although she had done everything which was required by “laws or friendship, yet such was the pertinacity of wicked men in evil doing, that she had not been able to obtain the recovery of what had been unjustly seized, but that she would continue her efforts until they were successful.”

The ultimate result of the Queen's action cannot be ascertained, but the fact that a glaring violation of the law of nations, involving a gross insult to the power of England, was not promptly avenged and punished, tends to confirm the belief, then prevailing, that a secret understanding existed between the Queen and the Huguenot chiefs. But whatever the cause might be, the Queen was certainly disinclined to demand, or was without the means of enforcing, the reparation which was manifestly her due.

The Consul, Giovanni Pesaro, left England to return home in the month of July following, without any immediate successor being appointed to undertake his functions. Very little is written about him, but he appears to have conducted himself to the satisfaction of the Queen, because in the above-mentioned letter, which was addressed to the Doge Mocenigo, who had succeeded Loredano, she commends Pesaro as “a young man of great ability beyond his years in managing affairs.”

After Giovanni Pesaro's departure, the office of Venetian Consul in England remained in abeyance, and the Republic was left without any representative, except Placido Ragazzoni, who continued his residence, and is mentioned as acting as an agent to the Venetian factory in London (No. 650). This failure to retain an authorised representative in England may have arisen from the falling off of trade owing to the piratical proceedings of the Huguenot chiefs, but a more probable cause is to be found in the unceasing efforts of the Pope to induce the Roman Catholic powers to break off their diplomatic relations with the Queen of England. Alvise Contarini, writing from Paris to the Signory on the 11th April 1571 (No. 506), is very explicit on this point. He informs the Signory that the English Ambassador (Francis Walsingham), who had but lately arrived from England, had told him that the Queen was greatly surprised because while during the life of her sister, when she was a private person and almost a prisoner, she had been constantly visited by a Venetian Ambassador, yet since she became Queen the Republic had been unmindful of her. Contarini, as his despatch shows, took care to speak only in general terms and for himself, and not to reply officially; but he does not hesitate to give his opinion to the Signory that the communication of the Ambassador was founded upon apprehension lest the pressure which the Papal Nuncios were putting upon the Courts of France and Spain to withdraw their Ambassadors from England, might be successful, and he clearly, though in cautious words, places before his Government the difficulties and dangers which might ensue if they should accede to the Queen's wishes and accredit an Ambassador to her Court.

During a period of four years succeeding this despatch, no notice whatever, direct or indirect, of the relations between England and Venice is to be found. It is of course impossible to say what information the French despatches, which date from February 24th, 1572, to April 6th, 1573, and which have been designedly removed from the archives, might have disclosed; but the political uncertainties consequent upon the events which preceded and succeeded the massacre of St, Bartholomew, are amply sufficient to account for the want of free and constant communication between two countries, whose mutual interests were of a purely commercial character, and altogether independent of any desire for territorial or political aggrandisement.

Sigismondo di Cavalli, who succeeded Alvise Contarini as Ambassador in France, tells the Signory (No. 545) that the understanding between the heretics of La Rochelle, Germany, and England was “like a solid mass which only moved by common consent,” and, under these circumstances, it is probable that the cautious Venetian traders would hardly have ventured to run the risk of voyages to England, when the chances of disaster on the road greatly exceeded any reasonable prospect of a profitable result. But if any disinclination to renew the voyages existed at Venice, public opinion in England was manifesting itself to the contrary. Di Cavalli writes to the Signory on May 10th, 1573 (No. 543), that he had lately met the new Ambassador from England, Dr. Valentine Dale, who had showed great anxiety that the Venetian merchant ships should recommence their voyages to England, and had informed him that if it were necessary to take precautions against corsairs, her Majesty of England would be prepared to do her utmost for that purpose; and on January 7th, 1575 (No. 613), the Ambassador, Dr. Dale, upon the report of the capture of a Venetian vessel by the people of La Rochelle, offered Giovanni Francesco Morosini, then Venetian Ambassador in France, with many expressions of affection for the Venetian Government, to endeavour to recover any portion of the property which might be landed in England, and even promised also to write to the Queen intimating that if the owners would give powers to anyone in England, they might recover something.

Although these letters of the 10th May, 1573, and the 7th January, 1575, are the only documents which between those dates refer directly to Venetian affairs, it seems probable that in the course of the year 1575, if not earlier, a revival of trade between England and Venice took place, and with it a natural desire on the part of the Venetian commercial classes to procure a renewal of diplomatic intercourse between the two countries. In the month of November 1575 the veteran diplomatist Giovanni Michiel passed through Paris, apparently on his way from the Imperial Court to Venice, and, by his authority and with his consent, four of the gentlemen who composed his numerous retinue, namely, Zuanne Falier, Marc' Antonio Mocenigo, Zuanne Mocenigo, and Alvise Foscari, proceeded to England.

The particulars of the visit of these gentlemen to England and of their reception by the Queen at Windsor are fully described in entry No. 617. Their appearance must have excited much interest, because more than eighteen years had elapsed since any member of the governing classes of Venice had been seen in England. But the Queen at all events seems to have considered their coming due rather to political motives than to mere curiosity, for after they had kissed hands and attended her chapel service of twenty minutes duration, she took the opportunity of openly stating to them, in their own language, her grievances against their government, and the neglect to which she had been personally subjected at the hands of their order. The Venetians replied evasively, but they were, nevertheless, by the Queen's command, taken by Cecil to dine with himself and eight members of the Privy Council. At the dinner table, where all the English present either spoke or understood Italian, the same topic was renewed, but without any satisfactory result; and the subsequent failure of the Queen to give her guests an entertainment, at which they were led to expect they would have met the society of ladies, may be attributed to her convictions plainly expressed to them, through the medium of her Italian groom of the privy chamber, that any representation which they might make on their return to Venice would produce no effect.

Contemporaneously with this visit of the four Venetian gentlemen to England, a commercial question of the gravest kind arose, which made the Venetian traders thoroughly understand that without diplomatic protection their interests and property in England would be greatly prejudiced.

In the month of November 1575, the Earl of Leicester obtained from the Queen the grant of a special licence to Acerbo Velutelli, a merchant of Lucca, whereby certain descriptions of foreign produce, including currants and oils, were prohibited from being unloaded from foreign vessels in the Port of London without his special authority.

The Venetians in England seem to have lost no time in bringing this obnoxious regulation under the notice of the Signory at Venice; and that body, by a letter dated 20th December 1575 (No. 645), instructed their Ambassador in Prance, Giovanni Francesco Morosini, to confer with the English Ambassador there, Dr. Valentine Dale, with a view to obtain the revocation of a privilege which they viewed with so much displeasure.

Morosini replied on January 13th (No. 645), that he had found the English Ambassador, to whom he refers as a Doctor of high repute, and learned in the laws of navigation and commerce, to be thoroughly informed on the subject and ready to meet the Signory's views; but that while Dale held out great hopes that the privilege might perhaps be revoked, he intimated that for this purpose the Signory ought to send an Ambassador to the Queen, as she had personally complained to the gentlemen who had lately visited her from the Ambassador Michiel, and was indeed herself personally much grieved, that since her accession no Ambassador, either ordinary or extraordinary, had been accredited to her by the Republic, notwithstanding that all her predecessors had been differently treated. Morosini added that Dale, speaking for himself, felt well assured that if an Ambassador were sent, the Signory would obtain their desire more easily than in any other way, and certainly renew a friendship which appeared to him to be almost; annihilated; and Morosini concludes his despatch by beseeching the Signory to take the course most likely to effect the revocation of the privilege, and by assuring them that they would not regret a step in that direction.

This information and these representations clearly emboldened the commercial party at Venice to take immediate action, and accordingly, on the 25th February 1576 (No. 618), the question of an Embassy to England was brought forward for the decision of the Senate.

The proceedings on that day appear to have commenced by reading the communications addressed to the Senate by the four Venetian noblemen who had visited England, and the letters of the Ambassador Morosini referring to the subject; and then a carefully worded motion was proposed by the majority of the Sages then present, which, after reciting that the wish of the Queen of England was to have an Ambassador in ordinary resident with her, as customary during the reigns of her predecessors, and as required by the ancient friendship of the Republic, declared that an Ambassador ought to be elected to reside with the Queen with the customary allowances and under the customary conditions. This motion was, however, met by an amendment “that the present question be now adjourned,” in fact by the “previous question” of modern times, and, on a vote being taken, the amendment was carried by a majority of 131 votes against 44 votes, and the original motion was therefore virtually defeated.

The failure of this attempt plainly demonstrates the strength and pertinacity of the Papal party at Venice, and that the private interests of the citizens, notwithstanding the prevalence of the true liberal opinions which notoriously existed there, were overborne by apprehensions lest the renewal of open and avowed relations with Queen Elizabeth might injuriously affect the general welfare of the State.

Although the party at Venice who were in accord with their fellow-countrymen in England, and who for the sake of distinction may be referred to as “the Commercial Party,” were defeated in the Senate, yet the important question which they had raised was not allowed to rest. Strong representations continued to be made to the Government, setting forth the material injury which the public and private interests of Venice must inevitably suffer under the conditions which then existed; and these views were energetically supported by Morosini at Paris, who throughout the year 1576 continued to urge upon the Signory the adoption of a policy of conciliation towards England.

In the month of April 1576, Morosini (Nos. 652, 654) forwarded to Venice a letter which had been addressed to him from England by a Venetian, Diogene Franceschini, and which stated that, owing to the great influence of the Earl of Leicester, no decision upon the petition presented to the Lords of the Council had yet been obtained, and that there were but faint expectations of obtaining any concession; but if the Signory, as was hoped, would accredit an Ambassador to England, such a determination would be well received, because an Embassy was greatly desired by all parties. Morosini in his covering despatch (No. 654) wrote without any hesitation that he anticipated no favourable result unless the Signory determined to send an Ambassador to England, as indeed all the English Lords, although privately, had given him to understand. So far as can be gathered from the State Archives, these urgent and repeated appeals having met with no satisfactory response at home, the Venetians resident in England abandoned paper remonstrances and mere reliance upon the intervention of the Ambassador in France, and resorted to a more practical mode of obtaining their end by making an offer to the Signory in June 1576 to defray at their own private cost the whole of an Ambassador's expenses to England. Alluding to this munificent proposal, and evidently supporting it, Morosini wrote on June 19th (No. 658), “that if an Ambassador were sent, the privilege to Acerbo Velutelli would be immediately “revoked;” and on August 26th (No. 661) he expressly refers to a suggestion made to him by Dale, “ that it would be advantageous if the Signory would give some satisfaction to the Queen, because when this was done, both the existing demands and all others would be conceded to the Venetian nation with every facility and readiness.”

But the efforts and the offers of the Commercial Party were all in vain; they were in a minority in the Senate, and had to remain in that position for many years to come. The Papal Party were too strong both in numbers and in influence to admit of any concession being made to the excommunicated Queen, and although the Doge entered into a correspondence with her and received, it is to be presumed favourably, her recommendation of the Venetian physician, Dr. Scacco, to whose skill she bore personal testimony, yet no overt step was taken to restore those cordial relations which the Queen so earnestly sought to have renewed between the two countries. Morosini himself seems to have lost all patience at the sacrifice of the true interests of his nation, for at the close of the year he candidly told the Signory, with regard to the question of the privilege to be conceded to Acerbo Velutelli, that if they did not choose to take steps to please the Queen, the negotiation in his favour would go forward, and “when once the privilege had been established it would “be useless to think of obtaining its revocation;” and he closed his despatch as follows:—“Your Serenity knows best what ought to be done; nevertheless I am unable to express any different opinion than the above with regard to this matter.” (No. 664.)

Morosini's Embassy came to an end in June 1577, when he returned to Venice, and was succeeded by Hieronimo Lippomano.

From that period no mention is made of the Commercial Party and their proceedings until the 16th July 1578 (No. 724), when the English Ambassador, in personally answering a request made officially by Lippomano, that merchandise which had been taken from a Venetian vessel, apparently by an act of piracy, might be detained in England under the authority and care of the Secretary of State, and in communicating to Lippomano the prompt assent of the Queen to the application made to her, observed that “it was a serious matter that while all other powers were represented in England, Venice alone should not be in that position;” and he requested Lippomano to write to the Signory “that the Queen would take it as the greatest possible favour to have an Ambassador from Venice, and that the Signory might commence by sending an Ambassador Extraordinary, as was frequently done by powers of less importance than Venice.”

Lippomano reported that he had endeavoured to make the English Ambassador understand that the Signory held the Queen and her nation in great esteem, and had used other general words to change the conversation, but was careful not to commit himself in any definite terms; and it may therefore be reasonably inferred that then the Commercial Party at Venice were gaining ground, and actively pursuing their policy of conciliation towards England with some prospect of ultimate success. At all events their action was sufficiently pronounced to arouse the suspicions of Pope Gregory, for in the following November his Nuncio at Venice received direct instructions from Rome to protest publicly against the mission of any Ambassador to England, and he would have certainly executed his orders to the letter had he not received a positive intimation from the authorities that the reports which had been received at Rome on the subject, were devoid of foundation.

The Nuncio, however, was not satisfied with this private submission to the Papal authority, and on the 21st November he appeared in the College to assert the triumph of the Holy See, and to obtain publicly from the Doge and his colleagues a distinct declaration that the objectionable negotiation was not on foot, and had not even been spoken of, and “that if, for reasons of state, it was ever judged expedient to accredit an Ambassador to England, the Nuncio might feel assured that his wisdom would be satisfied with their mode of proceeding.”

The greater part of the Venetian despatches relating to Queen Elizabeth and the events of her reign which were examined and transcribed by Mr. Rawdon Brown were written from the Court of France, where, during the period covered by this volume, Venice was successively represented by nine Ambassadors in Ordinary, namely, Giovanni Michiel, 1559–60; Michiel Surian, 1560–62; Marc' Antonio Barbaro, 1562–67; Giovanni Correr, 1567–69; Alvise Contarini, 1569–71; Sigismondo di Cavalli, 1571–74; Giovanni Francesco Morosini, 1574–77; Hieronimo Lippomano, 1577–79; and Lorenzo Priuli, 1579–80; and all these diplomatists, who were men of experience and exceptional capacity, appear to have enjoyed the full confidence of their own Government, and also of all the Sovereigns to whom they were accredited.

Owing to the abstraction from the Venetian archives of all the French despatches dating from the 24th of February 1572 to the 6th of April 1573 (see note, p. 484), by the intentional act of some unknown persons, all traces of any records relating to the massacre of St. Bartholomew and of the momentous events which immediately preceded and succeeded the catastrophe have completely disappeared. It is a disappointment at this crisis of the Huguenot movement, when independent testimony would have been so valuable, to meet with a positive blank; but, with the exception of the interval of time above named, the communications of the Venetian Ambassadors give a very clear and impartial exposition of the foreign policy of Queen Elizabeth and the. principles upon which it was founded. It would not be in accordance with official instructions to encumber the limited space set apart for this introduction by quotations from despatches which speak for themselves; but it may be useful to observe that, notwithstanding the frequent changes of Venetian diplomatic representatives in France, all the Ambassadors accredited thither, from Giovanni Michiel in 1561 to Lorenzo Priuli in 1579–80, concurred in expressing opinions to the effect that the mortal hatred which had always existed between England and Prance, and which would never end, must prevent any cordial understanding ever being established between the two countries; and that although Queen Elizabeth avoided war with France, because she was so greatly alarmed on account of Spain, yet that she did not wish France to enjoy any secure peace, and therefore did her utmost to procure that the Huguenot party, which was entirely dependent on her, should remain strong and be continually on the increase.

The negotiations for the proposed marriage between Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Alençon are detailed at great length. So much new and valuable information has recently been published on this subject that it might be deemed inexpedient to notice it further, but the Venetian despatches indicate with such clearness the causes which induced Henry III. and the Queen Mother to change their policy with regard to the English marriage, that I have ventured to give the following brief summary of the leading circumstances which led to this remarkable result.

The first mention of the proposed marriage after the date of the massacre of St. Bartholomew is made by Sigismondo di Cavalli, who wrote on August 31st, 1573, (No. 558) to the Signory:—

“I am now able to give the reasons for the hope which their Majesties (Charles IX. and the Queen Mother) entertain that the marriage which is now negotiated with England will be arranged and concluded. Two persons of supreme authority are in attendance upon the Queen (of England), and they rule her. One of these is the Treasurer General, otherwise called Secretary Cecil (Cicino). (fn. 1) This individual is of ignoble origin and wealthy, and is endured by the Lords of the Kingdom against their will, and he knows that if the Queen were to die he would lose both his life and property. The other of these personages is Lord Robert, Earl of Leicester (Lincestre), who, although he is of noble blood, has yet given offence to many persons and is generally detested. Nevertheless, both these personages have advised the Queen to marry a foreigner in order to obtain a King” who would defend her. All are now agreed upon the “Duke of Alençon, and the Queen appears to acquiesce, but I know not what the end will be.”

Six months later the objections to the marriage appear to have been on the English side, for on February 24th, 1574 (No. 571), the English Ambassador (Dale) told Di Cavalli that their French Majesties had put forward this Duke of Alençon and were promising to maintain peace and use well all persons who belonged to the new religion, and that although these proposals were very favourably entertained, yet that the French had thrown great difficulties in the way of negotiation, for the Queen of England saw that neither the hopes of an alliance nor the good will which she had shown, nor the promises which they themselves had made, were of any avail to keep them firm in their purpose.

Charles IX. died on the 30th May following, but this event, and the accession of Henry III., brought no alteration in the marriage policy, for on September 11th, 1575 (No. 634), the Venetian Ambassador, Giovanni Francesco Morosini, wrote a detailed and most interesting account of an audience at which Henry III. and the Queen Mother received Sir Henry Cobham, who had been named Ambassador from England to Spain, and the English Ambassador in Ordinary (Dr. Dale). The King then said that, “so far as he was concerned, the connexion would be dear to him, and that he would do all he could to assist it and aggrandise his brother, so that it might be clearly known that he would not fail to marry him to Her “Majesty;” and the Queen Mother added, “ that this opportunity would be most acceptable to her because she hoped that if this alliance were accomplished the Queen would no longer render assistance to those who were rebels to the Crown (of France).” She concluded with a gentle remonstrance, asserting to the Ambassadors that “she knew for certain that fifty thousand crowns had been paid from England to the Huguenots.”

The views favourable to the marriage continued to prevail at the French Court until the return of La Porte and La Mothe, who are related (No. 644) to have been accredited by Henry III. and Alençon to the Queen of England, in December 1575, and to have brought back a reply in February 1576 (No. 650), which the Venetian Ambassador, Morosini, understood to be unfavourable, “because so far as the proposed marriage with Monsieur (the Duke of Alençon) was concerned, the Queen had answered that she never would take him so long as the affair of France were in their present disordered state, but that if she did make up her mind to marry, she would espouse the brother of the King and not one of his outlaws (as Monsieur was at present), for such a marriage would not be in accordance with her dignity. Still, first she demanded that peace should be made.”

Within a very brief period of time after this date, the views of the French Court, as to the expediency of the marriage policy, manifestly underwent a decided change. On May 5th, 1576, Morosini wrote (No. 655) that “Randolph had been in Paris, in the name of the Queen of England, to induce their French Majesties to make peace with the Huguenots, and also to renew the projected marriage of his Queen with Monsieur, but that it was nevertheless believed by the French that this request was only an artifice; and that the object of his mission was not to make peace, but disturb it.” During the next few months the active persecution of the Huguenots so inflamed public opinion on the English side, that the estrangement between the two Powers became gradually more pronounced. Early in February 1577 Queen Elizabeth deemed it necessary to take decided action, and by her instructions Sir Amyas Paulet, then English Ambassador at Paris, went officially to prefer a serious complaint to their French majesties, saying (No. 668) “that his Queen marvelled at the decision which had been taken to extirpate the unfortunate professors of the reformed religion;” and after making representations which had almost the form of threats, he said, that his Queen, having been always their protectress, could not fail to assist them in such a way as was open to her without infringing the league which she had contracted with France, and which she desired to maintain for the period prescribed.” King Henry replied in a tone of defiance, and from thenceforth any semblance of a good understanding which might have existed between himself and Queen Elizabeth, gave place to asperities which were uttered upon every available opportunity.

In the month of June (No. 674) King Henry, referring to a report that Queen Elizabeth had in writing given promises of material aid to the King of Navarre, said to Paulet “that if his Queen intended to observe the conditions stipulated by the convention for peace, it was not proper to violate them by hostile operations.”

On July 21st, on being congratulated by Hieronimo Lippomano (No. 676) upon the news that a large armed galleon on its way from England to succour La Rochelle had foundered at sea, he answered: “This Queen of England behaves exceedingly ill to me. On the one hand she promises by words to be my friend, and on the other, she injures me by open hostility, and one of these days she may possibly be sorry. She has also offered sixty thousand gold angels to the Eoisters to enter this kingdom, but her avarice has hitherto prevented her paying the money.” (fn. 2)

These outspoken protests against a policy which, to say the least, was not altogether innocent of duplicity, seem to have had some effect upon Queen Elizabeth, for early in August she instructed her Ambassador (Sir Amyas Paulet) to make most ample excuses, and to endeavour to induce their French Majesties to make peace, according to the terms of a despatch or protest (No. 682) which the Venetian Ambassador (Hieronimo Lippomano) mentions as having “come into his hands by a very secret channel;” yet the latter were not to be appeased by these professions, for the King answered (No. 681) “ that the Queen of England must not say one thing and do another”; and the Queen Mother subsequently spoke to the English Ambassador in a more haughty tone, and, observing that” to deny matters which “were evidently true was only to aggravate the crime,” dismissed him from her presence with disdain almost openly expressed.

Further evidence of the animosity of Henry III. against Queen Elizabeth, and of the unfriendly disposition of the latter towards France, will be found in despatch (No. 704), March 16th, 1578, and in others written later in the same year. Of these, the most important is the letter dated October 19th (No. 731), wherein Hieronimo Lippomano relates the particulars of a visit which Monsieur de Bellièvre, whom he describes as the principal and confidential minister of Henry III., bad paid him in the King's name. De Bellièvre then said that “neither the King nor any person acquainted with the affairs of State could approve of the inclination of the Duke of Alençon to “marry the Queen of England, but that the King had given his consent to satisfy his brother and keep on good terms with him;” and in answer to a question which the Venetian admits he designedly put to elicit the truth, Bellièvre replied that matters were “in a more forward state than was generally supposed,” and added, “It is quite true it is not the first time that this woman, even when she was younger, has broken off negotiations which might have been considered concluded, but even if this proposed marriage were solemnised, Monsieur could not say that he was married, because he would have an old woman of forty-five without any hope of children; nor could he even say that he was a free man, because he would be in the power of a nation most suspicious and the natural enemy of the French; and there were besides a thousand other objections.”

The circumstances of the next two years show no disposition towards any change of policy upon the marriage question either on the part of Henry III. and the Queen Mother or their advisers. The opinion of the latter in 1579 is disclosed by a confidential State paper forwarded to Venice by Hieronimo Lippomano on June the 6th (No. 760), which purports to be a memorandum of reasons for and against the marriage, compiled by persons of influence, and which had been read and most carefully considered in the Privy Council of the King. This document arrives at the conclusion “that were the marriage to take place Monsieur would be a King without power; married without a wife or hope of posterity; a prisoner at liberty and in the hands of the enemies of France, and with the impending danger that as it would be easy for him to go to an island, so it might be very difficult for him to return thence.”

That Henry III. was fully in accord with the decision of his Council, if indeed he had not inspired it, is evident from an occurrence which took place on a Sunday night early in August 1579 (No. 776), when about midnight, after the conclusion of the dancing which was then customary at Court, Alençon accompanied the King and Queen to their apartments, and, the Queen only being present, he affectionately and humbly demanded leave to go to England. The King replied that he could never approve such a proposal as this marriage, and, after urging many objections, finally called the Queen to witness, and declared that he would hold himself excused before God and the world for all the evils and shame which might ensue. The earnestness of the King's appeal, however, failed to convince Alençon, for he frankly replied that he had fully considered the question, and, being sure of the mind of the Queen of England, was determined to go; and he again besought the King not to thwart his prospects of greatness. The royal personages subsequently adjourned their conference until the following day, when they dined together in strict privacy; but no impression was made upon Alençon, for he left the same evening by post for Picardy, and although the King evinced great regret for his brother's perilous resolution, he gave him 60,000 crowns and a valuable diamond, as a mark of his love, when they parted. Alençon left Boulogne for England on August 16th, and returned to Paris during the night of September 3rd incognito. On the following morning he waited upon the King.

The King was confined to his bed by severe illness, but he nevertheless received his brother cordially, and embraced him with every mark of affection. Alençon was greatly elated with the results of his expedition to England; his reception by the Queen, the presents which she had exchanged with him, and the marks of favour which she had unreservedly bestowed upon him (Nos. 772, 774) led him to believe that the marriage was virtually settled, and that any existing difficulties to its accomplishment would be easily removed. Moreover he was the bearer of a letter addressed by the Queen herself to the King, thanking him in most affectionate terms for his brother's visit, and declaring that “as she was now his most affectionate servant, so henceforth she intended to be his perpetual slave.” The King apparently accepted these demonstrations and assurances in a friendly spirit, but in reality he never relaxed his opposition to the marriage. The day before Alençon left France for England he told Lippomano “that the Queen of England was so artful in all her negotiations that he did not know what to believe,” and to these ideas, however much he may have from time to time temporised, he firmly adhered. But he apparently lacked the moral courage to sustain his own opinion, and continually attempted to throw the responsibility of action upon the Queen Mother. A remarkable instance of his dependence upon her will be read in No. 778, wherein Alençon is related to have urged King Henry to surrender Calais and Boulogne to the Queen of England, because then the Queen had promised that he should be crowned King. King Henry on that occasion repeated in gentle terms his former objections, and although he characterised any surrender of fortresses to England as an indecent proceeding which France would never tolerate, yet his answer as a whole was doubtful and irresolute, and, without giving an absolute refusal, he said he would await his mother's return, because during her absence, questions of such moment ought not to be determined.

So far as the Venetian despatches disclose, the Queen Mother never abated her efforts to put an end to a marriage which was repugnant to her religious prejudices, and also detrimental, as she believed, to the true interests of her adopted country; but she exercised her power and her overwhelming influence over the King with the utmost caution, and the policy which she pursued, as well as the motives which dictated it in 1530, are clearly explained by Lippomano, who wrote on January the 16th (No. 790) as follows:

“In my last conversation with the Queen Mother I endeavoured to hear something about this marriage, but could elicit nothing except that it was not yet settled, and that she hopes to make known to her son that he is of an age to guide himself; but I know that she is most unhappy from the consideration that by this marriage her most noble lineage incurs manifest peril of becoming extinct, though I hear on good authority that she still cherishes some little hope that Monsieur (Alençon) does not desire the marriage so ardently as he did, because she has been informed that Monsieur was somewhat embarrassed, when, as a young man devoted to pleasure, he called to mind the advanced age and repulsive physical nature of the Queen (le brutte quality del corpo della Regina), she being, in addition to her other ailments, half consumptive (mezzo ettica). I also hear that the disposition of Monsieur is such, that it may be possible that whereas when he was dissuaded by the King and Queen Mother from this enterprise his desire to follow it increased, so perhaps this passion may have diminished since their Majesties have given way and made a show to the Queen of England of their consent to the marriage. And I know that to this end the Queen Mother is dexterously flattering the English Ambassador and assiduously sends him friendly messages, so that she could not do more even if she desired the marriage to take place in earnest.”

The events recorded during the next four months show that the Queen Mother, notwithstanding her assertion in March (No. 799) that “things had already gone too far with England,” was endeavouring, with the consent and assistance of Rome, to marry Alençon to an Infanta of Spain (No. 800); and when Alençon showed himself most adverse to this connexion, then the Princess of Lorraine, the niece of the Queen Mother and “greatly loved by her,” was proposed to him. But as this lady was very ugly and without any position of political advantage, the project met with no success. Lorenzo Priuli's despatch of May 6th (No. 803) indicates that after the failure of these marriage proposals King Henry and the Queen Mother made a serious attempt to gain Alençon by offers of honours and material advancement in France; but, subsequent to this date, no information of any importance or certainty relating to this subject is to be found in the contents of the present volume.

The Calendar of Manuscripts preserved at Hatfield House contains the copy of a letter which Alençon addressed on December 27th, 1575, to Dr. Dale, and which purports to give the true facts of an attempt on his life which had been variously reported. Alençon wrote that “last evening there was served at his collation some wine so strongly poisoned that immediately the Sieur de Thore, his cousin, and others drank it, they were taken with such violent vomiting that, but for prompt help, their enemies would have had the satisfaction they desired;” and he begs Dr. Dale “to inform the Queen of England that he is well now.” In a postscript he again begs Dr. Dale to assure the Queen by the earliest despatch that he is quite well and out of danger.”

The circumstances attending this incident were communicated to the Signory by Giovanni Francesco Morosini in a despatch dated January the 10th, 1576 (No. 647), but his version of the facts differs very materially from that given by Alençon, because he reports that the violent “vomiting with which Monsieur de Thore and others were taken” was voluntary, and the consequence of their sense of precaution, and also that the valet de chambre, who had served the wine, was seized and compelled to drink two glasses of the supposed poisonous liquor, “which did him no harm whatever.”

If Morosini's report is to be credited, and it certainly reads like truth, it is not improbable that this story was invented by Alençon, who was then a fugitive from his brother's Court, to gain the sympathy of Queen Elizabeth and restore himself to her favour at a time when she was showing herself disinclined to marry him, and was asserting to La Porte and La Mothe that a marriage with one of the Kings outlaws would not be in accordance with her dignity (No. 650).

The despatches written by the Venetian Ambassadors resident at the Court of Spain were examined by Mr. Rawdon Brown, with the assistance of the late Signor Luigi Pasini, and the documents which they deemed worthy of notice, although containing information of much interest, give on the whole, and especially after the departure of Paulo Tiepolo from Madrid, less continuous and connected indications of the policy of Philip towards England than those which are to be found in the communications made to Venice from France. But the liberty accorded to Mr. Raw-don Brown to extend his inquiries beyond the limits usually permitted by the rules of the Record Office enabled him to collect some important particulars relating both to King Philip himself and other personages of his family. The report of Michiel Surian “concerning the King of Spain” (No. 274), which was presented to the Signory, and which appears to have been written at the commencement of 1559, deals very exhaustively with the subject to which it relates. After describing Philip's career and reign in England at some length, Surian writes that “his personal appearance, his manly presence, and his manner of speaking sweetly add to his graciousness of demeanour; and although he is small in stature, he is so well made and his limbs are so well proportioned and symmetrical, and he dresses with so much cleanliness and taste, that it is not possible to behold anything more perfect than himself. He is of very delicate constitution and lives invariably according to rule; his habit is to partake only of highly nutritious food, and he abstains from fish, fruit, and similar aliments which have a tendency to produce ill humours.” The report concludes with a contrast between Philip's principles of government and those of his father Charles the Fifth, leading to the opinion that “the Emperor governed entirely according to his own views, but the King governs according to the views of others, and has no esteem for any nation except the Spanish.”

With regard to the circumstances which led to Philip's third marriage, Surian's report (No. 274) says that the English are of opinion that the Queen will not marry a foreigner; but Paulo Tiepolo, in his despatches dated respectively April the 2nd and April the 23rd 1559, (No. 55 and No. 63) writes to the effect that when Queen Elizabeth heard that King Philip had given his word to take another wife, she was so alarmed lest a peace and an alliance with France might cause some evil to befall her, that “through the medium of Count de Feria, she offered King Philip “her acceptance of whatever conditions he pleased to “impose, provided she became his wife, but that King “Philip, notwithstanding that it seemed a bold step to “marry a princess who was first offered to his son, yet “when he perceived how ill he could succeed with Queen “Elizabeth, who was alienating herself from the Roman “Church, easily allowed himself to be brought to accept “the French marriage,” which promised him such great material advantages.

Elizabeth of Valois, who was born on April the 13th, 1545, arrived at Guadalajara on January the 28th, 1560, as Queen of Spain, when she had not completed her fifteenth year. An anonymous eyewitness, who was present at her entry, informed Paulo Tiepolo (No. 126) that “she was “young and beautiful, and had so much the air of the “Medici family that, without knowing who she was, any “one would declare her to be of their lineage, and that she “seemed both sage and serious.” But according to Paulo Tiepolo her beauty was not destined to remain long unimpaired, for he writes that she took the small-pox in March 1560, and was again seized with a severer attack of the same malady in January 1561 (No. 230), which left her so pitted that in the following month she would not allow herself to be seen by anyone (No. 234); and the constant bleedings to which she was subjected by her physicians whenever she was indisposed, however slightly, may possibly have hastened her death, which, as is well known, took place on October the 3rd, 1568.

If the Venetian accounts are reliable, Don Carlos, the son of King Philip and his first wife and first cousin, Maria of Portugal, hardly merits the position he has occasionally occupied in the romance of history. Paulo Tiepolo, after a personal interview with him on October 1559, writes (No. 104): “He (the Prince of Spain) is 14 years old, of diminutive stature, and suffers much from quartan ague, and of “late he has ceased to fulfil the great expectations conceived about him in childhood.” Don Carlos is described during the next two years as infirm, and continually subject to quartan ague and in a bad state of health, insomuch that his aunt Joanna, Princess of Portugal, who had conceived the strange project of marrying him, began to show some disposition to accept an offer of marriage, to which she had previously been averse, from the son of the Duke of Florence (Cosmo de' Medici); and Paulo Tiepolo reports (No. 187), he Prince of Spain, on whom she (the Princess of Portugal) had already laid the basis of her whole design, had not only failed to grow tall, as was hoped, but had become so weak and feeble that for some years he will not be marriageable.”

The last notice of Don Carlos contained in the present volume dates from Paris, whence, on September 21st, 1568 (No. 432), Giovanni Correr wrote that the Spanish Ambassador had declined to attend the funeral ceremonies performed in memory of the Prince of Spain, “alleging that he had had no letters from his King for more than three months, and therefore could neither affirm that the Prince was dead, nor assist at his obsequies.”

Mr. Rawdon Brown in his publications and reports never lost an opportunity of claiming a special historical value for the Venetian despatches, upon the ground that the Signory imposed the strictest obligations upon their diplomatic representatives to communicate in writing to their Government all matters which came under their notice without any reservation whatever. Whether Mr. Rawdon Brown was right in this view might be open to doubt, but an instance which, to some extent, favours his contention may be quoted from the “Report of Rome,” which was presented to the Signory by Paulo Tiepolo after the termination of his Embassy there in 1565–66 (No. 377, Bequeathed MS.), and which shows that at an epoch when the Papal authority had, in Italy at all events, lost but little of its original force, a diplomatist of the first rank was not deterred, even by personal risks, from placing before his Government, in the plainest possible language, the detrimental influence which, in his opinion, the temporal power of the Pope exercised against the interests of true religion.

Paulo Tiepolo writes: “If the great and supreme authority exercised by the Pontiffs had been used only for the purposes for which it was conceded to them, namely, the benefit and salvation of the human race, they would have been perpetually loved, feared, reverenced, and obeyed by all Christians, and their superiority, as delegates of God upon earth, acknowledged universally in all parts of the world. But they have abused this authority by interfering in temporal matters, and have, in fact, sought no other end but the advantage and aggrandisement of themselves and their kindred, without considering it wrong to grant benefits and favours to the least deserving, to give to one what ought to have been sufficient for a hundred, to practise a thousand abominable abuses in the church of God, to nourish scandals and wars between Christian princes, and to carry on the same evils themselves, not from necessity, but simply from ambition and self-interest; insomuch that the barbarians have seldom entered Italy unless with the consent or connivance of the Pontiffs.”

Although it is obviously foreign to the purpose of this introduction to approach any questions of a controversial character, it may, without giving offence, be pointed out, as a remarkable circumstance, that these observations, dated three centuries and a quarter ago, express, in substance, the ideas of many opponents of the temporal power of the Pope even in our own day.

I cannot conclude without acknowledging the invaluable services which Mr. R. E. Gent Kirk has rendered me during the progress of this work, and especially in the compilation of the Index; and I desire to take this opportunity to confirm, from my own personal knowledge, the favourable opinions which Mr. Rawdon Brown invariably expressed with regard to Mr. Kirk's learning, assiduity, and special capacity for prosecuting antiquarian research.

George Cavendish Bentinck.

December 1889.


  • 1. In the Venetian dialect the consonant “c” before a vowel is pronounced soft with a sound like the consonant “s.” Therefore “Cicino” and “Ciciglia” (see No. 640) would both be fair reproductions in Venetian of the English proper name “Cecil.”
  • 2. Mr. Rawdon Brown always maintained that the proper English translation of the Italian expression “Raistri” was “Roisters” and not “Reiters,” and in editing his work I have felt it my duty to adhere to his practice in this respect.